July 18, 2018

Dear friends,
The tomatoes I planted in May and lovingly tended with hoe and Miracle-Gro are green and getting bigger. I pray for a ripe one before summer ends. A row of eggplants, pollenated by hand with a Q-tip, have grudgingly produced three little blue-black nubs that may or may not flourish. The beets and carrots are anyone’s guess, and the zucchinis so far are non-starters.

Meanwhile, a handful of seeds Tony raked into the soil and ignored are growing wildly, producing green beans by the double handful. Last weekend we harvested more beans than I will use in a month, and we didn’t even finish picking the row.

The garden gods have a sense of humor.

I’m trying to be a good sport about Tony’s cache of green beans, but I’m annoyed every time I open the refrigerator. I thought at first we’d eat them quickly and be done with them, but there are far too many.

So far we’ve dipped them into hummus and had stir-fried green beans in Szechuan sauce as a side dish with steak. I don’t like frozen or canned green beans, so those options are out. Any other ideas? I’m desperate.

Sunday I figured I’d dream up a palatable green bean salad — an antidote to the ubiquitous version with sweet-and-sour dressing — and came up with a dish that should be good for a few quarts. It features just-tender beans shocked bright-green with cold water and glossed with a sesame oil-garlic dressing. The dressing is simple because who wants to be in the kitchen when it’s so hot?

I cribbed the dressing from a New York Times recipe for cucumbers, and it goes very well with the beans. A word about those beans — like Julia Child, I am not a fan of crunchy green beans. While for most recipes they should not be cooked until stewed and limp, neither should they be whisked from the fire before the last bit of rawness alchemizes into sugar. Half-raw green beans are nasty.

While I wait for my garden to grow, I will be eating a lot of this salad and hoping someone sends me some more flavorful, fresh-tasting green bean recipes. Please hurry.


1 lb. fresh green beans
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Canola or olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Trim and wash beans. Cook in a big pot of boiling water until no raw taste remains, about 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve and refresh under very cold tap water to cool the beans and intensify their color. Drain well.

While the beans cook, combine the remaining ingredients (except sesame seeds) in a small lidded jar. Shake well. Transfer the beans to a 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Add dressing and turn to coat the beans. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, turning occasionally.

Transfer beans and dressing to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss. Makes 6 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled hot dogs, corn off the cob with butter, sea salt and esplette; pesto; Chinese smashed cucumbers with sesame-garlic dressing, grilled strip steaks with wine and blue cheese sauce, stir-fried green beans, dirty martini; green bean salad with spicy sesame dressing; over-hard eggs, fried tomato, sliced avocado and a peach.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
McDonald’s cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries; a beef cheek taco and a taco al pastor at Mexico City Margarita Bar and Grill in Akron’s North Hill; Subway spicy Italian half sub; pulled pork, coleslaw and collard greens at City Barbecue in Fairlawn; a slice of pineapple and ham pizza (Tony’s turn) from Rizzi’s in Copley.

From Beth B.:
You wondered who buys extra-large eggs. Among the buyers are devotees of Ina Garten’s recipes, which is practically everyone I know, because extra-large eggs are all she specifies. It’s kind of a pain in the butt because you end up with more extra-large eggs than you need and have to make room for two cartons in the fridge. So I hard-cook them and eat them for snacks.

Dear Beth:
Thanks to you and Ellen for pointing that out. Mystery solved. But what about those jumbo eggs? Read on.

From Noreen:
My husband likes a jumbo hard-boiled egg with his breakfast. I buy them from a local farmer, and thankfully, it’s one of the few things he can make himself. He makes several at a time.

I have a question about cabbage. What is the correct way to wash it when it will be used for coleslaw?

Dear Noreen:
Although he is gamely trying, your husband is barely making a dent in the world’s jumbo egg production. I will continue searching for answers to the mystery of who buys them and for what.

To clean cabbage for coleslaw or any other use, remove the outer layer of leaves and if the next layer is pristine, wash it under cool, running water and pat dry. If the next layer is not pristine, remove that, too, and then wash. Individual leaf-washing is not necessary because cabbage is so tightly packed that dirt and germs cannot travel far beyond the surface.

From LJR:
Do you have a recipe for a good dipping sauce for fried dumplings?

Dear LJR:
Yes, many of them. I usually just ad lib, but I dug up one I’ve been using for years for one of my favorite appetizers, Vietnamese pork in lettuce leaves. The recipe is so good I’m sharing the whole thing for those who don’t already have it in their files.

1 lb. ground pork
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 minced green onion, including top
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
20 Bibb lettuce leaves
Fresh mint leaves

In bowl, combine all ingredients except lettuce and mint leaves. Mix gently but thoroughly with fingertips and form into 20 sausage-shaped logs about
three inches long and one-half inch thick. Chill.

Thread meat on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water, two pieces of meat per skewer. Grill on a charcoal grill or broil until cooked through.

To serve, slide pork logs off skewers and ask guests to place a pork log and two mint leaves in a Bibb lettuce leaf. Wrap to form a neat packet, and dip
into the sauce. Serves six as an appetizer, four as a main course.

Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and serve in small bowls.

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