This week’s recipes include two bean recipes, one Greek and one North American, plus a salad, biscuits and an apple dessert—a simple supper or ample lunch; add a piece of salmon or a lamb chop to the menu with either of the bean recipes, and you’ve got a substantial dinner.
Fennel and Celery Salad
Fast Cheese and Onion Biscuits
Dried or canned beans
Dan Jason encourages people to grow their own beans, saying that home-grown dried beans are better in every way than either commercially dried or tinned ones. I’d like to try this next summer, but for now, it’s a choice of either commercially tinned or dried beans. I chose dried as I’m trying very hard to remove preservatives, to which I’ve developed an allergy. Dried beans are less expensive than canned.
Step one in beanery is to wash beans thoroughly, whether dried or tinned. Dried beans are packaged without reference to place of origin, or length of time dried. I’ve watched peasant farmers drying beans on the roadside, which in some countries is the only dry space available. So don’t assume beans are clean until the water runs clear. And you may have to pick out stones.
Canned beans usually contain preservative. Rinse these in a colander under lukewarm running tap water until no more froth appears. Dried beans often have tiny stones mixed in, and sometimes they too have been sprayed with preserving agents: put them in a big bowl of lukewarm water. Discard any that float to the top, and sift through them with your fingers to remove anything that’s not a bean.
Soak dried beans
Put clean dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water two inches above beans. Soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Home-grown recently dried beans will need as little as 4 hours.
Add salt and anything acidic except tomatoes after cooking, not during. Salt and vinegar toughen the skin of the beans, and slow the cooking process. If you use tinned beans in the recipes below, cut the cooking time in every case to 2 hours.
Test for doneness
Beans need to be thoroughly cooked, or they can cause indigestion and gas. Because the drying time of beans is always in question, cooking times can vary, as can the quantity of water needed. Test for doneness by removing a few beans on a wooden spoon and blowing on them sharply. When done, the skins will peel away from the beans just though the force of your breath. Also, removing the beans from the pot will probably cause one or more of the skins to break, once they are done.
You can make these either with or without pork.
Cook them either in a hot crock or in a covered pot in the oven set to 300 F. Cooking time is 7-8 hours. Remove the cover for the last two hours.
1 lb. dried navy beans (white small ovals)
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped finely
2 tsp. dried mustard
2 tbls. brown sugar
2 tbls. honey
2 tbls. tomato paste
5 cups water
For the meaty variety, add:
1 cup ketchup
1 lb. cooked, crumbled minced pork or pork sausage in a variety you like. This replaces salt pork in traditional recipes. You could also use finely chopped ham, a ham bone, or 6-8 slices of cooked crumbled bacon, but parboil the bacon first in 1 cup of water to get rid of the smoky bacon flavour. (I bought and cooked, and didn’t use, Johnsonville Italian Mild sausage meat because it tasted and smelled so strongly of anise.) Drain most of the fat off the pork.
I’m sorry about the ketchup, as I try to avoid prepared flavourings. I tried it without, but once the pork is in the beans, the mixture needs something to combat the meatiness. I tried several other options including balsamic vinegar and molasses, and didn’t like the result. For veggie beans, you don’t need the ketchup.
Cook covered in a hot crock or in the oven for 4 hours; check on water levels and add more if the beans are drying out. Cook for another 3-4 hours, removing the cover for the last two.
This is Elizabeth David’s recipe from Mediterranean Cooking. It is simple and surprisingly good. Using quality olive oil is a key to this recipe, as the flavour relies mainly on the oil—visit Crescendo to try out a few, and use the one you like best. Serve this with biscuits and the fennel salad below, perhaps on a plate of greens surrounded by halved cherry tomatoes in vinaigrette, with a few olives.
½ lb. dried baby lima beans
½ cup olive oil, best quality
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a bayleaf, crumbled
a sprig of thyme
1 tbls. tomato paste
juice of 1 lemon
red onion rings
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the lima beans overnight. Drain and rinse well.
Put the olive oil in a deep pot and heat; add the beans, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and tomato paste. Stir and sauté for 10 minutes.
Add boiling water to cover the beans by one inch.
Simmer the beans over low heat for 3 hours. The liquid will reduce to form a thick sauce. Add more water if necessary.
When the beans are done, remove and put into a serving dish. Sprinkle the juice of the lemon over the beans, add the raw onion rings, and add salt and pepper to taste. Surround with greens, cherry tomatoes and olives, and serve with biscuits or a loaf of honest bread, and salad.
Crunchy Celery and Fennel Salad
from Gourmet, April 2008, with thanks to AF for the suggestion.
2 bulbs fresh fennel
6 stalks of celery—the pale middle stalks
8 oz. Boccancino mozzarellas or goat cheese
½ tbls. lemon zest
2 tbls. fresh lemon juice
6 tbls. good quality fruity olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt or Hawaiian red sea salt (Crescendo again)
Wash the fennel, chop off the ferny tops, and slice the bulbs very finely; do the same with the celery using a crossways cut.
Crumble the cheese into the greens.
Mix the dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest. Sprinkle with salt.
Fast Cheese and Onion Biscuits
Fast because you don’t have to cut in the butter- it’s in the cream. Based on Cream Biscuits from The Gourmet Cookbook 2004.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease a baking sheet lightly with butter.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbls. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1¼ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup grated old strong cheddar cheese
2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1 inch lengths
Mix flour, baking powder and salt well in a large bowl.
Add cream and the grated cheese, and mix in, stirring until all the bits are together. You will have to use your hands to do this, which is fine because you’re going to turn the dough onto a board and knead it 6-8 times.
Flatten the dough with your hands so that it’s about 1½ inches thick. Use a wine glass or cookie cutter to make 8 rounds. Poke a piece of green onion vertically into the centre of each biscuit.
Bake 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.
This delicious dessert makes the most of the copious Okanagan apple harvest, replicating apple pie flavour which is traditional with beans, but
without the pastry. The sauce is good without the cream too, but the result less luxurious.
6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into sixths
juice of 1 blood orange or plain orange. If you can’t get a blood orange, use a regular orange and add 1 tbls. cranberry or pomegranite juice for colour.
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. orange zest. (Wash the orange thoroughly under hot water before zesting.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup water
1 cup of thick whipping cream
In a pot, mix the juice of the orange and lime with the water, honey, orange zest and vanilla. Bring to a boil then turn to simmer.
Add the peeled, cored and cut up apples. Bring to a boil again, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the apples start to break up. Don’t cook them so long they turn to mush—you want a degree of chunkiness in the cooked apple mixture. When they are soft and the sauce is thick, remove and cool. (I put this on some snow, with a cover on the bowl.)
While the apples cool, whip the cream until quite stiff.
Ladle spoonfuls of the apple sauce and the whipped cream in alternate layers, into wine glasses or glass dessert bowls. You can use any bowls, but glass ones make a pretty Fool.