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No-soak bean stew

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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.

La:

just getting started

just getting started

 

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:

getting there--about halfway through

getting there–about halfway through

 

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.

almost finished

almost finished

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.

the finished product

the finished product

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

 

food

Brownies!

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It was time to bake something sweet, so I settled on brownies. My usual recipe is one from Recchiuti made with melted unsweetened chocolate. But I uncovered some Callebaut cocoa that had been in the back of a cupboard for way too long, and decided to find something to use it in. Hence, Mexican Brownies, courtesy of Aaron Sanchez from the Food Network. They’re spiced with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I also added a teaspoon of espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor, used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and added a half-cup of bittersweet chocolate chunks because I could.

Mexican brownies

Mexican brownies

I was reluctant to bake with cocoa because I assumed the flavor would be weak. But these brownies are really good. Different flavor because of the spices, with the cayenne pepper adding just a touch of bite. I added the 1/4 tsp that the recipe stated, but if you like really spicy chocolate, you could add 1/2 tsp. Or as much as you wanted, because you have thumbs.

food weather

Pesto and stuff

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Busy morning. Took Gaby to playcare. Then it was off to the dentist.

After that, farmers’ market at the place from which I’ll be getting my CSA veggies. It was a very small market–it would fill only a tiny corner of the Sauvie Island market. But they had small freezers of beef and pork, honey, popcorn kernels, eggs, spinach and salad greens. I stocked up on said spinach and greens, and added a small bag of popcorn, pork chops, Italian sausage, and uncured bacon. A dozen eggs.

Of course, I had bought a pound of arugula just the other day. It wasn’t going to make it through the week, so I jammed it into the food processor with 4 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, half a cup each of grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts and olive oil. Presto pesto.

Arugula pesto lacks the weighty flavor and aroma of basil pesto. I find it brighter–some folks complain that it’s “grassy”–and lighter. The pound of arugula rendered down to about 3 cups of pesto, which is a good amount for breaking down into single/double serving sizes in either tiny containers or ice cube trays. I went with tiny snap-top containers because I wanted to protect the stuff from freezer taste as much as possible.

It’s still cold–upper 30s today–but we’ve had some thawing and rain. Most of the snow is gone, and the sump pump has been working its little heart out. No sign of sprouting greenery yet, and most nights are still below freezing. But maybe, maybe, we’ve turned the corner.

Lunch was a toasted half a whole grain ciabatta roll with smears of homemade hummus and fresh pesto. It was really good. Garlicky, but really good.

food

Pear preserves

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After some delays, on Monday I finally got around to my first attempt at pear preserves.

I love pears, but I’ve usually been disappointed in preserves and jams made from them. Price doesn’t matter. Supermarket or boutique, the pear flavor has been weak to nonexistent; even added flavoring like ginger has been flat. I wasn’t optimistic about these pears, either. The neighbors had left them on the tree for a while waiting for them to ripen, but it stayed cool for so long that they had to pick them while still unripe. I think the prolonged chill adversely affected the flavor–after I let them ripen in a paper bag for a couple of weeks, they were okay, but lacked the usual rich pop you get from a tree-ripened pear.

Anyway, went with this recipe from Emeril because it looked simple. Then, I made changes. Added 5 small apples leftover from my other neighbor’s donation because I wanted to add some pectin for thickening. Together with the pears, that resulted in 8 cups diced fruit. I read the recipe comments, and decided to cut back on the sugar because the pears were so sweet. So, 3 cups instead of 4. Added a couple of teaspoons of salt** because salt reduces the need for sugar and helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. 1/3 c chopped candied ginger instead of 1/4 c. Zest and juice of two limes because no lemons. And a tablespoon or so of fresh diced thyme because I thought the lemony taste would work well with the pears.

You’re supposed to boil this stuff until the mixture “sheets off a metal spoon.” I may have let it go too long because I wasn’t sure how sheety the sheeting needed to be. In any case, the stuff thickened until it entered the marmalade/borderline candy realm, with pears, apple, and ginger all turning translucent. I shoveled it into 4 Bonne Maman jars–yes, I reuse them–and stuck it all in the fridge to cool.

pear-ginger-thyme preserves

It’s good. Different than anything I have ever had before. I’ve eaten it smeared on bread with Brie, on toast with butter. On a turkey and cheddar sandwich. It has a combo flavor–not quite any single thing, but a mix of the ginger, thyme, and pear. It’s waaay thick, like commercial preserves. I would make it again. Might even reduce the sugar a little more.

**thinking back, not 100% sure whether I added 1 tsp, 1.5, or 2. I used a half-teaspoon measuring spoon, so I know I shoveled a couple of times. I’m afraid I cook like my mom–a little of this, a little of that, and how much of this did I add again? So, salt to taste. Not too salty.

food gaby holidays

Turkey Day prep

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Stuffing made. Put it in roast pan, then buried the turkey breast within. Popped it all in the fridge to marinate until tomorrow afternoon.

It’s a savory bread pudding, heavy on the sage and onion. Also, celery. A handful of chopped parsley. Bay leaves. Herbes de Provence. One loaf of dense white bread and a box of TJ’s cornbread stuffing mix sans seasoning packet. To this amount of bread, I added a half-gallon of liquid–one quart chicken stock plus one quart 2% milk. A stick of butter. Four eggs. Salt and pepper.

Not a fan of dry stuffing, me.

The house smells good.

I wanted to fix the dessert today as well, but Gaby decided to make life interesting. She was outside–I was just getting started in the kitchen when I heard her barking in that loud, rapid-fire way that meant that either someone was in the driveway or something had invaded the backyard. Sure enough, I found her dashing around the ornamental crabapples in the middle of the yard while a squirrel darted back and forth from one treetop to the other. I tried to grab Gaby and failed just as the squirrel leapt to the ground and tried to make it to the oak on the far side of the yard. It didn’t make it–Gaby grabbed it, and a battle ensued. Squirrel would break away, only to be caught again. It finally ended squirrel lying on the ground and Gaby walking off, blood dripping from her mouth. I leashed her and pulled her into the house, then called the vet’s office. Yup, they were still open and yup, they could fit me in. Before we headed to the car, I went out to check the squirrel, and was relieved to see it move when I drew close. It headed toward the oak, favoring its rear leg. Last I saw, it was climbing slowly.

I know–they’re just rats with cute tails. Still, I’d prefer to not be the one who has to dispose of the remains.

Anyway. I was concerned that Gaby might need stitches, but by the time we got to the vet’s, she had stopped bleeding. No injuries were visible except for some claw marks on her nose. She ate a cookie that the vet gave her. I brought her home, and she ate dinner as though nothing happened. She kept wanting to go outside, though. I would check on her, and find her sniffing around the crabapples. My little killer.

I’ll make dessert tomorrow morning.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! May you enjoy good food and good company. And a lack of squirrels.