Sunday, July 27, 2008

Colorful Greek-inspired rice-and-beans

Here's a very colorful dish that can feed a crowd.

Long before you will want to eat, bring to a boil
  • 2 cups dried brown rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
and simmer covered 20-30 minutes, until the water has been absorber. Remove from heat, and allow to steam covered at least another 30 minutes. The rice will holds its heat for an hour.

Wash and shell
  • 1 lb fresh black-eyed peas
to yield a little under a cup. When selecting black-eyed peas, prefer the plump yellow ones for ease of shelling. Beans will pop out once you remove the strings. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and blanch the beans about 2 minutes.

Wash and thinly slice
  • 2 small heads of chard, one yellow and one read
Either blanch or steam the chard until it has reduced in volume and turned even brighter colors.

Combine rice, beans, and chard in a large bowl along with Serve warm. Serves three with leftovers as the only dish, or four with a bowl of ice cream to finish.


While my boyfriend taught his class, I spent Sunday afternoon sitting outside, reading blogs and newspapers, and shelling 3/4 lb fresh garbanzo beans.

For the pita, I started the dough in the morning. In a large bowl, I mixed 1.5 cup white flour, 3 cup whole wheat "bread" flour (whole wheat flour with 2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten per cup), 1/2 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 cup warm water, and 3 Tbsp olive oil. I mixed the dough by wooden spoon and kneaded it by hand, rolled it into a tight ball, and left it in the bowl covered with saran wrap to rise.

With the dough made and the beans shelled, the rest of dinner came together in less than an hour. I set the baking stone in the oven and preheated 500°F. Then I cut the dough into four pieces, and flattened into pitas. (It turns out that the oven bounce for this dough, after seven hours of proofing, is a lot: the pitas you want are at least eight inches diameter and about a quarter inch thick before cooking. I did not achieve this.) With the oven heated, I transfered the shaped pitas to the stone with the pizza paddle. The pitas need to cook roughly 10 minutes, but I checked them regularly.

I boiled the washed garbanzos at least 30 minutes, with some whole garlic cloves added to flavor the water. (I would put garlic into the falafel, except I'm mildly allergic to garlic.) My boyfriend drained, cooled, and mashed the cooked garbanzos, adding salt, cumin seed that he mashed in the mortar and pestle, and minced parsley. Then he mixed in an egg and some flour. I heated a wok with an inch or so of vegetable oil, and continued to add flour until the dough was workable. Then I rolled the garbanzo mush into balls and fried directly in the oil, removing them to a bowl lined with paper towel when the outside had turned a golden brown.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend prepared a tatziki with plain goat yogurt, sesame seeds, salt, julienned lemon cucumber, diced sweet red pepper, and shredded iceberg or green butter lettuce. We transfered everything to serving bowls, and prepared the individual sandwiches at the table. Delish.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Polenta gnocchi with pesto

We enjoy homemade pasta around here, and there's no pasta easier than gnocchi. Traditionally made at the end of the month before payday — and lending their name to the tax collectors who steal your paycheck — gnocchi (sing. gnoccho) can be made with any leftover mush-of-starch. Mashed potatoes seem to be most popular in the States, but polenta or wheat are also tasty. Combine leftover starch mush with eggs, salt, and enough flour to make into a dough, roll into balls, and boil two minutes until gnocchi float.

To that end, we brought two cups soy milk combined with two cups lightly-salted water to a boil, turned off the heat, and whisked in two cups polenta meal. Covered, this sat for about thirty minutes to cook. The by-then-cool polenta mush we combined with two eggs and a fair amount of flour, ending up with twice as much dough as we wanted. We rolled out all of the dough into gnocchi, deciding to freeze half of it. (This would have worked, too, if we froze them separated by layers of wax paper. As it is, we are currently defrosting a tub of solid polenta, to re-roll into gnocchi on Monday.) We brought salted and well-oiled water to a boil, and cooked the polenta two minutes until the balls floated.

The blender had burnt out, so the pesto we made by hand. We mashed half a cup pine nuts in the mortar and pestle, and also mashed one garlic clove. These we combined with half a cup good olive oil, a tsp salt, a quarter cup grated parmesan, and half a bunch each of spinach and basil, minced. The pesto at hand, we cooked the gnocchi, draining in a colander set in a ceramic serving bowl, emptied the bowl of the hot water, and then combined the pasta and sauce for a dish that in the U.S. if the height of gourmet.

Two salads

Shell two pounds garbanzo beans, boil two minutes, and drain. Toss with one bunch arugula, half a tub crumbled feta, and a tub of oil-cured black olives and almonds. Dress with olive oil, salt, and red wine that's turning to vinegar.

Sauté hazelnuts in walnut or olive oil until pungent. Top and quarter one pint strawberries, and toss with half a pound of spinach and four oz sweet chevre. Dress with oil and a white zinfandel.

Three-bean salad with wild rice

Shelling beans are in season, which is phenomenal. Most people have only a few shelling beans fresh: peas, and perhaps edamame or fava. But all your favorite dried or canned beans were once fresh. At our markets, I've seen cannellini beans, cranberry beans, black-eyed peas, and garbanzos. All are very tasty. Shelling usually converts about a pound of beans into about a cup. Although edible raw, I prefer to boil the beans just a few minutes.

Shell a pound each of cranberry beans, cannellini beans, and garbanzos. Also thinly slice half a pound of clean carrots. Bring enough water to cover the veggies to a boil, and blanch the beans and carrots two minutes. Drain, and toss in a serving bowl with olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs.

We had our salad with wild rice. This delicious grain should be cooked in twice as much salted water until some of the seeds burst open; then the excess liquid should be drained off. Our dinner was the most gourmet rice-and-beans ever.


Oysters, mussels, and clams are "an excellent choice because they are farmed in an environmentally responsible way." Prefer local farmed shellfish, because shellfish should be purchased alive and extremely fresh. Ours come from Hog Island, an environmentally-careful shellfish farm in Tomales Bay. They primarily trade in oysters, and at Farmers' Market one can buy fish to take home and also oysters on the half shell to eat right there. Mmmm good.

Expect a pound of mussels and a pound of dried pasta to satisfy two people. Prepare the pasta very light: we had farfale, tossed with sage-butter.

In a large pot, combine two cups vegetable broth, two cups of white cooking wine, a few stocks of green onions, cleaned and diced, half a dozen whole garlic cloves, and a fair amount of salt. Add the mussels, and enough water to cover, and bring gently to a boil.

The mussels are done when the water boils, but there's no harm in letting them sit a little while. The mussels should open up in the water. Do not cook any mussels that are open when dry — those are dead and may make you sick — and similarly discard any mussels that do not open when cooking. With a slotted spoon, remove cooked mussels to a large ceramic bowl, and pour over as much broth as will fit without spilling. Present the mussels in the bowl with broth, and serve at the table with the slotted spoon.

Save the shells for a fish stock, of course, which should be prepared with shellfish (crab, lobster, clam, oyster, etc.) shells, fish bones, and fennel, leeks, and onions. Since I don't really have the space or time to keep different bags of stock scraps, these mussel shells went in the vegetable-broth bag with the beets and carrots and garlic.


We made pizza last night for four. This recipe, for two pizzas, serves four with a salad and dessert.

At least an hour before eating, make the dough. Mix
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup room-temperature water
and let sit. In a food processor or standing mixer with whisk attachment, combine
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
With machine running, add the yeast water until dough forms into a ball. Divide dough in two, and with floured hands shape into two round balls. Wrap in floured plastic wrap, and let sit an hour to proof.

Slice and combine together
  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid for a later dish)
  • some fresh basil
  • a pinch each sugar and salt
  • (1 clove mashed garlic)
for the sauce.

For topping, sauté in a healthy amount of olive oil to caramelize
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
and then add
  • a few green onions, diced
  • sun-dried sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • salt
and divide topping in two. Also cube and divide in half
  • 6 oz mozzarella
  • 2 oz chevre
  • 2 oz teleme.

Preheat oven 500°F, with the baking stone placed on the lowest level. Shape the balls into flat crusts. Coat the pizza peel liberally with corn meal, and transfer crust. Spread with half of the sauce, and bake 500°F for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the cheese, and bake 2-3 minutes. Then add the topping and back another 1-2 minutes. Repeat with the second half of all ingredients.