Tuesday, November 11, 2008

do you like green bean casserole??

don't you wonder how some items like the green bean casserole with canned soup and packaged fried onions, or the cranberry gel-in-a-can became traditional foods in so many thanksgiving menus? i mean, at some point, loads of people tried it..decided they liked it..and then chose to serve it year after year... this year during our thanksgiving memories series, a number of guest bloggers have decided to share their secrets for upgrading and refining these holiday staples with fresh, quality ingredients and simple techniques. we have already had a couple of stories tackling the cranberry sauce issue...today's guest post from my twitter friend colleen levine takes on green bean casserole.
colleen's beautiful blog..foodie tots...is full of delicious sounding recipes..and lovely photographs...designed to share her quest for "the pursuit of fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable food for the whole family"...i loved reading about her thanksgiving memories...and her green bean recipe was an unexpected bonus...the addition of blue cheese is just brilliant..salty, tangy..but clean in flavor..a perfect compliment to the rest of a typical thanksgiving menu..this will be on my table this year...
i urge you all to check out the foodie tots blog...you will be very happy...

thanks colleen!

A Green (Bean) Thanksgiving Memory
I grew up in Oregon, while my extended family hailed from the East Coast and rarely traveled west to visit. My grandparents preferred to visit in the summer, and who could blame them when November was without fail cold, damp and rainy. I was always envious of classmates who had big holiday meals with all their relatives, and began learning to cook our own family Thanksgiving dinner at the age of eight. My mother was not a big fan of cooking, so I was determined to do it “properly.” I had a lot of help from the original Betty Crocker cookbook. The one dish I remember my mom always making was green beans with almonds, the nuts an added treat over everyday beans. To this day I never make Thanksgiving dinner without green beans.

Over the years, occasional invites to spend the holidays with friends meant new additions to our family traditions. My brother’s best friend’s family always had ambrosia, so now I make sure to include that whenever my brother is able to spend the holiday with us. There was the year I learned to make pierogies with the Polish friends I stayed with while my dad was having surgery. I have always been the only pumpkin lover in my family, so I have tried various alternatives to pie over the years, settling on a pumpkin cheesecake that my mom loves, and pumpkin-cranberry bread for my in-laws. My mom and aunt religiously made cranberry-orange relish, and I often make a batch along with my own maple cranberry sauce. And yet the requisite canned variety is always on our table as well, to appease my husband and father-in-law. (Really, one can never have too many cranberry sauces!)
When eating Thanksgiving dinner with other families, I always hated that ubiquitous green bean casserole with canned soup and onion straws on top. Sure, the onions were a novelty, but that green, slimy mush tasted nothing like the simple, fresh green beans we had at home. (Okay, so they were often frozen green beans, but that’s still fresher tasting than the canned that seemed to be required in the casserole.) Why mask such a beautiful, simple vegetable? When most traditional holiday dishes are loaded with fat or sugar, surely there’s room for one refreshingly healthy side dish. Of course, over the years I’ve added my own twists, so perhaps these zesty beans will make the obligatory green dish a little more able to hold its own next to your turkey and sweet potatoes.

This year, we are once again traveling to spend Thanksgiving with relatives, so I am resigning myself to not having everything I might include on the table for the sake of the big family meal I most wished for as a child. I just hope they have green beans.

Recipe: Zesty Green Beans Almondine
2 lbs green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter
zest of one lemon
2-4 oz. crumbled blue cheese (I used Bayley Hazen Blue of Jasper Hill Farms, VT)

Instructions: Bring pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat sauté pan over medium heat and toast almonds until just turning golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and reduce heat to low. Melt butter in pan, then add shallot and cook, stirring once or twice, until shallots are golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt to boiling water and blanch green beans for 4 minutes, then drain and add to pan with shallots. Add almonds and lemon zest and toss gently. Top with blue cheese and serve. If you make this ahead of time, reheat in oven just before serving, then top with blue cheese immediately upon removing from oven. Makes 8 servings. Enjoy!
By Colleen Levine, who writes about cooking fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable foods for the whole family at www.FoodieTots.com. She is a farmers market junkie and cheese addict who resides with her husband, two-year-old son, dog and two cats in Alexandria, Virginia.

so..the thanksgiving series is officially back!!!... i have been off-line for a couple of days...comcast, my high speed internet provider, had what they termed a "partial" power outage...meaning my cable t.v. worked... but internet did not....yikes! i run a home based, e-commerce company...it is november people...holiday prep....not the time to go off-line. i have been verrrry unhappy. however...to give credit where credit is due...comcast told me they would have a technician come to my house between 12-4 today...the guy showed up at 12:20!!!...diagnosed and fixed the problem with my modem (caused from the power outage) in about 20 seconds...so....today, i am giving thanks for competent people...and being back on line...not as soul-searching as some of my posts..but hey..works for me today...

best to all..and happy thanksgiving month!!

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

follow me on twitter


Anonymous said...

That green bean salad with blue cheese is going straight on my list - and I won't wait for a special occasion either.

(Phew! - for the internet connection, Diane.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for inviting me to participate, Diane. There's no better time than Thanksgiving to swap holiday memories and recipes, and I love that the magic of Twitter lets us do so with new friends from all across the country! I'll be posting a few other of my favorite Thanksgiving sides and desserts throughout the month, so do come by and check them out.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks sally! i plan to make the green beans prior to thanksgiving too..can you say..this weekend???

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

colleen..thank you again for the post...i will be checking out your blog frequently!!


jenna said...

YES!! I actually love green bean casserole, but it's always better with fresh beans vs canned. recipe looks tasty, although i'd leave out blue cheese. i'll let you know how it goes over with the boys. jenna @ foodwithkidappeal

Ulla said...

i have never had green been casserole but that looks wonderful!

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

hi jenna...agreed..fresh beans would make a big difference... let me know how your boys like colleen's recipe...

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

welcome ulla..thank you for your comment..the recipe is delicious..made it last week..will make a repeat for thanksgiving this week..yikes! did i just say "this" week...