White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

We’re getting down to the dregs in terms of seasonal eating. My last CSA pickup was over a month ago. The green things at my local farmers’ market dwindled down to hearty spinach before drying up completely sometime in the middle of February. And so I have turned my attention to beans and storage vegetables (plus a little store-bought kale–hey, a girl’s gotta get her greens).

White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

  • 1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 ounce guanciale, cubed
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large bulb celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 Meyer lemon, skin and all, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Add the beans, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, guanciale, herbs and spices to a large Dutch oven along with enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for an hour or more, until the beans are tender. Fish out the celery, carrots and bay leaves. Add the squash, celeriac, cheese rind and lemon, and top with enough water to just cover everything. Bring back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. When the vegetables have softened (about 15 minutes), stir in the kale along with plenty of salt and pepper. Cook until the kale is wilted. 

White Bean and Winter Vegetable Stew

It’s going to be another long and strenuous workweek. At least I’ve packed my lunch.

Packed Lunch

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

Wajeedah’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa Verde

Friday morning found me trekking to South Jamaica, Queens to meet Wajeedah Anderson-Beyah at McKinley Children’s Garden. The garden is named for Wajeedah’s late husband, an urban farmer and community activist who grew up in nearby public housing and attended P.S. 40 just across the street. McKinley envisioned a space where neighborhood kids could learn about gardening and connect to nature.

I am here to attest that McKinley Children’s Garden is also an oasis for overworked grownups. An hour of chatting about the garden’s educational programs, munching cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine, and learning about different techniques for container gardening did wonders for my frazzled mental state. I would have loved to have spent the day.

South Jamaica Sunflowers

Alas, I was due back on the 15th floor of a Midtown high-rise. Before my departure, Wajeedah tasked me with picking black beans while she gathered sunflowers and lemon balm for me to take home. While I am a serious lover of all manners of beans, it turns out that I didn’t have a clue about how they are grown. These particular beans grow in long thin pods that fade from a lovely eggplant color to white as they dry. Once dry, the pods are easily plucked from the vine.

Black Beans in Pod

And, as I learned later that night, the small, inky beans are easy to pop out of their shell–even after several glasses of wine followed by a long and sleepy subway ride.

Friday at last.

 Wajeedah’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa Verde

Turn the oven up as high as it will go and get to work on the beans.

  • 1/4 cup dried black beans
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1″ piece of jalapeno or other hot pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large pinch salt

Add ingredients above plus 3/4 cup water to a small pot, bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let simmer for one hour or until beans are tender but still toothsome, adding small amounts of water as needed.

  • 6 tomatillos, halved
  • 1 large onion, trimmed and halved
  • 5 mild peppers (bell, Poblano, etc.), seeded and halved
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil into a roasting pan, arrange the vegetables cut side down in a single layer, drizzle with the remaining oil, and pop into your pre-heated oven. Cook undisturbed until you have some nice charred bits, by which time your tomatillos will likely have collapsed into a mush. Finely mince the jalapeno, roughly chop everything else, and add the vegetables plus any remaining juice to a mixing bowl.

  • 2 cobs of corn, niblets sliced off and cobs reserved for stock
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper

Stir in the remaining ingredients, including a generous amount of pepper and salt to taste. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (Overnight is fine.)

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Verde

Serve this as you would any salsa–as a dip with tortilla chips, as a condiment with grilled fish or meat, etc. I ate some with scrambled eggs nestled inside corn tortillas.

Breakfast Tacos

Swiss Chard & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

My nephew Wally is mad cute.

Sick Wally

He is also a vector for disease. I have been rocking the same glazed eyes and runny nose for the past week (though I fear they’re not quite as cute on me). By Friday my cough had reached a new level of intensity, rendering sleep a challenge. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, desperate to feel that something other than my cough was “productive,” I set some black-eyed peas to soaking.

I had big plans for Saturday, but a pounding headache and sheer exhaustion compelled me to stick close to home. Luckily, I had those black-eyes peas, a fridge full of vegetables, and friends who were game to scrap our night out in favor of supper on my roof.

I’ve been trying to spend more time on the roof. While the air in my apartment is thick and stagnant in these dog days of summer, it’s always breezy and at least ten degrees cooler up on the roof. A glass of wine and a little al fresco dining as the sun sets will cure just about anything (except maybe this cold). I like to treat my rooftop suppers as picnics, preparing simple, fresh food that’s easily transportable and meant to be eaten at room temperature.

Brookly Roof

Swiss Chard & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

  • 3/4 pound (1.5 cups) dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (or a few sprigs if you’ve got fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, divided
  • 3 bunches swiss chard, turnip greens and/or other leafy greens, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add beans, onion, bay leaf, red pepper, thyme and olive oil to a large pot. Cover with water by one inch, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until just tender, 30-45 minutes, adding water if needed.
  2. Remove onion and bay leaf. Stir in smoked salt, half of the vinegar and a healthy dose of black pepper. Add the greens in batches, starting with the stems, which will take a little longer to cook. Let simmer until greens are tender but still toothsome, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the vinegar, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Swiss Chard and Black-Eyed Pea Salad

I served this salad alongside whole wheat sourdough toasted in coconut oil and a variation on last summer’s Garden Pea and Spring Onion Puree. A couple bottles of rose rounded out the meal.

Supper on the Roof

Neighbors trickled up to the roof as the sun set. Dishes were carried downstairs and replaced with chocolate and more wine. Just after dark, the supermoon rose above the chimney of an adjacent building.

Fava Bean, Mint & Feta Dip

A week after returning home, I’m still on a bit of a bread bender. Having polished off the last of my Parisian stash on Friday, I found myself tucking in my desk chair at 5:45 this evening in order to make it to the Union Square Greenmarket before the good people of Bread Alone packed up for the day. Once I had a quarter loaf of their excellent organic French sourdough stashed in my tote, I was free to roam. I told myself I didn’t need anything else, as I still had vegetables left over from last week and another CSA share arrives tomorrow. But a giant bag of fava beans was just three dollars. And wouldn’t some fresh mint (at two dollars for a nicely sized bouquet) be just the thing to make the favas’ green and slightly nutty flavor pop? And who can pass up tender young garlic?

Fava Bean, Mint & Feta Dip

  • enough fava beans in pod to fill your salad spinner (Sorry, I have no idea what they weighed.)
  • four cloves garlic – the younger, the better
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • small handful of mint leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces feta
  1. Set a small pot of water to boil, crack open a cold beer and get to work popping the fava beans out of their pods. The technique is similar to shelling peas. It will get easier as you go, I promise. The beer helps.Shelling Fava Beans
  2. By the time you shell your final bean, the water should be boiling. Add a generous pinch of salt as well as the beans. Peel the garlic and toss this in as well. Let boil until the beans are tender, approximately five minutes, then strain into a collander and rinse with cold water.
  3. Remove the garlic and dump the beans into a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a coarse mixture. Remove approximately half of the beans. Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, mint, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Stir in the coarsely ground beans and crumbled feta. 

This would make a great hors d’oeuvre served on small crostini or with pita points for dipping. I stashed about half in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch and ate the rest slathered on toasted slices of that Bread Alone sourdough while watching the sun set from the roof of my building. With the temperature hovering around 90 degrees at 8:00pm, this made an ideal supper.

Fava Bean Mint and Feta Dip

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

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

I’m coming off of back-to-back 60-hour workweeks. In the middle of it all, I threw my back out necessitating a trip to urgent care and a cocktail of controlled substances that I’ve had to meter our carefully so as to remain functional for Tuesday’s fundraising gala and its aftermath.

By Saturday I was off duty and officially on Spring Break. I celebrated by purchasing a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon for my train ride down to Baltimore. That plus some Percocet and a little Zeppelin momentarily had me pain-free for the first time in over a week.

The plan was (and, I think, still is) a road trip down to Nahunta, Georgia to pick up a grill (well, technically a smoker cooker) that the good folk at Lang BBQ Smokers are building to spec for my friend Don. Between my back problems, a death in Don’s family, and a freak mid-March snowstorm over the mid-Atlantic, we’re getting a slow start.

Don flew home from Wisconsin last night via Atlanta (which, incidentally, put him within a four-hour drive of his new grill). His father-in-law had passed away in the wee hours of the morning and he’d had an arduous daylong journey, so I had resolved to cook him a nice meal. My instructions were to make something low in cholesterol and high in fiber, as Don had to swing by the lab for some blood work before we left town.

Rooting through the pantry, I found some black lentils and long-grain pecan rice. The hanging basket under the stairs held an onion and a large sweet potato. In the back of the fridge were parsley and a knob of fresh ginger. This plus an ample spice cabinet would make for a warm, flavorful meal and provide us both with enough fiber to kick off five days of barbeque for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

  • 1 cup black lentils
  • 4 cups water and/or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 African bird chilis (or cayenne paper to taste)
  • 1 whole black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida (optional, but recommended if you are making the vegan version, as it will lend the dish a richness)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and/or cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring the lentils and water/stock to boil in a medium pot, reduce heat, and let simmer for 25 minutes or until tender but still toothsome, seasoning with salt as needed. If you’re making rice to accompany the dish, now is a good time to start that process.
  2. Strain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid. Add oil to your pot and bring up to medium heat. Add the onions and stir frequently until softened and starting to brown. Add ginger and stir constantly for one minute. Add all of the spices, stirring constantly for another minute. Add the reserved cooking liquid and the sweet potato. Simmer until potato has softened, adding water if the mixture gets too thick.
  3. Pour the lentils back into the pan along with the vinegar and a good dose of freshly ground pepper. Let simmer for a few more minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add fresh herbs off the heat.

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

This recipe makes about four servings. I reheated the leftovers for breakfast. Don had his with rice. I simmered an egg in mine. Imagine this should get us through the first few hours of our snowy spring break road trip.