A happy place for bean people

A selection of the contents of my first Rancho Gordo Bean Club box.

Well, hello there. Long time no see! I remembered that I had a food blog and thought it might actually be fun to come back and start writing here again. Partly this is because I finally caved and joined the Rancho Gordo Bean Club, and am now in the throes of experimentation with a vast quantity of fabulous heirloom beans. I’ve had a few hits and a few misses already, and I really should be writing this stuff down.

A photo from Rancho Gordo’s farmer’s market stall in San Francisco, in 2010.

For those unfamiliar with Rancho Gordo, it’s a Napa-based company that specializes in fresh heirloom dried beans, plus a few other items like spelt, hominy, Mexican chocolate, Mexican oregano, and fancy vinegars. I heard of them through the blogosphere many years ago, and had been taking advantage of our trips through California to stop at their stall at the Ferry Building in San Francisco to stock up on beans (once I filled a suitcase with them.) Then they closed their SF shop and I was bereft, until I heard about the Bean Club where every three months you get a box of 1-pound bags of beans, different ones every time. Perfect! Of course, that coincided with a New Yorker article on Steve Sando, the owner of RG, which of course meant that the club, which had just been reopened to new members, filled up instantly, but I got on the wait list and am now a proud member. Which means that after two quarterly shipments I now have far more beans than we normally eat. Whoops.

So far I have made a salad of tiny black lentils with lemon juice, yogurt and tons of herbs, several pots of white chili and one of red, a very boring version of Smitten Kitchen’s pizza beans (not Deb’s fault, I was lazy and simplified the recipe too much), a really tasty white bean and farro salad, and the best pork chili verde I’ve ever eaten. Definitely time to start taking notes. And if you have a favorite bean recipe that you think I should try, lay it on me!

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the seriously soft food diet

Well, this has been a depressing month. Back at the end of October I was sentenced to gum graft surgery, something which I had never heard of before and hope to never experience again. The surgery itself went fine, and apart from the general unpleasantness of having stitches all over my mouth, weird putty bandages on my palate and one particularly nasty evening of uncontrolled bleeding from the graft donor site after said bandages came off, my recovery went well. Things went south when I was laid off from my day job, which admittedly was a mixed blessing, since the job was one of those things that seemed perfect for me on paper but was turning into a sort of living hell, then things got even more thrilling when I turned out to be allergic to the antibiotics I was taking. Through all of this, I was completely unable to eat solid food or drink any quantity of alcohol. Here’s what my diet looked like for those first couple of weeks (I know these pictures are hideous, but this kind of food doesn’t deserve good photography):20151030_121645

Day one. Post-op instructions, lots of painkillers, a completely numb face, and a banana smoothie with protein powder. I ate a lot of bananas, particularly since I couldn’t have any sort of acidic fruit or anything with little seeds. Continue reading

dinner 9-17-15

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A rather nice dinner for one: a chicken thigh dusted with Moroccan seven spice and baked, shredded and piled onto Israeli couscous cooked with broth and vegetables (garlic, zucchini and Swiss chard), on a bed of fresh mizuna from the garden. I really enjoyed the bite of the mizuna with the sweet/spicy chicken. I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.

salmon curry for one

 

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I was on my own for dinner tonight, a situation that often leads to macaroni and cheese and/or tuna. Trying to be a bit more original, I tried something from 660 Curries that didn’t sound too difficult – a defrosted piece of salmon, braised in a sauce of coconut milk, curry leaves and balchao masala (a fiery, vinegary flavor paste that we made up some time ago and now keep in the freezer in tablespoon-size portions). I added some peas for greenery and dumped it over jasmine rice. Not thrilling, but not bad, and with a glass of wine and Netflix it did the job.

braised chicken with a lot of garlic

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I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?

Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves a Lot  of Garlic
adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking

4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving

Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.

Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done.  Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.

Afghani experiment

On Monday Jon made kofte kebabs, so to go with them I decided to try my hand at an Afghan-style basmati rice pilaf with carrots and raisins. The pilaf gets par-boiled, then drained and steamed in its residual water. A little dry, but very tasty, will try again!

To go with I adapted a recipe from Turquoise: a chopped lettuce salad with dill, scallion, and parsley mixed in. Liked this a lot.

a new Hungarian soup

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This was definitely one of those Must Make Again recipes. I’ve been making Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Moosewood cookbook) for years, but for some reason this week I decided to try a recipe for “goulash soup” from Barbara Kafka’s soup cookbook, which turned out to be vaguely similar – it has paprika and onions as the flavor base – but is very much its own thing.  I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly, but I more or less kept to the ingredient list, and it was incredible. It didn’t hurt that the stew beef I used was from our latest quarter-cow from Skagit Angus, tender and really beefy-flavored.

The original recipe called for coating the beef in flour before frying it, which I didn’t feel like doing. I thought about making a roux separately to thicken the soup, but it turned out not to be necessary  – the texture of the broth was thick and silky.

Hungarian Goulash Soup

adapted from Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka

  • 1 pound stew beef
  • kosher salt, maybe a tsp?
  • a couple spoonfuls of canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika and 2 tsp regular paprika
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • about 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seed
  • around a cup of dried egg noodles
  • sour cream

I salted the beef, then seared it in a soup pot in two batches with canola oil at high heat, then set it aside.

In the same pan, I added the butter, turned the heat to medium and sauteed the onion. Once it softened I added the paprika, then put the meat back in, mixed it all up, and added the stock. I brought it to a simmer, covered the pot, turned the heat to low and let it cook for an hour.

At this point I added the potato, garlic and bell pepper, recovered the pan and cooked for another fifteen minutes or so. Then I uncovered, added the caraway seeds and tomato plus some water to rinse out the can, brought the soup back to a simmer, and added the pasta. Once the noodles were done, I checked for seasoning, added a little salt, and served with sour cream.

Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving this year had almost all the usual suspects: perfectly brined turkey and very excellent stuffing by my parents, plus mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, smoked salmon and cream cheese with rye crackers, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and spiced Old Fashioned cocktails. The only thing missing was the creamed spinach, but we’ll make that for ourselves very soon.

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