July 29th, 2015

Summer on the Move

DSC_0121

Puttering in the garden. A dip in the pool. A day trip to the country. Stirring a pot of blackberry jam. Tomatoes, and more tomatoes, at every meal.

That’s the summer in my mind.

I’ve caught glimpses of that idyllic summer, even taken the occasional dip and day trip. For the most part, that slow carefree pace has eluded me. It’s not a complaint, don’t get me wrong. In the life of a food writer-educator-recovered caterer-grandmother, you gotta roll with whatever assignments come your way! From cooking camps to grandson care, life has been full.

But, here I am. And, I have hopes for a languid August. Beautiful produce is coming into the markets; look at that bounty. I haven’t stopped cooking. Here are a few summer dishes I’ve enjoyed.

DSC_0177

ROASTED TOMATO-PESTO FRITTATA

Have your heard of Juliet tomatoes? They are a paste variety that look like mini-romas. I really like them for certain applications. Thick sauces. Salsa. Ketchup. And, they slow-roast into meaty ovals of sweetness.

I used them, in their slow roasted state, to make this frittata. The process started on the stovetop in my cast iron skillet, and finished in the oven.

A frittata is a fast and versatile recipe to have in your repertoire. You can find numerous variations here. I served this for an impromptu brunch for friends–it couldn’t have been simpler, and more satisfying.

DSC_0173

1 tablespoon butter
6 eggs
1 cup cream (you may substitute half-and-half or whole milk if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 pound roma or paste tomatoes, roasted
1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 9 inch cast iron (or oven safe) skillet with butter.
Beat eggs, cream, salt and black pepper together until no traces of yolk can be seen.
Place skillet over medium heat.
Pour in the egg mixture.
Add the tomatoes, dollops of pesto and shredded cheese. Cook on the stovetop for about 5-7 minutes.
Place the skillet into the oven to finish—about 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6

DSC_0133

SPICY SUMMER-YELLOW VEGETABLE SALAD

One of the teen cooking camps I taught at the food bank was all about “Street Eats.” We explored cuisines around the world, from the standpoint of what you’d buy from a street vendor, pushcart, food truck: some times the most delicious dishes ever! One day, we made Mexican fare—grilled fish tacos, pickled cabbage, churros dusted with cinnamon sugar, and elotes—those spectacular ears of grilled corn slathered with lime-and-chili spiked mayo.

We had a few extra charred ears which I brought home. They soon wound up in this salad that celebrates summer yellows: wax beans, sweet bell pepper, onion, sungold tomatoes and crookneck squash. I blanched the beans (fresh picked from a friend’s garden!) in water seasoned with garlic and bay leaf. I sauteed the peppers, onion and squash. I scraped the grilled and slathered kernels off the cob, and mixed the whole she-bang together. Finished with a scatter of sungolds, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Mercy. Summer in a bowl. It was so so good.

DSC_0135

1/2 pound yellow wax beans, trimmed
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow squash, cut into julienne strips
1 golden bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 small onion, sliced
2 ears of corn, cooked: grilled, oven roasted, boiled
1 cup sungold tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
Elote Dressing (recipe below)

Fill a skillet with water and place over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cook the wax beans ( a few at a time–do not crowd) until tender-crisp–about 4 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Empty the skillet, dry it, and place over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the squash, peppers and onions. Saute for about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, place the wax beans and sauteed vegetables. Scrape the corn kernels into the bowl. Add the sungold tomatoes, cilantro, and Elote dressing. Toss well and serve.

Serves 2-4

“Elote” Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4-1/3 teaspoon cayenne
lime juice from 1 lime
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup grated cotija or parmesan cheese

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined.
Makes a scant cup.

DSC_0157

MANGO BLUEBERRY LIME YOGURT PARFAIT

What do you do when you have a ripe mango, a pint of blueberries, a container of plain Greek yogurt and a lime? This is the answer. Easy-Pretty-Tasty-Healthy.

DSC_0138

This one is barely a recipe.

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of your favorite honey
1 lime—juice and zest
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and stemmed
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced

Place the yogurt into a bowl. Add lime juice, zest and honey. Stir until well combined. Taste and adjust for sweetness, if desired.

Set up 4 glasses (or whatever serving vessels you’d prefer.) Place a dollop of yoghurt in the bottom of each. Follow with a handful of berries, a few slices of mango, and repeat the layering until the glass is full. Garnish with basil or mint leaves and serve.

DSC_0166

Posted in Breakfast, Desserts, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 14 Comments »




August 31st, 2014

Warm Eggplant-Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins

DSC_0024

It’s the last day of August, and my summer garden is looking ragged. The ongoing battle with Johnson grass is over and I’ve surrendered: a thick border now entrenched along the fence row, and tall clumps reside undisturbed among the tomatoes and wax beans.

Arugula, long since bolted, has reseeded, trying to bully its way up through the weeds. One by one flourishing squashes have collapsed, victims of those dreaded borers. Two large tomato plants yellowed and died, seemingly overnight, the reason unknown.

DSC_0002

Nonetheless, my visits remain fruitful and full of wonder. My stand of Mexican sunflowers continues to put out astonishing blooms in copper, bronze, and blazing yellow, even when their primary heads are bare, petals dropped, seeds picked clean by feasting goldfinches.

The slow-growing Italian roasting peppers are showing streaks of bright red, their fiery signal for harvest.

A few heavy rains have inspired the tomatoes to produce again, although not in the gargantuan sizes of July, and their skins are a bit tougher.

DSC_0009

And my lone eggplant, which weathered an early onslaught of flea beetles, is forming plump white and purple streaked fruit. Sweaty, dusty, but excited, I return home with my pouch filled with just-picked things for dinner.

What to make?

Today’s recipe comes from my cookbook: Caroline’s Warm Eggplant Salad. It uses my garden spoils so well! I’ve embellished only slightly–having found a genius idea in the Farmer’s Market issue of Cooking Light (June 2014).

Chef Deborah Madison shared a simple beefsteak tomato salad with fried tomato skins. It’s those fried skins that caught my attention. They are easy to prepare, and add a welcome bite as a garnish-a clever use for these late summer-tough skinned “maters.”

DSC_0006

After you plunge your tomatoes in boiling water, quickly cooling them in an icy bath, you slip off the skins. Your tomatoes are ready to cube for the salad. Dab the skins dry and pan fry them in a small amount of oil. They’ll become like thin glassy pieces of cellophane, crisp–and when drained and salted–almost “bacony.”

DSC_0018

Even without the fried skins, the salad is simply delicious. A splash of sherry vinegar (a nice change-up from balsamic or red wine,) minced garlic and salt coax out the sumptuous tomato juices. Chunks of roasted eggplant gain a rich brown crisp, and soft sweet flesh.

If you’d prefer this to be vegan, omit the fresh mozzarella. I like the extra meatiness the cheese brings. It turns the salad into a one-dish meal, especially if you serve it with crusty bread to mop up all those lush juices.

I haven’t tired of the tomatoes—not yet. In fact, knowing that their time is waning makes me savor them all the more. The seasonal shift is soon to come.

DSC_0022

WARM EGGPLANT-TOMATO SALAD WITH FRIED TOMATO SKINS
adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and black pepper to season eggplant
5 ripe heirloom tomatoes, skins removed* and cubed
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

*Recipe to follow

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the cubed eggplant with the olive oil in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Spread the eggplant out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes. Turn the eggplant over and bake until soft, with browned edges, about 12 minutes longer.

While the eggplant is cooking, toss the cubed tomatoes, minced garlic, and chopped basil together in a large salad bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss gently to blend.

Allow the eggplant to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add warm eggplant to the tomato mixture and toss. Let this sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Right before serving, fold in the diced fresh mozzarella. Garnish with fried tomato skins and serve.

Serves 6

DSC_0015

FRIED TOMATO SKINS
from Deborah Madison for Cooking Light

5 heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher or sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes; discard cores. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Plunge tomatoes into ice water; drain. Peel; arrange skins flat on a jelly-roll pan. Cut peeled tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of skins to oil; cook 2 minutes or until crisp, turning occasionally. Drain on a paper towel; repeat procedure with remaining skins. Discard oil in pan. Sprinkle skins with 1/8 teaspoon salt.

DSC_0029

Posted in Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 21 Comments »




July 21st, 2013

Tomato Towers

DSC_0038

We are blissfully in the thick, luscious thick of tomato season in Tennessee.

At the farmers’ market, I am agog at the array of bushel baskets, heaped with Bradleys and Brandywines, Lemon Boys and Purple Cherokees. I’m tempted by Mortgage Lifters, if for nothing but cunning name alone, and those crazy striped Green Zebras that don’t taste green at all.

Have you ever tried the red and yellow variegated ones, sometimes called Candystripers? How about those delicate peach tomatoes with the fuzzy skins?

DSC_0010

It makes me not mind the thick heat around here—as long as I can include these gorgeous heirlooms in our summertime dining.

So many tomatoes, so many ways to enjoy them, and a few glorious weeks to indulge in the bounty. Salsas, soups, panzanellas, pastas, deep dish pies and napoleons…like you, I’m ever on the lookout for another tomato-centric recipe.

DSC_0033

Lately I’ve been in a building mode, constructions! inspired by this stack I found on Cooking Light’s website.

Artful towers of tomatoes get vitality (and height!) from myriad ingredients sandwiched between their slices. These structures require almost no cooking: a few strips of bacon fried crisp in the skillet, a half cup of balsamic vinegar reduced in a pot to a syrup.

That minimal stovetop time is a real boon in summer. Eaten with a fork and knife, the tomato towers have a meatiness that satisfies greedy appetites, while being cool and refreshing. They can be elegant. They are fun.

DSC_0035-001

I’ve taken two different approaches in assembling my towers. The first is a natural–a vertical caprese, brandishing the colors of the Italian flag in tomato-fresh mozzarella-basil. Layer in a sliver of red onion, to give a little bite. I like to use balsamic vinegar reduction–the syrup is deeply sweet-tart and makes beautiful striping over the stack and plate. Use your best olive oil; this is what is was made for!

Going forward, you can get creative; change it up. Maybe add a layer of cucumber or zucchini. Substitute the mozzarella with a slather of ricotta or mascapone. Tuck in a ripple of prosciutto. No basil on hand? Try oregano or thyme.

Tower Two takes a Southern stance, layering elements of my favorite sandwich, the BLT, (actually, the BLTCA: bacon-lettuce-tomato-cheddar-avocado!) under a pour of chive-laced buttermilk dressing. How can you go wrong with that? It could only be improved with some grilled corn, cut off the cob, and strewn over the stack.

Remember–don’t refrigerate tomatoes! Chilling them changes their structure and makes them mealy.

DSC_0037

TUSCAN TOWERS
a variety of ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 ” slices
a few cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, for garnishing
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4″ inch rounds
handful of fresh basil leaves
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup balsamic syrup
1/4 cup favorite extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
sea salt

Start with large flat tomato slices as your foundation. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a basil leaf (or two) on top, then a little bit of red onion. Cover each with a piece of mozzarella. Dot with good olive oil and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Repeat the layering, topping with cherry or grape tomato halves and more basil. Secure with a long toothpick or short skewer. Pour olive oil over each tower, along with a zig-zag of balsamic syrup. Serve.

DSC_0039

DIXIE TOWERS
a variety of ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2″ slices
a few cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, for garnishing
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp
1/2 avocado, sliced
4-6 slices sharp white cheddar (you may crumble or shred the cheese)
buttermilk dressing (recipe below)
salt and black pepper

Start with a large flat tomato slice as your foundation. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a slice or two of avocado, followed by bacon strip and cheddar. Spoon a little buttermilk dressing over the top. Repeat layers, spooning a generous amount of buttermilk dressing. Secure with a long toothpick or short skewer. Make as many towers as you would like, allowing one per person. Pass a few grinds of black pepper over the lot and serve.

BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 heaping tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Pour buttermilk into a non-reactive bowl. Stir in lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit and thicken for ten minutes. If it clabbers, don’t worry. It will become smooth again when stirred or whisked.

Add granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and chives. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate. The dressing will continue to thicken and its tangy flavors will develop. (If you want it thicker, (and richer) whisk in a dollop or two of mayo. Whoa.

Makes one cup.

DSC_0034

DSC_0036

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables | 23 Comments »




September 6th, 2012

Silken Tomato Soup

DSC_0028

Sungolds, Black Cherokees, Sweet Millions: these three varieties of cherry tomatoes showed up unannounced in my garden. Volunteers!

Make no mistake, I’ve been thrilled with their appearance, and their profusion of tangy-sweet yellow, orange, and dark red-green fruit.
(no doubt my most successful crop!)

When we haven’t been popping them into our mouths for snacks, I’ve been finding other ways to use them.

Easy–I’ve cut them in half and strewn them over salad greens.

Crafty–I’ve hollowed them out, and piped pesto cream cheese into little tomato cups. (Makes nice, kinda fancy hors d’oeuvres.)

A little different– I slow-cooked a few handfuls with a dab of honey into tomato jam. (tasty with cured meats on a sandwich)

DSC_0004

But now, faced with an overwhelming number of them
(don’t they look like candy?)
I’ve surrendered.

The best thing, I decided, would be to toss them into a big pot and turn them into soup.

I know–tomato soup. How mundane is that?

DSC_0009

But, wait. Let me tell you, this one surprised me. The taste is so pure, so bright and intensely tomato.
It reveals what a true summer tomato soup can be.

Cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt-n-pepper, a few sprigs of thyme:
There are so few ingredients that it is barely a recipe. More of a technique, really.

The first part is laissez-faire.

DSC_0011

Once you toss your little truckload into the soup pot, let it simmer, covered, for thirty minutes, or so. You can practically forget the pot while you tend to other things.

Meanwhile, all the little globes collapse and release their juices.

DSC_0015

The second part is where the magic happens: with the food mill.

I discovered that milling twice—once with the coarse grinding disc, once with the fine sieve—is the key to making silken full-bodied soup.

DSC_0017

The first pass really crushes the pulp, and removes some of the peel, and few of the seeds.

DSC_0019

It’s the second pass through the mill that extracts all the remaining juices, and that intense flavor. I’ve read that the most acidic part of the tomato (which gives its sweetness dimension) is in the gel that surrounds the seeds. In this second pass, you get that essence, and leave the seeds behind.

There’s no added water. There’s no cream, and yet it seems creamy.
It’s All Tomato.

Dress it up, like I have here, with a scoop of arborio rice and diced roasted veggies–a late summer meal in a bowl.
Or enjoy it for its acid-sweet goodness alone…
Or with a grilled cheese?

DSC_0022

SILKEN TOMATO SOUP
6 pints assorted Cherry Tomatoes, washed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons fresh Thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Black Pepper

Food Mill

Place all the ingredients into a large heavy duty soup pot on medium heat.
Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Occasionally stir, mashing the tomatoes to release their juices.

Remove from heat.

Set food mill fitted with coarse grinder over a 4 qt. bowl. Run all of cooked tomatoes and juices through it. The mixture will contain a fair amount of seeds and peels. Discard peels and seeds that remain in the mill.

Rinse off the food mill and fit it with a fine grinder. Place it back over the soup pot and churn the tomato mixture through the it.
This time, the soup will be velvet smooth, with scant seeds.

Warm the soup, tasting and adjusting for salt. Makes 4-6 servings.

Serve simply by itself, or make it heartier with the following enhancements:

ENHANCEMENTS

Diced Roasted Summer Squashes

Sticky Rice–spoon in a mound of arborio, or another favorite short grain rice

Fruity Olive Oil–a zigzag pour over the top

Shredded White Cheddar

Pesto

DSC_0023

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian Dishes | 22 Comments »




October 12th, 2011

Butternut Squash-Heirloom Bean Chili, olive oil cornbread

DSC_0029

DSC_0030

How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly, I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has fallen in the horse’s mane.

I found this Robert Bly poem, “Watering the Horse” tucked in the back of a mottled recipe notebook, long untouched. It was on a sheet of mimeographed paper, that odd purplish ink, the public school printing method of long ago.

I still love this poem today, perhaps more than when I was a teen–the notion of ambition having altered with experience. At the other end of child-rearing and career building, I call it into question: what I embrace; what I give up; what has meaning.

And then I cook.

One clear ambition, I tell myself, is that each autumn, I seek out alternative ways to prepare butternut squash.

You may recall, in seasons past, that we’ve cooked up Butternut Lasagna layered with leek bechamel, swiss chard-butternut gratin, flan-like timbales with walnut pesto, and savory bread pudding , served with vegetable veloute, perfect for the holiday dinner table.

Each recipe, a tasty vehicle for this versatile gourd.

Now, that ambition could run wild: this being the first year that I tried my hand at growing our favored winter squash—and harvested a healthy basketful.

DSC_0004

All sizes and shapes!

DSC_0005

This morning, a cushy blanket of fog cloaked our neighborhood. Emerging colors of yellow, gold and burgundy fairly glowed as the fog gave way to an overcast day. I love how brilliant colors come forward in that kind of dull, diffuse light.

The air was cool, too. Chili weather! And then, it occurred to me that the meaty nature of the orange-hued squash would work well in a vegetarian chili.

DSC_0009

I decided to give it a go. With Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry, assorted peppers: poblano, banana, jalapenos along with a few stray tomatoes from the garden, garlic, onions, and spices, I had the foundation for a hearty batch.

DSC_0013

While the beans began their long simmer, I roasted the diced butternut pieces along with the poblanos. I let them get a little caramel crust, and set them aside to cool. Not wanting the squash to break down in the chili, I would add the chunks towards the end of the cooking cycle, to meld with the “pot liquor” the sauce made by the beans as they cook. I turned my attention to bread–cornbread.

DSC_0014

My go-to recipe uses 12 tablespoons of melted butter–an ingredient I lacked. My friend Maggie has a skillet cornbread recipe that uses canola oil–another ingredient missing at the moment in my pantry. What if I made the cornbread with olive oil?

DSC_0018

What if, indeed!

I hand whisked the batter. It came together quickly-easily, and went into the cast iron skillet, into the oven.

It baked into a firm but tender crumb, the olive oil imparting depth, an Old World sense to a New World dish.

DSC_0025

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rancho Gordo Beans (used in this recipe: “Good Mother Stallards” but other beans would also be delicious) are remarkable for their richness. Meaty beans make mighty good chili.

The butternuts proved their mettle in the mix, too. Slightly sweet, they latched on to the layers of peppery heat. A little allspice and cumin, perfect with this squash, added intrigue. It’s a worthy veggie chili, complex with minimal ingredients, hearty, full-bodied, aand satisfying on a gray autumn day.

And, not at all ambitious to make.

DSC_0002

DSC_0006

BUTTERNUT SQUASH-HEIRLOOM BEAN CHILI
3 cups chopped (large dice) Butternut Squash (I used 2 small butternuts for this)
1 large or 2 medium Poblano Peppers
Olive Oil
1 heaping cup of dry Beans ( I used Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallards. But, use a good bean of your choice. This recipe would work with black beans, too.)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 Banana Peppers, chopped
1 Jalapeno, sliced thin
Salt
Black Pepper
2 t. Allspice
1 t. Cumin

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread diced butternut squash and halved poblano peppers on a baking sheet pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes. The squash will roast and caramelize. Pepper skins will blister—peel, chop and set aside separately.

In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute diced onion, banana peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is translucent. Add dry beans, and stir until they are coated with the olive oil-onion mix. Pour in water, covering the beans by at least 2 inches. Add roasted poblano pieces.

Simmer until beans are tender ( at least 2 hours), adding more liquid as necessary. When the beans are “soupy” and yield tender flesh, add the roasted butternut. Season with allspice and cumin. Taste for salt, and spicy heat.

Serve alone, or over rice. Dollop with sour cream, garnish with green onion, if you like. Enjoy with cornbread.

DSC_0031

OLIVE OIL CORNBREAD

1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
2 Eggs
12 T. Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup corn kernels (optional)
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs, oil, and milk together lightly, then beat into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in corn kernels, shredded white cheddar.
Pour into an oiled cast-iron skillet (or bread pan.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness. Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve right out of the skillet.

DSC_0023

DSC_0008

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 30 Comments »




December 29th, 2009

Christmas-Chestnut Inspiration, with limas?

2 limas hero

Here’s a tale of food blogging interconnections….

I have been reading a most splendid foodblog written by a British woman living in Rome; please go meet rachel of rachel eats. Several of her December posts featured Chestnuts in marvelous incarnations–pâte, soup, cake. Both her pictures and prose really got me longing for them, in some fashion. Alas, with other holiday goings-on, I never got ’round to chestnut hunting.

But I did read the small print on my brand new bag of Christmas Lima Beans from Rancho Gordo, where it mentioned that they were also called Chestnut Limas, due to their exquisite chestnutlike flavor. For those of you who may not know about Rancho Gordo, these are the guys growing all manner and form of wondrous heirloom beans, sought out by fine chefs across the country. And, they make it pretty darn easy for you to get them, too. (a favored stocking stuffer in this household…)

rancho gordo lady

I discovered them through another blogger,
claudia of the esteemed cookeatFRET, through whom, I believe, is also how I found rachel.

So here we come full circle. Rancho Gordo’s Christmas Limas, made into this simple stewy-soup influenced by two foodbloggers, satisfied my two desires: I got to cook up these festive heirlooms during festive times, and I got to have a tasty hint of chestnut.

Trust me, these full-bodied, creamy limas will dispel any unpleasant notions and ill childhood memories of the others, (those awful starchbomb Fordhooks that make me shudder and quease now as I type.)

The pity that Christmas Limas do not retain their gorgeous color and mottling as they cook is replaced by the pleasure of their rich flavor.
Indeed, they have a layer of chestnuttiness…..

You could make this recipe more elaborate, with the addition of something meaty, like mushrooms, pancetta, or spicy chorizo—but there is enough serious-goodness inherent in this already very meaty bean. Keeping it simple best showcases that.

Thanks and shoutouts to foodblogging sisters rachel and claudia for sharing great information and sparking inspiration.

soaking limas

Christmas (Chestnut) Lima Bean Soup
2 T. Olive Oil
1 large Onion, diced
3 fat cloves of Garlic, minced
1 piece of red (or orange) sweet bell pepper, small dice
Sea Salt (about 1 t.)
Black Pepper (scattering of cracked )
Red Pepper Flakes almost 1/4 t.–could be as little as a pinch
1 cup Christmas Lima Beans
4 cups vegetable stock, or water, or combination

The night before: place one cup limas into a pot and cover with filtered water. Limas will more than double in size. Drain, but reserve soaking liquid.

comparison

The day of:
In a deep saucepot, saute onions, pepper, and garlic in olive oil until the onions are translucent, with edges beginning to brown. Season with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir in drained limas, then add reserved liquid, then stock/water. Stir well and bring to just under a boil—a rolling simmer. Let this cook along uncovered for about two hours, stirring occasionally. The limas will soften, yield creaminess, giving this soup a thick velvet texture. As the beans cook, the liquid can get very thick. But, it’s so forgiving; if you want it thinner, just stir in some more water.

Makes 4 servings.

sauteeing 1

Simple elements form the base: garlic, onion, sweet pepper. This is what I had on hand. A little chopped leek or celery would be nice, if you’ve got it.

sauteeing 2

Letting the beans roll around in the saute before adding liquid is a very good idea.

chestnut lima soup

I am crazy about this color.
For a heartier meal, serve over rice, garnish with arugula.

closeup red

I like to place a clump of arugula on top of the rice, and then spoon the Christmas Limas over—collapsing the greens. Delicious.

Posted in Recipes, Soups/Stews, Vegan | 7 Comments »




December 16th, 2008

Welcome Volunteer

This celadon beauty is an heirloom pumpkin—a jarrahdale blue.
It grew at the end of a long and persistent vine that originated in the flower bed off my urban front porch and tendriled its way through the yard to the street. I’d like to claim that I had something to with it, but other than allowing last year’s pumpkins to rot and slump into that flower bed, I did not. My prized baby blue is a true volunteer.

Hurray for volunteers!

It’s in that spirit that this blog is created:
A place to share stories, tips, and recipes about foods that I’m cooking at the moment, or finding at a farmer’s market, in a friends garden, my front yard, or teaching about in a class. For all our obsession on food in our culture—the fast, the slow, the exotic, the celebrated—I find that focusing on what we can make simply, with fresh ingredients, can best nourish body and spirit.

Good Food Matters.

Posted in Articles | 17 Comments »