Wheat Berry and Bean Salad

March 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

The only on-the-package-recipe you should ever make is Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Truly. It’s a proven recipe and makes a darned-good cookie, a cookie you will experience from the first years of your life to your last. It’ll even be served at your wake. Every other recipe found on a package—whether it’s a box of Velveeta or a fancy grain—should be embarked upon with hesitation and doubt. A dingy full of doubt.

I love what wheat berries do for me for breakfast. I’ve also included them in bread recipes and sprinkled them on a green salad. So when I grabbed my bag of Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Berries and noticed the Wheat Berry & White Been Salad recipe on the back I thought, “Why not try something new today?” “New,” I am reminded now, means a learning experience and not necessarily a guarantee of something awesome.

The salad is simple—wheat berries, white beans (I used chickpeas I had on hand), scallions, celery and tomato with a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is what I regret here. Following the recipe as I did, the ratio of vinaigrette to salad ingredients was way too much. It was more of a thick soup than a salad because it was so heavily dressed. I had to fill out the salad somehow.

A little too overdressed for my liking.

A little too overdressed for my liking.

Reconstructive salad making ensued. Wheat berries went from 1 cup to about 1 3/4 cup (all of what I had just cooked). I had no more chick peas, and no more lentils, which are my usual go-to filler for salads like this. Bulgar would have been too fine of a texture to add into the salad. In the end I cooked up a batch of black beans and added to the soupy salad until it was soupy no more. I must have added close to 2 cups, no kidding.

Wheat Berry and Bean Salad (adapted from Bob’s Red Mill) wheat berry and bean salad
Salad:
1 cup cooked wheat berries
1 cup chick peas
2 cups black beans (or some sort of bean or lentil)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced (makes for a nice crunch)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

Vinaigrette:1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
2 tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. chopped parsley
1 tbs. honey mustard
2 tbs. minced shallot
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4. tsp. black pepper (or 5-6 grinds from a pepper mill)

1. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients together. I chose to emulsify with an immersion blender. I then added the vinaigrette to the bottom of a large bowl.

wheat berry salad vinaigrette

wheat berry salad vinaigrette

2. Add the salad ingredients to the vinaigrette and combine. If it looks overdressed to you, add something to it! Soggy salad is not something you should put up with, really and truly.
3. The recipe says to chill overnight to blend the flavors. Perhaps over that period the beans and berries are supposed to soak up some of the vinaigrette? I didn’t want to leave it to chance. Serving suggestion is to serve on a bed of leaf lettuce. Again, I didn’t want my greens to be soaked, so the additional beans were necessary.

Eat and enjoy—and let me know what you think about the amount of vinaigrette here, please! Too much? Not enough? Just right in a Mamma Bear sort of way? Comments are not just appreciated—they’re anxiously awaited!

Red Pepper Hummus

February 26, 2013 § 4 Comments

We haven’t bought a can of beans in, oh gosh…I’d say six months. This weekend we used our last stray can of black beans for a chili—and I remember moving to our new house with it and packing it away on an upper kitchen shelf. Cooking up dried beans in a pressure cooker is super easy and super cheap, and here’s the bonus: You get several cups of flavorful bean broth to add to whatever dish needs a little tasty liquid. (See how easy it is here.)

And if we’re cooking up our own beans, we might as well make our own favorite bean-based spread, right? I’m speaking of hummus, of course, made with those funny looking little chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). I’ve written about hummus here before, but after making several batches of the stuff, I was left disappointed. Too thick. I wanted the creaminess you’d find in the off-the-shelf brands.

Jennifer found the solution—or very nearly—with a recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook. Not completely creamy as we had hoped, she adjusted and tasted and made batch after batch until finally, she made the perfect consistency. The secret? Adding in some of that aforementioned bean broth and reducing the amount of tahini. Oh, and adding in a roasted red pepper.

Red Pepper Hummus (adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)

red pepper hummus

red pepper hummus

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • large handful parsley
  • 2 scallions, chopped into 1-in. pieces
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (nearly a 1-lb. bag of dry beans cooked, reserve cooking liquid)
  • 4 tbs. tahini
  • Juice of one lemon juice (or more, depending on said lemon’s juiciness)
  • 3/4-1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 – 1/2 sumac to taste (optional if you can find it at your local Middle Eastern grocer)
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 red pepper, roasted at 425F for 30 min., cooled and skin removed, and cut into strips

1. In a food processor combine the garlic, parsley and scallions, and whir up into a mince.
2. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon and salt. Puree into a paste.
3. Add the cumin, sumac and paprika as you add some of that reserved bean cooking liquid—try about 1/4 cup—and process. Add more liquid by the tablespoon until you find the consistency right for you. Careful with the sumac—you may like just a tad, so taste before adding any more than a 1/4 tsp.
4. Add the red pepper at the very end and pulse the food processor until it breaks down the red pepper. We’re not looking for a completely pureeing of the pepper. We just want it broken down into bits.

It’s great on a chip, on this awesome cracker we made last week, or—my favorite use—schmeared on a Roasted Eggplant on Whole Wheat Sandwich.

Pressure Cooker Basics

March 12, 2012 § 15 Comments

And boy do I mean basics. I’m not a pressure-cooker expert—far from it. But I’m writing this because:

  1. My friend Katherine hinted that she’s always been a little uneasy using pressure cookers, and perhaps a Dainty tutorial was called for (um, Katherine, you’re a DOCTOR, and likely have had your hands elbow-deep IN people or delivered babies – my lord, if you can do that …)
  2. Pressure cookers are totally useful kitchen tools—they can cook some long-cooking bean or stew or hunk of meat in much less time. Who doesn’t need to shave some time off the cooking process without totally bailing and ordering take-out? If I can help spread pressure-cooker love to just one more person, then my mission is done (well, not done but I’d certainly feel good about it).
  3. I just pressure-cooked a pot of chickpeas, and since I need something to post about, why not this?

Again, I am sooo noooot a pressure-cooker expert. These are just some quick tips and bare-minimum suggestions from someone who was once afraid of the device and is now totally cool with its use.

Completely forget the stories your Mom or Grandma told you each summer … the story about their pressure cookers explosively losing their lids as their batch of homemade tomato sauce was being sealed and canned for winter. Sauce everywhere, they said, and you didn’t believe a word until Mom redid her kitchen and they moved the stove and found the tomato splatter evidence. THAT’S. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Not nowadays. Not with a) today’s technology and b) today’s litigious society. A lid explodes, a child gets hurt … that can’t happen.

Spend the money. Buy a good, reputable brand. Jennifer bought a Kuhn-Rikon. It’s Swiss. And you know those Swiss.

Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker

Read the manual. Seriously, do it.

Get a specialty cookbook with pressure-cooker recipes. We have Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. It’s very useful.

The gasket is important. It fits in the inner lip of the lid and helps create a seal within which the air pressure can increase. A damaged gasket? A missing gasket? No seal.

Make a match. Most lids fit on the pressure cooker pot in a certain way and require a certain action. Ours requires that the arrow on the lid match with the arrow on the pot handle, and with those matched up, you then twist and lid into a LOCKED position. With the lid locked, it’s not going anywhere.

Twist the lid on.

It hisses. When the pressure inside the pot increases to a high level, it will start hissing. Putting my “I’m not an expert” hat on, I believe the hissing happens when the pressure inside is too great, and the hissing is the “I’m too pressurized!” value releasing the excess pressure. The hissing is also a noise that reminds you, “Oh, right, I gotta turn the temperature down now.”

Leave it be. When your beans or stew or whatnot is done, just turn the heat off and let the pressure come down naturally. There will be some sort of indicator on your lid that will tell you when that happens (more of an explanation below). The steam within the sealed pot is SUPER heated and can severely burn you. So, take your time opening the lid and always open the lid AWAY from you. IF YOU MUST open the lid soon, you can place the sealed pot under running water to help bring the temperature and the pressure down. Again, the indicator on the lid will tell you when they’ve come down.

By way of example, here’s a simple recipe for cooking dried beans of any kind, and we used chickpeas.

Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth (based on the Pressure Perfect recipe)

  • 1 lb. dried beans (in this case, chickpeas), rinsed and with bad beans removed
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbs oil (helps prevent foaming)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, leave skin on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large celery
  • Leek greens (if you have them)

-Add all ingredients in a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Lock the lid according to your manual.

Everyone in the pool!

-Turn the heat on high and bring the pressure within the cooker to high. AS AN EXAMPLE, high pressure is indicated on our Kuhn-Rikon when two red bars appear.

The two red bars indicate high pressure has been reached.

-Turn heat down so it’s just hot enough to maintain the pressure at high. In our case, we turn our gas from high down to just between “2” and “lo.” That works perfectly.

-Maintain high heat for the number of minutes indicated in your pressure cooker book for that specific bean. For chickpeas, that would be 28-30 minutes for a firm bean (for stews and such) and up to 35 for a softer chickpea that would be used in purees such as hummus.

-When the timer goes off, you can let the pressure come down naturally (15-20 minutes or so) or put it under cool running water until the pressure comes down. TILT the lid away from you no matter what. You gotta be careful.

Chickpeas in their broth after about 28 minutes at high pressure followed by about 20 minutes on a natural cool-down.

-Try a few. Too firm? Hard, in fact? Put the lid in place, lock it, and bring it up to pressure again for between 1-5 minutes, depending on how firm you think they are. Go through the same depressurizing process.

-Look at that! You made beans!!

-Lorna suggests that if you have the time, let the beans cool in their liquid. That way they will complete the cooking process. Meanwhile, remove the carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic, and discard.

-When you are ready to drain, you should totally reserve that cooking liquid. It’s ideal as a water or veggie stock replacement in soups or stews. So, put a colander over a bowl to catch the brothy goodness.

Reserve the tasty liquid and use it as a replacement for water or stock in soups and stews.

Still on the fence about using a pressure cooker? Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand!

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

March 1, 2012 § 9 Comments

If you don’t like cumin, step away. You’ve made up your mind about the spice, and no amount of my praising it will change the way your taste buds feel. So, I’ll see you another day, okay?

But you cumin fans, lean in a bit closer—I have something to tell you. This stew … it’s awesome. Awesome as in delicious. Really. Super. Delicious. And it’s all due to the cumin.

It being from Bon Appetit may explain why it’s so delectable. Theirs is a meaty version. I’m sure the addition of chicken thighs is nothing but fabulous. I didn’t have them on hand—plus I’m doing a no-meat kinda thing currently. Still, this rocks with out the cluck factor.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided

    Chickpea Stew

    Chickpea Stew ala Bon Appetit

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs—optional
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs ground cumin—yes, that much
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained OR 1 lb. dry chickpeas cooked to firm
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar (I just roasted a whole large red pepper myself)
  • 2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • country-style bread
  • 3 tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

-IF you’re going the chicken route, heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

-IF you’re not using chicken, heat 2 tbs of oil to medium low, add onion and garlic, and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.

-IF using chicken, add it back into the pot along with bay leaves and 4 cups water and dislodge any of the brown chicken bits that might be on the bottom of the pot.

-Just a quick note: I used dry chickpeas and cooked them in a pressure cooker with 9 cups water, kosher salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and 3 whole garlic cloves for 28 minutes. When I drained the chickpeas, I reserved the liquid and used that in place of 4 cups water. Mmmmm … more flavor.

-Bring everything in the pot to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, with occasional stirring. IF using chicken, let it simmer until chicken is tender (20 minutes). Sans chicken, 10 minutes is enough to get the flavors to meld.

-Transfer chicken to a plate (if it’s in there). Add chickpeas to pot and bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Shred your chicken off the bone and add it in there. Otherwise, skip it. Add in the red peppers and stir in remaining 2 tbs of oil (but only if you want – you don’t need to).

-Don’t skip this part: Give it a taste. Good, right? Yummy power-packed cumin flavor. Okay, now add in 2 tbs of lemon juice (or about half a lemon). Let it simmer for a minute. Now give it another taste? Better, huh? Yup, that lemon is a major major plus here. Adjust seasonings with salt and maybe more lemon if you think it needs it.

-Serving: Bon Appetit says to cube crusty bread, put it in an individual bowl, and ladle the stew on top. DO NOT even attempt. All you get is soggy bread. Bleck. But DO enjoy a nice slice alongside, dipping it to your liking. Oh, and sprinkle some parsley on top, too.

Good, good stewy stuff. There’s no room for cumin haters here.

A second try at hummus

February 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

“Second” is the key word here.

The first attempt was not documented by Dainty. You can guess the reason. Not that great. Boring. Thick. Spackle-like. Did I say tasteless? And it was surprising, too, since it was a Moosewood recipe.

Live and learn. And when it comes to reliable recipes for basic stuff, I have learned to turn to Alton Brown.

I’ve also learned that recipes are not brought down from on high by Moses—they are flexible. And I’ve become way more willing to be flexible with them. And I certainly had to in this case. It turns out that when using the amount of chickpeas the recipe calls for, I had to double the amount of liquids, too, in order to get it to a consistency I preferred. No more hummus spackle for me.

The recipe calls for 1 lb. of dry chickpeas soaked and brought back to edibleness. Jennifer had pressure-cooked a batch on Sunday—adding some carrot, celery and bay leaf—to add to a curry dish we had earlier in the week. But we had lots leftover. Hummus, I thought. Perfect.

But as I’m making the hummus—and it’s not the consistency of typical hummus—I’m thinking … Hmmm, maybe the recipe is wrong or I have way too many chickpeas here.

That said, I’m revising Alton’s recipe a bit.

Ingredients  hummus ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry chickpeas, prepared as directed on the bag (it’s not the equivalent of canned chickpeas, keep that in mind!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice – or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup water*
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup evoo*
  • powdered sumac or paprika
  • salt and pepper

*these were the ingredients I had to double for a smoother, less spackle-like consistency

1. Whir up the chickpeas, garlic and salt in a food processor for 20-30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and whir it up again for about the same time.

2. Scrape sides. Add lemon juice and water. Whir it up again for 30 seconds.

3. Scrape sides. Add tahini and do it again.

4. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil – not the entire thing, though. Stop and scrape when you’ve added 3/4 of it, check the consistency, add 4 good-sized pinches of salt, a half-dozen grinds of fresh black pepper, some shakes of sumac if you have it or some paprika, and whir it up again, adding the rest of the oil if you need it. You may need more oil, so go for it. Remember to adjust seasonings if you do. It’s okay to add a pinch and grind and shake here and there. Be moderate.

5. Enjoy it on a chip.

hummus

hummus with the consistency just the way I like it

For some reason, when I taste this it reminds me of egg salad. And I think that’s because of the pepper. If you despise egg salad, don’t judge—that was just my memory playing tricks on me. It’s perfectly tasty hummus, and my guinea pigs agree.

By the way, this recipe makes the perfect amount if the 5th Battalion is coming over, or if you’re having a party. Seriously, way too much for just having around the house.

Enjoy. And if you have comments, there’s a big box below just waiting for you.

 

 

Vegetarian Chili with a touch of chocolate

February 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Chocolate. I knew I’d hook you with that ingredient. And yes, there really is chocolate in this version. Two types of chocolate, actually. But first …

Vegetarian … yeah, vegetarian. We’re pretty much completely meat-free now. Seafood being the exception. And chicken stock, although we have been doing a good job of keeping ourselves supplied with homemade vegetable and seafood stocks. The reason for ditching the fowl – the last remaining terrestrial flesh I ate – was simple. I just don’t trust where it comes from and what’s in it. Sure, I could purchase meat from Whole Foods or a retailer that sources only organic and local foods. News alert: That stuff is expensive.

Local fish and seafood is, too. I get that. But somehow I feel the seafood is a better value for the protein we get. And we use it all—from tip to tail (or claw). And we enjoy being members of our local Community-Supported Fisheries. I guess that’s a big part of it, too—it makes us feel good to support the local folks who definitely could use our dollars.

Okay, back on track. We’re talkin’ veggie chili here. I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. This is one of Jennifer’s signature dishes (one of many). I have made it now and then, but she does it justice. And Jennifer, if you see anything wrong with the recipe, please correct me in the comments section.

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili with a touch of chocolate - we added green beans in place of the corn (we were out!).

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili, two minutes later.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil (olive will do)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppers, whatever color you prefer but red is nice
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t like it so spicy)
  • 1 bag of frozen soy crumbles
  • 1 28-oz. can of whole chopped tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you squish with your hands)
  • 1 15-oz. can of red kidney beans
  • 1 15-oz. can of black beans
  • 1 cup (or small can) of whole kernel corn
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small block (2 oz?) of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until translucent.

2. Add both types of peppers and cook until tender – about 5 minutes. Add the bag of frozen soy crumbles just so it thaws out a bit before adding other ingredients. It’ll take just a couple of minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, cocoa powder, lime juice, cumin and oregano—and a general sprinkle of salt— stir thoroughly, and let it come to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. During that time it will thicken a bit.

4. Add in the 2-oz. block of chocolate and stir it around, helping it to melt and incorporate into the chili. Add the cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, guacamole, grated cheese or straight up. Give it a taste. Good, right? And you know that flavor that’s right on the edge of being familiar? It’s the chocolate. Serve it to guests and when they ask what that ingredient is, don’t tell them. It’ll be our secret.

Some notes:

1. Feel free to soak and use dried beans of any kind. I would use 1 cup of two different types of dried beans—we’ve used pinto, cranberry, garbanzo.

2. Want to speed up the cooking? Use a pressure cooker. It’ll shave off 10-15 minutes from the simmering time.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.

Breakfast:
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.

homegrown omelet

Lunch:
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.

Dinner:
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.

Day 7

Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.

Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.

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