Archive for January, 2009

Runner Cannellinis with Capers, Tuna and Lime

Sunday, January 25th, 2009


I suppose it’s like taking down your Christmas tree a week before Easter. Or finally washing the winter grime off your car in July. Getting your cat neutered when he’s 12? Oh, you get the idea. Procrastination of the shameful sort. Today I shelled my beans.

Calypso, cannellini runner, Hidatsa shield bean, cowpeas, and a bloody bushel of black beans. Type? Unknown. All black beans look pretty much alike.

I learned a few things:
1.    All beans seem to default to black. I planted eight different varieties last spring, each of them with striking markings. But when I cracked each shell and shook the beans loose, they all seemed to have dried to black, even though I started out with only two ebony varieties, the Black Valentine and the Cherokee Trail of Tears.
2.    Beans are undervalued.  Seriously so. Why are they so cheap?  I was giddy when they were exploding like graffiti all over the vegetable garden in July – little did I know of the work around the bend. Whatever your beans cost? It’s worth every penny.
3.    I would have starved on the frontier. As much as I pride myself for my kitchen smarts, it turns out that I’m incredibly inefficient.  Bumbling, even. An hour into this shelling thing and I had about a cup of black beans , a half cup of calypsos, half that of cowpeas (they’re a lot smaller), plus a few teaspoons of odds and ends.
4.    I will eat every bite of every dish I ever make with these beans. I moved heaven and earth to nurture these beans from seed to seed and then pry them from the shells. Nothing is getting in the way of my eating them.
5.    Beans are seductive. After awhile the giddiness I felt in the garden returned, as the pile of empty shells grew large and the bowls of harvested beans grew fuller and their strange markings were  so evocative that I couldn’t help but giggle a little and shove my hands into the bowls, gathering fistfuls and letting them fall through my fingers. Maybe it was just because we were finally at the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah (good suggestion, Gilda…) And, I know now why money is sometimes referred to as beans. I used to think it was facetious but I don’t think so anymore.


bean-mix-small beans-half

So. Other than removing the husk from a garden full of dried beans, what have I been doing? It’s a good question. I don’t seem to be the only food blogger who has disappeared into the night. My Google Reader has been eerily silent. As far as I know, there’s no official code that says that we all take the month of January off, but it does sort of make sense. After the food overload of the holidays, a bit of turning inward and away from the kitchen seems inevitable. You’d have to worry about us if we never got tired of food.

I, for one, have been thinking a lot. I find it hard to both think and write in the same space; they are distinctly separate functions, interminably bound together but unreachably discrete. In my absence, Becky and the Beanstock turned one (first post, January 5 2008,  Seafood chili with Moon Beans ).  Twelve months, more than 70 posts, and a year that has felt like a lifetime later, where am I?  I’ve got lots of ideas, some I’d like to try out, others I’d like to return to (this blog has shifted over time), some things I’d like to add. Most importantly, there are themes I’d really like to explore, develop, evolve with.  Hang tight with. Our world is becoming a vastly different place and in a short amount of time.  Food documents our history, and I’d like to be one of the voices that does this.

So. Give me a bit more thinking time, and I’ll come back and tell you where we’re headed. In the meantime, I’m keeping it simple in the kitchen. As such, I’m taking a queue from The Minimalist himself.

Every food blogger, culinary columnist and cooking discussion forum has taken on Mark Bittman’s  In/Out Pantry List for 2009, so I’m not going to.  I’ll just say one thing: judging from the vitriol in the barrage of comments, those who love to cook better fear having children.  And I can imagine why – I’d likely trade in the day-old bread for a bag (or does it come in a box?) of Panko too if I had a little one AND a job. So for now I’ll revel in cooking from scratch, and maybe I’ll make a point of sharing the results with my friends/family with children.

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s proclamation that canned beans are out for 2009, except in emergencies. He suggested cooking up a pound and doing various things with them. One idea was to mix them with a can of oil-packed tuna. I took my Runner Cannellini beans, freshly shelled, and here’s what I did.

(And I have to believe that even if I had a minivan full of kids, I’d make the time to cook up my own beans from scratch.)


limes-half oil-pepper-half


Runner Cannellinis with Tuna and Capers
2 cans water-packed Albacore tuna, well-drained
1 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans
2 tablespoons capers
¼ bunch fresh parsley, minced
¼ bunch fresh cilantro, minced
Juice of ½ of a lime
fresh ground black pepper
sprinkle of paprika (half-sharp if you like)
1-2 tablespoons good olive oil

Place tuna, beans and capers in a bowl. Stir to combine, being careful not to smash the beans. Add chopped parsley and cilantro and stir. Add fresh lime juice, black pepper, paprika and olive oil and toss again until just combined.

This simple dish is fresh, hearty with a crusty bread, and full of omega-3s, antioxidants, fiber, protein and trace minerals. This recipe makes enough for two people to enjoy this as a light meal and then take the leftovers for lunch the next day. Plus the cats will like it too….



Irish Potatoes and Irish Beer (with Red Kale)

Friday, January 9th, 2009

At first glance, especially with such an up-close shot (which I can take with my Christmas toy), it might look like I’m repeating myself. The last post was covered in cheese too. But no, I’m not losing my memory just yet. It was you. For whatever reason your comments just kept coming in response to the last post and I’ll do anything for attention. I figured it had to be the cheddar.

Then when we step back a bit and snap the photo wide open, you can see we’re actually dealing with potatoes. Under that cheese it’s a whole different world this week.

To my mind, this is pinnacle of winter food. Heavy, steaming, need-a-nap—or-a-good-night’s-sleep-after food. Winter has been keeping us steady company this week (though still no snow to speak of) and I hear it’s going to get gaspingly cold this weekend, so what else is a girl to do? Next I’ll be making pot pies.

The comfort of this potato dish not withstanding, I learned something important this week. You’re going to laugh at me (or be horrified, one) but… I made my first ever fond. I know that sounds ridiculous, the fond being such a flavor powerhouse but honestly, I always thought they were for meat-eaters. Traditionally it’s the browned beef or chicken that clings to the side of the pan until the wonderful deglazing liquid bubbles it loose, am I wrong? Apparently I was. Onion and garlic fond is worth its weight in saffron! Heady stuff.

It’s like the cell phone and the  Ragg wool sock — how ever did I cope before? So now I know. We can just forget I ever didn’t.

The inspiration for this recipe came from my current favorite cookbook, which was sent to me at Christmas by my sister-in-law in Seattle. Anne-Marie doesn’t have much time to cook herself these days, with three boys under 8, but she always knows somehow. All of my best cookbooks have come from her. This year’s surprise, when the gift wrap slid off and onto the floor, was The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning.

Now, locavor-itis is so epidemic it’s almost not cool anymore, but this book rises above all the jargon and frenzy. For one thing, it’s more than just a cookbook – it’s a primer. Ever wonder just what the difference really is between all those beautifully garish, hard-shelled winter squash? Or whether the plethora of delicate spring greens have distinctive flavors? It’s in there. And the pages are sprinkled with recipes from well-known chefs from prestigious restaurants across the country (Paley’s Place, Carafe, Tilth) so it’s sort of like getting ten cookbooks in one. Even if you never actually use the recipes, the photos make this collection coffee-table worthy.

I’ll use them though. It’s one of my New Year’s goals — but perhaps more on that next time.

So, how did I arrive at this recipe to start my journey? I picked up a bunch of Redbor kale at my Whole Foods market and flipped to the winter section of the cookbook to find out what I could make with it. The redbor is a hearty, almost squid-inky purple winter variety (most kale prefers colder temps) that’s at its peak from November through March. Crisp and tightly curled, it keeps its stunning color after it has been cooked.

There are no beans in this recipe. I thought of throwing some in but that would have been merely gratuitous and you all don’t tend to put up with stuff like that.

Twice-Baked Irish Potatoes with Irish Beer and Purple Kale

4 large (8-10 ounces each) russet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Guinness or other stout beer
1 small bunch Redbor or other red kale
2 Morningstar vegetarian sausage patties
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
sprinkle of paprika (use half-sharp if you want a touch of heat)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the potatoes with a teaspoon of the olive oil, then wrap each one individually in heavy aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake until they are soft but not mushy, about 50 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet. Cook the vegetarian sausage patties (honest, you won’t be able to tell they’re not meat. I can’t….) until they are browned. Break them into small pieces with the edge of a spatula and brown them some more.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a stainless steel (not non-stick!) skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add a splash of the Guinness and scrape the browned bits from the sides of the pan back into the mix. Continue to cook this way, occasionally deglazing the pan with a bit more beer until the onion/garlic mix is deeply browned and all the Guinness is used, about 30 minutes. You will have an incredibly rich and fragrant brown mess in the center of your pan.

Slice the ribs from the kale leaves and discard. Chop the leaves and toss half of it to the onion-garlic fond, stirring gently to wilt the leaves. Add the remaining kale, stir and then cover. Cook until it’s tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the top quarter of each potato. Using a small spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh from each potato, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell on the insides. In a bowl mash the potato flesh with the buttermilk, mustard powder and salt and pepper. Gently add the kale mixture, ½ cup shredded cheddar and the vegetarian sausage, stirring to combine. Mound the mixture back into the potato shells, then sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining cheddar and the paprika. Bake until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes.