White Beans with Lemon Zest (on Toast)

They don’t have to go on toast, of course, but we had them that way the other day, with asparagus on top. It’s a handy starch when you are Not In The Mood To Dirty Another Pot. Michael, who has suffered through a great deal of Beans on Toast because of his years spent in England, will eat these with relish (the emotional state, not the condiment) but will be happy if he never sees Heinz Beans again.

2 c. white beans, sorted and soaked
2-3 bay leaves
freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
juice of ½ lemon (or more to taste)
2 T. olive oil
¼ t. cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

In a pressure cooker, place the soaked beans, bay leaves, and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Cover and bring to pressure. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside. Allow the pressure to drop on its own. When the beans are finished, drain them gently, and reserve about a cup of liquid. Add salt, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. Once all the seasonings are added, toss the beans gently to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary to help them mix.

To serve, drape a nice swath of beans over a piece or two of whole-wheat toast. It’ll look nicer if you cut the crusts off beforehand, but I’ll let you decide whether to do that or not.

Breakfast Potatoes

Not only good for breakfast, but that’s what they’re associated with.

I love potatoes in the morning, but it’s not something that I-As-A-Vegetarian can generally order when out for breakfast. Restaurant hash browns or home fries are usually fried on the grill (where the bacon/sausage/you name it just was, which makes them Not Really Vegetarian) or in the deep fryer, which isn’t great for you & sometimes is a place chicken hangs out too. So I usually limit myself to waffles and fruit when I’m out for breakfast and make the potatoes at home. They don’t cook bacon on the waffle iron to my knowledge, unless they make bacon-stuffed waffles, which I’ve yet to come across on a menu.

This serves 4-6, depending on if potatoes are the central breakfast item or not.

2 T. canola oil for the pan
4 large baking potatoes, (the ones I used this weekend were the *large* ones that you purchase individually by the pound – probably the equivalent of 6 reasonable bagged baking potatoes) scrubbed and cubed in about ½ in. pieces
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
a generous sprinkling of dried or fresh rosemary
a moderate sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
pepper *after* the potatoes are removed from the oven

Preheat the oven to 375. Pile all of the ingredients on a large nonstick baking sheet. Toss to distribute the oil and seasoning. Place in the oven and roast, turning the potatoes gently every 15 minutes to prevent sticking and promote even cooking and the evaporation of excess moisture. Mine usually take 75 to 90 minutes to get done. They’ll be tender long before they’re pleasantly browned. Patience.

Artichoke Instructions

If artichokes have historically intimidated you, this is the season to overcome that trepidation. Artichokes are at their best right now, and they’re less fuss to prepare than you think. Cooking them in lemon water (rather than plunging the cut ones into acidulated water to stop browning, then cooking them in something else) cuts down on the hassle. Not to say that they’re not some fuss, but it’s not that bad for cooking a thistle. I made some this past weekend for myself and Michael’s folks, along with a slightly-thicker version of the Lemon-Caper Sauce I made recently, and it was terrific. They’re low in calories, too – about 90 per artichoke, but that’s presuming that you eat them without any mayonnaise involved.

I have been told that my paternal grandmother held at least one artichoke party in which she instructed the guests in the eating procedure. I’ll include that below as well.

For the artichokes:
4 large artichokes
1 large lemon
2-3 bay leaves
about 10 peppercorns
salt salt salt

Wash the artichokes under cold water. They’re usually pretty clean. Drain them and set them aside. Select a pot large enough to hold all four artichokes. Fill it with enough water to cover them. Place it on the stove and turn the burner to high heat. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze the halves into the water, and drop both halves into the pot. Add the bay leaves and the peppercorns. Turn back to the artichokes, but don’t forget to salt the water when it comes to a boil.

Returning to the artichokes: select one. Snap off any sad-looking leaves around the bottom half of the artichoke. Now pick up your kitchen shears. If you have no kitchen shears, find a strong pair of scissors and wash them. With shears in hand, clip off the tops of the outside leaves so they are flat all the way across. This is not mandatory, but it will cause you to get poked in the finger less while eating. Once you’ve clipped the tops of the exposed leaves on the sides of the choke, take a sturdy knife in hand and lop off the pointy top part of its crown. If there is a stem, leave it (I usually find them perfectly edible – it’s worth a shot) and just take a slice off the bottom of the stem if it’s dirty. Swiftly, into the pot with that artichoke! Trim each of them in turn, and when the water comes to a boil, salt it generously. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, when a leaf should come off freely when tugged. If it doesn’t, give them a little more time. When tender, drain the artichokes stem up for a few minutes, then serve hot or chilled.

To eat, (there are still plenty of folks out there not versed in this process) pull leaves from the choke, starting from the inside, dip them in sauce, if you care to, and scrape the meat from the leaf off with your teeth. Repeat. When you reach the middle of the globe, you’ll see a flat cluster of pinkish leaves that may all come up at once when you pull them. Below that is the prickly, fibrous choke. Take up your knife and cut the choke away with a shallow cone-shaped cut around the entire vegetable. What’s left is the heart, (and the stem if there was one) which is the Best Part.

Great Gobs of Granola

Ah! Granola! This recipe comes from With Love from Your Kitchen, published in 1976, authors Diana & Paul Von Welanetz. I made it in preparation for Michael’s folks’ visit this past weekend. My mother had this cookbook when I was little, and she made this delicious granola frequently. I spotted the familiar brown dust jacket in a used bookstore in Sterling, VA one day years ago and scooped it up. Now I can make this and the other famous (within our family) recipe from this volume, Lithuanian Mushroom Cookies, from my very own copy. (There are no mushrooms in Lithuanian Mushroom Cookies.)

The Von Welanetzes point out that you can zig and zag with this granola recipe – I’ll give it to you as written, but I’ll add that my ziggings and zaggings include the use of pecans, the use of maple syrup instead of honey, the addition of a plethora of dried fruit once the baking is completed, and substituting of various kinds of nuts for the walnuts. Not all in one batch, you understand. The version that’s in my pantry now has walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds.

Remember not to serve yourself a massive bowl of this stuff – it’s calorically dense like grape-nuts are. I keep a 1/3 c. measure in the canister I keep it in and serve myself about 2/3 of a cup for breakfast. That amount fuels you a lot longer than you’d think.

6 c. old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 c. chopped walnuts
¾ c. toasted wheat germ (without honey)
½ c. flaked coconut
½ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ c. chopped blanched almonds
1/3 c. sesame seeds
1/3 c. shelled sunflower seeds, plain or roasted
½ c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey
2 T. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325. Place the oats in a large rectangular pan, such as a roasting pan or jelly roll sheet, and bake at 325 for 10 minutes while measuring the other ingredients. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the walnuts, wheat germ, coconut, brown sugar, almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the oil, honey, and vanilla. Pour this over the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, stirring twice during the cooking time (I find that three bakings of eight minutes work well.) Let cool and transfer to a large container.

They counsel you to store it in the fridge, but I’ve never had any last long enough that it needed that treatment. This makes about 2.5 quarts.

Frijoles Peruano

This little recipe was printed on the back of a bag of El Mexicano brand Peruano beans I bought recently. They were small and kind of cream-colored – kind of like a pinto but flatter. I thought I’d give this a shot – it’s different than what I ordinarily do with beans, but I was in the mood for a nice light-flavored soup, and this delivered quite well on that. If I made it again, I’d add more hot stuff to make Michael happy.

This originally had ham in it, but of course, I’ve used a chipotle to stand in for the smoky flavor. I couldn’t find the banana squash, which is ordinarily omnipresent in supermarkets out here – we seem to be between crops – I used some carrots instead. Banana squash would be better.

½ lb. peruano beans
6 c. water
1 chipotle chili, minced
½ lb. cubed boiling potatoes
1 bayleaf
½ lb. banana squash
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
1 ½ t. salt
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 T. oil

Pressure-cook the beans in the water for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and bring down pressure under running water. Add the remaining ingredients, close the cooker, and cook under pressure for another 5 minutes. Bring down pressure under running water. If vegetables are not tender, simmer until done.

The original called for the beans to be cooked (regular pot, here) for 30 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 30 minutes.

Vegetarian Shammi Kebab Patties

A non-success, but a qualified non-success. Next time, it will be successful.

I would never call myself an Indian-cooking expert, but I do a fair bit of it, and am comfortable enough with most of the ingredients and procedures to improvise. I’ve also made quite a few of these fried garbanzo flour items, (like the recently-posted Cabbage Kofta) and am at the point where I don’t need a recipe to follow for the basic preparation. This was different, though, since it contained ground black garbanzo beans, an ingredient I hadn’t used before, and it was intended as a kebab patty rather than as a dumpling to put in a sauce or yogurt. My plan was to serve these with kebab-style broiled veggies, rice pilaf, and a yogurt sauce. Everything else in the dinner came out great.

This recipe was billed by the author (Neelam Batra, just so you know where I’m directing my complaint) as a meat-style kebab patty for vegetarians. She says, “It is very easy to pass these kebabs off as the authentic ones made with minced lamb or goat meat, because they look, taste, and smell like them. It’s a shame when they get thrown in the trash by vegetarian friends (especially at large gatherings) who mistakenly think they are being served forbidden foods.”

That’s high praise, right? I thought so too. Unfortunately, the recipe didn’t quite live up to that level of hype. It was also unclear how much water the beans should be cooked in, and because of that lack of clarity, it was then not clear how much water was needed in the batter. I added 1 cup, which seemed like the most reasonable interpretation of the recipe, and it was clearly too much. After adding the remaining ingredients and processing them, I tried deep-frying one dumpling, and it disintegrated in the oil. Too much water. I ended up adding double the garbanzo bean flour specified in the recipe, along with more than a corresponding increase in the seasonings, and the dumplings were still extraordinarily bland. I will say that the finished product was meat-like in that it was mild and somewhat chewy, but it wasn’t a result I’d try to achieve again.

To be fair, Batra’s recommendation on cooking the black garbanzo beans works very well, and none of my beans split, always an issue with garbanzos. Next time I cook regular garbanzo beans, I’ll cook the beans for a shorter time and let the pressure drop by itself rather than dousing the cooker with cold water as I usually do. On re-reading the recipe, I was able to figure out how much water she wanted where, but it wasn’t clear on a first read-through or when I was making the recipe.

Next time I try to make this recipe in particular, I’ll probably make the beans a greater proportion of the mixture, and add some onion and garlic to boot. At that point they’re starting to get into falafel territory, I know, but the Indian spices will keep them from going too far that way.

Ingredient note: Black garbanzo beans are different than regular garbanzo beans. They’re smaller, darker, and have a more pronounced beak. They’re also supposedly even better for you than regular garbanzo beans, but I don’t have a research study to point you to right this minute.

1 c. dried black garbanzo beans, soaked
3 c. water
2 t. garam masala
2 t. salt
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2-in. piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 c. firmly packed cilantro, soft stems included
2 c. garbanzo bean flour
oil for deep frying

Place the garbanzo beans and 3 c. water in a pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and cook for four minutes after the regulator starts rocking. Turn off the heat and let the pressure drop by itself, 10 to 15 minutes. Open the pressure cooker and check to see if the bans are tender. If not, cook for another minute or two under pressure, with additional water if required. With the food processor fitted with the metal S-blade and the motor running, puree the garlic and ginger together. Stop the motor, add the cilantro, and process until smooth. Stop the motor and add the cooked garbanzo beans, the garam masala, the salt, and 1 c. of the cooking liquid and process until smooth. Remove the mixture to another bowl and shape into small balls with the use of two spoons.

She asks you to deep-fry them at 350-375. I think mine would have blown apart at that temperature. I think mine were deep fried at about 275-300 on my thermometer. Next time I’ll provide a more comprehensive answer.

I know, why would I want to go through this debacle again? It’s such a good *idea*, though.

Tahini Stir-Fry

I got this idea from a dipping sauce for asparagus that contained sesame oil and some mayonnaise. When I had originally looked at the picture, I had assumed by the color of the finished product that it contained tahini. Upon reading the ingredients, it turned out that it didn’t, but that was an intriguing thought – go a little further with that sesame theme and use tahini in a stir-fry? That seemed very close to a great number of peanut-sauced Thai dishes I’d encountered, so I forged ahead. I gave it a shot with a container of haricots verts and some extra-firm organic tofu. Pretty good – and fast.

1/3 c. sesame tahini
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. red chili-garlic sauce
1 T. tamari
1 t. mirin
½ c. water

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until combined – it may look for a minute like It Will Never Emulsify, but it will, I promise.

For the stir-fry:
sesame oil for the pan
1 ½ – 2 lbs. haricots vert, trimmed (mine come in little plastic boxes of about ¾ lb. each)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained and dried, pressed if you have time. Cube into ¾ in. pieces.

In a nonstick pan, heat a little sesame oil over pretty darn high heat until hot but not smoking. Toss in the tofu cubes. Stir-fry until slightly browned on most sides. Place the tofu in the bowl with the sauce. (If you can do these two steps ahead, you’ll get better-tasting tofu. If not, it’s not the end of the world.) Add the green beans to the pan, and stir-fry for about two minutes, until they pick up a few brown spots. Add a couple tablespoons of water, cover the pan, and allow the beans to steam for two minutes. Add the tofu back into the pan, reduce the heat, and cook until the sauce is heated through. The tahini may brown a little on the tofu – that’s okay. Remove from the heat and serve over rice.