Monday, February 28, 2011

Cream of Green Bean Casserole Soup - My Legume Love Affair 32 and Souper Sundays

Cream of Green Bean Casserole Soup

Growing up a child of a mostly scratch cook, I never enjoyed the perennial U.S. holiday ritual of a certain casserole comprised primarily of opening a few cans. It's not that there weren't cans of soup in the house during the year for a quick lunch (cream of mushroom was my favorite), but my mother always made sure the feast tables were laden with painstakingly prepared fare. I did not know that my childhood was deprived until I got married. That's when, while menu planning for holiday visits, my husband and in-laws looked at me like I had three heads: no green bean casserole?

Ever the accommodating hostess, I set out to correct this egregious error of my mother's ways by making my very first green bean casserole, from scratch. It was not a matter of claiming culinary superiority. I simply did not know how to get my head around convenience foods. Old habits and tastes are programmed into us at a very early age. We all love and find comfort in whatever was served to us as kids. Yet I had other mouths to feed beside my own, so I fashioned a compromise where 75 percent of the dish would evoke memories of my past, and 25 percent would please everyone else. An uneven distribution, you might say, but one that was well balanced nonetheless, because that 25 percent was the indisputable, inviolate ingredient, the all-important canned French fried onions.

It's been a few years since I first debuted that recipe, and it is one that I have made again, to good reviews, even when we've hosted my own family. And I must admit, the canned onions do make the dish. In fact, they make it so well that this souped up version cannot do without them. When they are dropped into the hot and steamy bowls, they immediately soften into ragged and rich dumplings. I'm more hooked on them than ever before. I don't have three heads anymore, but two are better than one.

Haricots Verts

Cream of Green Bean Casserole Soup - My own recipe inspired by the original casserole classic*

Serves 4.

Ingredients

2 pounds green beans, stems trimmed
4 cups water
1/2 pound white mushrooms, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk (any fat content)
1 cup half and half, light cream, or heavy cream (use whole milk if you want to trim more fat)
2 teaspoons onion powder (not onion salt)
2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 cup canned French fried onions

Method

In a large saucepan, boil beans in water until tender but not mushy (about 10 minutes). Carefully transfer beans and water to a blender or food processor container. Process until puréed. (The texture will have some fiber in it; it will not be as refined as strained baby food.) Reserve. In a small skillet, sauté mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter until lightly browned and most of their liquid has evaporated. Reserve.

Prepare a roux. In large saucepan used to boil beans, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat until just melted. Add flour, stirring until a sizzling paste forms. (A wooden spoon works well for this.) Keep stirring, occasionally turning over the paste until it expands and thickens; do not let it burn (about 2 minutes). Replace spoon with a whisk. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until paste melts into milk as it heats (it will be lumpy at first). Whisk constantly until sauce thickens and bubbles. Add half and half, onion powder, salt, and ground white pepper. Stir in green beans and mushrooms. Taste for seasoning, but keep in mind that commercial fried onions will be adding their own salt. Divide soup into bowls. Serve soup with fried onions on the side. They need to be added right before eating for the best texture.

Cream of Green Bean Casserole Soup

This recipe is for Sandy of Sandhya's Kitchen, host of My Legume Love Affair 32. Sandy is now busy finalizing the round-up. It will be published by week's end.

Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen is now hosting My Legume Love Affair 33 for March. MLLA marks Dee's return to food blogging after a very long hiatus to tend to happy family matters. Please give her a hearty welcome with your wonderful recipes. She'll be happy to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances.

I have also prepared this recipe for Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, the creator and host of the fun weekly Souper ( Soup, Salad and Sammies) Sundays.

Been There, Done That ~
Potage Saint-Germain
Haricots Verts Amandine
Lima Bean and Artichoke Soup

Other People's Eats ~
Spicy Green Beans with Ginger and Garlic from The Perfect Pantry
Brown Butter Green Beans with Almonds from Andrea Meyers
Green Bean Curry from No Recipes

*This is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fool for Love - Strawberry Fool and No-Bake Strawberry Crisp for Novel Food #12

Strawberries in Sugar

In a home of, literally, thousands of books, I sometimes find it, usually on my serendipitous way to hunting down another title. There is no Dewey Decimal System here. While it's been at least fifteen years since I purchased A Book of Love Poetry, edited by Jon Stallworthy for Oxford University Press, it never fails to set off palpitations the way it did when I first pulled it off the shelf.

It was factory fresh then and free of the yellowing, vignetted pages which one grows fonder of as everything and everyone go through the passage of time. I fan through those pages, snagging a thumb here and there as it lands on the familiar Neruda, Shelley, and Cummings entries; the sorrows and the pities of Hardy and Yeats; and the meandering Baudelaire and Ovid, translated as meanderingly from the Latin without a word spared.

Today I tick off one page, from a Scottish poet I rarely see in print. Edwin Morgan's Strawberries has the power to catch the reader as the glistening small, red fruits catch the eye of the gatherer who crouches to collect them. The verse is sweet and colorful, elusively erotic, and jubilates in elemental love and a love of the elements. It is light and full of vapors both heady and poignant; it is remarkably free of clutter. It has my undying devotion.

I could have agonized over a Charlotte, or fussed with a tray of Linzer Tarts, all gloriously dramatic in their celebrations of romance. Yet it is the simple fold of fruit into cream, and a buttery crumble of cookie on briefly baked berries which I choose to share for the aiming of the arrow. For Strawberries, any other recipe would have been Love's Labour's Lost in the details.


Strawberry Fool

Strawberry Fool - A recipe of ancient provenance in the public domain

Serves 2.

Ingredients

4 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and hulled
1/4 - 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Method

In a large bowl, toss strawberries in sugar. Let macerate for ten minutes. In meantime, beat the whipping cream in a chilled metal bowl until nearly stiff peaks form. Purée sugared strawberries in a blender. Gently fold purée into whipped cream. Spoon into individual cups for immediate serving or cover bowl to refrigerate.


Easy No-Bake Strawberry Crisp

Easiest Strawberry Crisp - My own idea, although I'm sure it is not original

Serves 2.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and hulled
2 large shortbread cookies, crushed
1 small handful walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
Ground cinnamon

Method

Mix shortbread with nuts. Toss in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly toasted and fragrant. Reserve. Divide strawberries into 2 microwave-safe bowls or ramekins, positioning them with their bottoms up. Microwave very briefly, under a minute, until they have gently collapsed and begin sputtering their juices. Watch carefully; they can turn mushy if cooked a few seconds too long. Remove from microwave (bowls will be hot), and scatter toasted topping over strawberries. Finish with a dash of cinnamon. Serve immediately.


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This post and these recipes are for Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaigne Taste who are co-hosting their quarterly Novel Food, an enduring event featuring appetizing and inspiring meals in the novels, biographies, plays, and poems that we read and relish.

Been There, Done That ~

Yellow Raspberry Rosemary Crisp
Almond Cherry Mini Tarts
Baklava Figs

Other People's Eats~
Blackberry Fool with Calvados from Yum Sugar
Homemade "Pop Tarts" from Chez Pim
Persimmon Fool from White on Rice Couple
Dried-Fruit Apple Crisp from The Perfect Pantry
Strawberry Jam with Black Pepper and Fresh Mint from Chocolate and Zucchini

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Whip It Up Wednesday - Maitake Mushrooms Roasted in Butter and Honey

Roasted Maitake Mushroom

There certainly hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of sunshine in these parts lately. With one significant snowfall per week, we are hibernating under heavy cloud cover, not unlike the habit of mushrooms which live under the lowest of light conditions. But even though some of us are longing for those golden, long days at the beach, our limbs and complexions glowing with a touch of tan, that doesn't mean we can't get a good and healthy dose of Vitamin D without the help of the sun on our hides.

Just one thirty-calorie hunk of maitake mushroom, a Japanese variety also known as Hen-of-the-Woods, delivers an astonishing 1250 IUs of the "sunshine vitamin" along with a notable amount of niacin and fiber, and showings of other essential vitamins and trace elements.* For those who avoid the sun, a daily serving of the robust, brown mushroom is far more appetizing than popping a supplement pill.

Preparing maitake mushrooms could not be easier. Typically sold in fist-sized clusters growing on sturdy, edible stems, they need no more than to be lightly seasoned and briefly roasted in oven-proof cups that provide just the right serving size, as well as an attractive side dish. Even on these dark days of winter, you will feel like you have let the sunshine in.
Maitake Mushrooms Roasted with Butter and Honey - My own recipe

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 maitake mushroom cluster, about the size of a small grapefruit
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Carefully remove cluster from its packaging to prevent breakage. Cup the cluster in your hand, stem-side up to rinse under cold water, then trim and discard the least amount of ragged stems from the bottom to expose fresh ends. Invert a small, oven-proof bowl, ramekin, or custard cup over the ends. Invert again to upright holding the cluster gently but securely in the bowl. Melt butter and honey together. Using a pastry brush, paint the tops of each mushroom cap with the mixture. Place bowl in center rack of oven on a cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes or until the mushroom is shrunken by a quarter of its size, and the edges of the caps are browned and frizzled. Remove from oven, top with salt, and serve immediately with a fork and spoon. You will need the spoon for the broth at the bottom of the bowl. If the mushroom has aged (but is still fresh without blemishes), it will be slightly fermented with an aroma and flavor reminiscent of red wine. This makes for an especially rich broth.
*According to the nutritional information on my recent purchase, a 3.5 ounce piece.

This recipe is for Janet of Taste Space hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #269 for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once.

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Been There, Done That ~
Quick-Marinated Grilled Portobello Mushroom Caps
Burnt Molasses Mushrooms
Mushroom and Cauliflower Ambat (Curry)

Other People's Eats ~
Stirfry of Maitake Mushrooms, Lacinato Kale and Quinoa from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen
Pressure Cooker Maitake Mushroom Risotto from The Feast Within
Hand Cut Pasta with Maitake Mushrooms and Squash Blossoms from Former Chef