May 18, 2012 § 37 Comments
Photo: Elizabeth Morrison
Hello reader! Guess what? I’m about to do something new, something I’m so excited about trying: No, it’s not another crazy, eight-day, 27 step recipe! Nope. It’s a GIVEAWAY! Yes, you heard that right. A giveaway. I’ve even partnered with a friend to give away not one, but two great prizes. I can’t wait!
Before I tell you what you can win, let me tell you about my friend Autumn and This Old Thing?: When I think about Autumn, all I can think of is the term “joie de vivre”. I don’t even say things like that. Ever. But, truly, she embodies the joy of living. She’s adorable, always with a smile, smart as a whip, well read, well-traveled, interested in everything, wife to one, and mother of three. Go, ahead. Take a look at this page from her site and see if you can resist her charm. Her business, This Old Thing? (isn’t that a great name?) is an online boutique of vintage, eclectic, and stylish provisions for the home. Recently, she’s added a new department to her store called French Philosophie that stocks wonderful, “everyday life, French imports”. Seriously, have a look.
So, what are we giving away? This Old Thing? is giving away a lovely “J’aime ma ville” organic t-shirt to one person (who we will assume loves their town) who visits TOT’s Facebook page and give it a “like”. Then come back here and leave a comment here to be eligible to win.
Moving on to number two: I’m going to give one person a copy of one of my favorite cookbooks, the book that actually got me started on this little blog, Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. It’s a massive book, full of great recipes (like the Nutella Chocolate GanacheTart pictured at the top), tips, and insights into french cooking and eating. You (you lucky person, you) will love having your own copy. Just leave me a comment right here (you don’t have to go to Facebook for this one) and you will be eligible to win. Don’t be shy. You know it would be fun to win!
I’m going to leave the comments open until Monday night at midnight and will announce the winners on Tuesday. So, have a great weekend and the best of luck to everyone!
March 9, 2012 § 6 Comments
I know, I’m writing about beans, again. But last week I wrote about how whenever we are in a money crunch the two things that make frequent appearances in our diet are bread and beans. There was talk about my current bread of choice and promise of a nice way with beans. So, see, I promised. And, I love beans and want everyone to know how good they can be. So, here we are, at beans, again. I should say at the beginning that almost every idea I have about making beans is from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (a treasure trove of thoughts on food). Before I read her excellent chapter on beans, called “How to Live Well”, I had one bean recipe. One. It’s a good recipe, but when your finances dictate inexpensive food (and you don’t want to eat ramen or boxed mac n cheese), you need ideas for beans and lots of ’em.
There is a lot of debate on whether you need to pre-soak dried beans or not (see an interesting thread on the topic here). After reading about it pretty extensively, and being utterly confused by so much contradicting information, I’ve decided to just do what works best for me and hope for the best. So, I pre-soak. There is a quick soak method (bring beans and water to a boil for a few minutes, then take off the heat, letting beans sit in hot water for an hour) that works in a pinch, but I prefer the low-key nature of just plopping them in a bowl of water the night before. Don’t let the idea of “soaking beans” send you into a “this is too much hassle” state of mind. There are really only three actions involved: pouring the beans into a bowl, adding enough water in the bowl to cover them by a few inches, and placing them in an out-of-the-way place in your kitchen. And you’re done with soaking. You can start a set of beans soaking without even having a detailed plan for them. You don’t have to cook them in 8 hours or even 12. You can soak beans for 24 hours (some people say even more) before you cook them, so you’ve got tons of time to figure this out. (It’s actually supposed to be great for easing digestion and absorbing nutrients if you do give them an extra-long soak.)
After soaking, I put all the beans in a large pot and cover them by 2 inches of fresh water (a little more if I know I’m turning it into soup). I bring them up to a boil, but only just to the start of the boil, and then decrease the heat to what produces a light simmer in the water. While the beans are coming to a boil, I chop up an onion (onion skin can do, too), a few carrots, some celery, and 6 or 7 cloves of garlic (because I love garlic). I take the skin off a lemon with a vegetable peeler or paring knife (no pith), and I get out a bay leaf, a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme, and my salt. Once I’ve lowered the heat on the beans, I dump all of the vegetables, the lemon, herbs, and about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of salt (some people say not to salt until the end, but I’ve had better tasting beans doing it this way). I usually then remember that the best beans (and soups) I have ever made have been simmered with a cheese rind (the hard end of your block of parmesan, pecorino, etc. don’t throw them away; keep them in your freezer for such an occasion as cooking beans), so I throw one of those in, too. I add about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, cover, and walk away, letting the beans bathe in all that goodness for about 30-60 minutes (the older the bean, the longer they need to cook). You’ll know they are done when you can peel the skin off the bean by lightly blowing on it (this is a technique from food writer Clementine Paddleford found in AEM and I love it in theory and in practice). They should be creamy through the middle, not crunchy in the slightest. Remove the bay leaf, whole herb stems, the lemon peel, and the cheese rind if you can find it.
You now have a pot of flavorful, hearty beans (and some vegetables) and all the delicious liquid in which they cooked. What should you do now? Here are some places to start (almost all straight out of Adler’s book):
~If I want soup, I add diced potato and some chopped greens (my favorite is kale), and maybe a can of tomatoes, with the juice, to the pot and let it all simmer until the potato is cooked through. After checking the seasoning, I ladle it into bowl and serve with a small dollop of basil pesto if I have it, or olive oil and parmesan if I don’t. Croutons made from yesterday’s bread are good here, too.
~If we are wanting meat and I have some sausage, I brown a few in a pan, ladle the cooked beans and vegetables into a baking dish, and nestle the sausages in so they are cozy. Then I add a little of the bean broth and put the dish into a low oven (325 degrees F or so). When the sausage is cooked through I serve them with some herbs and garlicky bread crumbs if available, or just serve it as is.
~Or, you can do my favorite meal that I could eat happily every day (I use pinto beans, but you could use any you like): Saute some chopped kale (or green of your choice) in olive oil. Season it with salt. Take your cooked beans and veggies and a little of the broth and warm it all over medium heat. Add the greens to the pan and stir. Crack as many eggs as people to feed into the beans. Season the eggs with salt and pepper, scatter some fresh thyme over everything, and cover. Let cook until the eggs have turned opaque and then take off the heat. Squeeze some lemon juice over the pan. Put an egg and beans into each bowl, add a some feta cheese or, even better, a bit of olive pesto. You might want to eat it everyday, too (and please invite me over).
Whenever I eat and serve beans in these ways I’m awed by how well we can do with very little money and a little care. I’ll end with a quote from “How to Live Well” because she says what I mean so beautifully:
“We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our more foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar. And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.”
Don’t you agree?
For the list makers:
1 lb of dried beans (white, pinto, black, cranberry, etc)
onion (or onion scraps if you need the onion elsewhere)
chopped carrot (how much depends on your taste and what you have)
chopped celery (same as the carrot on the amount)
6-7 garlic cloves (or however much you like)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary or 2 sprigs of thyme
peel of 1/2 to 1 lemon
1 hard cheese rind
February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Words are failing me at the moment. It’s late and it’s been a long (but good) day. My brain feels fried, though, so I’ll be brief with what I’ve been excited about lately: Tomato Jam Turnovers. There. I said it. Tomato jam turnovers are from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico (a great library loaner) and have been taking up real estate in my head for a while. Needing all the brain space I can get (for things like remembering permission slips, helping with valentines, brushing my teeth, etc) I decided to just take action and see what they were like. I’m so glad I did. What a treat these are from the savory/sweet tomato jam, to the flaky, cream scented dough. We all ate them warm out of the oven, some of us (two of my kids and myself) loving them and others eating them happily until I told them it was tomato jam in the center (I still get the victory in getting them to taste new flavors).
I should tell you up front: this is not a quick and easy recipe. It will take you a couple of hours even if you barrel through. But, to me, it’s worth it to take some time to make something new and have an adventure in the kitchen. It’s like my mini vacation from real life, but with the bonus of having, at the end of the vacation, a wonderful treat for us to eat, in real life. Another thing: you could make these in sessions, making the jam in the first, the dough in the second (then refrigerating) and then rolling out and assembling in the last. Don’t let the time scare you off. Sometimes harder (or more time-consuming) is better and I think this is one of those times.
Tomato Jam Turnovers
from Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico
4 cups grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
1 1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crema or heavy cream, plus extra for topping
egg yolk and sugar for topping
Filling: Cut clean, dry tomatoes in half and put them in a small, heavy pot with the sugar and salt. Bring it all to a boil and then adjust the heat to keep it going at a constant simmer. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the bottom of the pot is visible (about 50-60 minutes). Blend in a food processor if you like a smooth texture for the filling. Let cool before assembling turnovers.
Dough: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In a food processor, with a pastry cutter, or with your fingertips, combine the cold butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal. Add the cream and mix until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, until 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out 4 to 5 inch circles. Gather the scraps and re-roll until all the dough is used.
To form turnovers: Line up circles of dough on the floured surface and place a scant tablespoon of jam in the middle of each one. Fold the dough in half, lightly pressing on the edges to seal (or you can use the back of a fork for this step). Cut two small slits in the tops of the turnovers. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the pastries are in the refrigerator, heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and whisk an egg yolk and some cream in a small bowl. When the 30 minutes is up, brush the turnovers with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown (about 35 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye out as oven temperature varies).
Let cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.