The Secret Life of Peas

Check it out! The common pea is capable of processing, remembering and sharing information with its neighbors. Michael Marder, for the New York Times Opinionater, reports:

“…a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil. In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament.”

Any scientists/geneticists out there know if these findings have anything to do with how or why Mendel was able to study and and demonstrate inheritance through peas? Were those peas co-evolving with us and telling each other that being relevant in modern scientific experiments would foster future generations of intelligent peas that could one day outsmart their human predators? Nah… probably not… but it certainly doesn’t surprise me that they grow and work together.
Read Marder’s full article “If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?” examining the ethics of eating such intelligent life forms here.

Mom’s Green Beans

I can’t believe this recipe is not up here.  Unless my searching capabilities have disappeared, it seems that I never posted my mom’s wonderful green bean recipe.  Perfect for summer when we are inundated with beans and tomatoes- this dish is just fantastic! The recipe below includes my mom’s notes from when she shared this recipe with me in 2007 when I moved out on my own after college. 

Green Beans with Tomatoes (From My Mom!)

What You Need

– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 1/2 pounds of green beans (thin french style beans are the best but any would do)
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (use 4)
– 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and chopped  (this is too much onion; no more than 1/2 onion)
– 4 small ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (Allison note: I like using cherry tomatoes cut in half)
– 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
– 4 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

What You Do

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, add the beans and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until beans are about half-cooked and become bright green.  (I use my wok)
2. Reduce heat and add garlic and onion.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Add tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper, and continue to cook, tossing occasionally for about another 5 minutes or until sauce is slightly reduced.  Serve immediately, or cool and serve at room temperature.
The recipe makes 4-6 portions.  Note that you can get snazzy with the herbs.  Use what you have from the market or your kitchen garden.  I use fresh oregano and limit the parsley (I’m not a huge parsley fan).  I’ve also thrown in other summer veggies cut into thin, small pieces such as zucchini and summer squash. 

Banana Peppers

The peppers are ripe and starting to be picked. We have tons of hot peppers, and unfortunately, I am a little bit intimidated by them. I’m not a huge spicy fan. I do, however, love banana peppers. Today, I pickled some that I received as a gift from a friend’s garden. I even put one half of a hot pepper to use.

Quick-Pickle Banana Peppers (adapted from the Indianapolis Food Examiner)

What You Need
– 1 cup sliced banana peppers
– 3/4 c. white vinegar
– 1/4 c. cider vinegar
– 1 hot pepper, sliced finely
– 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp sugar

What You Do
1. Stir all ingredients together except for peppers until salt dissolved.
2. Add peppers and mix well, to ensure all are covered with vinegar mixture.
3. Top with a little more cider vinegar if necessary.
4. Let sit about 30 minutes and use as desired.
5. Any leftovers can be stored in a clean jar, in the refrigerator, for a couple of weeks or canned in a sterile jar.

I hope they aren’t too hot.  I’m excited to use them on a sandwich! Summer is just too much fun.

Thanksgiving: Sides (Brussels Sprouts)

In the end, the only new addition to our Thanksgiving meal was the new variation of brussels sprouts. The rest of the recipes have already been posted to the blog! I love brussels sprouts and I also love balsamic vinegar. Together, as in this recipe, they are amazing.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar and Caramalized Onions (adapted from Martha Stewart)

What You Need

– 1.5 pounds brussels sprouts
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
– 2 tablespoon olive oil
– 2 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

What You Do

1. Trim outer leaves and stems from brussels sprouts, and discard.
2. Cut brussels sprouts in half.
3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and add salt. Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath.
4. Add brussels sprouts to boiling water, and cook until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes.
5. Remove from heat, drain, and plunge into ice-water bath to cool.
6. Drain well.
7. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
8. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and transparent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
9. Add vinegar, and stir to loosen any brown bits on bottom of pan. Cook until vinegar is reduced and the onions are glazed.
10. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and oil to the same pan, and move the onions to the side of the pan.
11. Add brussels sprouts, and cook, tossing occasionally, until they are brown and crisp on the edges, about 3 minutes (this can take longer).
12. Mix together the onions and the brussels sprouts in the pan until perfect!



Asparagus. Springtime. Amazing. I steamed fresh asparagus from the Dupont Farmer’s Market yesterday and it was just perfect.
What You Need
Fresh, local asparagus
What You Do
1. Set your steamer in a pot with some water.
2. Bring the water to a boil.
3. Cut off the ends of the asparagus by snapping them by hand.
4. Cut asparagus to make sure they fit in the pot.
5. When steaming, add asparagus to the pot on the steamer.
6. Steam for 1-2 minutes.
7. Add some salt.
8. ENJOY and know that it is really springtime (even if the weather is cold and rainy… like today for those of you in DC).

Overloaded Potatoes

Also for the Super Bowl, I made twice baked potatoes. These are a favorite of mine from growing up. They are fun and easy to make, but delicious and very satisfying to eat.

Twice Baked Potatoes

What You Need

-4 large russet potatoes, about a pound each
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1/2 cup milk
-3 Tbsp butter, softened
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus a bit more for topping)
-4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
-2 small heads broccoli, chopped
-1/2 onion, chopped
-4 strips bacon (optional)

What You Do

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Scrub the potatoes clean under running water.
3. Poke each potato in several places with the tines of a fork so that when the potatoes are cooking they don’t explode.
4. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. They should be soft when you poke a folk in them.
5. If you are including bacon in your stuffing, while the potatoes are cooking, cook the bacon strips in a frying pan on medium low heat for 10 minutes, or until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Let cool and crumble.
6. Sauté the mushrooms, broccoli, and onion in a little butter until the broccoli is bright green. Use as much or as little as you like. This is where you get to play! Think of other items you want in your potato.
6. When the potatoes are done, allow them to cool to touch (10 minutes min.)
7. Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise.
8. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides. Be careful and make sure to leave the skin in tact.
9. Place the scooped out potato insides, sour cream, milk, and butter into a large bowl.
10. Mix the sautéd veggies and crumbled bacon in with the potatoes. Add in the cheese and mix some more. Reserve some of the cheese and bacon (if you are using it) to sprinkle on the tops of the potatoes.
11. Spoon fillings into the potato shells.
12. Sprinkle with extra toppings.
13. Heat oven to 350°F.
14. Place potatoes on a roasting pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes until heated through.

Next time play around with some of your favorite items to add into the potatoes. They are good no matter what you put in them!

Eggplant Salad

Here is a recipe from Thanksgiving for an eggplant salad/spread. It is delicious and was prepared by a family friend. One of my mother’s friends got the recipe and wrote it down. I’m hoping to see if it turns out as well when I prepare it:

Eggplant Salad

What You Need:
– l large or 2 medium eggplants
– 1 small onion
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 1 Tbs Vinegar
– 1 – 2 Tbs olive oil
– Sea salt

What You Do:
1. Fork your eggplants in a couple of places to put some holes in them.
2. Wrap the eggplant(s) in tin foil.
2. Cook eggplants in oven for about one hour. (Anthony says “Cook for one hour on a low flame directly on the “burner” and keep turning to avoid burning– but I think this can be done in the oven)
3. When it is done (soft) rinse in cold water and scoop out the insides and mix by hand or in a blender and set aside.
4. Take the onion, the cloves of garlic, the vinegar and the olive oil and put in a blender.
5. Blend till smooth.
6. Add the eggplant and salt to taste.

Best served next day.

Still to come… turkey, stuffing, and dessert! Just waiting on some details from my mom!