Green Beans Catalan

Green Beans Catalan

I haven’t been overly impressed with the vegetables section of “The Art of Good Cooking.” In my opinion, this is the most dated part of the book where it truly shows it’s age. Too much olive oil or butter, often unappetizing soft veggies, more frozen veggies than fresh, and what we would normally try to make clean and simple today, is loaded down with fatty ingredients like mayo or bacon fat. I completely understand why this section is the way it is. No one in the 1960’s was eating kale salads or “super greens.” Like most of her cooking, which was often influenced by friend and mentor, James Beard, my grandmother’s recipes were based on classic French techniques. This is not to say that this section can’t be modernized and updated like the others. It’s just a little more challenging.

This is a very simple recipe from the vegetables section. Per my research on Catalan cuisine, my changes and additions may make it less authentic, as this seems to historically refer to the northeast region of Spain and it’s Mediterranean style cooking (such as the olives and capers I left out). However, it’s quick and the reduced olive oil (1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons) as well as the addition of goat cheese and tomatoes, makes it colorful and healthy.


4 cups green beans, cut in 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, peeled (optional) and chopped
1 small green pepper, minced
1/2 cup snap peas
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
crumbled goat cheese
tomato, quartered

Place green beans in heavy saucepan. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, snap peas, and wine. Season, cover tightly, and cook over medium heat until green beans are tender and very little liquid is left in the pan. Check seasoning and add parsley.

Serve with your choice of garnish: goat cheese, tomato quarters, olives, and/or capers.

Serves 6.

A few technical notes about this recipe:
Peeling the tomato before chopping is optional but if you don’t, you may end up with pieces of the skin throughout the dish (as you might see in some of these photos). I personally  don’t mind this but it can be avoided by quickly blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling the skin off.
The snap peas may cook faster than the green beans. To avoid, add them after the green bean mixture has been cooking a few minutes on medium.


Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

There’s usually no rhyme or reason for how I decide which of my grandmother’s hundreds of recipes to make. This creamy cool soup happened to sound particularly appealing on a recent day when the temperature climbed to almost 80 and my mind went into summer mode, no matter how hard I tried to reason with it. Summer mode for me usually means consuming a ridiculous amount of ice cream (some of which I can blame on my regular full time job) and pulling out my ice cream maker to tackle some absurdly unhealthy recipe that usually includes chocolate and a combo of too many things that taste good with it. Since it is still too early for summer mode, I managed to convince myself to make something healthier yet equally rich and satisfying. This cold soup does the trick.

The base of this recipe comes from the stack of unpublished Paula Peck recipes I inherited and cherish. These faded typewriter written recipes with handwritten edits, are always the most fun for me to test because the recipes are rough and yet to be finalized. Some, like this avocado soup recipe, have a couple of different versions with varying measurements and instructions. One of these came with a note that said “This is a truly delicious summer soup. My friend Togi told me about it after she tasted it in Mexico.” I find it pretty impressive (and progressive) that my grandmother was making cold avocado soup in the late 1960’s when avocados were still considered somewhat exotic – and not found at every deli or sidewalk produce vendor in NYC like they are today. It’s a very simple recipe and I made only a few minor adjustments like adding scallion, cumin, lemon juice, cayenne, and the garnish of sour cream, corn, and salsa or chopped tomato.


4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
4 1/2 – 5 cups diced ripe avocado
1-1 1/2 cups half and half
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch cayenne
optional garnish: sour cream, cooked corn kernels, and/or pico de gallo salsa

In a heavy pot, melt butter. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon. Cook, constantly stirring, for about 5 minutes (do not brown). Stir in stock. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook just until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool.

Place 3 1/2 – 4 cups avocado and scallion in a blender. Add about 1 cup of the stock mixture. Blend until smooth. Add avocado mixture to remaining stock mixture. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Add half and half. Chill.

To serve: pour into bowls and garnish with remaining avocado cubes, sour cream, corn, and salsa (if using).

Serves 4-6.


Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters

Cheesey Bean Burger Blasters

Since I was curious about making homemade refried beans and Paula Peck’s Mexican/Tex-Mex style recipes are almost always excellent and reliable (she spent time cooking in Mexico- more about that later), I decided to try this gem of a recipe for Refried Bean Cakes that is tucked away in the vegetable section of “The Art of Good Cooking.”

A friend mentioned that the name didn’t do these tasty little patties justice. Like myself, she couldn’t get over how flavorful the homemade refried beans were by themselves, especially with so few ingredients. I kept saying she had to try them and her response was something like “homemade refried beans? Um…ok…interesting.” After tasting them, this quickly turned to “wow, i could just sit and eat a whole bowl of that stuff by itself.” Maybe the name Cheesy Bean Burger Blasters isn’t that much better but it’s at least interesting and fun to try to say five times fast.

Simplicity is key here and these are not to be confused with canned refried beans or the soupy mess that comes with your enchiladas at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant. When turned into a patty with melted ooey gooey cheese in the center, it’s just a rich amazing mess of deliciousness.


1 recipe Homemade Refried Beans
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
6 pieces Jack, Mozzarella, or melting cheese of your choice, each 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″
3/4 dry bread crumbs
oil or butter for sauteing

Add grated cheese and chopped onion to refried beans and refrigerate until cold. Divide mixture into six parts. Shape each part into a patty, pushing a piece of cheese into the center of each. Roll each bean cake in dry bread crumbs, then refrigerate one hour or more.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet. Saute bean cakes, turning to brown on both sides and heat through.

Note: for firmer cakes that are less fragile, use a traditional breading method: dip cakes in flour, then beaten egg, and finally roll in breadcrumbs.

Serves 6


Basil Vegetable Soup

Basil Vegetable Soup

A quick and simple healthy soup that’s perfect for a weeknight meal. Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” any mix of vegetables could be used and the frozen green beans could be replaced by peas, broccoli, or any combination of mixed vegetables. I added tomato because I find it almost impossible to eat basil and Parmesan without tomato. I like to think of it as an Italian style ramen soup. Enjoy.


1 can (15.5oz) cannellini beans or white beans
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 small zucchinis, halved and sliced
1 package (10 oz) frozen green beans
2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry vermicelli (rice noodles)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
grated Parmesan cheese


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add a little of the liquid from the can of beans. Add sliced carrots and zucchini, saute for 1 minute. Add beans, garlic, frozen beans, tomato, salt, and pepper. Saute one minute more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender. Check seasoning and correct if necessary. Add vermicelli and simmer until just barely tender.

While soup is cooking, chop basil finely. When vermicelli is tender, remove soup from heat and add basil.

Serve with grated Parmesan and chopped basil.

Serves 8-10.


Punjabi Vegetable Curry

Vegetable Curry

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking”

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Indian style recipes in “The Art of Good Cooking.” This was the first one I tried from the book and to be honest, I was skeptical. I first experienced well made tasty Indian food in high school. I say “well made” because prior to this, my experience with Indian food consisted of overly spicy burning your entire mouth to the point that you can’t taste and might as well be eating canned dog food mixed with oil and heavy cream. My stepmother introduced me to healthier, flavorful dishes, mostly of north Indian decent.
This recipe uses curry powder which was more available than spices such as turmeric, cumin, and ground coriander that curry powder can (but not always) be essentially comprised of.
A vegetarian dish that if served with rice and a side of Raita is easily a full satisfying meal. It has over 5 different vegetables which makes the dish more lively, and each one is easy to find and inexpenive. Like most curries, a fair number of ingredients are needed for this recipe. I find that each one creates a distinct layer of flavor within the dish that contributes to the overall highly spiced (but not necessarily hot and spicy-that’s up to you) multi-fascited profile. This is no boring dish.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 large onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated or minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder (or 1 tablespoon each ground coriander and cumin, 1 /2 tablespoon turmeric)
1 fresh serrano pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
1 small cauliflower cut into florettes
2 red potatoes peeled and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup stock (or as needed)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 pound fresh green beans trimmed and cut in half (or 1 package frozen green beans)
1 package frozen peas
1 lemon juiced
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds. When seeds begin to pop, stir in green pepper, onions, garlic, serrano pepper if using and ginger, and saute until tender. Add curry powder, cayenne if using, salt, and pepper. Add cauliflower and diced potatoes and toss in spice mixture. Add stock and tomato sauce. Cover pot and simmer over medium low until potatoes and cauliflower are tender – add more stock if needed. Add green beans, then peas. Continue to cook until all vegetables are tender. Do not allow to dry out too much. Alternatively, you may turn up the heat at the end if there is too much liquid – there should not be too much sauce surrounding the vegetables. Add lemon juice. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and shredded coconut. Serve with fluffy steamed basmati or jasmine rice and Raita.

Serves 6-8


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