We went to the commissary yesterday. Generally it is not a good idea to go to the commissary on a Sunday, since that’s the end of the work week for them, and what isn’t out of stock doesn’t look very good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the commissary on a Sunday morning (while everyone is at church, you see), only to find the zucchini spongy and on the verge of rotting.
Yesterday the zucchini looked really amazing. Each squash was firm and resistant to bending. I picked up quite a bit of it, along with a couple of pounds of fresh green beans. But while picking through the green beans, I found one that was rotten. Like, seriously wasting away. The upper inch of the bean was completely white and mushy. Eww. I picked that one out, along with all the beans that had been touching it and showing signs of rotting as well, and called the produce guy over so he could take care of it.
But it’s still frustrating that the quality of the produce is so bad. Sure, it’s cheap… but that doesn’t mean we should have to deal with picking through rotten produce when shopping at the commissary.
However, I still grabbed some green beans. I made such lovely green beans while my parents were here. My dad in general loves veggies anyhow, but he loved these beans so much he ate three helpings. Kurt might have had four. I don’t remember. I was in Green Bean Heaven.
So how did I make these divine green beans, you ask? It’s seriously very, very easy. Start with fresh green beans that you get from the produce department of your favorite grocery store. You could use frozen green beans, but I like them crunchy so I buy fresh. I make a LOT at once, so I’d guess about a pound for a family of four. Maybe more if your family loves the veggie. Steam the green beans till they are bright green but still have a bit of a crunch. Also remember that your green beans will soften as they sit on the table from residual steam, so you can take them off the heat a tiny bit early if you like them really crunchy. In a small bowl, whisk two or three tablespoons of soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium tamari, which is soy sauce on steroids) with about a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Err on the side of caution with the sesame oil. It’s very flavorful, and it’s easy to overdo it. You can always add more after you taste it. Pour sauce over green beans and shake toasted sesame seeds on top. Toss to combine. Serve green beans to a raving crowd and expect a standing ovation.
Could it get any easier? No, it could not. These beans go very well with anything Asian, obviously, but they are also delicious with simple entrees. I served them with grilled flank steak (marinated overnight in equal portions of red wine and soy sauce with smashed garlic cloves and chopped cilantro) and roasted potatoes, and they fit in perfectly.
I cooked three meals for my parents while they were here. The first night was the flank steak, as it was easy to start the charcoal going when my parents let me know they were close enough. Yes, Kurt grilled in the snow and the ice. He was worried initially that it wouldn’t work too well since it was so very cold outside, but fire’s fire! It got hot. And the flank steak was so delicious that there was none left after dinner.
Then the next day, Kurt made dinner. He makes this amazing cumin-grilled salmon, the same meal he made for our anniversary. My parents were so impressed that he’s such an excellent cook. Where I go for more comfort food (chicken, pork, beef, etc), Kurt goes more gourmet. He thinks nothing of cooking scallops and lobster tails and all sorts of fancy food. That’s how we’re well-matched! I have never cooked any kind of seafood myself. I don’t even think I’ve cooked shrimp!
I think I should rectify that.
Next up was Christmas. On the menu was a turkey breast stuffed with spinach, bacon, and golden raisins. I made it last year too, and while it was just as delicious this year, it wasn’t nearly as pretty. Somehow my stuffing didn’t turn out to be a pretty circle in the middle of the roll of turkey; instead it was more of a line. Oh, well. With it, I served roasted potatoes, salad, and homemade dinner rolls. I know that sounds rather meager, but my father is on a restricted diet with the heart issues he has now, and none of the rest of us needed to pig out on food either. For dessert, I made a sweet potato pie from a Cooking Light recipe. It tasted wonderfully, but the texture wasn’t quite right. The sweet potatoes hadn’t been cooked quite long enough initially, so it’s an easy enough problem to fix in the future.
Their last night here, I made pork tacos. First I rubbed the pork tenderloin with a mixture of ancho chile powder, brown sugar, and salt, and then I roasted it. While that was cooking, I caramelized some onions and toasted some tortillas, since neither Kurt nor I really like hard taco shells. I chopped up some cilantro and some tomatoes, had Kurt fix up some salads, and voila! Dinner was on the table in just about thirty minutes. And it was delicious.
My parents were very impressed by my cooking skills. My mom said that I’m a much better cook than she is, but I pointed out how I have far more time to work on it than she did. When was she supposed to cook dinner, as a working mom? By the time she got home from a long day of work for the Navy, the last thing she wanted to do was cooking something from scratch. Even when she wasn’t working, she saw cooking as more of a chore than something to be enjoyed. I think I love cooking so much because Kurt is so appreciative of it, and so supportive of all the odd flavors I like to try out. Hearing him yell from the living room, “Damn, that smells good!” as I throw onions and garlic into a hot pan, and having him tell me how delicious something is with his very first bite, is really rewarding.
It doesn’t get much better than immediate gratification for all my hard work!