Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Cooking Green Beans

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

Green beans are one of those vegetables that are available year round at the grocery store. Make sure you buy ones that have a nice bright color and are free of blemishes.

With just a sprinkle of salt and two minutes in the microwave, you’ve got a fresh vegetable for dinner. Given they cook so quickly, make only enough for what you are going to eat for dinner tonight.

About 24 (four inch long) green beans will be enough for two servings.

The first thing you have to do is “top and tail” the beans. That’s the official term used to nip the tips off each end of the beans.

You can line them up and with a knife cut the ends off. As long as the beans are young and fresh, they should not be stringy. If they are stringy you will need to nip the ends off, one at a time, with your fingers. This same technique is used when making snow peas as well.

Sort of drag the tip off, pulling any of the stringy bit off as you go.

Rinse the beans in a colander.

Put them in a microwave safe dish. Add about 2 Tablespoons of water.

Cover the beans with plastic wrap leaving a small corner open.

If you seal them completely, the plastic wrap will almost shrink-wrap itself to the beans. This makes it a lot harder to remove the plastic wrap and much more likely you will get burned by the trapped steam.

Some people serve green beans with lashings of butter, or with almonds. I prefer them just with salt and sometimes a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cheers!

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Fiddleheads

print recipe card posted in Food, Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

You may have seen these in the produce section of the grocery store and thought “NO WAY”! Well guess what? They’re delicious! These fiddlehead ferns are also very nutritious.

What ever you do, don’t just pop one in your mouth raw. They need to get cooked first! Once cooked, you can then eat them hot or cold, alone, or in soups, salads, or stews. Fiddleheads are only available in the springtime and have a very short season. So grab them when you see them and startcooking!

Step 1. Cleaning the Fiddleheads

Fill a bowl with cold water and submerge the fiddleheads.

(I stuck them in a colander first and then put the whole colander in the bowl of water.) With your hand, swish the fiddleheads to remove any bits of dirt.

Lift the fiddleheads out of the sink and let them drain.

With a paring knife trim off the end.

Step 2. Boiling the Fiddleheads

DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Even though I am going to sauté (fry) the fiddleheads in garlic and olive oil they still need to get boiled first. This not only cooks them but it also removes any bitterness.

Put the fiddleheads in a pot and cover them completely with cold water.

As they come to a boil they will float to the surface.

Boil them for 6-8 minutes. The water ends up looking quite dirty!

Step 3. Sautéing the Fiddleheads

Drain the fiddleheads in a colander.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium- high and add one clove of crushed garlic

…. and the fiddleheads.

Sauté for approximately 1 minute.

Add some fresh cracked black pepper…

…a sprinkle of salt…

…and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Stir is all together..

…and the fiddleheads are ready!

Enjoy!

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How to: Mushrooms

posted in Food, Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

When it comes to buying mushrooms, we often go by appearance rather than taste. We stick to those clean-cut white button mushrooms, perhaps a bit intimidated by the wilder characters in the fungus family. But it’s worth getting to know all those odd-looking mushrooms—they can really add taste and sophistication to your cooking.

Most supermarkets sell a few varieties of fresh mushrooms, including portobello, oyster and shiitake, as well as bags of dried mushrooms. But beginner cooks may not be sure how to clean specialty mushrooms, or what to do with them. This post will take the mystery out of buying mushrooms and help figure out what kind to use when.

I have already covered the basics on how to wash and store mushrooms, but the basic idea is to rinse them (never soak them) and use a cloth or paper towel to remove any clingy dirt.

White Mushrooms (Button Mushrooms)

These immature, unopened mushrooms are probably the most common in North American supermarkets. They can be bought either fresh or canned. (I do not recommend using canned mushrooms.) Some grocery stores sell them pre-sliced but, once sliced, these mushrooms spoil quickly; they oxidize after being cut, turning brown and soft once exposed to air. They can be eaten raw or cooked in almost any dish, but their flavor intensifies with cooking. Bigger button mushrooms can be left whole and stuffed, for an appetizer or side dish. Check out startcooking.com’s recipe video for bacon-and-cream cheese Stuffed Mushrooms.

Baby Bella Mushrooms (Cremini or Brown Mushrooms)

These are a darker, more flavorful version of the white button mushroom. They can be used in all the same ways as the white button mushroom.

Portobello (or Portabella) Mushrooms

These are the grownup versions of the baby bella mushrooms, and can have caps that are six inches in diameter. They may be sliced and sautéed, but are often left whole and roasted. They have a rich taste and meaty texture that’s often likened to steak; some vegetarian recipes use them as a meat substitute. Their tough stems should be removed before cooking. Although the dark brown gills under the mushroom cap are edible, some prefer to remove them. To do this, simply scrape them off with the tip of a knife. Here’s startcooking.com’s recipe for Portobello Mushrooms and Goat Cheese.

Oyster Mushrooms

These fan-shaped mushrooms grow on the sides of trees, looking kind of like an (you guessed it) oyster. They have a mild taste, and work well in stir-fries, soups, sauces and many other dishes. Cut off the base of the mushroom, then separate its layers before cleaning them.

Shiitake Mushrooms

If you like Asian food, you’ve probably tasted these in miso soup, sushi or in Chinese stir-fries. They have white stems, brown caps and typically sprout off logs. Shiitakes add a deep, smoky flavour and chewy texture to all kinds of dishes. They are available fresh or dried, which is said to have a more intense flavour. In Asia, shiitake mushrooms are associated with longevity and good health.

Enoki Mushrooms

These long, crisp mushrooms are usually used in soups, but can also go in salads and sandwiches. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are available fresh and canned. They grow naturally on the hackberry tree (enoki in Japanese). Cut off the roots before using.

Maitake Mushrooms (also known as Hen of the Woods, Sheepshead or Ram’s Head Mushrooms)

Clustering around the base of trees, these feathery fungi are known as the King of Mushrooms in Japan because they can grow very large. Used in China and Japan for medicinal purposes, they have a strong, woodsy flavour and meaty texture. They work well in stir-fries.

Porcini Mushrooms (these are the dried version)

Prized in Italian cooking, these large-capped mushrooms typically grow in Europe and North America. They can be bought fresh and, because of their meaty texture, can be grilled and sautéed much like portobellos. They are often available dried in bags, and after being soaked in water, can be added to soups, sauces, stews and risottos. Read on for more about reconstituting dried mushrooms.

Dried Wild Mushrooms

It’s nice to have a bag of mixed dried mushrooms (like the ones above) on hand to add “oomf” to all kinds of dishes. Just remember to leave time to reconstitute them. There are various ways to do this, depending on how much time you have. The dried mushrooms can sit in a bowl of cool water overnight, or in warm water for 20 minutes before cooking. They can also be boiled for 10 minutes before cooking. The water that they steep in will have lots of flavor and, if strained through a coffee filter to remove grit, can be used in place of other liquids in recipes.

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After I finished photographing all these mushrooms, I sliced them and cooked them in a large frying pan with a small amount of olive oil. They were FANTASTIC!

Cheers!

Kathy

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