• Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
    by Barbara Kinsolver and others
  • Ad Hoc at Home
    Ad Hoc at Home
    by Thomas Keller

The Green Bean Jumble

We are ardent lovers of the fresh green bean.  Frozen, canned or out of season green beans just don't fill the bill. The sweet and tender early green beans are beyond compare. The custom of serving green beans for fall and winter holiday dinners is just beyond me. The poor and somewhat tough beans are just so sub-par.

 For this reason, we enthusiastically plant as many green bean plants as our garden will accommodate.  Starts are selected from our trusted nursery & into the ground they go. There is a problem though. Beginning with our very first garden there has been a problem. The starts are routinely mislabeled. We plant the starts labeled "pole beans" next to fences and around the various bean trellises only to find weeks later that they are in fact bush beans and have no interest at all in climbing a trellis. The starts labeled "bush beans" are set out in rows. Weeks later the poor things send out delicate tendrils, begging for a place to climb. 

The solution to this problem?  Grow the starts from seed, right?  That has worked for several years.

This year however weirdness struck. The beans resulting from two packages labeled "Green Lake Pole Beans" and "Green Lake Bush Beans" have yielded the following jumble of beans. 

These plants are indeed climbers, but have yielded a what appears to be an Italian flat green bean. 

Some of the bush beans have presented us with what appear to be regular Blue Lake beans, soup beans that would be suitable for drying and a purple mottled bean that are a little tough.   They weren't what we expected, but they are ours now......


Green Beans with Olive Oil and Salt

1/2 # just picked, young green beans - stem end pinched off

Fruity extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt or Fleur de Sel

Bring a pot of water to a brisk boil. Add  one teaspoon of Kosher salt. Simmer beans until just tender. Drain well, toss with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle with a little course salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Green Bean and Red Potato Salad

1/2 # fresh green beans - stem ends pinched off

1 # small red, gold or white new potatoes

1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup rice wine or champagne vinegar

1 tsp Kosher salt


1/4 cup (or more as needed) plain yogurt

3 TBL mayonnaise

1/2 - 1 tsp white pepper

Salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to a brisk boil; add a tsp. of Kosher salt & add beans, cooking until just tender. Remove beans from water. 

Cut the small potatoes into bite sized pieces & drop into the boiling water. Simmer until just tender. Drain well. 

Mix together the rice wine vinegar & salt. Pour vinegar mixture over the potatoes, onions & green beans. Stir well & allow at least 15 minutes for potatoes to absorb the vinegar mixture. Stir frequently. Stir together the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate the potato mixture & the dressing. When well chilled mix all together & serve. 

Really simple and really good!





Sunday Morning Potato Cake Contest

What is the very best potato cake?  I've read for years that the latke was the best & folks that make them are certainly opinionated about their recipe! I'm not a big fan of the breakfast potato usually. The are either undercooked, overcooked, too greasy or just plain bland. What's all the fuss??????

Thus.....the Sunday morning potato cake contest. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen ( and Donna Hay for inspiration.


The potato mixtures clockwise from the upper left: latke with onion, sweet potato with russets potatoes, garnet yam & mashed potato cakes with bread crumbs. The cakes were cooked in both a non stick skillet and my favorite cast iron pan in salted European butter. 

The contenders...again clockwise from the upper left - two latkes, three yam cakes, one mashed potato cake & one mixed russet & yam cake. 

The breakfast. One latke, two yam cakes, one egg topped with horseradish cream sauce (thanks Donna Hay) & a chive blossom & parsley compliments of the garden. Don't worry, all the cakes got their fair share of tasting. They just didn't fit on the plate!

.....and the winner is........The Russet & Yam cake! This is a perfect blend of sweet & crisp, holds up well in the oven and is delightful with eggs.

Russet & Yam Cakes

1 large Russet potato

1 medium garnet yam

1 extra large egg

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

(feel free to go nuts here with additional seasonings.....chile powder, rosemary, parsley and so on)

1. Grate the Russet potato, shred & wrap tightly in cheesecloth. 

2. Wring as much water as you can from the potato & set aside in cheese cloth

3. Grate the Garnet yam

4. Mix dried Russet potatoes, grated yam, beaten egg, salt and pepper. 

Melt 1 TBL butter in your favorite skillet (mine is a big, old cast iron pan). Drop a mounded spoon of the mixture into the bubbling butter & press down lightly. When the bottom is nicely browned, flip over and brown the other side. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.  Top with a poached egg, fried egg or a bit of applesauce. Feel comforted.



Coming Soon.....

I've never grown cauliflower, so the process has been interesting. The nine plants have been in the ground for over 90 days without producing anything but leaves. Two weeks ago I notices one little flowerette in this plant, which seemed to double, then triple overnight. I picked it yesterday. 


The end of one crop, the beginning of another & what to do with all that Chard!

Early last fall, we put in a single row of Swiss Chard that was about 40 inches long. The little seeds eventually germinated and grew to be about an inch high where they seemed to stall. Like the enthusiastic gardeners that we are, we cheered them on, watered them, fed them and waited patiently for our first tastes of this crop. It seemed to take forever. Then, suddenly, it seemed, they were tall enough to harvest a bit. I began harvesting by cutting the plants to the ground, beginning at the front of the row. Each time we wanted chard, I cut just enough for our meal. When I reached the end of the row I assumed that that was it and moved on to other interests. 

By late January I noticed that the plants had doubled and tripled and were growing with a vengeance!. I began to selectively harvest the largest leaves for consumption and had enough to share with friends. 

Here is the Swiss Chard, ready to cut.  "Short row," I thought. "I'll just pull it, process it and be finished in 30 minutes." HA....

Cleaned, it covered the width of my kitchen counter. 

....almost ready to be blanched. 

Our little crop weighed in at 10 pounds after allowing for the weight of the towel we wrapped it in. 

Ta da!  Packages of chard ready for the freezer. 

Ok, little rainbow chard have some big roots to fill. Get with it!


Cooking Swiss Chard:

I posted my favorite method for quickly cooking (or see the side bar"simple sides or the whole meal) here: (sorry, the "insert link" tool seems to be on the blink)

Another longtime favorite recipe for greens is:

All purpose spinach (or chard, kale, etc) filling. Use it in vegetarian lasagna, stuffed under a chicken breast before cooking, folded into an omelette or rolled in a crepe and drizzled with Hollandaise sauce....


 5 # greens, cleaned, chopped, blanched in boiling water & drained well. 

1 large yellow onion

2 large cloves of garlic

2 TBL olive oil

1 TBL butter

1 1/2 # sliced fresh Crimini mushrooms

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1//2 cups fresh whole milk Ricotta

1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

2 + tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp pepper

(adjust seasonings to your taste)

1. Squeeze as much water as you can from the prepared greens & set aside

2. Add butter & olive oil to a large saute pan & heat until bubbling. 

3. Dice the onion & saute until translucent. 

4. Add the garlic & continue to saute about another minute over medium heat. (don't burn the garlic!)

5. Stir mushrooms into the pan & continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked through,have given up their moisture & most of that moisture has reduced away. 

6. Add the greens & seasonings, stirring well. (you may want to remove this from the heat & wearing gloves, mix with your hands. 

7.Add in the cheese & stir well. 

Now, use this great mixture in one of the above noted applications, or tuck in into freezer bags and save it for future use!



Nature's Jewel Box.....the first fava bean harvest

Late last October we spent a windy afternoon at the farmer's market in Monterey. One of our favorite vendors convinced us to purchase six little fava bean plants. He warned that they would not grow quickly, that we would eventually get some flowers, but no fava beans until May. He advised that the plants would grow to around 36 inches in height. We paid him for the plants & gave them a home in our winter garden.  

They were 48 inches high and producing abundant flowers in February. The plants are a soft green & the blossoms are white with black dots resembling little orchids. 

Today, April 27, the plants are over six feet high and covered with dozens and dozens of huge fava beans. 

The biggest bean!

This afternoon we harvested the largest of the beans with plans for fresh fava bean puree served with grilled bread, soft goat cheese and olive oil for our dinner. What could possibly be better on a warm spring evening?

42 Pods.....


The shelling of fava beans is a somewhat zen experience. The pods are perfectly smooth & green.When zipped open the velvety surface is revealed and cradles the perfect little beans. 

Fresh from the pods...


Fava Bean Harvest....the stats:

2 1/5# fava beans in their pods

42 pods

Usable individual beans - 210

Bean skins - 1#

Usable fava beans - 3/4#

Finally...fresh fava bean puree! The process from harvest to finished product was about 2 hours and worth every minute.  There is an enormous amount of waste when cleaning fava beans and the work can seem tedious. One night in our restaurant we served gorgeous grilled spring lamb chops garnished with fresh fava beans. The staff spent hours that afternoon cleaning, blanching and peeling the little beauties.  As our dinner service progressed a few plates came back with the lamb eaten, but the fava beans untouched. The indignant faces of my crew were just priceless. How could anyone let these little gems end up in the garbage???


Fresh Fava Bean Puree

2 1/5# fava beans

2 small cloves garlic

2 TBL best quality extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

1 TBL lemon juice

Cracked black pepper

Shell the fava beans. Bring a pot of water to the boil & blanche the shelled beans for 30 seconds. Remove beans to an ice bath to stop cooking. 

Prepare a bowl with a little lemon juice and water. Slip the fava beans from their skins and drop into the lemon water. 

At this point saute the beans in 1 TBL of olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic, Kosher salt & lemon juice. Mash or puree in a food processor. Drizzle with additional olive oil & top with some cracked black pepper. 

Serve warm or at room temperature with grilled bread & soft goat cheese. Sigh and realize that simple pleasures are the best.