Friday, February 21, 2014

Easy Steamed Green Beans for People Who Don't Have a Steamer

I love green beans steamed. Boiled, they seem to go from raw to gummy with no stopover at "nicely cooked" in between. I tried dropping them into oil and stir-frying them raw and they just went kind of leathery. But I don't have a steamer, so I made up this really easy way to steam them that only needs a pot that has a lid.

First, the string beans! I top and tail them first, some people don't care.
You can use scissors or a knife, or do like I do and just pinch them off with your nails.
Which also gives you a nice excuse to be too lazy to cut your nails.

Next, the cooking water!
You don't need more than a quarter inch, if that. This much is just right:

Even if you're doing a whole pot of them instead of one serving, that is all the water you need. It doesn't matter that most of them are not even touching the water. They're going to be cooked by the water boiling up and rising through the pot as steam. I have tried salting and seasoning this water, but it didn't really take to the beans. So just save your seasoning for when they're done. 

Now, put the water over medium heat until you see it start to steam and you get bubbles in the bottom of it. It won't really be boiling, because it'll dry up before it reaches a rolling boil.

Now, dump in your string beans! Put the lid and immediately turn the heat down to a low, low simmer. How long you want them to cook depends on how tender you like them. If you like them really snappy, you can check in 5-10 minutes. They start to get tender around 10-15. If you cook them longer than 10 minutes or so, add another splash of water, clap the lid back on, and shake and swirl it vigorously about to make sure everything's wet and that nothing's sticking to the pan. Just minimize how often you open the lid or else you'll let out all the steam that's supposed to be cooking your green beans.

I didn't notice the microwave at the time, but I kind of like having the words Magic Chef just sort of put themselves in my picture.
Now you can add salt and seasonings to taste (salt and pepper are good enough for me), oil or butter if you like (I usually skip that), and eat!

If it's hot out, you can try putting them in ice water and serving them very cold. As for me, I prefer them still very warm.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Putting Cauliflower in a Meat Grinder

So, when you know someone who's getting rid of things in their house, occasionally you get some really nice stuff. This hasn't happened directly to me, but a friend of my mother's was clearing her possessions, and she saw this and thought of me. Thanks, Mom!

Really, only the fish looks particularly distraught at its fate. The birds are unnervingly eager. The sheep are too distracted chasing the cabbage to notice because sheep are stupid.

So naturally, when one gets one of these, one wants to shove various things in it for the sake of seeing them turn to paste. That's normal, right? Anyway, I decided to try a recipe that's been floating around my Facebook friends for a while.

Beige vegetables in a white bowl aren't exactly a feast for the eye, are they?

You're looking at one head of cauliflower, cut up and microwaved in a bowl lined with soggy paper towels until fork-tender. If you make this yourself, don't forget to put a particularly dripping wet paper towel on top.

What we're going to do is smash and mash it, mix it with stuff, and put it in a pan. And here we go! First, a confused moment when we open this box and see a mass of random metal bits:

Why I took it all out and then photographed the box is beyond me, but that's what happens when you're cooking at 5AM.
Fortunately, we also had instructions. So I started putting this thing together and got it bolted to the countertop. Then I realized I have nowhere for the ground up stuff to land. Since I don't like having a mass of dishes at the end, I decided on a different solution than a plate.
This is it! The moment before I turn the crank and grind my first unsuspecting ingredients!

Behold the motion blur!
I had wondered, how does your food come out of this? Does it pour out or what? I didn't see a spout. Turns out your food just sort of... well... oozes out of the front.

Anyway, it works really well. I've often found that with food processors and blenders, the food will stick to the sides of the container while the blades spin in open air, necessitating frequent stops to push it around. This was not a problem- all I had to do was occasionally mash things down so the auger catches them.

However, juice dribbles out of the back. It's no big deal, but it does make one inclined to make sure it's not bolted down above any cabinets or drawers the juice could drip into. Especially if one is grinding meat. You could put a pan right under the counter if you're the type to plan ahead.

The grinder made very short work of the cauliflower and also of the garlic cloves I dropped in there as I was going along. I hardly had to make any effort to crank it; I'd expected a lot of resistance because the last time I made this, the cauliflower bent a potato masher and made the blender emit an unnerving burnt-electric smell. And here is the result!
Beautiful. Just... beautiful.
My newspaper failed under all the strain when I tried to lift it up to pour the pulverized remains of a vegetable back into the bowl. Apparently, even slick paper is not waterproof enough to not fail under the strain.
And I'd briefly entertained the thought that advertisements are actually good for something.

Anyway, the cauliflower (and the four cloves garlic- I don't just like garlic, I believe in garlic- that had been ground with it) went back into the bowl and got mixed with 2 eggs, salt, a lot of pepper, and a handful of Parmesan cheese shreds. Then into the oven it went until it was a bit browned at the edges.
Behold the oddly flexible sheet of cauliflower paste.

Absolutely delicious! It turns out if you put enough garlic and Parmesan on cauliflower, it tastes like garlic and Parmesan. I ate the whole thing. You should totally try this. However, if you're going to eat the whole pan at once, keep in mind you're eating an entire fricken head of cauliflower with lots of garlic in it. You may want to make sure the weather that night's going to be suitable for opening your window.

Baked Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower (or 24 oz. frozen)
4 cloves garlic*
Salt, pepper
2 handfuls shredded Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green shaker, it'll taste funny)
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350°. Cut the cauliflower into 2-4" pieces (you needn't be exact). Line a bowl with very wet paper towels. Put in the cauliflower and top with additional soggy paper towels. Microwave until fork-tender, 5-10 minutes. Grind cauliflower and garlic. Mix with the salt and pepper (use a generous amount of pepper), one handful of cheese, and with the eggs. Press out into a well-greased 9x13 pan. Scatter the other handful of cheese on top (you're not going for a complete covering-- well, you can but you'll need more than one handful of cheese to do it). Bake until the edges and the cheese are golden.

*Those who don't like garlic as much as I do would probably reduce it to one or two.