I had planned to use this column to give you a report on my bagel-making experiments. But if I did, it would be a pretty short article. Here’s the update:
I went to the store and bought bread flour and yeast. The end.
I had every intention of mastering the recipe this spring, but then a few weeks ago I made the mistake of looking in the full-length mirror while I was at TJ Maxx trying on incorrectly sized and therefore too-tight clothes. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) My reflection in the triple mirrors and oh-so flattering raking light of their luxurious dressing room (what misogynist designs those stores?) forced the conclusion that this might not be the best month to bake bread.
On the off-chance that one or another of those garments was actually sized correctly, it is apparent that the time has come for another of my half-hearted attempts to drop a couple pounds. Even though I suspect that my initial bagel efforts will be badly misshapen and not all that appealing, I can’t risk it. That just-baked aroma is too irresistible for one with my extreme lack of dietary discipline.
So bread and bagel-baking have been banned until after swimsuit season.
With that topic off the table (as it were), I thought I would look into current events instead.
Unfortunately, when I Googled “food news,” the first story that came up was a sad one about a man dying from botulism poisoning after eating nachos from a gas station convenience store.
Nobody, not even someone foolish enough to consider gas station nachos to be anywhere within the spectrum of edible, deserves to die from such a nasty bug. And it’s not the only one out there. E. coli, listeria, salmonella and the others are equally terrible, and much too widespread to ignore.
As that great old 1916 song “Some Little Bug” says:
In these days of indigestion, it is oftentimes a question
As to what to eat and what to leave alone.
Every microbe and bacillus has a different way to kill us
And in time they all will claim us for their own.
So true. Did you know that there are 48 million cases of food poisoning in this country every year? I know I need to lose weight, but I’m hoping to avoid that particular method.
And I hope you will also be careful. If your radar doesn’t go on high alert when faced with gloppy melted “cheese food” out of a dispenser at the gas station, you just aren’t paying enough attention.
Sorry. I didn’t mean to bring you down with gloomy news. On the bright side, only 3,000 of those 48 million people actually died from the food poisoning they contracted. So please feel free to resume eating your lukewarm burrito from the truck on the corner. I’m sure it is perfectly fine.
In search of something more cheerful to relate, I kept Googling, but the pickings were slim this week. What I did find made me feel like a fuddy-duddy.
It was a trend report on millennials. It predicted that they are so attached to their devices and the need for immediate gratification that in the future they will order restaurant meals on their phone before leaving home, so they can be served as soon as they arrive. If they do order after sitting down, they will prefer those confusing (to me) tabletop iPad menus with pictures. (I guess reading a description and trying to imagine the dish is just too 20th century.)
On the plus side, millennials tend to be health conscious and concerned with making eco-friendly food choices, which will benefit us all as restaurants change to accommodate their tastes.
And here’s another positive item. They don’t much like to drive, preferring ride-sharing services like Uber to car ownership.
That’s good food news. Who knows? It might even lead to a decline in food poisoning.
Because, among other things, it means they won’t be hanging out in gas station convenience stores as much as their elders.
And when they are there, they will likely eschew the nachos, unless they come with information about the farming practices of the dairy that produced the milk.
Green Bean Kuku
From “The Saffron Tales” by Yasmin Khan
According to the trend report, millennials are adventurous eaters. But in that respect, as well as in the insistence on well-sourced ingredients, they have nothing on the baby boomer members of my cookbook club. The most recent selection, “The Saffron Tales” by Yasmin Khan, introduced us to Persian cooking, which is my new favorite cuisine. I urge you to get the book, as the recipes manage to be easy, exotic and delicious at the same time — a rare combination.
Besides being fun to say, a “kuku” is a tasty egg-based dish, kind of like a frittata, that can be either an appetizer or a light main course. The saffron-infused one I made for our cookbook dinner contained mashed potatoes and was fairly dense. Since I am theoretically dieting, I tried this different but equally delicious green bean kuku flavored with caramelized onions today, with similarly great results.
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
9 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
Heat the butter and oil together in a 9-inch ovenproof sauté pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook gently, stirring frequently, until they are brown and soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Don’t try to speed this up with higher heat. You want them caramelized, not fried). Once they are pretty much cooked, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, until it is no longer raw. Remove the onions and garlic and set aside, retaining as much of the oil as possible in the pan.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the beans until they are just tender, about 8 minutes. (She doesn’t say to add salt to the water, but I recommend doing so.)
When they are ready, drain them immediately and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Place the eggs, turmeric, baking powder and flour in a large bowl and whisk together. Season with the salt and pepper, then whisk in the onions, garlic and green beans.
Preheat the broiler. (You’ll need it to finish off the dish.)
Place the sauté pan back on low heat, adding a little more oil if needed. Pour the mixture in and cook, covered, for 8-10 minutes, until it is set and just cooked through. Then place the pan under the broiler to finish for another minute or so, until the top begins to brown slightly.
Serve warm or cold.