Posts filed under ‘beans’

Harvest dinner: Fasolakia

FasoulakiaHarvest season is in full swing, and the only thing better than having my own garden right now is knowing other gardeners who planted things I didn’t get around to planting this year. Because it seems like all of us overestimated something, and food-swapping is happening all over the place. Last week I offloaded a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a half-dozen lemon cucumbers on some friends at work, and picked up a nice zucchini someone had left in the break room.

I love green beans, but my garden isn’t laid out well for growing them. The border along the backyard fence which once made a nice spot for pole beans is now fully occupied by raspberries (poor me). So it was great to hear that my friends Debra and Gary had too many green beans. I swung by their place on the way to run errands this morning, and they weren’t home to thank, but they’d left a nice big bag of them on the porch for me.

And I have tomatoes, finally. Quite a few tomatoes, in fact, having got through an early scare with blossom-end rot by side-dressing the plants with lime and keeping to a regular watering schedule.

In my kitchen, the coincidence of fresh green beans and ripe tomatoes  means one thing: Fasolakia.

This Greek dish is so easy – and so flavorful – that I can’t let a harvest season go by without making big pots of it. I always mean it as a side dish; I always eat the first big bowl all by itself.

Here’s my recipe, such as it is. It’s endlessly adaptable and forgiving, and you can adjust it to your tastes – or your harvest. Diced potatoes are traditional, some people like to add summer squash, and I change up the herbs depending on what’s thriving in my garden at the time. Heck, you can make it in the middle of winter with frozen green beans and canned tomatoes if you like. But try it with fresh, while the season is high. Trust me on this.

Fasoulakia

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • One medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of fresh green beans (or more, or less), stringed if they need it, cut into bite-sized lengths
  • Minced garlic (you know how much you like. I use at least 3-4 big cloves)
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks. If you want it to look prettier, I suppose you could peel them (dip the fruit briefly in boiling water and the skins will come right off), but the skins add a lot of flavor and good nutrients.
  • A big handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • A generous amount of oregano and thyme. Dried is OK. Fresh – at least a tablespoon of each, minced – is better. If you prefer other herbs – basil, for instance – go for it.
  • Generous grinding of black pepper

Method

Pour some olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – enough to coat the bottom; more if you like (the traditional Greek recipe often calls for up to a cup of oil!). Heat to medium and toss in the onions, cooking until they begin to soften.

Add the green beans and garlic; stir to coat with oil and cook for 10  minutes to give them a head start.

Add remaining ingredients, bring it all to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer away, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes total cooking time, check beans for tenderness; continue cooking until they’re quite soft but not mushy. (Note that the traditional Greek dish, which uses much more olive oil and often substitutes canned tomatoes or tomato puree for fresh, turns out quite soupy; this doesn’t, but the flavors are startlingly good).

Serve hot or lukewarm – or even chilled (that’s how I usually eat the leftovers). Great with grilled lamb, pork or sausages or all by itself. Got vegans to feed? Feed them this!

How many does it serve? That depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or main course, but this amount could satisfy 3-4 people – or 2 really hungry ones – eaten all by itself.

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August 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

End-of-the-season stews

Autumn harvest still-lifeOur farmers’ market is … diminished. With just three weekends left this season, the number of vendors was down sharply this weekend, filling just half the municipal parking lot where the thing is held. It always makes me a little sad, and fills me with “hurry up and buy stuff before it’s all gone” fervor.

On the bright side, lots of the produce available now keeps well, with a little care. Apples, garlic, hard-skinned winter squash can last for a month or more, unrefrigerated, if you keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place. I’m reminded of the tornado shelter at my grandfather’s north Texas home – I’m not sure he ever used it to shelter from the weather, but his wife called it the root cellar, and stored vegetables and home-canned goods there year-round, because it was dark and cool and dry.

Root cellars have gone out of fashion, but I’ve kept apples for months by wrapping them individually in newsprint and setting them in a big, shallow cardboard box, not too closely crowded and unlidded, down in the garage that occupies half the daylight basement under my 1908 home. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a winter squash go bad on me, even sitting for 5-6 weeks in the basket on my kitchen counter. They’re pretty much built for storage.

This weekend, though, I’m focused on the short term, not the winter ahead. I’m in rehearsals through December, which means I leave the house for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home till after 10 at night. If I don’t spend my Sundays cooking, I’ll spend a whole lot more money than I want to eating during the week. So I’m getting back in the habit of preparing good, hearty dishes that reheat well and lend themselves to portioning into containers I can carry to work for lunch and dinner. I try to come up with strong-flavored dishes, packed with nutrition and taste, so I don’t get bored before the week is over.

Stews serve the purpose – and also lend themselves to slow simmering while I go about my other weekend domestic maintenance.

Here’s what’s on the stove today: A rich autumn stew of pork, winter squash and apples, and a spicy vegetarian chili that’s quick to make and wonderful served over brown basmati rice or homemade cornbread. The first is almost entirely made with food I bought at the market yesterday; the second uses local turtle beans I put on to soak before bed last night, but could just as easily be made with canned black beans. These are both nutritionally dense, low-fat dishes, and easy to adjust to suit your own tastes.

The number of servings depends on how hungry people are and whether you’re serving the stew as a one-pot meal or a dinner course.  It looks like I’ll get 6-7 meal-sized servings from of each pot of autumn goodness. With cornbread and rice, I’m set for the week.

End-of-the-Season Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash of your choice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut in cubes. Most stew recipes call for pork shoulder; I tend to buy tenderloins (because they’re small enough for one person). But you could just as easily use the meat off a few thick-sliced pork chops. Just trim off most of the fat so you don’t wind up with greasy soup.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m using a whole head’s worth, but I love garlic and got a lot of it at the market).
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled (if you want) and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into discs
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cubed

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half; use a spoon to scoop out the seeds surrounding fiber. Oil the cut halves and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the skin can be pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle; peel off the rind (it will come off easily with your fingers) and cut squash into cubes. This can be done the day before.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubed pork in flour and cook in small batches until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, lower the heat if needed to keep it from scorching, and continue cooking until the onion has softened. Add stock and stir to free any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add salt, rosemary and sage, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add apples and squash. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, until potatoes and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste, correct seasoning, and serve.

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup applesauce (mine’s homemade)
  • Spices: This is where you get to shine. I like a lot of cumin in my chili, and I like heat; I still have fresh herbs in the garden. You know what you like. If your spice cabinet is modest, a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder would work. Here’s (approximately) what I used:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tsp fresh oregano (1 /2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I’m using my oven-roasted tomato goo)
  • 2 -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional, but they add a nice heartiness to the dish. I’m using chanterelles)
  • Vegetable stock or water to cover.

Method:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the applesauce with all the herbs and spices. Stir until well-blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s not thick enough for your taste, stir in a handful of cornmeal late in the cooking. Serve with cornbread and your favorite chili toppings (chopped onions, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.)

As with most chilis, this is better the second day – and I’ve found the heat doesn’t fully develop until then, so don’t get carried away if it doesn’t seem spicy enough to suit your tastes.

 

November 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Substantial summer salads

Tuscan Bread Salad

Tuscan Bread Salad

Wouldn’t you know it: The mood for salad struck this week, just as the hot spell finally broke and we got some rain? Where were my salad cravings when it was 100 degrees in my kitchen? As wilted as the greens in my refrigerator, I guess.

No matter. The salads I’m interested in this week are more than just greens-and-crunchy-stuff, they’re salad-as-a-meal, complex and flavorful but not the least bit difficult to make. And they use a lot of the same ingredients, but with quite different results. One brings back memories of my daughter-of-a-Southern-mother childhood; the other is a tradition from an entirely different part of the world. They’re both delicious – and they both benefit from an overnight stay in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld.

Tuscan Bread Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hearty bread*, cut or torn into bite-sided cubes. You want bread of substance for this, and you want it a little stale; I used the heel end of a round sourdough loaf I bought at the farmers’ market last weekend; whole-grain bread is also wonderful.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small cucumber, or a couple of lemon cucumbers*, scrubbed, peeled (if the peel is tough, otherwise don’t bother) and cut in chunks
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes*, cut in chunks, or several little tomatoes, halved. I used small BlackPlums from my garden
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped*
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp capers (optional)
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh basil*, coarsely chopped and then rubbed between your hands to release the aromas
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh greens*
  • Pecorino romano cheese

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss the bread with 1 Tbsp olive oil, lay it out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the bread is toasty brown and fairly hard. Cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and onion. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, capers and basil. Pour over the bread mixture and toss well to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the bread soak most of the liquid.

Before serving, correct seasoning if necessary. Dress plates with a bed of washed, torn greens, top with a generous portion of bread salad and use a vegetable peeler to shave a few curls of Pecorino romano cheese on top.

Serves two, generously (or one, with plenty left for the next day’s lunch). If you’re the sort of person who insists on protein at every meal, this is also very good with drained albacore tuna mixed in just before serving.

Black-eyed Pea Salad

Roast pork tenderloin with black-eyed pea salad

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Roast Pork

I know, I know: People who didn’t grow up with black-eyed peas sometimes find them a little off-putting. An ex of mine once sampled my traditional mom’s-recipe New Year’s Eve black-eyed peas, grimaced and muttered, “Tastes like dirt.” I can’t argue with that – but to my mouth, that’s “earthy,” and it’s a great flavor, especially when the beans are cooked from scratch instead of dumped out of a can. Now, normally, I automatically throw a chunk of salt pork or (when I can find it) ham hock in with black-eyed peas. This salad is so flavorful, though, it can do without (vegetarians take note). And while I’m having it as a dinner side dish tonight, I plan to eat it again for lunch tomorrow, all by itself, and quite possibly dinner tomorrow night, too. It’s that good.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked black-eyed peas (or 2 cans, if you must, or an equivalent amount of frozen black-eyed peas.)
  • 2 large tomatoes* (or an equivalent in smaller ones), chopped
  • 1 large cucumber* (or 2-3 lemon cucumbers), peeled if necessary and chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion*, finely chopped
  • A fistful of fresh Italian parsley*, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil*, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme*, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 small hot peppers*, seeded and diced (I dipped into my endless supply of little red chiles of unknown provenance, provided by a friend who grows them in vast quantities)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Cool and drain the cooked beans; if you’re using canned ones, rinse them to get rid of the liquid from the can, which is kind of nasty. If frozen, thaw them in the microwave, rinse and cool.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, cucumber and onions. Add the herbs and toss thoroughly to mix.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, peppers, olive oil, vinegar and sugar and whisk well to blend. Pour over the bean mixture, and toss until the beans are well-coated with dressing. Taste; add salt and pepper if necessary. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. Serve with cornbread for a complete-protein vegetarian meal, or as an accompaniment to roasted pork tenderloin (rub a small, lean tenderloin with olive oil, pat on a mixture of paprika, dry mustard powder, cayenne and a little salt, and roast at 450F for about 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes or so to firm up before slicing on the diagonal into medallion.)

Makes 4-6 servings, and it’s a great potluck dish, too!

* Local ingredients, from the Albany farmers’ market or my garden

August 20, 2008 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

Summer stir-fry

Stir-fried shrimp and summer vegetables

Shrimp, globe zucchini, green beans

Stir-fry is a fall-back meal for many Americans: Slice up some vegetables and maybe some meat, throw it in a wok or skillet, douse it with “stir-fry sauce” (sometimes from a bottle) and, hey, instant food.

Lately I’ve been reminded that authentic Chinese or Japanese stir-fry, while not much more complex than that, uses specific cooking techniques that can result in amazingly fresh-tasting dishes that retain the flavors of each ingredient while marrying them with just the slightest amount of subtle, savory sauce.

The stir-fry I made tonight is not my own; I owe it directly to Steamy Kitchen, a terrific “modern Asian” foodblog. The techniques she uses are classic, the flavors bright and fresh, and the presentation downright gorgeous.

Shrimp and Zucchini Stirfry with Crispy Basil

I won’t repeat the recipe here, except to say that I used my wok for the whole thing, flash-frying the basil in a couple of inches of peanut oil, then turning the burner off and letting it cool down before draining most of the oil (now pale green and scented with basil) into a container for later use. I also had some green beans I wanted to use up, so I cut them in two-inch lengths, steamed them in the microwave (in a Pyrex dish with a few drops of water, covered with plastic wrap) till crisp-tender, then tossed them with a little hoisin sauce, and added them to the stir fry at the same time the shrimp was returned to the pan.

Two things about that recipe that bear noting: The shrimp, marinated in the slightest amount of cornstarch, sesame oil and salt, are cooked briefly first on one side, then the other, rather than tossed around in the wok as many stir-fry ingredients are.  Second, the sauce – soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar – is also made in a very small quantity. Less really is more here; dumping in lots of sauce results in a dish that’s steamed and soupy, while using less than a tablespoon, as in this recipe, coats the shrimp and vegetables with just a gloss of flavor, and leaves them crisp and fresh.

Globe zucchini, chiles, and green beans came from the farmers’ market; basil and garlic came from my own garden.

August 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Green beans and …

FasolakiaI’m getting ready to leave town Thursday for the long weekend, and I still hadn’t finished off the wonderful green beans I bought at the market last week. There were other things in the vegetable drawer that really needed to be cooked and eaten in the next two days, too because by the time I get home they’d have passed their prime.

Serendipitiously, I had everything I needed to make one of my favorite green-bean dishes: Fasolakia, the lovely Greek summer stew of green beans and tomatoes, herbs and … other stuff. Some recipes call for potatoes. Or Kalamata olives. Me, I decided to throw in a chopped Portobello mushroom, because that’s one of the things I had on hand, and green beans go nicely with mushrooms.

Whatever you add, this is an easy, low-labor dish that shows off the bright flavors of fresh ingredients. I’ve had it made with canned or frozen green beans, and it was tasty, but with fresh, it’s just splendid. Try it with tender new green beans, or as the season progresses, older ones – just cook it a bit longer. It’s gorgeous made with fresh tomatoes, but since the green bean and tomato seasons here don’t really coincide, canned tomatoes work just fine.

Fasolakia with mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • A small onion, or half a big one, chopped coarsely
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (or more) minced
  • 1 pound of green beans. String them if you need to and cut into 1-2 inch lengths
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 can of low-salt diced tomatoes and their juice
  • A tablespoon or so of fresh oregano, minced, if you’ve got it (yay, herb garden!). A quarter as much dried, if you don’t.
  • A generous amount of chopped, fresh Italian parsley – at least a quarter cup.
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Method:

Pour enough olive oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet to cover the bottom. Heat and add onions , garlic, green beans and mushrooms. Stir to coat with oil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic begin to go translucent and the green beans start to become tender (How can you tell? Poke them with a fork!).

Stir in the canned tomatoes and juice, the oregano, parsley and a generous amount of black pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer; cover the pan and continue cooking until the beans are nice and tender but not mushy. Taste and add salt if desired (I rarely do)

With early-season beans, no more than about 10 minutes of simmering is required; as the season progresses and the beans get tougher, you’ll need to cook them longer.

You can serve this as a vegetarian main dish, perhaps with a nice crusty bread to mop up the sauce, or as a side dish. A pound of beans makes two generous main-dish servings (guess what I’m having for lunch tomorrow) or perhaps four as an accompaniment. It’s fantastic with lamb.

(Note: Besides being tasty, tomatoes serve an interesting function in this dish. Tomatoes and other acid foods react with the cellulose in sp,e other vegetables in a way that inhibits the softening process as they cook. You may have noticed this if you’ve ever added tomatoes to a dried bean soup, for instance, or to a potato dish – no matter how long you cook them, the beans/potatoes never quite seem to get “done.” That can be a bother, but you can also use this bit of kitchen chemistry to your advantage: By adding the tomatoes to this dish after the green beans are already fairly tender, you’ll slow the softening and keep them from turning to mush while they absorb the flavor of the tomatoes and herbs.)

July 1, 2008 at 8:45 pm Leave a comment

Now we’re getting somewhere

Market haul, June 29As Culiaria Eugenius points out, the coming of summer brings a shift from greens and peas and more greens into the rich variety of summer produce. At yesterday’s market, I had to keep reminding myself that I’m heading out of town later in the week, so I restrained myself to one of Wood Family Farm’s excellent rib steaks, a bunch of garlic tops that are already opening (hey, they were only 50 cents a bunch), a few of what will probably be the last sugar-pod peas, some of the first green beans, a half pint of cherries – and two pints of raspberries.

It’s too hot to cook indoors, but I thawed the steak and gave it a good massage with a mixture of smoked paprika, cumin, rosemary and a dash of dried chipotle, plus a little salt, then put it in a bag to soak up those smokey flavors with plans to grill it tonight, once the ocean breezes start blowing in from over the Coast Range and cooling things off. There will be green beans – just gently steamed with a dab of butter – and perhaps a pan of garlic tops and mushrooms set to simmer at the edge of the grill. Some of the steak (I can’t eat it all at one sitting) will get sliced for use in a salad or wrap; there are enough green beans for a second meal, and somewhere along the line I’ll do something with the cherries. This week, I anticipate at least 3-4 meals from mostly local food. And it’s just going to get better as the summer progresses.

Yesterday, though, I couldn’t bring myself to cook at all. I rinsed and nibbled some of the peas, raw, for lunch. And then there were the raspberries.

Raspberries and I, we have history. I love them with a love that surpasseth understanding, above all other fruits, even summer-ripe peaches or the crisp antique apples of fall. Until I moved to the Willamette Valley, I’d never lived anywhere raspberries were grown; they were always rare, imported treats, so expensive that I never bought more than half a pint at a time, and carefully doled them out a few at a time as toppings for ice cream or cheesecake.

I still remember the realization, that first summer living in Oregon, that I could eat as many raspberries as I wanted. Followed, soon afterward, by an encounter with an acquaintance who was complaining that the raspberry canes in her back yard had run amok, and that she didn’t really like raspberries, so if I wanted to come over and pick some, I could help myself.

I think I came close to “too many raspberries” that summer. But never since.

Now I have raspberries growing in my own back yard. In their third year, they’ve spread out nicely along the eastern fence, and they’re thick with nascent fruit this summer; with a few weeks, I should be harvesting bowls full a day.

But not yet, so I snatched up two pints of the first market raspberries – Cascade Bounty, a relatively new cultivar – and brought them home.

There are lots of fine things to make from raspberries: Jam, pie, a simple puree (simmer raspberries an a very small amount of liquid – water, white whine – until they fall apart, sweeten to taste or not, then press through a strainer to remove the seeds) that can be used in everything from drinks (a few tablespoons of raspberry puree + sparkling water over ice!) to sauces to desserts.

But at the start of the season, I don’t bother. I just eat them.

I managed to consume nearly half a pint on the way home from the market. And a few more as I gently picked through them looking for squashed or overripe berries that might promote mold.

And then, for dinner, just this:

Raspberries and cream

Raspberries. Cream. That’s all.

June 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm 1 comment

Getting ready for the season

Countdown: 35 days till my local farmers’ market opens for the season!

I expected this would be a seasonal blog when I started writing it; sure enough, I haven’t posted an entry since December.

Because, really, who wants to read “I took the (whatever) from last harvest season out of the freezer tonight…” Winter cooking, at least in my house, is more about sustenance than it is about enjoying the process. I envy those of you who live in places where there are local farm markets all year round. Oh, we’ve had a winter market this year, two days a month, but I always forget which days until it’s too late.

However: Spring is definitely here in Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. The daffodils are up, the ornamental fruit trees started blooming this week and we’re less than five weeks from the opening of our local market. So I’ve begun the annual process of clearing the pantry and freezer of the remnants of last year’s harvest to make room for this year’s.

Cuban bean soupIt’s still a little chilly here, and I’ve still got some of Matt-Cyn Farms’ wonderful beans on hand, so I put them on to soak last night and thumbed through recipes this morning. A little of this, a little of that, and I wound up with a Cuban-style bean soup with ham, enriched with tomato and brightened with the tang of fresh lemon juice. That, and some of the first $1.29 a pound asparagus of the season, oven-roasted, made for a wonderful dinner. And there’s plenty left for lunches next week.

Cuban Bean Soup with Ham

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans. Black beans are traditional; I used half black turtle beans and half bicolored yin-yang beans from Matt-Cyn Farms
  • 10 cups water or vegetable stock, or any combination of both. I keep my vegetable trimmings in a bag in the freezer; when I have a couple bags full, I throw them in water with some pepper and herbs and make stock.
  • 1/4 pound ham, cubed. Bone-in ham steaks are an economical way to buy ham; include the bone for flavor (remove before serving!)
  • At least 2 cloves garlic, finely minced. I used 6; I would have used more if it hadn’t all been sprouting (instead, the sprouting cloves will go in my garden)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (many recipes call for green, but I find green bell peppers unpleasantly bitter. The red, yellow or orange versions add a pleasing sweetness to the dish).
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of tomato goo*
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t bother with salt; the ham was sufficient.
  • Dry sherry (optional)
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped (for garnish)
  • Lemon wedges (for garnish)

Either soak the beans overnight, or use the quick-soak method (Cover beans in water, bring to a boil, put on a lid and cover the pot. After an hour, the beans will be ready to cook). Discard soaking water.

In a large, lidded pot, bring stock/water to a boil. Add soaked beans and ham. Once the beans come back to a boil, turn the heat way down and simmer, partially covered, until tender (1-2 hours).

Make the sofrito: Pound the garlic, cumin, oregano, mustard and cayenne together until well blended. I use a mortar and pestle. You could also throw it in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, then sauté the onion and red pepper, stirring, until wilted. Add the spice mixture and stir for a minute. Add the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of liquid from the beans. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Check to make sure the beans are tender (because once you add the lemon and tomato, their acid will prevent the beans from getting any softer), then stir the sofrito and the tomatoes in and simmer for another hour, partially covered.

I’d planned to puree some of the beans and add them back in to thicken the soup, but it was plenty thick enough without doing so.

When ready to serve, check the seasoning and, if you like, stir in a couple of tablespoons of dry sherry to finish. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped egg and a slice of lemon. Should serve six or so, with a nice salad and some chewy bread to mop the bowl.


Bonus: Tomato gooI probably ought to call it something nicer, like “slow-roasted tomatoes,” but my sister dubbed it tomato goo and tomato goo it is. It’s my favorite thing to do at the end of tomato season, when there are so many ripe tomatoes (from the garden or market) that I can’t possibly eat them all. It’s easy:

  • Quarter a bunch of ripe tomatoes, cutting out the blossom ends and any bad bits
  • Peel some sweet onions and cut them in large wedges
  • Peel several heads of garlic; leave the cloves intact
  • Chop up a few fistfuls of fresh basil.

Mix everything together and spread it in a shallow layer in a large roasting or baking pan. The layer should be no more than one tomato chunk deep. Drizzle with olive oil.

Put in a 250F oven and let it cook, stirring every half hour or so, until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated, the onions and garlic have caramelized and the tomatoes have turned into something as good as the best sun-dried tomato you ever ate. This will take hours. Read a book or do the laundry or something.

I always make two pans at a time, one on the top oven rack and one on the bottom. If you do that, swap the pans’ positions a couple of times for more even cooking.

When the goo comes out of the oven, cool and spoon into freezer bags. Press out the air, seal and freeze. To use, peel back the bag and cut off chunks. If you want to thaw it, use the microwave (open the bag first). Add to soups or stews, use as a pasta sauce (alone or with amendments), add to omelettes, spread on rounds of good toasted bread for instant bruschetta, etc. etc. etc.

March 15, 2008 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment


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