No-sweat Cooking, Day 20

White Bean & Avocado Wraps

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

Okay, I’ve gone rogue.

I didn’t actually mash the beans and avocados together, because our avocados were still a little firm, and… well… I’m still feeling a little twitchy around the avocados after my recent knife-versus-pit mishap.

I’ve also got a not-so-secret thing for salt and acid flavors, so I ended up using quick-pickled shallots in place of raw onion in this dish, and Mike and I both liked the extra oomph. I will say I used a bit of a light hand on the cheese – Microplane graters are awesome for giving you soft, airy mounds of cheese, but with the rich creaminess of the beans and avocado, and the peppery radicchio, we found ourselves wanting more cheddar flavor. Next time, I’l definitely add more.

Dinner: August 16, 2010

Overall, this was a great combination of flavors, and a surprisingly filling meal with a few wedges of perfectly ripe heirloom tomato alongside.

Get the Recipe: White Bean & Avocado Wraps

No-sweat Cooking, Day 8

Dinner: August 2, 2010

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

Black Bean Quesadillas – an absolutely perfect comfort/convenience meal. I’ve always got beans on hand, whether portioned out in the freezer or in cans in the pantry, and cheese and tortillas are staples in our kitchen. This time of year we also keep an abundance of fresh sweet corn and scallions around, as well as the fresh chilies, tomatoes, and cilantro I used to make a quick fresh salsa to top the quesadillas with. Add a little zingy lime crema and some lime-drizzled avocado slices, and you’ve got a perfect, quick summer meal.

Get the recipe: Black Bean Quesadillas

Borrachos, remixed

Dinner: March 15, 2010

It’s funny how a humble dish you grew up with can make a big splash when you share it with friends. I first posted about these “drunken” beans years ago on a group food blog I contributed to, and I recently revisited the recipe for food52’s “Your Best Recipe for Beans” challenge. Since then, and to my delight, these soupy, homey beans have gained some new fans. These really are a go-to dish for me – they’re a breeze to prepare, they’re inexpensive, and they are a great option when you need to serve a crowd. They can be made in advance (in fact I think they taste even better after a day or two), and they hold beautifully in a slow cooker or a heavy pot in a low oven. They’re as good with summer barbecue or burgers as they are alongside heartier winter fare like enchiladas or roast chicken, and they stand alone quite nicely with a stack of warmed tortillas alongside.

True Vermont Cranberry Beans

We are lucky to have had great dried heirloom beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine available at our farmers’ market earlier in the season, and I stocked up to get us through the winter months. My favorite beans for this dish are a variety called True Vermont Cranberry Beans, a smallish, red-mottled bean with a tender bite, but you can certainly use whatever variety of dried beans you have available. Pinto beans, borlotti beans, and the like all work extremely well. (Rancho Gordo is a great online source of heirloom beans.)

For this latest version, I decided to skip the pork entirely, omitting the bacon and its rendered fat, instead adding some of my favorite spices – ground chipotle powder and smoked Spanish paprika – to mimic the smoky depth the bacon would impart. I used olive oil here to soften the onion, but any vegetable oil will do. I asked my pork-loving husband to taste them before even telling him what I had done differently, and he had no clue they were meat-free.

I use my own home-pickled Serrano chiles in this dish, but if you don’t make your own, feel free to use canned green chiles from your local grocery. I like my borrachos with a little zip, but if you’re sensitive to heat, you can of course dial back on the amount of chipotle and chile peppers (or serve the pickled chiles alongside so guests can add them to taste).

Borrachos, Vegan Variation

1 pound dried Pinto or other small pink/red beans
6 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano or dried marjoram
2-3 canned pickled whole Jalapeño or Serrano chiles, plus 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy brine
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 bottle amber or dark beer
Kosher salt
Juice of one lime, about 1 oz.

Pick over the beans to remove any stones or debris, and place them in a large pot. Add 6 cups of cold tap water, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans stand, undrained, for an hour. (Note: the beans should be fairly tender at this point, though older beans may need more soaking time.)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.
Add the onion to the pot with a pinch of salt and cook until softened. Add the garlic cloves, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, and the oregano or marjoram, rubbing the dried herb between your palms to crumble it a bit, and cook until fragrant. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, then add the tomatoes, the beer, the chile(s) and the chile brine.

Bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 1 to 1½ hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt as needed. Stir in the lime juice just before serving, then ladle into bowls.

The Bean Eaters

closer

As you may have gathered from the four pages worth of bean-centric dishes I’ve blogged about here, we like our beans, so I was very happy to learn that dry heirloom beans from Freedom Bean Farm in Maine would be returning to our Wintertime Farmers’ Market.

Dinner:  December 14, 2009

I’ve made some version of this white bean and roasted garlic soup for ages – probably since my teenage vegetarian years. I’ve done it with canned beans, with fresh beans in season, and with cooked dried beans, and I have to say the the last version is probably my favorite, as the bean cooking liquid adds so much flavor to the soup. In previous versions, I’d roast a head of garlic at the same time the soup cooked, but now that I’m making batches of garlic confit on a fairly regular basis, I’ve taken to adding some of that instead. You don’t have to use white beans, of course – but I like them here for aesthetic reasons.

Garlic Confit

1-2 large heads of garlic
extra virgin olive oil

Separate the cloves from the heads of garlic, peel them, and lay them in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. Add just enough olive oil to cover, then cook in a preheated 300 degree oven for an hour or so. Allow to cool, transfer the garlic and oil into a covered container or a glass jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

1 cup dried white beans
Kosher salt
12 cloves garlic confit, plus 1 T of the infused olive oil
2 cups leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cup diced carrot
¼ cup diced celery
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2-3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 parmesan rind
1 cup diced peeled potato
1 cup small dry pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Rinse and pick through the beans, place them into a pot and cover them with 4-5 cups of cold tap water. Place a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are just tender. Season with salt and let the beans cook just a bit longer until they are seasoned. (You can do this ahead of time and store the beans in the refrigerator or freezer in their cooled cooking liquid.)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the garlic-infused oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrot, and celery, season with salt, and cook until soft. Add the oregano and bay, let cook briefly until fragrant, then add the wine, allowing it to bubble up for a minute or two. Add the parmesan rind, water, and potato, and let cook until the potato is tender when pierced with a fork. Mash the confit garlic cloves until they form a paste. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, the garlic confit, and the dry pasta, bring to a boil, then simmer until the pasta is al dente. Add the spinach right at the end, stirring it through until it is bright green and wilted. Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind and spoon the soup into bowls, topping with grated parmesan if desired.

Simple Goodness

Tuscan Kale

When I walked past the Roots Farm table at the Wintertime Farmers’ Market on Saturday, this kale literally stopped me in my tracks. Now, I love my greens, but really, this bunch looked just perfect. And it was the last one in the bin, so I grabbed it. I knew I wanted to make this kale a major component of a meal, and that’s just what I did last night, combining it with a few simply prepared and richly flavorful sidekicks: Jacob’s Cattle beans, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, and garlic confit.

While my beans simmered away, I prepped the kale, removing the tough stem ends and slicing the leaves into thin ribbons. I got out a wide sauté pan and added a spoonful or two of the infused oil from the garlic confit I made on Sunday, plus a pinch of red chile flakes. I tossed the kale in when the oil was shimmering, sprinkled on a pinch of salt, and tossed it all around. When the kale was a deep, glossy green, I pulled it out of the pan and put it in a serving bowl.

slow-roasted

Then I added a cup or so of the intensely sweet slow-roasted tomatoes I also made on Sunday, plus 4 or 6 of my confited garlic cloves. I cooked them just long enough to warm them through, then turned off the heat, added a splash of champagne vinegar, and swirled it around in the pan. I drained the cooked beans, added them to the kale, then poured the tomato-garlic mixture over the top. It got a gentle toss before I spooned it into our bowls, and I finished each serving with some shards of Parmagiano Reggiano.

Dinner:  December 7, 2009

Simple. Hearty. Delicious.

Comfort Me with Tacos

I know, I know, Mexican again. I’m feeling overwhelmed by life this week, and when that happens inspiration goes out the window and I just want something comforting and familiar.

Dinner:  September 15, 2009

These are comprised of the other half of a hunk of beef bottom round I bought over the weekend, marinated with lime, seared, and sliced paper thin, then topped with diced tomato, avocado, jack cheese, red cabbage, scallions and lime crema. I had some leftover Rancho Gordo pintos in the fridge, to which I added some of my pickled serranos for a little extra punch. Good enough for a Tuesday.