Braised Cannellini & Kale

Sunday was my final day of a much-needed break. After four months of going hard at my new job, I was desperate for a little physical and mental recovery time. I took a few long walks, drank more than my fair share of a wide variety of adult beverages, watched some movies, caught up with dear friends, halfheartedly read a book, organized my apartment, did a little yoga, cooked and was cooked for, and generally tried to live a life of leisure. Needless to say it all went by a little faster than expected.

I spent my last day of vacation reading, napping and making a big vat of beans and greens to get me through what was promising to be a long, dark and cold workweek.

Braised Kale & Cannellini

  • 1 pound cannellini, soaked overnight and for up to two days
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces guanciale, cubed
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cubes frozen chicken stock
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 parmesan or romano rind (optional, but oh so good)
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring the olive oil up to medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add the guanciale and cook stirring frequently until it is partially rendered. Add the onions and continue stirring until the onions are nicely browned. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  2. Add the wine, chicken stock, carrots, cheese rind, fresh herbs and enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let this go for an hour or so while you take a nap with the cat. Give it a stir, add a little water if needed, and let it go for at least another hour, during which time you might consider another nap.
  3. When the beans are cooked but still a little al dente, add the kale, red wine vinegar and a generous portion of salt and pepper. Pop the lid on and cook for at least another half hour, but no harm in letting it go quite a bit longer given the toothsome nature of winter kale. (A third nap would be excessive, right?) Season with additional salt, pepper or red wine vinegar as you see fit.

I ended up serving this to my travel-weary sister Hannah and her husband Rick along with thick slices of whole wheat sourdough toasted in a generous pour of olive oil–an ideal vehicle for soaking up the rich broth. I finally persuaded my nephew to try one of the beans. Let’s just say that Wally was not a fan.

Later we all piled into the car to travel the mile and a half to where Hannah and Rick would be spending the very first night in their new house. While his parents struggled to make the place habitable, Wally and I read stories amidst the cardboard boxes in his new bedroom and played a modified version of beer pong using a tape ball left by the painting crew.

Wally and Auntie Jaz

At some point, Wally dragged a pillow into the middle of the living room and curled up with his blanket.

Sleepy Boy

I knew just how he felt. I got home just in time to pack up the leftover food and climb into bed. Come Monday, this hearty stew made for a nice lunch whilst hunkered over my keyboard desperately trying to get a series of spreadsheets to bend to my will. Yep, vacation is over.

Braised Kale and Cannellini

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

Try as I might to plow through Saturday’s beef stew (including toting a container to a holiday party, which made for a rather unconventional hostess gift), I still have two servings left. It is delicious, but I am over it. As luck would have it, the seafood shop in my neighborhood decided to open on a Monday to accommodate holiday shoppers–and those of us that just needed a boost at the end of a cold, dark and drizzly day.

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

  • 1 slice good quality smoky bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pound mussels
  • salt and pepper

Bring a large pot that has a matching lid up to medium heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring frequently, until mostly rendered but not yet crispy. Add the butter, stir until melted, and then add the onion and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for five minutes or so, allowing the onions to soften and brown in places. Stir the kale in until wilted. Turn heat to high. Add the cider, vinegar, a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels, top with the lid and let cook for four minutes. Remove the lid and give a stir. If some of the mussels are still closed, leave the lid off and let boil for a minute or two longer.

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

Serve this in a low bowl with a hunk of Runner & Stone‘s crusty baguette to soak up the luscious broth. Be prepared to fight your increasingly aggressive cat for the last mussel.

Oona the Eater

A Leap of Faith: Beef, Shiitake & Celeriac Stew

As 2014 barrels to a close, I find myself pondering leaps of faith…and making beef stew.

The past few months have brought some major, and for the most part self-initiated, life changes. I’m beginning to settle in, but have yet to really find my new rhythm. Or, rather, just when I think I have, the song changes. I’ve been impressed by my brain’s capacity to synthesize and adapt to new information (and have been killing the Times crossword puzzle as of late). But I’d be lying if I said these changes aren’t physically and mentally exhausting.

Early in adulthood I was faced with a major decision. A mentor and dear friend, noting my distress, observed that there were no right or wrong choices, merely different paths. I have shared this advice with countless people over the years and have taken great comfort in it myself. But, deep down, I’m still convinced that, with enough effort, I can analyze my way into the right choice.

There was a distinct moment in my late 20s when I realized that there was no answer key to life and that everyone is just making it up as they go along. Being an adult doesn’t mean knowing what to do in every situation. We learn from trial and error. We get better at selecting those we ask for advice. We learn to accept that things may not turn out as hoped. We also learn that things continue to evolve and, at some point, it’s bound to get better.

As hard as I am working to make the right choices, there are moments when I realize that what I’ve set in motion involves forces well beyond my control. Try as we might to reason our way through, our life choices are, ultimately, leaps of faith.

Stew, too, is an act of faith. You take a cheap cut of meat, sear it in some fat, and then braise it in liquid. About an hour into this process, the meat will be alarmingly tough and the surrounding gravy won’t taste like much. But keep the faith. Let it go another hour or two (each pot of stew having its own internal timeline) and you will find yourself with a tender and savory dish. It may not always be quite what you set out to make, but it will be good and nourishing. And it will get better with age; consider making your stew the day before, chilling overnight, and then reheating.

Mushrooms and Onions

Beef, Shiitake & Celeriac Stew

  •  3 tablespoons beef fat (or butter)
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat (chuck, sirloin or whatever else the butcher recommends)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 baseball-sized bulb celeriac
  • 1 pound shiitake (pr plain old button) mushrooms 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 anchovies in oil
  • 2/3 bottle red wine
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Melt fat or butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Toss meat with flour and a healthy pinch of salt. Brown meat in batches so as not to crowd the pan, allowing a nice dark crust to form. Set aside.Seared Beef
  2. If your fat is all gone, add the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, scraping up the dark bits at the bottom of the pan with the juices released by the onions. When the onions are soft and browned, add the carrots, celeriac, mushrooms and red pepper flakes. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Clear a spot in the pot and add the tomato paste and anchovies. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Deglaze the pan with a bit of the red wine, then add the rest of the wine plus the beef stock, herbs and sugar.
  3. Bring the stew up to a boil, pop a lid on, and turn the heat down low. You’re aiming for a slow simmer. Now is a fine time to take your compost to the farmers’ market. You may purchase a hot apple cider for the walk home but do no under any circumstances buy more vegetables given that you are leaving town in four days and still have the bulk of last week’s CSA share stashed in your refrigerator.
  4. After about an hour of cooking, remove the lid so that your sauce begins to thicken. Add a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for one to two additional hours until your meat is fork-tender (but not complete mush) and the surrounding liquid is the consistency of a hearty gravy.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Beef Stew

Guy Lon & Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry

As regular readers know, I am quite devoted to Farmer Ted and the whole Windflower Farm crew.

But this week I had occasion to check out another CSA. My coworker and I visited Crown Heights Farm Share to learn about some of the innovative strategies they are using to recruit and retain low-income residents. From what I observed, the folks in Crown Heights have built a remarkable sense of community. They also have some remarkable vegetables courtesy of Sang Lee Farms, located on the North Fork of Long Island. One of the coordinators we met with was kind enough to send me into the night with a lovely bouquet of guy lon, also known as Chinese broccoli.

Guy Lon

I made it to my own CSA, which is five blocks away, just before closing time. Good thing I did as, in addition to a delightful selection of vegetables, I picked up a pound of ground lamb that I had ordered during a bout of insomnia the week before and promptly forgotten about.

Guy Lon & Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry

  • 1 cup long grain white rice, rinsed 
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seed
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, ground 
  • black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons safflower or other neutral cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced pole to pole
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (or to taste), minced
  • 1 large bunch guy lon (Chinese broccoli), leaves, flowers and thin stems roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 scallions, sliced on the bias into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  1. Bring two cups of water to boil in a medium pot. Add the rice, stir, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let stand for another 5 minutes before serving. (This should be just enough time to prep and cook the rest of the dish.)
  2. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they release their aroma and turn a few shades darker. Gently mix the lamb with the cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, tamari or soy sauce, and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into the skillet and bring it up to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are limp and charred in places. Add the red and jalapeño peppers, allowing these to brown and go limp. Empty the contents of the pan into a bowl.
  4. Place the skillet back on the heat and pour in another tablespoon of oil. Add the guy lon stems and let these cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the flowers and leaves and cook stirring constantly until the stems are bright green and the leaves are wilted. Dump the guy lon on top of the onions and peppers.
  5. Place the skillet back on the heat and pour in the last tablespoon of oil, followed by the lamb, garlic and rice wine vinegar. Cook stirring frequently for 10 minutes or so until the lamb has released and then reabsorbed most of its juices. Stir the cooked vegetables and the scallions in, and let cook for a couple more minutes. Add the cilantro off the heat. Serve over rice, which should be done right about now.

Guy Lon and Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry

Five-Spice Spare Ribs

Greetings from Heathrow Airport, where I am having my first encounter with the wonders of Business Class travel.

It was an excruciating flight across the pond. Sheer exhaustion, a couple of stiff cocktails and Led Zeppelin IV enabled me to sleep through takeoff and the first hour of flight. But that left me with seven hours in which to watch mediocre movies, obsess about my physical discomfort, and make frequent trips to the restroom so as not to feel trapped.

A travel mishap found my stepdad ponying up some of his precious miles to ensure that I made it to Paris in time to start a two-week study trip. It seems that steerage was all booked, so I will be flying Business Class for the second (and, sadly, much shorter) leg of my travel. I knew this meant a bigger seat and complimentary on-board cocktails, but had no idea about the perks at the airport.

The transfer between terminals involved approximately a mile of walking and a 15-minute bus ride through the back end of the airport. I arrived at the Air France counter tired, hungry and more than a bit cranky. The woman I handed my passport to didn’t appear any happier–until, that is, she pulled up my name and discovered that I was (for this brief moment in time) a member of the elite. Within minutes, I was stepping through the discrete frosted doors of the Sky Club where they greeted me warmly and booked me for a complimentary facial. I had debated grabbing coffee and a lackluster baked good in the terminal, but it turns out there’s a full buffet breakfast, an espresso machine, and Bloody Mary fixings here in the Sky Lounge. There are sleek and clean bathrooms, all manner of comfy chairs, and a wall of moss, ferns and ivy that is doing wonders for my respiratory system.

Having knocked back a latte, a cappuccino, two glasses of cucumber-infused water, half a Bloody Mary, and a proper English breakfast (beans!), I thought I’d take a little time to update you, dear reader, on my progress on that fridge full of fresh produce. As previously reported, Saturday started with a Greek-Style Kale Salad. For my midday meal, I topped the slightly-past-their-prime figs with more of the goat milk yogurt and some flowering thyme.

Figs with Yogurt and Thyme

I spent the afternoon running errands while some ribs left from last season’s Lewis Waite Farm Carnivore Share spent their time marinating in preparation for a farewell feast. Louis arrived a little after 8:00 bearing Prosecco, Chardonnay and a Zinfadel that, I am ashamed to confess, we did not even crack. By 8:30 we were sitting down to a delightful meal of five-spice spare ribs, stir-fried bok choy with scallions, and rice cooked with ginger and shiitake mushrooms.

Five-Spice Spare Ribs

Gingered Shiitake Rice

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Five-Spice Spare Ribs

  • 1 rack pork ribs (approximately 1.25 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (Rice wine vinegar would be good, but I seem to have run out.)
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons five spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • small handful of roughly chopped scallion greens
  • black pepper
  1. Cut the rack into individual ribs by running a knife between the bones. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a shallow baking dish and submerge the ribs in this marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for at least eight hours, flipping the ribs to ensure even penetration. 
  2. Pre-heat oven to 325, remove plastic wrap, tent ribs with foil and pop in the oven. Let cook for one hour, then remove the foil, flip the ribs, and let cook for another hour. At this point, your marinade should be starting to thicken. Remove the ribs to a covered serving dish to keep warm. Pour the marinade into a small container and simmer on the stove top until it is the consistency of barbecue sauce. Drizzle this over the ribs and serve.

The next morning I converted the leftover rice into fried rice with swiss chard, scallions and egg.

Chard, Scallion and Shiitake Fried Rice

Later that afternoon, I polished off a head of romaine, half a cucumber that had been hiding in the crisper and the rest of the scallions with a dressing made from the last of the goat milk yogurt, garlic scapes and whatever fresh herbs I still had on hand. Some canned sardines–stockpiled for just such a purpose–rounded out the meal.

Romaine and Sardine Salad

Just before leaving for the airport, I admitted defeat and delivered one last bunch of kale to my neighbors. No vegetables get left behind!

OK, best be off for my pre-flight facial before they figure out that I’m an imposter.

Mutton Dressed as…Mutton

I was raised a vegetarian. My family introduced meat around the time I started middle school, but it took me a while to truly become a carnivore. Once during my senior year of college my mom brought home fried chicken and had to pick the white meat off of the bone for me.

My budding curiosity was put on hold when I entered college, as cafeteria meat was just too gross to ponder. I started cooking in earnest while studying in Jerusalem during my junior year. Israel was a great place to be a vegetarian. Even on my very limited budget, I was able to eat well and even feed others. For a long time after college I ate (rather pedestrian) meat outside of the house but continued to cook vegetarian dishes at home.

Eventually I became too interested in food not to explore. I found myself frustrated by my own taboos and squeamishness. And so I began to push at my own boundaries. While I might not order it as my entrée, I would taste anything. I moved beyond chicken breasts and ground beef in my own meat cookery. I worked hard at confronting meat that looked like what it was: part of an animal. I delved into braises and barbecuing. I ordered a leg of lamb from an old school pork store and brought it home in the basket of my bike. I bought an untrimmed pork loin and tackled it early one morning in a pre-caffeine haze. The more I worked with meat, the more it became a part of me and my identity.

Today I had the opportunity to attend a daylong intensive workshop on butchering sheep as part of Just Food‘s annual conference. The workshop was led by Adam Danforth, who just published two books on butchering. He talked us through slaughter, animal welfare and what makes meat delicious. After a burrito and margarita break (did I mention how awesome this workshop was?), Adam set to work breaking down a whole sheep and answering our endless questions. A chef was on hand to prepare the various cuts in a simple manner that really highlighted the lamb-y goodness. We rounded out the day with beer, socializing and the chance to pack up a meat cut or two to take home.

Sheep Carcass

I went for the shoulder chop, which Adam had explained was far more flavorful than the more conventional (and expensive) loin or rib chops. Adam is a big proponent of the complex flavor and marbling that come with a muscle that works hard. He also encourages the consumption of older animals and challenges the commonly held notion that they are tough. It turns out that a sheep is classified as lamb up until it reaches a year old. Between one and two years old, it is a hogget. And, after two years, it becomes mutton. This older meat is darker in color and offers the deeper flavor that lamb aficionados seek.

Mutton Shoulder Chops, Raw

I had plans to go out to dinner. On my way to the train, I dropped my friend a text that there was a change in plan and that he should meet me at my apartment for some serious meat. An hour later Justin arrived bearing the ingredients for Hemingway Daiquiris and I set to work preparing our feast.

Hemingway Daquiris

With the winter CSA season behind us and summer still months off, I find that I have to go to great lengths to get my quota of good quality fresh vegetables. Luckily, I had swung through the Union Square Greenmarket on my way to the workshop (which, incidentally, was in a very cool test kitchen behind an unmarked door).

I kept the preparation of the meat and the accompanying dishes simple to highlight the mutton flavor. I stuck a cast iron skillet in the oven while it pre-heated. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped a celeriac bulb, a couple of parsnips and a large sweet potato. I tossed these root vegetables with some sprigs of fresh thyme, a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and a good dose of salt and pepper directly in the hot skillet and left them to roast, stirring occasionally. I tossed radish sprouts with sunflower seeds and a simple shallot, rice wine and sesame oil vinaigrette.

Radish Sprout Salad

I brought a large skillet up to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned the room temperature chops liberally with salt and pepper before tossing them into the pan. I seared them for about five minutes per side and then set them aside to rest while I made a quick pan sauce. I poured off all but a tablespoon of the fat, placed the pan back over the heat, and added a couple of tablespoons of finely minced shallots and garlic. After a couple of minutes of constant stirring, I deglazed the pan with the dregs of a bottle of white wine. Off the heat, I stirred in two tablespoons of finely minced parsley and the zest of an old lemon that I unearthed from the crisper bin. I drizzled the sauce over the chops and we sat down to some truly delicious mutton.

Mutton Shoulder Chops, Cooked

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

I am suffering from my third stomach ailment this year. After two days of being laid up, my fever had broken and my energy was back. But a ten-hour workday, punctuated by kale salad, farro, beets and Brussels sprouts put me in my place. I woke out of a dead sleep at 4am and went to retrieve the recycling bin that had been my constant companion earlier in the week.

Somehow I managed to dress for work and get as far as my subway stop before giving up and returning home. On the way I stopped off at the grocery store for an array of easily digestible (mainly white) foods. Breakfast was plain white toast. For lunch, I moved on to a small banana and a can of Coke (a concession to my caffeine addiction). By 7:00pm, I was actually experiencing something that resembled hunger, but suspected I still needed to tread lightly.

I’ve made this soup before in various forms. The ginger is great for stomach ailments and clearing the sinuses. It cooks up in under half an hour and, if you’re feeling a little less peaked than I am at the moment, you can doctor it in all kinds of ways. Even the most basic version is a welcome flavor boost after white bread and bananas.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 knob ginger about the size of your last thumb joint, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Jasmine or other long-grain white rice
  • Optional additional ingredients: rice noodles, egg noodles, spinach, egg, scallions, chives, Sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Add the chicken and simmer gently until just cooked through (7-10 minutes). Remove chicken.
  2. Add the rice and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred your chicken using two forks. When the rice is cooked, slide the chicken back in and simmer another minute or two.
  3. The above makes a lovely, restorative soup. If you want to take it a step or two further, at this point you could do any or all of the following 1) swap rice noodles or egg noodles for the rice (and adjust the cooking time accordingly), 2) add spinach leaves and simmer until just wilted, 3) stir in a lightly mixed egg, 4) garnish with thinly sliced scallions or chives, 5) stir in a shot of Sriracha, 6) drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, 7) sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving. 

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

UPDATE: The chicken breasts came three to a pack, so I continued the theme throughout the week. Here’s a version with daikon radish, turnip, parsley and sesame oil that I made the next day, once my stomach had started to recover. The parsley was a sorry substitute for cilantro, but this iteration was otherwise delicious.

Daikon Turnip Chicken Soup

A few days later, when the craving for fiber and complex carbohydrates had kicked in, I swapped the rice for a thinly sliced sweet potato and stirred a bunch of baby spinach and a lightly whisked egg in at the last minute. This was a very nice reentry into my normal food patterns.

Chicken Sweet Potato Spinach Soup

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

I just returned from a truly epic road trip down South. It’s going to take me a minute to put the whole thing down in writing, but suffice it to say that one of the many highlights was consuming five different specimens of pulled/chopped pork in 24 hours. Of all the fine swine that we consumed, the winner by unanimous decision was the unsuspecting plastic-wrapped BBQ sandwich from Cooper’s Country Store in Salter, South Carolina.

Cooper's Country Store

Cooper’s is a classic combination gas station and country store that I suspect hasn’t changed much since it was built at a country crossroads in 1937. Mercifully, they do take credit cards, so we were free to stock up on Blenheim’s ginger ale, locally ground grits, field peas, and all manners of pork. My traveling companions couldn’t resist the lure of the country hams that were curing behind screens. Being a single gal who lives in 600 square feet, I limited myself to several pounds of bacon and smoked ham ends, which would make excellent seasoning meat.

Cooper's Counter

But back to that sandwich. It came on an ordinary enough white hamburger bun. No slaw. No dripping sauce. Just pulled pork meat (whole-hog, as is de rigueur in South Carolina) that was smoky but not overpoweringly so, assertively vinegary, a good bit spicy, and just the tiniest bit sweet. This was the barbecue of our collective dreams.

BBQ Sandwich

Three days later, I found myself back in Brooklyn, catching up on real life. After 36 hours of kale salad, haricot vert and sushi, I was feeling recovered and even a bit nostalgic. The field peas that had made it out of my backpack but not into the cupboard were calling out to me. And, of course, there was that seasoning meat.

Field Peas

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

  • 1 pound dried field peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large hunk seasoning meat (approximately the size of a deck of cards), sliced – bacon ends, ham trimmings, salt pork, or what have you
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 peeled and halved garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • dried chilis, fresh chilis and/or red pepper flakes
  • 2 or more tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Fill a large dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot up halfway with water. Add the seasoning meat, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay, thyme and chilis. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add your peas and let simmer partly covered for approximately 45 minutes or until tender but not falling apart.
  2. Remove and discard the veggies and herbs. Pull out the seasoning meat and dice into small pieces. Unless you are feeding a crowd, remove a pint of the peas and most of the cooking liquid, reserving for future use. (Beans freeze brilliantly.) Scoop another pint into your food processor with a bit of the liquid and let run until they form a paste.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Taste your beans and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, more vinegar, and a little hot sauce of your choice. (If you used country ham ends like I did, you may even be able to forgo any additional salt.) If needed, add back a bit of your cooking liquid.
  4. Add butter to a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the bell pepper until just soft. Stir this into your beans along with the parsley and remove from heat.

Field peas are traditionally served over long-grain Carolina rice. But, if you happen to have a pot of kale and mustard greens slow cooked with some more of that seasoning meat, that would do fine too.

Field Peas and Greens

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

This post contains two recipes which, when combined, yield a very nice pot of chili for four. I recommend doubling the bean recipe and setting half aside so that you can throw together quick dinners of tacos, huevos ranchers and the like throughout the week.

Spicy Black Beans

  • 1/2 pound black beans
  • 1 tablespoon lard, bacon drippings or other pork fat
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (or epazote if you’ve got it)
  • 2 dried chili de arbol (or substitute cayenne pepper to taste)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add the beans to a large pot along with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let them sit for an hour or more.
  2. Add the pork fat, onions, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for one hour.
  3. Add the whole peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 30-60 minutes until the beans are quite soft and the cooking liquid has thickened. Remove bay leaf and chilis, transfer beans and cooking liquid to another container, give the pot a quick rinse, and move on to the next recipe.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili with Hot Beef Sausage

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 links hot beef sausage, sliced into discs (If you can get your hands on Lewis Waite Farm‘s version, I recommend doing so because YUM. But any kind of spicy sausage would yield a great dish.)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried chipotle and/or smoked habanero powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (Trust me on this; it’s your secret weapon.)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 batch spicy black beans (see above)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  1. Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large pot. Fry your sausage slices in two batches, allowing them to brown and crisp in places.
  2. Remove the sausage, lower the heat a bit and add your onions. (If there wasn’t much fat left from your sausage, you could add a little more olive oil at this point.) Saute until starting to soften, then add in the spices and cook stirring constantly for one minute. Do the same with the tomato paste.
  3. Dump your reserved beans and sausage into the pot along with the cider vinegar and enough water that everything is just submerged. Let simmer for 30 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes. Let simmer for another hour. You can add water as you go if needed, but the goal is more of a thick sauce than a broth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I served this garnished with thinly sliced scallions, avocado slices and some Greek yogurt to counterbalance all of that heat.

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

Last week was a doozy. I worked late on Friday and arrived home in need of some whiskey and a comforting meal–in that order. Fortunately, the night before I’d thought to defrost some of Lewis Waite Farm‘s most excellent kielbasa and soak some flageolet.

Flageolet

Flageolet are a lovely pale green bean used in rustic French cooking, including cassoulet. I had a classic cassoulet once and it was delicious. Saveur’s recipe calls for duck fat, ham hocks, pork shoulder, pancetta, duck confit legs and pork sausage (that last one being optional) and, by my rough estimate, takes about eight hours. While I am not averse to spending an entire day cooking, eating such a heavy meal at 4:00am seemed ill-advised. The recipe below will yield a rich, comforting meal for a crowd in under two hours.

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

  • 1 pound flageolet, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons pork fat (or olive oil)
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart concentrated pork stock (See Going Whole Hog for the recipe. Chicken stock would also suffice, though I might throw a little bacon in at the beginning.)
  • 1 pound kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 very large carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 very large daikon radish, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of pork fat in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute. Then add your pork stock plus enough water to cover the beans, turn up the heat to bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
  3. Melt the other tablespoon of pork fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the kielbasa slices in batches, searing on both sides. Dump these in with your beans. Stir in the carrot and radish along with some black pepper.
  4. Pop a lid on your beans and tuck them into the oven for 30 minutes—or until your empty whiskey glass compels you to go back into the kitchen. Take the pot out of the oven and check on your beans. If they aren’t yet tender, let them go a little longer. If they yield easily to your teeth, stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to 350 and place back in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes—or until you’re in desperate need of something to soak up the whiskey.

Flageolet with Kielbasa