Feb 21, 2009

leguminaceous

our internet service has been cutting in and out for days, but today is blue-skied and bright so everything is alright: the windows in the dining room are east-facing, and working here between 11am and 2pm is a sun-drenched experience.

of late, i've been cooking with beans a lot, in no small part due to my subscription to rancho gordo's RSS feed. last week, a remarkably happy combination of red kidney beans cooked separately and then combined with cauliflower and carrots dry-braised with large quantities of ginger, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garlic, and cilantro. there was also finely-shredded kale scorched in a very hot pan with crisp-fried pieces of the ham from tw and diana. this morning, when i got up, i took out the last chunks of frozen pork belly from the ham and browned them very slowly, then poured on some hot water to make a barnyard-y ham stock. when i poured that into a glass to cool, the layer of fat that appeared on top was more than 2 inches thick. after toasting some brown mustard seeds in oil, i added half a red onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic, then a cup of navy beans that had been soaking since last night with water and stock to cover and--an hour later--a mass of chopped napa cabbage. it's been a while since i've had a better soup.

having cooked with 7 different kinds of beans in the last month, i've become more aware of the differences in texture and flavour between the different varieties. i'm particularly partial to the anasazi beans, which have a creamy consistency and a mild but savoury flavour. but, frankly, every bean i've tried has been unfailingly good. they require no salt in cooking--garlic, onions, a bay leaf, cumin, cayenne, water, and beans inevitably produce deeply-satisfying, resonant flavour (when i add stock, it gets better but not so much so that i'll go out of my way to make stock for beans). i figure the cost of each of the meals above at about $0.70 per serving. this makes me wonder why some people won't even consider a meal satisfying unless it contains a sizeable proportion of meat, regardless of what that meat actually tastes like or how it's been cooked. (it doesn't even taste very good unless it is quality meat prepared appropriately--which is not to say that it has to be a premium cut; high quality pieces of neglected cuts are inexpensive. it's probably strong cultural conditioning: explicable but incomprehensible.

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