Asian Slaw

Asian Coleslaw

Every Saturday morning, I sit down at the kitchen table with a notepad, a pen, and a glass of ice water.  Then, with a weighty and strategic approach typically reserved for chess and army invasions, I proceed to plan our meals for the week.  I aspire to make my meal plan into a masterwork of logistical intricacy that takes into account produce seasonality, recipe preparation times, my planned workout schedule, Mike’s fluctuating demand for leftovers, our current food preferences, and ingredient inventories.  A solid meal plan is a thing of beauty, each meal’s ingredients interlocking with the others like Lego bricks.  A subpar meal plan leaves me staring moodily into the pantry, as if the ultimate answer lies between the olive oil and the canned chickpeas.  There is a reason that Mike leaves me alone in the kitchen until it’s all over.

My slightly-obsessive meal planning strategy means that many of the blog’s recipes complement each other: the remaining half bag of egg noodles from haluski can become tuna noodle; one 3.5 ounce package of crumbled feta cheese is about one cup, enough for couscous stuffed peppers (1/2 cup), green shakshuka (1/4 cup), and marinated tomato salad with arugula and feta (1/4 cup).  I am fully capable of planning an entire week’s worth of meals around a 69 cent bunch of cilantro (the little search box in the blog’s right sidebar comes in handy for that).  So while the peanut coleslaw recipe I posted last week has been a lovely addition to the recipe repertoire, it presents a problem in the form of half a red cabbage, most of a bag of carrots, and my old nemesis, a partial bunch of cilantro.  The solution?  This Asian slaw (also, spicy maple roasted carrots and eating chopped raw cabbage drizzled with soy sauce and pretending that it is a fulfilling snack).

Granted, it does seem like cheating to use extra slaw ingredients to make more slaw.  However, differing flavor profiles set the two recipes apart.  In the peanut slaw, the focus is on the mildly nutty dressing and crushed red pepper; in this Asian slaw, the cabbage is front and center, tossed with ginger and dressed in lime juice tempered with a bit of sugar.  As I did for the peanut slaw, I used a food processor to  shred the cabbage, and grated the carrot by hand with a box grater.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Asian Coleslaw Ingredients

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage (a bit less than a quarter of a large cabbage)
2 cups grated carrot (about two large carrots)
1 bell pepper, cut into thin matchstick-sized strips
4 green onions, white and light green parts finely diced and dark green parts thinly sliced (white/light green and dark green parts kept separate)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2-3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup snow peas, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Combine the cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, white and light green parts of the green onions, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir until evenly combined and let sit a room temperature for one hour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and sugar.  Pour dressing over slaw and toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for another hour.

Stir and add additional lime juice and sugar to taste, if desired.  Cover and refrigerate until serving, at least one additional hour.

Before serving, stir in the snow peas and garnish with cilantro and dark green parts of the green onions.

Asian Coleslaw

Beer Batter Bread

Beer Batter Bread

Minnesota’s most famous liquid is its water: the northeastern part of the state borders the largest freshwater lake in the world, and we have more shoreline than California and Hawaii combined.  “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is emblazoned on every license plate, which is a bit of an underestimate–according to the Department of Natural Resources, the state actually has 11,842.

But another Minnesota liquid is bubbling up to prominence: craft beer.  The commonly cited definition of a craft brewery comes from the Brewers Association: a craft brewery is small (annual production of 6 million barrels or less), independent (the brewery can’t be owned or controlled by a larger, non-craft brewery), and traditional (i.e., no flavored malt beverages like hard lemonade or wine coolers).  Using this criteria, as of 2014 Minnesota had 73 craft breweries, ranking us 16th in the nation.  Even more impressive, these breweries are producing 4.2 gallons of beer annually per 21+ adult, which puts us at an impressive 11th in the nation.

The obvious thing to do with all this craft beer is drink it, but since my favorite way to consume carbohydrates is in bread form, I’ve spent the summer perfecting a beer batter bread recipe.  The finished bread most definitely tastes like whatever beer you put into it, so use something you like.  I’ve had the best results with Lift Bridge Brewing Co. Farm Girl Saison–its high carbonation gives the bread a light texture, and the hint of citrus adds some extra flavor.  Lift Bridge Farm Girl is currently distributed throughout Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and eastern North Dakota; if it’s not available where you live, I recommend using another Belgian saison.

Because this bread has a low fat content, it goes stale quickly; it’s best consumed fresh out of the oven.  However, if you do have any leftovers, it makes marvelous toast (and there is something delightfully subversive about eating beer-flavored toast for breakfast before heading off to your straight-laced office job).

Ingredients:

Beer Batter Bread Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12-ounce bottle Lift Bridge Brewing Co. Farm Girl Saison, or a Belgian saison of your choice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thorough grease bottom and sides of a 9×5 loaf pan with shortening or butter.

Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add beer and mix just until all of the flour mixture is moistened.  Batter will be lumpy.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.  Drizzle with melted butter.

Beer Batter Bread Before Baking

Bake for 40 minutes, or until bread is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Bread is best when served fresh from the oven or toasted.

Beer Batter Bread

Peanut Coleslaw

Peanut Coleslaw

Tomatoes and sweet corn are the stars of a Minnesota farmers market.  Their first appearance is breathlessly anticipated, and as July melts into August, tomato recipes are featured in newspaper food sections while sweet corn anchors seasonally-based restaurant menus.  Carefully arranged rainbows of heirloom tomatoes are the centerpiece of each market stall, and heaps of corn are sold straight from the backs of pickup trucks.

There are certainly other offerings at the market–asparagus makes a guest appearance at the beginning of the season, zucchini and cucumbers play solid supporting roles, and basil is the character actor that steals the show.  Hearty winter squash is the last holdout, closing out the growing season like a respected actress in an Oscar-worthy indie movie.

Cabbage is a bit player: the waitress in the restaurant scene, the jogger in the background, the businessman on the elevator.  Heads of cabbage are relegated to the lower tier of market stalls, next to the bundles of garlic and bruised tomatoes.  Since you can buy decent cabbage year-round at the grocery store, it’s missing the novelty factor of a vine-ripened tomato or freshly picked ear of corn.  Then there’s the preparation question: what do you do with it?  The first thing that springs to mind is coleslaw, usually a soggy, bland, mayonnaise-laden concoction.  No wonder people skip the cabbage in favor of the tomatoes.

But cabbage can become so much more than an insipid afterthought of a side dish.  Halushki (cooked cabbage and buttered noodles) is one of my favorite recipes for a quick weeknight dinner.  Braised red cabbage is the perfect accompaniment to homemade rye bread, and this cabbage salad is perfect for winter, when flavorful tomatoes are in short supply.  And if you want to go with the more obvious coleslaw, skip the stereotypical mayonnaise and use an unexpected dollop of peanut butter instead.

This peanut coleslaw has a mild nutty dressing, with heat added to your liking via crushed red pepper flakes.  Keep in mind that the heat level will increase the longer you refrigerate the slaw, so a moderate heat the night you serve it might edge the leftovers into fire alarm territory the next day.  I used a food processor to  shred the cabbage, and grated the carrot by hand with a box grater.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Peanut Coleslaw Ingredients

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
5 cups finely shredded red cabbage (a little less than half of a large cabbage)
1 cup grated carrot (about one large carrot)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 garlic clove, minced
crushed red pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Boil about 2 cups of water on the stove or in an electric kettle.  Place onions in a small colander in the sink.  Reserve about 1/4 cup of the boiling water.  Pour the remainder of the water over the onions, and allow them to completely drain.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and carrot.  Stir in the sugar, vinegar, and salt and toss until cabbage mixture is evenly coated.

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the reserved hot water.  Whisk with a fork until smooth.  The peanut sauce will be thick but should easily drizzle off of the fork; add additional water if needed to obtain desired consistency.

Add the softened onions and peanut sauce to the cabbage mixture.  Toss until cabbage mixture is evenly coated with the peanuts sauce.  Cover tightly and refrigerate until serving, at least two hours.

Before serving, season to taste with the crushed red pepper and garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

Peanut Coleslaw

Spicy Maple Roasted Carrots

Spicy Maple Roasted Carrots

Sunday afternoon is my favorite time to cook.  It’s when I settle into the time-consuming recipes I dream of on weeknights and never quite get around to on hectic Saturdays: slow-simmering soups and loaves of homemade bread, salads with heaps of vegetables to peel and chop, tofu that needs a few hours to marinate.  I listen to my favorite food podcasts–Lynne Rossetto Kasper telling a caller “Here’s what you’re gonna do” with ten pounds of plums on The Splendid Table, or Christopher Kimball taste testing chicken broth and discovering the secrets to the ultimate chocolate cupcake on America’s Test Kitchen.  The onions are chopped before I start cooking instead of while the pan is heating, dirtied pots are washed as I go instead of accumulating in the sink, and the side dishes are slightly more complex than the weeknight standards of microwave-steamed vegetables or pre-washed mixed greens.  Sundays are when I slow down and refocus, when I put the necessary time into my relationship with cooking to rekindle the spark.

This past Sunday’s dinner was beet risotto, a hands-on dish ill-suited to frazzled weeknights, with a pan of spicy maple roasted carrots.  The carrots aren’t all that complicated–you just toss them with some olive oil, maple syrup, cayenne, and salt and roast them in the oven for 20 minutes or so to transform them into a sophisticated side dish that would be called a “small plate” at a hipster restaurant.  If you’re more ambitious than me when it comes to weeknight vegetable preparation, these can brighten up your Wednesday.  Otherwise, save them for Sunday, when you can peel your carrots with care and savor every sweet and spicy bite.

Adapted from Buns In My Oven

Ingredients:

Spicy Maple Roasted Carrots Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin 3-inch long strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.  Add carrots and gently toss until evenly coated.

Transfer carrots to a baking sheet.  Roast until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Spicy Maple Roasted Carrots

Tangled Up In Food

Tangled Up In Food Logo

The logo for the upcoming blog re-brand!

I briefly mentioned in last month’s anniversary post that I will be re-branding my blog in September.  Although all of the existing content (recipes, restaurant reviews, travel posts, etc.) will be migrating to the new site, there will be some major changes that I’m really excited about:

  • The name.  When I started My Mixing Bowl in 2012, it was a home cooking and baking blog.  Since then, as I’ve expanded into writing restaurant reviews and travel posts, I’ve outgrown the My Mixing Bowl name.  After the re-brand, the blog’s name will be Tangled Up In Food, and the web address will be tangledupinfood.com (mymixingbowl.com will redirect to the new site).  The new name better encompasses the wide range of food topics my blog covers and is a nod to my favorite Minnesota-born musician.
  • The design.  As you may have deduced from my current site, graphic design is not my strong suit.  For the re-brand, I hired a professional graphic designer (Korko Design Studio) to create a logo and layout for Tangled Up In Food.  The logo is pictured above, and the site itself will be even better.  The design is much more photo-centric than my current layout, and it will provide easier navigation to my most recent content and allow me to highlight favorite past posts.  There will also be thoughtfully designed smartphone and tablet versions of the site.
  • The photography.  My major focus on this site has always been the writing–it’s why I blog.  But food blogging has become a mostly visual medium (somewhat to my dismay), and my rudimentary photography skills have become a distraction from the written content I work so hard to produce.  I’ve taken a basic photography class, started using photo editing software to clean up my photos, and have been putting more effort into styling my shots.  It’s a learning process, but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
  • Social media.  I have been resistant to social media in the past–it seems like too many blogs are driven by likes and tweets instead of quality writing.  However, if I want to expand my readership beyond a loyal circle of family, friends, and acquaintances (as much as I appreciate you all!), people need to be able to find my blog, and social media provides a way to make that happen.  I’m already active on Twitter and Instagram–follow me for tasty links and pictures of what I’m cooking and eating.  On Facebook, I will be transitioning away from posting blog content on my personal account and will instead have a Tangled Up In Food Facebook page.  My Pintrest account is under construction, and I hope to develop it more fully in the coming months.
  • A monthly newsletter.  In addition to receiving notifications whenever I add a new post, blog subscribers will receive an e-mail newsletter at the end of each month.  There’s lots of content that doesn’t make it onto the blog: variations on past recipes, return visits to restaurants I’ve already reviewed, and tips and reflections that aren’t quite right for a full-length post.  The newsletter will include all of these, plus a digest of the month’s posts, my most popular Instagram photo of the month, and interesting food-related links.

The plan is to have the new site go live before I head to the International Food Blogger Conference on September 18.  None of this would be possible without my husband Mike’s web programming skills and extensive time commitment.  His attention to back-end details and knowledge of cutting-edge technology (the new site will be built on Drupal 8) are making Tangled Up In Food a blog I will be proud to write for.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates.  I’ll still be posting here for the time being, and I’m looking forward to seeing you over at the new site in September.

Review: The Good Earth

The Good Earth is one of the few restaurants that can satisfy both my father, who views a meal without meat as incomplete, and my extremely health-conscious vegetarian mother-in-law.  The restaurant’s convenient suburban locations (one in the Edina Galleria and one near Rosedale Center), extensive seasonal menu, and use of sustainable, local ingredients have earned it a spot on my short list of go-to list of restaurants.  A recent visit to the Roseville location featured many of the culinary details I’ve enjoyed on previous visits, but a several oversights prevented the meal from being as enjoyable as I had hoped.

Good Earth

Freshly squeezed lemonade

Since we visited at noon on a Sunday, we had the choice of 50-plus items listed on the breakfast, lunch/dinner, and monthly specials menus.  The decision making was sweetened with a fresh-squeezed lemonade, frothy and subtly sweetened with apple juice.  The signature bread basket was as usual one of the highlights of the meal, brimming with wholesome seed-filled rolls and hearty crackers and served with hummus.

Good Earth

Bread basket with hummus

 

Good Earth

Grilled asparagus salad

My grilled asparagus salad, ordered from the monthly specials menu, was a carefully composed jigsaw of ingredients.  Each element–quinoa, tomatoes marinated in pesto, grilled asparagus spears, sun-dried tomato hummus, crumbled feta–came together with one or more of the others to create a harmonious bite.  But when tasted on their own, some of the ingredients fell flat: the asparagus was slightly burnt and the quinoa seemed to be unseasoned.  In contrast, the marinated tomatoes and the hummus were delicious in and of themselves, and the salad would have benefited from more tomatoes in particular.

Good Earth

Tuna salad sandwich

Other dishes featured similar high and low notes: a stellar almond tuna salad was almost cancelled out by curiously tang-less sourdough; a pickled cucumber and melon salad that would have made a snappy garnish was overwhelming when served as bento box side dish.  Although friendly, the service was excruciatingly slow despite a half-empty dining room.

I’ve had too many excellent meals at the Good Earth to write it off (on past visits, the vegetarian enchiladas and roasted corn chowder were particularly memorable) but I had expected more from a longtime favorite.

★★½ out of 4 (recommended with reservations)

The Good Earth
http://www.goodearthmn.com/
1901 Highway 36 W
Roseville, MN 55113
(651) 636-0956

*Additional location in Edina at 3460 Galleria

Click to add a blog post for Good Earth on Zomato

Zucchini with Baked Eggs

Zucchini with Baked Eggs

Sometimes I think this blog inaccurately portrays me as prolific culinary explorer, never eating the same thing twice and turning every dinner into a new adventure.  I do try at least one new recipe a week–one can only write so much about tuna noodle and pasta with fresh sauce.  But the rest of the time, I settle into comfortable cooking routines.  My Saturday lunches are a repetitive cycle of baked spaghetti squash with Parmesan, steamed frozen spinach with garlic, oatmeal with sunflower seeds and maple syrup, or corn on the cob.  Winters feature lots of soup.  June through October is CSA season, which could more accurately be referred to as pasta season around here: there are currently 4 boxes of linguine in the pantry, for dishes like linguine with asparagus and pine nuts, linguine with zucchini and chickpeas, and the aforementioned classic, pasta with fresh sauce.

We are in the throes of the zucchini harvest right now, and my zucchini cooking strategy can be summed up in two ingredients: olive oil and garlic.  It’s a classic combination, and one that makes sense for a squash variety that was developed in Italy.  But after spending a few weeks eating zucchini dishes with very similar flavor profiles, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone with–wait for it–olive oil, garlic, and smoked paprika.  I admit that the flavors of this dish aren’t really novel; I use the feta-basil combination in gnocchi with zucchini and feta, and tomatoes are a zucchini sidekick in many of my baked pasta dishes.  But the smoked paprika does add a nice depth, a sultry counterbalance to the zippy brightness of the basil and garlic.  It might even be enough unexpected flavor to make you feel like a culinary explorer.

Inspired by “Summer Squash Shakshuka with Baked Eggs” from the Kitchn

Ingredients:

Zucchini with Baked Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds (about 5 cups)
4 eggs
3.5 ounces crumbled feta
1 medium tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
several basil leaves, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil and tilt to evenly coat.  Add garlic, shallots, and smoked paprika and cook until shallots are softened and paprika is fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Arrange the cooked zucchini so that there are four evenly spaced wells.  Crack an egg into each well and break yolks if desired.  Sprinkle with feta and transfer skillet to oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until eggs have set.  Sprinkle with tomato and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zucchini with Baked Eggs

Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting

When I try to explain to acquaintances what sort of a person my father is, I tell them about how much he’s done for me and Mike in the three years since we’ve bought our house.  He started with painting, installing a new toilet, tiling the entryway, and laying down a vinyl plank floor in the kitchen.  Then he moved on to wiring our garage and installing new counters and a dishwasher.  We helped somewhat–Mike much more than me, because my impatience and high-strung personality combine to make me the DIYer from hell–but the knowledge was all Dad’s, gleaned from years of working on his own houses and an intrinsic mechanical aptitude (he’s a retired electrical engineer).  This litany of projects usually impresses, and that’s the point.  He’s a capable person, generous with his time and talent.

It goes deeper than remodeling.  He taught me how to knit, how to make tuna noodle, and the importance of always having a piece of scratch paper when working on a math problem.  He builds things–a swing set made from pine trees he cut down and stripped of their bark, a compost bin made from an old plastic barrel.  He bakes clover leaf dinner rolls in muffin tins, cardamom bread dripping with icing, and cinnamon rolls, the dough sliced carefully with a length of dental floss to keep the swirl intact.  He can change motor oil, butcher a deer, and cleanly flip a 9×13 cake out of its pan, into his hand, and then onto a cooling rack.

He has his faults: a streak of stubbornness, a tendency to grow too many rutabagas and then try to foist them off on me, and using what my kindergarten teacher would call his “outside voice” whenever he talks on the phone.  But what sums him up is something that my mother said to me years ago, during my teenage phase of anguished embarrassment at my parents’ existence.  “I married your father,” she said, “because he was so nice.”  What I think she was trying to express didn’t sink in until years later, after I had left home and saw my parents through the lens of adulthood.  My mom didn’t mean that my dad was merely pleasant, the person who always asks how your weekend was and genuinely cares about the answer (although he does).  I think she was trying to say that there are people who look at each day as a chance to give instead of simply take, people that are level-headed and unbelievably kind.  There are too few of these people in the world, but my dad is one of them.

And this is his sixtieth birthday cake.

Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting

The cake recipe is from Ina Garten, as published in Food & WineThe buttermilk lends a moistness with a light touch, and the coffee, although quite assertive in the batter, just adds a hint of depth to the finished cake.  I used instant coffee–I dissolved a rounded teaspoon of coffee into one cup of boiling water, and let it cool for about fifteen minutes.

The original cake recipe features a chocolate buttercream frosting, but I wanted something lighter for an 85+ degree day and used a whipped cream frosting from Epicurious.  I only needed about 3/4 of the frosting, but you could use all of it if you like your cakes thickly coated.  Otherwise, you can reserve the leftover frosting for a later use.  Frankly, chocolate whipped cream is a lovely dessert in its own right, especially layered with fresh raspberries in parfait glass.

The cake can be prepared a day ahead of time, and should be stored covered in the refrigerator.

Cake adapted from Ina Garten, as published in Food & Wine, frosting adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

Cake

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Frosting

Whipped Cream Frosting Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
pinch of cream of tarter
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with baking spray.

Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix until completely incorporated.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the buttermilk, canola oil, and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are fully moistened.

Using an electric hand mixer, mix the batter on low speed, gradually adding the coffee, until batter is smooth and coffee is fully incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 30 minutes, then remove from pans and place on wire racks until completely cooled.

Chocolate Cake Layer

If needed, level the top of the cake layers with a large serrated knife.

Frosting

In a container with a tightly fitting lid, beat together the sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and cream of tarter until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 1 to 4 hours.

Transfer sugar mixture to a large bowl.  Gradually beat in the cream with an electric mixer, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

Assembly

Place a cake layer on a platter or cake stand.  Thickly spread the top of the cake layer with frosting.

Add the second cake layer and spread frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Cover cake and refrigerate until serving.

Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting

Chili Sesame Green Beans

Rhapsodizing about the glories of seasonal produce is de rigueur for food bloggers.  Gushing about the superior flavor of a dew-covered strawberry just picked from the field, celebrating the ugly beauty of a lumpy heirloom tomato, buying a dozen ears of sweet corn from a roadside stand and eating them all in one sitting–these moments are set into prose again and again and again because there is a glorious truth to them.  The sweetness of strawberries from the u-pick farm down the road will always surpass the vague strawberry flavor of pale red giants from California, heirloom tomatoes are more photogenic than their bred-for-easy-transport counterparts, and corn on the cob from Florida is a sad imitation of the local version.  But there is a downside to eating local, occasionally hinted in recipe round-ups about what to do with an abundance of tomatoes or zucchini: monotony.

This isn’t as much of an issue for farmer’s market shoppers, since they can pick and choose what to buy for dinner.  But for CSA subscribers and avid gardeners, the season’s bounty can seem like a be-careful-what-you-wish-for fairy tale come to life.  Just as the mountains of lettuce start to diminish, there are piles of zucchini, green beans, and cucumbers, then heaps of tomatoes, and finally a profusion of apples.  I can cope with eating giant salads for dinner three nights a week, I have an arsenal of zucchini recipes, and I have yet to reach the upper limit of how many cucumbers I can eat in one sitting.  The chest freezer has ample room for several batches of tomato sauce and applesauce.  Where the whole eat-local-and-be-happy enterprise starts to falter is the green beans.

At some point in the not-so-distant past, before blogging and Mike and responsible adulthood, I ate raw green beans from my dad’s garden by the handful.  In the intervening years, the hefty bags of green beans that are frequent flyers in our CSA boxes have faded the vegetable’s appeal considerably.  I can only force down so many raw and steamed green beans a week, especially on top of all the cucumbers and zucchini.  Occasionally, Mike prepares himself a plate of green beans with a mustard-bacon vinaigrette, but his green bean consumption threshold is lower than mine.  At a particularly low point last year, with two bags of green beans in the refrigerator and another one on the way, I hit upon the solution.  As many of my culinary revelations do, it began with my beloved copy of Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate.

I had dismissed this recipe on my initial perusal of the cookbook because of the sesame oil–it’s not an ingredient that I typically keep in my pantry.  However, I was able to find it in the ethnic foods section of my local grocery store, and the nutty flavor it adds transforms the green beans from something Mike and I have to eat into something that we want to eat.  This small miracle is well worth $5.99 for a 15-ounce bottle and the loss of some pantry shelf real estate.

This recipe would probably be easiest to prepare in a wok, but I make do with my Dutch oven.  I usually serve the beans over rice to make a meal, but they also work as a side dish.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Chili Sesame Green Beans Ingredients

2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 cups green beans, trimmed
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 pinches of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Heat wok or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add sesame oil and tilt to coat evenly.  Add the beans and 1/4 teaspoon salt and increase heat to medium-high.  Cook, tossing constantly to coat the beans with oil and salt, for two minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 pinches of crushed red pepper.  Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until beans are crisp-tender, about one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the sesame seeds.  Add additional 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of crushed red pepper to taste, if desired.

Chili Sesame Green Beans

My Mixing Bowl Third Anniversary

Three years ago, on July 22, 2012, I launched My Mixing Bowl with a recipe for garlic scape pesto.  It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to post an annual recap on my blog’s anniversary (here are the first and second anniversary blog posts).  Over the past year, I’ve written 90 posts–here are some of the highlights:

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Pie

Maple-Walnut Cranberry Pie

Recipes

Jasmine Deli-Pork Basil Rolls

Pork Basil Rolls from the Jasmine Deli

Restaurants

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Travel

Ritter Sport

Ritter Sport Chocolate

Miscellaneous

This will be my last anniversary post for My Mixing Bowl–in September, I’m transitioning to a new domain name.  All of my existing content will be moved to the new site, and I’ll be adding a professional design, social media presence, and a monthly newsletter.  There are big transformations ahead, and I’m excited to share them with you in the coming months.

But some things won’t change–my love of CSA produce, my commitment to honing my writing skills, my passion for travel, and my contentment with my home in the Twin Cities.

And there will always be garlic scape pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto