Sunday, November 22, 2020

Rosie Makes A Green Bean Salad With A Balsamic Vinaigrette


 For Thanksgiving, I'm eschewing the traditional green bean casserole.  Why?  I've got something better - a green bean salad (actually two) that's bright green, full of flavor and textures, and tastes so fresh.


I've got two variations on the green bean theme today and you can make them as is or pick and choose and make the salad your own.  I'm just putting out some suggestions here.  

 First, however, the beans need to be properly cooked.  I want them al dente, not al mushe.  And the way to do that, plus retain the grassy green flavor and vibrant color (We don't want olive drab beans.) is by blanching the beans in heavily salted water.  Heavily salted water speeds up the cooking of vegetables so you're able to get a tender, spearable-with-a-fork bean without boiling all the color and flavor out of them.  By "heavily salted" I mean similar to sea water (approximately 3%), so we're talking about 2 tablespoons salt per quart of water.  According to Harold McGee in his book On Food And Cooking, there's an enzyme that's activated in warm to hot water that destroys chlorophyll (and hence the color of the beans).  By using a high concentration of salt in the blanching water, the boiling temperature of the water is raised and the enzyme is prevented from damaging the bean.  Per McGee, "when vegetables are cooked in salted water, sodium ions displace some of the calcium ions in their cell walls. Calcium ions strengthen pectin—the glue that holds plant cell walls together—by allowing it to form cross-links, and the ions’ displacement prevents that cross-linking and causes the vegetable to soften. (It is for precisely the same reason that we like to brine dried beans in salt water: The displacement of the calcium ions in their skins softens them and prevents them from bursting during cooking.)"

So there you have it.
Heavily salt your water.

 First trim the ends and chop the beans into 1-inch lengths.
For a quart of water, I used 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt.  Bring the water to a boil. 
I dropped in 2 cups trimmed beans and cooked for about 6 minutes.


Immediately drain the beans,
then drop them into ice water.
This stops the cooking and also
sets the color.

Drain when ready to use. 

  Green Beans #1 With Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 cups trimmed green beans, cooked as above,
1/4 cup toasted whole almonds
1/4 cup diced feta cheese
4 large basil leaves, chiffonade  (Technique shown below.)
2 TB chopped red onion
Combine all ingredients.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 TB lemon juice
2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced or pressed
2 tsp honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients except for olive oil.
Slowly whisk in oil to make an emulsion.
Add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour vinaigrette over bean mixture.
Toss to coat.  

For the basil chiffonade:

  A chiffonade is a slicing technique.

Stack the basil leaves
and roll up tightly.

Slice thinly across roll.
Separate and add to bean mixture.

Combine all 

Pour vinaigrette over
and toss to coat.



  For the next green bean salad, I'm going with a slightly different flavor profile. I'm using a citrusy vinaigrette, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers.  With the peppers, I'm getting two flavors out of one - I'll be using the peppers raw and also charred.

Green Bean Salad #2

 2 cups prepared green beans (trimmed, sliced, blanched, shocked, drained)
4 oz. diced feta cheese
1/4 chopped red onion
2 of those mini sweet bell peppers, red, yellow, or orange or combination, mini-diced
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 TB fresh mint, chopped
4 mini sweet bell peppers, charred, skin removed, then minced
Combine all ingredients.
Pour dressing over and toss to combine.


Mix together:
2 TB lime juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Whisk in:
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Greek Koroneiki.)

Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

When making vinaigrettes, please do not skimp on ingredients when it comes to your balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  Use quality ingredients!  I recommend going to an olive oil shop where you can taste specialty oils and vinegars before you buy.  The extra plus here is that you'll probably be supporting a local small business.  

There are three local wine/olive oil/balsamic vinegar establishments that I patronize:  

Outer Banks Olive Oil 

The Spice and Tea Exchange

Ella's Olive 

  Now, let's char some peppers:

Skewer peppers and place over flame.
Use the broiler if you don't have a gas cook top.





Blacken all over.






Immerse charred peppers in ice water.
Use thumb and forefinger to rub off blackened skin.
It doesn't have to be perfect.  A bit of char only adds flavor.







Sunday, November 15, 2020

Corn Chowder Time!


Ooooh.  Corn chowder!

I recently made corn puddings using fresh corn off the cob.

And I saved the cobs. 

 Today, I'm making corn chowder and I’m cooking the cobs with the rest of my ingredients to infuse a little more corn flavor into the mix.  Don't worry if you don't have any cobs.  You can make the soup with canned or frozen corn and it will be just fine.  The cobs just give a nice boost to the soup and otherwise I’d just be throwing them away.  And I hate to waste anything that I could’ve used.


Rosie's Corn Chowder
2 TB butter
1 cup diced ham
1 onion, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 quart vegetable stock
5 fresh thyme sprigs
8 corn cobs, kernels cut off and reserved
½ cup cream
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Melt butter over medium heat in medium-sized soup pot.  Add in ham, onion, potatoes, and celery and sauté, stirring, for about 3 minutes.  Pour in vegetable stock and add in corn cobs and thyme.  Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook at bare simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remove cobs and thyme sprigs.  Add in kernels and cook another 10-15 minutes.   

Check consistency of your soup.  I wanted mine a bit thicker so I’m using a French technique to achieve that.  The method uses what is called beurre manié which means “kneaded butter.”  Simply mix by hand equal parts softened butter and flour, in this case 2 TB each.  When you have a uniform paste, add a teaspoon or so of the mixture at a time into your soup and whisk until it has completely dissolved.  Continue cooking a few minutes until the raw taste of the flour has gone.  Add another teaspoon if needed and keep stirring.  You'll eventually get thickening but no clumping because the butter melts and evenly disperses the flour particles which swell and thicken your soup as it simmers, with the bonus effect of adding a velvety, sleek luster to the finished product.  You can cover and refrigerate or freeze any leftover beurre manie for later use.

Finally, pour in the cream and heat through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with toast or croutons, hot sauce, if desired, snipped parsley and chives, and I like some minced multi-colored bell peppers for the flavor and the pretty.  Also, if you're in the cilantro camp, go ahead and add some of that too.  It goes nicely with added hot sauce or salsa.


Rosie Note:    If you don’t have ham, you could certainly use bacon.  Just fry it up, set a few pieces aside, and use some of the bacon grease in place of the butter or with the butter for sautéing the vegetables.  Sprinkle reserved bacon crumbles on top of soup when serving.

Now for the step by steps:

Onions, celery, and ham go into a medium hot skillet with melted butter. 

Add in the potatoes and stir for a few minutes.

Thyme sprigs in.

Add in vegetable broth.

Add in corn cobs.
Bring to boil.
Reduce to simmer.
Slow simmer for 45 minutes or so.
Until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove cobs and thyme sprigs.

Add in the corn.

Cook another 15 minutes or so.

To thicken,
add in beurre manié.

Just a bit at a time,
stirring until incorporated
and thickened.

Add in cream.
Heat through.

Chives, parsley, and a few splashes of hot sauce.
Along with buttered and toasted bagel slice.








Minced red bell pepper.
A few grinds of pepper.


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Rosie Makes A Corn Pudding.

 Here's a recipe you might want to save for Thanksgiving.  If not Thanksgiving Day itself (since a lot of stuff is already going on that day), then perhaps for the day after - when you have all those leftovers and you might want something a little different and you have the time to make the effort for another side dish.  It's a corn pudding, but it's made sort of like a soufflé.  Don't worry though.  It's not going to be fussy like a soufflé can be.  I consider it a type of hybrid - a light corn pudding with a hint of soufflé.  It’s good for a delicious side dish, or sprinkled with powdered sugar for a dessert, or served for breakfast with fruits.

I've made this corn dish several times.  I've made it for 3 servings, like this recipe, and I've doubled the recipe and made it for 6.  Works fine both ways.  Also, I've made it with canned corn and corn off the cob.  Gotta tell you - we liked it better with fresh corn.  It was, well... fresher tasting and it was creamier.  (And I’ve included the pics to show you the difference.)  If all you have is canned, don't let that stop you.  I have not tried it with frozen corn since I never have that on hand.  I prefer canned corn to frozen.  (But when it comes to peas, forget canned and go with frozen.)  However, if all you've got is frozen corn, thaw it out and pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Corn Pudding

Makes 3 8-oz. ramekins

1/2 stick (4 TB) unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces, plus more butter for the ramekins
1/4 cup + 1 TB sugar,  plus a little bit more for the ramekins
1 TB lemon zest
1/4 cup flour
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 egg, separated, plus 2 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400°.
Generously butter the ramekins then sprinkle each with a teaspoon of sugar, turning to coat, and shaking out the excess.  Set ramekins on baking sheet.

In a small bowl mix 1 TB sugar with 1 tsp zest.

In a blender or processor, combine corn, cream, and salt, and purée until smooth, about 15 seconds.

In a medium saucepan, mix flour, 2 TB sugar, and puréed mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat about 6 minutes until mixture forms a shiny ball.  Remove from heat and stir in butter, 1 TB at a time until fully incorporated.  Let cool to room temperature.  Then stir in yolk, remaining zest, and vanilla.

Beat egg whites on medium-high speed until light and foamy.  With beaters running, slowly add in remaining 2 TB sugar, whipping until soft peaks form.  Using a spatula, lightly stir in about 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the corn mixture until a few streaks remain.  Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to deflate.

Divide the mixture evenly among prepared ramekins.  Run a finger along the inside edge of each ramekin to create a better rise.  Sprinkle sugar and zest mixture over tops.  Bake 20-22 minutes until golden brown.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Rosie Note:  If using fresh corn, save those cobs!  We’re going to use them later for a corn chowder.

Now, for some step-by-steps:


Combine kernels, cream, and salt in processor.
And process away.

This first picture of the blend was from using canned corn.

This second picture of the blend is from using kernels right off the cob.
Notice how much smoother and creamier it is.
Both were processed the same amount of time.

Add the purée to the
flour and sugar
in the sauce pan.
This is canned corn.
This is the fresh corn purée.

Heat, stirring constantly.

You'll get a nice satiny ball.

Add in the butter a tablespoon at a time

Add in the yolk.
Zest and vanilla in.
Now start a-whuppin' the whites.

When they get light and foamy, slowly whip in the sugar.
You want soft peaks.

Stir in about 1/4 of the whites to lighten the mixture.

Then gently fold
in the rest.

Take care not to deflate.

 Spoon evenly into ramekins.
Run a finger along the outside.

Sprinkle the sugar/zest on top.
Ready for oven.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.