Georgian Style Green Beans

Anaida is someone who I consider a dear friend. She is from Moscow, Russia and has the warmest heart of anyone I have met in a long time.

I wish I had a picture of us together. She was such a joy to have in classes, she got along with everyone.

Anaida, are you out there? Can you send me one in an e-mail?

Anaida is a mature woman, in her fifties. I met her one day in one of my classes. She came up to me and asked if she could use a Russian English dictionary on the exam.

She was just learning English and here she is in the USA taking college level courses.

Certainly I would not be able to do anything remotely similar in her country. I would be lucky if I could order a cup of coffee let alone take a college level course.

It took her a couple of times, but she passed the exam and progressed to culinary lab classes. I had the pleasure of having her in my Advanced Cooking class last fall.

To Anaidas credit, some native English speakers have a hard time grasping some of the concepts the class she was in. Let alone learning a complex subject in a language you are just learning.

She inspires me to keep progressing in my French lessons.

Whole green beans in a carton.

Whole green beans in a carton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anaida shared many of her native cuisine recipes, one of my favorite is her recipe for green beans, which is included here.

She shared many gifts from Russia like these spoons,

Russian Spoons

the toothpick holder, an apron, shawl all very nice things I hold dear and use daily. Well, I use the shawl in the winter. It is Russian made and I think it contains magic warmth yarn as it keeps me nice and warm in the cold. Lordie knows, it gets cold in Russia!

Anaida returned to Moscow as her visa required as well as her international student status. She often returned to Russia between semesters and brought us back lovely gifts and made the most tasty pastries she shared with the office.

Anaidas dream was to get into the bakeshop class at the college, which she was registered and ready to do this fall. Only one hitch in the get-along.

The State Department declined her student visa based upon concern about Anaida returning to Russia as some point in the future. Since she is retired, they are doubly concerned.

Anaida’s daughter lives here and teaches. This summer she got married to the love of her life, a kind German man. Eventually they are going to move to live in his home town in Germany. Being Anaida only daughter, I doubt Anaida would choose to live so far away from her daughter especially when grand-babies come around!

Even knowing this, they still decline her access to return.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Could it be the recent change of power to Putin? Or is someone in the state department just having a bad day?

I wish there was something I could do.

In the meantime, Let’s make Anaida’s beans.

Green Beans with Herbal Vinaigrette Dressing

“Georgian Style, you will like!”

  • 1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh Tarragon, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley chopped

Chopped herbs, use the combination you like best. Start with equal amounts of each fresh herb.

Use the amounts you like, equal of all three, more basil, or more tarragon, what ever you prefer.

If you don’t know, start with equal amounts of each, chopped together.

  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Steam the beans until done, about 5 minutes.
  • Mix the oil, vinegar and minced garlic in a bowl. Whisk briskly to combine.

    Mix oil and vinegar. I added a few herbs, but you don’t have to. Any vinaigrette and chopped herbs left over can be used for salad dressing later. Just combine whatever dressing and chopped herbs left and you have a nifty herbal vinaigrette.

  • When the beans are done, just before serving, dress the beans with a light amount of vinegar and oil.
  • Top with the chopped herb mixture.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Only use enough of the dressing to lightly coat the beans. Dress them just before serving to preserve the bright fresh green color.

These beans are simple but full of flavor. I love this recipe!

Wouldn’t these go nicely in a Salad Nicoise?

Anaida, I miss you.

Anaida’s Beans

Advertisements

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

We decided to paint the kitchen ourselves this past weekend. The quotes we were getting to do the job seemed over the top ridiculous.

Personally, I enjoy painting the rooms of my dwelling space.

I have learned to detest wallpaper and love the instant gratification of paint.

Immediate gratification.

The “Presto Chango” Effect.

Unless something technical needs to be done; I can paint walls and cabinets like a pro. Based upon what we found while doing this project, we certainly did it better than the last “pro” who was hired to paint.

I love doing it. There is another mental space I go to when doing these kind of projects. It is a fun place to go and I don’t stay long so it is best to take advantage when it comes around.

“Let’s go buy paint and get going ” we discussed one morning.

So off we went to the paint store to buy what we needed to transform the kitchen.

Robert was amazed as to how much we actually were able to do in a days time. We began on Saturday, mid-morning, and finished Monday around dinner time, after work.

Over last weekend we dismantled the kitchen; removed cabinet doors and hinges; and such.

This is how the sequence went: Degrease, wash, dry, sand, damp mop dust, dry, prime, paint 2 coats, let dry.

The kitchen is now back in working order and feels great to be cooking again.

Presto Chango. Gotta love it.

This is an easy recipe when you want something quick and easy. (And don’t want to mess up the kitchen.)

The entire dish is easily made in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

You only need a few ingredients.

Cannellini Beans, canned tuna, artichoke hearts, lemon and pasta and cheese if you like.

These are the major ingredients: Artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, anchovies, pasta, here we are using “orecchiette” and Tuna, which is not pictured.

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and Pasta

  • 1 – 2 ounce tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1/2 onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 – 5 ounce can of “Wild Planet” wild caught tuna. This tuna is not oil packed. (Use your favorite Tuna)
  • 1-14 ounce can of artichoke hearts – packed in water, not oil
  • 1-15 ounce can Bushes Cannellini Beans (also known as white kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 package of your favorite pasta shape. I like Orecchiette for this because of the shape and the ability to hold on to sauce. (The pasta looks like little hats when cooked.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan or Asiago cheese to shred over top

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, salt the water and add pasta.

Note how long the pasta takes to cook so it does not get over done and mushy.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the anchovies and saute until they “dissolve” while being cooked.

Add the  onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the artichokes, beans and tuna and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

Add the lemon zest and juice.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain and fold it into the pan with the other ingredients.

Top with shredded cheese and serve.

A salad on the side rounds the meal out nicely.

Tuna, white beans and artichoke pasta

What is a Colander? How do you choose one?

Colanders are those strainers you use to drain larger amounts of liquid from things.

Colanders stand alone, you do not need to hold them like you do a strainer.

Here are some different types: There are some funky ones, like cow and chicken colanders;

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colorful ones

Stylish ones

They can be made from heavy-duty plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, aluminum, copper etc.

I bought one from an artist friend once. This colander was ceramic, hand painted and unique. It had three chicken legs styled out of clay; the bottom half of the bird was all there was, it was white and the handles were the birds wings. Chickens don’t have very big wings. I couldn’t resist the cow colander either.

I like funky kitchen stuff sometimes. If it makes me smile, it gets a place in common use. This colander made me laugh so I bought it. It earned an esteemed spot on the kitchen counter for a while.

Chicken and cow colanders

Finally time to use it. I place it carefully in the bottom of the sink and drained the pasta in the colander.

I was totally beside myself and wondered why it didn’t dawn on me before that exact moment how I expected it to look.

Well, what happened was not what I thought it would be.

The chicken looked as if it were peeing all over itself; peeing like a racehorse.

That’s just not right. That imagery was all wrong.

My fun time with the chicken colander was over.

I drained the pasta, washed and dried the colander.

It holds a place in the background of my TV show set.

Now, they hold butchers twine

It is no longer used actively. Last I checked, it held several balls of butchers twine. The holes in the body (the perforations for the colander) are perfect twine guides. Thread it through a hole, pull as you need. Only on the TV show though.

I can’t have peeing animals in my kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen tools, you get what you pay for.

If you buy artisan, you can also get a show.

Stainless Steel Colanders

Over the sink colander; the handles extend to fit your sink

Here are a few pointers for evaluating a colander for purchase:

  • English: A plastic colander in a stainless kit...

    English: A plastic colander in a stainless kitchen sink. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Take a look at all the different materials. Which do you prefer? Is the chosen material durable for my lifestyle? (Enamel chips)

  • Make sure there are lots of small holes. Small enough to retain peas. Any larger and you limit the colanders use.
  • Colander

    Colander (Photo credit: paukrus)

    Make sure the sides and bottom have holes, not just the bottom.

  • Make sure it has enough holes, a few will not strain your stuff fast or well enough
  • Will it fit in your sink? If not, where are you doing to use it?
  • Will it fit into the dishwasher?

You can store the colander with the nested stainless mixing bowls.

If you tire of your colander, you can always line it with sheet moss, fill it with dirt and plant herbs or flowers in it. Of course you will need a tray under it to catch any drips from watering.

No matter what, do not allow your friends to convince you a colander makes a good party hat. It does not and you will regret any resulting photos.

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: StefZ)

  • English: A colander, photographed by DO'Neil.

    English: A colander, photographed by DO’Neil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Dear Tyler, How to Cook” Series

Starting tomorrow

The unit cook preparing the salad

The unit cook preparing the salad (Photo credit: Government Press Office)

Spoon Feast is beginning a series of posts on the subject of “How to Cook”.

As my son was moving into his first apartment, he asked me for a cookbook, “Couldn’t you just write one for me?”

He also wanted to share the recipes and methods with his other friends who are also in the same boat of being in their first apartments with kitchens and not knowing quite where to start or what to do.

The first posts will be about outfitting your kitchen and selecting the necessary items to get started.

A cook sautees onions and peppers.

A cook sautes onions and peppers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, at the beginning of each week, there will be some basic cooking skill posts and at the end of the week there will be a full menu meal that uses all the simple skills learned during the week in the meal.

The skills will be presented in a way that you will learn to cook without being recipe dependent.

Please check out the posts and let me know if there is something you would like to learn.

Step-by-step photos and an occasional video will illustrate techniques and ingredients.

You will quickly learn a good solid basic cooking foundation from which you can grow and expand with confidence.

Please join in!

Strawberry “Cheesecake”, Rhubarb Compote, Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

A bowl of Strawberries. Français : Un bol de f...

Strawberries enhance the tartness of rhubarb. Classically they go together like hand in glove. But they don’t have to.

I like strawberries and I like rhubarb, both separate and together.

The local grocery had a sampling table set up promoting hemp seeds for their nutritional value. I picked up a bag intending to use them in a multi-grain bread, but used them instead of nuts in the oatmeal crisp.

So you are really getting three desserts today; you can eat each separate and then together.

Let’s talk briefly about the hemp seeds.

Gillian McKeith's organic shelled hemp seeds i...

Gillian McKeith’s organic shelled hemp seeds in a small bowl with teaspoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These seeds are not the variety of hemp used to “get high” anymore than you can “get high” from pistachios.

They are delicious, have great nutritional value and I thought it may push the envelope a bit to use them.

You can toast them but the texture is fine so it would be best to use them in something rather than a snack food.

If you desire, substitute finely ground pistachios or almonds instead of hemp seeds.

This entire dish consists of three recipes. Each quite simple.

The beauty is you can eat the strawberry “cheesecake” without the rhubarb compote and the compote without the cheesecake.

The cheesecake in this case is not baked, does not contain as much fat as traditional cheesecake; hence the quotation marks.

Make this with cream, or half and half (even the fat-free kind), Greek yogurt, cream cheese (can also be low-fat) and low-fat sour cream if desired.

Depending upon your choices of regular, low or non fat versions, you can have a pretty nifty dessert.

Recipe 1:

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Strawberry “Cheesecake”

1 cup of whole strawberries, stemmed and washed

1/2 cup heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

1 8 – ounce package Cream Cheese

1/4 cup confectioners (10x) sugar

4 gelatin leaves or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Puree the strawberries until smooth. Set aside.

Warm the cream cheese slightly in a microwave or wrap in a warm towel for 10 minutes to soften. The cream cheese whips better when soft.

Place the cream cheese in the mixer along with the sugar. Whip until smooth, add the strawberry puree.

Important notes about using gelatin:

If using gelatin leaves, soften the gelatin leaves in cold water for 10 minutes. When soft, squeeze out excess moisture. Add to warm liquid to melt, in this case the warm cream.

If using powdered gelatin, measure out the cold cream into a  heat proof bowl. (Stainless bowls work great) Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the cream. Allow the gelatin to “bloom” for 10-15 minutes. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler) to warm the cream and melt the gelatin.

Careful in both cases, gelatin burns and scorches easily. Be careful and pay attention.

If using powdered gelatin follow these directions:

Heat cream and bloomed gelatin until warm and melted in a double boiler.

( A stainless bowl over pot of boiling water works nicely)

Add yogurt, be careful not to scorch, stir until warm and gelatin is totally melted.

If using gelatin sheets or leaves follow these directions:

Add the softened gelatin to warm cream and yogurt.

Stir until gelatin is dissolved.

Continue:

Add the gelatin mixture to the whipped cream cheese and strawberries.

Add the vanilla extract.

Pour the mixture into desired containers: pretty stemmed glasses, ramekins, small bowls, fancy tea cups or a large dish.

I used stemmed “Marie Antoinette” champagne classes for this.

Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight for the gelatin to set.

Recipe 2:

Rhubarb Compote with Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

(Or Oatmeal Pistachio/Almond Crisp)

Wash and dry rhubarb

3 stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and sliced into pieces finger width wide. Be consistent.

1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup

2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Slice the rhubarb

Allow rhubarb, sugar and tapioca to sit 15-30 minutes
( this is called “to macerate” in cooking terminology)

Spray baking dish with pan spray or
butter the dish

Fill the baking dish with macerated rhubarb

Wash and slice the rhubarb. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, sugar and tapioca and vanilla.

Allow the mixture to rest for 15 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the crisp part.

Recipe #3

Oatmeal, Hemp Seed Crisp

(Or Oatmeal Pistachio/Almond Crisp)

Combine oats, brown sugar, butter and ground nuts or seeds with a pastry cutter

Combine until the mixture looks like this; spread over top of the rhubarb; bake

Bake until golden and bubbly

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole butter, soft not melted!

1/4 cup hemp seeds or finely ground almond or pistachio nuts

1 teaspoon salt

Combine the oats, sugar and seeds and salt, cut in the butter until the mixture is like coarse cornmeal.

Place the macerated rhubarb mixture into a baking dish, top with the oatmeal hemp seed streusel mixture. Bake for 1 hour in an over set at 350°F or until the mixture bubbles.

Be sure to place a pan under the dish to catch all of the drippings for easy clean up.

To serve, top each chilled strawberry cream cheese dish with a generous dollop of warm rhubarb compote. Make sure you get some of the crisp part for the top. Add sliced or fresh diced strawberries if you like.

Garnish with mint leaf and serve with a smile!

Rhubarb Hemp Seed Crisp on top of Strawberry “Cheesecake”

The Bread Show

We had a wonderful weekend in the North Carolina mountains visiting friends. This post is to provide a quick link to the bread show we did on Charlotte Cooks not too long ago.

In my mind, the show was a comedy of errors with too hot lights, dough rising way too fast in response to the too hot lights. . . Sometimes, you just have to laugh!

If you want to make m “No-Knead Sourdough Bread“, here is the visual.

Spero, this one’s for you!

SPOILER ALERT!
I am working on a post about some amazing Greek olive oil I discovered this weekend.
Watch for the next post for a chance to try some too!

A Southern Staple: Simple Syrup

Bottle of simple syrup

This basic southern staple, simple syrup, is a must have in any kitchen or bar.

This style of syrup is used all over the world for lots of things, not just in the south.

It is, however the secret to true southern iced tea.

Simple syrup is easy and quick to make and there are endless ways to use it in the kitchen and bar.

Basic Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water, enough to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch.
  • 3-4 drops lemon juice

Put sugar in a sauce pot

Add water to cover sugar by 1/2 inch; add 2-3 drops of lemon juice, stir

Bring to a boil; boil for 1-2 minutes

Place a ‘sign or symbol’ to signify pot is hot;
Put the pot away from accidents to cool

Method:

Put the sugar in a sauce pot, add water to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch. Stir well.

Place the pot over high heat; add the lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Stir, not constantly, but often enough to prevent scorching on the bottom.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, the sugar will turn clear. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, turn off.

Cool the mixture before transferring to a jar or bottle.

While the sugar syrup is cooling, put some kind of “sign or symbol” on the  handle so others know the pot and contents are hot and to leave the pot alone.

Use caution and place the pot well to the back of the stove out of harms way.

Sugar burns are very nasty and go really deep. Avoid at all costs, especially around children.

The syrup is shelf stable. Keep it handy to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, tea or coffee, use it over fresh fruit, in meringues, or even in marinades and specialty bar drinks.

You can infuse flavors into simple syrup, add a vanilla pod, lemon, lime or orange zest, fruit puree, basil, lavender, or mint for a few ideas. Be sure to strain the flavor elements out before using. The vanilla pods or herb leaves do look nice in the bottle.

My favorite way to use this syrup is to splash some into iced tea and top with a lemon wedge.

The perfect thirst quencher!

Iced Tea and Simple Syrup