Beans & Rice

This was a kitchen happening–not really a recipe with given quantities of anything–just because I wanted rice and beans. Everything is flexible, depending on your taste and how many servings you need. (I wanted to have some extra to put in the freezer for quick side to grilled meat.)

It’s SO hot here that cooking just isn’t very appealing even with air conditioning on. One of my solutions is to eat things can be prepared without turning on the stove. I did this in the Krups multi-function pot that I love and use in so many different ways. (Tomorrow I’ll be using it to make tuna confit since my supermarket had lovely tuna medallions on a really special sale. That will keep me in tuna for my summer salads for a bit.)

Black Beans & Rice with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • rice (about 1 cup)
  • olive oil (healthy dollop)
  • onions, chopped (lots)
  • black beans
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • canned diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • red pepper flakes (dash)
  • pimenton (dash)
  • Mexican oregano (good healthy pinch)
  • pork chorizo (about 1/2- to 3/4-pound fresh)
  • water or extra tomato juice/V8 juice as needed for the rice

Preparation

  • Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent and starting to soften
  • Add red pepper flakes, pimenton, oregano, salt and pepper and sauté until the spices are aromatic
  • Add chorizo and sauté until it starts to turn opaque
  • Add canned tomatoes
  • Add rice and black beans (canned or frozen)
  • cook until rice is tender

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It’s hot and humid here, and I was being particularly lazy, despite my desire for food so I did this in the multifunction pot. I did make this as easy as possible–frozen chopped onions, canned tomatoes, and frozen black beans (these from 13 Foods) but Stahlbush Island Farms also has black beans and brown rice that make a good starting place for this. The result with frozen legumes is much better than with canned, though those will work as well.

A note on the oregano–it was Mexican oregano which is definitely not the same as Greek or Turkish oregano. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, then I would substitute thyme or cilantro. I can’t get my head around the Greek or Italian with this mix of flavors.  The pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) adds a bit of smoky flavor.

I first measured my rice so that I’d know how much liquid needed to be added to have it cook to proper doneness. Everything else was added (as indicated) by the dash, dollop, or pinch.

The chorizo that I used was fresh, made in-store from my Harris-Teeter supermarket, and not in casings so all I had to do was break it up into the pot to sauté.  Couldn’t get any easier. If you can’t find “loose” then just remove from the casing, or put the whole sausages in to make this a meat-centric dish.

Everything was sautéed using the rice cooker setting with the lid open. Quite quick and easy although it does require a little attention. Once the tomatoes (with juice) and beans were added, with just a bit of spicy V8 juice to give enough liquid to cook the rice, the lid was closed, and I went away to do something else–until my meal was done. The caveat here is that you do need to be sure that the amount of liquid is appropriate for cooking the rice–too much and you’ll have “blown out”, mushy rice; too little and it will still be crunchy–you’ll need to add more liquid and continue to cook until tender.

Quantities and totally flexible–maybe you like more rice than beans–or the other way round. I love lots of onions, but if you don’t, then just don’t use many.  The proportion of chorizo depends on how meat hungry you are–it can vary too, from almost a seasoning to a lot. Next time I make this I will add just a bit more than I used this time, although it was quite good this way.

A son gôut!

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Beef and barley stew redux

The snow happened, and melted quite rapidly but with the temperature only reaching into the mid 40s, it’s still a good day for beef and barley stew. Just from browning the meat and the vegetables (including the garlic, tomato paste, and the Vegemite), it already smells like comfort food. I did opt to be lazy and finish cooking the stew in the oven (275ºF).

Now I’ve experienced the jar of Vegemite (Marmite wasn’t available at my local supermarket) although I’ve not gotten to the point of trying it spread on toast. I like the aroma from the jar–but that really didn’t come as any surprise because I already knew I liked the aroma of yeast-y thing: certain champagnes, bread dough….

The prep for this is really easy–most of the time spent browning the meat and vegetables but the hands-on work is still minimal, especially since I bought boneless short ribs, so chunking them up was quick and easy. To my dismay, I did find that I hadn’t any whole canned tomatoes–only diced, so diced was what I used.  I did “cheat” and use frozen chopped onions (probably my favorite “convenience” thing except for mirepoix (homemade and put in the freezer), and the kale will be from a bag as well. For now,  it’s time to wait, and anticipate!

Since I’m cooking this for only one person–and this half recipe should be two quite generous servings, I’m going to add the kale (frozen) to only what I’m going to eat today. Whether I decide to freeze half or simply reheat in a couple days, I’ll add the kale to that serving then so it not overcooked. That’s one of the advantages of frozen stuff when it comes to cooking for one.

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…and finally, it’s time to eat! This is the first time for tomatoes in beef and barley stew, but I like it as an alternative to the more stripped down version that I usually do (read beef and barley with seasonings)–but I think I’ll try adapting mine by adding the extra umami sources and the kale but omitting the tomatoes. Beef and barley stew, for me, is a bit like lentil soup: you can never have too many variations.

I’ve not used short ribs often for stews, but in cooking for one when I don’t want to volume that I’d get with chuck, I think I’ll me using them more often–even though they are not really cheap, the have the advantage of being available in quantities suitable for single-serving, or two-serving, cooking.  Another adaptation that I’ll make is to increase the proportion of barley (and, obviously, the liquid) in my efforts to shift toward using less meat.

I suspect it would taste really good even without the Vegemite, but that jar of yeasty stuff is going to hang out with the fish sauce, anchovies, and soy sauce because it certainly is tasty with it.

This was a yummy meal for a chilly day!

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Spring is here?

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Mertensia virginicia

Here in NC it’s beginning to feel a lot like spring! The maple outside my house is well into bloom; on my deck there are Virginia bluebells or cowslip (Mertensia virginica) blooming, and other green shoots (including the sorrel) are starting to peek out of the ground.

The birds are acting like it’s springtime, too; the Pine, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers that suddenly appeared (just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count) seem to have disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and as I write I’m listening to a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk calling close by . Other harbingers of spring, catalogs from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Brushy MountainBailey Bee Supply, and Dadent, have arrived, too (and I’ve ordered my package of bees to restart by beekeeping career).

I’ve been happily indexing with the doors and windows open on some days (like today) when the temperature rose into the 70s, and my cooking thoughts have turned to more spring-y things–like shad roe, fresh garden peas, and asparagus–instead of things like pot roast, chicken and dumplings that are so comforting in cold, winter weather. That was until I looked at the weather forecast this morning while I was imbibing my morning quota of caffeine. On my second cup of café au lait, doing my Facebook catch-up, I spotted a post from a friend about possible snow on Sunday–that’s right on 12 March 2017–after days of warm weather and blooming flowers!

Ever on the lookout for “fake” news these days, I pulled up the Weather Channel, and WRAL for local forecasts–sure enough–after daytime temperatures of 70 to 75ºF until Friday the forecast highs plummet to mid-40 to 50ºF for the weekend–and freezing (to below freezing) nighttime lows for the weekend and Monday. Yes, there were those cute little snowflakes in the graphics with the raindrops!  Here’s hoping that whatever we get, it’s not one of the infamous “ice storms” with freezing rain and all its complications.

That shifted my cooking thoughts in a rather abrupt manner: one last fling of winter food before we get to the kind of weather that makes me cringe at the thought of things like beef stew, pot roast, or beef and barley stew just because it hot and humid.

9780393081084Those specific things came to mind because I’ve just been reading  The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J.Kenji Lopez-Alt. Yes, food science with attached recipes (and experiments to demonstrate his points)–a good book to get you started with cooking by understanding the science (without too much science detail to bore you).

Considering that my freezer is already pretty well stocked with pot roast to get me through the damp, drizzly spring weather, I decided that wasn’t my option for my last winter cooking fling.

(So you’re asking why I’m doing one last bit of winter cooking instead of just pulling some pot roast out of the freezer? Well,  for me, part of the satisfaction of winter cooking is all about the the aroma of whatever is cooking in the oven (that’s also helping make the kitchen warm and cozy). It’s not all about putting stuff in the freezer for later although that’s good–it’s about the immediate experience, too. That’s what I mean by “comfort food”!).

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I’ve decided that I’ll try the recipe for Beef and Barley Stew. This may be the first time that I’ve ever used a recipe for it but this one looks interesting, and maybe, an improvement on my usual throw-together version. So–from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875), here’s what I’m going to try (though I’ll adjust the quantities since it’s to serve only me–and the cat). The recipes in this book are very easy to follow–instructions complete, and the science explained before the recipe, thought it’s easy reading and not so tedious as some food science can be. The recipe below is a good example of what’s in this book.

Beef and Barley Stew

from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875-3896)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, split in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, split in half lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Marmite
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane [grater/zester] (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • one 14-1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed roughly torn kale leaves

Preparation/assembly

  1. Toss the short ribs in a large bowl with salt and pepper to coat. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until smoking. Add the beef and cook without moving it, until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes total; reduce heat if necessary to keep from scorching. Return the meat to the bowl and set aside.
  2. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the Marmite, soy sauce, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the stock and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, barley, and bay leaves, then return the beef to the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to the lowest possible heat and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is completely tender and the barley is cooked through, about 2 hours.
  4. Stir in the kale and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, or, for best flavor, cool and refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days before reheating and serving.

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Why did I decide to try this recipe? Well, in a word, umami. Good food is all about flavor–and I’m investigating an ingredient that I’ve never tried before: Marmite. I’ve read that it’s a love-or-hate thing with Marmite, but it’s supposed to enhance umami. I don’t think I’ll hate it–after all I’m not going to eat it straight, and I do use anchovies and nam pla (fish sauce) so why not try this one?

I’m not dissatisfied with my usual beef and barley stew or soup (which does contain most of the ingredients here except for tomatoes and Marmite), but I’m feeling adventurous–my ever-present curiosity about ingredients that I haven’t tried rears its head.

However, I’m thinking of one modification here–depending on my work schedule for Sunday. If an anticipated manuscript arrives for indexing, ending my hiatus of goofing off and spending quality time with the cat–meaning I’ll actually be working–the 2-hour cooking may take place in a slow (275 ºF) oven–with the lid slightly ajar as suggested in this recipe since it reduces the watching necessary with stove-top cooking; it’s usually my preferred method because it eliminates the possibility that I’ll get involved and not give the pot proper attention; nothing worse that a scorched pot to clean up–not to mention ruining good food!

There’s one other deviation that I’ll use with this recipe–because I’m only cooking for one and bunches of greens tend to be a bit overwhelming (read just too damn much of even a good thing), I’ll be getting my kale out of a freezer package (my usual  Stahlbush Island Farms chopped curly kale) so that I don’t have to deal with the excess. Since I’ve got a few “winter” veggies in the crisper that need to be used I’m planning  different vegetable sides for the week–something with rutabaga, and kohlrabi.

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Pheasant soup

Immediately after Christmas dinner, while I was still sipping my wine, I took care of the leftover pheasant. Since there was a carcass, there just had to be soup!

  • remove meat from the carcass when the meal is over,  refrigerate for later use
  • break up the carcass as much as possible
  • put in slow-cooker and flatten out as much as possible
  • add water to barely cover
  • add healthy pinch of salt
  • set for 6 hours–in other words, until morning
  • strain stock and put back in slow-cooker
  • add any leftover truffled au jus 
  • add a generous handful of barley and  generous handful of lentils
  • taste for salt and seasonings; add a dash of soy sauce and nam pla
  • add one pasilla chilli pepper, whole
  • add generous dash of herbs de Provence and/orle any other seasonings you wish
  • set slow-cooker for about 4 hours
  • when lentils and barley are tender, refrigerate or use immediately.
  • add pheasant meat to hot broth and reheat.

Now if you have leftover soup (from your first round of soup) and leftover cabbage and rutabaga from the side, and any remaining pheasant meat, add those and you have soup that’s a bit different for the final day of soup.

A son gôut!

4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice — YayYay’s Kitchen

Arsenic in rice–Four ways to protect ourselves and our families

via 4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice — YayYay’s Kitchen

Breakfast

Nutritional information—or what passes for it—abounds on the internet and in books that you can check out from the library, or find as you pass through the checkout line at the grocery store, but it’s frustrating. It’s constantly changing. Many—really most of us—don’t have the background in physiology, medicine, or the time to do our own detailed research to assess it. You can read the books, e.g. Good Calories, Bad Calories ( (Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories 2007), Why We Get Fat ( (Taubes, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It 2010), or The Big Fat Surprise (Teicholz 2015) which are extensively researched and well documented. But it still can be confusing, especially if you want more specific information. There’s the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet, the Mediterranean diet….and even The New Atkins for a New You (Westerman and Phinney 2010). So much information, so much controversy. . .

Then there are the things that our grandmothers told us—eat your veggies, and your fruits—but the one that I remember most is that breakfast is a must-have meal. That seems to be one of the less controversial bits of advice out there. There’s only one problem—breakfast is supposed to happen when you wake up. Now, according to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, wake up, awake or awaken, means to “stop sleeping”. The problem is that for some of us awakening is not the same as achieving a state of functioning (“performing a group of related acts and process” according to the dictionary). We awaken, and the functioning state is bestowed later–sometimes much later and only with an appropriate amount of caffeine.

Every time I have to say whether I’m a “morning person” I face a quandary—I love early mornings—the cool part of the day, with the inspiration of the sunrise. So in that sense, I’m a morning person. Add functionality to that and there is a problem. Until I’ve had my morning cafè latte or espresso function is simply out of the question. Making breakfast requires functioning—albeit minimal. I can manage the kind of functioning required to get the espresso machine to spit out the liquid caffeine portion of my latte. Actual breakfast is another issue.

Another issue for me is that first thing in the morning, even as much as I love breakfast food, I don’t want to eat. Food? Yuck! So I have my two café lattes, and by then I should be at my computer working on the current index—breakfast gets another miss.

Every New Year (and probably again this coming one) my resolutions include eating more healthily. That would include giving my body morning fuel. Every year it goes by the wayside because of non-functioning in the morning. So I’m attuned to things that will get me food with least effort in the morning. I’m willing to admit that cooking eggs seems pretty simple, but diet-wise I doubt the nutritional wisdom of bacon and eggs daily partly from the caloric point of view.

In the winter (especially if the view from the kitchen window reveals a cold, grey, damp, day) a breakfast favorite is oatmeal (don’t DO cold cereals on a taste or nutritional basis). Specifically, I want oatmeal with some tooth to it—which really eliminates the quick stuff. I want the steel-cut, slow-cooking stuff. It’s the slow-cooking part that hurts. So I’m constantly on the lookout for things that might help me keep that New Year’s resolution—and maybe even contribute to more healthy eating (and weight loss.

If you search the web, you can find numerous suggestion on how to cook steel-cut oats—some reducing the cooking time to 30 minutes. Even with that, it’s still not in my range of morning functionality—I won’t enumerate the number of ways is possible to screw up when your functioning is barely above brain-dead.

In my recent perusal of the blogs that I follow I was delighted to see a post entitled How To Make Oatmeal in Jars: One Week of Breakfast in 5 Minutes. First of all, it promised make-ahead, and then you’ve probably gathered that I’m a fan of Ball/Mason jars so I have lots of those around.

The prep is simple (see full post for discussion and details)

  • Combine 1-2/3 cups steel-cut oats with 4 cups water, ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • Bring to boil and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Put it into jars, and when it reaches room temperature, cap and refrigerate.
  • To eat, microwave 2 to 3 minutes, add whatever you wish and eat.

My only change to this is something I’ve done for a long time when I’m cooking oatmeal—substitute milk or oat milk for 3 cups of the water and divide into 7 servings since I just don’t eat that much in the morning. The three-minute boil gives chewy kernels; I actually prefer just a bit less chew, so I boil for 5 minutes.

I like to use 1/2-pint jars for this as they will sit in a coffee mug so I don’t have to handle the hot jar or put it into something else to eat–admittedly I do at times end up taking my breakfast on my “commute” into the office and eating at my desk. (I know–not a good thing to do, but it happens when deadlines are close.) Filled only to about 2/3 there’s still room to add things on top–then this recipe works for about 7 days.

Another alternative to “quicken” up the steel-cut oats is to do an overnight soak at room temperature; Maria Speck, in her book on ancient grains, suggests that this will reduce cooking time to about 7 minutes.  My issues with this are that it requires planning ahead. Once the oats are soaked, they need to be cooked. I am, admittedly, a very temperamental, picky eater: I might wake up not wanting to eat oats for breakfast. By precooking and refrigerating, I do give myself a little leeway to be picky without throwing something out.

On more relaxed mornings, I’ll make other versions of steel-cut oats. A favorite is from Alton Brown via the Food Network. Love the toasting before adding liquid. Adding the milk and buttermilk adds richness and tanginess. His point here about stirring in the dairy does make a difference. I’ll admit to not being the owner of a true Scottish-style spurtle but a Holland-style spoodle to be a bit gentler with my steel-cut oats.

Now, for breakfast. . . a drizzle of some luscious varietal honey like French lavender, tupelo, sourwood, or maybe leatherwood, or thyme, or just wildflower or clover, or orange blossom, or maybe just some butter, or possibly milk, or…it may well depend on what I see from my kitchen window!

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Risotto for one

A traditional risotto, scaled for one.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

It’s no secret that I love risotto (Exhibit A, Exhibit B). It can be a time-intensive dish, so my tendency has always been to make risotto in bulk.

But after a few delicious risotto meals recently, I realized I didn’t have enough ingredients left to make any of my favorite risotto recipes without buying more supplies. The idea of risotto for one was born.

I scoured several risotto recipes for larger groups and tweaked them to fit my ingredient supply. This risotto is deliciously simple and just the right size for one. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • A few tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • A few tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
Directions:
  • Warm the stock in a pot over medium heat.
  • In a separate pot, melt the butter. Cook…

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