Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weeknight Cooking

Weekdays are so busy right now that it is hard to do any real cooking after work.  These are the days when all of our weekend cooking projects pay off.  Around 6 o'clock Tuesday evening we were staring at eachother and realizing neither of us had the heart or energy to really start cooking.  However, we had lots of yummy leftover homemade mac n' cheese, and plenty of interesting farmers market veggies on hand.  We decided to have mac n' cheese with salad and green beans.  I threw together a simple salad of tomatoes, local farm-made feta, killer croutons, and mesclun greens while the husband snipped green beans and Baby J bounced in his bouncer.  Then I made my signature hot-sweet green beans, which are a fave of the hub:

2 big handfuls green beans, ends snipped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
Generous squirts of honey and Sriricha to taste
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with water and salt it generously.   Bring the water to a boil, throw in the green beans and cover to blanch -- this only takes a few minutes -- you want the beans to maintain their crunch.  Dump the beans into a colander, return the pan to the heat, and cover the bottom with EVOO.  Give the oil a minute to heat, and crush the garlic into it, letting it fry for about a minute before tossing in the beans.  Add the roasted red peppers and continue tossing, then add the Sriricha and honey, salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to saute until the beans reach your desired doneness -- we tend to like ours crispy, so we kill the heat almost immediately and serve -- but these would also be delicious a tad more wilted and soft, if that is your bag.

A couple notes about ingredients:

1) Roasted Red Peppers are one of my favorite go-to ingredients.  We always have a jar of RRPs on hand in the fridge.  They are packed with flavor and nutrients, and are very low in calories.  They also had something unexpected to simple dishes like salads and sandwiches.  RRPs totally transform this bean dish from average to interesting. I throw them in almost any vegetable-oriented dish I make.  And they are pretty to boot.

2) If you haven't tried Sriricha, you should.  This amazing Thai, all-purpose hot sauce has a subtly garlicky heat and works wonders in all kinds of dishes from deviled eggs to stir fry.  Sriricha has a cult-following, and when you try it, you'll see why.  If you like heat, just try it almost anywhere you'd use ketchup, and I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised.

3) Finally, remember how I mentioned we made the mac a bit bland since one tray of it was bound for the mouth of a toddler?  Well, I like to add salt to just about everything, and special salts make my salting all the more wonderful.  How best to transform macaroni from mundane to magical?  Truffle salt, my friends, truffle salt.  Need I say more?  The earthy truffles blend with the cheese and bechamel to make you think you are dining at a fine French restaurant, and not at the exhausted end of your Tuesday.  These are leftovers I can live with.

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