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Pot Cookery

a.k.a. Fassüliah K’dra, these are soft and delicately savory saffron cannellini beans. This is a very simple recipe and the result appears quite plain, but it is in fact amazingly subtle and delicious. The white pepper adds just the right amount of spice. You can eat this plain in a bowl as you would any old bean stew, or add toppings to it like chopped tomato or yogurt or whatever strikes your fancy, or serve alongside a bunch of other salads and tasty bits.

Adapted from Mediterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou. Serves 6.

2 1/2 C. dried cannellini beans, soaked 8 hrs. or quick soaked for at least 3 in boiling water
A nice fat pinch of saffron
10 C. water
5 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium or 2 large white onions, halved or quartered and sliced very thin (a mandoline is good for this)
1/4 C. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

Put the drained beans and the water into a soup pot. Add the saffron, crushing it with your fingers first. Bring to a boil, add the oil, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

If pressure cooking, heat at maximum pressure for 6 minutes and then quick release; add the ingredients listed below and pressurize again for the same amount of time.

Stir in onions, parsley, and pepper, and cook for another 30 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste. You can adjust the consistency by cooking longer or adding more water.

Super freaking good.  If you don’t have a double boiler, use a metal bowl on top of a saucepan (and have hot pads ready to handle it). Don’t know what teff is? Go ahead, GTS.

You’ll need:
1 cup teff (whole grains, not flour)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. salt
4 cups water, milk, or water and milk

You’ll do:
In a small bowl, combine teff, 1/2 cup water, and salt.

Bring the 4 cups liquid mixture to a boil in the top of a double boiler.  (You can speed this process by bringing your water to a boil in an electric kettle first.)  Gradually stir in the teff mixture.  Return to a boil, continually stirring, for 3-5 minutes.  Lower heat and cover; cook for 25-30 minutes and stir frequently.  It gets thick.

If desired, add 1/2 cup nutritional yeast in the last 15 minutes of cooking.  Or 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, whatever.

Spoon into bowls for immediate eating or pour into a lightly oiled cake tin and chill.  Cut the chilled polenta cake into wedges and eat cold, heat up, or grill over a hot grill pan.

Made this earlier this month, and it was pretty good.  I believe some saffron milk would go along very nicely, too, if you have it.

Also, I want a tagine.  And someone to show me how to sharpen my own knives.

Also: Korean food. Can’t get enough of it. Even though it’s not strictly Korean, I’m ready to take a trip to L.A. to get my hands on a bulgogi taco. Bulgogi tacos, surfing (or trying to, anyways), and visiting my dear old pal and her weird dogs sounds like a good way to spend the next out-of-town weekend I can afford.

Next up: Philosophical Mint Cookies, in honor of friend T. T.’s departure to the east.

NEEDED:
1 cup dried red lentils/masoor dal
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 can coconut milk
1 cup water
3 eggs
Ghee

Heat about a tablespoon of ghee in a saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, salt, and turmeric and fry until translucent and tender. Stir in coconut milk and water and bring to a boil, then lower heat & let simmer. Stir occasionally so things don’t stick. Add water, if needed, so lentils are of a thinnish porridge-like consistency. Lower heat so the flame is very faint; crack eggs into the lentils and let sit, covered, about four minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the lentils to sit at least another five minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and cracked peanuts, if you have some handy.

Serves 2, or one hungry adult

Here’s a simple curry I made last week with veggies languishing in the fridge, waiting their due. One thing that’s been great about following South Asian recipes by-the-book is that it’s given me confidence in spicing my own creations without reference.

YOU WILL NEED:
1 eggplant
1 red bell pepper
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
1 cup puréed tomato (I puréed chopped canned ones)
1 onion, sliced into half-circles
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin (or toasted & ground seeds)
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 cup plain yogurt
Oil
Salt

Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and chop into 1/2″ thick half-rounds. Dust with salt and set aside in a bowl. Core the pepper, remove the spongy membrane, and slice the flesh into matchsticks.

Heat a grill pan. Grill the eggplant slices until they’re marked on both sides, then set aside. While you do this, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions and garlic over a medium flame. Stir in the spices. Add the whole tomatoes, lower heat, and cover. Monitor the pan so things don’t burn. In about 5 minutes, the tomatoes will be plump and soft: pop them with the back of a spoon.

Add the grilled eggplant, pepper, and puréed tomato and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the yogurt and let simmer 5 more minutes or until the vegetables are desiccated and tender.

Serve hot with rice or pan-fried chapatis and lemonade.

Serves 2-4

This is a variation on the rice with spinach recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking, and it came about when I had three different kinds of dark leafy green to use up — kale, chard, and collards. I incorporated ricotta cheese in the final step for a bit of heft. The recipe will take much less time with the help of a food processor; otherwise, be prepared for lots of chopping. This would be an excellent side dish to some sort of fleshy or faux-fleshy accompaniment, be it lamb chops or hard-boiled eggs or grilled tempeh or (oh yes!) Quorn.

You will need:
2 cups long-grain brown rice
Salt
1 1/2 lb. fresh greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, beet greens, etc.), washed & stems removed
6 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
2 medium-sized onions
2 1/4 cups stock
1 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 cup crushed unsalted pistachios
1 cup ricotta cheese

Soak rice for at least 2 hours with a teaspoon of salt. When this time has passed, wilt the greens by steaming them or dropping them in a pot of boiling water for a little bit, letting them drip dry in a colander.

Peel and roughly chop your onions, and process them so that they are very fine. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3-4 quart oven-proof casserole. Add the onions and sauté until they are golden; while you are doing this, process the greens until they are a very fine pulp. Add the greens and garam masala to the onions, and sauté over a medium flame for about a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Drain the rice and add to the greens mixture with the stock. Stir and allow the mixture to come to a boil; lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Test for saltiness.

Stir the pistachios and ricotta in with the rice and greens, and cover the pot with foil. Poke a few holes in to let steam escape. Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see that the rice is cooked. If not, bake 5-10 minutes more.  Serve hot right from the oven, or cook in advance and reheat for 15 minutes.

As Ms. Jaffrey comments, “This is an excellent dish to impress guests with because it tastes very good and looks spectacular.” It does look very nice, and although purists may frown upon the unorthodox addition of ricotta, it tastes very nice too.

6-7 servings

So this is a very nice wintry soup to make, where the grilled flavor enriches the dish a great deal in my opinion. Also, miso is involved as a salting agent. I have thought about acquiring a little hibachi to fire up in the evenings — an activity one can do rather painlessly in this city during the present season — but in the meantime, a grill pan works quite well, and is what I used in this case.

You will need:
1 small head or 1/2 large head cabbage
1 medium-sized Japanese sweet potato
1/2 large onion
4 or more cloves of garlic
2 cups cooked beans
6 cups stock
Ghee or olive oil
Salt
2-3 tablespoons shiromiso (white miso)

Chop the cabbage in half and remove the core. Shred or slice as fine as you would like to eat with a soup spoon. Heat your grill pan, and once it is hot, apply the cabbage. Let it get browned and a little burned, moving it around every so often. Swap out batches of cabbage to get the whole quantity grilled. While you are doing this, mince the onion and smash the garlic. Peel the sweet potato and chop into cubes. I say cubes the size of sugar cubes, but you may say something else.

At this point, your cabbage will probably be done grilling and should be put to wait in a bowl. Scoop some ghee or pour some oil into your soup pot and let it get warm. Add a pinch of salt to the fat and stir. Add onion & garlic and saute until slightly translucent. Add the potatoes and stir a bit more. It’s fine if things get a little browned.

Pour in your stock and add your beans. I have used black beans and white beans and navy beans and each version has been equally delicious, though aesthetically different. (Same goes for cabbage varieties. Red? White? Napa?) I will say that there is a structural difference between canned and cooked dry beans; the latter tends to hold up better in soups, but you should not fuss over this.

Bring everything up to a simmering state and taste. Depending your stock, you may need more flavor. This is when you add the miso, spoonful by spoonful, until the flavor is to your liking. Now add the cabbage and cook until tender. Then ladle into bowls and eat.

This is a wonderful soup with crusty bread and butter on the side, then yogurt & jam for dessert. And tea. And then, naptime.

6 servings

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