Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saffron Green Bean Hash

My childhood memories of Halloween are very simple.  My brother and I made our costumes ourselves and then we went trick or treating with my cousins.  We never had to worry about what the weather was like because we never left our apartment building.  Now it feels like Halloween is a week long event.  As a child we did not attend school Halloween parties and we certainly never went on costumed bike rides with 150 other people and a police escort.  My boys have been treating the start of the school year, and perhaps even the summert as the Halloween season.  They had endless conversations about what their costumes should be.  They even tried to convince me that we should make the front of our house scary.  Given that both of them still gave a wide berth to any house that is even marginally frightening I vetoed this idea.  As a mother who has comforted her terrified children as I carefully escorted them past Halloween decorations, I will never knowingly make my house scary.

All the boys planning and discussions about costumes came to the conclusion I was relying on.  They deferred to my over the top, I have to admit competitive, costume planning.  Sebastian went as himself, a bookworm.  He was a "Bookworm" inside a book.  I spent several hours carefully painting a poster sized cover of Diary of a Worm, although I changed the worm to match his costume.  While trick or treating Sebastian had to suffer for my art as he had to shuffle up and down stairs inside a giant book.

Julian's costume started when he suggested he could be a bunny.  I just elaborated on that idea a little by having him coming out of a magicians hat.  After all without a giant hat around his waist he would be able to walk around far to easily when trick or treating.  As it is each of my children came home with bags filled with candy, I shudder to think how much they could have gotten if they could have walked faster.  Although we have also found sometimes people give you extra candy when your costume is clever. 

For the past 2 years I dealt with the mounds of candy by declaring Halloween night a candy free for all.  Lewis and I would first edit the bags, removing any hard candy that would prolong their festival before letting them go at it.  The first year they both stopped long before I though they would, Julian even ate an apple when he had his fill of candy.  Last year the candy fest continued for longer, but it still wasn't as much as I might have feared.  This year Halloween was on a school night, so our little party has to wait.  However each one of them has been enjoying 2 items of their choice each night after dinner.  After they are asleep their parents eat whatever they want from the collection, childhood really is unfair.

One blogger posted on how to deal with the candy overload, mostly by making it disappear rather then letting your children eat it.  A commenter who spends hundreds of dollars every year on Halloween candy complained.  She felt like she was wasting her money if parents were only going to get rid of what she gave out.  I hope that our approach to the mounds of junk my children collect respects the joys of Halloween as well as the people who gave them their treats.  However I don't want them to be still choosing a dessert of candy over fruit in 3 months.

On Halloween night we planned on having hot dogs for dinner, something that was easy to make between activities with 2 over excited trick or treaters in the house.  I have to admit, hot dogs, even the pasture raised organic ones we now eat, are not much further up the food chain than candy.  At least it would prevent us from going trick or treating without eating first.  It is never a good idea to go out collecting candy when your children haven't eaten.  So I scrounged for something to serve with them, that my children would eat.  Unfortunately the string beans I knew were in the fridge must have shrunk in their container, because I clearly remembered a much larger amount.

Normally I do not serve potatoes as a vegetable, no matter what their role is in the federally funded school lunch program.   However I had a generous pile of potatoes in my fridge thanks to the "extras" at my CSA.  These potatoes were still perfect, if you don't mind peeling heavily and removing brown spots.  So I put together this Saffron Green Bean Hash.  It was a home run with the whole family, just what was needed.  For the record, Julian initially said he was only going to eat the string beans.  However once he tasted it he helped himself to 2 generous helpings.  Saffron is not used much in American cooking so the hash had an elusive flavor that was well balanced by the potatoes and string beans.

Saffron Green Bean Hash
The amounts in here are really just a guide, the amount of saffron was very well balanced but feel free to play with the types and quantities of vegetables

2 cups leftover green beans or blanch them in boiling water for 5 minutes with a splash of olive oil
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you may need more, depends on the pan you use)
1 onion chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 cups potatoes scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (I peeled mine because I had to, normally I leave the peel on)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
3/8 tsp saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Most folks swear by a well seasoned cast iron pan for this, I use my scanpan non stick and see no reason to change.  Saute onions over medium heat in olive oil until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and leeks and cook over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally.  Add red peppers after about 3 minutes.  If the potatoes start to stick add more olive oil, be liberal when adding oil.  Near the end of cooking time, when potatoes are starting to brown are are tender when pierced with a fork add crumbled saffron (I crumbled it in the palm of my hand before adding it).  When the potatoes are done add the green beans and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir so everything is well blended and the green beans are heated through.

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