Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Heirloom Beans

My basic philosophy on cooking beans

beans beans the musical fruit
the more you eat the more you toot
the more you  toot the happier you feel
beans beans they're good for your heart
so eat your beans at every meal

Beans are amazing. Dry, they store for years, add water they expand, cook them and if they’re an heirloom variety you’re in for a treat. Cayuga Farms, in upstate NY grows several varieties but my favorite is their black beans. They’re the most flavorful black beans I’ve ever eaten. Something about them tastes like they’ve been grown with a ham hock ~ great if you’re a vegetarian who craves the flavor of pork. My next favorite is from a company called Rancho Gordo. Located in Napa, Rancho Gordo works with 4 farms in Northern California and one in Fresno. Every year the crop is different. You might not be able to buy the same beans year after year but there’s always something new and amazing to try. One of my favorites is Yellow Indian Woman. Unfortunately last years’ crop failed so I had to try some new varieties, like the dense rich creamy Borloti or the amazing Runner Cannellini ~ like no white bean you’ve ever had!

I prefer dense, creamy beans that hold their shape as opposed to starchy beans that have a texture similar to potatoes. But whatever your preference, find a cooking method that works best for you. There are several different cooking methods, one calls for cooking in the soaking liquid some call for long and slow etc., etc.  I’m only going to talk about my method because it always works and as Rancho Gordo's Heirloom Bean cookbook says (in so many words), if your cooking method works, stick with it!

Since the heirloom beans I buy come in pound bags, I tend to either soak ½ a bag of beans or the full pound. The directions below are for either amount.

  1. Soak fresh beans in cold water (filtered, if possible) for at least 8 hours or overnight in a bowl that holds 4 times the volume of the beans.

Older beans may need to soak for up to 24 hours. One easy way to tell if they’re not quite ready, the skins will look all wrinkled and crinkly which means the inside hasn’t swelled enough to fill its skin.

If your beans are very dusty and dirty, rinse them thoroughly before soaking and pick through for any little stones. Be especially careful if you're cooking black beans or very small beans, as it is harder to see the stones.

  1. After soaking ~ I always rinse and drain the beans (discarding the soaking liquid) through a strainer using cold water. Soaking not only drastically reduces the cooking time but helps to remove the indigestible complex sugars (oligosaccharides) from the outer coating of the beans as well as removing tannins, phytic acid and tryspin inhibitors. It’s those pesky oligosaccharides that cause abdominal issues…

Soaking beans overnight also begins the germination process which promotes enzyme release which helps to breaks down those pesky sugars. 

  1. Next, put the beans into a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. I use Le Creusetcast iron is great as is any deep heavy pot which heats slowly and evenly. Your pot should hold two and a half times the amount of beans.
  1.  Cover with an inch of cold water.
  1. Bring to a Boil.
    I use a variation of the “Shock Method” to cook my beans. There are several different variations on cooking beans and depending on the hardness and age of the bean I may vary my method. For the fresher Heirloom beans I prefer  the following method.

  1. Remove from heat, drain in a colander and rinse in cold water (this process of boiling and then quickly stopping the cooking process is called “Shocking”)

    Older beans and some very hard or dense beans like aduki beans may need to be shocked a second or third time, especially if they yield a lot of surface scum.

  1. Return beans to the pot, cover a second time with an inch of cold water.
    Add an approximately 1” x 2” piece of Kombu (Kombu expands to at least double when soaked with water. I use the same amount of Kombu for anywhere from 1 cup to 1 pound of beans. I suppose if I were making 5# I’d add a 1x 3 inch piece.) I believe adding the Kombu also helps to reduce gas (though this isn’t documented, it adds minerals and Umami as well).

Kombu is a type of seaweed widely used in Japanese cooking (a variety of Kombu can also be found on the Atlantic coast). It is used in the making of dashi and other Japanese broths similar to the way we use chicken stock. I don’t know where I learned this but kombu not only adds what the Japanese call umami (the other taste after sweet, salty, sour and bitter), it adds minerals that you might feel you’ve washed away by soaking or shocking. In addition it adds flavor and I also believe aids in digestion thereby once again helping to eliminate any abdominal issues. Since adopting this method of adding kombu after shocking, I’ve never had gas and none of my guests has ever complained (of intestinal distress); in fact, some have actually commented on the lack thereof.  One very important reason I stick with my tried and true method!

  1. Bring beans and Kombu to a boil, cover leaving lid slightly ajar so it doesn’t boil over and reduce cooking to a slow simmer.
    You might need to add a cup or two of cold water during the cooking so keep an eye on your beans. If you notice too much scum forming, skim it off and add a little extra water if necessary.  Occasionally I’ve cooked the liquid down to almost nothing… I add an additional cup of water and continue to simmer the beans with any additional ingredients I choose to add, this will reconstitute all that thick delicious bean goo, aka “liquid gold”. You can always reduce the liquid again if you’ve added too much, so don’t worry.

I never cook my beans in anything other than water. I believe all seasoning interferes with the even cooking of the beans and toughens their skin. Fresh beans will yield their own delicious cooking liquor. About 30 minutes into the cooking process, you can add a bay leaf or other herbs if you like, but generally I add these towards the end.

Keep in mind this is just my basic cooking method. By all means experiment and follow different recipes and stick with the ones you like best.

  1. Continue to simmer until almost done to your liking ~ until you think they're almost done about 45 minutes (though it depends on the size and hardness so it’s a general guideline. Don’t worry if your beans take a lot longer to cook.) When the beans are about 15 minutes from being fully cooked, now you can begin to add seasonings: a pinch or 3 of cumin is amazing in all kinds of beans, add some salt—I like KosherCeltic Sea Salt or Fleur de Sel. (Just don’t use an expensive finishing salt!) Start with about 1.5 teaspoons and adjust to your taste, black pepper, chili peppers, cayenne,  sautéed carrots, onions, finely minced garlic, tomato, anything you think will compliment your beans
    (There should still be liquid left in the pot that doesn't necessarily cover the beans and it will thicken as it cools.)
  1. With the addition of seasoning and vegetables continue cooking the beans until they’re tender to your liking…another 15- 25 minutes. I never remove the seaweed (but you can do so at this point if you prefer) with one exception. When I’m cooking white beans I don’t always want to see bits of seaweed floating around. Before I add any seasoning to white beans I remove the seaweed. You have to check it and catch it before it starts to disintegrate. Otherwise I let it disintegrate and incorporate into the dish. It also helps to thicken the sauce.

    If you're going to serve the beans right away adjust the seasonings and add salt, pepper, more garlic, cumin etc. if necessary.

  1. Beans are delicious with meat served on the plate, with chicken or pork roast, with an egg on top, traditionally with rice, my favorite is with short grain brown rice, or just serve them on their own.

  1. If I’m going to freeze the beans and don’t know exactly how or when I want to use them I might freeze them without adding any salt or seasoning at this point. Beans tend to absorb a lot of flavors so even if you freeze when you go to use them you might find they need additional salt or pepper to brighten the flavor.  I never discard the cooking liquid unless I’m using the beans in a salad where I wouldn’t want to incorporate any of this liquid gold.

    Most Rancho Gordo beans cook up within an hour. I’ve navigated better websites but just keep clicking on “Products” until you see a link on the left for Heirloom Beans. It’s worth suffering the frustrating website.

You can also order direct from Cayuga Farms or find them at the Union Square Farmers Market in NYC. Have Fun & Enjoy!

Rancho Gordo
1924 Yajome Street
Napa, CA 94559

Cayuga Pure Organics
18 Banks Road
Brooktondale, NY 14817

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Public for Brunch

Had a fun Brunch at Public located at 210 Elizabeth Street.
The Menu is simple yet interesting, very tasty and the price is right. $22 will get you an entree, a cocktail, and coffee or tea. They don't take reservations; but if you're flexible and relaxed and get there around 11 you'll only wait about 25 minutes! They have a nice seating area where you can wait for your friends, it's very pleasant.

I ordered the Salad of herby (their spelling not mine) lentils, green beans, avocado, toasted pecans and baby gem with pomegranate molasses and avocado oil vinaigrette and poached eggs on top! This dish was fantastic! Next time though if everyone would agree I'd order it for the table without the eggs on top as it's so delicious it's a great starter to share. Then the Quinoa Hash browns are a must and if you're more than 2 people 2 orders are necessary. And purely by accident I found the delicious recipe for their Quinoa Hash browns on Chow!

My companions ordered the Tea-Smoked Salmon which is superb and the aroma makes your mouth water; grilled chorizo (probably skip this, it's ok but nothing spectacular), Grilled Venison Burger (the cassava chips are the perfect vehicle for the accompanying dipping sauces), and the Fry Up When the food came it didn't look like all that much but in the end we were all very satisfied that we actually skipped dessert. The only oddity was that the tea we ordered wasn't all that great so go for the coffee instead. In some areas the space is tight and I've heard dinner isn't as good but I would definitely go back here for Brunch.

Have Fun and Enjoy!

210 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pie Dough

For Thanksgiving my Apple Pies are always requested. Though I think I'm going to have to make a pumpkin pie for my brother since that's really his favorite.  Anyway, I couldn't remember which recipe was my favorite and I just needed a basic recipe. As I started looking, I came across the most wonderful quote in Baking with Julia. "If you could have only one pie dough in your repertoire (HEAVEN FORBID), it would have to be this one, the classic dough that earns blue ribbons at country fairs and stars at esteemed pastry shops." After reading that how could you not try this recipe????  You can find the original recipe here.

But the original recipe contains shortening and I'm not a fan of using shortening and I don't have lard on hand. I prefer all butter and as long as you don't blend all the butter in and leave large chunks and cook it well enough... your dough will be crisp and flaky even the next day. It also doesn't contain any sweetener which I use to help the dough get that golden color and agave is my choice as it's better for you and doesn't add as much sweetness as regular sugar so it can be used with a savory filling as well. In addition a touch of salt helps the flavor. Have you even made a pie or eaten a pie where the dough tastes sort of like cardboard?  Well there's several reasons, crappy tasteless flour, not enough fat, not enough water and a little agave and a pinch of salt can help change that.

The original recipe also calls for a little more fat than my recipe but it's a lot easier to use a full pound of butter rather than 17 ounces and I don't think that one ounce is critical here.

Every year my pies are a little different, but the dough remains very consistent. The dough requires following the recipe but the filling is flexible. Your pie can be more or less sweet and the apples can vary, the amount of spice can change you can add other spices. It's important to know your oven and know your pans.  I prefer metal or aluminum pans because they cook better and the aluminum is recyclable and don't require cleaning. I don't like glass because it adds time and takes too long for the crust to cook on the bottom so I don't recommend that.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you can, let me know how it works for you!

Making Apple Pie (the dough can be used for any pie)

Blend together with your fingers for about two minutes then put into a stand mixer with a paddle

1.5 lbs all purpose flour
1 lb unsalted Plugra butter cut into pieces should be like wax cold but not rock hard
(I like the Plugra because it's got less water in it that other brands but any unsalted brand will do)

Combine together the water, salt and sweetener

3/4 to 1 cup ice cold water (you might need a little more it's hard to know)
2 Tablespoons light agave (you can also use white sugar or maple syrup or honey if you like)
a pinch of salt (whatever fits between your fingers.

With the mixer on low speed add the water in a steady pour on the quick side (NOT too slowly or it will over mix the dough)
Your dough should be soft and come together cleaning the bowl with large pieces of butter visible.
If the dough it too dry add a touch more if too wet don't worry just add some flour when shaping it into a ball and rolling it out.

Do Not over-mix the dough. Anyway at this point you will have a lot of dough, enough for 4 Rustic pies or two covered pies with some left over scraps you can use for cut-outs.
Divide it into 4 pieces approx 10 -11 ounces each.
Form into a ball and flatten to about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. if you are going to use the same day.
Otherwise it will last 1 day in the refrigerator to use the following day or 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Defrost for 1 day in the fridge.

Using a 9-9 1/2 inch pie pan Roll the dough into  a circle that hangs over approx 2 inches around on all sides. Place back into the refrigerator.


Preheat the oven to 420 F

3-3 1/2 large Granny Smith apples about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds of apples
Peeled and cored and sliced into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices

Toss the apples with about 1 cup of loosely packed brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (fresh if you have, it can carefully be grated on a microplane) and the juice of 1 lemon. you should like the taste and can add some more sugar if it's not sweet enough.
The sugar will get liquidy and the apples will soften a bit and you should like the taste.

Then toss in a handfull of flour and toss all together.
Place the apples into the pie shell and add a tablespoon or two of the liquid.
Gather the dough and pleat it on top of the apples It will not cover the pie completely but leave an opening in the middle. Place a couple tablespoons of butter (in slices) on top cover with the optional crumb topping and bake.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teasp cinnaomon
mix together with your fingers until well blended.

Add to the top of your pie in the open space.
Bake at 420 for 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 400 rotate the pie, bake for another 15 minutes turning the pie in between until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling. You can stick a skewer into the apples to test that they're done to your liking.

Note:  If baking your pie the day before, do not refrigerate overnight. Leave the pies out in a cardboard box they can be warmed just before serving and will retain crispness. If refrigerated or stored in a plastic container they will become soggy.

Have fun and enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy First Day of Autumn

Happy Happy Autumn Everyone!

NY is wonderful in the fall, if you manage to notice the leaves turning in the city it's remarkable. But today was a day of Indian Summer on the last official day of summer. I wonder if we'll have any more before it gets cold before the snows come.

Hopefully I'll get it together and post some pics and more about the food and wine I've been eating and drinking and thinking about.

I didn't get too far with the bitters. I guess the timing wasn't right when I made them but I have been thinking cocktails. The Negroni is still my top favorite but an oldie the Gimlet has been brought to my attention so that's rolling around the noggin right now.

I took today to so some spring/ fall cleaning. Some painting, rug cleaning, floor washing, stocking up on some much needed vitamins just a day to myself. Now I'm going to read myself to sleep.

I'm trying to catch up and store away some energy for the coming season. Looks like it's going to be a busy one! And I still need that massage I keep promising myself!

Enjoy the days, make sure to notice the little bit of nature around us! Hope to see you all soon!

Have Fun & Enjoy!



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maison Kayser Boulangerie

Last week O called and insisted we meet at a new bakery, opened by a famous French pastry chef. It's a french pastry shop, on the Upper East side. So I met O to have a look--and a taste--at...Maison Kayser

Earlier today I’d received an email from Tasting Table about Maison Kayser and since they’ve already said it, I don't have to!
           "…The Upper East Side has gotten exactly what it needs: a very good bakery!"

I'd read about Maison Kayser on Eater so I was eager to visit. If my experience is any indication, this place is going to do very well. 
I took the 6 train to 77th Street, walked down 3rd Ave and I couldn't miss it. It was the only place with people milling about on the sidewalk, and there was O, faithfully standing outside, patiently waiting for me.

My first impression was resoundingly positive: all the pastries looked fresh and tempting. Okay, it's not all perfect! Not all the pastries are labeled so you have to ask what each one is if you don't recognize them. Part of the display has fake breads in it, but so what? The real breads are located further back. One great thing was the line that moved very quickly, the woman who helped us seemed to know most of what we asked and was friendly and helpful (even when we went back the second time)! During the time we were there fresh pastries came out and some breakfast items were replaced with new afternoon desserts. They weren't labeled so I'm not sure what they were.

After surveying the case we ordered a mille feuille pastry with praline filling, a chocolate chip cookie, a pistachio brioche, a plain croissant, a chocolate cream filled croissant pastry thing and the moistest muffin-like thing ever, a madeline that's more like a shallow muffin though not a muffin top ~ All for under $20!. Then staying true to our eating style (teeheehee!), we stepped outside, opened the bag and started pulling the croissant apart. It was very good, not quite Pierre Hermes from Paris but you can't go wrong here! Then a bite of the pistachio brioche which at the time was my least of the lot, but later in the day on my way home on the train.... it proved to be just what I needed and I'd go back for more. Continuing to taste, we each had a bite of this and a bite of that before heading down to Cafe Grumpy on 20th Street for some iced tea and a cappuccino.

I didn't take any photos of the food but it really wasn't necessary. If you live on the Upper East side you're going to go and check it out, if not, check it out when you're in the neighborhood…hey, maybe it’s worth a pilgrimage? The pastries look French because, well, that's what they are. They're not locavore, organic, or gluten free (though please don't quote me on that as you never know what they’ll introduce) but they are delicious and the best part is that they aren't too sweet. Hallelujah!!! And if you didn't already know it, they also have  a cafe that's destined to become a to “go-to” brunch spot! Now of course if you want amazing cream filled pastries on the Upper East side you're going to go to Lady M but they're way over on 78th just off Madison!!!!

So go get yourself some pastries!!!!

Have Fun & Enjoy!
1294 3rd Ave 74th St
New York, NY 10021
(212) 744-3100