A Top Contender
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We’ll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They’re one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn’t be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
There are a million (a gillion?) green bean recipes out there and you’ve likely got your holiday favorite. I used to be a green bean casserole gal, and then I fled from the cream and hydrogenated little cans of crispy onions. But these green beans are special. They’re slow-roasted for about an hour at a pretty high temperature so a lot of the moisture is sucked out and they’re no longer snappy and crisp. Instead, they have a slightly chewy, tender sweetness, softening along with the garlic, scallions and seasoning. Really, they’re a top contender.
Every year for Thanksgiving there seems to be this need to reinvent the wheel, to choose recipes that are somehow different and truly inspired. You see it in the food magazines, you hear chatter over it at the post office or coffee shop. It all starts to feel really tiring. I love my mom’s cranberry relish and three-onion casserole. She’s made them every year since I can remember. Turkey, classic mashed potatoes, a big green salad of some sort, and a few special pies. While the line-up changes a bit each year, these are the standards. So suffice it to say, I really wasn’t on the hunt for these green beans, but they happened to find me this week. And I think we may just invite them into the mix this year.
If you read Bon Appetit, maybe you stumbled across Michael Chabon’s beautiful piece on Thanksgiving this month. He writes about the year his family spent the holiday at Manka’s Lodge in West Marin, a pretty magical place I’ve had the great fortune of visiting before it burned to the ground a few years ago. I related to Chabon’s descriptions of the place itself, but the essay really struck me because it’s a beautiful piece of writing. I don’t often get the time to read things these days for the pure joy and admiration of the craft and construction of the words themselves. That’s the case here. In very general terms, Chabon describes the place and the meal and his thoughts on Thanksgiving. He and his family like to change it up each year, not getting too tied down to any one location, habit or tradition. Of that practice, he says:
Nothing lasts; everything changes. People die, and marriages dissolve, and friendships fade, and families fall apart, whether or not we appreciate them; whether or not we give thanks every waking moment or one night a year. For the act of returning to the same table, to the same people and the same dishes–to the same traditions–can blind you to life’s transience. It can lull you into believing that some things, at least, stay the same. And if that’s what you believe, then what have you got to be grateful for? None of our Thanksgivings are ever coming back; we’ve lost them. They’re gone. And so this year, let’s go somewhere with strange customs and unfamiliar recipes and the latest collection of ill-assorted chairs, and give thanks–not for everything we have, but for everything, instead, that we have lost.
When I showed the piece to Sam and told him how much I enjoyed it, he agreed that it was wonderful but was ultimately confused why I was recommending it: Really? But it’s everything your family is against. You love tradition. This is true. We’re not big fans of changing up the routine in the Gordon household. I look forward to coming home to California and seeing the inevitable fall wreath on the door; my mom’s l-o-n-g grocery list on a big sheet of yellow legal paper taped to one of the kitchen cupboards; the annual call to my aunt Cathy to chat turkey times even though she and my mom have been doing the turkey for a million (a gillion?) years and know full-well how long it takes; the cocktails; the long evening walk. It wouldn’t feel right without all of that. I wouldn’t want to give that up just for the sake of not getting mired down in doing the same thing year after year after year. There’s a very real comfort in the repetition of those things — it’s what makes it feel like not just any other day, right?
So why was I so drawn to the piece? I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days. Sure the writing is beautiful and it’s about a landscape I know and love. But there was something else. The only answer I could muster was that maybe it’s because I read it more like an exotic postcard, like a hello from a family who does things differently than we do. In that sense, I had to read it a few times, thinking through what it would be like if we traveled from house to house, some years eating take-out, other years making lasagna. Just for the heck of it. Just so we didn’t get stuck in any one way. It felt like a peek into somewhere new, a no-less passionate take on Thanksgiving, but a Thanksgiving that couldn’t be more remote from where we pull up a seat each year.
Slow-Roasted Green Beans and Garlic
- Prep time: 5 mins
- Cook time: 45 mins
- Total time: 50 mins
Adapted from: Bon Appetit
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl and season with pepper. Toss everything until well combined and turn out onto a large rimmed baking sheet.
Roast the beans, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent sticking, until wilted, shrunken and browned around the edges, about 45 minutes – 55 minutes*. Towards the end of the cooking time, you may need to stir a bit more frequently to avoid sticking.
*Bon Appetit recommends roasting these beans for 1 hour, but they’re also working with 2 1/2 pounds of beans whereas I used 1 1/2 pounds to account for the fact it is just the two of us here. I did roast mine for almost an hour but I’ve been hearing from a few folks that they’re finding them rather crisp so use your intuition and check them after 45 and then every 5 minutes thereafter until they’re about where you’d like them. I like them crisp, but maybe not everyone does… Happy Thanksgiving!
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
oh my goodness, these look AWESOME. this recipe is right up my alley. also, love the article by michael chabon and your perspective on it. thanks for sharing!
Yum! I've never been a big green bean fan at the holidays... heavy casseroles with undercooked beans just don't hit the spot. This looks like it could be a winner, and I'll definitely try it out soon!
I read the same article. It brought back fond memories of the Bay and a sorrow that that place burned down and I won't get to experience it.
We have been vagabonds for the the past 6 years but a few family always seems to find us or we find them and that is what Thanksgiving is about and what I am always thankful for.
Lisa-Well apparently, Manka's just bought the little inn you see coming right into town (Inverness Inn or ???) so it may live again. Who knows? It is so very beautiful out there; I miss it, too! I agree: it is about the people you're sharing the time with, not so much about where you're actually seated. And you're such a wonderful cook I bet they find you! Hi to the girls and John. Miss you guys, m
i love roasted green beans. i get funny looks from my friends when i say i am making them for dinner. i love darn near any roasted vegetable actually :)
I've been wanting a way to cook green beans and this looks alot like dry sauteed green beans in Chinese recipes, my favorite way to eat green beans. I will make these for thanksgiving.For me, the most important part of the holiday is being with people I love. My family likes the basics to be the same and then we have a couple of things that are different depending on who has been inspired to make something new.As the kids have gotten older, we are able to be a bit more adventurous especially since some of them now like to cook as well. Thank you for this recipe, I am very anxious to try it out.
Heidi! YES, these green beans are similar to the dry sauteed green beans I used to get at a Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area. You're right on about that ... I look forward to hearing what you think about it. Have a wonderful weekend, ~m
Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
I read that article as well and had the same thoughts. It was beautiful, yet says everything about tradition and having tradition in different places. Really, does it matter where you are if the ideas and values are the same? I can't wait to try this recipe!
Nope, I don't think it matters one bit. I think the people are so much more important than the place itself, no? Have a wonderful weekend + enjoy the recipe! ~m
The piece in Bon Appetit was gorgeous, but I somehow neglected to notice this recipe.
Dana-It was certainly the simplest so it'd be easy to miss. But I was so intrigued about the slow-roasting of them ... happy weekend to you!
I'm always torn between tradition and wanting to add a bit of change to the menu. Luckily we have multiple Thanksgiving meals so while one stays frighteningly similar to my childhood (boxed stuffing, frozen corn, vegetable platter from the store) the other has freedom to bend tradition (Turkey roulade, brussels sprout salad, roasted green beans with sage). I love them both.
I don't know how I missed that article. Looking forward to spending some time with you.
Thanks for last night!
I too loved that article. My family is like yours, very traditional same dishes every year for every holiday. So when I moved 4,000 miles away from them and couldn't go back to visit every holiday I started making my own meals and decided that I would really like to break free of those traditional dishes. About five years ago I decided to make turkey mole, sweet potatoes sprinkled with chili powder, jalapeno cranberry sauce, and tamales instead of stuffing, etc... I have now made that same meal every year since! I guess it's hard to let go of traditions, even if they are new ones.
Nicole: Turkey mole sounds fantastic. I love it! I always wonder what I'd make if I wasn't able to come home ... if it really was just the two of us asking ourselves what we honestly felt like. Yours sounds pretty wonderful. Enjoy! ~m
We are all looking forward to this new and exciting green bean recipe at Thanksgiving. Of course your mom and I will have our annual discussion about the turkey as the liver and giblets simmer on the stove ... after which they get discarded. (That's a tradition from our parents!) Looking forward to seeing you, Ray, Z and Mr. Sam soon. Love you.
I adore roasted green beans, though I've never, I think, roasted them this long. Intrigued.
And yes, I caught that Chabon piece, also, and read it, again, and again, and again. Have you read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye? (http://undertowmagazine.com/the-art-of-disappearing-naomi-shihab-nye/) I just stumbled upon it recently, and something about it reminded me of Chabon's piece--the fleeting nature of things, the transcience. And then you reminded me of Chabon. And so I'm passing it along to you :)
Happy November, Megan.
Thanks so much for sharing the poem. I hadn't come across it before, but I have read some of Naomi Shihab Nye's work and like her very much, so this was a treat. We had friends over today and ended up spending a lingering day with them over the paper, breakfast, good conversation and eventual drinks/dinner. We all talked a lot about introverts/extroverts and the ways we all choose to spend our time, so this was a perfect one for today! I was FASCINATED by the recipe, too. I figured if they bake that long, surely it must be at a low temperature. Say, 250F. But nope, it's a high temperature for a good, long time. They're seriously delicious. I can't wait to make them again. Happy November to you, too, Molly! xx, Megan
Thanks for pointing out the article. It was beautiful! The quote you have is very touching. I love your blog and writing. I made the soft hazelnut chocolate cookies by nigel slater you wrote about and they came out great. Thanks for the recipe ideas!
it's always good when i find a blog that teachs and inpires me so much!
Oh, my. This looks like the sort of thing that should most definitely grace every Thanksgiving table. I haven't yet had the chance to dive into the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit (though I did briefly browse through the inspiring recipe collections). I'm so glad you pointed out this post! I'm definitely a big fan of the traditions, too, but in my family we try to do a mix of both old and new (my mom's cranberry sauce- always the same; side dishes - usually different). I hope I get to see you! xoxo
Kasey: I know, isn't that BA issue beautiful? It's been on my bedside table for a few weeks now ... not quite ready to graduate it to the pile in my study.
Making these tonight for Van and me, without the scallions (!) because Van doesn't like scallions. You know what I don't like? I doesn't like cutting all the damn stems off the beans. It doesn't take long, but it still bugs me. And that's your fault.
Burt: Oh, good! I'm so glad. Let me know what you think of them!
I might have shed a small tear while reading this. Our Thanksgiving this year is going to be so different this year. The same people but everything else is different. And if I cook at all, it will be in my mom's kitchen with food that my dad will have shopped for, and I won't have to hide when Randy cleans out the turkey. For someone who always wants to eat something different, I want Thanksgiving to always be the same - I make the same dishes every year. I hope you have a happy one Megan.
Oh, Dana: It will be a familiar place with people you love. And for that it will feel like Thanksgiving, I think. You could always do a second one back at home where you make the dishes you always make, yes? I'm sure Randy wouldn't quibble. I hope you have a happy one, too. I'll be waving at you as we pass each other in the friendly skies. xx.
Nicole @ Eat This Poem
I love when a piece of writing hangs on like that and you find yourself pondering it days later. A beautiful post, today!
The woman who owned Manka's is taking over the Olema Inn! I hear the food is great, though I don't know if it's fully open yet ...
Loved the BA piece, not least of all because its about a place to close to my heart ..... But also for the inspiration. As I'm currently trying to figure out my thanksgiving menu, the recipe is especially welcome.
I also read the Micheal Chabon piece and to say it resonated with me is an understatement. My mother died in August and the first holiday season with her will be challenging. Within the last year many of my friends have lost their mothers. I made 10 copies of this piece and have sent them out to others for their thoughts. I found the article so comforting. Like Dr.Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." As someone who celebrates tradition it's time to embrace change, incorporate the wonderful memories of the past and make sure the best of what those we loved so much left behind is still ptresent inus.
Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days? --Ranier Maria Rilke
Thanks for the recipe. Happy Thanksgiving.
i want to ask about thanksgiving. what is it?
Albany NY Food Lover
I wish I had seen this before Thanksgiving this year. I have never been one to follow a script *except* for holiday meals, but am now breaking out and with some favorable results [parboiled Brussels sprouts sauteed in duck fat w/ pancetta]. Thanks for liberating me even further!