Butter beans and pomegranate form an unlikely friendship

Butter bean salad with pomegranate seeds

Butter bean salad with pomegranate seeds and scallions

While I have been eating in accordance to the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse for the last 2 weeks, I admit I did not follow their day-by-day menu plans. Instead I did a lot of mixing and matching depending upon what was on hand at any given time. This is sad only because it means it took me an extra week to discover the unexpectedly delicious coupling of butter beans and pomegranate seeds.

In fact, to be honest, I saw a picture of the salad (made with white cannellini beans) and immediately thought, “Oh hell no. That’s one to skip.” Even though I love a good bean salad, for some reason my brain could just not accept the combination of beans and fruit.

But then I saw reviews for the recipe — both online and on Instagram — and was surprised. People seemed to love it. And almost everyone praised the pomegranates for making the salad a success. After all, take them away and the salad is very, very basic — lemon, parsley, olive oil and green onions. Good, no doubt, but nothing to write home about.

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Baked lemon pasta with a side of humble pie

A couple of weeks ago I was on a Meyer lemon kick and every recipe that contained even regular lemons got pulled out of my recipe binder to be examined. I saw one from Cooking Light that caught my eye, this Baked Pasta with Spinach, Lemon and Cheese, but when I read the reviews online, everyone seemed to hate it. There were complaints about how long it took to make, coupled with numerous comments about how bland it was. This was by far my favorite comment because you really got a feel for how bitter this person was after making a dinner that sucked: “We just had the ritual burning of the recipe. Now we’re making sandwiches so we’re not hungry the rest of the night.”

Now since I’ve had years of experience cooking professionally, I have to admit my first thought was to blame the cooks and not the recipe. If you keep tasting while you cook, you should end up with something fairly decent. I have also learned to add copious amounts of salt, as well as extra cheese, to Cooking Light recipes to avoid working hard at a meal just to find it severely lacking in flavor when you sit down to eat it.

So I thought, screw it, I’m a good enough cook to make this pasta dish and have it turn out fabulous. Oh, I was so wrong…I did everything from upping the garlic and lemon tremendously to even making a little more bechamel so the final dish was creamier. Nope. It sucked. The flavor was terribly bland — it was only after squeezing two lemons over the pasta that I found it palatable. The main problem was the spinach. It turned into a gross mush. Ugh. I can’t even express my sadness over this dinner, but I will tell you my lesson in humility was also a lesson in perseverance.

Since I was still craving pasta with lemon I decided to take Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Baked Lemon Pasta out for a spin. I started with fresh pasta which I was a little nervous about, but the chive linguini I had in my fridge coupled with sour cream and lemon sounded too good to pass up. Optimistically I pushed the thought of the failure from the night before out of my head and got started.

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My Swedish grandmother’s amazing recipe for teriyaki wings

Chicken Wings 3

My grandma (also known to me as Mormor, the Swedish word for maternal grandmother) is responsible for bestowing upon my family our time-honored recipe for teriyaki-style chicken wings. Sure, her pickled herring, headcheese and potato sausage are revered as well (some more than others) but it’s her chicken wings that I remember most fondly from childhood. The pickled herring I only ate once on a dare. It was as awful as it sounds.

Anyways I’m not sure how the chicken wing recipe first came to be a family favorite. The vague explanation is that it was passed to her from my mother’s best friend’s mom more than fifty years ago. Where she found it, I have no idea and why she gave it to my grandma is another mystery — though a fortuitous one for sure.

Normally I would never do this, but it's just too fitting to this story

Normally I would never subject you to a plate of eaten food. But here’s a picture I recently sent my cousin (now in Texas) after I polished off a bunch of wings — I admit I wanted to torture him a bit.

It’s one of the dishes that my grandma makes every time I go to visit her and my grandfather (along with her Swedish hotcakes which she makes every Saturday morning without fail). As a kid, when we would visit them on vacations, she used to make the wings for my brother, my older cousin and me. My brother has always enjoyed them, but my cousin and I were obsessed. We would race to eat as many as we could — counting up the bones when we were done to see who was victorious. I think most of the time we actually tied — which looking back was quite a feat. It should be noted that my cousin is now taller than me by more than a foot and is a boy to boot and I can still eat as many wings as he can.

My mom also made them for our family. They were what I requested for every birthday or “special occasion” dinner. They were what I craved on my winter breaks during college. They were the first recipe my mom wrote down for me and the only reason I own an electric frying pan. It’s impossible to make them as good without one.

Three generations later and these wings are still one of the dishes I make, along with my mom’s chicken casserole, when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Which is fairly often.

Over the years, I have been spreading the chicken wing love. My best friend Nikki Sea had me email her the recipe a while back and I have now gotten my husband hooked on them as well. In fact I usually make about three times what the recipe calls for because I tend to hoard the leftovers so I can enjoy them in secret or sneak them to work for my lunch.

However these wings are so sticky and messy, they are difficult to eat covertly. My grandma always says we should serve them with finger bowls, though instead we just plunk down a huge pile of napkins in the center of the table. Last year for my birthday party, I set out a huge platter of them. We went through a lot of napkins that night and the wings were all but gone. Luckily there were a few left over for me to snack on the next afternoon while I cleaned. Though you better believe I had some tucked away in the back of the fridge, just in case…

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Scallion Pancake Dreams

Scallion Pancake Perfection!

My love affair with the scallion pancake has been intense. And for good reason — they are crispy, salty, flaky and pretty much the best thing that dim sum has to offer, which is saying a lot. I was lucky enough to discover these by accident, and now I can honestly say I’m addicted.

What’s the next step then if you’re looking to avoid the hour-long wait to get into Wong’s King? Try to make them yourself. Although, like many things, it’s best to enlist a friend help you.

About couple months ago, my partner-in-crime DB and I decided to give it a go. We emailed various recipes back and forth, trying to find one that seemed to have the clearest instructions, the best reviews, and to be honest, the prettiest pictures. We settled on this one.

It was so easy. Almost disgustingly, tragically easy. I say tragically because I think about all the time wasted in the lobby waiting for a table at dim sum when I could have been making these delicious things at home the whole time. I also think of all the time wasted trying to order them from the waiters at dim sum who pretend they have no idea what I’m talking about. They ask “Green onion pancake?” with a serious side eye and a look of bewilderment.

You bet your ass green onion pancakes! I know you make them here — I’ve eaten them, don’t try to feign ignorance and pretend like I’m crazy! After much cajoling, they finally seem to catch on that I’m not going to let it slide. I will not eat dim sum without the scallion pancake. “Oh green onion pancake,” they say suddenly and scurry from the table before I have a chance to order more than my usual three.

Anyways…I digress. The point is now that I know how easy they are to make! The ingredients list is laughably short: hot water, flour, green onions, sesame oil, regular oil (and we added bacon grease) for frying.

I’d take you through the steps but the serious eats site gives very detailed directions that no one could mess up. I mean we drank a lot of beer and still managed to do just fine. The only thing I would do differently would be to add salt with the green onions prior to frying. There’s no salt in the dough so it can taste a little flat. Or, do as I do at dim sum, and dredge that sucker in soy sauce with a dash of chili oil.