Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where's MY gingham apron?? GRRR!

I have a dream, friends. (I know it's almost Memorial Day, not Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but bear with me.) I know some would think it's a silly dream, but it's MY dream nonetheless. I do not dream of WINNING the Pillsbury Bake-Off, no. But I DO dream of mincing in with the rest of the Bake-Off finalists, cheerily garbed in our blue-and-white gingham aprons, eager to craft innovative things with crescent rolls and such, with my beloved friend, Kurt (who shares my Bake-Off dream), cheering me on. But, sigh, it seems it is not meant to be. I enter faithfully every year (now that it has become an annual event), but I just can't seem to come up with anything that uses fewer than six mainly pre-fab ingredients (with a minimum of two "eligible" products per dish) and can be made in 15 minutes or less and is healthful to boot! Indeed, that's not really cooking is it? It's really just assembling (or re-assembling) preprepared foodstuffs, and I have no idea why someone would pay a million dollars for THAT! Ok, the cynical side of me knows why...a million bucks is chump change after they get a bunch of suckers like me to go out and buy a ton of Pillsbury products that we wouldn't normally purchase just to experiment with recipe ideas. It's just sad that it's not a REAL cooking contest like when it started and all that was required was that you use Pillsbury flour! Ok, I take it back. Last year's winner was close to real cooking. It was a takeoff on pecan pie made with bashed-up granola bars. In fact, I keep meaning to try it, as it sounded very good. But this year, the winner made chicken and stuffing, and GUESS what the stuffing was made out of? Prefab waffle sticks! And the chicken was glazed with the maple-flavored pancake syrup that comes with the waffle stix! Now I must admit, it was very creative and EXACTLY what usually wins the contest, namely, an unusual use of qualifying ingredients. And it was very simple and perfect for a work week dinner, which they also look for, and I wouldn't even doubt that it actually tasted good. I myself enjoy that combination of sweet and savory. Still, the bottom line is, what the Bake-Off has become just flies in the face of everything that I hold dear--that is, my main cooking philosophy that good food made with real ingredients takes time and effort, just as do all important things in life.

But every year, I try again, to no avail. And I think some of my ideas have been darn good! I can fashion many a wonderful thing out of a can of crescent rolls, let me tell you! The Salmon en Croute I devised was extremely tasty, and the Cherry Almond Bread Pudding was nothing short of decadent! But would they accept me into the holy gingham sisterhood? Noooooo! Well, screw them, I say! I will share my ideas with you dear people instead. The recipe I was thinking about today that is perfect for your Memorial Day barbecue and all of the other summer cookouts coming up is a marinated bean salad. And I must admit, this is dangerously close to not cooking at all, in the PBO tradition. It mostly involves opening up a lot of cans, which the marvelous Nigella Lawson claims is truly satisfying, and I agree--even if it seems like cheating. The original recipe was an homage to a delicious salad that I had from the salad bar at the wonderful Wegman's flagship store in Syracuse, NY. I adapted it to include edamame which was a qualifying ingredient in the Bake-Off last year (as were Green Giant corn and Progresso black beans!). But I have also been known to replace the edamame with whatever bean or legume that I have on hand. Along with the black beans, one might consider dark red or light red kidney beans, cannellini beans, or my fave, chickpeas/garbanzos/ceci beans. Ooh! Fresh, springtime fava beans would be excellent, too! But you do what you feel led to do. As always, I encourage you to play around with the ingredients and amounts until the resulting dish pleases you...and not those damn Bake-Off Nazis! Tee hee.

(Now don't you go entering this recipe yourself next year...you KNOW I will try, try again! The pain of rejection fades like that of childbirth...and you find yourself doing it again! My gingham dream never fadeth...though, come to think of it, last year, it was some off khaki-and-red number designed by Todd Oldham, of all things! Bring back the blue-and-white apron, I say, and bring back actual COOKING to the contest! Hear me, oh guardians of the sacred Bake-Off!)

Soy Good Edamame Salad
(Bake-Off entries HAVE to have cutesy names...it's de rigeur, as Martha would say!)

2 quarts water
generous pinch of salt
2 10-oz. bags (frozen) shelled edamame*
1 15 oz. can corn
1 19-oz. can black beans, drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup roasted red peppers (about one large one from a jar), chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped (about a quarter of a large one)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, very thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (enough to cover the soybeans--at least two quarts) with a good pinch of salt. Add the frozen edamame and bring them back to a boil. Boil for 6-7 minutes or until tender. Drain, and cover with cold water for a few minutes to cool. Drain again. (This would also be the drill for fava beans, though you'd need to peel the skins, too. And obviously, skip this step altogether if you are using all canned beans.)

2. Combine edamame, corn, drained black beans, minced garlic, chopped red peppers and onions in a large bowl. Dress with the olive oil and white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix well so that everything is coated.

3. Cover salad and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight. Just before serving, toss with the shredded parmesan cheese and thinly sliced basil.

*Switch out the edamame for any bean(s) you like!


With Love, Fat Girl said...

Hi there, I just discovered your blog while hitting the "random" key, and I'm so glad I did! Baking, recipes, stories and dogs are some of the best things in the world.

When I finally find out how to create links, could I add you to my site?

I'll visit often! And I have a 3 year old schnoodle that is spoiled to pieces, and is the absolute best dog in the world. At least I think so!

kitchenmage said...

ummm, yeah, waffle stuffing...

then again, if i had thought that waffle stuffing might win me a million bucks, i might have considered it...ya know? because then i could afford all the local/organic/real food I want...