Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Today's Beans & Thoughts on Seasonal Living

Sunday, October 3rd

It's always a new pot of beans.

Today they are early autumn beans.  On account of the brisk October breeze rolling around this batch needs a little spice-- provided on this occasion by some New Mexico Hatch Chiles courtesy of Whole Foods.  Just two of those babies gave a nice sustained heat throughout the whole dish.  Since I jumped in on the family tradition of black bean making handed down from my mother's side I've made many pots of beans.  They've varied from the early attempts to perfect the standard GOYA package recipe of my college years, to imitating my Mother's style (which tends to vary anyway) to experimenting with parmesan rinds, spring onions and rosemary to red chili versions to stabs at white bean making and these days, your more stew-like, carrot and celery pot o' beans.

Beans are like bread in this way, or a work of art.  Every loaf is its own masterpiece, or barely-edible-salvaged-experiment in some cases.  This is why I love seasonal everything.  Obviously seasonal cooking is great because it is way to connect your body on a daily basis to the environment, but seasonal living can extend far beyond this.  Why not let the change of seasons permeate into even the littlest details of our lives?  Changing from cotton to wool socks, noticing the different angles in lighting and of course, beginning to eat heartier meals.  For me, these details of daily living are embedded with meaning, to the point of distraction at times, but I simply love to savor them.  So, unable to keep such adoration to myself, I decided to start writing about it.

And of course, what more natural a topic than food?  Cooking has been a big part of my life since I've moved to Mississippi, yes . . . even bigger that before.  Feeding Matthew Gioia is a full time job I like to say and I'm always worried he's gonna eat faster than I can cook.  It was, for that matter, a big steaming pot of black beans in the cold Santa Fe November that brought his incinerator-vegetarian-soul to my door in the first place.  And, I've just kept on makin' them.  I've picked up a few tips along the way that makes beans just better and better, for example:

  • a parmesan rind (they sell them at whole foods or you can just ask for them anywhere blocks of parmesan cheese are sold because they are normally inedible but make a great savory base when added to soups in place of broth if you are cooking vegetarian) they melt and get all gooey as the beans cook
  • Adding herbs and spices last (I add a few herbs at the beginning, namely bay leaf but the rest are added at the end, especially the cumin or oregano if I use it)
  • Salt at the end, recent research has informed me that salt during the cooking process can harden the beans unnecessarily and is best when added after they are mostly cooked!
  • Simmering beans with a spoon in the pot supposedly diminishes gas . . . you can try that one out for yourself.
So, thats what I've got so far.  Working with food has become something special to me and I like this practice because I now know that I would never want to be a full-time chef (maybe just menu designer). I love it, nonetheless.  I must mention that I am also inspired by a blog called, Simply Recipesdone by a woman named Elise from which I gather much recipe inspiration and follow practically daily.  So without further delay, here is how you can make this dish for yourself:

Early Autumn Pot O' Beans

Sort, rinse & soak black beans over night in cold water, in the morning - drain, rinse & refill covering beans two inches with water and bring to boil. While heating up start on the sauteed portion:

This pot was heavy on the garlic (6-8 cloves!) and took one sweet onion.

Saute chopped onion in olive oil first while chopping garlic, add to pan making sure oil is not hot enough to over-brown the garlic (personal thing might not affect overall taste).

I used a few Bay Leaves because the ones I have now are small.
As an experiment I didn't add any oregano until the last five minutes of simmering and it really worked so hold off on the regs!
Chop up your Green Chili's -- if you don't have New Mexico Hatch, any sort of pepper will add its own charm to the dish, spicy like Anaheim or Poblano or just a Bell Pepper is fine (especially during the summer if you don't want too much heat). Add them to the sizzling saute mix.
Dice up carrot and celery evenly, saute them too (I used three small carrots and one large stalk of celery).
I had some fresh thyme sprigs left over from another recipe and threw that in the mix.
Some generous helpings of fresh ground black pepper.

THEN you can add any of the following when making beans:   (or skip this step entirely!)
-Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
-Red Wine Vinegar
-Old Wine
-Cooking Wine
-Old Champagne thats been left out too long . . . . . you get the idea

(I've been using Apple Cider Vinegar these days because its supposedly so darn good for ya and is what is used in this particular recipe)

After the vinegar burns off and stops smelling so bad you can add the sauteed mix to the pot of now boiling (or if they came to a boil early, lowered to a steady simmer) beans.


Add water throughout the simmering process as necessary to keep beens immersed in water.

I  took out the thyme sprigs 'cause I was worried it was too much but ended up adding it back in at the end. So, let the beans simmer for as long as they need to cook.  For this batch I even left and went on a hike with Matthew at Meeman-Shelby State Park 50 miles North of us in Tennessee.

When I got back they were soupy, stew-like and desperately in need of Salt.  I added a lot (sorry, don't often measure) then the magic began.  The amount of heat given off by the chilis was perfect, I added a very generous amount of cumin, a few dashes of turmeric (my new secret ingredient) and threw the big thyme sprig back in (I'm always throwing thyme around!) Then, a few shakes of dried oregano and let the beans simmer another 10 -15 minutes before turning off the stovetop and feasting!

I knew these were good cause I never am tempted to eat beans straight out of the pot, I am more of a refried gal but I couldn't resist just digging right in.  Maybe it was the hike but these tasted great so try it out yourself if you like!

Really good plain in bowl, or with a little sprinkled parmesan or still even more amazing with homemade quesadillas.  Also really good the next day strained of liquid and mixed with steamed kale and cottage cheese if you need something on the fresher side, ENJOY!



  1. fun- food blog! these beans sound awesome, especially the parmesan rinds and oregano. i usually stay away from continental spices in black beans in favor of cumin chili garlic cilantro lime, but this sounds awesome, especially as the weather gets cooler (tho in phoenix, maybe that's wishful thinking!) i'll try your recipe probably in a burrito with sweet/savory pork and collard greens. cottage cheese sounds good too. yum. i've been nuts for loco moco since last june, i'll post some recipes when i have a minute. glad you and matt are enjoying the simple life:)

  2. Thank You Lamson!
    I like the idea of keeping the ingredients indigenous, I think that is important to keep in mind when considering a dish. I also like where you're going with those pairing ideas, sounds like your mind/tastebuds/both are in the right place! Thanks for taking the chance to share them : )
    The simple life is great, it has left me constantly experimenting in the kitchen as a source of entertainment. What else is up in Phoenix???