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Archive for the ‘Beans’ Category

Inspired by my new countertop appliances, the slow cooker and the food mill, (which I really didn’t need since I have a mini-chop. But the food mill’s bigger. And looks sleek. Post-consumer rationalization…) I’ve been pureeing a lot. Last night I whipped up a big batch of garlicky hummus with the chickpeas I’d simmered in the slow cooker. The meal came together around these chickpeas from various points: ground lamb I’d picked up recently and frozen, not knowing what to do with it; a selection of Mediterranean nightshades shivering and withering in the fridge (zucchini, eggplant, peppers, grape tomatoes); a craving for my favorite tahini sauce; and the inspiration of Cafe Maude‘s lamb skewers, which my family loves.

I roasted the veggies with whole garlic cloves and a good glug of olive oil, grilled the lamb kebobs, and served it all with pita and fruity red wine.

For the lamb, I basically made meatballs shaped like lozenges, combining 1 lb. of ground lamb with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and paprika to taste, and adding an egg and about a quarter cup of coarse bread crumbs and coarsely chopped parsley and/or cilantro. And this tahini sauce, from an old issue of Gourmet, is delicious as a condiment on so many things.

Tahini Sauce

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 c. tahini
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground cumin

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with sea salt. Whisk together with other ingredients until well combined. Serve at room temperature.

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curry girl

Lizzie’s eating solids, which is to say she’s eating highly liquefied cereal and baby food purees. Her wrinkly-nosed reactions to some of the flavors she encounters on her spoon are quite funny (as are her grunts and screams of enthusiasm). I’m thankful for the organic security and convenience that Earth’s Best jars offer–don’t get me wrong–but that food is awfully bland. I understand that the warnings not to salt your baby’s food come from a reasonably cautionary attitude toward Americans’ tendency to excess. But other culinary tweaks can enhance flavor just as well, and can be good for both the tastebuds and the body. A dash of cinnamon, a pinch of pesto, a dribble of evoo does a body–and a food jar–good.

All of us food-loving breastfeeding types also know that breastmilk is a baby’s first introduction to the flavors of her food culture. (Check out my friend Jeannie Marshall’s new book on children and food culture!) If you’ve enjoyed curries, so will your baby, the logic goes. (Why is the example always curry?) Now, when I decide to do something, I dive right in. Total immersion. (I wink to another friend.) So, in my excitement about producing lots of flavorful baby food for my little Lizziekins, I pureed a bunch of the curried lentil split- and fresh-pea soup I’d been simmering, and gave my girl a bite.

Oh, it also had fresh cilantro pesto on top. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Her facial expressions were… surprised, interested, quizzical, and then, upset. Why did I think going from unseasoned-rice-and-peas to curried peas would be acceptable to her tiny tongue? Ah, well… When we ate the soup later, it was good. Warm, toasty, and earthy with a bright herbal twist.

Here’s a rough recipe.

Curried Pea Soup
6 cups broth or water
Bay leaf
1 cup each split peas and red lentils
2 – 3 tbs. curry powder
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
handful of cilantro
olive oil

Sautee the veggies in olive oil until softened, then pour in the broth, dried lentils and peas, bay leaf, and curry powder. Simmer until soft. Near the end, stir in the fresh/frozen peas. Using an immersion blender, puree part of it to thicken and smooth the soup. Meanwhile, make a simple pesto by blending fresh cilantro and olive oil. This is for drizzling on top.

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I love summer meals. Cool, refreshing, and nonchalant; celebrating the spontaneous combination of any variety of flavors without a clash because everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.  Tonight in Vermont, I threw together a meal every ingredient of which was local, (with the allowable exceptions of a lemon, an orange, Kalamata olives, some Spanish olive oil, salt and pepper, and a pinch each of cumin and coriander–Mediterranean items that don’t grow in these here parts).


Here are the elements of the meal:

> a cold bean salad with two varieties of heirloom beans grown by Killdeer Farm, here in Norwich, fennel, orange segments, radicchio, olive oil, and herbs from my mom’s herb garden.

> panzanella: tomatoes, a stale baguette, fresh mozzarella, garlic, chives, olives, backyard basil.

> cold grilled chicken.

> corn on the cob, picked this morning and as sweet as dessert.

> grilled heirloom eggplant, summer squash, and zucchini from the neighbors’ garden.

> a Lebanese-style yogurt sauce for the grilled veggies and chicken.

> (and for Jack, the above, plus Vermont cheddar, a glass of Strafford Creamery milk, and local carrots and sugar snap peas.)

The best supporting actor award in this meal goes to the yogurt sauce, which I hadn’t made before, but which will now be my default leftover-chicken-jazzer-up.

Lemon-Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1/4 lemon
pinches of salt, ground coriander and ground cumin (best if you use seeds ground with a          mortar and pestle)
4 mint leaves, minced
small bunch chives, minced
1 tbs. parsley, minced

Stir it all up and adjust the seasonings to taste.

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We’re deep into our CSA season with Red Root Farm, in Banks, Alabama, and we’re knee deep in big leafy greens: kale, collards, mustard, cabbage.  The first three I’ve cooked many times before, and know that with some pancetta, garlic, or walnuts tossed into the saute pan, you can’t go wrong.  But I’m not big on cabbage.  Cole slaw stayed behind in my childhood.  Braised cabbage has appeared infrequently on my table.  What to do with a beauty like this?

(Cinnamon bear is looking on dumbstruck, as you can see.)

So, since the red ones are my lentils of choice lately, I was pleased to find this yummy recipe on Smitten Kitchen, under the heading “recipes from a cumin junkie.” Love it.

Another veggie that I’ve… um… rediscovered is the humble turnip.  The other night I made a hot pan of braised and glazed turnips and carrots to go along with the chicken I’d roasted while my family was visiting.

But I’m also a sinner when it comes to foodie pleasures.  Total locavore, I am not.  As you know, I take great pleasure in my Bialetti, and am even a bit fanatical about it.  The new one I have, the Brikka, makes an actual crema through the use of a pressure valve.  Check it out:

The best accompaniment to an espresso?  The thinnest, spiciest little gingersnaps on earth, from Sweden, and purchased at World Market.

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Thanks to our friend Rena, who lived in Florence for a year, we had some insider recommendations about where to eat.  The most interesting (and delicious) place, by far, was Mario’s, which serves only lunch.

The menu is scribbled on a piece of paper, and is replete with meat.  The seating is first come, first served, and is “con l’altro”—with each other.  Three parties of two might share a big table.  Everyone sits on little wooden stools.  The kitchen runs right alongside the dining area, and the inevitably loud conversations are punctuated by the bang-bang-bangs of the cleaver on the butcher block, chopping up the next set of lunches.

nice ceiling

the most delicious pork and beans I've ever had

Jack liked Marios.

We also went to what many agree is the best gelato maker in Florence: Vivoli.

I know I should have tried the cinnamon-orange, but I couldn’t resist my favorite nutty flavors.

The other high point in dining was Tranvai, a restaurant constructed out of an old tram-station, with excellent food.  They offered offals and brain, but we stuck to slightly more familiar cuts… veal and rabbit.

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We’re in Florence.  Today’s my birthday.  Yesterday we went to the famous gelateria Vivoli.  I know I should have tried the cinnamon-orange, but I can’t give up an opportunity to savor one of the nutty flavors I love so much.  Yesterday I went for the classic nocciolo—hazelnut.  Jack had a puckering cup of limone mixed with fragola (strawberry, but the word always reminds me of “Fraggle Rock”).  Jack also got a big kick out of the address of the gelateria, in Isola delle Stinche.  Stinky—ha ha ha! (He’s just about five, so that’s the height of humor.)

Last night we took a chance on a restaurant, and it turned out to be an enjoyable meal.  The highlights were the antipasto dish of fagioli con bottarga, and the Florentine steak, which my mom, Peter, and I all ordered.  It was rubbed with rosemary, grilled rare, sliced thin, and served on a bed of arugula. Perfect.

Pictures will come….

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Last night, Chris and the kitchen crew cooked a delicious meal which included Tuscan beans slowly braised in terra cotta pots in the fireplace.  The beans had an extra depth of flavor that was set off by the sprinkling of fried sage leaves the cooks put on top before serving them.  A perfect, woodsy combination.

Chris, tending the coals

low-tech crock pot

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