Green Beans with Tomatoes

Being Southern foodies, Jess and I tend to eat more meat than we probably should. In a state that loves barbecue, hamburgers, bacon, and catfish, it can be easy for vegetables to get pushed to the side. That’s a real shame, because we love vegetables of all sorts, and while we always try to have something colorful on our plate at every meal, we know that we could do better. To that end, we’ve decided to start doing Meatless Mondays, and I wanted to share with you some of the things we’re making without meat that are still very filling and satisfying. Our ancestors, for the most part, couldn’t afford to eat nearly the amount of meat that we do, and while you’ll never see us feeling bad for our carnivorous habits, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a meal that is completely vegetarian. Cutting meat consumption can not only help us get healthier, but it can help alleviate some of the environmental damage that large livestock farms can cause. Plus I’m curious to see if the changes listed on the official website are really possible by just eliminating meat one day a week.

For our first meatless Monday, I wanted something fresh and green, but with some added richness. Green beans seemed like a good idea, and adding some cherry tomatoes and a light buttery garlic and basil sauce serves to give a savory kick to the dish. This is a wonderful side dish, but can also make for a tasty main course for a light lunch.

Green Beans with Tomatoes

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil (do not salt). Boil the beans until they become just tender, about 10 minutes. In a skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter foam has subsided, add the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to brown the garlic. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper to the butter and garlic; cook until the tomatoes soften (approximately 5 minutes). Drain the beans, and toss gently with the tomato mixture. Adjust salt to taste, and if you want to be a little extra decadent with this dish, finish with a pat or two more of fresh butter. Enjoy!

Rustic Peach Cobbler

It’s getting toward the end of a very hot, very dry summer, and that means that pickings are getting slim at our favorite farmers markets.  There are still good things to be found, though, and we were lucky enough to come across a few very fresh, very ripe peaches at the Bernice Garden Farmers Market today that put us in the mind for some cobbler.  We love the little market on South Main, and it seems like every time we drop by, we find something tasty to cook with.  Jess and I debated on the way home about what kind of sort of crust we wanted to use for our cobbler, and we decided on going with one that is slightly sweet and full of fragrant spices.  It’s a little easier to work with than a pie crust, too — and the flavor is spectacular.

Rustic Peach Cobbler

Filling:

  • 4 Large peaches
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove

First, peel, pit, and slice your peaches.  For easy peeling, score the bottom of each peach in a cross pattern, then blanch in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.  Shock the peaches in cold water, and the skins should slip right off.  Mix together all the dry ingredients, then add peaches, stirring gently to coat.  Pour the peach mixture into a greased baking dish, but DO NOT wash the bowl out.

Topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinammon
  • 1 stick cold butter, in pieces
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

This topping is very similar to classic buttermilk biscuits, so if you’ve ever made those, you should be fine here.  Using the same bowl from our filling, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinammon.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or the tips of your fingers).  When the mixture has gotten coarse and all the butter is worked in, add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix well.  Using two spoons, place balls of the dough on top of the peach mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the top is nice and brown.  Serve by itself or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Enjoy!

Infused Sea Salt and Roasted Potatoes

I think the world can be divided up between the folks who most love sweets and those who crave saltiness.  And while I’m a pretty big fan of candy, my true love lies with the salty stuff.  Salt is pretty amazing stuff: it’s the only rock that humans use as a food additive, and like wine, salt has terroir, and while trying different types of salt might not be as exciting as tasting wine, it’s still quite interesting how something as simple as sodium chloride could be so versatile — not to mention vital to our very survival.

Jess’ mom shares my enthusiasm for different kinds of salt, and she’s given me some good ones over the years, from mineral rich gray Celtic sea salt to iron-rich Hawaiian red salt, and after she returned from a recent visit to our family out in Colorado, she brought me some herb-infused sea salt from the Camargue region of Southern France.  This region of brine lagoons and wetland marshes is famous for its salt, producing some of the finest sea salts around, and this lovely jar was no exception.  This particular salt is a coarse, flake salt that has been infused with two of my favorite herbs, thyme and bay leaf, making it a wonderful addition to a lot of my regular dishes.   Tonight I added it to some fingerling potatoes and simply roasted them — and the results were splendid.  I like my roasted potatoes very simply done: freshly cut pepper, salt, and enough olive oil to coat.  Roast at 400 degrees until the potatoes are done like you like them — we prefer them to be crunchy on the outside with a nice, mealy center.

I think my next use for this salt will be as part of a rub for a stuffed chicken galantine or pork loin, because I think the herbal flavor will go quite well with white meat.  I’m also considering grinding some of it fine and using it as a topping for popcorn — Jess’ mom brought us some of that back, too — so we’ve definitely only scratched the surface of what can be done with this salt!

Best of 2012 Readers’ Poll, Chicken gets Political, and Other Random Stuff

So those of you who follow us over on Facebook or Twitter might have heard us talking about our recent Runner-up in the 2012 Arkansas Times Reader’s Choice Poll.  This is our second year to make the list, and we actually placed in two categories this year: Best Blog and Best Website.  This is the first year we’ve gotten one of those nifty little posters that the Times sends out, seen to the left being displayed by one of our many highly-paid professional models.  It’s exciting to know that enough of you took the time to go place a vote for us, and we’re honored to be included in a list of blogs like Max Brantley’s Arkansas Blog, Paul Carr’s craze-fest Forbidden Hillcrest, and another food blog we have a little something to do with, Eat Arkansas.  This blog started because we decided to go from the annoying people who spam your Facebook newsfeed with pictures of food we were making and eating to the people who spam your newsfeed with links to the articles we write about the food we’re making and eating.  In the meantime, we’ve met a lot of interesting folks who are involved in the food community in various ways, made a ton of new friends, and generally had one of the best series of years in living memory.

In other news, it sometimes happens that food and politics meet, whether it’s the foie gras ban in California (we’re against it) or the anti-gay marriage stance of Chick-Fil-A (which we’re also against).  But honestly, the homophobia and bigotry aren’t what keeps me from eating at Chick-Fil-A; what keeps me from eating there is that their food is really, really horrible.  It’s not as bad as Cantina Bell, but it’s pretty terrible.  So I suggest boycotting Chick-Fil-A because their chicken sandwiches suck at least as hard as their politics.  Of course, the long lines I saw tonight outside the Bryant location prove that there’s still a lot of progress we’ve got to make here in Arkansas both in terms of tolerance for people and taste in restaurants.  If you’d like to support local business and eat a chicken sandwich that’s actually good, we’d like to direct your attention to the sandwich pictured right up there: the almond-encrusted crispy chicken sandwich from our buddies at The Southern Gourmasian.  Tender, succulent chicken with a crispy coating, served on a challah roll from Boulevard Bread Company and topped with fresh basil and homemade aioli.  Add a side of their homemade potato chips and you’ve got a deal of a meal that puts fast food to shame.  We did a full review of Gourmasian for the Times, but that chicken sammie is new.

Lastly, I know that posting has been rather random and intermittent lately, and that’s for two basic reasons: most of our restaurant write-ups are getting posted over at Eat Arkansas these days and it’s just been to dad-blame hot to cook.  But we’ve tried some pretty awesome restaurants lately, and you can keep up with us over there for reviews of places ranging from Saline County favorites Eat My Catfish and Baja Grill to our favorite taco truck in Little Rock.  We’re also posting updates about food events and festivals, so if you’ve got a tip or would like to have us take a look at what you’re doing, please e-mail me at arkansas.foodies@gmail.com — I love hearing from all of you.  Thanks to all of you who read and comment: you make this a lot of fun.  Cheers!