Category Archives: Quick Questions

Quick Questions: Green Bean Abundance!


So, I just got a message from my friend Mike about what to do with an abundance of green beans. Specifically, he asks:

“We got this thing from Frog  N Snail* that had the following:
– fava beans
– sliced asparagus
– kale succotash
– corn
– green beans
– lima beans

Since we have an ABUNDANCE of green beans at the moment, I was thinking of making this thing tomorrow, but I’m not sure what will bring them all together (like salt, pepper, oil – I have no idea) – any thoughts on how I could tie those all in?”

The great thing about this time of year is that you don’t need to fuss make delicious food; with a bounty of fresh ingredients, all you need is simple seasoning (as Mike suggests) and, in my opinion, a little care in preparation. To bring the vegetables that Mike lists together, I think you have a couple of options. The first would be a soup that highlights freshness, maybe something along the lines of this.

The other, and what I think is probably more appealing for the next few warm days, is a salad that can be served at room temperature or even chilled. The tricky thing here is trying to keep the green beans bright green and vibrant – not an easy task. All the other ingredients (favas, asparagus, kale, corn, limas) should be steamed or boiled, and then immediately shocked in ice water to stop the cooking and preserve color. The green beans should be treated the same way, but should be added to the mix last, just to try and keep them as green as possible. To dress the salad, I say go simple – some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you have some fresh herbs on hand, I think some chopped basil or chives mixed in right before serving would be a nice little addition.

If anyone has additional ideas for Mike, speak up!

*Undoubtedly one of my favorite new spots in Chicago

Sweet Relish Ideas?


I just received a text message from my dear friend Allison that says, “So, if you happened to have 4-5 half pints of really good pickle relish (not dill, just slightly sweet), how would you use it? Hamburgers and hot dogs don’t count.

Whoa! Quite the challenge! So, off the top of my head, I would use it on sandwiches that I know could handle a little sweet kick – namely something like ham and swiss, or even turkey and provolone. I am big on layering condiments together, so I think the relish would pair nicely with a spicy mustard on a roast beef on rye.

Speaking of, if you mix mayonnaise and sweet relish together, you get tartar sauce! I’m not sure Allison, being a busy mom, will be up for a fish fry anytime soon, but I have a hunch there may be some fish sticks in the freezer at her place.

Though I am unsure how Allison acquired such an abundance of delicious relish, I have a sneaking suspicion she or a friend made it from scratch. The blessing/curse of making homemade batches of jam, jellies, relish, or chutney is that you never can make just a little; you always end up with more than you need. Canning and storing is always an option, but even then, you end up with a pantry filled with one particular thing. What about a canning swap? Contact all the home gardeners you know, see if they are into canning, and host a swap. That way, everyone ends up with a variety of items in their cupboard instead of stash of just one thing. Just thoughts on the page, my friends.

Anyway – if anyone else has suggestions on what one might use up a supply of sweet relish, post here.

Oh, and how do you like the new look?

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Quick Questions: Dutch Ovens


My lovely friend Amy, who I’ve known forever, recently me dropped a note on Facebook asking about Dutch ovens and whether I could make a recommendation for one.  I can do better than that.  I can make a resounding testamonial for one, then offer some more cost-conscious alternatives.

As many home chefs will agree, Le Creuset makes amazing cookware that, at least in the case of the enameled cast iron versions, will last you a lifetime.  I currently have two pieces, one large Dutch oven, in red (above) and one yellow grill pan, both of which were wedding gifts from dear friends when the Bun and I got hitched almost five years ago.  When our friend Jenn saw my reaction to the Dutch oven, she was stunned.  I think she said something like, “I thought I was just buying you a pot.”  My reply was something like, “no, you bought us a cultural icon.”  Where I am sure that in France, they would like the “culture” in that description to mean, “French,” I claim this cultural icon for all cooks, the world over, who love to prepare good food and share it with those they love.

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