Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Black Bean Stew

I love black bean soup. And I love a thick stew. I got to thinking about bean and pea soups, and how much I love them, but that one of my friends never has even tried them because she doesn't eat pork...and almost all bean and pea soups are built around ham of some sort.

So how could I get the same rich flavor, I wondered, without using pork? Vegetarian black bean soup is really flat and dull (to my taste), and since beans aren't normally roasted, the same depth of flavor can't be built. I perused the meats in my local market, finally deciding, with a sigh, that I wasn't going to find a good replacement--at least not at the price I wanted to pay. So over I marched to the ham hocks.

And there, right next to them, was something I'd never noticed before: smoked turkey parts. Wings or drumsticks, vacuum-packed in pairs, with the drums about $6 for two. Was this the solution I was looking for? I rushed home to try it out. And here is the glorious result.

Black Bean Stew

1 pound black beans (usually one bag), picked over, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 smoked turkey drumsticks
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
water to cover--if you have chlorinated water go ahead an buy a big 2.5 gallon bottle of spring water for best flavor
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or juice of one lime

Serving garnish: Sour cream, minced scallion, chopped cilantro, diced avocado, and/or a little shredded cheese.

Place beans, turkey drumsticks, bay leaves, oregano and baking soda in large pot, add water to cover (about 6 cups) with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; skim scum as it rises to surface. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until beans are tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if necessary, add another 1 cup water and continue to simmer until beans are tender); do not drain beans. Discard bay leaves. Remove turkey, cut into shreds or cubes, and set aside.

Now, heat oil in a soup or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, bean cooking liquid, and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Blend until half blended with an immersion or traditional blender. If necessary, thicken with water/cornstarch. Add lime juice or vinegar to brighten the flavor, and then add the turkey meat and black pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Our Little Coconut

The Bug just said, "The Baby is like a coconut: after he eats, if you shake him you can hear the milk inside!"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Food fiascos and other tales

Have to type fast as the Baby has just decided to wake up and get crabby.

Had leftover crusty bread and some tart apples. Made french toast with apples--had some fancy name. Looked and smelled great, but it really needed something else. Caramel? The apples should have been crisper maybe. The french toast itself was nice. I baked the whole thing in the oven and baking the toast seemed to work really well.

Made Pastitsio, which is like Greek Lasagna. Usually I do really well with it and it's a pot-luck favorite. Of course, this time I was cooking for both my In-Laws and my Parents, and somehow I overcooked it. The macaroni on top was crispy and hard and the cheese was far from melty--it was that hard, crispy overcooked cheese. Not nice. But everyone was positively lovely about it, even my father in-law, who was silent as he took the hard bits that he didn't want to eat out of his mouth.

Went to a place called Henry's in Berkeley. It's in the Hotel Durant, and I guess it's really a college bar and grill. It was pleasant and old and reeked of Cal (which is UC Berkeley). I got braised short ribs served on a bed of red beans and rice. I don't count the four asparagus spears as "Seasonal Vegetables" but "GARNISH." The food could have been seasoned better with salt and pepper, but the beef was tender and the beans and rice were cooked to perfect doneness. I wasn't impressed with what my co-diner got, but she seemed happy with her "cheap steak", so I'll go back again, given the right opportunity.

Making Steamed Clams tonight. If it goes right, I'll blog it.