Everyone has their favorite food during the holidays. They are so important, if for some reason this special food was not on the menu, their holiday is not complete. I think it is obvious, Turkey is high on the list. It is however an unspoken agreement. Have you ever heard anyone speaking longingly for the roast Turkey when they reminisce about the holidays? No. Yet, the turkey sandwiches made with the leftover turkey is high on the to die for list. For me, I have more than one holiday food favorite, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. Not the green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned fried onions, but fresh quickly blanched green beans and layered with caramelized oven roasted onions.
With all the rich food piled high on your plate, something fresh and green helps balance everything out. It may even lighten the food load enough to believe you have room for seconds. Or, is that just wishful thinking? A crisp salad will provide a fresh alternative, but it is not high on the priority list. People want room on their plate and stomach for all the Thanksgiving side dishes, and salad usually does not make the cut. By the end of the meal, I always have half of the salad leftover.
On the other hand, there is always room for bright and crisp green beans with roasted onions. It satisfies people’s appetite in two ways. The roasted onions satiate any rich and indulgent cravings because of caramelized onions. Plus, the green beans provide a bright taste to counter all the oven roasted foods. The other bonus, by the end of the meal there are none leftover.
Traditional green bean casserole is not high on my ‘Must Have” list. I did not grow up with green bean casserole as part of my childhood Thanksgiving meal and therefore don’t crave it. I also have a slight aversion to anything made with cream of mushroom soup. During my childhood, canned soup was an ingredient in half of mom’s dinners. At that time, during the 50’s and 60’s, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup was the secret ingredient in most foods. It was the quick and easy answer to making a béchamel sauce. In my opinion, Thanksgiving dinner requires green beans, and blanched green beans with roasted onions is the perfect substitute for this traditional casserole.
Making green beans with roasted onions requires a two-step process. Both are easy to do, plus you can make the onions up to two days in advance. The most involved part is roasting the onions. The onions are cooked in two stages. First, I roast the onions in the oven. Then, I deglaze the pan and add the pan juices to the onions and cook down the liquid. This two-step process develops roasted onions with a deep caramel color and flavor. The other benefit is, in comparison to the traditional roast caramelized onion method, the roasting time is cut in half.
More Thanksgiving vegetable sides: Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms
You can make the green beans at the last minute, then season with butter or olive oil, and herbs. I love tarragon with green beans, but it competes with the traditional Thanksgiving herbs of sage, rosemary and thyme. Fresh parsley is a good substitute because it brings a fresh taste and pairs well with the other foods. A light garnish of lemon zest is a nice touch, but not necessary because red wine vinegar is added in the roasted onions.
This is a throwback recipe I originally got from Bon Appétit Magazine in November of 1995. It was a recipe in a story about Thanksgiving Menu ideas from around the country. I believe green beans with roasted onions comes from a New England Thanksgiving based on the other food items on the menu. I slightly changed the recipe by omitting the sugar, deglazing the pan, and lowering the oven temperature for roasting the onions. It is a timeless recipe and I also appreciate the ease of preparation.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hope over the course of the month I will post additional recipes for my two other “must have” Thanksgiving sides, cranberry sauce and stuffing. If you were to ask my children what their Thanksgiving favorite food is, they would say “It’s not Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter, without Pineapple Stuffing.”
Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions
- 6 medium sized onions
- 3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil plus more for the green beans
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups 500 ml of water or vegetable stock
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- 3 lbs 1.5 k fresh green beans
- 3 TB of chopped parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- If you prefer substitute 2 TB of butter instead of the olive oil to coat the green beans.
Prepare the onions
Arrange the oven rack to the upper and lower thirds of your oven
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6
Lightly spray two large sheet pans with cooking spray
Peel and slice each onion into 12 wedges
Spread the onion slices evenly between the two sheet pans and drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt and a couple of rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Toss the onions with your hands to get them evenly coated with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the onions are nicely browned, about 45 minutes or longer. While the onions are roasting check them every 15 minutes and turn them over with a spatula so they evenly brown. Half way through, rotate the pans top to bottom. Watch and make sure the onions do not burn.
Remove the onions from the oven and slide them into a skillet or saucepan. Place one sheet pan over two burners set to medium-high heat and add 1 cup (250 ml) of water or vegetable stock. Deglaze the pan. Use a flat bottom wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits on the sheet pan and bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the liquid to half a cup (125 ml). Pour the liquid into the pan with the onions. Deglaze the second sheet pan.
Add the deglazed liquid to the onions and turn the heat to medium. Simmer the onions until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the red wine vinegar. Stir to mix. If you are making the onions in advance, don't add the vinegar yet. Cool the onions and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Just before serving, heat the onions in a microwave then add the vinegar.
Prepare the green beans
While the onions are roasting, clean and trim off the stems of the green beans. Set a large stock pot filled part way with water on a burner over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water, then add the green beans. Stir to submerge all the green beans. Cook the green beans for one to two minutes. Drain the green beans from the water and add them back into the pot. Drizzle olive oil, or 2 TB of butter, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt over the green beans. Toss to coat. Taste and correct for seasoning. Add chopped parsley and toss.
Put the blanched green beans in a serving bowl or platter and arrange the warmed onions in the middle of the green beans. Serve immediately.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Pasta is the perfect foundation to pair with basil pesto. The intense herb flavor combined with sharp cheese needs a mild flavored foundation to compliment the sauce. Any type of pasta will suffice, but my favorite pasta with my favorite basil pesto recipe is cheese tortellini. Tortellini is widely available at the store, either freshly made, frozen or dried. As it happens, tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is one of my family’s favorite pasta dinners.
I love making pasta dinners with enough additional ingredients for a well-rounded meal. Marcella Hazan says a pasta meal is all about the pasta with just the minimal amount of sauce and add-ins. The pasta is the star. I learned a lot about cooking Italian food from Marcella’s cookbooks. However, here is where I diverge from her rule. For me, I try to make a whole meal that is nutritionally balanced.
Usually, I create a pasta dinner using pasta as the foundation with enough vegetables and/or proteins for a well-rounded meal. This way if I can’t make a salad, I know everyone will get at least one serving of vegetables. You still enjoy the comfort and flavor of pasta with the added nutritional benefits of a full serving of vegetables. Hopefully, the additional vegetables reduces pasta’s glycemic-index as well. Tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is also a great way to sneak in more vegetables for picky eaters.
Whenever I mix pesto into tortellini, or any type of pasta, I always add grape tomatoes. I never serve pasta with pesto without them. The sweetness and acid of the tomatoes nicely compliments the pesto and makes it taste more refreshing. I also love adding blanched green beans to my tortellini and pesto. It doesn’t add extra work and cooks in the same pot as the tortellini. Quickly blanched and crisp green beans add a nice textural contrast to the soft tortellini and smooth pesto. Basil, tomatoes and green beans all grow at the same time and as the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together.”
Tortellini with Basil Pesto, GrapeTomaotes and Green Beans
- 1 lb (450 g) fresh, dried or frozen cheese tortellini
- Kosher Salt for pasta cooking water and seasoning
- 1/2 lb (227 g) grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 lb (227 g) fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Basil Pesto
- Serve with freshly grated Romano cheese
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream or half and half Optional. Follow directions in summary.
Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add at least one teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water and carefully taste. You want to taste the salt in the water. The lore is, the pasta water should taste like the sea. Sometimes I find that amount too salty. continue to add more salt until it is just right for your preference.
Add the tortellini and cook according to the directions given with the pasta. While the tortellini cooks, occasionally stir the pot to prevent the tortellini from sticking together.
About two minutes before the tortellini is done cooking, add the prepared green beans to the pot with the tortellini. Cook until the water returns to a boil. Taste the tortellini for al dente.
Drain the water and return the tortellini and green beans to the stock pot. Add about a 1/2 cup of pesto and stir o combine. Add the grape tomatoes and stir to combine.
Serve immediately with more Romano Cheese on the side.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
This time of year, I focus my meals around tomatoes and fresh corn. I know soon enough local ripe tomatoes and corn will no longer be available. Every day I enjoy the freshness of a perfect juicy tomato and the sweet crunch of fresh corn. They taste so good and refreshing at peak season. I never get tired of them. This obsession challenges me to create different recipes that include corn and/or tomatoes. One variation I created is a steak salad loaded with summer vegetables. This is a light and refreshing salad with just the right amount of spicy citrus dressing to complement he vegetables and steak.
My focus for the recipe was to use local vegetables and fruit from NY Hudson Valley farms. It turns out, everything but the nectarines were grown in Yorktown by Meadows Farm. This local only focus (with the exception of the citrus salad dressing), is a big change for me because I add avocado to everything, especially salad. Avocado would taste great in this salad too. The salad’s produce ingredients include, yellow and green beans, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, fresh corn, arugula, nectarines and herbs. This whole group of fruit and vegetables pair perfectly with grilled steak. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me until I finished the salad, I could buy my steak locally at Hemlock Hill Farms in Cortland Manor.
This salad does not take long to prepare, but as is typical cooking with fresh produce does require more prep-work. I believe the results are worth it. Each step is done to bring out the bright flavors of fruit and vegetables. What is important to focus on is the timing of adding certain ingredients, and when to cook your steak. To achieve the freshest appearance and taste, slice then add the nectarines and steak just before you are ready to serve. Also tear or snip the herbs at that time as well. The rest of the ingredients are hardier and won’t turn brown when exposed to the air and acid.
I am using a new technique I just learned for dressing a vegetable salad. Instead of whisking all the salad dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl, I mix some, but add the rest directly to the vegetables. The citrus juice, zest, Sriracha, and honey get mixed together so the honey dissolves and is easy to mix. Normally, I would add the vinegar with the citrus, and then the olive oil to the citrus mix. However, I will add these ingredients separately to the prepared vegetables and adjust the amounts as needed.
First, add the vinegar to the vegetables with a pinch of Kosher salt. This step brings out the bright flavors and makes them shine. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried this technique. I did not taste a strong vinegar flavor. Instead, the vinegar accentuated the natural flavors of the vegetables. How many times have you tasted homemade salad dressing and got hit in the face with an acid punch? It is not the case when you first add vinegar to vegetables. This is also a good lesson showing how adding additional seasonings and dressings change the flavors of the vegetables and fruit.
Joshua McFadden, chef/owner of Ava Gene’s in Portland Oregon, is considered a vegetable whisperer. He describes his salad making techniques in his cookbook, Six Seasons. I got the idea of adding the vinegar first to a salad after reading his book. Using this idea does make fixing a salad more hands on (literally), and the ingredient amounts somewhat vague. If you are just learning to cook, my advice is to start with less amounts of seasoning and dressings. You can always add more, but it is harder to fix over-seasoned and over-dressed food. Get your (clean) hands in there and add, toss and taste. Repeat until you believe it is perfect.
Do you have a local market where you buy your produce? Farmers markets are great, but around here they open one day a week on Saturday or Sunday. Having a local farm stand open six days a week in my hometown is a treat. I shop at big grocery stores as well, which are very convenient. However, I am grateful to live in an area where local farm produce is available to me.
What meal do you make using local and fresh ingredients?
Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing
- 1 TB fresh orange juice and zest from half an orange
- Juice from one lime and zest
- 1 TB honey
- 2 TB sherry vinegar
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 1/2 tbs Sriracha
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper
Summer Vegetable Steak Salad
- 1 lb green beans ends trimmed
- 2-3 scallions
- 1 lb 450 g green beans, if a mix of colors are available use them.
- 1 ear of fresh corn
- 1/2 lb 225 g grape tomatoes
- 3 oz 40 g arugula
- 1 1/2 lbs 750 g steak, like shell steak, strip steak, or flank steak, your choice
- Pinch of Kosher Salt about 1/2 tbs
- 1/2 tbs crushed fennel seed
- 1/2 tbs ground coriander
- 1 - 2 nectarines or peaches sliced into wedges (If using peaches peel them first)
- About 5-6 basil leaves
- About 6 mint leaves
- About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- More Kosher salt and ground pepper
Prepare the steak
One hour before you cook the steak, remove the steak from the refrigerator and its packaging. Put the steak on a plate and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle Kosher salt, ground coriander and crushed fennel seed over both sides of the steak. Loosely cover the steak with plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
Spicy Citrus Dressing
Add the orange juice, lime juice, zests, honey, sriracha, a small pinch of Kosher salt, a couple of grinds of ground pepper, and smashed garlic clove to a small bowl. Mix until the honey is dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic and keep on the counter for later.
Prepare the vegetables
Trim off the ends of the scallions and thinly slice each scallion on a sharp diagonal. Add the scallion slices to a small bowl filled with cold water and ice. Let the scallions macerate in the ice water for 15 minutes.
Husk the corn and cut off the stem piece. Place the bottom of the corn in a mixing bowl and hold onto the tip. With a sharp knife slice off the kernels from the cob. Once the kernels are sliced off, run the back edge of your knife down the cob to press any corn milk out, catch the drippings in your bowl.
Make an ice water bath for the green beans. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside near the stove.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Trim the green beans. When the water boils add a large pinch of salt then the green beans and blanch them for one minute. Remove the green beans from the boiling water and quickly add them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When cooled, take the green beans out of the ice bath and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Add the beans to the bowl with the corn.
Cut the grape tomatoes in half and add to bowl.
Add half the arugula. If the leaves are large, tear them in half.
Drain the scallions and dry them, then add to the bowl with the vegetables.
Add the sherry vinegar, a small pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper to the vegetables and toss to mix with your clean hands. Taste. You will taste the vinegar, but it will not be harsh. Set aside.
Sear the seasoned steak on a hot grill, grill pan, or skillet. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your pan or grill. Add the steak and sear for about 2- 3 minutes per side depending on the cut of your steak. My steak was very thin, about an inch, so very little time was needed to cook it. Flank steak will take longer. Aim for rare to medium-rare steak, or how you prefer your steak. The internal temperature for rare steak is 125°F (52°C). Medium-rare is 130 - 135°F (54 - 57°C). Remove the steak from the heat and rest on a carving board, and grind a couple of rounds of fresh pepper over each steak. Let the steak rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
When you are almost ready to eat, cut the bone off the steak (if there is one), and slice on a diagonal and across the grain into thin, 1/4 inch (.5 cm) slices. Drizzle about half of the citrus dressing over your steak slices on the cutting board then drizzle 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil over the steak.
Slice the nectarines and add to the vegetables. Add the remaining arugula. Drizzle the remaining citrus dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat and taste the vegetables for seasoning. Add more lime juice, sriracha, or other seasonings if needed. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Tear or snip the herbs over the bowl of the vegetables and toss. Taste and correct seasoning.
I like to serve the steak and vegetables side by side, not all mixed up like a traditional salad. This way if you have any leftover steak, you can store it separately and make steak sandwiches the next day. On a large platter spread out your vegetables and drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs. Arrange the sliced steak to the side of the vegetables and pour any accumulated juices from the cutting board over the steak. Lightly drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the steak and a light sprinkle of sea salt flakes if you have them, and fresh ground pepper. Garnish the steak with chopped herbs. If you prefer, mix the vegetables and steak together in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.