Recipe review of Ottolenghi’s Orange Hazelnut Greenbeans

green beans

I’ve been meaning for some time to do some recipe reviewing. As a grad student, with limited time and resources, I always hated it when I tried a recipe and it flopped. Now that I have a bit more time on my hands (if I don’t mind often cooking with one hand while holding Claire) and I’m no longer a poor student, I love trying new things and hope to give you a heads up on the flops and the fabs.

This one, from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, is definitely on the fab side. I did a simplified version because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand (does anyone besides Ottolenghi himself typically have hazelnut oil on hand?).

This is brilliantly simple (I’ve made it even simpler than the original): take a pound or so of green beans, blanch for 4 minutes in boiling water then transfer to ice water. Meanwhile, roast about a half a cup of hazelnuts for few minutes at 375. Drain beans and dump out onto a tea towel to remove excess water. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, the zest of one orange, and garlic clove put through a press. Mix well and season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle on top. Done!

Tip: make sure to pick the youngest, skinniest beans; if you have slightly thicker, older ones, boil for an extra minute or so.

The original called for hazelnut oil as well olive, snow peas, and fresh chives. The flavours are quite intense with the orange and garlic so I feel like the chives could be too much, but I’ll try when I’m at my mom’s next and can pick some fresh from her garden. Will let you know how that goes. The snow peas would probably be lovely but I didn’t have them on hand. Even with a slightly simplified ingredient list, though, this dish was so good: refreshing, light, intensely flavorful, and unusual. I’ll likely say this again and again here: Yotam Ottolenghi is a genius.

PS: Claire hated this recipe. She stuck her tongue out like, “get the taste off!” Oh well. I tried.

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Claire’s Favorite Squash (“Kabocha”)

Since Claire and I spend so much time together in the kitchen, I had really planned on blogging about food a lot more than I have, and it doesn’t take much to do more since I’ve done none.

As soon as fall arrives, I obsessively buy squash and put it in everything. This recipe is quick and easy and Claire loves it. It’s adapted from a cookbook my mother-in-law gave me called Just Add Shoyu, which was created and published by the Japanese community centre she and her family were a part of in Toronto. In fact, one of my husband’s aunts has a recipe in it. It’s nice to cook from a book with a family and cultural connection, and the photos all exhibit a certain minimalist Japanese elegance.

Kabocha is Japanese for winter squash, which looks a lot like buttercup squash. You could really use any squash, and if you google kabocha and buttercup squash, they look essentially identical so I just grab the closest thing to the photo.

My new philosophy of cooking is that recipes need as few steps as possible, and those must preferably be doable with a baby in a sling on my hip. This recipe has been modified to reflect this philosophy.

1. Wash squash then microwave for a minute or two to make peeling and chopping easier.

2. Cut in half, remove seeds, then peel and cut into chunks, about an inch by an inch and a half. If little bits of the peel stay on, no worries. The original recipe actually said to leave some on for colour.

3. Cover with water, just barely, and add a tablespoon each of soy sauce (shoyu), mirin, and agave syrup (feel free to add more to taste, but I kept these to a minimum so baby can eat this).

4. Boil gently on low medium heat until soft and most of the water is reduced.

Voila! Best baby food ever and great side dish.

I know lots of people don’t give babies any added sugar or salt, but I don’t subscribe to this approach of giving these poor little humans nasty, bland, textureless blah for months on end. I suspect it makes them picky eaters when they start eating a greater variety of foods, but that’s just my two cents worth. I feed Claire everything we eat; if I think the flavours will be too intense, or if the food is too rich (like avocado), I mix it with her oat cereal to tone it down. Because the squash is on the sweet side, you could mix it with more tricky veggies, like kale, to make them more palatable. Claire could eat this stuff all day.