This afternoon's plan was to share a recipe, as I've got one waiting in the wings, but that isn't happening. What is happening is me on the couch, with my laptop, phone, various remote controls, an ice pack and a hot water bottle (and unfortunately without those doughnuts up top, which were from another day.) I wish I could say I did something exciting to warrant an injury, but I can't. Instead, it's simply that I've gone and tweaked something in my back, and so here we are. 

As a positive, my couch session affords the opportunity to tell you a little about what I've been cooking and eating lately, aside from doughnuts, and the recipes that I've got bookmarked for next.

Indian Baked Beans | Tara O'Brady for the Globe and Mail

 We started October with the Indian Baked Beans I wrote about in the Globe and Mail. They are a mashup of chole (channa) masala and traditional baked beans. Besides on toast, I like them tucked in naan with a slice of grilled halloumi. Or, I top a bowlful with a pile of bitter greens (frisée is especially good), a squeeze of lime or lemon, fruity olive oil, and some flaky salt. 

I went on a falafel kick after that, wholly inspired by the recipes in the book Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). There are three recipes in the book; Jerusalem-style (for Itamar), Haifa-style (for Sarit), and Yemeni (for the family roots). I made the Haifa-style, also known as the one for purists, as it is a rather robust fritter full of cumin and coriander. Paired with a lemon-sharp tahini dressing, they were ideal. Bon Appétit featured the falafel in their last issue, along with two more — kuri squash and red pepper. I'm looking to have go a the squash, and I'm pretty into the spiced tahini from the same issue, as well as the feta and spring onion bouikos from the book. (Sara put her trademark spin on the falafel and created a baked variation.)

Over the weekend I made Martha Rose Shulman's Mexican Black Beans. Following Molly's advice, I soaked the beans longer than I usually would — a full 24 hours instead of overnight. I followed the recipe, with the addition of a minced chipotle in adobo at the start, and then half a fresh jalapeño (left whole) when the cilantro went in. I'd planned on following John Thorne's low and slow oven method for cooking the beans that Molly described, but due to an oversight in timing, I needed the oven for other things. So, I split the difference and cooked the beans on the stovetop, with the heat on low and only the faintest of burbles. They were done in about 3 hours, and while they were good that first day, I cannot tell you how much better they were the second. So, if you can, plan ahead and let them cool completely before stashing them in the fridge for a rest. Even once reheated, the broth from the beans was velvety, deeply flavoured and not at all murky, and the beans themselves still held together. Sean and I had them for lunch yesterday, with brown rice, avocados, pickled things, and sprouts.  

Spoonable meals are what I'm continuing for November. Yotam Ottolenghi's roasted pumpkin soup with harissa and crisp chickpeas looks rather enticing (scroll down once though the link), and the yam and peanut stew from Gena Hamshaw's new book Food52 Vegan (Ten Speed Press, 2105), is unreservedly great. And oh, if you're on Gena's site, her nut milk creamer is one to try. When I'm looking for extra soothing delivered via  mug, I make the Golden Milk from my own book and bulk up the liquid with some of her creamer.

And last but not least, the first cookbook my friends Nikole Herriott and Michael Graydon photographed is now out — the highly-anticipated Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by LA-based chef and restaurant owner Travis Lett (Chronicle Books, 2015). The photographs look as remarkable as would be expected from those two and I can't wait to get stuck in to the recipes. Congratulations, guys.

The kettle just clicked off, so I should go attend to that. Talk soon soon. xo

 

 

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It's a repeat declaration, but I'm crazy for baked beans. They needn't always be homemade; I am sufficiently happy with tinned. To me, their ketchup-y sweetness is camping trips and student days and breakfast at Debenhams's restaurant with Gigi when I was fourteen years old.

Lately, I've made room for another bean. Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans from Adam Perry Lang's Charred and Scruffed. Sean and I had them for yesterday's lunch, most likely one of the remaining few outside this year. 

bubbling bacon butter beans by tara o'brady

The bean business started the day before, only because it suited my schedule, not because of the recipe's need. In a big pot there was a fry of bacon, shallot and sage, and let's recognize that the smell of frying sage is the finest harbinger of later autumn. I use a lot of herbs year round, but lean most heavily on sage when on those pages towards the end of the calendar.

The large limas took a tumble into the mix with chicken stock, while chopped tomatoes were in a pan with oregano and bacon of their own; the latter cooked until their juice was mostly gone, until they crackled and concentrated. This intense slurry went in with the beans, then the whole went into the oven.

Perry Lang explains he prefers "butter beans" as a name over lima beans, since buttery best evokes the mashed-potato-fluff of the limas. Dried, they are discrete, flattish oblongs, which is to say they're the prototype for skipping stones. Cooked, limas swell impressively, to a shape like two plump offset rounds joined at the middle. They are firm, yet soothingly tender, and absorb flavours like nobody's business. Here they sop up the surrounding goodness, with a subtle nuttiness of their own.

I finished our beans with a stirring-through of chopped kale then drips of parsley, chive, chili and lemon made into a quick dressing. The fried egg was gilding the lily for certain, but an embellishment I'd also repeat.

What we ended up with was a deeply-satisfying bowlful, spoons at times mild and others with capricious sting. The herbs, dried and fresh, long-cooked and just-added, skimmed across each bite, plinking first then sinking into something deeper. I liked how the egg yolk further enriched the broth, the fat and acid made for each other, and the resonant savouriness of the combination.

bubbling bacon butter beans by tara o'brady

Charred and Scruffed  is a one to read, not only for grilling, not only for cooking meat, but for anyone interested in cooking, full stop. Perry Lang is keen on details, taking advantage of every opportunity to build flavour and texture. He encourages observation and the active participation in process. His techniques are innovative and, what's more, profoundly useful. I turn to it as often for reference as I do for recipes.

The garage roof is getting new shingles, and one of the roofers smokes those skinny cigarillos. On the back deck a day ago the wind was picking up for a storm, and carried the music from their radio and the scent of the tobacco.

Beans, bacon, eggs, singalong and smoke. I'd repeat that, too

 

BUBBLING BACON BUTTER BEANS (with kale and an egg)

Excerpted from Charred & Scruffed:  Bold new techniques for explosive flavor on and off the grill by Adam Perry Lang (Artisan Books, 2012).

Serves 6 to 8

Butter beans are just another name for lima beans, especially in the South. But I tend to think more sensually, and I have always felt that when they are cooked just right, these beans achieve a state of melty smoothness that is best described by the word "buttery." In the process of cooking, they throw off starch—just like Arborio rice does in risotto. The result is velvety creaminess. My recommendation for these beans is "Serve with anything," because they go with everything. But I could also say, "Serve with nothing else," because they are satisfying all by themselves and quite irresistible when you take them from the fire -- steaming, bubbling, and fragrant. — APL

INGREDIENTS

  •  3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  •  6 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
  •  ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  •  4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled, plus 1 tablespoon grated garlic (use a Microplane) or garlic mashed to paste
  •  1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  •  2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  •  4 cups cooked butter beans or two 15-ounce jars or cans butter beans, drained, rinsed if canned
  •  1 cup Pomi diced tomatoes (or other Tetra Pak tomatoes), drained
  •  1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  1/4 cup finely diced prosciutto fat (or additional bacon)
  •  Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •  White wine vinegar

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it sizzles when a piece of bacon is added. Add the rest of the bacon, the shallots, crushed garlic, and sage and cook, stirring, until the shallots are just translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the beans, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the grated garlic and oregano and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated and the tomatoes are crackling.

Stir the tomatoes into the bean mixture, along with the prosciutto fat. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the beans are velvety and creamy. If the beans start to look dry, add a splash of water.

Stir the parsley into the beans, adjust the acidity with white wine vinegar as necessary, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve, or keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Notes from me (Tara):

  • I cook the bacon alone for a few minutes before adding the shallot, so it takes on some colour. That's my preference when it comes to bacon, but might not be be yours.
  • I daresay they could be made vegetarian with vegetable broth instead of stock, and using fire-roasted tomatoes for the needed smokiness.  
  • To make the dish as pictured, coarsely chop a few handfuls stemmed Tuscan kale or baby kale and stir into the hot beans right before serving. Plunk a fried egg on top. As mentioned above, I use Perry Lang's herb dressing to season at the end.
  • Toast! How could I forget toast? Eat these on toast. 

 

 

 

 

 

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