Just a reminder that Alex-Gordon-my-alter-ego will be at Mystery To Me Books in Madison, Wisconsin this coming Friday, 23 January @630pm.
Yup, a food post. You’ve been warned.
Over on Facebook, Lynn Flewelling posted a link to an article about how pre-soaking beans prior to cooking was unnecessary. I perked up when I read it because I love bean soups and stews, but never made them because of the soaking step. Slow overnight soak or fast one-hour boil and soak? If you don’t do it right, you’ll wind up with bullets. It didn’t help that the one time I presoaked navy beans for baked beans, they came out hard and gritty. I just didn’t think I’d have success if I tried again.
But this article gave me hope, so. I found the recipe for black bean stew and set about chopping the onion because I knew I had a pound bag of black beans in the pantry. Except that when I looked, I found I didn’t. I did have a pound of navy beans. A year-old pound of navy beans–I remembered the day I bought them at Whole Paycheck, the good little organic shopper shoveling her beans into a bag…then sticking them on a shelf and forgetting about them. I knew beans aged and got tough over time, but I figured that all I risked was half an onion and some time. It was either try to cook the beans or use them as crust ballast for blind baking…except that I already had a couple of pounds of dried beans set aside for that purpose, yet more navy and pinto beans that I bought with every intention of cooking and never did.
Anyway, along with the onion, garlic, and chopped dried chile pepper, I added a teaspoon of ajwain (an Indian seed that flavors and also mitigates that issue with beans that we all sang about in second grade**), some herbs de provence, diced sun-dried tomatoes, celery seed. I didn’t add bay leaf because I didn’t have any, hence the other stuff.
Heated until it just started to simmer, then covered it and stuck it in a 325F oven. I figured that navy beans might take longer to cook than black beans, and I was right. I let them cook for close to two hours before adding the salt, checking them all the while–yes, they were absorbing liquid. Yes, they were getting softer:
After about three hours, I made tuna fish for dinner because I realized that the beans wouldn’t be done in time. Besides, anything stew benefits from sitting overnight, and I figured this would be the case with this stuff as well. I added salt and pepper–about 2 tsps salt instead of the single one called for in the recipe. Stirred and stuck it back in the oven.
At the three-three-and-a-half hour mark–the beans were still intact but creamy when chewed–I zapped the stew with the immersion blender and creamed maybe 1/3 of them.
I also added a large squirt of ketchup because I always add ketchup to navy bean soup, and a tablespoon of vegetable demiglace because frankly I still found things a little flat. Then I let it cool and stuck it in the fridge overnight.
Today, I added a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and a little more salt. It is a very thick stew–if you wanted something more soupy, you could add stock or more diced tomatoes or water. I like it thick, so I heated some up in the microwave, stuck some cheddar cheese on top, and had it with a toasted roll.
It’s good. Yes, the beans have more flavor than canned or–from what I recall–presoaked. I was also struck by how well they remained intact even though they were very tender. Not mushy at all. Or gritty.
I bought black beans today, as well as lentils and white beans. Looking forward to making more no-soak bean dishes. They will need to cook longer, so I will have to be careful which recipes I try.
**also, Blazing Saddles
Hope everyone had a good holiday. Happy New Year’s Eve Eve! Tonight it will be 27 years since the fire that my dad had going in the fireplace licked through gaps in the mortar and set the rear of the house on fire. I had just closed on the place two weeks prior–another five minutes, and I’d have lost it. Instead, I had insurance company hassles–no-name insurance, just don’t do it–and major outlay for a new, BUILT TO CODE, fireplace.
27 years. Some events always seem…more recent. And always will.
One week until GIDEON hits the shelves–the Alex Gordon half of this one-person writing team will be busy. Check over there for details and appearances etc if you’re interested. The next few months will be spent working on JERICHO, the follow-up to GIDEON, as well as comic con appearances and working on getting the Jani Kilian books into ebook format and cleaning out the house as part of the long-term move-across-the-country prep. General everyday life will get tucked into the spaces.
I thought that after I left the day job I would have all this extra time. Ha.
2015 is almost here. The time, does it ever fly.
Still trying to figure out the best way to mesh the Alex Gordon and Kristine Smith websites–shift Alex over here, or shift Kris over there? Thing is, I write different stuff under each name. Kristine writes SF/F while Alex writes present day supernatural thriller/paranormal. So I don’t think I want the sites to have the same style, font etc, which would mean sticking with what I have now–two sites, two blogs.
It would also mean cutting back on posting here until I have News. I will say that I am slowly learning how to format Word files for conversion to e-books. I will also say that even after using Word in various forms for over 20 years at the day job and the writing job, it still finds ways to irritate and confound.
Next week I’ll be spending a few days at a writing retreat with friends. Yes, there will be eating and wine and bitching about business, but also work. Sometimes taking a break from regular routine does wonders to jumpstart balky wips.
Life stuff going on. I switched insurance carriers a couple of weeks ago, and have been dealing with the incoming paperwork. Should be receiving the income tax packet from my accountant any day now. Pulling together and tabulating receipts–one of my least favorite things ever.
And now, on a happier note, time to write Christmas cards….
It’s Thanksgiving here in the States tomorrow. Happy Day to all who celebrate.
Alex Gordon has had all the announcements lately, and I hope that if you enjoy paranormal horror/supernatural suspense, that you check out my alter ego. I do have a bit of news–I will be joining the roster of Bookview Cafe authors. My official launch won’t be until next year, when my first release is ready to go. I am planning a reissue of Code of Conduct. It will have new artwork, and I will be going through the text and tweaking all those bits that slipped past me the first time.
The fun part will be extracting the electronic file from my oldest external drive. I used PCs until 2004 , and IIRC I wrote Code using Microsoft Works. I may still have some 3″ floppies. And I am pretty sure that I have an external floppy disk drive for my ancient iBook, so I could open the file there and send it to the MacBook….
I just hope I can read the damned thing.
In any case, tomorrow, I will be eating roast chicken–not a fan of turkey–and stuffing with all the trimmings. Then, for the next few months, I will be working on JERICHO, the follow-up to GIDEON.
And yes, this split personality thing feels weird.