Friday, March 30, 2012

The Half-Assed Gourmet Strikes Again

First rule of winning Mega Millions: You do not talk about winning Mega Millions.

What are you looking for? I just told you Rule #1.

I have not yet checked my Mega Millions tickets, so I could very well be a multi-millionaire (and perhaps ready to participate in the “Shark Tank” on ABC). However, I dusted off my Kermit the Frog impression today and pleased RB, a VERY particular 6 year old young man. Just what America needs: a multi-millionaire who can imitate green felt.

Works for me. By the way, this blog, “50 Lbs. to Normal” (and I may have to change the name if the damned BMI doesn’t start going down) has had over 7,000 hits. I thank you for your support, but I’d like to hear back from folks as to why “Turn, Turn, Turn” is the most popular post. Feel free to leave comments.

Before I get into the real purpose of today’s post (“The Half-Assed Gourmet Strikes Again”), I’d like to say a word to two groups of people (and there may be some overlap): with lottery fever gripping the nation (over $600 million? Come on, that’s got to grab your attention), those who cite the odds as “a tax on people who can’t do math” and those people who cite the failure rate of diets/weight loss efforts (one study calculated it at 90%) if someone tells them they are 1) buying a lottery ticket and/or going to work on losing a few pounds. We will call them the Triple P groups: People Who Pee on Petunias (petunias as a metaphor for ambitions/dreams and used here because it starts with the letter P and alliteration is pleasing to the human ear). Triple P folks? Let it go. Okay? The petunia planters are not reaching into your wallet for ticket money and not dragging you to the gym to spot for them while they lift weights. You don’t like the odds, don’t play. It’s that simple.  But don’t unzip your fly and pee on someone else’s seedlings just because you don’t have the vision.  Part of the fun of these two endeavors are the dreams/visualization of what can be. Ever seen “Finding Neverland” with Johnny Depp (further proof the man can play effin’ ANYTHING, as if “Benny and Joon” wasn’t enough)? He’s playing J.M. Barrie, the author/creator of Peter Pan who was a great dreamer himself. A young boy says something to squash his vision of something and Barrie calls him “a horrid little candle snuffer.”  If your friend wants to spend a couple of bucks on lottery tickets (just a couple of bucks, not the rent or the dog’s kibble) and speaks of great things to be done with the money, let him/her. The Segway of progress is imagination/dreaming/vision. Okay, so the odds are long that one ticket will win hundreds of millions of dollars or someone who’s been unfit and/or overweight for an extended period of time will lose weight and keep it off, but dammit, it’s not your job to talk them out of it. By the way, I haven’t had much forward progress in the numbers, but I’m looking good. I caught a guy checking out my ass today. That’s been over a year without relapsing to bad habits so…

I want to be a thinner multi-millionaire.

And by the way, if your default setting is to talk someone else out of their dreams, maybe you need to talk to a therapist about YOUR attitude.

Now to the “meat” of this post…

Stop reading now if you…
1) Hate green beans
2) Are strict vegetarian
3) Take any adjustment to a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe as an insult to the lady’s honor that must be avenged forthwith.
Okay, so we’re all friends now? Good. Remember the Sausage, Sage and Artichoke Hearts recipe that was a riff on a Tyler Florence recipe? Sort of like, say, the Farrelly brothers riffing on Shakespeare? We’re back for Round Two; same All Star Thanksgiving show, but it’s Giada’s turn. You will need:
1) A good sized frying pan (I have a 9 inch Farberware Millenium pan that is my treasure).
2) Access to Trader Joe’s since all of the ingredients came from there.
a) From the fresh produce section: a bag of haricots vert (fancy French talk for green beans, small, slender ones) $2.99, shallots $.99, sliced thin (or a mild, mild onion like Vidalia, diced).
b) Bacon ends and pieces (“What the hell is that?” you ask. This is the non-pretty leftovers from when they slice up and package the applewood. You don’t need pretty for this recipe and the stuff tastes wonderful. Thick cut and lovely). Use half the package and chop it up to be bite sized, $2.99 (Appropriate since someone in the next unit was getting LOUDLY porked this afternoon. Discretion, People. It’s a good thing).
c) Tomato paste. TJ’s has 2 varieties: one is comes in a standard tomato paste can and costs $.89 (it’s organic). The other comes in a tube and costs $.99. By the way, Nerd Fitness (Paleo diet) approves the use of tomato paste.
d) Garlic. I used some TJ’s garlic paste I had on hand (GENEROUS tablespoon. I like garlic). I think I paid $1.99 for it.
e) Black pepper. The bacon (and the tomato paste in a tube) have enough salt for any taste unless you’re a white-tailed deer. In which case, you would probably not be making this recipe and you should avoid running into Sarah Palin. There’s a great Far Side cartoon of deer grandmothers handing out salt licks to all the grandkids – grandfawns? – but I can’t find it through Google).
Let’s start by cutting the corner on the bag of haricots vert (What? Freedom fries? Annoyed sigh. Have it your way) GREEN BEANS and throwing them in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Giada would have you blanch them (boiling water for 2 minutes then shock in ice water bath. Yeah, I thought you’d think this other route was easier. Trust me: I just ate this). Same result: tender beans.
While the microwave is busy humming away, turn your stove on (Look, I’ve attended Thanksgiving dinners where the hostess got up at 3 AM to start the turkey, went through all the steps and went back to bed only to discover 3-4 hours later that she’d forgotten to turn on the oven. I am not making this up) to a medium high heat. Bacon will splatter as it cooks, so be aware that you will be on clean-up. It’s a given. Let it render a bit (melt the fat) and add the shallots until they get limp and translucent. Stirring is encouraged to prevent burning.
Your beans should have dinged (or whatever noise your microwave makes to announce that it’s done). CAREFULLY open the bag (they’ve been steaming. You will get a green bean facial) and add (dump) them into the pan. Stir.
Now, add the tomato paste and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Reduce heat (add a LITTLE water if you feel the need. I don’t) and give things a little time to cook together, meld flavors. You want the bacon cooked (and if it doesn’t produce enough rendered fat to cook everything else, you have my blessing to add a dash of olive oil (or olive erl as a good friend insists on calling it). No harm.
Giada used pancetta when she made this (available at Trader Joe’s, but the bacon ends cost less) as it is an Italian side dish. I’m perfectly happy chowing down on it as a main dish (and as leftovers, oh boy.  Think spaghetti sauce the next day). Feel free to throw in some basil (I did the first time I made this. Didn’t today, didn’t miss it. Basil adds a nice dimension, but  its absence is not a fatal to this dish).
Bacon or salt pork is a traditional additive to cooking beans, including green beans. You COULD, I suppose, substitute bacon salt (found at Cost Plus World Market) which is both vegetarian and kosher, but since bacon makes everything better, I go with the real deal.
Mangia, mangia.


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