Soups & Stews

Borlotti Beans with Sausage

Borlotti Beans with Sausage

 

I just love beans, any which way, and I’m always trying out new variations just to keep the dialogue evolving. And, of course, it is fall and a perfect time for cooking beans for some hearty cool weather meals.

Borlotti beans may not be as popular as many other bean varieties, but why not try something new. Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, originate from Mesoamerica and first cultivated in Colombia. The Colombian caramauto beans eventually found their way to Italy where they are favored for their thicker skin, creamier texture, and nutty flavor when cooked. Fresh borlotti beans have a pale buff background color streaked with red. Dried borlotti beans vary in color and are popular in Portuguese, Turkish, and Greek, as well as Italian cooking.

Like all common dried beans, Borlotti beans are cooked in a seasoned broth until soft. A flavorful meat is often added to the beans to give them an enticing aroma as well as a tantalizing note to what would otherwise be a pot of rather bland earthy boiled legumes.

All common beans (phaseolus vulgaris) originate from the Americas and were brought from the new world to the old world by European explorers in the 1400’s. Like many other new world indigenous foods, beans were then traded eastward into Asia, and the rest is history.

For this recipe I have used a well seasoned local sausage, but an Italian, Portuguese, Mexican chorizo, or your favorite local well seasoned sausage will do nicely.

When fall rolls around there is nothing quite like a hearty piping hot bowl of well seasoned beans to satisfy the appetite.

 

Borlotti Beans with Sausage   serves 4

A cooks note: I like to make this recipe a day in advance which allows the flavors to develop and meld together.

  • 1 pound well spiced sausage, cut into 6 inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for finishing
  • 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly slice
  • 3 fresh jalapeno chilies seeded and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 quart cooked borlotti beans For cooking beans (click here)  or 3  400 g canned Borlotti
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • a pinch of ground clove
  • 2 quarts stock or water as needed
  • 1 bunch collard greens, leaves only with center ribs removed and leaves chopped
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (optional)

 

Place a medium sized stock pot on the stove top over medium flame. When hot add the oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the sausage and deeply brown on all sides. Transfer the browned sausage to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the pot and saute, stirring continuously, until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute 1 minute. Then add the jalapenos and red peppers and saute, stirring continuously, until the peppers are wilted, about 4 minutes.

Clear a well in the center of the pot, add the tomato paste and press it against the bottom of the pot to caramelize it, about 2 minutes. Then stir in the beans and add the bay leaves, oregano, cumin seeds, and the clove and stir all the ingredients until well combined.

Promptly add enough stock or water to cover the contents with an inch to spare and stir well. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile cut the browned sausage into ½ inch rounds and set aside.

Add the chopped collard greens, the sausage, and additional stock or water if needed. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste and add salt to your liking as well as the paprika if using and stir to combine.

At this point the beans and sausage are ready to serve. That said, as mentioned, you may want to transfer the beans to several containers and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to reserve stock for reheating.

Serving:

slowly reheat the beans and sausage and simmer for several minutes, adding some stock or water if needed. Be sure the beans and sausage are piping hot just before serving.

Ladle the beans, sausage, and broth into individual shallow bowls, stirring in a drizzle of olive oil into each just before serving.

Serve with crusty warmed bread or focaccia.

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Pho is Vietnam’s famous noodle soup that has garnered a legion of devotees around the globe. Traditionally Pho is served first thing in the morning in Vietnam, but there are Pho stalls and shops that are open 24/7 across the country. Making Pho at home does require a lot of ingredients as well as time, so most Vietnamese frequent their local Pho shop for a quick meal on the go. This is a country on the move and in perpetual motion! The energy in the air is mind boggling at first, but then your realize there is an order in this symphony of chaos that envelopes you. Welcome to Vietnam!

Pho became popular during the French colonial period in the mid eighteen hundreds. The French colonists introduced beef into the Vietnamese diet as well as French cooking methods. Some speculate, myself included, that the French beef stew called pot- ou- feu was the likely source for the name Pho, pronounced “fuh”, which is very similar in sound to the French pot-ou-feu.

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Vietnamese Pho Bo

Fortunately, these days Vietnamese restaurants serving Pho can be found in almost any city in the world. Of course you could use a Knorr Oxo beef broth sachet for a quick Pho, but taking the time to make a traditional Pho at home affords you the luxury of a well tended slow cooked broth that reflects the refined essence of this soups mystique. Hand selecting the other fresh ingredients that are added to the piping hot broth insures that the alluring aromas of this sublime Vietnamese soup fills the air as it arrives at the table.

I have to say Vietnamese food is the perfect cuisine for life in the tropics. It’s light, refreshing, cooling in the steamy hot months, and warming in the bracing monsoon and brief cool winter months.

Getting to it then, developing a perfect broth is the first step in mastering an authentic Pho. Traditional broths are poultry, meat, or seafood based, but a vegetarian broth is doable with thoughful seasoning. The Pho Bo I have made here uses a beef based broth, but feel free to substitute a chicken, pork, or vegetable broth if you like. With a well developed broth you are free to create endless variations of this Vietnamese classic.

 

Vietnamese Pho Bo:    serves 6 to 8

Nuoc Dung Bo ( beef broth)  : makes 3 liters

I like to make the broth in advance. You can then cool it, cover, and refrigerate until needed, or freeze it for later use.

  • 6 liters water
  • 3 pounds beef bones
  • 1 hand of ginger root, (unpeeled)
  • 3 medium onions, unpeeled
  • 6 whole star anise 
  • 4  four inch cinnamon sticks (Vietnamese if available)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • a pinch or more of ground Saigon cinnamon (click here) to taste

Place the beef bones on a grill or under the broiler in your oven and brown the bones on all sides. Transfer the bones to a large stock pot and set aside.

Fire up a grill or place a rack directly over an open flame on the stove top. Flame roast the hand of ginger with skin on until it is well charred on all sides. Brush off excess charred bits, break the hand apart into fingers and add them to the stock pot.

Remove excess papery skin from the onions and cut them in half. Grill or flame roast the onions, unpeeled, until they are charred on all sides. Brush off excess charred bits and add them to the stock pot.

Fill the stock pot with the water and add the star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, fennel seeds, peppercorns, sugar, and salt. Partially cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Uncover and stir. Then reduce the heat until the liquid is just gently simmering. Simmer for 2 ½ hours or until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn off the heat and set aside for an hour or so to cool. Then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard all the solids and set the broth aside until you are ready to assemble the Pho, or transfer to containers with lids and refrigerate. As you will probably have more broth than you will need you may want to freeze the rest of the broth.

Beef:

preheat the oven to 400 f/200 c

  • 1 pound good quality beef round or filet
  • flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fish sauce

Salt and pepper the beef on all sides. Gently rub the beef with fish sauce and place it in a preheated sizzling hot skillet. Quickly sear the beef on all sides and transfer to a roasting pan.

Put the beef in the oven and roast for no more than 12 minutes. You want the beef to be very rare in the center. Promptly remove ifrom the oven, cover lightly with foil, and cool to room temperature.

Just before you are ready to serve the Pho  slice the beef as thinly as possible across the grain. Place the slices on a plate and set aside. The beef slices will be slipped into the Pho right before serving.

Noodles:

  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli or 1 pound thin Chinese egg noodles, fresh or dried.

If you are using rice noddles soak them in cold water for 20 minutes. When you are ready to assemble the soup place the soaked vermicelli in a wire mesh basket and lower them into the simmering broth for about 30 seconds and then transfer them to individual bowls, add broth and other ingredients, and serve.

If you are using Chinese egg noodles boil them in a generous pot of salted water as you would pasta, cooked al dente. Transfer to bowls and add broth and other accompanying ingredients, and serve.

Fresh garnishes for Pho Bo: pickled mustars greens, ngo gai(saw tooth coriander), chilies, scallions, coriander and lime wedges,

Fresh garnishes for Pho Bo: pickled mustars greens, ngo gai(saw tooth coriander), chilies, scallions, coriander and lime wedges,

Accompaniments:

The following ingredients should be available in Asian markets. Gather all of the following accompaniments together,  lined up, and ready to add to the bowls of steaming hot Pho just before serving.

  • mung bean sprouts
  • coriander leaves
  • ngo gai (saw tooth coriander, if available), thinly sliced
  • Vietnamese/Thai sweet basil leaves
  • green scallions, thinly sliced
  • finely sliced fresh red chilies, to taste Best to remove the seeds before chopping.
  • pickled mustard greens (du chua)
  • Saigon cinnamon (if available)
  • Lime wedges
  • fish sauce (nuoc mam/nam pla

Serving:

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding fish sauce and/ or salt, and a pinch or 2 of Saigon cinnamon to your liking. Then bring the broth to a full boil.

Place warmed noodles into individual bowls and ladle broth over the noodles to cover generously. Garnish with bean sprouts, sliced ngo gai (if using), basil leaves, sliced scallions, and some finely sliced red chilies. 

Slip 4 or 5 slices of the thinly sliced beef into each bowl and serve.

Place bowls of sliced pickled mustard greens, grated ginger, finely sliced red chilies, and lime wedges on the table along with a platter or bowl laden with all the leafy garnishes on the table for adding to each individuals tastes. Be sure to have a dispenser of the ubiquitous nuoc mam/ nam pla  (fish sauce) on the table as well.

Bon appetite!

Braised Summer Vegetables

Braised Summer Vegetables

 

The dilemma for gardeners and cooks this time of year is “ what am I ever going to do with all these vegetables?” Don’t panic trying to come up with three or four recipes that accommodate various vegetables. Why not take the simplest route and braise them all together? I find what emerges from the oven is a deeply flavorful melange of vegetables that are substantial enough to serve as a main course along with rice, couscous, bulgar wheat, or try tossing them with a pasta.

The other obvious beauty of this approach is a quick easy meal that almost makes itself. A short saute on the stove top and then into the oven to braise for an hour, and that’s all there is to it!

You hardly even need a recipe for this other than a few words about the cooking sequence and timing. Use any combination of seasonal vegetables available.

 

Braised Summer Vegetables:  serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 5 oz/142 g shiitake (or other mushrooms) brushed clean and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, dry sherry, or water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small pumpkin (or squash) peeled and diced
  • 1 cauliflower, separated into florets
  • a bunch of kale leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves
  • ½ teaspoon lemon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable stock or water
  • harissa (optional)

preheat the oven to 350f/ 180c

Best to use a Dutch oven if you have one or a pot with a tight fitting lid. Place the pot on the stove top over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute 4 or 5 minutes until soft without browning.

Add the bell peppers and turn up the heat a bit. Toss along with the onions for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute and then throw in the mushrooms. Saute, while tossing, 4 or 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.

Make a well in the center and add the tomato paste. Compress the paste against the bottom of the pot to caramelize before stirring into the sauteed vegetables. Continue to saute another couple of minutes. Then stir in the white wine, sherry, or water. Saute until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add the carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, kale leaves, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper and toss everything together until well combined. Level out the contents of the pot and add stock or water to nearly reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven and roast about 1 hour.

Check after 45 minutes and add a little stock or water only if needed, tasting and adding more salt to taste.

Serving suggestions: As a main dish serve with rice, couscous, or bulgar wheat, or toss with pasta.

I like serving these vegetables with a spicy Moroccan harissa. (see recipe here)

opa de Lima rom the Yucatan

Sopa de Lima rom the Yucatan

This is certainly one of the Yuctan’s most unique contributions to the world of Mexican cuisine. The Mayan version of tortilla soup that includes two unique ingredients from the Yucatan peninsula, citrus limetta (limon dulce) and habanero chilies. Citron Limetta is neither a lemon nor a lime as we know them, but an aromatic mildly tart lemon lime like citrus fruit with a mild tropical aromatic sweetness native to the Yucatan. The habanero chile is considered one of the hottest chilies in the world and the Yucatan’s most important agricultural export. The flavor has a hint of fruitiness as well as a heat delivery that is unrivaled. Alas, both of these ingredients will be hard to find unless you are lucky enough to have a Central American grocer where you live.

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

But not to worry, the best substitute for citrus limetta is either using Meyer lemons or Florida Key limes. Their juice  mixed with a dash of Seville orange juice nearly replicates the flavor of citron limetta. In a pinch,  using lemons or limes with a dash of orange juice  will be just fine.

Likewise, the best substitute for the habanero chile is replacing it with 3 or 4 small red Thai thin skinned chiles.

Sopa de Lima is uniquely flavored with spices that have been used in the local cuisine dating back to the early Mayan culture. There are versions of Sopa de Lima found throughout Mexico, but once you have tasted the Yucatecan version you will appreciate the subtlety of this refreshing tropical soup that cools you down in the hot and humid climate of the Yucatan or warms you in the middle of winter further north. A visit to this lush tropical peninsula that sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea lulls you into slowing down and letting the Mayan cultures of the past as well as the present wash over you. Merida is a beautiful colonial town where you can easily fall into the rhythm of the local’s lifestyle and enjoy some of the most beautiful markets and delicious foods in all of Mexico.

 

Sopa de Lima     serves 4

ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled, and chopped
  • roots of 3 cilantro stalks, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, lightly toasted
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, lightly toasted
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon bark (canella)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + more as needed
  • 10 cups water plus more if needed
  • 1 pound/450g chicken breasts (or turkey breast), skinless and boneless
  • 8oz/225g chicken livers (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 sweet green bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, thinly sliced into strips and halved
  • 1 habanero chile, minced (or  4 small thin skinned Thai red chillies, minced)
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and diced
  • 4 citrus limetta (or alternatives as mentioned above)
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped serrano or jalapeno chilies, including seeds
  • 2 ripe Haas avocados, sliced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

To make the broth, place onions, roasted garlic cloves, cilantro roots, marjoram, peppercorns, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, sea salt, and water in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Then add the chicken breasts (or turkey breast which is a local favorite) and lower the heat to a simmer and poach for 20 to 30 minutes. Timing will depend on the size of the breasts. As soon as the breast are tender remove them from the broth and set aside to cool. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the flesh apart into pieces and set aside.

While the breasts are poaching you can cook the chicken livers. Rinse the livers and place them in a small sauce pan. Ladle in just enough broth from the stock pot to cover the livers and bring to a simmer. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes only. Using a slotted spoon transfer the livers to a bowl and set aside. Pour the broth back into the stock pot. When the livers are cool cut them into a fine dice and set aside.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the broth into a large bowl. Discard the solids left in the strainer and return the strained broth to a cleaned stock pot and set it back on the stove over very low heat.

To make the soffrito place the lard or vegetable oil in a  skillet placed over medium heat. When hot add the onions, garlic, bell peppers, habanero chile or (Thai chiles), and a pinch of salt. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted and very soft without browning.

Meanwhile blanche the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 seconds or until the skin begins to split. Promptly remove the tomatoes and set aside to cool a couple of minutes. Then slip of the skin off and discard. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds and core and discard. Finely dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl along with juices.

Then stir the diced tomatoes into the soffrito and cook a couple more minutes. Then transfer the mixture to the broth in the stock pot and bring back to to a simmer. Continue simmering the soup for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile juice 2 of the citrus limetta and thinly slice the 2 remaining and set aside.

In a small saucepan heat the vegetable oil for frying the tortilla strips. When the oil is hot add the strips a fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Set the fried tortilla strips on paper towels and set aside.

When you are nearly ready to serve add the pulled chicken and the chicken livers (if using) to the simmering soup and cook another couple of minutes.

Serving:

Best to serve the soup in individual bowls as pictured above. Have all of the finishing condiments ready and within reach.

Just before serving add the citrus limetta juice to the soup and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Ladle portions of the hot soup into each bowl and tuck several slices of citrus limetta into the soup. Put the remaining sliced limetta in a small bowl to serve along with the soup at the table.

Place 3 slices of fresh avocado over each serving and top with tortilla strips. Scatter some  serrano or jalapeno chilies and fresh cilantro leaves over each serving and serve promptly! Serve with the remaining serrano or jalapeno chilies in a bowl on the table.

Buen provecho y feliz cinco de Mayo!

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