Boston-style Baked Beans (via Tokyo)

Hard to believe isn't it, that these started as lily-white great Northern beans? Besides all the extra minerals, especially iron, that is packed in unsulphured (also known as "blackstrap) molasses, it also adds such a rich color to everything you cook with it: bread, cookies, Boston-style baked beans.

We've been making this recipe from The Bean Bible since 2001. We've tweaked the original recipe many times over to include more spices, especially mustard powder, and sometimes even a serrano chile or two. With a nice crusty bread, it's really a meal in itself.

When I mentioned baked beans and brown bread in an earlier post, I knew that after a 3-year absence there would be baked beans in our near future. Well, that was last week. But as I made up my shopping list and automatically added salt pork for the recipe to the list, I asked myself: Do we really needed salt pork to make this dish so tasty? Hmmm... Now, I love pork, amost meats, really, but during the last 3 years of learning from my fellow bloggers, especially those who are vegetarians or come from vegetarian traditions, I realized that you don't always need to add meat to beans and pulses to make them delicious or luscious. In fact, many of our meat-less meals during the week are meat-less beans. The key, it seemed, is developing a good base of aromatics, including generous amounts of cooking oil and toasted spices. OK, that's true of all good cooking, so what could I do to keep the flavor of baked beans true to its recipe, but without the salt pork that provides so much umami and body (by way of fat)?

It was a puzzlement...

The answer came later as I started planning for another dish — something completely unrelated: miso-marinated salmon. We had salmon (check), we had ginger (check), we had miso (*lightbulb moment*)... Yes, we had miso! Umami-packed, mineral rich, luscious miso paste! That was it — substitute miso paste for salt pork! Why not give it a try?

So I diced the onion and sauteed it, instead of leaving whole with cloves stuck in it as called for in the recipe. Also added a few cloves of garlic and a touch more of certain spices to ramp up the aromatics. As the beans cooked, I tasted to correct any seasoning, and thought the miso really hit the right spot for flavor in the beans — they were full-flavored, umami-licious and tender. But one thing bothered me. Something was missing: the rich mouthfeel that comes with beans cooked with fatty meats like salt pork — I like that! Fortunately, the fix was an easy one: add more olive oil. Yes, it's more fat, but it's monounsaturated fat which is supposed to good for your heart, so no guilt here!

A bowl of of these sweet and savory beans are winging their way across the Atlantic to sweet Simona at briciole, this month's host for My Legume Love Affair, an event celebrating the humble bean, and the brainchild of that Well-Seasoned Cook, Susan. Simona is accepting recipes for this, the 31st edition of MLLA, until the end of this month. But you can plan ahead for future events by checking out the line-up of future hosts here.

This recipe tweak all began with molasses-rich Anadama Bread, the start of my resolution to bake bread at home. Our second Anadama loaf, shaped into a braid this time, was the perfect accompaniment to these beans.

Inspired by The Bean Bible by Aliza Green
Serves 6-8 persons

1lb (455g) dried great Northern beans
4 TBL olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
1½ TBL ground mustard powder
1 TBL ground ginger
8 whole cloves, placed in teaball or wrapped in cheesecloth
1 cup (240ml/ 350g) unsulphured (aka blackstrap) molasses
1 cup (190g) raw sugar, or (200g) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60ml or 88g) shiro miso paste
2-3 TBL olive oil (optional, but recommended)

Soak beans in 2 qt/L cold water overnight. Or, bring dried beans and water to boil over high heat, then remove from heat and cover for 1 hour.

Drain rehydrated beans and add to slow-cooker with 6 cups (1½ liters) cold water. Set heat setting to HIGH. It's important NOT to add any salt at this point. If salt is added to the cooking water before the interior of the bean has started to soften, the shell with toughen and the interior will remain hard. Leave on HIGH for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, cook onions and garlic (if using) in first 4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add mustard and ginger powders, stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. After beans have cooked alone for 3 hours, add aromatics to slow-cooker, along with molasses, sugar, salt, pepper, miso and remaining olive oil. Turn heat down to LOW for remaining 5 hours.

Sauce will thicken and beans will become tender when cooked through. Serve with your favorite crusty bread as a meal, or as a side dish with grilled hot dogs, brats or burgers.

For the carnivores in your life, you can quickly turn these into
Franks and Beans by topping with your favorite hot dog.


Creamy Cargamanto Beans in Yogurt

The cargamanto bean. If this is as new to you as it was to us last spring, then you are in for a treat. The grandmother of the more widely known cranberry bean and the Italian borlotti, the cargamanto has a thinner skin and is plumper when cooked than her descendants, so this creamy, buttery bean literally melts on the tongue. Remember the first time your fork broke the tender crumb of a lava chocolate cake — the delight of the molten chocolatey-ness oozing on your plate; it's like that, but from a bean! True, we are unashamedly bean-heads, so maybe I am waxing a bit poetic. Or maybe you need to try this bean.

The cargamanto hails from Colombia. It is the essential ingredient for Antioquenos Frijoles, the centerpiece of a traditional banquet-style platter known as Bandeja Paisa, which appears to resemble the feijoada of Brazil, or the rijstaffel of Dutch Indonesia in its generous abundance. As you can see, the red cargamanto is a gorgeous deep mahogany, mottled beige or pink near the "eye" of the bean. Unfortunately it loses this beautiful coloring once rehydrated and cooked so that it's hard to distinguish by eye from other cooked red beans except for its exceptional girth.

But back to the recipe at hand. For this we sought guidance from what might seem like an unexpected source for a South American bean — a South Asian chef. In my book, Indian cooks have the best recipes when it comes to seasoning beans, and in this case Shilpa at Aayi's Recipes came through for us again. I've adapted her recipe for spiced red kidney beans by substituting red cargamanto beans, and by cooking the beans a bit longer in the spices before adding the surprise ingredient, yogurt. We loved the tangy smoothness the yogurt adds. The first time we made this, we had the chickpea flour, or besan, that is called for in the original recipe; in later tries, we substituted fine cornmeal as a thickener with equal success.

Thanks again, Shilpa, for a wonderful recipe that really showcases the creaminess of the lovely cargamanto bean!

We've found Goya brand Red Cargamanto Beans at the Lotte Plaza chain of Korean markets, particularly the one in Aspen Hill, MD; and just today located the Goya White Cargamanto Beans at H-Mart in Wheaton.

Adapted from Shilpa's Rajma with Yogurt on Aayi's Recipes

16oz/455g dried cargamanto beans, red or white 1 large onion, diced
3 TBL olive oil
5 whole cloves
2 1″ cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods, lightly chrushed
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper (cayenne) powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
sea salt, to taste
1 tsp garam masala
1-1/2 cup/360g drained, thickened yogurt
2 tsp besan (chickpea flour), or fine cornmeal
small sprig cilantro (garnish)

Pick over and rinse beans. Soak beans 8-12 hours in enough cold water to coer the beans by 2 inches.

Drain beans and rinse.

In large Dutch oven or stock pot, add beans and 4 qt/L cold water and increase to high heat, cover and bring to boil. Turn heat down to medium, and continue at simmer, skimming impurities as they rise to the surface. Simmer for 1-1/2 hour.

Meanwhile heat oil over medium high. Add diced onions and cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, red pepper powder, and turmeric, and stir to mix. Heat together for 1 minute.

Add salt and onion/spice mixture to beans. Continue cooking for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a test bean mashes easily with a fork. (If using a smaller bean, such as kidney or borlotti, adjust cooking time.)

Add garam masala, and stir through. Mix together yogurt and besan or cornmeal. Stir into beans, cover, and cook through for 10-15 minutes while table is set. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

A wonderful meal in itself when served with your favorite flat bread — we love this with warm corn tortillas.

Do you love beans, too? How about Cassoulet or Hawaiian-style Portuguese Bean Soup?


Vive le Cassoulet!

Cassoulet (CAH-soo-lay). One of the great winter comfort foods, and certainly not for the calorie-shy — beans long-simmered with pork fatback and rind, as well as sausages, and duck, goose or lamb. A true peasant dish in the best sense, taking the humblest of ingredients and raising them to glorious heights with care and slow cooking.

As with all the best foods, there are as many recipes for cassoulet as there are cooks. At the foundation are the three great traditions around the Provencal districts from which cassoulet is said to have sprung — traditions that dictate what combination of meats will flavor and provide the unctuous bath for the lowly bean. Debates rage and blood pressures rise about whether duck or goose confit is better, and whether the inclusion of lamb is merely tolerable or absolutely sacrilegious. To claim one’s cassoulet “Castlenaudry” or “Toulouse” one would probably seek out ingredients actually from those regions. But it seems to me more in keeping with the spirit of cassoulet to use ingredients closer to home, and to elevate the meal with great love and attention rather than with pricey ingredients.

This particular cassoulet, while scrumptious, was not my best example. For one, the beans were much too small to capture and hold all that lovely fatty broth. I don’t know what I was thinking using navy beans, but it was a serious
brain fart. I also did not make a duck confit, and instead just browned the duck legs and added them and their rendered fat into the beans. The most garlicky sausage I could find on short notice was a Louisiana-style andouille, which together with the pork belly were also browned and added to the cooking pot, with their rendered drippings of course. One pound of dry beans, 2 duck legs, 3 sausages, 2.5 lbs of pork, loads of garlic, thyme, parsley, tomatoes, water, seasoning and breadcrumbs — that’s it. Six hours and 2 days later, choruses of “Bon Appetit.”

But even the most ardent fan of cassoulet (have you met my husband?) will concede that this is a dish best savored in deep winter when the biting cold will lend some justification for the extra pounds that will definitely ensue. Why ensue? Because cassoulet is a dish that makes no apologies for the pork fat, duck or goose fat (ha, ha, guess what “confit” is!), and sausage drippings that conspire to create the oh-so rich broth in which the beans will bake and swim. This is something we make only once a year, though it’s been at least 4 years since we last had this at home. Tropical Hawaii was much too warm for such a rich and hefty dish — seriously, this is Portuguese bean soup on steroids.

“Cassoulet forever”

We missed the buzz about cassoulet that circulated around the U.S. in November, on Election Night. Evidently a mischievous French-speaking cameraman declared his love for his Maman’s cassoulet by holding high signs that said “cassoulet” or “cassoulet forever” behind American broadcasters reporting on Mr. Obama’s victory. The signs were clearly visible in many news broadcasts, prompting a flurry of internet searches in the U.S. for the term “cassoulet” (it was reported to be one of the top Google searches on Election Day.) Some people even wondered out loud — including a broadcaster on live TV, Who is Cassoulet?”
(ou RaHV?)

We happened to make a cassoulet this weekend at T’s request. This is one of his all-time favorite foods — he even likes the canned stuff one can find on any supermarket shelf in cassoulet’s mother country. It was a celebratory meal, too, as we opened a special wine to toast our incoming president and in between sips and mouthfuls rocked with Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, U2, MaryJ Blige, Stevie Wonder, and Garth Brooks (who knew he was a little bit rock ‘n’ roll?!), who were performing down the street at the concert at the Lincoln Memorial that was the kick-off for the inauguration of our 44th President.

So Mr. Obama, we saved you a plate. And our first toast was also for you:
“Vive le President! Long live the 44th President of these United States!”


Learning from Our Friends: Going Meatless with Kitchiri

Finally, we’re back in real time on this site...It’s been a long haul and we’re still not 100% settled. This is by far the most difficult move we’ve had to make, and glad it’s almost over. One of the things that starts to signal a return to normalcy is when familiar things show up in the pantry again — old friends like these preserved lemons! This is a jar I just started 5 days ago and topped up with olive oil this morning. As we know by now, it’ll be 4+ weeks before this batch is ready to use. That’s okay, it’s worth the wait.

Preparing these lemons was bittersweet, too. It was a reminder of the preserved lemon torta we prepared last summer and sent as part of the appeal to raise money for our fellow blogger, Briana Brownlow at Figs with Bri. The appeal was to help Bri pay for the costs of her treatments in her second battle with breast cancer. During our hiatus, we learned from the fundraiser’s organizers at Jugalbandi that Bri died on October 26, 2008, at the too young age of 32. I will always think of the sunny optimism Bri’s site and her personality inspired, and associate that with the bright yellow and sunny flavor of lemons. Our deepest condolences and prayers go to Marc and all Bri’s family and friends. Thank you for allowing us to share in her warmth and optimism.

One of the things that Bri, as well as Bee and Jai, Shilpa and Dhivya, and other vegetarian bloggers continue to teach us is that modern vegetarian cooking is incredibly diverse and imaginative. It’s not all tofu and brown rice! And while we haven’t made the leap to vegetarianism ourselves, we continue to strive for 2-3 meatless meals each week. Kitchiri or Khichdi, the basis for the British dish called Kedgeree, is one of our favorites: usually a mix of lentils or split peas with rice in a spice-laden porridge, this is one of the most versatile and tasty dishes around (Shilpa even has a version with tapioca and potatoes that is on our to-try list).

After sampling many different versions from the Web and from cookbooks since April, we’ve evolved a version of our own that can be thrown together without reference to a recipe (aahhh, The Way of Cooking continues): using 3 parts pulses (dried split peas or lentils) to 2 parts rice cooked with turmeric and ground cumin, a seasoned oil topping (the tadka or tarka), and usually grated coconut (it’s not only yummy, it’s supposed to be helpful with T’s thyroid condition) and a mix of other vegetables (squash, hard or summer; corn; greens; even breadfruit). Although the basics are the same from week to week, changing the type of pea or lentil used, and the availability of seasonal vegetables keeps us from getting bored with this wonderful dish. Choose a split pea or lentil for faster cooking and Even in Hawaii’s hot summer months, kitchiri was a warm and welcome meal at the end of the day, but it’s especially beloved now as the days get shorter and the evenings colder here in metro DC. It also makes a hearty and filling alternative to oatmeal or other hot cereal in the morning — we often have the previous night’s leftovers for breakfast. Add a little broth or water when you re-heat the kitchiri, as it will thicken as it sits.

Serves 4-6 persons

1-1/2 cups split lentils or peas
1 cup rice, medium or long grain
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt

Wash well and check for small pebbles in lentils or peas. Separately wash and rinse rice. Combine pulses, rice and water in large dutch oven. Bring to boil over high heat, removing foam as it rises to surface. When water reaches a boil, turn heat down to medium, add turmeric, cumin, and salt, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes, or until pulses just begin to soften. Meanwhile, prepare the tarka.

The tarka, or seasoned oil, is another area where you can be creative about what combination of spices you use. But if you’ve never tried popped brown or black mustard seeds, I urge you to search them out at an Indian or Asian grocer — I’ve even found them in Chinese markets. The aroma and flavor of popped mustard seeds does not really have an equal in the culinary world, and adds a wonderful dimension to this and many other dishes (see also Chaat Potatoes for another great use of this ingredient). Whatever combination of spices you choose, cooking them in oil with the onions and garlic will add another depth to the flavors you are creating. As for the asafoetida, it also has a flavor that can’t be substituted, and it has the added benefit of reducing the “gassy” effects of the pulses — Leave it out at your own peril!

2 TBL. olive oil, or other light-tasting oil
1 TBL. brown mustard seed
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. amchur, ground green mango powder
1/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
2” stick cinnamon
1-3 serrano peppers, seeded and sliced (optional, we have to leave this out on the advice of our acupuncturist)

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add brown mustard seeds to oil, and as soon as they start popping and releasing their popcorn-like aroma (which is usually immediately), add onions and garlic. Turn heat down to medium, cover, and cook until onions are translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.

Add curry leaves, coriander powder, amchur, asafoetida, garam masala, and cinnamon stick. Stir together and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add tarka to simmering pulses and rice. Check water level, you may need to add 1/2 cup to 1 cup more water (will depend on type of lentil/peas used). Stir spices through, cover and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes.

To Finish:
Sea salt, to taste
4 oz. frozen or fresh grated coconut
8 oz. roasted or cooked kabocha, butternut, acorn, or other hard squash
or any combination of summer squashes (zucchini, yellow), corn, upo or other gourd, fresh green beans or peas, or raw or flash-cooked greens (see Flash-cooked Chinese mustard greens or Watercress). We’ve also used roasted breadfruit, edamame, frozen spinach, and lima beans — let your imagination and seasonal vegetables be your guide! This may also be a way to sneak in vegetables people THINK they don’t like... sneaky, yes, but sometimes necessary. (Note to my MIL and FIL: I would NEVER do this to you guys! Everyone else takes their chances in my kitchen...)

Taste mixture, and season with salt as necessary.
Add a mix of vegetables from the list above to the pot, and continue cooking until pulses are cooked soft, about another 20-30 minutes, check water level after 15 minutes, and add more as needed.

Garnish with minced cilantro or green onion, and serve with naan, roti or other flatbread, and maybe a yogurt raita.

Kitchiri with yellow split peas, brown rice, coconut and roasted acorn squash

See also Preserving the Perfume of Lemons for a step-by-step guide to making preserved lemons at home, and the Lemon Vigil for a weekly view of lemons during their 5-week journey from fresh to preserved. A new recipe using preserved lemons coming next.


A Sponge for Flavor: The Bottlegourd or Upo

Mung Beans and Bottlegourd

This spicy, easy recipe with new flavors came to us last week on a visit to Sagari's Indian Cooking website. She combines quick-cooking mung beans (no soaking needed) and a ridge gourd with spices to produce a memorable one-dish meal. Served with rotis or other flatbread (we had whole wheat tortillas), this simple dal is great cool weather comfort food and a nice change of pace from soup. I usually use mung beans to make a Filipino soup with pork, greens and fish sauce, so this was a nice alternative to our old stand-by.

We didn't have ridge gourd, but had picked up a nice young bottle gourd, or
upo, over the weekend. When choosing a gourd, I look for something heavy for its size as older gourds begin to lose water and become fibrous. So fibrous, in fact, that when fully dried they become a bath sponge, the loofah (derived from its Latin genus Luffa). My mom used to supply me with bath loofahs from her backyard garden on Guam when the occasional one escaped her notice until past its edible prime. Upo and other gourds of its ilk are mildly sweet on their own, but readily absorb flavors from their cooking medium. Usually I use upo in soups like Chicken Tinola or even a regular chicken soup, in place of zucchini or other squash. With the mung beans in this dish, it added a nice textural element to the soupy dal.
Upo, or bottlegourdLoofah bath sponge

Sagari's recipe is made using a pressure cooker, so I've adapted it here to cook in a regular saucepan.

(adapted from
Indian Cooking)
4 tbs oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. musturd seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 cup tomato ( chopped)
2 TBL. cilantro
2 dry red chilies
3/4 cup dried mung beans, rinsed well
1 medium upo (about 1.5 lb total weight), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (peeling is optional for smaller gourds)
1.5 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Preheat 3-quart or larger saucepan over medium high heat, then add oil, cumin and mustard seeds and chilies. When seeds begin to pop, immediately add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato and cilantro leaves, and whole chilies and cook until tomatoes soften.

Add mung beans, upo, salt and water, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until beans are soft and thicken broth.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbreads. This will thicken as it sits and cools, and was equally delicious the next day cold, topping thick sliced toast. Thanks to Sagari for a new way to look at mung beans and gourds!

Mung dal with upo


The GDC: Chicken, Green Beans & Cherries in Tomato Sauce

Chicken Meatballs in Tomato-Green Bean Stew

While looking for interesting ways to cope with dad's diet limitations (our Gout Diet Challenge, GDC) as he works to reduce the visible uric crystal deposits (called tophi) on his hands and knees, the flavors of the Mediterranean still resound most strongly. We took a cruise through the Greek Islands many years ago with my parents, stopping in ports only long enough for T and I to make a mad dash through any groceries and bakeries we could find while my parents and aunt took the ship-sponsored tours or hung out in harbor-side cafes. The cruise only emphasized how fruitless it was for us to take a big-ship cruise through these wondrous islands, since you spend no quality time on any island.

It was long enough, however, to introduce us to new flavors. One that has remained a staple in our house since that cruise is Fassoulakia me Domates, Green Beans with Tomatoes. We found a small cafe at the harbor in Hydra and ordered some food to take back with us to the ship, and once on board, skipped the formal ship dinner to feast on our local finds. To be honest, I don't remember much about the other foods we ordered, there were stuffed vegetables, fish, lamb, etc., but the lovely stewed beans in tangy tomato sauce was something I had to duplicate when we returned home.

At that time, I had one Greek cookbook, "Greek Cooking for the Gods," by Eva Zane. It had come highly recommended by a friend who regularly cooked from it for her Greek boyfriend, and it was my stand-by for moussaka, spanakopita, and the Easter bread that I loved. The recipe for Fassoulakia me Domates in this book looked promising, but it did not include currants, which had been in the beans we tried from Hydra. I included currants in our first try, and it was a pretty close match. Since then, I've also used raisins, sultanas, even diced apricots, and loved the results; and even omitting dried fruit altogether is delicious.

To adapt this recipe for the GDC, I used dried tart cherries (black tart cherries are recommended for gout management) instead of currants. And I added cooked chicken (chicken is better than turkey for gout-sufferers) meatballs to make it a one-dish meal. Without meat, it is an easy side dish for roasted or grilled meats, or a very filling vegetarian entree served with couscous or to stuff a baked potato. Or as a flatbread pizza topping (that's for bee and Jai)!
(See the new
GDC Round-up for more gout-friendly recipes)

Chicken, Beans and Cherries in Tomato Sauce

(Inspired by the gorgeous island of Hydra and heavily adapted from "Greek Cooking for the Gods")

Chicken Meatballs
1 lb. (450g) ground chicken
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic
1 large egg
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into golf-ball sized rounds. Saute in pan lined with 1/2-inch oil until browned on all sides, or place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake in tabletop oven for 20 minutes. Add hot to sauce, or cool completely and freeze to make ahead (add to sauce frozen after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then cook for another 40 minutes).

To use fresh chicken, use 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1-inch cubes. Combine paprika, cumin, peppers and salt (omit oregano) listed in Meatball recipe above, and coat diced chicken in dry mixture. Set aside 30 minutes, then add to Tomato Sauce below after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then continue cooking for the remaining 40 minutes in the original recipe.

Tomato Sauce
TBL. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried cherries (or currants, raisins, sultanas)
1 TBL. dried oregano
tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried dill (optional)

6 ripe tomatoes, or 1 28oz. (780g) canned tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine, or chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley (flat-leaf), about 1 cup chopped
1 bay leaf
1 lb. green beans

In large saute pan set over low heat, sweat onions in olive oil until transparent (take your time, this will take 8-10 minutes at least). Add garlic and dried cherries, and cook until both are just softened. Add oregano, thyme and dill (if using), and mix through onion mixture and leave to cook about 2 minutes, or until herbs become fragrant.

Turn heat up to medium high and immediately add tomatoes, wine/broth, parsley and bay leaf. (If you omit the dried fruit completely, add 1/2
tsp. brown sugar to sauce.) Partially cover, and leave to simmer 20 minutes while you prepare beans.

Wash and tip green beans to remove stringy spine. Leave whole or cut into 2-inch lengths, it's up to your own aesthetics and who you are cooking for. Add to tomato sauce, cover completely and let simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Add cooked meatballs, cover and simmer another 30 minutes.

Serve with couscous, quinoa or amaranth (the latter two are very beneficial for the management of gout), fresh pita or other flatbread, or
Mestizo Rice. In the photo, it is plated with cinnamon couscous.

Game Day: Portuguese Bean Soup

Rainy days on Oahu

The weather is quite dreary here this weekend and will remain so into the middle of next week, if you believe the weather guy. Our poor hibiscus looks quite weighed down by the heavy rains we got yesterday, doesn’t she?

Nevertheless, there’s a big game today at Aloha Stadium — the undefeated (11-0) University of Hawaii Warriors face off against the Washington Huskies in the last game of the regular season. The excitement on Oahu is palpable and infectious, even sweeping in sometimes-sports fans like yours truly. We casually tuned in to last week’s televised game against Boise State and then sat glued to the TV to the end. Luckily we still had Thanksgiving leftovers (ala tetrazzini) then because I was too into the game to cook.

(You can listen to today's game via the UH website here or watch on ESPN2)

This week we’re prepared with the perfect Hawaiian TV football-watching food: the venerable Portuguese bean soup. And judging by the empty Portuguese sausage shelf and dearth of ham hocks and shanks at my local supermarket yesterday, I’m guessing there are lots of soup pots bubbling away right now. This ultra-hearty spicy island classic rivals American style chili con carne in its variations and plain down-home comfort. For me the key ingredient is Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, it’s quite distinct from its European ancestor and whatever the blend of spices they use here, it’s uniquely Hawaii. And ono. When we lived in Europe, I made this soup a couple of times using sausages (chouricos) from Portugal and those were good too, but in my heart I felt like something was missing.
Our favorite Portuguese sausage

The method I use for this (and most soups) is different in that I use a slow-cooker. This will require that you start at least 48 hours before you plan to serve, if you also want to de-fat the broth (which I do), at least 36 hours if you skip the cooling process. It does take a while, but I like the fact that I’m not tied to the stove making the broth or soup. In Europe we found a slow-cooker made in the U.K. that was 220-volt, and eliminated the need for a voltage-converter for a 110 volt machine. And the multiple draining and rinsing may seem like a bother, but according to Aliza Green in "
The Bean Bible," this process, along with the parboiling, reduces the beans’ propensity to cause flatulence so skip this step at your own peril! ; P

The substitution of mustard greens for cabbage is a new thing in the evolution of this soup for us — we tried this variation in a soup we had near Hilo on the Big Island a couple of years ago. The slightly bitter green brings a nice balance to the spicy meaty soup.

Making broth for soup

Make the broth:
1 large smoked ham shank, whole
1 medium onion, peeled but left whole, or halved
4 whole cloves
4 celery heart branches, with leaves
2 large bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

Stick cloves in onion halves or whole. Place all ingredients in 5 quart or larger slow-cooker. Cover with water, at least to 4/5 of the ham shank. Set slow cooker to High and cover. After an hour or so, check and remove scum rising to the surface. When water comes to a boil, turn setting to Low and leave for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, soak 8 oz. (225g) of rinsed red kidney beans in 8 cups (2L) cool water. After 4 hours, drain the water, rinse, and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cool water. Repeat after 4 more hours.

When the broth is done, remove the ham shank and all the vegetables. Debone and shred or chop the meat, and return to broth. You can either cool the broth overnight and remove the fat in the morning, or proceed to finish the soup as is. These pictures show the cooled and defatted broth.
Broth after coolingBroth after de-fatting
If you choose to cool the soup, after de-fatting, return to slow-cooker and set on High for one hour before proceeding.

For the soup:
10 oz of Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half-moons
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups water
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1-½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium bunch Chinese mustard greens, Italian chicory, endive, or other bitter green, chopped
4 oz. (113g) dry elbow macaroni, or other small pasta shape

Drain and rinse beans. Bring 6 cups of water to boil, then add rehydrated beans and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use. Then drain, rinse and add to hot broth.
Portuguese bean soup
Mmmm, soup . . . .
Over medium heat, pan fry the sliced sausage until browned, then add to hot broth. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Turn heat to high and add water to pan and deglaze, add to broth with tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and paprika. Turn slow-cooker to Low and let cook about 4 hours. Add potatoes, carrots, stem parts of cabbage, and uncooked macaroni. Cook on Low another 1-½ to 2 hours, or until potatoes and beans are tender. (Add tender green parts of cabbage last half hour.) Correct seasoning (salt will depend on type of sausage or smoked shank/hocks used) and serve with cornbread, hawaiian sweet bread, or garlic bread.

If you want to use cooked pasta or macaroni, reduce water to 1 cup, and add cooked pasta with tender cabbage greens, in the last half-hour of cooking.

For a great step-by-step pictorial on how to make Portuguese bean soup local kine, check out Pomai’s site at The Tasty Island.

For a European take on this island favorite, see local girl Rowena cooking in Italy at
Rubber Slippers in Italy.

Update: The Warriors took it in a come-from-behind, nail-biting finish, 35-28. . .

See also
Portuguese-style pork, clam and periwinkle stew


What Brussels sprouts inspired

We found some incredibly fresh brussels sprouts at a market recently. They aren't local, but it's been so long since we've seen such fresh brussels sprouts that we had to buy them. I've always liked the German name for them, Rosenkohl, which means "rose cabbage." They do look like little green roses, don't they?

When they're so fresh, I like to cook sprouts in minimal amount of time so they retain their bright green color, crunch and sweet fresh flavor. So many people wrinkle their noses when they hear "brussels sprouts" — I know how they feel because I used to be one of them! If the only sprouts you've tried were boiled to death and a smelly flaccid green, then I hope one day you'll give them a second chance. They can and should be crunchy, sweet and full of healthful, cancer-busting goodness that their cruciferous cousins broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower also have.

So what to do with these little beauties? We felt overdue for a non-meat meal, so I began to think South Asian. We had made a dish once with cabbage and coconut so it seemed a natural to substitute the sprouts. The pantry turned up split yellow mung beans and potatoes so we settled on the following menu: a dry curry with brussels sprouts and coconut, tarka dal, and chaat potatoes. And store-bought naan (was in the freezer). The sprouts were wonderful prepared this way. I just wish I had had fresh coconut on hand (living on a tropical island, you'd think coconuts would be falling out of trees, wouldn't you? ... well, actually they do, but I didn't do the husking, cracking, grating thing for this ... sorry)

The best thing about having left over tarka dal is making a tortilla wrap with it the next day. It is so-o-o good. I actually put all these bits in a spinach tortilla and it was delicious. Cold, no need to heat anything up. Even better is if you make an aloo gobi and tarka dal wrap the next day. (Mmmm, guess what will appearing soon?)
Brussel sprouts with coconut and mustard seed

Brussels sprouts with coconut
1.25 lbs. (1/2 kilo) brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
2 TBL unsalted butter (or ghee if you have it)
1 TBL black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
3-5 TBL dried unsweetened coconut, or 1/2 cup fresh grated
3 TBL coconut milk (optional) - this is not in the cabbage recipe, I added it for liquid to help cook the sprouts

Boil water and briefly blanch sprouts (no more than a couple of minutes). Drain (keep some of the water) and cool. (I skipped this step)

Heat butter in pan and add mustard seeds. When seeds begin to pop (I love the smell of popping mustard seeds! It's like spicy popcorn), add ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and coconut. Warm spices.

If using coconut milk, add now. Add sprouts and coat with spices. Cover and lower heat.

If not using coconut milk, add sprouts and coat with spice mixture. Keep mixture moving in pan so spices don't burn. You may want to add some water from the blanching if the pan is too dry.

Cook until sprouts are just tender and still bright green. Remove from heat immediately.

Tarka dal

Tarka Dal
2/3 cup (160g) lentils, split peas or mung beans
2 cups (500ml) water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

For the Tarka
3-4 TBL unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
1-3 dried red chilies (had to leave these out this time)

Boil together the pulses, water, spices and salt. When the water reaches a boil, lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until the pulse reaches a soft consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the tarka. Saute onions and garlic in butter until onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add crushed chilies and warm through. Remove from heat.

Add half of tarka to cooked dal and stir well. Remove dal to serving bowl and garnish top with remaining tarka.

Chaat Potatoes
2 large baking potatoes (about 1lb/.5kg)
3 TBL unsalted butter

2 TBL Bhel chutney, or date chutney
1 tsp honey
2 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp cayenne powder

Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch dice. Melt butter in pan and fry potatoes on all sides.

Mix together chutney and honey in large bowl.
Combine chaat masala and cayenne powder.

Remove cooked potato cubes into bowl with chutney/honey mix, and coat well. Immediately sprinkle masala/chili mix and mix to coat well. Let cool a bit so flavors will blend.

These make a great drinks appetizer, too. Just serve with toothpicks.
Spicy chaat potatoes