Fun with Frenching

Photos by Kerri Conan

Friday night, one glass of wine into firing the grill for steak with a pile of farmers’-market string beans in the sink, I decided to kill some time Frenching.

The plan was to stir-fry the beans in olive oil with lots of garlic and shallots until droopy, then add tomato wedges, cover, and let them stew just long enough to release some juice but not their skins. Off heat, I’d stir in a handful of basil leaves from the back yard, adjust the seasoning, and serve at room temperature. Splitting the beans lengthwise—like fancy canned and frozen green beans—would help the pods soften and absorb flavor, and I liked the idea of getting random bites with baby seeds.

My ad hoc by-hand technique varied: For straight beans, I lined the business side of the knife on top and pushed down with conviction, pretending not to care when the odd end slipped free of the hack. If they were curved, I used the seam on the bean as a guide to run the tip of the blade from the middle outward in both directions, turning each between strokes. I’m pretty fast with a knife and like the practice but apparently you can also lay them horizontally in the feed tube of a food processor and let the slicing disk do the work.

Whatever your method or recipe, try Frenching at least once this season. There’s a reason why they’re cut that way for green bean casserole. This quick braise had all the freshness you want from summer vegetables, without the squeaky stick-to-your-teeth chalkiness of lightly cooked green beans. Instead their exposed insides provided a silky counterpoint to the crisp skins. And the leftovers can become anything from a three-bean salad or toast topper to a rich frittata.

– Kerri Conan

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

Sweet Serendipity

Photos by Pam Hoenig

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve made multiple (unsuccessful) attempts at smoking salt on the grill. On one of my test runs, I also put a pan of regular granulated sugar on the grill. During a check-in, I found that it had melted, caramelized, and hardened into beautiful golden brown translucence.

I moved the pan over direct heat, then ran inside and scooped vanilla ice cream into a bowl. I carefully poured the now bubbling caramel over the ice cream, where it hardened on contact into a lacy cage. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Apricot Madness


Photo by Mark Bittman

It wouldn’t be right to say that I went to California last week to look for apricots—I had a lot to take care of—but that definitely played a part. Since some time around 15 years ago, when David Karp—not the Tumblr one, the fruit-whisperer one—met me at the Santa Monica farmers’ market and introduced me to real apricots, I have been, well, interested. (NOT obsessed.) Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

Pan Drippings in the Dressing

Chicken Salad Photo

Photo by Kerri Conan

The roast chicken carcass sat in a covered casserole with a wee jar of leftover pan sauce balanced on top, lest the two ever be separated in the fridge. With a 50/50 fat-to-sauce ratio you could easily see re-purposing the meat into a stir-fry or pasta. Only I wanted to make chicken salad and there was no way I was wasting this stuff. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Foraging for Dinner


Photos by Mark Bittman

These are unopened milkweed flowers; I began to eat them while first learning how to forage in central Vermont in the 70s. (How’d I learn? Euell Gibbons , of course.) The season is very short—just a couple of days for each plant, spread out over a period of maybe a week or two in any given location—so you have to be lucky to find them. Once the buds start to open up, they’re done. But when they’re tight and broccoli-like, as these are, they’re sweet, and cook instantly. I parboil them for a minute or two before incorporating them into other things. (Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to gather a big mess, and then I parboil them and toss them with vinaigrette or melted butter.) Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce, Slow Food

Potato Tacos

Potato Taco

Photo by Emily Stephenson

I bought some adorable tiny potatoes and mini zucchini this week and my mind immediately went not to showcasing their tiny cuteness but to how I could transform them into that day’s lunch (I was hungry when I went shopping).

I have a hard time with lunch. The ideal lunch dish to me has multiple components (i.e., is fun to eat) but requires no more than an hour of prep and is something I will be happy to eat several days in a row, if not the whole week. With my mini vegetables in hand, my thoughts when to tacos. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

An Afternoon of Apples

Photo by Pam Hoenig

It started with applesauce. Could I make a batch from apples cooked on the grill? Maybe the idea was too forced. Or maybe the results would be amazing. Easy enough to try, right? I cored and sliced an apple into rings, and put them on the grill. They were soft and tasty in five minutes. But do the apples need to be cut first? Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

The Fruit That Eats Like Meat

Photo by Emily Stephenson

One new-to-me ingredient I kept seeing mention of in my vegan recipe research was jackfruit, and the young, unripe fruit tastes just like pulled pork when simmered in barbecue sauce. The fresh, ripe fruit can grow to up to 100 pounds and is incredibly sweet, with a smell not unlike durian. The now popular ‘meat substitute’ version is the unripe, not yet sweet fruit that has been preserved in brine. I finally had some time this weekend, tracked down cans at a Vietnamese grocer, and tried it for myself.

Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

A Better Than Good Egg

A Better-Than-Good Egg Cropped

Photo by Kerri Conan

Mark made me and another colleague toasted homemade bread and fried eggs the other day. I was lucky enough to meet the hen responsible—one of two yard birds that linger by the kitchen door waiting for handouts—and even luckier to watch Mark cook it. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

What Happens When You Forget About Eggplant

By Mark Bittman

I do love eggplant, in just about all forms, the possible exception being badly executed eggplant Parmesan (see an example below, from when I took my mother out for lunch a couple of weeks ago).

Eggplant done poorly

Photos by Mark Bittman

Someday I’ll discuss “real” eggplant P., but for now I want to talk about how mistakes may lead to discoveries. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes