Tag Archives: childhood memories

Edith Rose and the Green Beans

With a title like that you’d might expect I am going to tell you a story involving sitting on the deck with a great-grandmother, receiving pearls of wisdom that only come with a life lived, all the while snapping green beans that were harvested from the garden only moments before. It’s a nice story.

But not at all true.

Edith Rose was my family’s golden retriever. We inherited the name from her previous owners, but called her Edie for short. I wish I had a photo to share, but it was during a time long before digital cameras and cell phones. Fiercely loyal and protective, always with a smile on her goofy dog face, Edie was the most wonderful childhood companion. When our cat had kittens, their favorite place to snuggle and sleep was within the warm folds of Edie’s soft, golden fur. Jealously was always striking Silver, the mama cat, and we would often spy her taking the kittens, one by one, up the stairs and hiding them in the attic. Inevitably, the kittens would always end back with Edie.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Edie, thanks to my CSA. I’ve been drowning in green beans. With the weeks on end of hot weather and me still deep in the writing cave (although I am starting to see some pinpoints of light, indicating the end is near), I haven’t had the time or the inclination to spend much time in my kitchen. Which means the green beans have been piling up. That was never the case when I was a child – Edie would see to that. Of all of the things to that I loved about her, perhaps my dearest is that Edie was a foodie. One of her favorite snacks was green beans, fresh from the garden (or apples, just fallen from the tree). Every summer day, often on multiple occasions, you could spy her waggling butt (an adorable hybrid of wiggling and waddling – like most foodies, Edie was slightly overweight) making its way down the garden rows, ‘harvesting’ the green beans.

Like Edie, I enjoy my green beans fresh from the garden, but here I took it one step further and slathered them in batter, fried them up, threw on some flaky sea salt and paired them with a refreshing cucumber-mint dipping sauce (I dare anything with cucumber and mint not to be refreshing). A tasty alternative and a welcome reprieve from the writing cave.  Not to mention the golden brown hues of the fried green beans is just about a perfect match for Edie’s fur and the long green beans with knobby pockets of batter look eerily like the gnarled fingers of an elderly woman, wise from all of her years (perhaps my fictional great-grandmother from the story)…

Fried Green Beans with Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Fried Green Beans
from Mark Bittman
Canola oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
2 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup beer (or sparkling water)
Cucumber-Mint Sauce
from Food and Wine
1 cucumber, peeled and deseeded
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
Freshly ground pepper

For the green beans:

Put at least 2 inches of oil in a deep-sided frying pan (the larger the circumference, the more vegetables you can fry in one go) over medium-high heat. Heat to 350 degrees.

Mix 1 cup flour with baking powder and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in egg and beer (or sparkling water) until just combined and the consistency of pancake batter. Place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Dredge green beans first in dry flour, then in the batter and place in hot oil (make sure the oil is hot enough or else your vegetables won’t get golden brown). Cook, turning once, for just a few minutes. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

For the cucumber-mint sauce:

Set a strainer over a bowl and using a microplane, grate the cucumber into the strainer and squeeze excess water (note: use the cucumber for a cool and refreshing cocktail … maybe a little gin and some basil leaves? Just a suggestion). Using that same microplane (why do more dishes than you need to?), grate garlic clove into a small bowl. Mash in salt to a paste. Add yogurt, olive oil and mint, stirring to combine. Add the shredded cucumber and season with coarse black pepper.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie. Now that’s a blast from the past.

With the most recent cold snap in Minneapolis and a drawer full of vegetables from the last of my CSA, I’ve had chicken pot pie on the mind.

When I think of chicken pot pie, I reminded of the summer I spent taking care of my great-grandmother (the one who inspired this milkshake). I must have been 14 or so and my great-grandmother was living with my grandparents. My mom would drop me off on her way into work in the morning and pick me up on her way home. I would spend the day cleaning up my grandparent’s house, which meant dragging the 95-pound vacuum cleaner over the shag carpet and running the laundry, as well as making sure that my great-grandmother took her medications. I also got to pick out which pastel sweatsuit Grandma would wear for the day. During the in-between-times we would watch old episodes of game shows like Family Feud and the Price is Right. Well, I would watch the game shows and Grandma Pete would doze off in her chair. Other times I would dig through her jewelry box in awe (Grandma could rock the ugliest sweatsuit with a fabulous pair of pearl earrings).

I was responsible for making sure the old women ate – which was no easy feat. As a 14-year old in the kitchen, my skills were limited. I would poach eggs for breakfast and boil hot dogs for lunch. But for dinner, I would roll up my sleeves and make chicken pot pie. I think I must have made it at least once a week that summer. (Here’s my exact recipe from over 15 years ago, complete with girlish handwriting and mispellings…)

As a young person, my great-grandmother’s extreme old age scared me. I certainly didn’t take advantage of the time we spent together the way that I would today. She had an entire lifetime prior to that summer. And aside from my early childhood memories of banana milkshakes and grilled cheese, the only thing that I really know about her is that she was sent home from school (she was a teacher) for wearing pants to work sometime in the ancient past when such an action was deemed inappropriate for the fairer sex.

I regret that I wasted such precious time with somebody who had such gumption. I also regret that I made chicken pot pie with canned cream of broccoli soup, frozen vegetables and refrigerator rolls. At least I can rectify one of those regrets…

Chicken Pot Pie

serves 4-6

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
4-5 small potatoes, diced
1/2 head cauliflower (or broccoli)
2/3 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Biscuit topping
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk

1. Cook the chicken in a large, deep sided frying pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add onions to the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more. Add cauliflower and frozen peas. Season with thyme and salt and pepper and continue cooking until vegetables are not-quite soft. Take off heat and add chicken back.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for a minute before adding the milk. Cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Whisk in nutmeg and parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir into the cooked vegetables and pour into a large, deep-sided pie dish or 9 x 13 glass casserole dish.

4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until it resembles cornmeal. Stir in cheddar cheese. In a separate bowl, beat egg and buttermilk together and then pour into the flour mixture and mix until dough comes together.

5. Knead a couple of times and pat out dough on counter to ~1/2 inch thick. Cut into biscuits, either with a glass or cute cookie cutter and place on top of pie filling about 1/2 inch apart. Brush biscuits with egg yolk.

6. Bake at 425º for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are a golden brown.

Rhubarb Semifreddo

Let the rhubarb recipes commence.

In addition to my current rhubarb obsession, I’ve been pretty preoccupied with the idea of making ice cream. But I don’t have an ice cream maker. So no homemade ice cream for me. But, with the latest issue of Bon Appetit, my attention has refocused on semifreddos. As I’ve learned, semifreddo means half-frozen in Italian. And doesn’t require an ice cream maker.

You know how Top Chef often has challenges in which the chefs are to re-create a favorite childhood dish? I sorta did that. When I was young, one of my favorite summertime desserts was simply called “Strawberry Dessert.” It’s not fancy in any sort of way. A crust of store-bought crushed pecan butter cookies with a thick layer of strawberries folded into Cool Whip. And frozen. A poor man’s semifreddo if you will. I thought it deserved an update.

Remember the lime pecan butter cookies I made over the weekend? Yeah, those. I thought they would make a fantastic crust (but plain old pecan shortbread would work as well). And instead of strawberries, I decided to cook down some of my latest food crush (rhubarb) and make a custard with it. And fold it into some marscapone-laced whipped cream and frozen. Strawberry Dessert from my childhood re-invented to Rhubarb Semifreddo in my adulthood.

Rhubarb Semifreddo

serves 6-8
~ 5 lime pecan butter cookies, crushed (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
1 cup raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse cookies to get small crumbs. Press cookie crumbs onto the bottom of loaf pan. Bake about 15 minutes (will be crumbly).

Cook rhubarb and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat until soft and juicy, ~ 10 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

(As it turns out, I am renaming the color in my kitchen to rhubarb puree.)

In a large metal mixing bowl beat egg and remaining sugar until foamy.

Add rhubarb puree and beat until well mixed. Place bowl atop saucepan of barely simmering water and beat at medium speed until temperature reaches 140 degrees, ~5 minutes. Take off heat and continue beating for 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

In stand mixer using whisk attachment, combine 1/4 cup heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract.

Gradually beat in remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into rhubarb custard. Fold in raspberries.

Pour over cookie crumbs and freeze, at least 3 hours.

To serve, gently lift parchment paper out of loaf pan and cut semifreddo into slices. Garnish with lime zest.

It might be my rhubarb infatuation talking, but this is fabulous. Cold, creamy and oh so dreamy. Don’t worry that the crust is crumbly. As the semifreddo warms up, it picks up the crumbs in a most delicious way.

Bananas Foster Milkshake

These were sitting in my fruit bowl.

Slightly overripe, but not quite ready for banana bread, bananas.

So I wondered what to make with them. And somehow got the idea of a banana milkshake in my head. And couldn’t shake it. So I braved the still below freezing temperatures to walk to the grocery store to pick up some vanilla ice cream.

Banana milkshakes without a doubt, remind me of my great-grandparents on my mother’s mother’s side. Both have since passed away, but when I was a child, we would go over to their house and eat grilled cheese sandwiches and banana milkshakes. Most of my other memories of them are now fuzzy and blurred with age, but those banana milkshakes in the retro, brightly-colored metallic cups are crystal clear.

I wanted to jazz up this particular banana milkshake. Over New Year’s, while in New Orleans, Scott and I had a jazz brunch at Arnaud’s with some of his old college friends.  For dessert I was peer-pressured into having the Bananas Foster, apparently a New Orleans classic. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the cinnamon-banana-rum-ice cream combination. It translates into a milkshake amazingly well.

Blend together:

Vanilla ice cream

An overripe banana

A splash of dark rum

A sprinkle of ground cinnamon

And of course some milk

Simple as that.

And to complete my Sunday afternoon drive down memory lane, I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich.