Friday, November 4, 2011

Green Bean Casserole

Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away; and if you're thinking about how you might make green bean casserole - that Thanksgiving staple - healthier and fresher, then today's recipe is for you.

Green bean casserole is a traditional dish on many Thanksgiving tables. It's usually made with canned or frozen string beans, cream of mushroom soup, and canned fried onions. With just a little extra effort, you can made a healthier version from scratch with all of the creamy delicious-ness of original version.

Start with the Blue Lake string beans in today's CSA box, add fresh mushrooms, make a quick cream sauce, and use fresh, sliced onions to make your own tastier and healthier fried onions. And since you're starting from scratch, you can adjust the ingredients to your taste.

Prep the Beans: Trim the string beans and cut them into bite-sized pieces if you wish. Blanch them in a pot of boiling water or steam them for about 2-3 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Thinly slice fresh mushrooms and saute them in a little bit of butter or olive oil. I like to throw in some sliced shiitake mushrooms for added flavor. Covering the mushrooms while they're sauteing over low to medium heat will prevent them from sticking to the pan, as the water they exude will not evaporate. Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove the cover and cook off the liquid, or pour it off and set it aside to use in your sauce.

I'm being vague about the amounts of beans and mushrooms on purpose. I tend to go heavy on the mushrooms, but you can adjust the proportion of beans to mushrooms to suit your taste. The amount of sauce you need depends on the volume of cooked beans and mushrooms combined. For a 1 qt casserole, you'll need 4 C of cooked beans and mushrooms. For a 2 qt casserole, you'll need 8 C.

While the beans and mushrooms are cooking, make the crispy fried onions by slicing 1 large onion in quarters lengthwise, then very thinly slice each quarter crosswise. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 t olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and stir to break apart the rings. Use a skillet that's large enough for the onions to be spread thinly on the bottom or work in batches. Cook the onions until they get crispy and brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

You need about 2 C of white sauce for a 1 qt casserole or 4 C of white sauce for a 2 qt casserole. Make your favorite white sauce or use this simple recipe:

Melt 2 T butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 T flour, 1 T at a time, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in 2 C hot milk, 1/2 C at a time, whisking constantly to prevent lumps and sticking. Add salt and pepper to taste. A little nutmeg is also good. Cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly until the sauce just starts to boil. Remove from the heat. Double this recipe for a 2 qt casserole.

Canned condensed milk makes a particularly creamy sauce. Whole milk is also good.

Now you can assemble the casserole: Put the beans and mushrooms in a large bowl. Pour the white sauce over them and stir to coat. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary and pour into a greased casserole dish. Spread your crispy fried onions on top and bake in a preheated 375 F degree oven for 20-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the top is brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

You can blanch and freeze the Blue Lake beans you got in today's box to use on Thanksgiving. You can prepare the different elements of this recipe the day before Thanksgiving. Defrost the beans, cook up the mushrooms, stir them together and store them in the refrigerator. Make the crispy fried onions and the white sauce. You can leave the onions in a covered container on the counter but refrigerate the white sauce. On Thanksgiving day, follow the steps in the paragraph above on assembling the casserole. You may have to cook it a little longer if all the ingredients are cold when you put it in the oven.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Tatsoi, bok choy, celery, Blue Lake beans, red leaf lettuce, fennel, French Breakfast radishes, summer squash, bi-color corn, kale, arugula, broccoli, and Cherokee tomatoes

From Weiser Family Farms: Kabocha squash, golden beets, German Butterball potatoes, and dried Dragon Tongue beans

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Hass avocados, limes and Satsuma mandarins

From Silver Lake Farms: arugula, basil, and cilantro microgreens and thyme



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