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French Those Beans!

I'm a traditionalist and firmly believe that sometimes the simplest tools and techniques can bring the most impressive results in the kitchen. I was reminded of this in August when I stood staring at my pole bean teepee in the garden.

Back in May, I planted a motley selection of pole beans, the majority of which were scarlet runners. I don't normally grow scarlet runners but hefty pots of starts were being sold for a dollar at a local plant sale so I bought a few. The plants did quite well over the summer and when I returned home to Seattle after traveling on the East Coast I realized that my beans had grown a bit larger than I normally like. Scarlet runner beans tend to be tough so you really have to pounce and harvest before they grow too large. 

At first I thought of just sacrificing the harvest and sending the beans to the worm bin. I decided to rethink that option and was soon reminded of some gorgeous Frenched beans that I had seen in Paris a few weeks earlier. Hmmm. I decided to harvest the beans, grab a VERY sharp chef's knife and get to work. I stripped the tough string running down the center of the pod and then lined up a bunch of beans. Using my sharp knife, I cut the beans very thinly on a 25 to 30 degree angle.  Admittedly, this was a bit tedious because I had a lot of beans but it went quickly and resulted in thin and tender long strips of scarlet runners.

When I posted a photo of the beans on my Facebook page, my friends mentioned that Frenched beans seem to taste better. Indeed, I think they do. Cooked in lightly salted water and dressed with a little garlic, salt and butter right before serving, they were super! 

I'm glad I didn't toss those beans to the worms and am happy to report that sometimes the simplest solutions are the most rewarding! 


Build a Better Salad with Lentils

Do you ever get tired of the same old salad? Do you ever want a more substantial salad that features more fiber and protein?

Well, that’s what I was craving one day so I decided to create this quick Lentil, Kale and Baby Beet Green Salad. I had about two cups of French lentils that had been kicking around the pantry for too long so I decided to drag them out and just cook them. Because these lentils cook quickly and hold their shape, they are perfect for adding to big hearty salads featuring a motley collection of ingredients. I didn’t think too hard while crafting this dish. I just used what was around the kitchen and in my garden.

While the lentils cooked, which took about 15 minutes, I gathered a dozen or so cherry tomatoes and some baby kale and beet greens from the garden. About ten big basil leaves were plucked while I was headed back en route to the kitchen. The kale, beet greens, and basil were stacked and cut into strips. The tomatoes were sliced in half and a handful of pine nuts were toasted in a pan on the stove.

After draining and cooling the lentils ever so briefly, I tossed about one cup of cooked lentils into a big bowl and then added the greens, the tomatoes and the pine nuts. A balsamic mustard vinaigrette was made by stirring one tablespoon Dijon, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar and about 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon vegetable oil.  Part of the vinaigrette was drizzled over the lentil mixture and a few shavings of Parmesan were tossed into the collection.  A generous flourish of French sea salt and freshly ground pepper finished off the gig. In all, it was a great super healthy high fiber salad that hit the mark for me.  I have more vinaigrette and lentils sitting in the fridge, so maybe I’ll build an even better salad today…



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