Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hobo Pack Green Beans with Hearts of Palm


 8 oz Green Beans (Fresh)
1/2 Onion, Chopped
14 Oz Hearts of Palm, Sliced 
4 Tablespoons Butter


Here’s a simple yet tasty side dish that really amps up green beans with the exotic, subtle tang of Hearts of Palm.  And to add to the fun, we’re cooking it Hobo Pack style. 

Hobo Pack cooking is simply wrapping said food items in foil, or more specifically, a little foil pouch that you construct with Reynolds Wrap or similar, and then cooking the pack on an open fire.  It’s great for camping, as the packs can be made up in advance at home, and then tossed on the coals of the camp fire come dinner time.  (Don’t forget some tongs)  I don’t camp much these days, but I love making hobo packs and using them on the grill, particularly with sides like Hobo Pack Potatoes, this green bean dish here, or hell, I guess you could even consider my Corn on the Cob technique an example of Hobo Pack Cooking. 

So, the question is, where’d the name come from, and were any actual hobos involved with the creation of this technique?  I’d say it’s doubtful, as I doubt real hobos had much access to aluminum foil out there riding the rails, but then again, who knows.  I think it’s more likely the technique came about from overzealous scout masters looking for an easy way to feed their troops, and it was tagged with a romanticized, ‘railroady’ name.  Whatever the case, it’s a great technique for cooking directly on an open fire, and vegetables do quite well with Hobo Pack Cooking.  You can cook your packs right down in the coals while you spit-roast or grill your meats up above. 

I came up with this little dish after I returned from a trip to Brazil, where I discovered the delicacy that is Hearts of Palm.  

This little vegetable (Is it a vegetable?  I think it is) is literally the harvested core of certain species of palm trees.  Yes, you are eating a tree.  I know, weird, but it ain’t like Euell Gibbons eating tree bark, for the Heart of Palm is soft and delicate, with a wonderfully subtle tangy flavor that will accent lots of dishes, particularly salads and some pastas.  I don’t really know where I came up with combining them with green beans, but I did, and it was good.  The Hobo Pack technique works particularly great with this one, as the beans get steamed to perfection while the Hearts of Palm develop a nice roasted flavor.

Hobo Pack Green Beans with Hearts of Palm

Spread three good sized sheets of aluminum foil on your countertop.  Place half of the pats of butter on the foil in the center, then the green beans, the onion, and finally the hearts of palm.

Place the remaining pats of butter on top of this.  Fold the Foil over to form a packet.  Seal the edges so when the butter melts it will not drip out.

Place the foil pack directly on smoldering coals of a campfire of charcoal grill.  

Note, you can do this on a gas grill as well, but it won’t develop quite as much flavor.  If you do use a gas grill, just put the pack on the rack above the gas flames.  No contact cooking possible here. 

Roast the pack for 8 minutes or so and then flip and roast another 8.  Remove from the fire and let cool for a couple minutes, then open the pack and serve immediately.  

Here we've served some with a main course of Chicken Portieri.

Until next time, may the road rise up to meet ya!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Flashback to Tuscany - Pizza Time

(This is the third in a series on cooking in Tuscany.  Part 1 here.  Part 2 here)

From time to time I like to reminisce about certain cooking or dining experiences we've had while traveling.  Our Tuscan trip in '09 is ripe for this, for we rented a villa for a week, and did lots of cooking en suite, as well as relaxing and enjoying the wonderful views of the countryside, as well as the dreamy, bucolic confines of the villa and its grounds.

One day while shopping at the local market, I saw an Italian version of the Chef Boyardee pizza kits I used to enjoy making as a child.  I couldn't resist picking one up, as I figured it would be a fun and simple way to make a lunch one day during our stay in the villa.

The kit was similar to the ones we have here, with a packet of dough mix and a can of sauce.  While it contained no cheese, it did have a little seasoning packet which seemed to be mainly oregano.  Also present was a Carta Da Forno, which was basically a piece of parchment paper on which the pizza was meant to be baked.  I'm sure the makers intended this to be placed on a metal baking sheet, but, since we didn't have one, the Carta Da Forno went directly on the oven rack.  Also present in the little pack was a paper cup which could be used to measure out a one cup measure.  It was pretty handy to have as well, as the villa kitchen had no measuring cups.  I mixed up the dough, let it rise, then spread it out on the CDF to form the beginnings of a pie.

The can of 'sauce' turned out to be mainly chopped tomatoes in a bit of sauce that didn't do much to cover the pizza dough.  Luckily, we had some additional tomato puree that I'd bought on a whim, as well as some little grape tomatoes and green olives that we sliced and added to the pie.

And of course we couldn't go without cheese.  Luckily, we'd picked up some of the delicious local Pecorino-Romano, as well as some mozzarella, which we shredded and added to the pie.

Below, our little cramped but cozy kitchen, where several good meals were prepared.

The pizza, ready for the oven.

And, voila, fifteen minutes later, a perfectly baked pie.

Certainly it was nothing to rival Naples or New York City, but it made for a festive lunch nonetheless.

Particularly with a little wine accompanying it!

And afterwards, nothing left to do but finish the wine and enjoy the lovely Tuscan views of the nearby vineyards.

Until next time,

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore!