We had a lovely gathering at our place Saturday afternoon, a thing called the Mom Food Extravaganza, with nearly every attendee presenting one or more dishes from his or her family's culinary archive. Most of us were asked for recipes; while I'm awaiting the one for Lisa's Swedish potato dish, let me pass along the directions for my contributions, two of my favorite childhood vegetable dishes as my mama used to make them, with maybe a couple of tweaks she never quite got around to:
THEM GREEN BEANS
2 lbs fresh green beans
4 slices of good bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4" bits
1 medium onion, chopped semi-fine
2-4 pods dried red pepper, whole
approx. 1 quart water
1/4 cup salt
Clean and trim beans, cutting in half crosswise or to 3" lengths. Keep in a pan of cold water.
Heat bacon in 3 qt. pot until it starts to brown and throw off fat. Stir in the onion, grind a good bit of black pepper over all. Cook on medium heat until onion is transparent. Stir in red pepper pods. Drain green beans in sieve and dump into pot, stirring over heat for a few minutes. Pour in water just to cover, then add salt. Bring pot to boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover and cook at a very gentle rate until beans are no longer crisp, but still have some body, probably about an hour. These will be all the better for sitting in the fridge overnight and then being reheated the next day.
For guilt-free beans down the road, the chilled liquid may be strained to remove congealed fat, and then frozen to use later for cooking beans with a good bacony flavor but no fat - turns out that smoky, porky flavor is WATER-soluble. This is a pretty good way to perk up those midwinter frozen green beans...
THAT SCALLOPED CABBAGE
1 head green cabbage
big pot of water
1/2 cup Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbs butter
1 1/2 Tbs flour
1 tsp mace
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttered crumbs, cracker or Panko or whatever
Quarter cabbage through stem, cut out heart, shred fine. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt, then put in cabbage and cover. When the water just comes back on the boil, pour out cabbage and water through a large strainer. Empty cabbage into a large bowl and immediately pour in cold water, swishing the cabbage around to cool it as quickly as possible. Drain cabbage and then squeeze as dry as you can get it.
Melt butter in heavy sauce pan. Blend mace, flour, salt and cayenne, and whisk this into the butter. Heat the milk on the stovetop or in microwave, not quite to boiling, add to mixture and whisk in until smooth and thick. Stir into cabbage, and then turn this out into a greased baking dish. Top with a good layer of crumbs and bake at 350º until bubbly. If you have a broiler element overhead, browning the top with this is a nice touch.
The sauce would be improved if instead of a bechamel it were made from 1 1/3 cup of heavy sweet cream or crème fraiche, reduced over heat to one cup, and then seasoned as above. The fat content would be about the same, the simple carbohydrates nil, and I think the flavors much clearer.
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