11 October 2015

Fall in Northeast Wisconsin

We harvested dozens of green tomatoes this week, but still have a few pole beans on the vine. There's one tiny eggplant left.

No hard freeze yet and its already the middle of October. The leaves are turning slowly this year and all signs point to a long and lingering fall.

The farm markets are winding down, in stark contrast to a decade ago when they peaked with gleaming pumpkins and squashes in brilliant hues at the end of October. There's not much of a pumpkin harvest this year, relatively speaking.

Our earlier tomatoes were mushy and tasteless, thanks to heavy rains in June. Later season tomatoes, especially the cherry variety had more zip. We made a huge bowl of salsa last week, and split it so I could add cilantro and my husband could go heavy-handed on the hotness.

I bought eggs, pumpkin, onions, carrots and freshly-ground coffee at the farm market this week and splurged on an apricot-orange scone with the faintest hint of almond. So good.

Happy October!

27 July 2015

Roasted Green Beans with Carrots, Onions and Honey

I firmly believe that good meals need not be complicated.

In fact, I have a three-items-on-the menu role. A savory with a compliment and a contrast. Simple meals, in my opinion, are more elegant.

A favorite here is roasted chicken with fresh French bread and a tossed salad.  More often than not, the starchy item is eliminated, and replaced with a vegetable side dish.

I would serve this simple side dish with pork and cole slaw (made with pineapple).

Roasted Green Beans with Carrots, Onions and Honey (serves two)
  • 1 cup trimmed green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup carrots, trimmed into slender, 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced or cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a medium sauce pan, bring about two cups of water to a boil. Add the beans and carrots and boil for two minutes. Remove vegetables and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking.

Grease a shallow casserole or pan. Add the vegetables, including the onions, and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Toss frequently during roasting.

I added butter and honey after roasting. The result was a sweet-salty side dish.

25 July 2015

Slim and Subtle: French Green Beans with Lemon and New Red Onions

Green beans are my go-to vegetable in summer, especially when fresh from the farm. I love their sweet, subtle-but-earthy taste, and I think they pair well with chicken and fish.

So I was delighted when one of my favorite growers asked me to try this summer's green beans, which include a lighter and more delicately-flavored French bean.

My husband grilled chicken and I made a classic tossed salad. The beans were the perfect side dish. I'm declaring this Green Bean Week at A Frenchtown Kitchen, and I'll have a variety of recipes to share over the next week.

I made only enough for two people at one meal, so double or triple the amounts to meet your needs.

French Green Beans with Lemon and New Red Onions

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and washed, and parboiled
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion or roasted-onion seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small early red onion, thinly sliced
  • Freshly-ground pink Himalayan salt to taste
  • Dash pepper

Slice the onion and set aside. Melt butter in small skillet. Add onion, along with parboiled beans, lemon juice, seasoning and sauté for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until onions turn brown and beans turn golden. Season.

Simple and delicious. Sometimes the best food is easy to prepare.

25 May 2015

Simple Red Potato Salad

Simple Red Potato Salad with Red Peppers
After a leg injury that left me sidelined for months, I am back in the kitchen.

On Memorial Day weekend, we had simple picnic foods, like lemon-roasted chicken with herbs and hamburgers.

It's been almost a year since I made potato salad. It's not difficult to make, but it is a multi-step process. Wash and boil the potatoes. Make hard-boiled eggs. Chop it all. Blend a dressing.

Easy when you can stand on both legs.

My husband loved it. I loved it. This one's a keeper. You can adjust the amount of ingredients, of course, to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.

Simple Red Potato Salad with Red Pepper (Serves 2-4)
  • 10-12 medium size red potatoes, boiled and chopped or sliced but not peeled
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced (use white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chives
  • Pink Himalayan salt and ground pepper - as desired
  • 2 Tablespoons Miracle Whip
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (I used Aldi's Burman's, which has a tangy, earthy taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grainy French mustard

I don't think I need to tell you what to do, do I? Just prepare the ingredients, toss, add dressing and toss some more.

The only thing - and this is important - is to chill all the salad ingredients ahead of time. They absorb less of the dressing when chilled. And chilling potatoes before you eat them supposedly lowers the GI index, or so I've read.

Optional ingredients include:
  • Chopped or slice black olives
  • Sweet peas
  • Celery
  • Chopped radishes
  • Sweet pickle relish
  • Dill
Potato salad is a blank canvas food. You can dress it up, or dress it down. But it does taste like summer, no matter what you do to it.

And, unofficially, summer has arrived.

15 November 2014

Vegetable Side Dishes, Part Two

Sautéed Apples and Carrots with Roasted Pecans
We have no real Thanksgiving traditions at our house. Last year was a big family event, with everyone bringing a specialty. One year the entire family went out for dinner. A few times we've traveled on that weekend, enjoying wonderful dinners at urban restaurants in other cities, with just a few family members joining us.

But somehow the humble little dinners we've had alone are my favorites. This year, because of my recent back injury, that's what we'll do: An unfussy dinner at home.

One thing I do like on my table each November: Green beans.

Here's my favorite option:

Green Beans Amandine with Shallots: This dish works best with fresh green beans, but frozen will do in a pinch. It pairs well with everything, from turkey to ham, from beef to fish.

I love shallots with green beans. The mild flavors compliment each other. Add something else, something a little richer, maybe and you've got a dish that happily accompanies turkey with all the trimmings:
Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta.

A full turkey or ham dinner demands the addition of a tart or sweet side dish, too. Cranberry sauce, or even applesauce are contenders. But this dish, along with green beans, is really a spectacular option: Sweet, tart and nutty:

Sautéed Apples and Carrots with Roasted Pecans. I love this. I think it's the best thing I've ever done with apples. It's easy, too, and like the green bean dishes above, you can make it ahead of time and reheat it. In my experiences, most dishes improve after the flavors have time to marry.

14 November 2014

For a Frugal Thanksgiving: Vegetable Side Dishes, Part One

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Carrots
For the past seven weeks, I've been dealing with some back issues that have made mobility painful. I'm on the mend, but the process is slow.

I miss cooking. I've been getting by with bagged salads, cereals and easy-to-make sandwiches plus the contents of my freezer's soup stash and my husband's cooking.

I miss puttering around in the kitchen. The organization, the prep, the chopping and slicing and dicing. I'm hoping to be back in full action in two weeks, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Some people insist on tradition, serving the same menu year after year. That would drive me crazy. I like to mix it up a little, try something new. Each Thanksgiving and each Christmas is different. One year we had chateaubriand. Last year we had coq au vin. No final decision on this year yet, but it's safe to say we will have one or two vegetable side dishes.

Roasted Cauliflower with Gruyere and Cheddar Cheese
Our choices may be one of the following:

Sautéed Fresh Corn with Onions: I've been making a roasted version using frozen kernels that is almost as good.

Maple Roasted Carrots with Onions and Thyme: This is a classic at my house, but I'm the only one who eats it. I now use fresh carrots. When I took this photo, I was cleaning out the freezer, so I used an emergency ration.

Roasted Carrots with Brown Sugar and Thyme: This is one of my favorite carrot dishes. It takes the recipe above and kicks it up a notch.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Carrots: I prefer fresh vegetables, but if you're pinched for time, this recipe makes frozen Brussels sprouts taste really good. I paired mine with fresh carrots.

Roasted Cauliflower with Gruyere and Cheddar Cheese: This pairs well with ham and sweet potatoes. A side salad of Brussels sprouts rounds out the meal. Corn bread is a nice addition.

More frugal side dish options to follow.