Category Archives: Vegetarian

Garlicky Soy Honey Green Beans

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One of the most popular requests I receive is for inspired side vegetable dishes.  Something easy, something delicious, something that (hopefully) everyone at the dinner table will eat.

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Green beans are one of those vegetables that pretty much everyone likes.  You hear complaints about broccoli or eggplant or spinach, but green beans are quite well-loved, or at least pretty inoffensive.

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This recipe takes this ho-hum vegetable and with a new preparation technique and just a handful of ingredients, transforms it into something altogether different than what you’ve likely encountered before.  It’s inspired by green beans I’ve eaten at Chinese restaurants.

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Plus it doesn’t involve the oven or even steaming (a bonus for these summer months).  Sauté the green beans until they’ve blacked a bit, then add soy, honey and garlic and you’ve got yourself some mean beans.

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And with this post, I’m going to say so long for a few months.  As I type, our London house is being packed up and on July 4th we fly back to the States (oh, the irony!).  We’ll be vagabonds for the summer traveling through California and the midwest, until we settle in Boston at the end of August, hopefully timing our arrival with that of our household goods from London.  I’ll be back with more recipes probably in September, once my Boston kitchen is up and running.  Enjoy the summer and happy cooking (and eating).  xo

1 year ago:  Salmon Salad with Dill and Capers

Garlicky Soy Honey Green Beans (serves 4 as a side dish)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces (340 grams) green beans, trimmed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon honey


In a medium sauté pan heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted, add the green beans and salt.  Cook, stirring the beans occasionally, until most are well-browned, shrunken and tender, 8-10 minutes.  (The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.  If beans aren’t browned at 8 minutes, turn up heat a bit.)  While the beans are cooking combine the soy sauce and water in a small bowl.

Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Carefully add the soy and water mixture then the honey.  Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glaze that coats the beans, about 1 minute.

Transfer the beans to a serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce, and serve.

Adapted from finecooking.com

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Lemon Polenta Cake (gluten-free)

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This lovely cake represents my first successful foray into gluten-free baking.  My daughter and I attempted a birthday cake for a friend earlier this year which yielded dubious results.  Now I realize the error, and on the opposite side of the coin, what it takes for successful gluten-free baking (and this theory also applies to successful vegetarian and vegan cooking):  don’t strive for an exact replica of your favorite food containing gluten, meat or dairy.  Rather embrace recipes and foods that are naturally gluten-free or meat/dairy-free.

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This Lemon Polenta Cake doesn’t attempt to be a light, fluffy chiffon layer cake.  It is a dense, earthy cake with the slightly gritty polenta and the nuttiness of the almond meal.  These two ingredients are showcased – the recipe in no way attempts to transform them into something which they are not.

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And that’s a typical mistake I see with vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Can’t have pork bacon?  Then eat some weird “fake-on” (FYI – that’s my word for fake bacon).  Can’t have cheese?  Have a lab-cultured cheese-like creation.  There is a bounty of delicious and amazing vegetarian and vegan foods already existing in nature – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs, spices, pulses.  Feast on those rather than on some not nearly as satisfying imitation product.

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Give this delicious Lemon Polenta Cake a try.  Not because it’s gluten-free, but because it is an amazingly delicious cake!

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1 year ago:  Shakshuka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce)

Lemon Polenta Cake

Note:  If you don’t have or can’t find almond meal/flour, grind whole almonds or almond pieces in a food processor or Nutribullet until they make a fine powder (don’t overmix or can turn into almond butter).  This cake lasts longer than most cakes:  keeps for up to 6 days.

For the cake:

1 3/4 stick (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (200 grams) almond meal/flour

3/4 cup (100 grams) fine polenta/cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

Zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

For the syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

1 heaping cup (125 grams) powdered/icing sugar

Plain yogurt or créme fraîche

Fresh or frozen raspberries


Line the base of a 9″/23cm springform cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar until pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.  Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup, boil together the lemon juice and powdered/icing sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Cut cake into slices and serve with a dollop of yogurt and a few raspberries.  (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.  It can also be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

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Filed under Desserts, Vegetarian

Whole Artichokes with Melted Butter

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Artichokes have always been to me, a beacon of spring.  In the US, though available year-round on the west coast, most of the country starts seeing them in March; in the UK they typically debut in May.  So living in the UK – for less than two more months :(( – I’m just now glimpsing the first artichokes of the season.

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Most people eat the hearts which are sold marinated in jars and often feature in salads, on pizzas and with antipasti platters.  My local grocery store just started selling a grilled, olive-oil marinated artichoke heart in their prepared section which has become my new favorite picnic staple.  (Yes, now that it’s finally sunny and warm here, I’m using any excuse to pack a blanket and head off to Richmond Green!).  I do love my artichokes.

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But when I’m fixing artichokes at home, boiling them with a bit of lemon and salt is the way I roll.

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Everyone gets their own whole artichoke and dish of melted butter.  These are too good to share.  The artichokes are eaten in two steps:  (1) leaves and then (2) heart.

Step #1 – leaves:  Pull off outer leaves one at a time.  Dip the base of the leaf into the melted butter then pull through your teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion of the leaf.  Discard remaining leaf.  Continue peeling off leaves until you get to the small, soft leaves in the center which don’t have much pulp on them.  Discard these inedible leaves and then you’re left with one of the best parts of the artichoke, the fuzzy heart.  Which brings us to…..

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Step #2 – the heart.  Using a sharp knife, remove the fuzz covering the top of the heart.  Cut the heart into a smaller pieces, dip them into the melted butter and eat.  Now repeat this entire process as often as you can, until artichoke season has ended.

1 year ago:  Tuna, White Bean and Fresh Herb Salad; Shaved Asparagus and Mint Salad

Whole Roasted Artichokes with Melted Butter (generously serves 4 as a side dish)

Note:  Recipes don’t get much easier than this.  My only advise is this: although the artichokes take only about 20 minutes to cook at a simmer, it can take at least 20 minutes to get the water boiling, so plan on starting the artichokes about an hour before you intend to eat.

4 whole artichokes

2 slices lemon

1 tablespoon salt

Melted butter (salted), for dipping


Cut off the artichoke stems as close to the base as possible.  Discard the stems.  Place artichokes in a pot with a lid and fill the pot with water so that artichokes are completely covered by at least an inch of water (water will evaporate as artichokes cook and you want them to be completely underwater the entire cooking time).  Add the lemon slices and salt.  It’s best if artichokes fit snuggly, as this prevents them from bobbing up to the top. However if artichokes are bobbing (as mine did) place a heavy lid or plate above the artichokes to submerge them.  Place the lid snuggly on the pot and heat on high until boiling.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the base meets no resistance and the leaves pull off easily.

Serve with melted butter for dipping.  Salted butter is best, but if you only have unsalted, add a pinch of salt to the melted butter and/or a onto the cooked artichokes.  And if you’ve never eaten a whole artichoke before, here’s how:  Pull off outer leaves one at a time.  Dip the base of the leaf into the melted butter then pull through teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion of the leaf.  Discard remaining leaf.  Continue peeling off leaves until you get to the small, soft leaves in the center which don’t have much pulp on them.  Discard these inedible leaves and then you’re left with one of the best parts of the artichoke, the fuzzy heart.  Using a sharp knife, remove the fuzz.  Cut the heart into a smaller pieces, dip them into the melted butter and eat.

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Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta

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One of the things I like best about where we live is the plethora of neighborhood restaurants.  At the end of our block you’ll find Japanese, two Italian, Chinese, Korean BBQ, Thai, two pubs, Indian and Rock ‘n Rose (not sure how to describe this last one, but their tagline is “food, passion, glamour”).  No chains; all local, mostly family-run, unique places.

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But our favorite is Cafe Mamma, one of the Italian restaurants.  Every time we walk in the door we’re greeted by a kiss on the cheek and a hearty “ciao” and made to feel like family.  The food is traditional Italian – like eating in mamma’s kitchen.

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We’ve been regulars for nearly four years and yet I only tried their eggplant ricotta penne for the first time last week.  My daughter ordered it and it looked so good I snatched some off her plate (bad manners, I know).  It was delicious!  I was annoyed that I only discovered this dish now.

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Plus we are moving back to the US in four months.  There will no longer be a Cafe Mamma at our corner…sniff, sniff.  I need to bring a little of it back with me (won’t be the first time…at Christmas I brought back limoncello I made at the restaurant with Jose, the owner).  So I set about re-creating the lovely eggplant ricotta pasta from last week.  Now I don’t think I got it as good as Cafe Mamma, but it’ll stand in when this favorite restaurant is no longer just down the block.

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1 year ago:  Whole Wheat Pancakes, Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches

Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta (serves 6)

Note:  This is a nice, simple weeknight kind of pasta dish.  The eggplant and ricotta, quite mild flavors, are given a bit of oomph with the parmesan and basil.  However if you want to punch up the flavor even more, feel free to add olives or capers.

1 pound (450 grams) penne or rigatoni pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds (900 grams) eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

28 ounces (800 grams) canned/tinned chopped tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup (10 grams) chopped fresh basil, separated

1 cup (250 grams) ricotta

Freshly grated parmesan


Cook penne pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (or however you prefer your pasta cooked), then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add the eggplant and 1/2 teaspoon salt (skillet will be quite full, but it will cook down) and cook until lightly browned and softened, about 15 minutes, gently stirring every few minutes or so.

Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked penne, eggplant/tomato sauce and half of the basil.  Add the ricotta in spoonfuls and gently stir, so that ricotta is incorporated slightly but there are still “blobs” of it visible.  Serve topped with the remaining fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

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Chana Masala (Indian-style chickpeas)

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This is one of those recipes I’m not quite sure how to categorize.  My daughter eats the entire batch in one sitting, so I’d think that qualifies as a main course.  However it also makes a great protein-packed snack as well as a side dish to grilled meat or fish.  All I know is that lately I can’t make enough of the stuff.  I cook up a batch, then turn around and it’s been consumed.

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Many people are a bit skittish about Indian food.  “It’s too spicy” is a common complaint – and misconception.  There’s some Indian food that definitely has a kick, but you could say the same for most cuisines – Mexican (spicy salsa), southern U.S. (spicy wings), Spanish (spicy chorizo sausage) or Chinese (Sichuan spicy noodles).  This is a great intro for Indian cuisine newbies; a gateway food, if you will.

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This is also a good gateway recipe for Indian food fanatics who only eat it at restaurants or do take-away/carry-out.  I’ll admit I fell into this category, though I do make a mean Chicken Tikka Masala which I’ve since learned falls more under the British cuisine umbrella rather than Indian, though we still love it.   This is a good intro to Indian cooking because it uses pretty basic ingredients.  The most exotic is the garam masala which you should be able to find in the spice aisle of most supermarkets (or I’ve included a make-your-own substitute at the bottom of the recipe).

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So get out of your comfort zone and try something new this weekend.  It may be your first time making Chana Masala, but it certainly won’t be your last.

1 year ago:  Baked Shrimp Scampi, Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto, Chocolate Bumpy Cake

Chana Masala (serves 1 as a main or 4 as a side)

Note:  This recipe can easily be double, tripled or quadrupled though you may have to slightly extend the cooking time.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/2 cup (120 grams) chopped tomato, fresh or tinned

1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons garam masala (see garam masala substitute below)

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 14 ounce or 400 gram can/tin, strained and rinsed)

Chopped fresh cilantro/coriander (optional, for garnish)


Place the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the tomatoes, green chili, garam masala and salt.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the chickpeas to the skillet and cook for 1 minute.  Turn the heat off, cover the pan with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.  Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro/coriander or chopped green chili, if desired.  Serve plain or over rice.

Garam masala subsitute:  If you don’t have access to garam masala, you can make your own by combining the following spices:

2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Adapted from “Everyday Indian” by Bal Arneson 

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Creme Fraiche

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We are amidst the storm before the calm.  The last minute shopping, decorating, baking.  The school Christmas concerts, ice skating trips, packing for holiday travel.  All leading up to a (hopefully) peaceful Christmas, New Years or whatever other upcoming celebrations you have planned with family and friends.

So while a home-cooked meal is still as important as ever, I am not currently in the mood to labor through lots of chopping and fiddly food preparation.  A whole-roasted cauliflower is therefore a welcome respite.  No chopping at all!!  Just an entire cauliflower slow-roasted until the exterior is crisp, brown and a bit caramelized and the interior is fork-tender.

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I love serving this whole.  It looks beautiful and the family enjoys grabbing their own florets and dipping them.  It’s a fend-for-yourselves type of side dish.  Sometimes we do cut it into quarters, for fairness sake, though I think the fighting for your rightful portion is half the fun.

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Don’t skip the lemon creme fraiche dip.  It is the cherry on the sundae – only this is cauliflower we’re talking about.  If you don’t have creme fraiche, substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream.  This is yet another amazing Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.  Check out the two others I’ve previously posted:  Cauliflower Cake and Broccoli, Beans, & Peas with Sweet Soy Tahini Sauce.

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This recipe proves again that vegetables are anything but boring and there’s more to veg that steaming and sautéing.  Try whole roasting!!

1 year ago: Double Chocolate Mint Meltaways, Potato and Zucchini Latkes

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Creme Fraiche (serves 4 as a side)

Note:  This recipe is for an average sized cauliflower (3 lbs or 1.5 kg).  If you use a larger or smaller cauliflower, just use more or less of the butter and olive oil.  Also make a bit more or less of the lemon creme fraiche dipping sauce.

1 head cauliflower with leaves intact (see Note above)

5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher or sea salt

2/3 cup (150 grams) creme fraiche or Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Using scissors, lightly trim leaves at top of cauliflower, so that about 2″/5cm of cauliflower head is exposed.  Fill a pan large enough to fit the cauliflower with salty water.  Bring to a boil and carefully lower the cauliflower (I used a large pair of tongs), exposed head down – it’s ok if the base sticks out a bit.  Return to a boil and cook for 6 minutes.  Transfer to a colander, head down, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 335º F (170º C).  Mix butter and oil together in a small bowl.  Put the cauliflower stem side down in a medium baking tray and spread butter mix on the white part (not the leaves).  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 1.5 to 2 hours, basting about 3 times.  Cauliflower is done when super-tender, has turned a dark golden brown, and leaves are crisp and charred.

While cauliflower is roasting, combine the lemon juice and creme fraiche in a small bowl.  Serve cauliflower warm with the lemon creme fraiche dip on the side.  Can be served whole on the table for people to tear off individual florets with their fingers or you can cut into quarters and serve plated with a dollop of lemon creme fraiche.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi via The Guardian

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Updated Green Bean Casserole

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Earlier this week I was lucky enough to do a guest post on a fellow American expat in London’s blog, the lovely Angloyankophile.  She was looking for some inspiration for Thanksgiving side dishes and I thought this Updated Green Bean Casserole was just right.  Check out the recipe below and be sure to check out her blog as well.  She has lots of amazing London restaurant recommendations as well as beautiful lifestyle posts with home decor, jewelry, etc.  

Also, as Thanksgiving is less than a week away, good luck with your preparations.  Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes – Herbed Oyster Stuffing and Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Wine.  And stay tuned next week for a recipe for turkey leftovers.

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As an American living in London, Thanksgiving is the holiday when homesickness creeps in most.  At Christmas, I miss my family, but there are cozy pubs with Christmas lunch, ice skating rinks galore, panto, Christmas markets, etc.  At Halloween there aren’t many decked-out houses in the UK, unlike suburban America, but there are kids trick-or-treating, carved pumpkins, and the occasional costume party.

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But Thanksgiving in London is difficult.  Being on a Thursday, life continues on as usual.  There’s no lazing around the house during the day, chatting and playing games with friends and family, watching football, post-dinner walking and/or napping.  It’s a typical Thursday with work and school.

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But we can still gorge ourselves silly!

Green bean casserole is one of the most traditional and revered of Thanksgiving dishes.  However when I finally fixed it myself (the beauty of Thanksgiving is everyone typically brings a dish, so someone else always made it) the reality hit that the majority of ingredients come from a can.

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That’s not how I cook – and I think more and more people are getting away from canned, processed foods and cooking with whole, fresh foods.  So I set about updating this age-old favorite.  Canned green beans are replaced with fresh; condensed cream of mushroom soup is replaced with a homemade mushroom cream sauce and finally the topper of boxed “french fried onions” is swapped out for homemade fried onions.

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I cooked this last week for an early Thanksgiving celebration with my parents who were visiting from Wisconsin.  My dad couldn’t get enough (honestly – he had it for breakfast the next day!) and he’s about as traditional as you get.  So if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas (goes just as well with a Christmas turkey) give this updated classic a try.  Sometimes it’s good to play around with tradition.

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1 year ago:  Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Wine

Updated Green Bean Casserole (makes 6 servings or more if part of a big Thanksgiving / Christmas spread)

Note:  You can assemble the casserole without the fried onions the day before (fry onions day before too and store in zip-lock bag).  Store it in the fridge, then bake the next day according to recipe. If it’s coming directly from fridge, may need to add a few minutes to cooking time.  A wider (as opposed to a deeper) 2-quart dish is preferable as it will allow the crispy onions to spread out more.  But use whatever you have – it’ll taste the same regardless.  Keep whole nutmegs (they’re round and about the size of a plum pit) on hand and grate as needed.  I use a microplane grater but you can also use the smallest holes on a box grater.  Tastes so much better than ground nutmeg from a spice jar.
Crispy Onions:

Vegetable oil (as needed, about 16 oz or 450 ml)

3 tablespoons plain, all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced

Green Beans and Sauce:

1 pound (450 grams) green beans, rinsed, trimmed and cut in half

2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

12 ounces (340 grams) mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons plain, all-purpose flour

1 cup (240 ml) chicken broth

1 cup (240 ml) half-and-half / single cream

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Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C.

To make the crispy onions:  Heat a 1/2 inch or so of vegetable oil in a large skillet (approximately 12” or 30 cm diameter) over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked into it will hiss and sputter.  While the oil is heating, place flour in a medium-sized bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the onion slices in the seasoned flour.  Grab a handful of onions, shaking off excess flour, and fry in the hot oil in batches until light golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per batch (onions will get more color when they bake in the oven). Remove with a slotted spoon, letting excess oil drip back into the skillet, and place on a paper towel-lined plate or tray.

To make the green beans and sauce: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.  (Beans may still seem a bit firm, but they will cook more in the oven.)

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the cream. Simmer gently until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in green beans and remove from heat.

To assemble the casserole:  Transfer the bean/mushroom mixture to a lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with crispy onions and return to the oven for 5 more minutes or until casserole is bubbling and onions are a shade darker.  Serve immediately.

Adapted from Alton Brown and Smitten Kitchen

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Filed under Holidays, Side Dishes, Vegetarian