Thursday, November 20, 2014

Roasted Haricot Verts & Bosc Pears with Herbed Marcona Almonds {for Stemilt Growers}

Though fairly traditional in concept, the Thanksgiving feast is anything but set in stone. There are so many different and intriguing approaches to this meal. I’m always interested in learning of the varied adaptations and twists families make and take in arriving at their particular version.

There’s the big bird, for example, and no one way to approach him. Be it stuffed, dressed, roasted, deep-fried, brined, or spatchcocked... Tom can be a versatile guy. And then there are all the accompaniments from potatoes, salads, soups, and relishes to a host of different veggies... and a myriad of methods to each of these, from the simple to the sublime. Again, varied approaches, none right or wrong.

There is one dish, however, that does seems to spark very distinct opinion on right v. wrong and that's the infamous green bean casserole dish. For the most part I’ve found that friends are either in the casserole camp... or they are not. Many seem to have grown up in this camp and later moved on, others never strayed.

Growing up, I was one of those in the canned green bean-mushroom soup-onion topper casserole camp... by default. I certainly appreciated the flavor and crunch of this caloric creation, but then I didn’t know anything else existed. It really isn’t until you take charge of the meal yourself that you begin to define your own style. And when I did, years ago, haricot verts (French green beans) quickly won me over. Delicate, tender and a bit more diverse in flavor than traditional string beans, these fresh beans also tend to cook up quicker due to their long, slender profile... and require so very little in extras to make them shine. They are just fresh, delicious beans that play well with just about anything that might find itself on a Thanksgiving plate.

Generally I just give them a quick blanch, dry them thoroughly, and then sauté them up with onions and sliced mushrooms, letting them brown up just a bit. However, thinking of this year’s Thanksgiving feast and how nicely the flavor of haricot verts would be with fresh pears... and how beautifully pears (particularly Stemilt’s Bosc pears) roast... I’ve decided to change it up a bit. I’m not switching camps, just tweaking the flavor and simplifying the process.

Stemilt’s bosc pears, with hints of fall spices, are a perfect partner in this dish... offering a subtly sweet balance to this savory plating.

In this preparation everything just gets laid out on one baking sheet, with the pears halved and tucked into the corners of the pan, tossed with a little olive oil and simply seasoned with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Then it’s popped into the oven for anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the bean and the amount on your pan (they roast best in one layer, not overly crowded). It’s an easy, quick roast that can be done once the bird is removed and set to rest before carving. When ready to serve, the haricot verts and pears can be arranged on a platter and sprinkled with herbed Marcona almonds. Super yummy and ever so easy... a dish that will make our own traditional feast this year… from the non-casserole camp of campers.

For recipe details, visit Stemilt’s blog The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I have been compensated by Stemilt Growers for this recipe development project, including photography, the opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own. Recipes and all images are the sole property of Stemilt Growers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Apple-Carrot Morning Glory Muffins {for Stemilt Growers}

We enjoy a good cup of Jo. And like many Pacific Northwesterners, have become just a bit uppity about our grind. Like a good wine, what’s tasty to one may be too bitter or bland for another. Finding that perfect blend when in our own home or neck of the woods has never really been a challenge. Traveling about, however, the task of uncovering a perfect pour requires some planning and forethought... easily done with a little Google search. Or, if we are either north or south in Seattle or San Francisco, respectively, we simply enlist our offspring who have, to our benefit, acquired this same gene.

Having our coffee strategy clearly defined when leaving known territory is a comfort only those who share this mindset (affliction) can understand. For us, the only uncertainty that remains is what to have alongside. Oftentimes it’s nothing, due to lack of hunger... but more often than not it’s simply due to the slim pickings many coffee-centric enclaves offer with respect to baked goods. Though we often just make do with what is available, a summer trek up to Seattle uncovered not only a superb blend but also a more than tasty baked treat at Ballard Coffee Works. This cozy nook hugs the corner of Market and 22nd in the lovely little neighborhood of Ballard, just northwest of downtown Seattle, and a skip and a jump from Ballard Avenue, a quaint stretch of restaurants and boutiques that begs to be strolled. It was here that we had (and continue to enjoy on each of our northern excursions) a great cup of Jo... and a delightful Morning Glory muffin. Each time we visit I look forward to this muffin as much I do to the coffee... and that’s saying something. As such, our visits have been as much about enjoyment as they have about research... determining what makes this muffin so good.

It’s the crumb. It’s perfectly moist, subtly sweet, dotted with just the right mix of fruit and nuts, laced with a hint of warm flavor, and capped with a top that is just ever so lightly crisp without compromising texture. Thinking of this muffin and how best to create my version made me think of Stemilt’s wide array of perfect baking apples... Sweet Tango, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonagold, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith. Freshly grated apple, along with grated carrot, creates that subtle sweet flavor that makes the Morning Glory muffin so satisfying. It’s pleasingly sweet, not dessert-like. And, of course, fresh apple contributes greatly to this muffin’s moist, delicious crumb. It’s a muffin that has earned its name... glorious... any time of day.

For recipe details on my version of this favorite, visit Stemilt’s blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I have been compensated by Stemilt Growers for this recipe development project, including photography, the opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own. Recipes and all images are the sole property of Stemilt Growers.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Turkey Bacon, Kale & Orzo Minestrone Soup

“There are no new recipes. It’s like painting. You are copying Michelangelo, but you put in a little of yourself too.”

I came across this quote from an article in the October 2014 issue of Sunset magazine, The Blacksmith Cooks, about an engaging metal forger that makes a living creating architectural wrought iron at Renaissance Forge, his workshop in San Francisco. It’s a metal shop cum culinary salon where he plans to soon offer classes on foraging foods in nature and cooking with the seasons... talents he’s honed over the years via the matriarchs in his Italian family and, later, cooking casually for the likes of Alice Waters and Francis Ford Coppola. While the article is entertaining to say the least... I love the sentiment in the statement culled from therein... and the no nonsense, honest approach this cook (and creative) takes, appreciating both the refined and humble ingredients that result in magic.

Cooking, at its best, allows you to pull at will from your pantry and fridge... letting these ingredients dictate dinner; it’s gathering the best the season has to offer and allowing those ingredients to guide you in the kitchen; it’s falling in love with a taste, a flavor, or a preparation while dining out and tweaking those memories into your own creation. Getting to this place sometimes means following recipes for a bit of time... forever... or just intermittently. Eventually, however, you can become adept at combining ingredients and seasonings... recognizing what works for you and how to adjust flavor by what you know and what you taste.

And, great results can (and do) come from very simple efforts and ingredients.

When I started this blog several years ago, it was a vehicle to share recipes with our daughters (and a little creative playground for me)... to help them develop their own interest and confidence in the kitchen. And I believe it’s done exactly that. On her drive home one night last week, our eldest daughter mentioned that she was going to “punt” dinner that night as she simply didn’t have the time or energy for recipe following. She makes a lot of what’s on this blog (and others) but that statement was music to my ears as it’s exactly what she heard in our own kitchen growing up. With busy days and little time, dinner was often a punt (our own definition of not having a particular strategy). Punts were good, flavorful, healthy dinners... often ones without a clear plan formulated until we were well into the mix. The fact that both she and her sister can now assume this stance with ease and comfort, when necessity calls or desire dictates... with delicious results... makes me proud.

I’ve made a few variations of this little minestrone a few times in the last month, a perfect soup for the season that uses much of what most kitchens have at the ready... onion, carrot, celery, kale, broth, canned beans and tomatoes, a little orzo... and turkey bacon for great flavor without all the fat.  In 45 minutes you have a rich, hearty minestrone that’s super flavorful and satisfying. It’s a pot that allows you to simmer and taste along the way... perfect for punting or planning.

While I’d never compare what happens in my kitchen to Michaelangelo, I love the sentiment that good cooking comes from far more than the ingredients you are able to gather together as one... however refined or humble they may be. It’s the little bit of yourself that you add along the way and, of course, the love you feel for the people you share it with... famous or not.