Posts Tagged ‘Pasadena food blog’

A Journey Down Green Bean Casserole Memory Lane

February 25, 2009

Green Bean Casserole: Complete with Fried Onions

Green Bean Casserole: Complete with Fried Onions


I miss New York. A lot. As a resident of New York City, I became very defined by my surroundings. When I first moved to Manhattan in 2004, I lived on the fifth floor of an old walk-up tenement building that was built in the mid-1880s and once served as the home to dozens of immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Italy who worked in the canneries along the East river, served the wealthy who resided in the mansions along 5th Avenue and who tirelessly worked to build and develop the Manhattan we know today. Looking out the only window in my apartment that had a view, I saw the huge and beautiful stain glass window of St. Stevens Catholic Church, a church that was built on 28th street in 1853. While I am not a very religious person, I felt very blessed to live next to St. Stevens. Over the four years that I lived in this apartment, I never grew tired of looking at the Church and with my every glance at it, I felt more connected to my City and came to better appreciate and understand the history of the neighborhood and its former residents.

The views from my Pasadena apartment are very different from what I saw in New York. From my living room, I see the most perfectly shaped palm tree. I often wonder how old it is and how with the development of our condo complex it was never cut down. From my back patio, I see the San Gabriel mountains. While I love and appreciate the scenic views I now have, a palm tree and a mountain range cannot tell me about Pasadena’s history or some of its early settlers.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my new surroundings, looking at the views, and missing what I left behind. I know that my sense of place in Pasadena will come with time, but because I cannot take a quick jaunt back to New York for a visit, I have been doing a lot of comfort cooking – making those dishes that remind me of home.

Growing up, one of my all time favorite dishes was green bean casserole, a recipe that my father claimed came from his grandmother, Mom-Mom. Believing that it was a family recipe passed down through the generations, Mom-Mom’s Beans, for me, became such a novelty, even though my mother did not make them often. When they were served, I remember savoring each bite of french-cut green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup, covered with crispy fried onions and fervently hoping that there was always more on the stove for seconds. Accompanied with a roast chicken, green bean casserole was my ultimate comfort food.

Up until this past weekend, I cannot remember the last time I had Mom-Mom’s green bean casserole, despite the memories of its taste, flavor and preparation seeming so fresh in my mind. I remember opening a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and mixing it in to steaming green beans. I remember the popping sound that the lid of the French’s French Fried Onions made as it opened. And I remember trying to sneak some of the fried onion rings that were left in the can after the casserole was put in the oven to bake.

This past weekend, after really missing New York all week, I made Mom-Mom’s Beans. Believing that her beans would culinarily transport me back home, I carefully prepared them, baked them until the top layer was just slightly crispy and served them next to a delicious roast chicken. Within seconds, all the anticipation and expectation of Mom-Mom’s delicious beans were shattered. They were not at all as I remembered. They were bland, boring and completely uninteresting. I am not sure if my palate has evolved from when I was 12, but after a few bites, I understood why my mother rarely served Mom-Mom’s beans…

Although I tried (and perhaps desperately tried) to resurrect comforting memories from my past, eating Mom-Mom’s Beans reminded me that what we remember isn’t always as it seems. While I miss my old New York apartment on 3rd Avenue and its views of St. Stevens Church, I must remember that I cursed the 5 flights of stairs I had to climb to get to it on a daily basis. While I believe my recent nostalgia of New York has perhaps lead to my recent blogging hiatus, I am glad that my culinary journey down green bean casserole memory lane has taught me that my surroundings here are still new, and that my sense of place and comfort in Pasadena will eventually come – and may come with a view of a perfectly shaped palm tree.

Until next time…

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Season Eats: Beef Stroganoff

December 31, 2008

Rich and Delicious Beef Stoganoff

Rich and Delicious Beef Stoganoff


Happy Holidays! Perhaps this posting is coming a bit late – the days always seem to get a little crazy during the holidays. This year, George and I celebrated our first Christmas in California. It was an exciting Christmas for us – our first as a married couple, our first on our own without our immediate families and our first in moderate degree temperatures.

For me, Christmas, or better yet the whole winter season, is not so much defined by sharing it with family and close friends, but by the smells, sounds and cold temperatures that have come to shape my holiday season. There is a certain crispness to the ringing of a Salvation Army bell outside of Grand Central Station on a cold December day that is not heard when I enter my local Pasadena grocery store. The sound firewood makes when my Dad drops it on our back deck on Long Island in anticipation of building a fire cannot be replicated in our Pasadena condo. That sound, which resembles a drumroll on a tampered kettle drum is so perfectly pitched because of the dry salty cold air created by our proximity to Peconic Bay. The holiday season is also not complete without the aromas and smells of winter stews and soups bubbling on the stove in a warm kitchen.

While I may be thousands of miles away from a New York winter day, I am doing my best to bring my associations of the season to Pasadena. Recently, I made a big pot of Beef Stroganoff and let its rich sauce simmer on the stove to allow the fragrances of the beef broth and fresh oregano permeate the kitchen and apartment. Two of my favorite winter meals are Beef Stroganoff and Beef Bourguignon. I have a great Beef Bourguignon recipe and over the years have figured out how to turn Beef Bourguignon into Beef Bouguign-Yum. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Beef Stronganoff and every time I make it, I blend together several different Stroganoff recipes creating my own version – the version I remember eating on cold winter nights back East.

Unlike other stews that taste better when cooked slowly, Beef Stroganoff can be made in about 45 minutes. Beef Stroganoff is also different from other winter stews as its ingredients are not cooked simultaneously in one pot; the dish requires that individual attention be paid to several of its ingredients. I have seen ingredients and spices vary by recipe, but my favorite Beef Stroganoff is quite basic – it is simply sliced sirloin, mushrooms, onions and the sauce, which is a beef broth and wine reduction seasoned with fresh oregano, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Of course, any Beef Stroganoff would not be complete without its piece de resistance – a little sour cream added at the end. The sour cream adds a nice blushness to the sauce making it warm and rich for any winter night dinner.

I have included my recipe, which as previously mentioned, is a blend of several recipes.

Beef Stoganoff
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds sirloin, sliced
1 large onion sliced or 2 small onions sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup of sour cream

Began by slicing the sirloin into 1/3 inch strips about 2 inches long and seasoning the meat with salt and pepper. Set the seasoned meat aside.

Seasoned Sirloin - Set Aside and Waiting to be Browned

Seasoned Sirloin - Set Aside and Waiting to be Browned


In a large skillet or small dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions and saute until tender and translucent. Remove onions and set aside.
Sauteeing the Onions

Sauteeing the Onions


In the same pot, add remaining butter and mushrooms and saute until tender. Remove mushrooms and set aside. Add olive oil to the skillet and add meat. Brown the meat on all sides – about 3 minutes per side.
Browning the Sirloin

Browning the Sirloin


Add the mushrooms and onions and stir together. When the meat has browned, sprinkle in flour and stir. Add beef broth and wine and blend together. Stir in tomato paste, oregano and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes until liquid as reduced and thickened. A few minutes before serving, add sour cream and parsley and blend together.
Blending the Sour Cream and Parsley

Blending the Sour Cream and Parsley

I serve Beef Stroganoff over egg noodles, but the dish could easily be served over rice or steamed greens.

While our Pasadena nights are not as cold as a winter night in New York, this Beef Stroganoff dish certainly makes the holiday season smell and taste just the way I like it!

Until next time…

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Blue Potato?

December 12, 2008

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potatoe, Blue Potato!

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potatoe, Blue Potato!


It is so easy to get stuck in a food rut, especially when it comes to cooking weeknight meals. We all have our old recipe standbys that we seem to cook over and over again; sort of like a CD that is stuck on repeat in a stereo. Week in and week out, that one chicken dish or that one pasta sauce recipe is resurrected and another same-old meal is had.
The Flesh of a Blue Potato

The Flesh of a Blue Potato


I was having one of those stuck-in-a-food-rut episodes recently and on a recent stroll through the produce department of my local market I discovered blue potatoes. A potatoes potential, culinarily speaking, is limitless. From mashed potatoes to baked potatoes, to roasted potatoes to gnocci, potatoes are culinary building blocks. But despite this, I have always treated potatoes rather simply, sticking to mashed or roasted potatoes. Boring? Maybe. But for quick and easy cooking, discovering blue potatoes certainly made my go-to recipes a little more interesting!

There are so many different varieties of potatoes, from the well-known Russet potato, to the various whites, yellows, reds and purple potatoes. Blue potatoes are fun little heirloom potatoes that have a deep blue skin and a vibrant purple flesh. For those of us who eat with our eyes, their color may actually fool you. A blue potato does not have, to my novice palate, a flavor that is all that different from a Yukon Gold, for example. While there is a bit of a distinguishing sweetness in a blue potato, they offer more of a sex appeal for your plate rather then your mouth, which is exactly what we need sometimes to pull us out of a cooking rut.

Blue potatoes can easily turn your everyday mashed potatoes into something new and different. Rather than mashing Russet potatoes recently, a side dish that I have made for years, I mashed garlic infused blue potatoes and found them to be gastronomically cathartic. It was an easy switch that made a familiar side exciting and inspiring. Blue potatoes also roast very well. Roasting blue potatoes with a little olive oil and coarse sea salt is very satisfying and once again, makes a go-to side dish seem like a new culinary experience.

Roasted Blue Potatoes and Carrots

Roasted Blue Potatoes and Carrots


Discovering blue potatoes was exactly what I needed to pull myself out of my cooking rut. I realized that I don’t have to reinvent my weekday menu to overcome a cooking malaise, but simply using a different variety of a vegetable, or in my case a potato, can make all the difference.

Until next time…