Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Provençal Green Bean and Potato Stew

Remember the porridge? Yes, the one that Goldilocks found at the table of the Three Bears. Feeding my Baby Bear gave me a whole new appreciation for that porridge. Not because it was steel cut, or organic, or even local. No. That's too sophisticated for us at the moment. The reason that porridge is so near and dear to my heart is that it was in Mama Bear's bowl, Papa Bear's bowl, AND Baby Bear's bowl. That's right. Baby Bear was having the same thing as Mama and Papa bear. That's the holy grail of everyone's family meal. But as this Mama Bear is learning, it's easier said than done.

Food trends go out of style with my 9 month old faster than with Gourmet magazine. Just a few weeks ago, purées were all the craze. We liked them all -- green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery root. If you can buzz it, we can eat it. Now, purées are totally passé. We are all about finger foods now. If we can't hold it, touch it, and smoosh it, we are not eating it. The problem is that we only have 2 tiny teeth and can't chew too well. In theory, we should be joining what all parenting books call the "family table." But all those books don't take into account that my green vegetables are still crunchy when cooked, ground beef only makes an appearance in medium-rare burgers, and I probably won't be making chicken noodle casseroles with cream of mushroom soup any time soon.

I haven't found a solution to this "yuppie Mama and Papa bear" problem yet. By the time I do, I am guessing that Baby Bear will have a mouth full of teeth, and she'll be able to eat most of our regular foods. Meanwhile, I am taking baby steps in finding foods we can enjoy together. The latest find is a Provençal style green bean stew. This is one of the few dishes where green vegetables are intentionally overcooked, yet taste irresistibly good. When the stew is done, the veggies are very soft, but retain their shape and are easy for baby bear to pick up with her little fingers.

The trick is using LOTS of olive oil. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs don't hurt either. I had some new crop potatoes, so I threw those in too. This dish works perfectly well with regular green beans, but I saw Kentucky wonder beans in my produce market and decided to give them a shot. They looked like green beans on steroids and came out very tender and juicy in the stew.

I can't wait for summer when zucchini and eggplant are in season. Ratatouille would make an excellent meal for Mama, Papa, and Baby bear.

Provençal Green Bean and Potato Stew

Serves 4 bears

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp mince fresh rosemary and/or thyme (optional)
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice (preferably Muir Glen)
1 Lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
2/3 Lb boiling potatoes, cut in half, then sliced 1/8 inch thick (no need to peel)
  1. Set a large, heavy skillet over med-low heat. Add the oil, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook stirring occasionally until onions are completely translucent and just starting to turn golden, 12-18 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and herbs. Cook stirring until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, green beans, and potatoes. Season generously with salt, stir, cover, and bring to a simmer. Regulate heat so that the vegetables simmer gently and cook until all vegetables are very soft, 45-60 minutes. Don't worry about overcooking. Green beans will turn brown and have that awful canned bean look, but they'll taste heavenly. Trust me. Tastes good hot or cold. Makes fabulous leftovers.


Janet said...

mmmm, that sounds good! Maybe I'll make that tonight :-)

RecipeGirl said...

Cute post! And, hey... kudos to you for getting your little one to try such wonderful things. A great eater is in the making!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get my kids out of the baby food stage fast enough. Teeth are not necessarily a barrier to good foor. For example, i used to make french toast for the little ones, just makke sure you soak the bread well. how about baked apples or pears cut in chunks, melted cheese on bread and cut into small cubes, soft turkey meatballs, soft pasta, pastina, tuna fish salad mushed up and formed into little balls, same goes for rice and beans mashed together. enjoy having a good eater!

Helen said...

Hi there,

I am with you about the teeth. They are not necessary and my daughter is definitely eating some "real food." Hey, she had fish cakes for dinner. And yes, she loves pancakes. The problem is that it's still not the stuff we are eating. So I am still making 2 sets of meals: one for us and one for her. Every time I can piggy back her meal on ours, is a good day in my kitchen :)


Anonymous said...

wonder beans! could there be a more fun vegetable?

Anonymous said...

Okay, we "get" that you're proud of your daughter. Can you please now drop the "goo goo, gaa gaa" talk and get back to food?

You write a food blog. I so admired your expertise on fish. But enough of this baby yak, please.

And yes, I'm a dad, and yes, I love my daughter, and no, I'm no inclined to reduce everything I say and do to some sort of pablum. So hopefully, you'll be moving on from the baby food/baby talk/Happy Bears and Unicorns theme and winding up a little bit closer to your culinary roots.

Ah yes, it's your blog, I can leave, etc. . . .

Okay :)

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Anonymous said...

make her the same stuff that you are eating, just allow hers to to cook a little longer (may mean starting her veggies earlier). you can make a tiny burger for her that will cook to well probably before yours are finished.

Anonymous said...

My own little epicure (now 2 and a half) made it through this stage with a lot of soups. Soups with bread for dunking (to entertain the fingers) were almost a nightly dinner affair. Garden vegetable (in season), blackbean, lentil (pureed and not), potato and leek to name just a few. She still loves them now but with a full set (or almost) of chompers soup is a now only a once or twice a week dinner. For example, she loved your risotto so much she had it for dinner and for breakfast the next day.

Helen said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks so much for the bread dunking advice! I don't know why I haven't thought it. We seem to be running into a bit of a problem with purees since she needs something to pick up and put in her mouth all by herself for entertainment, but feeding herself with a spoon doesn't work yet. But a piece of bread is so much easier than a spoon! I'll give it a shot.

Thanks again :)


Anonymous said...

Looks wonderful. For what it's worth, a friend just served us a ratatouille that also had boiled beets in it instead of chickpeas, mashed all together with goat cheese. It was wonderful. Maybe she might like that!