Kitchen Tip #1: Purple Green Beans

Green Beans

I’m excited to introduce a new series on the blog: Kitchen Tips! These are not recipes per se, but suggestions of how to use your veggies in ways you may not have considered. For my first post in this series, let’s talk about purple green beans.

Cut beans

These showy legumes are one of the great joys of summer produce. Their contrasting deep purple outside and bright green inside are a delight to look upon. What a disappointment though when they hit the pan or pot of boiling water and seconds later the purple has completely disappeared only to be replaced with a drab green.

And so, I present to you Kitchen Tip #1: eat your purple green beans raw.

Close up beans

Slice your purple green beans on a bias and you get the best show. Flashy purples and greens can now take center stage on the plate. The icing on the cake? Their sweet crunch adds fantastic texture to any salad or side dish. This week at home, I sautéed up their yellow and green cousins with some tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Once they were done and on the platter, I topped them off with raw purple beans and some oregano flowers from the garden. Voila! Dinner was served.

Green beans two ways

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The Secret to Delicious Kale Salad

Every summer my husband and I travel to visit his family in the Berkshires. We have a handful of favorite dinner spots scattered among the hills that we try to frequent whenever we’re in the area. The food is always wonderful and made from local produce. On our last visit, we stopped by The Dreamaway, a quirky old institution in the Berkshires famous for its colorful history and live music. As I perused the menu, I was drawn to the kale salad. I have a serious weakness for kale. It’s such a nutritional powerhouse- vitamins K, A, and C not to mention fiber, manganese, calcium, and potassium! Now, I’m sure many you have experienced one of downsides of eating raw kale: texture. It can often feel like you’re burning all your calories just trying to chew the darn stuff. Enter my epiphany at The Dreamaway: when my salad arrived, it was the most incredible, tender kale salad I had ever eaten. I ate every single morsel on that plate and considered ordering a second. When our server came by to check on us, I had to ask, “What on earth do you do to make this kale so tender?!” Her reply… “We massage it.” After our meal, I took a quick trip to The Dreamaway’s kitchen to do some culinary reconnaissance. After a nice chat with the cooks, I had it figured out and here’s what I learned:

Bunch of kale

First, strip the leaves from the stems and wash them. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner or with a dry towel.

Torn kale

Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

Massage Kale

Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a dash of salt over the leaves. Then get your {clean} hands in there and firmly massage all the leaves. You will notice the color change to be slightly darker and brighter.

Finished Kale

Once the kale appears to have reduced in volume by up to half and all the leaves have been rubbed, toss the kale with your favorite dressing and toppings! You will notice it is so much more tender! An added bonus- that olive oil feels great on your hands!

Tackling Butternut Squash

Butternut SquashLet’s talk about tackling the big, scary butternut. Every time I used to see a recipe that called for cubes of butternut squash, I would cringe and move on. The thought of figuring out how to slice that beast was completely overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve since learned there’s a simple technique to cutting up butternut squash. The most important tools for this are a peeler and a sharp knife. I cannot emphasize enough how much safer a sharp knife is than a dull one. Please, do yourself a favor and have your main kitchen knives sharpened a couple times a year! There are some great local businesses in the Seattle area that do a great job!

Trim butternutBack to that pesky squash. First, you should trim off the stem and flower ends of the squash.

imageNow that your peeler has a surface to grip, go ahead and peel the whole squash. After the squash is peeled, you’re ready to start cutting.

separating butternutThe first cut will be to separate the neck from the body. When doing this, remember to let the knife do the work for you. Don’t apply all the pressure straight down, try to let your knife slide through the squash.

butternut roundsOnce the neck is separated, go ahead and cut it into rounds the proper width of what your recipe calls for.

cubed butternutYou can then easily cut the rounds into cubes.

renove seedsFor the body, cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds – saving the seeds to roast, of course.

half moonsNext, cut the body into half moons the same width as the rounds from the neck. You can then cut these into smaller pieces to match the cubes from the neck.

finished butternutVoila! You’ve conquered the great and terrible butternut! A final note: butternut squash has a tendency to release a sticky, slimy film when peeled and cut. This is a natural reaction that is caused by the squash trying to repair itself as it would when still on the vine. To avoid having this film stick to your hands (it will wear off eventually), wear gloves or try to hold the squash with an old kitchen towel. If you do use a towel, please be extra careful to keep track of where your fingers and knife are – we don’t want any accidents!

Now enjoy your new found freedom! Go cook up some butternut squash!