Friday, December 20, 2013

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Breadcrumbs

If you're like my mother, at this point you've started the process of going to the grocery store to get what you need to host family for the holidays. The cheeses, the cookies, the ingredients for several group dinners. I'll be helping with some of these efforts when I'm home, of which I will blog about next week.

But for those of you who are trying to figure out side dishes that are traditional, but maybe with a twist, here is a great green bean side dish I made for Thanksgiving. The walnut breadcrumb topping is the best part of this dish, and it's a pleaser for picky eaters.

Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Breadcrumbs (serves 8)


  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 2 lbs green beans, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 (1-ounce) slices French bread baguette
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 TB chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Place shallots and beans in a small roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; toss. Sprinkle mixture evenly with salt and sugar; toss to combine. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl.

    Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs to pan; cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.

    Remove from heat; stir in the cheese and remaining ingredients. Add breadcrumb mixture to beans; toss to combine.

    Monday, December 16, 2013


    This weekend was the weekend of holiday parties and indulgence. I managed to make it to 4 of the 5 holiday parties I was invited to on Saturday, and lived to tell the tale. However, I was definitely feeling the effects of too much drink on Sunday morning, when I journeyed to Giant at 9 a.m. to pick up 2 lbs of pork shoulder. What I ended up with was a surprisingly heavy 2 lb piece of meat (READ: a 9 1/2 lb. piece of meat for $2/lb...yes I transposed the numbers when purchasing this, and didn't realize it until I got home.)

    In any case, I made a great posole with it (and froze the rest of the meat...I see carnitas in my immediate future). This was awesome hangover food for a crowd, and will be what I'm eating all week. It is time intensive since you slow cook the meat for many hours, but prep work is pretty minimum once the meat is cooked. Totally worth the time.

    Posole (serves 8-10)

    • 1 TB ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1 2-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 red onion, sliced
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil     
    • 1/2 red onion, chopped    
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced    
    • 2 plum tomatoes, diced    
    • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth    
    • 1 28-ounce can undrained pinto beans    
    • 1 28-ounce can white hominy, drained    
    • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices, puréed in blender until smooth    
    • 1 TB oregano   
    • 2 tsp ground cumin    
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper    
    • Shredded mild cheddar     
    • Chopped fresh cilantro     
    • Lime wedges    
    • Flour tortillas

    Preheat oven to 275°. Line a small roasting pan with foil. Mix cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub spice mix all over pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork in pan and cover with sliced onion. Pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until meat is very tender, 5–6 hours. Let pork rest until cool enough to handle.

    Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-size pieces. Skim fat from juices in roasting pan; reserve meat. This can be done a day ahead if needed.

    Heat oil in a large pot over medium- low heat. Add onion and sauté until trans- lucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the diced fresh tomatoes and stir until softened, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
    Add reserved pork to posole. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes longer for flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding reserved juices from roast pork, if desired. Divide among bowls, garnish with shredded cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges, and serve with flour tortillas.

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    The Kindle Challenge

    Two or three years ago, my brother got me a Kindle as a present. It was the basic e-reader, probably one of the first generations of the product. I read a decent amount, and I found that it was a great present. I could download several books at a time, and it was pretty small to take with me for the inevitable commuting delays I sometimes face.

    But in the time I've had the Kindle, I've come to realize that I miss having certain types of books. For instance, books that have a lot of footnotes and/or photos are much better read in the physical form. Granted, I'm sure some of the latest innovations in e-readers have made it easier to bounce around a virtual book, but I've found that my current version is good for reading simple novels, but not other items.

    Case in point? I recently finished "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. I knew going into it the book was about food and the author had been the Vogue food critic for a long time. What I hadn't anticipated was a slew of recipes buried in the "pages." And with my basic Kindle, it was not a good delivery method. Without being able to bookmark (and this is a LONG read), I doubt I'll ever be able to find these again.

    So if I can give you one piece of advice this holiday gift season, if you're buying for a cook, stick to the regular cookbooks. Happy shopping!

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Delicata Squash and Kale

    As I mentioned last week, I joined a CSA. I purchased some familiar items, like Bosc Pears and Apple Butter, but I also opted to order a delicate squash. Mainly because it looked pretty. And I'm pretty sure I had tried one recently at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market and enjoyed the flavor. So I went on the hunt for a recipe that included this, and baby kale, which I had also picked up. There were a surprising number of these combinations out there, but I settled on a very simple side dish. It was a nice departure from green beans, which I've been cooking a lot of lately. I imagine any type of acorn squash would work for this dish. I served this alongside broiled salmon.

    Delicata Squash and Kale (serves 2 as a side dish)


  • 1 medium Delicata squashes (about 1 lb) halved lengthwise & seeded
  • 1/2 TB plus 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB honey
  • 3 oz. kale, large stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 TB red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into 1/2 inch thick semicircles. Toss with 1/2 tsp olive oil and spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until just tender, about 15-18 minutes. 

    Mix together the balsamic vinegar & honey in a small bowl.  Brush some of the mixture onto the squash slices; reserve remaining mixture.  Bake an additional 5 minutes. 

    Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallot (or red onion) and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.

    Add red-wine vinegar and remaining vinegar-honey mixture to saucepan, and bring to a boil.

    Immediately pour the hot dressing over kale, and sprinkle with salt & season with pepper.  Add squash. 

    Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 5 minutes.  Toss until kale wilts slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    A Unique CSA Opportunity

    During the summer, I was reading an article on one of my neighborhood blogs about local CSAs. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, CSAs come in all shapes and sizes, but essentially its a crop share, where individuals can buy in to a farm or group of farms' harvest, paying a seasonal fee, and in return, receiving produce from that particular farm for a set amount of time. I have often wanted to try one of these out, but there have been so major roadblocks for me.

    1) Cost-So many CSAs can be $600-$800 for a crop season (for instance spring/summer, or fall/winter)
    2) Quantity-It's just me, so the idea of getting a crate of produce each week for several months seemed a bit overwhelming
    3) Variety-Many CSAs don't give you a choice on what you get. So one week you might get a crate full of radishes and greens, another week all potatoes and carrots.

    While reading this article, I did notice that one CSA stood out for its unique process. Star Hollow Farms offers its CSA for $300 and you essentially online shop, debiting from your $300. So you get to pick what you order, and the buy-in can last for a long long as you place an order within a year, the balance continues to carry over. As would be expected, this CSA had a waiting list.

    Fast forward a few months and I received an e-mail about joining this group. There was no hesitation on my part, and now I'm part of the Star Hollow family. The pick-up location is conveniently located in Adams Morgan and I was happy with my first haul. This included honey, apple butter, baby arugula, baby kale, Bosc pears and delicata squash. I made a great side dish with some of these items last week and I'll post that recipe next week.

    Learn more about Star Hollow Farm.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Pomegranate and Spinach Salad

    A few weeks back, I was planning a dinner party for two, and since most of the meal was on the heavy side, I wanted a light starter salad. I tapped my go-to "what should I make" resource for when I stopped, Nick of, and he told me to make this salad. I had never worked with pomegranates before, but the instructions in the recipe assured me that it wasn't that tricky to work with. Where I think I struggled most was in deseeding the fruit. I submerged it in a bowl of water, but I think I opted for too shallow of a bowl. This lead to an unflattering splatter of pomegranate juice, staining parts of my kitchen and ironically landing on my knife skills book. I assured my dinner guest that this wasn't in fact the scene of a crime, just my first attempt with pomegranate.
    The salad was a big hit and I suggest you giving it a shot while pomegranates are still in season.

    Pomegranate and Spinach Salad (serves 4-6)

    • 5-6 ounces baby spinach
    • 1 pomegranate, seeded
    • 6 oz. goat cheese
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
    For the Dressing:
    • 1  cup raspberries
    • 3 TB balsamic vinegar
    • 2 TB honey
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Pinch of salt 

    Add raspberries to a small food processor and pulse a few times. Then add other dressing ingredients and process until mostly smooth.

    Seed pomegranate by cutting it into quarters and breaking it apart under cold water. The seeds will sink and the pith will float. This might take some manuevering of the pith and the seeds, but overall it was pretty easy. Just watch for splatter!

    Toss greens with a few tablespoons of dressing and coat well. Divide greens between a few plates.

    Crumble goat cheese on greens and top with pom seeds and toasted walnuts.