The share is leaning decidedly toward autumn this week. Contrary to popular belief, or conventional wisdom, or culturally passed on folklore, watermelon is not the quintessential summer fruit. It doesn’t even become available at farmstands and farmers’ markets in New England until late July/mid August. So for those of us in the northern US, watermelon is summer’s last hurrah, before apples start taking over top fruit status. The onions and winter squashes are also a hint that the growing season is coming to an end, as are the huge quantities of tomatoes, which are practically begging to be put away for the winter as sauce, soup, salsa, juice, etc. That basket of tomatoes in the background is now 6 quarts of Tomato Soup, in the freezer. Another batch of salsa is in the refrigerator, using tomatoes and scallions. The carrots are in long term cold storage with the other long-keeping vegetables, and the bok choy made it into a big egg white omelet I made for The Husband and I for lunch this weekend.
I missed my mid-week post, mostly due to all the cooking, and consequently, all the cleaning, I was doing. But I have good news; the Dilly Bean Salad recipe is all set. Here you go.
The dressing for this salad is sort of a hybrid vinaigrette/pickle; there’s quite a bit more vinegar than you might typically expect in a vinaigrette, but more oil than a typical brine. There’s a lot of salt in it, too; don’t salt the water the beans are blanched in, or they will be too salty. I also decided not to shock the beans in ice water after I blanched them; they won’t hold their color anyway, after their time marinating in the dressing, and I think adding them to the dressing warm helps them take on more flavor from it. If you want to go the extra mile and refresh your blanched beans in ice water before tossing them in the dressing, be my guest. And of course, the longer they sit in the refrigerator, the better they get.
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″-1 1/2″ lengths
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup canola oil, or any neutral-flavored vegetable oil
1. In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard seeds, dill, red pepper flakes, garlic and salt and mix well until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the oil until well combined.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch the green beans in the boiling water until they are bright green and tender, but still snappy. Drain, and toss hot beans in the dressing, coating very well. Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring a few times, then cover and refrigerate until cold. Salad can also be served at room temperature. Stir well before serving.
Here’s a little dish of Dilly Bean Salad, after a day or so in the refrigerator, a perfect side dish to our impromptu celebratory dinner for the return of our beloved Market Basket! I went to shop there, the day control of the company was returned to Artie T., and they had our favorite wild-caught Gulf shrimp in the freezer case. I had to buy some, and after a little sauté with olive oil, garlic, and cherry tomatoes, they were ready to be served with some toasted crusty bread, the dilly beans, and a glass of wine, of course. Here’s to you, Market Basket! You’ve all done something truly remarkable that won’t be forgotten.
I also whipped up another recipe from Plenty.
Lentils with Broiled Eggplant is deceptively unassuming and humble. Seriously, eggplants are roasted whole under the broiler, lentils are simmered with carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf and thyme, more carrots, more celery, and cherry tomatoes are roasted briefly in the oven. The roasted vegetables are tossed with the lentils, vinegar, salt and pepper, and some herbs, then topped with the insides of the roasted eggplant and a bit of yogurt or crème fraîche.
Be prepared to dance around your kitchen after your first bite.
Once again, Ottolenghi has elevated the simplest of ingredients, following the simplest of methods, into something extraordinary. Even after eggplants are out of season, the lentils will be a go-to side dish for any sort of meat, or as a vegetarian meal topped with a poached egg, or just as they are. They couldn’t be simpler to prepare, or more astonishingly flavorful and satisfying, in a down-to-your-core, intimate, comfort-food-satisfying way. If you have a comfort food that you would happily dive into a vat of after a really hard day (and I know you do), you want to make this dish. These lentils are vat-diving good.
Clicking on the recipe link above will take you to TheKitchn, and their review of the cookbook Plenty. If you won’t take my word for it, take theirs. Buy. This. Cookbook. My. God. Don’t make me tell you again.
Last, but so not least, we celebrated The Boy’s 14th birthday this weekend. Don’t ask me how that happened; I am the mother of a 14-year-old man/boy, overnight it seems. His dinner menu requests were broiled pork chops, corn-on-the-cob, steamed broccoli-cauliflower medley, and little buttermilk biscuits. His birthday cake request? Giant Cupcakes.
Never let it be said that I backed away from a culinary challenge. (Empty cupcake wrapper included for scale.) These cupcakes are so giant, The Grandparents split one, and The Husband and I split one. The Boy very nearly consumed one all by himself, without exploding. Proof that he is, indeed, a teenage boy.
I’ve had a very busy week, full of cooking foods I love for the people I love. I’m so happy to finally have the chance to share it all with you, take a breath, wash the dishes, and start all over again.