Thursday, August 12, 2010

What the heck do I do with....Shelling beans?

I love when I see the first shelling beans at the farmer's market; inevitably I get a memory of visiting Italy and eating the most amazing beans, simply prepared with garlic, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil.
These beans are called Barlotti beans or Cranberry beans and they are beautiful...check them out:
As you can see, they come in a variety of patterns. Unfortunately, as they cook, they lose their beauty and turn an ugly gray color. However, what they lose in beauty, they gain in taste; the beans are soft, buttery and delicious.

Fresh shelling beans are so easy to cook. Simply shell the beans, rinse them and put them into an ample sized pot. Cover the beans with water to about 3/4 of the way up the pot. Add in some whole cloves of garlic, like 4-6 cloves, some thyme, and a couple bay leaves then bring to the boil.
I have learned in the past that salting beans prior to them being (partially) cooked is a no-no; this is supposedly because if salted, the salt interferes with the bean softening up. So, with these fresh beans, I let them go 5 minutes, then I add in a generous amount of sea salt or kosher salt.
The beans take about 15 minutes total...that's it. Too easy to not do yourself.
When the beans are done simply drain them, put them in a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. They make a great accompaniment to grilled meat or as a topping on a salad of mixed herbs.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What the heck do I do with....All those greens I have??

So, in the heart of CSA season, one thing rings true, and that is greens, greens and more greens....Swiss Chard, Rainbow Chard, all types of Kale, Beet get the idea. It can be overwhelming, I understand.

I do a variety of things with greens, 2 which are a bit more extreme, 1) juice them and drink them with other veggies and fruits and 2) dehydrate them to make chips in the food dehydrator. Since the majority of people are not using the greens in that fashion, I'll write about 2 recipes using greens that I recently made. The great thing about greens is that all of them are interchangeable, so if you see beet greens in a recipe but only have kale, you can go ahead and use the kale. Feel free to substitute greens and/or veggies that you have on hand.

The first recipe is a Quinoa Beet Green stir fry. I found some beautiful baby beet greens at a farmstand in Hollis, New Hampshire called Brookdale Fruit Farm, as well as some garlic, red peppers, fennel and scallions. Here are some pics of their beautiful produce:
Beet Greens

Red Pepper and Fennel
Garlic, which turned out to be 2 huge cloves, one on either side of the stalk...

As with the greens, the grain you use is interchangeable as well. I used quinoa, but you could use millet, brown rice, bulgur etc.
Quinoa is an easy grain to cook; make sure to rinse it first, or buy the pre-soaked kind, as it has a coating that will give it a bitter taste unless rinsed off. The basic ratio for cooking quinoa is 2 cups liquid to 1 cup quinoa. Bring the liquid up to the boil, add a pinch of salt, add quinoa, put the lid on and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then check it. When it is cooked, the quinoa will be soft and it will have a small, yellow ring around it. After the quinoa is cooked, let it cool. You can time it that you prep your veggies while the quinoa cooks/cools.
For this stir fry I used scallions and garlic as the aromatics, and red pepper, fennel and beet greens as the main flavors, as well as a small amount of broccoli.

First off, saute your aromatics in the fat of choice (I used coconut oil) over medium-high heat until softened, then add the red pepper, fennel and broccoli, cooking until crisp tender. Be sure to season with salt and pepper along the way. Add in the quinoa and stir frequently, mixing all the veggies throughout, until heated through. Lastly, add the beet greens and stir in, allowing the heat to wilt them. Remove from heat.

That's it. From start to finish, including prep time and cook time for quinoa, you're looking at ~25 minutes.
Here's the finished dish:

The next dish is a Rainbow Chard White Bean Soup. Like the stir fry, you can substitute any green for the chard, and it would work just fine. And like the stir fry, this soup cooks up quickly, with total time including prep and cook, about 30 minutes.

Aromatics for this hearty soup include celery, onion and garlic. The soup starts by sauteing the aromatic veggies until softened in some olive oil.
To the aromatics, a roasted red pepper is added and again, sauteed so the flavors can mix together; season with salt and pepper. To this mixture add your broth, chicken or veggie, whatever works best for you. Add in your white beans (drained, rinsed), then bring up to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. After about 15 minutes, add your greens. It's going to look like too many greens for the pot so to speak, but they cook down quite a bit.

After the greens go in the pot, let them simmer for a few minutes.
After the soup has simmered for a while, remove from the heat and serve would be nice with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano....
So there you go...2 quick and easy ways to use your greens (and seasonal veggies too) :)