When good friends Patti and Jim came for dinner and to watch the movie “Chocolat” a couple of weeks ago, it was easy to choose a quintessential French do-ahead cold weather meal like Bœuf Bourguignon (aka Beef Burgundy or BB).The movie, a forever fave starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judy Dench, and Johnny Depp, is set in France and why not follow a great location theme for our menu? I had been wanting to make the fun Salmon Rillettes out of Dorie Greenspan’s AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE and so that was tidily in the bag (with Kir to drink), as was dessert. Patti, a much-in-demand local caterer and baker extraordinaire, decided to make Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba Cake ( Reine de Saba–a famous chocolate and almond confection) and who wouldn’t take her up on that… My stumbling block was a first course salad. I wanted green, green, green because “BB” is a hefty-heavy meal and there was chocolate cake, too, wasn’t there? I liked the idea of totally simple and fairly quick but stunning– a show stopper sitting on the table when they arrived sort of deal. (I don’t like to be too busy when friends come and I want them to see what’s ahead food wise.) Of course I didn’t want just a green salad. Tooling through the produce aisle trying to figure it out, what looked the very best to me were some skinny green beans also known as haricots verts, which while lovely on their own tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest, and crushed red pepper needed a boost or larger venue for this special meal. I brought them home, cooked them until just past “crisp” and settled on lightly slathering them all in a two-vinegar, very very Dijony vinaigrette. Which was great. Fine. Totally.
Except, we couldn’t just eat green beans. Well, we could… but. So I dolled the whole shebang up with crisp mixed greens, bright white crunchy fennel, juicy cherry tomatoes, tender roasted red peppers, and creamy goat’s cheese. In other words, not so much that you couldn’t see what was there but just enough to show it all off. Thinking hard about balance — comes right after color– there was nothing to do but finish it off with yellow-yellow lemon zest for acid and capers for salinity. Right after I chose the best big round platter in the cupboard, you see. (24″ in diameter and made in Provence) And that’s how I got “Lemony Green Bean and Goat Cheese Salad.”
In December, I promised you I’d have a few more Quarter-Sheet Pan Dinners and, right on time a month later, here’s the next! If you’re like me, you’re ready to put the holidays in the rear view window and have something different to eat after those big meals and all of those leftovers. (Do you have cookies in the freezer?! I do. Ok; we’re good. And you’ll guess our tree is up until Epiphany.) This week’s quarter-sheet pan meal features a simply seasoned pair of thick, bone-in pork chops paired with some fresh beans, thyme, red onions and thinly sliced sweet potato. A fast searing of the chops on the stovetop and the whole shebang slides into the oven for all of 20 minutes while you pour the wine, chat with a friend, or watch a little bit of the new, fab PBS News Hour. (I’m going to miss Judy Woodruff so!) With hardly any work — isn’t that what the oven’s for?–you have a gorgeous, real-deal dinner quick like a bunny. And, wink-wink, this doesn’t feed 4, 6, or 8; it makes just a couple of servings. Exactly what you or someone you know needed.
Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.
This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.
Thanksgiving is a bit like a wedding for many cooks. Something old, something new, something borrowed… Wait, is there something blue at Thanksgiving? Oh well. Lots of folks have to have their favorites. The thing it’s not Thanksgiving without, right? What is your “must have”? I hope it’s on your or someone else’s cooking list.
Note to readers: This is reposted from my blog dinnerplace.blogspot.com–May 15, 2013. We were living in St. Paul, Minnesota at the time. Dave went to find my lemon green beans on this blog–a staple here at home–and he couldn’t find it. Now it’s here!
I really love, love what I have thought of as my best green bean dish, which is Lemon Green Beans. There’s little to it and I make this A LOT. It’s probably my most used “recipe” because people memorize it at my dinner table: “Cooked green beans stirred up with lots of salt, pepper, and grated lemon rind with a little crushed red pepper and olive oil.” Great summer snack, too. I just leave a bowl on the counter. Keeps me from raiding the chips. Sometimes. ALL ABOUT COOKING GREEN BEANS HERE.
Antipasti platter or, in Italian, un piatta di antipasti. A bit dear, but consummately satisfying for a special occasion.
Every year about this time, there’s a night when we have only wine, cheese, and fruit for dinner. We eat it in the cool basement on three trays–one for each and then the cheese platter between us on the third. An old movie plays on the tv. There’s not a salad or even a cooked vegetable and definitely not any sort of cooked meat. The wine is icy white or rosé. Sometimes even the grill feels too much to do or too hot to light.
It really truly is my sister Helen who loves green beans any shape, any form. (I keep saying this.) Crisp and salady or granny style with tiny new potatoes and lots of sliced onions with black pepper; she’ll eat them however you cook them. But the older I get, more I find myself grabbing a big bagful and running home to cook them. My very favorite prep might be my addictive lemon green beans; I make them for meals and for counter snacks: