Friday, October 30, 2009

Start with a pot of beans

It's only fitting to start my new blog by telling the story of a humble pound of beans as they find their way into several dishes over the course of the week, and ending up with the last portion in the freezer, waiting for the appropriate moment.  Legumes are the most basic of foods.  Remember in Genesis when Essau sold his birthright for some lentils?  And in Mark Bittman's  Food Matters the very first recipe is for a Sunday pot of beans.  And, I just bought my first box of heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo.  And, there's an October blog carnival on -- legumes hosted by Cook Sister inspired by My Legume Love Affair on Well Seasoned Cook.  Here's the story of my Sunday pot of beans, made Saturday.

Beans and greens and shrooms

1 lb vaquero beans (from Rancho Gordo), about 2 cups dry, using about 2 cups of the COOKED beans for this recipe, and the rest, for the inspirations over the rest of the week
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large bunch red chard (or whatever greens you desire...I prefer sturdier greens)
1 medium shallot clove, chopped
3 or 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 small packet dried mushrooms (about an ounce)
Olive Oil, a tablespoon or so for the beans and another for the greens
Butter, a tablespoon or so
Salt and pepper to taste.
Seasoning, optional.  Such as sesame oil, tamarind paste, smoked paprika, pinch of cayenne.

Cook the beans.  I tried for the first time the Rancho Gordo suggested method, in a crockpot.  Inspect the dried beans for stones and dirt, and rinse.  Add 3-4x the amount of water, and sauteed onion.  Cook on high.  Mine took several hours, but not all day, so be careful.  I was concerned that I'd overcooked the beans because they started to burst open, but once they burst, all that beany taste started melding with the water, which ended up working very nicely for the bean dishes over the course of the week.  They were soft, but not falling apart.  The beans were ready early, but they can sit for awhile.  Actually, I think they benefit from that.  Mine sat for a few hours waiting for dinnertime.

When you start getting hungry for dinner, wash and chop the greens roughly -- a broad chop for the leafy part, and a smaller chop for the stem part so they cook evenly.

Rinse the dried mushrooms in warm water, drain, then cover with boiling water for 15 minutes or more, until the shrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat  the olive oil and butter, then the shallots and garlic, and cook until softened.  Add the greens, and saute until they start to wilt.  About 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cooked beans to the pan, stir and continue cooking.  Add a few tablespoons of the mushroom  liquid as well as the bean liquid, and keep cooking.  Perhaps 10 minutes, until everything is hot.

With some salt and pepper, this is a very tasty dish.  The beans and the mushrooms blend naturally into an earthy, satisfying meal.  I was very happy with my first try with the heirloom beans, too, but use whatever you can find.

You can add some flavoring if you'd like, and I tried a few.  Sesame chili oil was a little overpowering for my taste, but plain toasted sesame oil might be good.  I tried a dab of tamarind paste on a small corner of my plate, and that worked well, but may not be to everyone's taste.  Pimenton is always a good one.

Serve plain, or over rice, or other grain.  You could even add the grain to the saute pan to blend all the flavors.

There was plenty of this dish left over for another meal or two. And, there were plenty of plain, cooked beans leftover for new experiments.  See these recipes:

See the rest of the series:
Start with a pot of beans
Bean and green saute, with tomatoes and eggs: Start with a pot of beans, Part 2
Bean soup: Start with a pot of beans, Part 3
Into the freezer: Start with a pot of beans, Part 4

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