Friday, August 8, 2008

Picking My Produce

The garden is finally starting to produce! This week I picked my first green beans and a cucumber. Snapping those beans brought me right back to my childhood, sitting alongside my mother snapping grocery bags full of yellow and green beans from her garden so she could can them. I remember those days so fondly that I wonder if my kids are missing out. I’m pretty sure they don’t think so.

Here's my Mom's HUGE and very orderly garden from my teen years:

And here's my not so huge and very crowded garden:

I didn’t really know what I was going to do with the beans. Even though I love fresh green beans, they’re actually kind of boring to cook with. There aren’t a whole lot of recipes that use them and they aren’t a natural complement to other foods, like beets are with blue cheese or tomatoes and garlic.

That line of thinking gave me the aha! moment I was looking for. Beans and potatoes! This was another favorite dish from my childhood that my mother and my Grandma Palmer regularly made in the summer when they had fresh beans from the garden. I still had some white potatoes from the farmer’s market in Maine so I was good to go, without even a trip to the store.

The original recipe was actually kind of plain. It was basically boiled beans and potatoes that were drained and tossed with butter and milk. Yep, that was it. I’m not sure why I loved it so much as a kid, because my kids won’t even try it and even I have to admit, it’s a little bland for my adult taste buds.

I wanted to see if I could kick that recipe up a notch and make it something special. I decided to add sautéed shallots and garlic, fresh tarragon and I substituted light cream for the milk. The result was sublime.

In the meantime, Steve made a fresh herb marinade for the steaks that was so yummy we tested it again the next night on striped bass, which I liked even better.

In other garden news, the tomatoes are turning colors and even though I loved calling the compost plant “the mystery plant,” it really can’t be called that anymore. We now have six pumpkins that germinated all by themselves from our compost.

The Recipes:

Kicked up Farmhouse Beans and Potatoes
Serves 4

4 medium sized potatoes cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of fresh beans trimmed and snapped into thirds
4 tablespoons butter
3 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1/3 cup light cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 8 minutes. Add beans and cook for another 7 minutes or until veggies are as tender as you prefer them.

In the meantime, melt butter in a skillet, and sauté shallots and garlic until tender, about five minutes. Add tarragon and cream and simmer for five minutes on lowest burner setting until tarragon is aromatic.

Drain potatoes and beans and wait a minute for the steam to evaporate remaining water. Toss with tarragon cream mixture.

Herb Marinade for Steak (also GREAT with Grilled Striped Bass)

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh summer savory
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Put all ingredients in mini food processor and blend until smooth. Pour over steaks (or striped bass) rub in and let marinade for 30 minutes. Grill until desired tenderness.

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