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Archive for January, 2008

Beanoa

Man, was I pleased with myself over this title. Try saying it out loud – you might not be able to stop.

These days, I work a few normal days and a few late days per week. On those days when I start work at noon, I have time to putz, patter and laze around the house and garden, and time to build myself a lovely lunch before heading off to the gym before work. Of course, when I get home at night it feels like midnight and I pass out cold, but it’s worth it.

Today’s healthful fresh veggie meal was a simple mixture of beans, greens and quinoa. The beans were Flor de Junio, the greens were turnip tops straight from the garden, and the quinoa was their perfect accompaniment.

I didn’t soak the beans the night before (see passing out cold, above), so I covered them with water and brough them to a boil. I then turned off the heat and let them sit, covered while I finished the rest of my prep. I sauteed a mirepoix of carrots, celery, onion and garlic in olive oil and steamed the quinoa with some salt, garlic and mixed Indian spices (I had a small tupperware that was begging to be used – a homemade ground blend of toasted cumin seed, cardamom seed, coriander seed from the garden, turmeric and pepper). Yeah. Smokiness and depth. Yum.

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When I had delayed as long as possible, I started the beans and added the veggies. They took a little longer than usual to cook because of the no-soak method, but it allowed me to stick around while my neighbor’s banana muffins came out of the oven – score! When the bean texture seemed just right, I pulled them off the heat, added some salt and a frozen chipotle pepper in adobo, and mixed the whole shebang together. After taking this pic, I had another idea and ran out to the garden and pulled a few turnips. A quick rinse and sautee later and this dish came together.

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Introducing…beanoa!

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I couldn’t help myself, and started summer seeds today.  January, right before a huge storm – brilliant.  But, I figure, it’s San Diego – how much colder could it get?  My neighbor and I have decided that the garden is ready for a massive expansion, so we’re taking out another big patch of lawn.  I’m hoping these will be ready to take center stage in a couple of months…

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Plus, how cute is this IKEA greenhouse?  I’m summer-smitten.

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I got some lovely presents for Christmas this year – the aforementioned cookbook, a beautiful necklace from my aunt and uncle, the movie Bubble Boy (I haven’t seen it yet, and my aunt thought that was unacceptable) – the list goes on. Chris gifted me with a lovely evening out – a cooking class at the new Cafe One Three in Hillcrest. It’s located in the former Indulgence Bakery space on Park Avenue, right next to Henry’s (where we stopped beforehand for a gummi worm fix – ha!). It’s a lovely little neighborhood place, and its layout with a large open kitchen lends itself to this kind of event. I had brought my camera, but due to the small group, I felt a little strange about taking pictures. I should have, because they’ve found a way to recreate that thing that makes us gather in the kitchen during a dinner party. We arrived to a beautifully set bar that overlooks the prep area. There’s something about nibbling and sipping while anticipating the dish that’s coming next, and this class was exactly that.  We were greeted with olive tapenade, pepper-rolled goat cheese, and a glass of well-matched wine.
The class, titled “Try It Healthy: Resolution Support”, was taught by Deborah Shubert. She’s a feisty broad, in the best sense of the term. She got right to it, and started preparing our first dish, a Chopped Vegetable Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette. From that lovely opener, we moved on to Grilled Lemon-Dijon Chicken Paillards and Indian Spiced Tomatoes and Greens, each accompanied by a carefully selected glass of wine and the most lovely garlic-studded crusty bread.
The staff (Deborah was flanked by the cafe’s manager and sous-chef) was lovely and very attentive – you can sense that they all are passionate about food, and just couldn’t help but participate and offer suggestions. It was fun to see them admiring one another’s skills – no trace of competition, just an honest shared passion.
We finished the meal with an interesting dessert, Roasted Grapes and Cherries topped with Greek-style Yogurt and Toasted Pistachios – I wouldn’t have picked this one off a menu, but after such a decadent evening, it hit the spot in such an interesting way. Speaking of decadence, I don’t know that this health-themed class was the best use of their talents as, like most chefs, they couldn’t help but throwing in a spoonful of butter here and there, or offering another swig of walnut oil to top your dessert. We didn’t mind – Chris chose the class purely because it was the first one offered this year, so we weren’t as interested in healthy options as we were in having a lovely evening out. Cafe One Three delivered.
Anyway, after all this blabbering – highly recommended, y’all. Great idea for a girl’s night out, a gift for a food-loving friend, or for a romantic evening. Everyone loves the kitchen.

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I’m a little obsessed with my two Chrismas cookbook treats – the first is one I bought myself – Dorie Greenspan’s Baking.  I need to put it away.  Seriously.  I’ve made far too many baked goods, and my pants are getting a little too tight for my tastes.  The title to this post also refers to my midsection at this point.  But damn, the chewy chunky blondies?  Yeah man.

My lovely and wonderful sister gifted me another beautiful one, the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.  It’s not the book you pick up when you’re looking for a quick and easy supper recipe, because many of the dishes are time and/or labor intensive.  It’s perfect for a special treat, though.  Everything sounds amazing, and it’s fun to leaf through, imagining.  I’ve made two dishes so far – their famous roasted chicken and a bean dish that was to die for.  The chicken was an amazing discovery, because using a few of their small tricks, you can turn out a deliciously tender and moist chicken.  It’s all about salting the chicken heavily and early, using a small bird and roasting it at a very high temperature.  I’ll never roast a chicken the same way again – it was delicious.

To go with the chicken, I took on another recipe from this book – Fagioli all’Uccelletto.  Y’all know my obsession with the beans, and the herb section of the garden has been thriving lately, so this was a natural choice.  You should start this a day early (just like the chicken), to cook the beans and let them sit overnight to become more tender and creamy.  I used Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallard beans, and they plumped up to become the most creamy, delectable beans I’ve ever tasted.

Fagiolo all’Uccelletto

1/2 cup diced ripe red or gold tomato or chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns – if you’re not interested in the occasional
spicy bite, you can grind them
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a leafy sprig of fresh sage
a leafy branch of fresh thyme
a small sprig of fresh rosemary
a sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley (sprig, sprig, sprig)
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1-2 ounces cleaned wild mushrooms, chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked beans with their cooking liquid, cooked a day or two in advance

Warm about half the olive oil in a 3-quart saute pan or a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, stir and cook until translucent.  Add the peppercorns.  Smash up the herbs a bit to release their flavor, then toss in with the onions.  Stir in the garlic and mushrooms.  Raise the heat slightly, stir and cook until the onions at the edges of the pan are just “threatening to color” (don’t you love that phrase?).

Reduce the heat to low and add the rest of the olive oil and the beans, with most of their cooking liquid.  Add the tomatoes.  The beans should be just covered – add a little more liquid if they aren’t.  Bring to a bare simmer and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste.

Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, uncovered.  If the beans seem shy on sauce, or if the sauce seems pasty, add more liquid.

About 10 minutes before serving, reheat the beans, stirring gently once or twice over low heat, being careful not to boil.  Take out the herb stems and remove any stubborn leaves into the sauce.

My neighbor brought over some rice, so we had it with the beans, but I had the leftovers the next night on their own, with some steamed veggies, and it was just as delicious.  Pleasingly, pleasantly plump. Thanks, Jen!

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Here it is, January 3rd. You may have faced the end of 2007 with new resolutions in mind – go to the gym more, stop biting your nails, eat more cheese, whatever. If your resolution was to drink less, I’ve got a great recipe to get rid of your stash.

I’m not a big drinker myself, and we had some friends for dinner who brought over a bottle of red wine to share, leaving a good half-bottle behind. I remembered our trip to Providence, RI, when we tasted some really interesting red wine biscuits in an Italian market. They’re slightly sweet, but mostly spicy – perfect for an after-dinner coffee. Unless you’ve given up caffeine, in which case I can’t help you.

Red Wine Biscuits

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg white, whisked

Process or mix together the flour, sugar, pepper, fennel, and baking powder. While blending, slowly add the oil and wine and process until the mixture forms a dough. It should stay together pretty well, and you shouldn’t need a floured surface to work on, as it’s not sticky at all. Traditionally, these biscuits are made in ring shape, and you should have enough dough for 2-3 dozen, depending on how small they’re made. Keep in mind that the smaller the ring, the crispier the biscuit – I like them pretty firm, like a good biscotti, so the next time I make them, I’ll probably shape them a little smaller. They’ll spread a tiny bit, but not much on a baking sheet. Brush with the egg white and bake at 350° until the bottoms are golden brown, about 25 minutes. As these cool, they’ll firm up even more and the spiciness will increase, so you may not get a good sense of them straight out of the oven.

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They’re mini, hard, spicy donuts filled with wine. What’s not to like?

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Simma down now

These persimmons have found their way into many a salad, but I wanted to try something new to showcase these beautiful orange fruits. Seeing as everything is better with cheese…

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Brie topped with persimmon salsa – it was a nice complimentary flavor of the sweet, tart and spicy along with that creamy cheese – it took all my self control to save room for dinner. It’s still persimmon season, so enjoy!

Persimmon Salsa (adapted from Cooking Light)

3 Tbsp thinly sliced onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp minced jalapeño
3 ripe Fuyu persimmons (about 1 pound), coarsely chopped (you can peel them if you like, but I don’t mind a little skin to add texture
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions: um, combine. Serve over warmed brie.  Or any meat.  Yum it up.

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