Exactly once a year, around Thanksgiving, I get a craving for that classic green bean and cream-of-mushroom side dish topped with fried onion rings. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the holiday feast — but it’s made with far-from-perfect ingredients: frozen french-cut beans, Campbell’s cream-of-mushroom soup and Heinz crispy onions. In other words, a processed food nightmare.
This holiday, I’ve tried rebooting this old recipe so my family and I can enjoy this dish without supporting the industrial agriculture juggernaut and subjecting ourselves to known carcinogens in our food.
This dish is far too yummy to remain stuck in the 70s. Give a try with and without the optional “secret ingredient” — the Point Reyes blue cheese — and let me know what you think!
1 Lb fresh green beans, ends removed, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 C raw dehydrated onions (look for them at Whole Foods)
Steam the green beans to al dente in lightly salted water, about 5 minutes. (My grandfather would let the water cool a bit and then drink it like a tea/health tonic. It’s really good — and loaded with nutrients exuded by the beans when they’re cooking.)
Meanwhile, sautée the onions and mushrooms in 1 T of olive oil until tender and lightly browned, adding thyme plus salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the green beans with the onions and mushrooms in a casserole dish and set aside.
Now create a roux with the butter and flour over low heat and slowly add the milk until you have smooth sauce-like consistency. Optionally, add the blue cheese and allow it to melt into the sauce. Add more milk if the mixture gets too thick. When satisfied with the sauce, pour it over the green beans, mushrooms and onions and stir to coat.
Top with breadcrumbs and dehydrated onions and bake for 10-15 minutes at 325° until the sauce bubbles and the onions on top start to crisp up. Allow to cool for five minutes before serving.
I modified my mother’s classic pumpkin pie recipe to remove all the dairy, sugar and fat (except for the fats naturally occurring in the eggs). It can be made completely guiltless if you bake it as a soufflé in ramekins, but it gets better — albeit more carb-ey and fatty — if you add a bottom-layer of pie crust.
1/4 C yacón, agave or maple syrup (more if needed)
1 T ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t fresh ginger, grated
1/2 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground allspice
1 pie crust (optional)
While it’s fine to use canned pumpkin in a pinch, I prefer to start with a whole sugar pie pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 400° and place the pumpkin, washed, upright in a jellyroll pan filled 2/3 full with water. IMPORTANT: Stab the pumpkin all the way through from the top with a knife several times so that it doesn’t explode in the oven.
Roast the pumpkin at 400° for about an hour, then remove and allow to cool to the touch. Remove all the seeds, stringy parts and the skin and then you’re ready to use the remaining pumpkin flesh for this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 425°
Now comes this easy part: dump everything into a blender and blend on a high for 60 seconds. At this point, I test the mixture for sweetness and add more yacón, agave or maple syrup and re-blend if it doesn’t seem sweet enough.
Pour the mixture into eight ramekins or a pie dish (optionally lining with raw pie crust if you desire).
If you used crust, line the edges with foil so that they don’t burn. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 275° and bake for another 35-45 minutes — until a knife poked in the center comes out clean. If you used ramekins, start testing them with a knife at 25-30 minutes as they require less cook time.
Passed on from one nonna to the next, this biscotti recipe perfectly balances the sweet with the savory and the softness with the crunch. The resulting treats make the perfect accompaniment to an espresso, something Italians drink from 11am-on into the afternoon and evening.
About three dozen cookies
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 C brown sugar
1 C white sugar
zest of one orange
1 t almond extract
1 t vanilla extract
1 t orange extract
4 C white flour
2 t baking powder
2 C almonds, lightly toasted and chopped coarsely
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Beat the eggs with mixer to medium fluff (no peaks). With the mixer running on low, add the oil, sugar, zest, and extracts. Slowly add the other dry ingredients while continuing to beat on low.
Turn the resulting dough out onto a flat surface, adding additional flour if it’s sticking.
Separate the dough into six even parts, then roll each one out into a log. Flatten each log into a slightly oblique shape about a foot long and two inches wide.
Transfer onto two cookie sheets, three logs per sheet, and bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes, removing when golden brown.
Allow to cool enough to be handled with bare hands, but while still fairly hot, cut the logs on the diagonal into even pieces about 3/4″ wide.
Now, lay each cookie on its cut side and bake again at 350° for about six minutes, only until golden brown. Then flip and repeat for another six minutes. Transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack when finished.
In an airtight container, the biscotti will last at least a week, but Nonna Bucchere says they’ll be long gone before any chance of spoilage.