Because I’ve always been intimidated by dried beans, I thought it might be a good idea to join the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. The company has a well-deserved reputation for high-quality products and offers a wide variety of heirloom beans, many of which cannot be found on supermarket shelves. So, when, after two years on their waiting list, they notified me a club membership was available, I quickly signed up for quarterly shipments of six packs of beans. To date, I’ve received three deliveries and have only cooked four packs of beans, the last of which inspired today’s post: Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew.
Having had some success with my three previous segues into bean cooking, I decided to attempt something more daring. Rather than following the package direction for cooking the beans, I used a recipe from Alison Roman that called for cooking the beans without soaking them, uncovered, at a bare simmer for one to two hours in a rather unorthodox broth. In addition, the bean-stew recipe from the Rancho Gordo newsletter called for a couple of brand-name ingredients as well as for Swiss chard that I didn’t have on hand. But being in a daring mood, I decided to make some substitutions.
Well, my intrepid foray into bean cooking hit a few snags along the way. My beans took close to five and a half hours to cook and still were a little more al dente than I would have preferred. Likewise, the supermarket’s replacement of baby kale for the fresh kale I ordered didn’t deliver the flavor or texture I had expected. On the brighter side of things, however, the cooking method of the beans yielded a mighty flavorful broth owing largely to its use of caramelized onions, garlic, and lemon along with dried chiles. Similarly, my substituting more dried porcini for the recipe’s brand-name seasoning blend as well as replacing the called for miso with tahini spiked with soy sauce gave the stew the woodsy and umami flavors I was looking for.
My Firefox browser’s homepage features a news-story service called “Pocket.” Throughout the day, it displays a selection of “curated” articles about a wide array of subjects in a 3×7 grid of colorful, eye-catching photos captioned with inviting summaries of the content to which they are linked.
“Meanwhile.” The word makes me cringe whenever I read it in a recipe. As you probably know, it typically implies multi-tasking—not one of my strengths. So when I read today’s recipe, one suggested by my better half, and “meanwhile” appeared twice, you can imagine how I felt.
Summer’s finally here and, at least in California, we already have some delicious tomatoes, specifically those of the cherry variety. Thanks to the kindness of our neighbors brave enough to venture out to our local farmers market, we were able to obtain a nice supply. More often than not, we enjoy these tomatoes raw, perhaps sprinkled with a little salt, drizzled with olive oil, and served along side slices of fresh mozzarella. Last night, however, I decided to so something a little different.
Sometimes what’s in our refrigerator dictates what’s for dinner—especially when it’s produce a little past its prime. This was the case last week when I found two red bell peppers on the decline as well as a large onion in a similar state. Not surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was pasta.
My friend, Italian-wine aficionado Ciro Pirone, recently posted a photo of pasta with zucchini on his informative Twitter feed @Vinofilosofia. It looked so appetizing that I asked him for the recipe. His response: “Senza ricetta…tutto ad occhio (No recipe, all by eye.) I sauté a little onion and then add thinly sliced zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook low, covered; halfway I add half a glass of water and let cook till they fall apart. Toss in the pasta and some parmigiano!”
Researching the recipe for this post made me think of the popular children’s game of telephone, where participants stand in line and the first person whispers a message to the second, who whispers what he heard to the next person in the line, and so on. The object of the game is to keep the message as close as possible to the original. At the end of the line, the final message is compared to the original and, as you’re probably aware, the differences between the two can be quite dramatic. Indeed, it’s the variation that provides the chief source of enjoyment.
Never before have I’ve been flooded with so many requests from friends and family to make a recipe that they saw in The New York Times. Heck, even The Times itself e-mailed me several times about the same dish. Although, I had already come across this cannellini bean and pasta recipe on my own when it first appeared, I didn’t find it all that exciting. I must admit, however, that upon reading the recipe’s backstory and why its developer chose to use a classic French beurre blanc, I became more interested.
When the publication of an intriguing New York Times Cookingrecipe for crisp gnocchi coincided serendipitously with my finding a forgotten shelf-stable package of those dumplings in the back of my cupboard, I had to make the dish.
Planning, preparing, and sharing dinner with my husband may be the quotidian pleasure I enjoy the most. It’s our time to look back on our day, discuss what’s on our mind, and give thanks for what we have. Unfortunately, fate occasionally steps in, snatches this delight away, and leaves me alone for dinner. In my youth, I may have handled this disappointment with a pre- and post-prandial libation, skipping the dinner between them. These days, however, being much older and a tad wiser, I may limit myself to one cocktail but shall never forego cooking and having at least a simple meal after it. I guess it’s my way of countering fortune and carrying on.