As You Like It

This space has evolved into my confessional.  The embarrassing, the disgraceful, the hurt-y; if there’s a red face and burning ears involved, I’m there and have probably recounted it for you, Gentle Reader.These days it takes a lot more to set the blush scale into motion.  I’ve come to terms with my lack of both grace and tact.  But there’s still one category where I’m a tad insecure.

It’s food.  Not the cooking of it, I’m always learning and make an honest effort to grow.  But it’s my taste in food and my capacity to consume it, especially when young.I used to really enjoy sauerkraut mixed with grocery store onion dip.  I could can demolish an entire box of blue box mac in one sitting.  I ate those freaky little La Choy mini egg rolls by the dozen, dunked sour cream.  And once I set up my own kitchen, there was always a can of pre-made frosting handy for snacking.

Then there were canned wax beans.I’d drain them, toss into a saucepan with a too-large dollop of margarine.  Then I’d drop in a couple slices of American cheese food, and cook until it was a gloppy, homogenous mass.

Last week I visited the Carrboro farmers’ market and picked up some fresh Italian wax beans.  I’d never had Italian style (flat) before, and the last time I’d had wax beans, they were full of margarine and “cheese”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI decided to use my go-to veg preparation.

When preparing, regardless of the type, clean them, and cut into bite-size pieces.  If you’re working with a harder veg (Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, fall and winter squashes, anything that gives you strong resistance when you try to pierce it with a knife), it’s necessary to par-cook them so you don’t cook out all the flavor and color by braising them for weeks.Par-cooked veg

Hard veg, cut into chunks

1 large saucepan filled with ocean-level salty water

1 large bowl filled with ice, water, 2 tablespoons kosher saltBring the saucepan to a rolling boil.  Slide vegetables into water and cook until the colors are bright, and you can just smell them (4-7 minutes-ish).

Using a slotted spoon remove the veg and put into the salted ice water.  When they are completely cool throughout, drain into colander.When you’re ready to finish them, put them in a skillet (don’t overcrowd).  Then you need a couple more items.

First, a fat; butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, ghee.  For a whole skillet I’d say two tablespoons, max.  Then an acid; I usually use wine—1/4 to 1/3 cup.  But if you are using something much more acidic like lemon juice or vinegar, add it at the very end, because it’ll discolor the veg.  Then, a liquid; normally water, but you can use stock, juice, even tea.  The more liquid you use, the longer it will have to cook, so for tender veg, use much less liquid.Put everything into the pan along with a pinch of salt and pepper, then cover.  Cook on medium-low until the veg is tender-crisp.  Remove cover and let cook until the liquid’s gone.  For a tender vegetable, like peas, remove from heat as soon as liquid’s gone.  For harder veg, let them cook until they pick up some browning.This is a very versatile method which gives you plenty of ways to customize.  The biggest thing is to not overcook them.  If you went to all the trouble of getting fresh, keep it fresh.

And my wax beans?  I cooked them until they had a little browning, and then I tossed them with a little shaved cheese from the “Under $5” basket at Whole Foods as nod to that earlier, scarier dish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks for your time.

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