The first dish I ever cooked: Spanish-style green beans


At the end of my first year of Spanish classes, Señora Volland instructed each of her pimply-faced students to choose a recipe from a massive book and bring it in to share. Being all of 13 years old with zero kitchen experience, I scanned the pages until I found instructions for Spanish-style green beans. Being a big veggie lover, they sounded delicious — and relatively simple. I had my mission.

Since first whipping up this dish fourteen years ago, I’ve brought it to countless parties, family gatherings and other get-togethers. It’s relatively easy, delicious, fresh — and a different way to prepare green beans! I don’t know about you, but I’ve consumed lots of judías verdes in my day. Usually just boiled and lightly buttered. So sprucing up a well-known vegetable is something I can get behind, and this is a favorite of mine.

I’ve prepared this dish using both fresh and canned vegetables — and the fresh ones taste best, of course. But if you’re in a pinch, go ahead and use the canned varieties. You’ll still have a happy dinner crew, promise.

Having copied this recipe down so long ago, I have no clue where it might have originated — though I found similar ones here and here. I’m super partial to my own, though. And I can smell the intoxicating aroma of garlic already . . .


Green beans in tomato sauce
(Judías verdes en salsa de tomate)

1 teaspoon salt
1 lb. fresh green string beans, trimmed and cut into 2 in. lengths
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 med. tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. sugar
Black pepper

In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, bring the salt and 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans, a handful at a time. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat to moderate and boil uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender. Drain and set beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet until a light haze forms above. Add onions, garlic and stir frequently, cook over moderate heat 5 minutes, until onions are soft and transparent but NOT brown. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, sugar and a few grindings of pepper, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape lightly in a spoon.

Stir in the beans and simmer for a minute or two until they are heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from a heated bowl. Serves 4.



I’m linking up with Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking! Check it out for more great recipes to get you cookin’ and bakin’ before Monday.


Healthier green bean casserole

Of all the side dishes I crave during the holidays, nothing tickles my fancy quite like green bean casserole. If I had to guess, I’d chalk it up to the delicious French fried onions — a food I couldn’t tolerate on anything else, but can’t live without on this holiday treat.

But as I try to get more into shape (in theory, anyway), I’m looking for new and healthier ways to prepare the dishes I already like. In a recent edition of the health magazine I edit, I was looking for “healthy twists” on seasonal classics — and that’s how I came across this recipe for a lower-fat, lower-sodium version of my beloved casserole.

Spencer and I made it a few weeks back when I was taste-testing all the recipes included in our fall issue (a horrible, terrible job, I know), and I was very pleased with how it turned out! Though I missed the salty over-the-top cheesiness of the classic one my mom makes, this was a great alternative that I didn’t make me feel totally guilty after doing an hour of Zumba.

Because I’m as obsessed with mushrooms as I am with cheese, I added a can of sliced mushrooms to this baby, too. If you’re not a fan, just leave them out. No harm, no foul. And though the recipe decidedly does not call for any cheese, I added a little shredd parmesan beneath the french fried onions. But don’t tell anyone.

Though we cherish our beloved family recipes, this verison might be a good way to cut down on a few calories this season . . . though I know it’s a drop in a bucket. Still, every little bit(e) counts, right?


Healthier Green Bean Casserole

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk (2% fat or skim)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound cut fresh green beans, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons French’s French Fried Onions

Directions:
1. Mix the soup, milk, onion powder, black pepper, soy sauce and green beans in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until hot.
3. Stir the green bean mixture. Top with the onions. Bake for 5 minutes more or until the onions are golden brown.


Green bean casserole

Meg’s classic green beans — with an exotic name

In the first Spanish class I took in middle school, my teacher — Señora Volland, if anyone local is out there — asked us to bring in a traditional Spanish recipe to share at the end of the school year. Of course, being 13, I knew next to nothing about cooking . . . and though my passion for the practice has certainly increased over the years, I haven’t really mastered many recipes yet!

But the recipe I made more than 10 years ago has become a “classic” Megan recipe, and I make it for lots of family functions. If you’re like me not at all adept at chopping veggies quickly, this can be time consuming. I figured out a good cheat for one part of the dish, though — I buy the onions already chopped. Fresh green beans and tomatoes are a must, though. It’s a fun dish, best served hot but still yummy cold, and I whipped some up this past Easter! Thanks, Señora Volland, for giving me a relatively fool-proof side dish with which to impress friends and relatives — another win for public education!


greenbeans1

Habas Verdes Con Salsa De Tomate

(Green Beans in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 lb. fresh green string beans, trimmed and cut into 2 in. lengths
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
• 1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
• 4 medium tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
• 2 tsp. sugar
• black pepper

Directions:

tomatoesIn a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, bring the salt and 2 quarts of water to boil over high heat. Drop in the beans, a handful at a time. Bring to boil again, reduce the heat to moderate and boil uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender. Drain and set beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet until a light haze forms above. Add onions, garlic and stir frequently, cook over moderate heat 5 minutes, until onions are soft and transparent but NOT brown. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, sugar and a few grindings of pepper, bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape lightly in a spoon.

Stir in the beans and simmer for a minute or two until they are heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once.

Beginner’s cooking with Meg: Mustard chicken

So last night was another culinary adventure — this time with a real recipe and everything! Dad got Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats cookbook pretty cheap and, after pouring through it for a little bit, much of it seems like something I’ll need a little more skill to attempt. But I did find this awesome recipe for chicken with mustard sauce! Since it didn’t require grilling, coring or baking, I figured I could give it a whirl.

My first stop was, of course, to the grocery store for my needed supplies. I even made a list and everything! How responsible of me! I went through the recipe on my lunch hour to figure out what we wouldn’t have in the pantry. This included onion, chicken broth, sour cream and fresh lemon. Grabbed that stuff and headed home.

Next up in my “thirty-minute meal” was to prep all my ingredients. I have to admit I had a little help from Dad on this part. The chicken breasts were huge so we cut them in half and trimmed off all the fat (we’re all on dietary restrictions around here; have to eat as healthy as possible.) I chopped up the onion, sliced the lemon in half (that was fun!) and dirtied way too many bowls. But I eventually got the chicken seasoned with thyme, lemon, salt and pepper. It was smelling pretty delicious already! Guess I was doing something right!

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