Stella’s Green Bean Salad

We grow our own green beans in our allotment garden, conveniently located a block and a half down the street.  By this time of year, we have a nice harvest of the stringy green little guys, and it’s often a challenge to think of new ways to prepare them. In addition to The Shiksa’s Ligurian Pasta Trenette, this is one of my favorite green bean dishes.  Give it a try and see if you don’t agree!

2 cups green beans
2 rashers of bacon
1/4 of a shallot, finely sliced
1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
2 standard pats of butter
2 cups mixed greens or your favorite salad leaves

1. Over medium heat, fry bacon in one pat of butter. Meanwhile, start a pot of water boiling and wash your green beans. Snip off a bit the stem-ends or any brown areas.

2. Put beans into boiling water and leave for three minutes. Meanwhile, remove cooked bacon onto paper towels to drain. Pour excess bacon grease from pan (keep it in a Mason jar in the fridge for future use!), leaving just a little, and add the other pat of butter. Gently sautée shallots and mushrooms, stirring frequently.

3. Once beans have been boiled for three minutes (they should be bright green and tender but not limp), drain them and place them in with the shallots and mushrooms. Stir for about about two minutes, making sure the beans are well mixed in and evenly cooked.

4. Serve green bean mixture over mixed greens (I used baby leaves here) and serve immediately.

Serves two.

To make a veg*n version, substitute olive oil for butter and toasted walnuts or pecans for bacon!

Enjoyed for dinner with leftover Brie, walnut, and apricot preserve tartine, from Blue Dahlia Bistro – with grapes for dessert!


Homemade Bread

A homemade boule!

We’ve been experimenting with homemade bread at my house, working from the Rocket Bread and New York Times recipes that have gotten so much attention in the food blogosphere. These simple recipes require at least 24 hours of waiting time, but only about 10 minutes of working time and a total of 45 minutes to an hour of actual baking. And, though of course the results are delicious (especially fresh out of the oven, with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil), the best part is really the smell that wafts through your house while the bread is in the oven! It’s also pretty easy to make a loaf or two per week, and drastically cuts down on the cost of bread. Plus, you can experiment with a variety of different herbs, nuts, fruits, wheat and white breads, and flour-to-cornmeal ratios.

Homemade bread with Broccoli Pine Nut Soup.

This week, Eric made use of our first little “crop” of oregano, along with some rosemary kindly given to me by one of my favorite emeriti, and created a richly fragrant herbal bread. He either didn’t include enough yeast, or our yeast is a little old, though, because the loaf didn’t rise spectacularly from my new, rectangular metal pan as expected. However, it was eminently edible, and I had a slice this morning, toasted with butter.

Eric’s Rosemary and Oregano Bread

We also tend to like sourdough best, so we let our bread rise for at least 24 hours, often longer. So, this activity is really perfect for lazy procrastinators who happen to like fresh, homemade food. It’s like the anti-croissant. I must mention here, of course, that the very best sourdough toast I have ever eaten is served at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco!

Butter, y’all!

After I made my first boule (pictured at top), I was sold. I vowed never to buy bread again. I couldn’t believe it was so easy. Like it’s cousin, beer (or, as my partner calls it, “liquid bread”), bread is often a bit intimidating to the home cook; it’s so fundamental and, like other forms of baking, seems to require more magic than just following the steps in a recipe. And this is true. Baking bread involves science: chemical reactions, timing, experimentation. But since all cooking is, after all, a form of art, it makes sense that baking bread is not simply a matter of mechanically following instructions; it is also alchemy.

Rosemary Garlic Bread

Yorkshire Pudding

Recipe from my ex-future-mother-in-law’s actual Yorkshire kitchen. It works in Texas, too! This is one of my favorite treats – cheap, easy, and oh so delicious with some warm brown gravy!

Needless to say, these are not what we Americans would refer to as “pudding” (which is usually cold, smooth, sweet, and eaten for dessert). Yorkshire puddings, which are essentially baked batter (like a Yankee “popover”), were originally a first course – they were meant to fill you up before the meat arrived. They’ve morphed into a British tradition and are served alongside a traditional Sunday roast, with lashings of beef gravy (preferably made from drippings from the same roasting joint). Sometimes, you will see giant Yorkshire puddings with the meat, vegetables, and gravy poured inside, like a big, edible plate!

They’re a bit tricky to get just right, but here’s my very best recipe (adjust for your altitude if necessary).

1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup lard or bacon fat

1. Stir the flour and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, thoroughly beat the eggs for about one minmute; add milk and stir lightly. Slowly pour the eggs and milk into the flour mixture, folding together as you go. Stir vigorously with a large fork until the ingredients are evenly mixed but no longer. Cover and set aside at room temperature for up to two hours.

2. About 20 minutes before your dinner is ready to serve, preheat your oven to 450°F. Spoon a half-thimble-sized bit of lard into each cup in a regular old muffin tin. Place the tin in the oven and allow the lard to melt (about five minutes) – it should be nearly smoking hot.

3. Carefully remove the tin from the oven and place on the stove top or other stable, heat-proof surface. Pour the batter into each cup, filling about halfway. This should fill up all 12 cups in the tin. Do not overfill.

4. Place the tin back in the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Do not open the door for at least the first 15 minutes, or you will cause your puddings to deflate. If you have a window on your oven, you can watch their progress. After about 15 minutes, you can take a peek to see how fast they’re browning. You want them to be fairly browned, and a light, glistening yellow in the centers. They should rise into a classic mushroom shape, fluffy with a hollow center.

5. Once browned, remove the puddings from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. You can then pop them right out of the tin with your fingertips, or guide them with a fork or spatula. Serve immediately alongside roast meat and vegetables, topped with a generous helping of a nice brown gravy (preferably beef!).

Makes 12 medium sized puddings.

Stella’s Sprout Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

This is a deceptively simple salad with complementary flavors: the nuttiness of the Brussels sprouts and pecans, balanced with the tanginess of the cheese and light, bright notes from the lemon juice.

And it’s so easy!

Great as a snack or as a side.  I often serve it as a first course, paired with my Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed and peeled as necessary
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small skillet, toss pecans over medium high heat for a few minutes until they are lightly toasted, but not blackened. Sit aside in a small bowl.

2. Shred sprouts either on a mandoline or by hand (I did the latter this time). You want thin slivers of bright green sprouts.

3. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve immediately as a fresh, cool salad. Add more cheese as garnish and drizzle with warm bacon dressing (below) if desired. It’s also perfectly delicious without dressing.

This slaw will keep for a day or so in the refrigerator, but is best fresh.

Serves 4.


Warm Bacon Dressing
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp horseradish sauce
dash black pepper

1. In a small skillet, warm bacon grease over low heat. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and horseradish and cook for a minute or two. Add bacon, stir, and pour into container or directly onto salad.

Bacon-Stuffed Acorn Squash

I had two of those pesky, hard-to-peel acorn squash, and, being the lazy glutton that I am, I really didn’t want to cook them.  So I created this cheater’s recipe.

You don’t even need to peel these, because you’ll just scoop out the delicious, bacony filling with a spoon, squash and all!

I cooked some Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower along with the squash, for an easy, one-pan meal. This would also be good with a side of rice, or with rice added into the stuffing. The options are endless, but this combination was low-hassle and very savory!

2 acorn squash
6 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
olive oil
~1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
4 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Using a bit of butter and/or olive oil, cook your onions and bacon in a skillet until bacon is browned but still soft – not crispy. Drain on a paper towel while you prepare the squash.

2. Grease a medium-sized pan with olive oil or butter. Wash squash under cold running water and dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towels. On a stable surface, cut squash in half with a sharp knife. Other recipes call for cutting an acorn squash from stem to bottom, but I cut across the diameter and removed the stem with no problem. Remove the seeds and pulp from both squash with a spoon (scraping the inside with your knife to remove stringy bits if necessary).

3. Rub squash with a light coating of olive oil and place in the pan, open face up. Strip the rosemary leaves from a couple of your sprigs. Sprinkle them, along with salt and pepper, over the squash. Next, spoon the bacon and onions into the center of each hollowed out squash. If you are roasting any other side vegetables, go ahead and put them in the pan and drizzle with olive oil.* Finish off with a the remaining sprigs of rosemary laid around the pan.

4. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until squash is tender when poked with a fork. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle cheese into each squash, stirring lightly to mix in a little with the bacon and onion. Return to oven and broil for about two minutes, or until cheese melts and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.