Cooking Beans, the Long-Soak Way

So, I have a thing against canned beans.  Anything that’s been sitting in a can for that long scares me.  I would love to use my own beans, but cooking a batch each time I want to put them in a recipe is not exactly easy and fast.  In his book, Mark says that cooked beans freeze well and recommends several ways to cook them.  Since I wanted them to soak as long as possible and cook as quickly as possible, I chose the Long-Soak method on page 582.

I soaked a whole pound of navy beans in water overnight and cooked them in the morning.  After a 14-hour soak, I swapped out the soaking water to minimize any gas produced by them. They took about 30 minutes to cook.  I added salt during the last 10 minutes when they were almost done.  Then, I let them cool in the same pan for the next 6 hours, and split them up into can-sized portions (2 cups or so).  I added a splash of vinegar, as Mark recommends to keep them from getting mushy in the freezer and stuck them in there.  Now I have 4 “cans” of cooked beans in the freezer and I did it all myself.  I’m almost tempted to cook all the dry beans I have and just keep them in the freezer.  Unfortunately, I dont have that much room but next time I need beans, I’m cooking more than I want and sticking it in there. They’re such pretty little beanbags!  AND I saved a ton of money: a pound of beans costs the same as two cans but I got four!

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Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

I was really excited about that White Bean Stew I read about in Food & Wine.  So I made it.

Sorry that there are no picture (again! I’m a really terrible food blogger).  But it was really similar to that Savannah Navy Bean Soup I made a little while ago so you can get the point.

I did the recipe a little bit differently than Joe recommends.  I used spinach, not Swiss chard.  I also didn’t blanch my greens separately.  Instead, I heated up the oil in the pot, added the garlic and red pepper flakes, and then dumped in the spinach.  I added the spinach in two parts, letting the first half wilt down before I added the second.  This way, the garlic fully permeated the spinach, it was delicious before I added anything else.  Then I added the tomatoes, brought the mixture to a boil, added the beans and simmered for 8 minutes.  Voila!  Just salt and serve (we had it with some toast).  Granted, we ate the whole batch as two servings, not four, but it was still a fairly healthy dinner.  Next up, I share my bean cooking experience!

Great vegan/vegetarian recipes from this month’s Food & Wine

Not eating meat and subscribing to Food & Wine may seem like a bad idea.  Most of their recipes tend towards “chicken stuffed with beef wrapped in bacon.”  Hell, just a few months ago the magazine devoted the entire issue to the “not so humble anymore!” hamburger.  But I have to say, they have been trying lately… or something.  May it’s just a coincidence but I’m noticing a whole lot more vegetarian and even vegan recipes.  Mind you, they never label them as such but it’s nice to get recipes from really great chefs that you don’t have to alter to suit your tastes.

This issue is particularly great, because of the 4 recipes Joe Bastianich offers (yes, as in Lydia’s son and owner of a dozen high end Manhattan Italian restaurants, including Mario Batali’s Babbo), 3 are fully freakin’ vegan (as long as you make the easy sub of agave for honey in the desert.)

I am particularly psyched to try this soy milk rice pudding.  They’re all available online. And even though I cringed when I read the last line of that story (“Still, Bastianich eats steaks and lardo often. “Running so much makes me worry about getting enough calories,” he explains.”), I’ll take his recipes and eat them, too.

Buckwheat Groats

Tonight, I got to enjoy a treat I rarely eat:  buckwheat groats. Here I am revealing my Soviet upbringing again, but buckwheat porridge is one of the key dishes of Russian cuisine.

This is what buckwheat groats looks like raw:

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They might look familiar to you if you’ve ever eaten kasha in any form (random bit of trivia: kasha is actually the Russian word for porridge).  The difference between buckwheat groats and kasha is that kasha is toasted and groats are raw.  You cook them like rice: 1 part groats to 2 parts water.  Put in a small pot, cover, bring to a boil and then put on the lowest flame you can.  It will take about 20 to 30 minutes for them to cook.  Here’s what they look like done:

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The traditional Russian way to eat them is with a bit of butter, salt and a glass of milk.  You can veganize that by substituting a good margarine and some soy milk. Mark talks about other buckwheat groat recipes in his book.

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But sometimes the simplest thing is the best.  Buckwheat is an excellent whole grain, has tons of vitamins, minerals and lots of protein.  Enjoy!

Chopping leeks and potatoes

When I was making the soup below, I discovered a few things about chopping these two types of vegetables that I want to share with you.

Leeks

I’m one of those people who is extremely sensitive to onions and other vegetables in that family.  They make me bawl like a baby.  Today, I realized the same thing applied to leeks.  I guess I’ve never made leeks before!  Usually, when I chop those vegetables, I wear my Onion Goggles . Next time I cook with leeks, I’m definitely donning my goggles.

Potatoes

I come from the Soviet Union, where we are afraid of 3 things:  catching a cold from a draft, rock ‘n roll music and our freshly peeled/cut potatoes turning brown from exposure to air.  I always dump freshly peeled potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent this happening.  But I would never do that with cut potatoes because I don’t want all the starches to leach out of them before I cook them.

So when I chopped my potatoes for soup today waaaaaaay before I would put them in, I figured I was going to be in trouble.  NOPE!  My small potato dice sat out on the cutting board without even a hint of browning for at least 15 minutes.  There you go:  potato browning, old wives’ tale.  Who knew?

Potato and Leek Soup

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I had some leftover veggie stock and I was just itching to make something with it.  So I decided to try my hand at potato and leek soup.  I’ve tried this classic French dish mostly as vichyssoise, that is chilled and with tons of dairy dumped in.  But I was sure that there was no need for that so I decided to make a vegan version.  Mark’s version is on page 106.

Ingredients I Used

2 Tbsp EVOO

3 Russet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice*

4 medium sized leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced*

4 cups veggie stock (I had exactly this much left over, amazing!)

salt and pepper for seasoning

How I Made It

Mark advises heating up the oil, then dumping in all the vegetables at once.  This didn’t make sense to me.  I’m not a professional but I knew this would make the potatoes stick and the leeks would take much longer to cook.  So I put the leeks in first, sauteed them while stirring about 5 minutes and then added the potatoes just before adding the stock.  I cooked the whole deal, covered, at a simmer for half an hour.  It looked like this when it was done:

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I was expecting company for dinner that night so I turned off the flame and let the pot sit on the stove, until just before serving.  Once I knew my guest was about to arrive, I put about half of the soup in the blender, pureed and returned to the pot.  I turned the flame to the lowest setting on the burner to warm it back up but that’s about all I did.  Unfortunately, because this was for company, I didn’t get a chance to photograph the final product, but it was silky and creamy without any additions of dairy.  So, completely vegan!  We ate it with a simple garden salad that I dressed with Mark’s Vinaigrette dressing (p. 762-63: I used white wine vinegar) and drank delicious Brooklyn Brewery Local 1 Ale. If you had the non-vegetarian version of this soup, I’d say that the only difference is that it is a bit darker in color since my stock was so dark from the mushrooms and the soy sauce.  But other than that, I couldn’t tell the difference. Enjoy!

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Streusel Topping

I also just made this AMAZING pie from http://www.simplyrecipes.com by Elise Bauer.

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It was amazingly delicious and I recommend it to anyone.