Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stuff You Can Do With Fresh Green Beans

I shop for produce based on price. Some weeks we end up eating cabbage and carrots, other weeks cauliflower. This makes meal planning a bit more challenging, being a household of two vegetarians, but you can do quite a bit with carrots, parsley,and some garlic. By building meals around a protein (fish, eggs, beans, lentils) and a grain, we can eat pretty well for a minimal amount of money. I don't spend very much money on food. We really do eat well, but it does require cooking from scratch, and managing my time.

Tonight, it was chickpeas in sauce, cous cous with dried fruit, and the carrot/green bean dish in the picture. I have a ton of green beans to use this week, but that's fine-they work really well in stir-fry with tofu and sesame.

So what did I do here? At various points through the afternoon (because I can't do everything at once)I cut carrots into matchsticks, French cut the green beans, and chopped scallions and parsley. Some preserved lemon peel, chervil, and thyme filled it out.

I gave the green beans and carrots a quick steaming first. This helped keep the colour and crispness. Right before serving, I heated a bit of olive oil in a large pan, cooked the scallions, parsley, lemon peel and chervil for a minute, then tossed in the steamed vegetables to coat. A couple more minutes is all they need-at the most. Sure, it takes good time management, but I was already in the kitchen keeping an eye on the biscuits in the oven. This is probably the hardest thing when learning to cook. It took me years to understand how long things take (well, we all know that isn't set in stone) and how to coordinate them. Some things can be kept warm, where others can not. Trial and error-you'll learn soon enough if you spend time in the kitchen.

I'm going on at length about this not to brag about my time management skills, but to point out how these things do not come easily. Some blogs would have you think anyone should be able to whip up a dinner wholly from scratch to save money. Sure, that's true, provided you didn't just have a two hour commute home from work, that you have the necessary staples in your kitchen, or even the right pans and utensils. It is fine and well for me to tell you how simple it is to make a sauce from a roux-quite another without a good whisk and heavy bottomed pot to keep the sauce from scorching. Don't get too discouraged by the do-it-yourself crowd. People being people, we tend to think everyone lives as we do. I promise, I'll never sneer at you for using store bought stock, or soup cubes. I'm a big fan of dressing up boxed cake mix. Most people don't bake regularly and have flour, baking powder and other ingredients on hand. I've made perfectly good cakes from mixes, and anyone that turns their nose up at your cake should be told to bake their own damn cake. I mean, you're baking them a cake, right? What sort of an ass turns their nose up at cake? The kind of ass that can bake their own damn cake. You just trust mama on this one, I know about these things.

There's a very real learning curve for most people, and poor Mr. ETB had to endure quite a few pre-made pie crusts and dinners based on condensed soup before I figured out what I was doing. Believe me-he didn't starve. Raymond will back me up on this-Mr. ETB never went hungry when we lived in Boston. He might have been sneaking a second dinner at the sub shop, but he wasn't underfed.

I never would have learned any of this had we not moved out to "the country." Maybe twice a year we have a meal away from home, and it is usually at Hy-Vee. Now with Danny being so allergic, I take our lunches with when we are out for the day. This isn't really as much of a trial as it sounds, but again-it takes planning and good use of time. If I could pick up the phone and order dinner, I would do it. Since I cannot, I learned to cook.

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