Archive | March, 2011

Beans Bathe in the Mediterranean

19 Mar

Sunny California has been not so sunny lately.  This puts me in the mood for soup. Last week I had grand plans for said soup and devised many delicious scenarios in my head. But after a day of shopping for the house, which ended in getting caught in one of our many rainstorms as of late, I just wanted to be in my house, in my PJs, with a glass of wine. Luckily soup lends itself well to random ingredients harvested from the fridge and pantry.

I used Mark Bittman’s basic bean soup recipe (published earlier this month in the NYT Magazine) for proportion and cooking times (or rather, I tried to use his cooking times. I had some stubborn beans). And from there, I improvised.  There’s really no reason to stick to the recipe when it comes to soup unless you have everything and it sounds perfect to you as is.

My take on the basic bean soup included gigante beans (giant beans), a favorite of mine from our days in Cyprus, and some ingredients at home in the sunny Med: fennel, garlic, rosemary and spring onion. This is probably one of the easiest things you could ever make.

1 1/2 cups dried gigante beans (you could also use lima beans or any other kind of white bean, even chickpeas)

1 fennel bulb, chopped reserve the fronds for garnish)

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped and two spring onions (or one small leek), chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 spring fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

10 cups water

Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients but salt in a stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, cover and simmer until soft. This will take at least one hour and could take more depending on your beans. With the gigante beans,  cooking time was closer to two hours. Season and garnish with extra virgin olive oil and chopped fennel fronds.

p.s.  This makes a great lunch the next day. But if you reheat it on the stove and happen to have more beans than liquid left, you should probably not leave the kitchen to catch up on some work and lose track of time. Bean char is remarkably hard to get off a pot and has an incredible ability to permeate the entire house with its smell.

The Chickpea and Avocado Have a Garden Party

14 Mar

Chickpeas are tasty, low in calories and fat, high in protein and fiber and cheap. The main ingredient in hummus and many types of falafel, they’re also great in soups, salads and pasta. Cooking your own beans definitely yields quality results but if you don’t have time, canned chickpeas can also be good. If you can find jarred Annalisa brand chickpeas, even better.  The taste and texture are incredible for a pre-cooked bean. One easy quick way to enjoy chickpeas is in a simple salad.  Last weekend I was hungry and wanted something easy and fast for lunch. I threw together my jar of chickpeas with some ingredients I had around but you don’t have to follow this formula exactly. As with most salad recipes, this one is extremely flexible. My two recommendations: 1) add more acid (lemon juice, vinegar, etc) than oil and 2) let it marinate for at least 20-30 minutes. It’ll still be good if you don’t but it definitely helps the flavor.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad

1 jar or can chickpeas (I prefer Annalisa)

Juice of one lemon

Splash of olive oil (or more if you like)

1 avocado, cubed

Handful of dill, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

Dried chili (I used Aleppo)

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything in a bowl, stick it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes and you have a great lunch or salad to bring to a buffet or a picnic. You could also throw in some chopped, toasted nuts or seeds–pumpkin seeds would be good here.