Vegetables in Quantity!

bok choy

Let’s say you look up bok choy recipes, for example or recipes that use parsley, you’ll find a huge variety of course but many, if not most, will call for 2-4 cups of sliced bok choy or 2 tablespoons of parsley or maybe a full bunch if you land on tabbouleh. If you are a member of a CSA or have a vegetable garden or shop regularly at a farmers’ market these recipes, as written, may not do you much good.

If you get the CSA I do (and LOVE!) you may get 2 large heads of bok choy that would translate to 8 cups sliced, each, and 2 robust bunches of parsley. That’s how these things grow and are best distributed at certain weeks out of the year. Or cabbage, another perfect example… sauté a lot of cabbage in a huge skillet with nothing but olive oil and salt and then eat it and report back. I bet you can enjoy/devour a lot more cabbage (of any kind) than you might think in one sitting. Of course many of the vegetables, when cooked or dressed, reduce their volume several fold so you won’t necessarily be looking at a mountain of vegetables on your plate, though that’s never a bad thing for me!

I love eating vegetables in this quantity–it moves them to the center of the plate. And of course that’s how most health gurus suggest we eat but I don’t always see this reflected in recipe writing. It is changing and folks like Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com and Yotam Ottolenghi and Bryant Terry and many others have been leading the way on this approach for a years actually.

So today, as I create yet one more recipe for bok choy (which I have come to love because of having a CSA for years) I will let it shine with a simple dressing and find something to round it out, but it matters not much–an egg, a bowl of rice. . . . And if you’re ever at a loss for what to do with that gorgeous bouquet of parsley I just noticed that I have 40 recipes using parsley on my Seasonal Recipe Collection.

So if you get a CSA or have a garden or generally have access to produce in this quantity, thank your lucky stars and triple the quantities of vegetable or herb often noted in recipes and enjoy all that veggie goodness at the center of the plate!

bok choy dressing prep

Warm Bok Choy with Ginger Dressing

1 large head bok choy or joi choy, well washed and both stems and leaves thinly sliced crosswise
2 teaspoons coconut, peanut or other oil

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed up a bit with the side of a chef’s knife with some salt, or pressed (the salt makes it easier to mash)
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
A little more salt if needed
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat the coconut oil in a wok or large skillet until very hot. Toss in the bok choy stems and a few pinches of salt. Cook over high heat, stirring regularly, for about 2-3 minutes until the stems are softened but still have some bite. Add the leaves and cook for 30 seconds more. Put the vegetables in a bowl and mix in the dressing. A fair amount of liquid (combination of dressing and liquid from vegetables) will accumulate in the bottom of the bowl and it’s delicious and rice soaks it up well!

bok choy ginger dressing

 

The Bean Challenge!

corona beans garlic scapes

Corona beans (Rancho Gordo Beans) with roasted garlic scapes, pine nuts and parsley, scallions & lemony vinaigrette.

It’s hot in Portland, Oregon, very hot, this week. Every summer (earlier this year than usual!) I have moments where I’d rather not be in the kitchen from 5-7 pm. Much of the year I’m happy to be but not when it’s really hot. What does this have to do with beans?

domingo rojo beans farro salad

Domingo Rojo beans (Rancho Gordo) with farro and cilantro and lemony vinaigrette.

I typically put a big bowl of dry beans out to soak in the evening (I do this year-round) and then in the morning before I get breakfast and school lunch ready I drain the beans, cover with fresh water, add a few aromatics and turn them on to cook. By the time we head out the door for school the beans are done (more details below). And that means I have the base of many a meal cooked before it begins to get truly warm in my kitchen.

white bean parsley harissa quesadilla

Zolfino beans (Ayers Creek Farm) with harissa, parsley and sharp cheddar.

Those beans then turn into quesadillas or tacos of all kinds; salads, beans and rice (the rice often having been cooked at some earlier time to and just needing to be reheated), quick chili, soups and dips. Yes, there’s some cooking involved to make them meal worthy but it’s pretty simple and when you have home-cooked beans and their attendant flavorful broth much of the work is done. There are many more bean recipe on the Seasonal Recipe Collection!

beans rice spicy green sauce

Purgatorio Beans (Ayers Creek Farm) with spicy green sauce and rice.

So, the challenge is to cook a pot of beans, a new kind maybe, just for fun and tell us about in a comment here. Let’s savor the simplicity, flavor and flexibility of beans in the summer!

black beans rice Ellis

Black turtle beans (Sun Gold Farm) with brown rice and cilantro and my lovely son who loves rice and beans.

beans soup herbs harissa radish

Pinto beans (Sun Gold Farm), Mayacoba beans (Rancho Gordo), bean broth, herbs, radishes, harissa.

The two most important things you can do to get hooked on cooking your own dry beans are:

1)  Cook a lot of beans at once since they freeze so well, once cooked and covered in their cooking liquid. That way you have them on hand for quick meals when you’re short on time–just try to remember to put them out to thaw on the counter in the morning or the night before.

2) Let the beans cool in their cooking liquid for at least 1-2 hours. This vastly improves their flavor and texture. You do not need to refrigerate them while they’re cooling. Just leave them in the pot on the stove (with burner off) until they’re cool. Then refrigerate what you think you’ll use up in 5 days and freeze the rest. Keep as much of the cooking liquid as you can–it’s wonderful in soups, as a broth on its own, to loosen up beans when making a spread or refried beans, etc. and it also protects them in the freezer.

Place dry beans in a bowl covered by about 4 inches of cold water. Soak over night or 6-8 hours. Drain beans.

Place soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by several inches. Add a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a chunk of peeled onion. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook covered until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others.) I add salt towards the end of the cooking time and when you do add salt, be generous, as in at least 1 teaspoon sea salt for every 1 1/2 cups or so of dried beans. They will likely need more still. The time it takes for the beans to cook will vary depending on the kind/size of bean and the freshness of the dried beans. Pinto and borlotti types typically take about 30-35 minutes, smaller white and black beans as little as 20-25. Let beans cool in their liquid (see above) and then use, freeze, etc. If you’re freezing some, fill your container with the beans and then ladle in the cooking liquid until the beans are covered. Cooked beans also keep in the fridge for 5-6 days and for several months in the freezer.

Using up the Bits and Pieces aka “Wunderreis”

Growing up (in Germany) I loved to eat “Wunderreis” (wonder rice) at my godmother’s house. Her mother had made it and she made her own variations. As far as I recall it was rice with whatever bits of vegetables and sometimes meat, and various herbs and spices that seemed appropriate […] Read more »