Monthly Archives: April 2010

the good life: black beans & rice

i have had a long affair with black beans and rice. it all started when i moved to texas in my early 20’s. i was lucky enough to get a job at the coolest, hippy-ist (not hip-ist) cafe in town, one of those places where your boss would bail you out of jail, you can pretty much assume that all the cooks are hungover, and a waitress might just run off with the band to whom she  just served coffee. it was here that i was first introduced to what would become one the food staples of my life–black beans and rice. it was born, like many things, out of necessity. it was cheap, easliy accessible, and nutritious. these are the three most important qualities of a meal when you’re on a budget whether due to youth, job status, or financial strain.

this brings me to the real reason for this post. i was lucky enough to be asked to be part of a group of food bloggers in a challenge to bring awareness to the problem of hunger here in our fair city and it’s outlying areas. This is a project inspired by the capital area food bank, one of it’s proud volunteers, kristi willis of austin farm to table, and austin american-statesman food writer, addie broyles. the food bank feeds 48 thousand people per week in 21 counties. in addition to canned & packaged foods and meat products , they are proud to be the 2nd largest distributor of fresh produce of any food bank in the nation. this means fruits and veggies, people–real food! not only do they offer food via 360 partner agencies ’round these parts, they’re also involved in the food stamp program (SNAP), a senior outreach program, kid’s cafe, mobile pantries, and they offer nutritional education, menu planning, and recipe & cooking classes. whew!

most of the food bloggers involved in this awareness program are doing their own personal challenges; some are posting every meal from a typical week’s worth of food from the food bank, some are posting daily updates, and some like me are writing a simple, singular post in the hopes that it will inspire you to reach out, volunteer, donate, or otherwise do what will float your your philanthropic boat. saturday, may 8th is also the annual stamp out hunger food drive, whereby you can simply leave non-perishible goods in a bag by your mailbox–it doesn’t get any easier than that. if you’d like to read more about the food blogger challenge, please visit the rest of the bloggers involved  from this central site: food blogger hunger awareness project.

black beans & rice (serves 4)

this is not so much a recipe as a method. you can substitute any type of beans or rice that you like. i prefer black beans and brown rice for sentimental reasons and this combo packs a nutritious wallop.

1/2 lb dried black turtle beans

1/2 onion, chopped

a few bay leaves

a handful of salt

1 cup brown rice

soak beans overnight or use the quick soak method. be sure to change to soaking water to fresh. cover soaked beans with a few inches of fresh cold water. add the chopped onion, bay leaves, and salt and bring to a boil. simmer, semi covered with a lid for a little over an hour until tender but not mushy.

make the brown rice according to package directions bearing in mind brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice, so give yourself plenty of time. i like to add a bit of olive oil and water and a pinch of salt to the rice and water for a boost of flavor.

if you have a bit of veggies, onion, or pickled jalapenos, chop ’em up and add on top. or you could just simply eat it as is with a few dashes of cholula or your favorite hot sauce.

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Filed under beans, main dish

texas two-step jelly

i found this month’s canning assignment a bit challenging. sometimes i think the wider the range from which to choose, the more difficult. this month’s assignment was herbs. herbs! how many hundreds, thousands of herbs are there anyway? i considered most of them. i find i have most difficulty with decision-making when i am a bit over-stimulated by other facets of life. it’s time to admit that my day job is really getting in the way of my blogging, cooking, and social engagements. and something must be done about it.

and so to that end, this writing is so close to the deadline that i will have to keep it short. and sweet! this is a delicious jelly made from a texas viognier and a very special ingredient: mexican mint marigold, aka texas tarragon. this is a lovely herb indigenous to texas and mexico. it is also known as the ‘poor man’s tarragon’. all i know is that it’s a perennial herb that i’ve had it my garden for years and i use it in all kinds of sauces and preparations. the apple pectin stock is a wonderful way to add natural pectin to jellies and jams. the apple flavor is a bit stronger than i’d like it to be, but the jury is still out. i will taste again this week before i make adjustments.

both of these recipes are adapted from gourmet preserves: chez madelaine by madelaine bullwinkel.

apple pectin stock:

this is a neutral pectin stock that works well with most jelly flavors. keep a store of it in the fridge or freezer so you always have some on hand.

4 lbs granny smith apples

8 c water

stem the apples and coarsely chop. place pieces in a heavy non-reactive 5-quart pot: include seeds, skins, and cores. bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. stir once or twice during this time, turning the apples from top to bottom..

strain mixture through  a damp cheesecloth-lined sieve for 1 hour. there will be about 8 cups of juice. begin to reduce this juice while continuing the straining process for another hour. the last strained juice has a higher pectin level than the juices previously strained. add this juice to the pan and reduce juices to 3 cups total.

stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or frozen up to a few months.

wine jelly:

be sure to use a wine you  really enjoy drinking because the final product will be a concentrated version of this flavor.

1 bottle of your favorite wine (i used a driftwood vineyards texas viognier)

3 cups apple pectin stock

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2-3 small sprigs of tarragon (i used mexican mint marigold, aka texas tarragon)

2 cups granulated sugar

reduce the wine to 1 cup in a heavy, non-reactive 4-quart pan. reserve wine and rinse out the pan. combine pectin stock, wine,  lemon juice and tarragon in the pan and bring to a simmer, reducing by half to about 2  1/2 cups. remove tarragon. add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing liquid to return to a boil before adding more. continue to boil until mixture reaches jell-point, about 5-10 minutes.

off heat, skim the jelly and ladle into hot, sterilized jelly jars to within 1/4″ of the top. if desired, add a small sprig of tarragon to suspend in jell. process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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grilled artichokes with meyer lemon aioli

last weekend i went to the downtown farmer’s market to pick up an order i had placed with a very special company here in town called dai due. they take locally sourced products and run with with them, such as making chorizo from richardson farms pork and preserved lemons from local meyer lemons, which are the 2 products i had pre-ordered. the folks are very kind and informal, my two favorite traits for a business. while i was there, i decided to take a quick scan to see if i could find some (rumored) local artichokes. i did and they were beauties. not too big, not too small and extremely fresh. i bought a bag full of them. this is the time of year when my ‘california is showing’; beautiful produce starts showing up for farm-to market meals, warm days with cool nights rule, incredible flora everywhere (thanks, ladybird johnson). sometimes i tell my husband that his ‘oklahoma is showing’,  but it’s usually not meant to be nice.

the first night i just steamed one up and we dipped the ancient-looking leaves into a creamy mustard sauce i had leftover from a pork tenderloin the night before. the next day i went poking around for some fresh new ways to prepare my thorny friends and came across a grilling technique that sounded enticing, yet simple. then, the search continued for a new condiment to enjoy along side. i found it in a meyer lemon aioli from molly wizenberg, remembering that i had those preserved lemons waiting on me.

an aioli is basically a homemade mayonnaise preparation enhanced by the addition of garlic and in this case, meyer lemon. i had everything else i needed on hand. i’ve made homemade mayonnaise before but have always cheated, meaning i used a blender. i decided to try my hand at whisking under my own power. my arm almost fell off, but it was worth it. plus, you can stop and rest as needed without any penalty done to the final product.

instead of adding lemon zest at the end, i finely chopped some of the preserved meyer lemon peel.

grilled artichokes (1 per person if they are small)

adapted from bon appetit

4 small to medium artichokes

a few lemons

good quality olive oil

prepare artichokes: cut stem of artichokes to 1 inch. cut off about 1/4 to 1/3 off the top off the artichoke, remove thick outer leaves and snip of thorny points to remaining leaves. cut artichokes in half lengthwise (or quarters if using large ones),  rub cut sides of artichokes with lemon juice and place in a large bowl of aciduated water (squeeze a few lemon halves into the water). steam artichoke halves in about an inch of water for 20-30 minutes, until tender when you pierce heart with a sharp knife.

remove from pot and allow to cool slightly. remove choke from center of artichoke. i find a grapefruit spoon makes easy work of this chore. drizzle olive oil on artichokes and place on preheated and very hot grill. the artichoke is cooked, you are really just searing it to give it flavor. turn every few minutes until you have grill marks on all side of artichoke pieces. you can serve these warm or at room temperature with meyer lemon aioli.

meyer lemon aioli (makes 3/4 cup-enough for about 4 artichokes)

adapted from orangette

1 medium garlic clove

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp meyer lemon juice

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

zest of 1 meyer lemon (i chopped up 2 slices preserved meyer lemon from dai due)

mince garlic clove, add a pinch of salt to mince, and mash garlic into  a paste with the side of the knife.

in a medium bowl, add garlic and next 5 ingredients, through salt, whisk for about 30 seconds until mixture is well blended.

start adding the oil, a few drops at a time while whisking constantly until you arm just about falls off, taking breaks as needed. add at least the first 1/4 cup of oil this way. after that point, you can add the remaining 1/2 cup in a continuous stream, while whisk continuously, making sure the oil is well-incorporated as you go.

this is really a labor of love and the mixture will thicken as you go, rewarding you with the most beautiful and silky homemade mayonnaise you have ever tasted. or bathed in.

if you enjoy farm-to-market meals (and really who doesn’t?) check out these other let’s lunch posts:

cowgirl chefscrambled eggs with roasted asparagus and potatoes

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Filed under appetizer