GOD-DESS

Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

April 2003
© © 2003 by Bret S. Beall

This month I offer a real potpourri of recipes, from beans that bring closure to last month’s column, to roasted spring vegetables and fruit, to applications of hard-cooked eggs leftover from the ideas presented in this month’s Senses of Living® Holiday column. Have fun!

BASIC BEANS

While I have extolled the virtues of canned beans (such as affordability, nutrition, convenience, flavor), I cannot deny that dry beans cooked from scratch have far superior flavor (AND affordability) than their canned counterparts. If you’ve never cooked dry beans from scratch, please try it! And please stop fretting over digestive distress. As I wrote last month, thorough cooking in water, thorough chewing, thorough tasting will enhance your pleasure and reduce (or eliminate) your distress, as will relatively frequent consumption of these nutritional bundles, because your body will gradually become accustomed to their presence and be able to digest them more efficiently (most people are simply not used to a high-fiber diet, which accounts for the increase in cholesterol, high blood pressure and colon cancer; increase fiber in your diet!). The bottom line: slow down and TASTE your food (and eat a wide variety). By the way, encouraging the production of beans is good for the environment as well. Beans (and other legumes) return nitrogen to the soil. Rotating legumes with other crops will reduce the need to add chemicals to the soil, which enhances the health of the planet. Eat legumes!

This is a very simple recipe, which means it is also flexible, because they haven’t been specialized with a lot of seasonings. You can use these basic beans for any application because the specific flavoring agents are added later to the beans. Contrary to popular opinion, beans don’t require smoked pork products (bacon, ham, etc), but the addition can be tasty.

Soak the beans overnight in a volume of water approximately 3 times that of the beans (1 c [1/2 lb] beans become about 3 c overnight). After soaking, drain and discard the soaking water (it has said that the soaking releases some of the gastrointestinally-offensive compounds [probably oligosaccharides, but other compounds have been implicated], so discarding the water eliminates these, but I cannot confirm this), rinse the beans, then cover with a volume of fresh water equal to beans. Add 1/2 t salt per c of soaked beans, or to taste (salt will not toughen the skins of beans, but acids will, so add them after cooking is done; alkalinity helps break down the hemicellulose in the cell walls, but adding something alkaline like baking soda can also negatively impact flavor and reduce thiamin). Since I think the combination of beans and bay leaves is a classic combination, I always add 1 large or two small leaves per cup of soaked beans. Sometimes I add onions (green, yellow, red or white, 1 c, finely diced) or chiles (jalapenos, 1/4 c, finely minced) at this point, depending on what I’m using the beans for. Ground black pepper can be added, if desired. Bring the beans and salted water to a boil, skim the surface using a spoon, then simmer partially covered for about 2 to 3 hours (adding more water if necessary, and stirring often). The final consistency of the beans should be soft (do NOT go for al dente when cooking beans!), and most of the water should be absorbed or cooked off so that the beans are barely moist (by using minimal water, you preserve nutrition, and as Harold McGee states, that the beans “will seem softer in a given time if cooked in a minimal amount of liquid” [p.262, “On Food and Cooking”; Collier Books: New York; 1984]). Now you can eat them as they are as a side dish, scattered on top of a simple salad, or use them for anything (including the hundreds [thousands?] of applications and variations presented in the Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® Recipes for March 2003!). These Basic Beans freeze very well, as do their applications.

Applications:

Basic Bean Soup: Everyone has his or her own bean soup. Almost everyone. If you don’t, feel free to use the proportions I present here, using 1 c of cooked Basic Beans as the starting point. Begin by sautéing 1 c finely chopped/grated aromatics (onions, carrots, celery and/or fennel) in 2 T olive oil over medium heat [NOTE: these are vegetarian recipes. However, at this stage you can incorporate finely diced or crumbled meat. If you have high fat meat, like bacon, salt pork, fatty chorizo or Italian or other sausages, pancetta, and the like, render these meats as the very first step, and use their fat in place of, totally or in part, the olive oil to sauté the aromatic vegetables. If you have lower fat meats, like prosciutto, lean ham, Spanish chorizo or other lean sausages, smoked turkey, and similar, add these with the aromatics and sauté together.]. When the vegetables are relatively soft (about 3 or 4 minutes) or caramelized (up to 10 minutes), add up to 1 T finely minced garlic; continue sautéing for another minute. Add 1 c Basic Beans (any variety), 1 c water or stock, 1 to 2 t vinegar (red wine, balsamic) or citrus (lemon, lime; if using citrus, consider adding ½ t of the zest), ½ t salt and about 5 grinds of black pepper. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the desired consistency is attained. Finish with 1 t additional vinegar or citrus, and serve immediately, optionally with some grated cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (or a drizzle of truffle oil for true luxury). Crusty bread and a salad are great accompaniments (consider adding the Roasted Asparagus or Green Onions below to the salad). Optionally, add 1 t tomato paste (or 1 T tomato sauce or ¼ c chopped tomatoes) and/or ½ t herbs/spices (oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, cumin, coriander or other) or about 1 T chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro, basil, etc.) during the simmering phase, if desired.

Pasta e Fagioli ( Pasta e Ceci if using chickpeas): follow the recipe proportions for Basic Bean Soup (preferably using the tomato product and herbs). For each cup of Basic Beans that have simmered, add ½ c small pasta (such as ditalini, small shells, elbows, etc.), 1 c water or stock, and ½ t salt. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes (until the pasta is al dente), adding additional water or stock in ¼ c amounts until desired consistency is achieved (this is a very thick stew-like soup). Finish the soup with another t of vinegar or citrus, and if desired, grate some cheese and/or drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top (or a drizzle of truffle oil for true luxury). Serve with crusty bread and a salad (perhaps enhanced with the following Roasted Asparagus or Green Onions).

Riso e Fagioli: follow the recipe proportions for Basic Bean Soup (preferably using the tomato product and herbs). For each cup of Basic Beans that have simmered, add ½ c rice, 1.5 c water or stock and ½ t salt, and simmer for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, adding additional water or stock in ¼ c amounts until desired consistency is achieved (this is a very thick stew-like soup). Finish the soup with another t of vinegar or citrus, and grate some cheese and/or drizzle some extra virgin olive oil (or a drizzle of truffle oil for true luxury) on top, if desired. Serve with crusty bread and a salad (perhaps enhanced with the following Roasted Asparagus or Green Onions). NOTE: I used some leftover Riso e Fagioli in place of Every Day Beans in the Pseudo Huevos Rancheros Burritos recipe below … delicious! Who knew?

ROASTED ASPARAGUS OR GREEN ONIONS

Because of the shapes of asparagus and green onions (scallions), they don’t lend themselves to the “toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs/spices” technique that I use for other roasted veggies. Therefore, the proportions are approximate, contingent on the number of asparagus spears or green onions being roasted.

Preheat oven to 450° F. Prepare asparagus by washing them, then trimming the cut ends by tapping the spears from the cut end up with your knife until it cuts easily through. Prepare green onions by washing thoroughly, trimming any discolorations on the green parts, and trimming only the roots themselves, leaving the bottom intact. Place the vegetables in a pan or baking dish so that they lie flat in a single layer. Sprinkle conservatively with olive oil, and roll vegetables around in the pan/dish until coated with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Roast for 15 minutes, testing the thickest end of the vegetables with a sharp knife, which should just slip in when the vegetables are cooked. Serve hot, warm or cold. NOTE: the higher temperature allows the vegetables to slightly caramelize without becoming overly soggy; you can use a lower temperature (400 or 425) with success, but you’ll need to cook the vegetables for about 20 and 25 minutes, respectively (be sure to test doneness with a sharp knife as described above). These roasted asparagus and green onions can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated successfully (with only a small sacrifice to texture) for up to a week. They do not freeze well (although, if you cut them into pieces for use in some of the applications below [pasta and quiche], the textural loss due to freezing is not so significant).

Variations:

I like to add a “sour” element sometimes, so I’ll add the zest and/or juice of one lemon, one orange, one grapefruit (or half, depending on the size), or 2 T balsamic or wine vinegar. Be aware that, at these temperatures, some of the juice, zest or vinegar will actually caramelize (which is good) or burn (which is bad), but stirring the mixture every 5 minutes will minimize this effect.

Applications:

Side Dish: just serve the asparagus and/or green onions, perhaps with some roasted red pepper strips, or chopped olives, or chopped hard-cooked eggs, or caramelized onions on top of them, or some caviar, with a splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar, or citrus juice, if you didn’t use them to roast the vegetables. These roasted vegetables are especially good wrapped with thinly sliced meats (the classic version is to wrap asparagus with prosciutto, but the green onions can be wrapped as well, and the prosciutto can be replaced by any salami or other luncheon meat, or even slices of smoked salmon or gravlax), perhaps with a sliver or two of your favorite cheese or roasted red peppers or quartered olives placed adjacent to the vegetable and wrapped within the meat.

With Eggs: Roasted Asparagus, especially, but also Roasted Green Onions, are wonderful accompaniments to scrambled, fried or poached eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Chop them up and scramble with the eggs, or just serve alongside some fried or poached eggs and allow the yolk to run into the vegetables … amazing! Try making a burrito with any of these vegetables, and some of the leftover Hard-Cooked Eggs discussed below. Let your imagination run wild regarding the flavorings that you add (salsa, mayo, mustard, olives, etc).

Pasta sauce: even though I roast these vegetables whole, sometimes after cooking I will cut them into bite-sized pieces and toss them with pasta (1/2 c veggies per ¼ lb pasta), along with some roasted red peppers (1/4 c) and some toasted walnuts or pine nuts (2 T), and some grated cheese (to taste). By the way, the proportions are completely discretionary.

Salad: I make a lot of salads, and will present specific recipes for several during the summer, when they are a staple in my home. However, in the spring, I love to adorn a simple salad with spears of roasted asparagus, and sometimes scallions. Give it a try! Sometimes I’ll also roast a very thinly sliced carrot with the asparagus if I know that I’m going to make a salad; the orange slices are beautiful. Also, if you have used orange or grapefruit juice to roast the vegetables, consider adding some supremes of these fruits to your salad; it will really surprise and impress your guests.

Quiche: these roasted vegetables are terrific in a quiche if they’ve been cut up. Blind bake a standard 9” pie shell, place ¼ c grated cheese in the bottom after cooking, add 1 c of the chopped vegetables, add 3 to 4 beaten eggs (with 1 c milk, ½ t salt and about 15 grinds of pepper), and top with another ½ c grated cheese. Bake at 350° F for about 1 hour; test with a knife: if it comes out cleanly, the quiche is done. I will discuss quiches and frittatas in greater detail in a future column.

ROASTED STRAWBERRIES

Roasted strawberries? Who ever heard of such a thing? They are delicious! Since this is strawberry season, take advantage of the seasonal bounty!

Preheat oven to 450° F. Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss to distribute evenly. Turn the coated strawberries into a flat pan or baking dish, drizzle any remaining oil, vinegar/citrus and strawberry juice onto the berries, and roast for 15 minutes. Serve hot, warm or chilled with [vanilla] ice cream, cake, or as part of a cheese course. They are wonderful on shortcake, or with breakfast scones. Sometimes I add other “soft” fruits to the mix, like kiwi and bananas, for a roasted fruit salad/compote.

HARD-COOKED EGGS

I’ve already explained how to prepare hard-cooked eggs in this month’s Senses of Living® Holiday column, but now it’s time to present applications for them. Remember, eggs are rich in protein, riboflavin, folate, vitamins E and A, iron, phosphorus and zinc.

Roasted or Steamed Asparagus with chopped hard-cooked eggs: The traditional technique is to place a chopped hard-cooked egg in a very fine sieve, and use a curved tool to press the egg through the sieve onto the cooked asparagus. I refuse to dirty a sieve (which is a pain to clean), so I just chop the egg finely with a knife on a cutting board, and scatter it over a plate of cooked asparagus. Below I present a recipe for roasted asparagus; I’ll assume that you already know how to steam asparagus (and that you do NOT EVER boil it).

Traditional Egg Salad: egg salad is a classic. It’s delicious on toasted white bread or crusty peasant bread (preferably with lettuce and tomato), or on a bed of lettuce. For each coarsely chopped hard-cooked egg (perfect for one sandwich, or several crackers), add 1 t mayo, up to 1/8 t salt, about 5 grinds of black pepper, 1 t chopped capers or pickles (dill or sweet), or your favorite relish. Alternatively, replace the mayonnaise with olive oil. Another option is to add up to 1 t of your favorite mustard per egg.

Zesty Egg Salad: for each coarsely chopped hard-cooked egg (1/4 c), add ½ t vinegar (balsamic is particularly good), pepper (about 5 grinds) and salt (a dash, less than 1/8 t). Optionally, add finely chopped celery, chopped roasted red peppers, minced olives, minced capers or finely chopped onion, all to taste (about 1 T per egg).

Salade Niçoise: this is a Provençal classic. Arrange a bed of washed lettuce (preferably Romaine or leaf lettuce; red leaf lettuce is particularly attractive) on a platter with leaf bases in the center. Place several or all of the following ingredients in an attractive arrangement on the lettuce base: drained canned tuna (in water or olive/vegetable oil), quartered hard-cooked eggs, quartered or sliced tomatoes (ripe only; do not use if out of season), olives (niçoise, kalamata, or your favorite, as long as they are not canned), anchovies, roasted red peppers, finely sliced onion (red is best, but others will work), steamed green beans. Serve with a simple vinaigrette (3 parts extra virgin olive oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice) or aioli (mayonnaise with finely minced garlic added to taste, plus a small squeeze of lemon juice). Enjoy.

Sandwiches: One sliced, salted and peppered hard-cooked egg make an excellent addition to BLT sandwiches. Add one to a grilled or ungrilled cheese sandwich (with mustard, please!). Spread one on top of tuna salad in a sandwich (with mayonnaise, please). Make a pseudo-eggs benedict by placing one sliced, salted and peppered hard-cooked egg on top of a slice of Canadian bacon (or regular bacon, or ham) which is on top of a toasted English muffin (or plain old toasted bread) on a plate (topped with Hollandaise, please, or a cheese sauce, if you must); all of these can be accompanied by a simple green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

Deviled eggs: Deviled eggs can be intimidating if one follows recipes that insist that the filling must be piped. However, deviled eggs don’t have to be complicated. Slice the hard-cooked eggs in half, and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. Arrange the whites attractively on a platter. To the yolks, add the following in these proportions (per whole yolk, about 1 T): 1 to 1.5 t mayonnaise, up to ¼ t salt, 1 to 2 grinds black pepper (alternatively, try replacing the mayo with an equivalent amount of olive oil or toasted sesame oil or other flavorful oil). Optionally add (per whole yolk, about 1 T): 1/8 to ¼ t chile powder, ½ to 1 t relish or chopped pickles or capers, ½ to 1 t roasted red peppers, 1 t roasted tomato, ½ to 1 t chopped onion (any kind), ½ t mustard (any kind), ¼ t regular or smoked paprika, ½ to 1 t minced olives, ½ t caviar, 1 t chopped smoked salmon/gravlax, ½ to 1 t toasted nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds, smoked almonds, pine nuts), about ½ t flavorful cheese, or simply save these for garnishes on top of the basic devilled yolks (other garnishes include roasted or steamed asparagus tips, cilantro leaves, parsley leaves). Carefully and neatly spoon the well-blended yolk mixture into the cavities in each egg white half; garnish if taking that route. Serve chilled.

Angeled Eggs: These are almost identical to Deviled Eggs in flavor (“deviled” means to be intensely flavored), but not technique ... they are MUCH less labor intensive, so I suggest that they have been “angeled” (no such word, but who cares?). Cut the hard cooked eggs in half, but leave the yolks in place. Top each half with half of the “basic” ingredients: ½ t mayonnaise (or olive oil or toasted sesame seed oil), up to 1/8 t salt, and about 1 grind of black pepper. Then, just top with any of the additions suggested above for Deviled Eggs, and arrange attractively on a platter. No mixing, no blending, no piping and no filling. Just artfulness and deliciousness that are Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

Pseudo Huevos Rancheros: (this dish has a Mayan name, but mine is easier to pronounce) Sprinkle one chopped, salted and peppered hard cooked egg onto about ½ c Every Day Beans or Mashed Beans (any type, but Frijoles Refritos are the best … although using any of the three very thick bean soups above, even the Italian ones, are also tasty), and top with your favorite homemade or jarred salsa, and about 1 T grated cheese, for a delicious breakfast or brunch or lunch or dinner (no frying, so no extra fat!). Alternatively, roll the above mixture into a tortilla for a great burrito. Take it one step further by placing the burritos into a baking dish, side-by-side, top with additional salsa and grated cheese, and bake at 400° F for about 15 minutes for a simple version of enchiladas.

I would say that these recipes and their variations should keep you busy for at least the next month, when I’ll be back with some new Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® recipes. Happy Cooking! Happy Entertaining! Happy Eating!

 

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