Monday, June 29, 2009

My New Favorite Bean Recipe

Back when Phil and I lived in New York, the New York Times constantly ran a commercial that competed in dorkiness with the Chock-Full-of-Nuts Pinocchio commercial and any number of Mento's ads. Couples were relaxing and yakking about how getting the Times on the weekend has greatly enhanced their lives. A favorite line from a square looking husband went something like, "On Sunday we go for what we really like. I go head to the sports page while she goes straight for the magazine."

Much as I hate being a player in a candidate for worst ad copy ever ("the Sunday New York Times is 40 percent more wonderful than the Sunday Washington Post!"), we do get the Sunday Times and I do head for the magazine first thing. Often the little features -- "The Ethicist," "Consumed" -- are all the paper reading I get. Periodically I'm blessed with an in-depth article by Michael Pollan. And nearly every week there's a recipe or two with an accompanying write-up. While I miss Molly O'Neill from when we were new subscribers years ago, I like that the articles bounce between remembrance, history, technique, and expose. Although I have to admit that I can't stand when "Cooking with Dexter" is up about a persnickety "four-year-old foodie" who I find tedious, but that's another topic. (Boy, that kid works my last nerve.)

Yesterday's article gave a brief history of beans and rice in the five boroughs, followed by a Sunday beans recipe that I tried about 30 seconds after reading it. I was intrigued by stewing the beans in fruit juices as well as the unapologetic use of canned pinto beans, which I have a pantry full of thanks to chili season winding down and a fairly recent trip to Costco.

I didn't have everything on hand that was called for. My beans would be more savory and fatty if I had the chunk bacon called for, for example. But the sweet with beans is brilliant. Phil and I have about killed off the pot I made, with little help from the kids other than Sylvia -- who grabbed a fistful from my bowl while I was eating tonight.

The original recipe is here. And here's my close-enough improvisation.

My New Favorite Bean Recipe

2 Tbsp. or so olive oil
1 yellow onion, small chopped
1 shallot, fine chopped
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1-1/2 cups orange juice
3 cans (15-1/2 oz.) pinto beans, drained with the juice reserved
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium soup pot, heat up the olive oil. Add the onion and scallion and cook for about 5 minutes -- until they're nice and wilty. Add the cumin and coriander; stir around for a minute or so -- until your kitchen smells lovely. Add in the juice. Raise the heat until the juice starts to simmer, then lower and simmer until it's reduced by half. (The recipe says reduced to 1/4 its original volume, but Sylvie woke from her nap so adjustments had to be made.) Add the beans and enough of the reserved bean liquid to make it a nice sauce consistency. Let it bubble for another 20 or so minutes, adding more bean liquid if it gets at all dry. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Phil and I found it's good hot, cold, and at room temperature. We have yet to try it frozen on Popsicle sticks.

While I was saucing up new bean recipes, Phil was visiting folks back in the Big Apple. He stayed with our friends Amy and Dan, whose basement bar you might remember from this post several years ago. They're renovating their kitchen (and adding a half bath and growing the house), and Amy's getting a six-burner, two-oven stove out of the deal. We might have to stop being their friends.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beano Tuesday: Saucy Cannellinis over Spinach

One week into Beano Monday and I miss posting. As Tommy and I often say, silly Mommy!

Anyhoo, tonight was fast food for the boys (Tom's "collecting" all the Night at the Museum 2 toys), so Phil and I were on our own for dinner. He cobbled together a meal from about five little containers of leftovers, while I guiltily made myself a dinner that's one of my favorites. My friend Katie, a favorite cook, made it for me one night and it's maddeningly simple and really delicious -- especially considering how few humble ingredients it contains.

Saucy Cannellinis over Spinach

2 or 3 tsp. nice olive oil
2 or so cloves of garlic, minced
2 or so tsp. anchovy paste (or a couple anchovies, if you like)
a few sprinkles crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (15 oz. or so) cannellini beans, drained but with the juice reserved
A generous handful of fresh baby spinach leaves
A Tbsp. or so grated Parmesan, if you like

Heat up the olive oil over medium heat in a little saucepan. Add the garlic, anchovy paste (or anchovies), and pepper flakes; stir until the garlic is nicely browned but not burned and the paste is mixed in nicely (or the anchovies disappear into the oil). Add the drained beans and then add back a little of the juice. Lower the heat a little and let it simmer, stirring every now and again. If tonight gauges your quiet time, you'll have time to read a few small features and a Fareed Zakaria (love that man!) article in the new Newsweek while the beans gently cook and get a little saucy. Add a bit more of the juice if they seem like they're drying out.

Pour the hot beans over the spinach greens, which will partially wilt. Lovely. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Apologize to anyone eating scrounged leftovers that, sadly, this recipe really only comfortably serves one. Too bad.

In other food news, my friend Kitty recently introduced me to the idea of homemade Greek yogurt. I'd lost steam making my own yogurt because it always came out a bit runnier than I like. So we'd become big fans of a local dairy that makes the most amazing yogurt, which the kids devour, and Phil's become a fan of Greek yogurt. But with Kitty to encourage me, this weekend I made yogurt. When it was finished, I lined a strainer with a coffee filter (Kitty says you can also use a linen towel) and poured the yogurt in, letting it strain over a bowl overnight in the fridge. In the morning the bowl was full of whey, which looks not unlike what fills Sylvie's diapers several times a day. So although I understand you can bake with whey, in what seems like a sign of wanton consumerism in these tough economic times, I guiltily it threw out.

The resulting firm yogurt did need some whipping up with a whisk to make it creamy, but then it was delicious. And far less expensive than the $4.99 containers someone in our household keeps picking up at the Fresh Market. I smell a new staple in our house...

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Monday, June 08, 2009

A Weekly Feature*, Featuring White Bean and Tuna Salad

* when I remember.

This weekend Sylvie and I made a mad trip to Michigan to hang out with the family. My sweet niece and nephew planned a surprise anniversary party for my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother and I made the trip to see the look on Becky's face. Which, I might add, was priceless.

Having been out of the house all weekend, I woke this morning realizing there weren't leftovers for my lunch. So I threw together one of my favorite pantry-staple, high-protein, South Beach-lovin' salads: White Bean and Tuna. And I realized that early last week I'd also posted a legume recipe, so welcome to


I'm a huge lover of beans. Dried. Canned. Whatever. Even if you buy the designer variety, like Rancho Gordo, they're still very cheap next to most meats. And they look lovely in jars in the pantry, so I tend to go overboard at the bulk-foods store. If you have a great bean recipe, e-mail me at, and I'll share it here -- or share it in the comments. I mean, really, who couldn't use another bean recipe in the repertoire?

Even if you aren't a bean lover, I think the Rancho Gordo packaging would win you over.

White Beans and Tuna Salad in a Flash

2 cans cannelini or similar beans, drained and lightly rinsed
2 small cans tuna in water, drained, or tuna in olive oil, undrained
1/2 red onion, sliced very thinly
6 or so Tbsp. red wine or similar vinegar
2 or 3 Tbsp. olive oil, if you used tuna packed in water
1/2 small jar capers, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the beans, tuna, and onion in a bowl. Add the vinegar and, if your tuna was packed in water, olive oil. Stir it around a bit, and then add the capers and salt and pepper to taste. Done and done.

In other food-related news, my sister-in-law just sent me a pair of onion glasses. You wear them when slicing onions to stay tear-free. I can't wait to try them! I have four cups of onions to slice for a dip I'm making later this week, so I'm going to put the glasses through their paces and will report back.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Blog Post that Made Me Happiest Today

Most days I cycle through a blog roll, some for work, some that I just personally like.

One of my favorites is my co-worker Suzy's blog, in which she chronicled her pregnancy with quads and now life with quads. Yesterday's post was absolutely delightful. Check it out!


Monday, June 01, 2009

I Stand Corrected

Teensy issue in the last post. I forgot the number 1 rule of converting traditional recipes to slow-cooker recipes: You don't need so much liquid. In fact, generally speaking, you can cut liquids in half because they don't cook off in a slow cooker.

So use 1 quart of chicken stock, not 2. My bad. The soup was still delicious, but when I came home and realized the error of my ways, I cooked it down a bit to get to the consistency I wanted. I fixed the entry, but wanted to point out my goof.

Incidentally, if you're doing it on the stove, use the two quarts, bring everything to a boil, and then turn down to a gentle simmer for 45 or so minutes -- until the beans are soft.

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