Beans with Caramelized Onions

I have certain web surfing rituals.

Each morning, if I have time, I quickly check The Morning News for its quirky collection of news from various US newspapers. On Sundays, I visit the New York Times and read the Modern Love column and the Ethicist. (Okay, yes, I read the Vows section too; it’s a bit of a secret shame really. But I do love reading how these people met and how their lives have come to be intertwined. And, uh, I judge the dresses.)

And on Wednesdays, I check in with the New York Times Dining & Wine section where I read through great stories, get inspired by recipes and print out my fair share to try at home.

But, of all the recipes I have printed from there in the last year, very few have actually been translated into food on the table.

That is until I read a recent article about green beans (which I love) that I knew I had to try immediately. And, what serendipity! I already had a nice package of green beans from the Farmer’s Market sitting in my fridge. Must have been food fate.

I am now in love with this recipe. The softened tomatoes, the beans and the sweet onions with the tang of herbs….

Of course, I had to make a few changes. The recipe suggests adding water when the liquid evaporates. Um, no. I’ll add some more wine, thanks. Oh, and I don’t let all of that delicious liquid evaporate away. Leave some and then use a chunk of baguette to sop it up from your plate.

Green Beans

Carmelizing the Onions

Green Beans with Carmelized Onions

This is adapted from Melissa Clark’s A Good Appetite column at the New York Times. (Her original recipe is Grilled Sausages and Summer Beans with Herbs, Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions, but I only did the beans part of it and, therefore, have only included the beans aspect of the recipe. Also, instead of copying out her recipe word for word, I’ve written it including the changes I made.)

Beans with Caramelized Onions

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1/4 cup white wine (but, as indicated above, I kept using it for adding more liquid. So, likely more like a cup of white wine, unless you want to use water.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, including basil and parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add onion, thyme and a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Saute over medium-high heat until onions are golden in spots and browned around the edges, about seven minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to release their juices, about two minutes. Add the beans and wine and toss everything. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook three minutes. Uncover pan, add herbs and continue to cook. Toss beans occasionally, until there is only a bit of liquid left and beans are cooked to taste — five to 30 minutes depending on if you want them tender crispy or a little more cooked. Add more wine to the pan if it gets too dry. (You can also use water, if you’d like.)

Consider serving with chunks of fresh bread for mopping up the wine/bean/tomato juices.

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Balsamic Steaks

I love vinegar.

As a child, when I used to visit my grandparents on the weekends by taking a ferry to one of the Gulf Islands, I used to take packages of white vinegar from the on-board cafeteria and suck on them during the 50-minute boat ride. Yes, it kind of makes me shudder now. I have always preferred Salt & Vinegar chips to any other flavour. And I swear I’m addicted to dipping focaccia in olive oil swirled with deep purple-black Balsamic vinegar.

I love steak too.

So, it only seemed natural to marry the two together in some divine marinated bliss.

The marinade ingredients

I think I first came across the idea several years ago when I found a recipe online for steaks marinated in, among other ingredients, Balsamic vinegar, garlic and olive oil. But it involved searing on the stove and then finishing in the oven and, after making it once, I decided that was a bit of a hassle that didn’t interest me. And then, last week, I impulsively bought some steaks. (Honestly, I love them, but do find them a bit baffling.)

I’m sure part of the temptation was because the label on them gave some instructions on how to cook them (which is the part I find most baffling. I have no idea what this stems from; it all seems straight forward when I’m watching TV chefs do it). Anyway, I came home and realized I would now have to actually DO something with them. So I popped them in a freezer bag with olive oil, Balsamic and several cloves of chopped garlic. Then I put them on the counter to marinate and started making the lemon custard cakes. But, by the time those babies were in the oven, I was no longer interested in dinner. (Full disclosure: one of those became my dinner that night.)

Best lazy move ever.

They marinated for 24 hours before I could finally throw them on a piping hot grill pan (a city-girl-with-no-balcony-and-no-barbecue’s best friend). A few minutes on each side and a wee rest under a tin foil blanket and dinner was ready. (Yes, there were side dishes, but, the steak was the star of the show.) Medium-rare goodness with a garlicky-sweet-vinegar undertone.

It was so good I made it again a week later.

There is no official recipe here. Gauge measurements based on how much steak you have. This is a rough estimate for the two steaks I made. And, yes, I love garlic. You may want to ease up (or add more).

The marinade

Balsamic steak

Balsamic Steaks

  • 1/2 cup olive oil (don’t bother with extra virgin here; all that lovely grassy flavour will evaporate in the smoke)
  • 1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped (I don’t completely mince them because burnt garlic is disgusting and this way, bits that cling to the steak still taste good.)
  • freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a freezer bag. Add the steaks and let it marinate. One hour is probably the minimum, 24 hours is fantastic.

Heat a grill pan/normal pan/barbecue/hibachi etc. until it is sizzling hot. Add steaks. Cook to your preference. I add the salt after cooking, so it doesn’t draw out any of the steak’s moisture. Let the steaks rest for several minutes after pulling them off the heat, so the juices can redistribute. Otherwise, if you cut into it immediately, they’ll all drain out and the steak will be dry.

Good with baby potatoes, which can sop up all the luscious vinegar-steak juices.

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Fresh Corn Salad

A group of friends and I were talking about things we like to make for dinner a couple of weeks ago, when one mentioned her relatively recently acquired love of all things barbecue. And that, inevitably, led to a discussion about side dishes.

There has been a lot of recipes lately for grilled corn, which sounds delicious (especially when there is also talk about chili-lime butter to spread on after), but I am a sad city dweller with no patio/balcony/deck and, subsequently, no hibachi/grill/barbecue. But that doesn’t mean that I miss out when corn is in season.

Corn on the cob

Every summer I make a few rounds of Fresh Corn Salad, when corn on the cob is ripe and basil is plentiful at the Farmer’s Market. There are only seven ingredients in this salad, and that includes the dressing.

This is really easy to throw together and well worth the effort. (Okay, maybe the actual cutting-the-corn-off-the-cob is a bit messy.) (I recently saw this gadget that strips the kernels from the cob and while I love all things gadgety, even I feel that’s a bit much.)

I did initially have a tough time finding cider vinegar, but then found some at my local Safeway (along with another much-loved Barefoot Contessa ingredient: champagne vinegar. Um, actually, I just looked and mine is “champagne style.” What can I say? I’m a champagne girl on a “champagne-style” budget.) They come in pretty small bottles, but I don’t use cider vinegar all that often, so it works out.

basil and red onion

Corn off the cob

Fresh Corn Salad

This recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Fresh Corn Salad

  • 5 ears corn, shucked
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 3 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. good olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chiffonade fresh basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and set the colour. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

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