“How about this?” I handed Suzen the first recipe I had found thanks to Google.
“No,” she said in a flash. Had she read the recipe? No. Did I mind? No. It was the first one. She always rejects the first one.
“Okay, how about this?” She got the second.
She paused, actually scanning. “No.”
“Well, I think you might like this one,” I said, handing her the third. I always give her the good one third. Works flawlessly.
“No. Get out.”
“What do you mean out?”
“Brian, cooking is a lot like baseball. Three strikes and you are out. Out of the kitchen.”
I left. Humbled. Depressed. I get sent on missions to find recipes for Suzen and I often succeed. Often but not always. I need recipes. I am not a chef and I have never been culinary school. I may improvise in the kitchen, but I need that template, that recipe in front of me, to make sure I have all the ingredients and all the proportions. I simply cannot do it out of my head.
Suzen can. Her cooking school, Cooking by the Book, has had enough students to fill Giants Stadium. Twice. And she tested the 3000+ recipes in that last edition of The Joy of Cooking. All those recipes. And, the thousands more that were tried out but did not make the cut for the book. In all that cooking, she’s become a kitchen ballerina.
The day’s mission for me had been what to do with an abundance of peppers, and onions, and tomatillos. It was the end of the week, classes at CBTB were done, and we had leftovers and a challenge.
Suzen had some vision and she translated leftovers into that vision with immense success. This Southwestern Pepper Medley has a lively tang — from onion, garlic and surely those tomatillos — that makes this a substantial side dish. Pair it with any protein and you’ll be successful.
Or, puree this into a sauce and use to top off a burger than has already been adorned with blue cheese. I guarantee your eyes will pop with the sharp, bright tang of this mixture.
I’m sharpening my google skills. Can I learn how to read her mind? Figure out what she really wants? We’ve only been married for 28 years. I’m just getting started. And Google? They have those glasses and the driverless cars and all sorts of advanced gizmos. Surely, Google can …
No. Strike four. I’m really out.
Southwestern Pepper Medley
Yield: serves 8+ as a side
- 1 pound poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound green bell peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 2 jalapenos, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed and quartered
- 1 large white onion, quartered
- 5 cloves garlic, roasted
- Lime juice to taste
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped cilantro gar garnish
Place a small amount of oil in a cast iron pan large enough to hold all the veggies in a shallow layer.
Heat the oil on medium until hot. Add the spices and cook until they become aromatic. Add all the vegetables and sauté until soft. Season with lime juice and salt and pepper to your taste.
Lower the heat to simmer. Add the cilantro and cheese, mix rapidly to achieve a creamy texture.
Sources: Suzen O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/20th second at ISO-640
My mother was deathly allergic to garlic, so I never had garlic until I was about twenty-four and tried an Italian restaurant in East Baltimore. Cheap restaurant, so when the food tasted different to me, I made a face. A discussion with a waitress followed and I suggested she get her own fork and taste the very strange flavor that permeated the pasta. “That’s garlic, sir,” she said. But she really meant to say, “That’s garlic, you idiot. What planet are you from?”
I have come to understand, enjoy and even relish garlic. Suzen and I use so much that I worry about inviting my mother to visit now. I think the brick walls are permeated with garlic scent. Two steps in by Mom, and we’d be calling 911. Too risky. And, besides, I don’t think I’m in the will. Long story. Nothing to do with garlic. Now, since you can’t have too much garlic — yes, make the chicken with twenty or forty cloves of garlic and you’ll see — this recipe doubles down. There is roasted garlic tossed in among the beans and asparagus. They are hidden in that picture above, but they really are there. And the garlic is definitely present in the garlic vinaigrette which has enough oomph to raise the dead.
This combination of both green beans and asparagus offers modest contrast in color and major contrast in texture. With asparagus at, or perhaps already just beyond, its peak season, this is the time to take advantage of this recipe. It pairs well with a roasted or barbequed chicken and is substantial enough to be the “main” side dish. In preparing the asparagus, the amount of spices — and even the spice selection — is at your discretion. We used a lot of cumin here to give the asparagus some heat. Use more or less cumin — or chili powder — to satisfy your personal preferences. I would not use garlic powder. Enough is enough.
The instructions for the garlic vinaigrette come last here, but the vinaigrette takes the longest time to make. If you want to serve this salad chilled, then you can make the vinaigrette last. If you want to serve the beans and asparagus warm, then the vinaigrette should be the first thing you make. In that case you can deal with both heads of garlic at the same time and, yes, use the same oven temperature of either 400° or 425°F.
Green Bean and Asparagus Salad with Roasted Garlic and Garlic Vinaigrette
Yield: serves 6 Ingredients:
For the Green Beans:
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces [or longer as pictured!]
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 head of garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Asparagus:
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
For the Garlic Vinaigrette:
- 1 head of garlic
- ¾ cup olive extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon agave
- Zest and juice of 1 orange or 2 lemons, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the green beans, first preheat the oven to 450°F. Put the garlic clove with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water in an oven-proof baking dish and cover. Cook until the cloves are soft and will easily slide out of peeling. Toss the green beans with the remaining olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet pan. Roast until browned and almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle beans with the garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Continue roasting for 2 to 5 minutes, then remove from the stove.
At the same time, for the asparagus, after washing cut off the hard stems and then halve the remaining stalks. Put the asparagus in a cast iron skillet with the spices and dry roast them all. Stir to avoid burning. Pull from the stove when the asparagus is fork tender. Add the asparagus to the still hot green beans. Stir to mix.
For the garlic vinaigrette, raise the oven temperature to 425°F.
Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a square of aluminum foil, drizzle it with 1 teaspoon olive oil, wrap it up, and put it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until soft. Whisk together the mustard, balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Add the agave and orange or lemon zest and juice [if using those optional ingredients]. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and mash it or chip it finely and add the garlic to the dressing. Whisk together and drizzle in ½ cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour half the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more dressing if need, or additional salt and pepper.
Sources: epicurious.com for the green beans and Chef Kim Piston at CBTB for the asparagus and dressing
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/13th second at ISO-3200