Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Word about (Fresh) Lima Beans

YUM! And here's another word: DOUBLE YUM!!

Ok, that was two words but I don't care. That's how excited I am about them. I had a specific shopping list for the Green Market yesterday, something I don't usually have. I usually wander around and grab anything (and everything) that catches my fancy, but this time I was on a mission. And I was finding everything I needed, including the fresh cranberry beans I wanted so I could make Lamb and Cabbage Stew with Fresh Beans with, you know, fresh beans instead of the canned kidney beans I used the first time I made it. (I actually have lamb this time, too.)

I also had in mind a tabbouleh-style salad to make for work lunches when I got home last night from what was going to be a late night without much time to cook. I had half a bunch of broccoli rabe and a fresh tomato and I decided that would be a good way to use them. I didn't make the decision in enough time to soak some chickpeas, so I decided I would buy a can at the grocery store on the way home.

And then I saw that they had fresh lima beans right next to the cranberry beans at one of my favorite stalls. Fresh beans would cook up quickly and didn't need soaking so I thought it might be an interesting experiment to use the lima beans instead of buying canned chickpeas. So I bought some of those as well.

When I got home last night, I put some water on to boil and washed and shelled the beans. They only took about ten minutes to cook, then I drained them and put them in a bowl to cool a little while I prepared the rest of the salad.

I put the bulgur in a bowl and started chopping an onion. I decided I had better try one of the lima beans to make sure they were done, so I took one of the biggest beans and put it in my mouth.

Where it melted. Like butter. So I ate another one, just to be sure. Melted. Butter. Soft, mushy, buttery, with only the mildest flavor (unlike the overpowering flavor of their dried counterparts), I could not stop eating them. They never made it into the salad. I ate the whole bowl's worth, one at a time, with my fingers. I didn't even salt them, they were that good.

So my tabbouleh salad is bean-less. No matter - it was worth it. I only hope they still have some on Saturday morning, because I definitely need some more of those before they are gone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Summer's End: Corn Chowder

For several reasons, heat being just one of them, I did not make it to the Green Market between early June and mid-September this year. That's pretty much all of summer's bounty left untouched and unsavored by me. Which makes me a little sad. I didn't do that much cooking anyway, though, and you may have noticed I did not post as much as usual, either. The good thing about blogging for fun rather than profit is that I do not have to do it if I don't feel like doing it; the bad thing about it is the same. I think everyone goes through periods when life gets in the way and they don't feel as inspired as they usually do about very many things, even the things that usually give them pleasure. So I didn't cook much, and I didn't write much, and I didn't read much. I didn't even knit much.

I did watch a lot of TV. I'm not particularly proud of myself, but there you have it. Lots of mind-numbing, take your mind off of how hot it is, in how much of a funk you have found yourself, how little you want to turn your attention to the things that you normally find fascinating, engaging, and exciting. And even though I watched a lot of cooking shows, and food reality shows (yes, even "Hell's Kitchen," as stupid as I find it), I remained uninspired. Unlike the women of Theresienstadt, who compiled a cookbook from memory, while they were barely subsisting on scraps at the time, just so the knowledge wouldn't be lost, I sat on my couch and wallowed (and whined) in the heat and seemed determined to be as miserable as I possibly could until the heat ended and things cooled off somewhat.

In my defense, there were other things going on that became tied in my mind to the heat, so that this summer was basically one huge surreal haze of heat and discomfort, both physical and emotional. I suppose in some ways that is how I needed to spend my summer, and the heat just gave me a measuring stick against which I could let myself mope, knowing that once the worst was over I could collect myself and get back to normal.

Which has finally happened. Two weeks ago temperatures finally dropped below eighty and have stayed there long enough for me to be reasonably certain that fall has, finally, asserted its rightful place in the Chcago seasonal landscape. Since then, I have felt my blood quicken and start to flow more smoothly through my veins, and I have felt the itch to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again.

And I went back to the Green Market. Misreall sent me an email saying she was ready to come into the city, did I want to meet her there? 'Deed I did, and early Wednesday morning we met up and wandered through the stalls.

I was a little anxious because I was afraid I had missed out on everything, but there was still a lovely variety of produce from which to choose. So much, in fact, that I had to restrain myself from grabbing one of everything. I hadn't even really started to cook yet, so that first week I grabbed some onions, a few potatoes, and a couple of apples. I wanted to grab a butternut squash and some beans and some of the gorgeous beets, fennel and kohlrabi that I saw, but I decided to wait until I had a better plan for using them. It was such a joy to be there, though, that Misreall and I made plans to meet up again the next week.

Which was last Wednesday. And even though the fall and winter produce have started to appear in abundance, there was still some corn available. Corn was the main thing I felt I had missed out on during my summer vacation, so I decided to grab some up before it disappeared completely.

I decided to make corn chowder. Another stall had some gorgeous poblano peppers, and I thought they might make an nice variation from the red bell peppers I have used in the past so I bought some of those.

The last times I made corn chowder I used ham, as that was what I had on hand, and it was quite delicious on those occasions. But this time I had my lovely Dreymiller & Krey maple-smoked bacon ends in the freezer so I used those, with most excellent results. The poblano peppers did exactly what I hoped they would do - offered a rich, dark, slightly smoky overtone to the dish.

I was a little afraid the corn might be too close to the end of the season to still be good but it was light, sweet and crisp. I hope they still have some this week so I can get one more taste before I start roasting that winter squash.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

Makes 4 servings

1 Tbsp butter
1/4 lb maple-smoked bacon
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 ears of blanched corn, cut from the cob, plus the cobs (broken in half)
3 cups milk
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium potato, diced
2 medium poblano peppers, diced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp paprika

Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until done, about 5-7 minutes. Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add onions and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add carrots and cook another 5 minutes.

Nestle the corn cobs in among the vegetables and cover with the milk. Add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to the barest simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Do not let the milk scald.

Remove the corn cobs and the bay leaf and add the potatoes and poblano pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

Add the corn, thyme and paprika and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until the corn is warmed through.

Adapted from a previous adaption of Elise's recipe on Simply Recipes.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

Monday, September 20, 2010

DIY Condiments #2: Mustard

I'll bet you thought I had forgotten all about my do-it-yourself condiments project. I wouldn't blame you if you had, since the last (and only) condiment I made and wrote about was that fabulous Worcestershire Sauce back in April. Even I am shocked at how long a gap that is between then and now.

But I had not forgotten. I just got a little sidetracked. And then last month I decided to tackle the big yellow monster.

Which turned out to be a little yellow snap. Making mustard is just about the easiest thing I have ever made. The hardest part about it is waiting the two days for the seeds to soak.

For my first attempt, I decided to keep it simple and used the basic recipe from Gourmet magazine. :sigh: I feel compelled to :sigh: whenever I think of Gourmet magazine, now that it is gone. I miss it.

OK, I'm over it. And Bon Appetit almost fills the gap. Almost. It's just that they used to play so well off of each other. It's like Roger Ebert talking to himself about movies (which he had pretty much done since Gene Siskel died).

Hmmm. Where was I? Oh yes, mustard. Like I said, this is super easy. The ingredients are so simple that I am thinking this recipe can serve as the baseline, to which any alterations can be made to create completely new flavors. Simply change the vinegar, replace with wine, add other herbs or spices, and you can have a completely new condiment every time.

I wouldn't suggest you slather this on your hot dogs or anything as outrageous as that - conventional yellow mustard has its place after all - but for everything else this is a perfect - tart, spicy, and a little sweet. It makes a wonderful vinaigrette and is great for marinades as well.

I did find it to be a little too tart for my taste, so I added an extra teaspoon (all right, maybe two) of sugar. That's the beauty of this recipe. Once it's done, you simply adjust the seasonings until you get the right flavor for your palate.
Home Cookin Chapter: Untried Recipes


Makes about 1-1/2 cups

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1-1/4 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt

Soak mustard seeds in vinegar and water at room temperature 2 days. (If seeds are not submerged, add just enough additional water to cover.)

Puree mixture in a food processor with sugar and 1-1/2 tsp salt until almost smooth, about 2 minutes. Thin to desired consistency with additional water. Adjust salt and sugar to taste.

Mustard keeps, chilled, 1 month.

from Gourmet Magazine, June 2009

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Absorption Pasta with Tuna and Summer Squash

I have so many cooking magazine subscriptions that I often get behind on reading them. Sometimes I think I do it on purpose, because there is something particularly satisfying about having a nice little pile to go through, rather than reading them one by one as they trickle into my mailbox.

The only down side is that I'm often behind the season. I get great Thanksgiving and Christmas ideas in February. I find all kinds of wonderful things I can do with corn, tomatoes, and zucchini just as Halloween is coming around. And I rarely can remember from which issue I got any recipe (which is why I make sure to note it on any recipes or articles I tear out for future use). You get the idea.

So I'm not sure in which issue of Bon Appetit Ithe BA Foodist shared a recipe from Chris Cosentino for pasta with tuna, but the idea of using the oil from the tuna for the sauce was ingenious to me. I had recently switched to oil-packed tuna because the tuna that comes packed in spring water has become inedibly mushy to me over the years. I don't use tuna often, so when I do use it I want it to be the best. But I hate pouring all of that oil down the drain, so I was thrilled to discover a use for it.

Cosentino's method calls for traditionally cooked pasta, but I started thinking that using the oil from the tuna would work quite well for the absorption method. I had a beautiful summer squash in the refrigerator that I thought would round out the dish beautifully. The joy of absorption pasta is that it doesn't take too much thought, and the possibilities are endless.

This makes an especially lovely summer lunch. If I'd had any tomatoes around, I would have added them when I added the tuna. They would have brightened up the dish visually and would have tasted good, too.

1 can oil-packed tuna
1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup short whole wheat pasta (rotini, gamelli, penne)
1 summer squash, cut into 1-inch by 1/8-inch strips
1 to 1-1/2 cups hot liquid (water, vegetable broth, chicken broth)
1/2 cup grated
Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dill (or 1 Tbsp fresh)

Drain oil from tuna into 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for a minute or two, until the onion just starts to turn translucent. Add pasta and continue to cook for another two minutes. Add water to just cover the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and stir once. Cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook for 10 minutes, then check the liquid level and add more if necessary. (Be careful not to add too much.) Cook until the pasta is about 2 minutes from being done, when it is still a little crunchy. Add the summer squash, cover the pan again, and cook for another 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Remove the lid and turn the heat up to high just long enough to cook out any excess liquid. Add the tuna and cook until just heated through.

Remove from the heat, add the dill and the cheese, and stir gently. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mango Corn Relish

This is very close to a salad, but it is so bright and fresh that it works much better as an accompaniment for a nice juicy skirt steak, a fish taco, or chicken. The organic mango was the best of the season - sweet and juicy perfectly ripe. It pairs beautifully with the fresh local corn, although frozen would work just as well.

I had the spicy mango chutney from when I made that lovely Indian Lamb Chops with Curried Cauliflower. Come to think of it, this would go exceptionally well with that dish as well.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

1 mango, cubed
2 ears corn, cut from the cob (about 2 cups)
1/4 red onion, diced

1 tsp mustard
1 Tbsp spicy Mango chutney
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp apple cider
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place mango, corn and onion in a medium-size bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, mango chutney, fish sauce, and apple cider. Whisk together until well incorporated. While whisking, slowly add oil. Season to taste.

Pour the sauce over the mango and corn mixture and stir gently until it is well mixed.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Virtual Crush

Having become an old curmudgeon who begrudges people their daily pleasures, I finally decided to buy an Ipod nano so I could shut out all the noise, especially in the mornings when all I want to do is be alone with my thoughts and my coffee and my fellow passengers JUST WILL NOT COOPERATE.

I must admit, life has gotten better. And while I listen to NPR at work, I have taken to the classic rock that XRT offers for my morning and afternoon commutes.

Yesterday morning I heard about a romantic resort in Japan that, due to a sharp decline in tourism, has teamed up with the Japanese dating sim Love Plus, so Japanese men can have a nice romantic holiday with their virtual girlfriends. Lin Brehmer couldn't wrap his head around the idea of anyone being in love with a cartoon. Mary Dixon asked him if Bugs Bunny didn't do it for him when he was in drag. Ha ha.

As laughable as it is, I must confess that I, myself, have actually crushed on an anime character. For quite a while Spike Siegel of "Cowboy Bebop" occupied most of my fantasy obsession. Until Adult Swim took the show out of rotation and took him with it.

So imagine my pleasure when I discovered that he's back. "Cowboy Bebop" now airs at 2:00 and 2:30 am CST on the Cartoon Network on Sunday mornings. And it's just as much fun this time around.

I'd share a romantic weekend in Atami with Spike any day.
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