Fresh Green Beans

These are delicious, fresh and rich at the same time. A perfect healthy side dish for the spring and summer. No more discussion required.

Ingredients:
Big bunch of green beans, maybe 1 or 2 lbs
Lemon or lime, zested
Olive oil
Dill, freshly chopped
Walnuts, toasted
Bowl of ice water

Directions:

1. Bring a big pot of water to boil, slightly salted. Prepare ice water and keep it close. Once water is boiling, blanch the beans about 30 seconds to 1 minute, remove with tongs, shaking off the water, and plop them into the ice water to stop the cooking. They will be beautifully crunchy.

2. Zest a lemon, chop fresh dill, and toast almonds and allow to cool. Set all aside.

3. Once ready to eat, heat a bit olive oil on high, then toss in the green beans and sautee until just warmed through. Move them to a bowl and toss in all the toppings, and a squeeze of the lime if you’d like. Add more olive oil if desired. Salt and black pepper to taste.

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Roasted Caramelized Beets

Sometimes I really miss the television. Usually I’m too busy for it, or it would just keep me up insanely late.

Thankfully we go to the gym, and there I can get my T.V. fix. We go to the gym at 5am most weekdays, which means my early morning programing consists of Married with Children followed by The Nanny (luckily the volume is muted and we are provided with subtitles so that instead of listening to her screeching voice we can listen to the techno-pop music they have in the background. Actually, I’m not sure which I prefer.)

When I’m lucky, however, I get one of the treadmills or ellipticals with a T.V. attached to it, and I can select my own show. Those occasions are few because, despite how early it is, the gym is packed at this hour. When I can choose my show, it is always the food channel. In Spanish of course. Which is usually a strange experience because they are often shows originally in English but dubbed in Spanish. I can read their lips sometimes in English. weird. I prefer subtitles to dubbing, but I take what I can get.

This morning, Sunday, there was hardly anyone at the gym. Still, 3 out of the 4 machines with their own screen were taken. I ran for it. It was mine. Immediately I scrolled to the cooking channel and I encountered this recipe. One root veggie roasted to perfection with the most simple seasoning. It was a good thing we had beets at home. This is my new favorite way of preparing them. Crispy and salted around the edges; the stems are particularly delicious. It’s almost chip-like. Sweet and caramelized, even more dramatic than your average beet.

Roasted Caramelized Beets
adapted from food network canada

Ingredients:
4 beets, thoroughly scrubbed and sliced into wedges. Leave stems in tact.
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
Heat oven to 425ºF. Roast for about an hour.

Balsamic Glazed Eggplant

Babaganoush is pretty much the only way I have prepared eggplant. Perhaps once before I sauteed it, but I can’t remember clearly, and I think thats because it wasn’t successful. I was a little intimidated to make anything else because of an episode of Good Eats I watched a while back. It seemed too difficult to drain out the water for a few hours before baking, grilling, or frying it to prevent a gloppy mess.

But one afternoon I finally had time and desire to try it. It turned out very well, too. The texture was great, and the flavor combo as well. There are lots of ways you can prepare eggplant, and the flavors are endless, too. This is effort #2 of hopefully many many more.

Honey Balsamic Glazed Eggplant

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 cloves garlic, ground to a paste
1 T honey
2 t balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
red pepper flakes

Directions:
1) Salt both sides of eggplant slices and place on a cooling rack. Place a heavy cutting board, or something similar, on top and add weight. This will help squeeze some water out of the eggplants. Let it sit like this for an hour or two. Rinse off the salt and squeeze the water out. Pat dry with a clean dish towel.

2) Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

3) Grind your garlic cloves to a paste. Whisk in honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

4) Place eggplant on cooking sheet, and brush generously with the glaze. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you wish. Bake for about 20 minutes each side or until tender, reglazing as you flip.

Beet and Orange Salad

This salad is simple and unexpected. Perfect in beauty, flavor, and nutrition. The acidic fruit balances nicely with the distinctly sweet beet flavor. A little red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh mint, and orange zest bring it all together.

Broccoli Soup with Mint and Curried Yogurt

I love soup. It’s such a fantastic food. It can range between a light and simple broth, a nutrient packed meal complete with veggies and protien, and even a decadent feast with truffle oil, or mussles, or fancy cheeses and swirls of curried cream. Generally I prefer the recipes that include at least 2-3 servings of vegetables in one bowl. I like to see how much good-for-you stuff I can pack into one bowl and still produce a delicious dish.

Mafalda, a comic-strip personality, is a socially minded 5-year old with a turtle named Buraucracy who doesn’t like soup. The below comic quotes “Soup is to childhood as communism is to democracy!” I love Mafalda. If you have never read her, I would recommend googling some of her comics. I think they even come in English.

https://i2.wp.com/www.clubcultura.com/clubhumor/mafalda/sopa/sopa01.jpg

photo from: http://www.clubcultura.com/clubhumor/mafalda/sopa/sopa01.jpg

While I appreciate very much the themes of the comic and the approach her creator, Quino, uses to address social issues, I just don’t get her deal with soup. I love soup. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life. You can do so many different things with it. It can be an easy process of just boiling a few ingredients, or it can be a more complex and lengthy ordeal involving many steps and even days. Considering I have a job and other responsibilities, I generally opt for the quick recipes. But what is wonderful is that they are all delicious in their own way.

The soup featured here is just one example of the simple yet delicious recipes we enjoy in our household every week. The method is generally the same, whether it is broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, carrot, squash, ect: heat a tad bit of oil, add the onions and aromatics, add some spices if you choose, add the veggies, water or stock, bring to a boil, puree if you choose. Maybe throw in some beans, meat, whatever else for protein, texture, taste. Thirty minutes tops. Always delicious. For me anyway. If you’re Mafalda, perhaps not.

This soup, like many of my recipes, is not a science. Use what you have or what you like. I threw in a lot of garlic because I love garlic. Leave it out if you’re self conscious of your breath. Improvise, experiment. Its more fun that way anyhow.

Broccoli Soup with Mint and Curried Yogurt

Ingredients:
2 t oil
4 green onions, sliced, reserve some of the greens for topping
1 small red onion, sliced
3 heads broccoli, cut into florets
4 c water
2 c vegetable stock
1 head garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c plain natural yogurt
1 t curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
fresh mint to taste

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a pan and cook onions until tender. Add the broccoli, water, stock, and salt. Allow to boil until broccoli is soft and tender, about 10-20 minutes (I really didn’t pay attention). Add garlic at last minute, let boil one more minute. Puree until very smooth.
2. Mix yogurt, curry, and salt together. Mince or tear mint. Add yogurt, mint, and green onions as desired to prepared bowls.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic (In the Slow Cooker)

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had a lot of tomatoes around the house recently. We shop at Pricesmart (Guatemalan CostCo) for some things, like coffee, milk (it comes in a box here in Guate), beer, canned items, soap. Items we consume a lot of that has a long shelf life. Usually we also buy pears and apples, onions, and occasionally cheese if its a good deal. But sometimes we make stupid purchases. Like 10-or-so pounds of tomatoes. It didn’t really look like that much. But then we get home, make our first batch of tomato soup, and realize we have almost the same amount of tomatoes as we started with.

What do people do with so many tomatoes? Tomato soup, check. Pan tumaca, check. Tomato pie, check. Still, we had lots and lots of very ripe tomatoes. Now the question was more along the lines of how to preserve them because I’m getting a little tired of tomatoes. So this morning I sliced them in half, placed them on the toaster oven baking sheet, drizzled them with a little olive oil, salt, dried herbs, and some un-pealed cloves of garlic for good measure. In the oven at 225ºF and set the timer for 3 hours.

But…just two hours later our lovely little toaster oven let out it’s lovely alarm and then turned itself off. I forgot that it has a “safety” timer, and if you leave it on too long it shuts itself off. Thank you very much, Black and Decker…but I know what I’m doing here and no you haven’t finished your job. (No, we don’t have an oven. Don’t feel abd for me, I love our little kitchen).

But thankfully Héc is inventive, and suggested the crockpot. I know that many of you are thinking to remind me that the crockpot generally uses “wet heat” to cook, rather than the dry heat of the oven. However, if you place a dish cloth under the lid and leave the lid ajar a bit, the cloth will absorb much of the moisture, and trapping much of the heat inside, creating a similar environment as the oven.

I transplanted the tomatoes to the crockpot, drizzled a bit more oil on top, and set it on high for two more hours. They look gorgeous, and I don’t have to eat them for a few days if I don’t feel like it. Although, suddenly, I feel like spreading a juicy slice of roasted tomato over a piece of toasted homemade bread.

Olive Tapenade with Sun Dried Tomatoes

My favorite foods tend to be something you can spread on bread. This is definitely one of them, next to hummus, slabs of good cheese, olive oil, tomato jam, ect. Its really simple to make, much less expensive than the jarred stuff. Try it!

Olive Tapenade

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
12 kalamata olives in brine, drained
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
3 springs rosemary
salt to taste
olive oil to taste

Directions:
Peel garlic and add to bowl. Toss in a pinch of salt and, using a pestle (or back of a spoon), grind the garlic into a paste. Pit and mince finely the olives. Mince the tomatoes into a paste. Toss together in the bowl. Mince the rosemary and add to the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to taste (I used just a little, about 1 tablespoon). Salt to taste.

Tip: let it sit for a day or two so the flavors can blend well. Although it is still delicious immediately (I usually don’t wait).  Serve over toasted bread.