The July/August issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine has an article on “The Best Way to Boil Green Beans.” The author talks about how he stumbled on a tip in the cookbook On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee that describes how heavily salted water speeds up the cooking of vegetables. According to him, the cookbook said the key was to cook your vegetables in water as salty as the sea which roughly translates to about 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. In typical Cook’s Illustrated fashion, the author proceeded to experiment, trying out different ratios of salt to water, to finally discover that the book was right and the heavily salted water produced tender, vibrantly green, deeply flavorful beans.
I decided to try the green bean salad recipe included in the article and serve it at Christmas dinner. The salad was a hit. I don’t have a copy of Harold McGee’s book so I don’t know if this secret works for other vegetables as well, but I’m definitely boiling green beans this way from now on.
GREEN BEAN SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND FETA CHEESE
1½ lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
¼ cup salt
12 ozs. cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. each of salt and pepper
2 ozs. (½ cup) feta cheese, crumbled
Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large saucepan over high heat.
Add green beans and 1/4 cup salt, return to boil, and cook until green beans are bright green and tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
While green beans cook, fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water.
Drain green beans in colander and immediately transfer to ice bath.
When green beans are no longer warm to the touch, drain in colander again, then transfer to salad spinner and spin to dry thoroughly.
Place green beans, tomatoes, oil, mint, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine.
Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with feta, and serve.
If you don’t own a salad spinner, you can lay the drained green beans on a clean kitchen towel after shocking them in the ice water, and pat them dry.
The green beans can be blanched, shocked, and dried, then stored in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 days in advance.
Today was a scary day at work. I arrived at the office to be greeted with the news that our Vice President had called an impromptu “Organizational Announcement” meeting. Everyone was to report to the meeting at 9 a.m. sharp. The VP’s announcement was that they were going to be outsourcing some of our jobs and some people would be laid off at the end of this year. So sad. It’s hard to understand the business decision to cut costs by sending our work abroad, but it’s harder to accept when good, hardworking employees of long standing are laid off without a qualm. I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to keep her job but my heart breaks for my friends who don’t.
I think comfort food is called for tonight. And what could be more comforting than a yummy bowl of tomato soup? Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’re instantly transported back to those carefree childhood days when it seemed like nothing could go wrong. This soup is delicious and very easy to make. Instead of grilled cheese sandwiches, I gave it a different touch by making Crispy Mozzarella Cubes to serve with it. Yum! Now if only the job situation at work were as easy to fix. Sigh…..
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
1½ cups chicken broth
3 tbsp. honey
⅓ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
In a medium pot, heat the oil.
Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent.
Add the garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, broth, and honey, and stir together well.
Season with salt and pepper if desired, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove and discard thyme sprigs.
Puree soup with an immersion blender. If you want it chunky, puree only half the soup.
Stir in the cream, adjust the seasonings, and continue to cook for another minute or two.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired.
CRISPY MOZZARELLA CUBES
1 block of mozzarella cheese (size depends on how many cubes you want to make)
panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep frying pan on the stove.
Cut mozzarella cheese into cubes as small or large as you like. I like a good-sized cube so I cut them about 1½ inches big.
Place about 1 cup flour in a pie plate and season lightly with a little salt and pepper.
Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl and season lightly with a little more salt and pepper.
Place about 1 cup panko bread crumbs in another pie plate.
Take a mozzarella cube and coat it first in flour, then egg, and finally bread crumbs. Repeat with remaining cubes. If you run out of flour or bread crumbs, just add more, and beat another egg if you need to.
Carefully drop each coated mozzarella cube into hot oil.
Deep fry until golden brown.
Transfer briefly to paper towel lined plate to drain.