Friday, April 15, 2011

Thinking Ahead

Summer is coming and if you are planning a garden you may like to put in some shelling beans.  Beans are not my favorite food usually, but I do love beans fresh from the garden.  A couple of years ago I thought that it would be nice to try out some shelling beans even though I like dried beans the least.  We ordered Italian Red Rose Beans from Burpee’s Seed Catalog.  They were great as a summer bean salad cooked from freshly shelled beans, or in a soup in February made from the beans that were dried (recipes below).  
For this recipe, you do not need to worry about exact amounts of ingredients, because this will change depending on how many beans you plan to cook.  Generally speaking you want the lesser half of the bowl to have the vegetable puree and the greater half stock (not counting beans and ham).

Fresh Shelling Bean Salad
Full cook freshly shelled beans by simmering at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile cut fresh peppers and seeded tomatoes into strips.  Select some fresh herbs that you like.  Toss everything together with some olive oil and a splash of vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Since I really do not like bean soups as a rule, I decided that I wanted to make a bean soup that had a rich and satisfying flavor.  I accomplished this with the use of salt pork and ham broth.  The soup has a rich flavor, but it is not a rich soup.  Even though the recipe makes a lot, you do not have to worry about using it all up at once because this soup freezes well.  

Italian Red Rose Bean Soup
Recommended Beans: Italian Red Rose; Cranberry Beans; or a mild white bean like a Great Northern Beans or Cannellini Beans.
1.5-2 pounds dry beans (4.5-6cups)*
1-2 Smoked ham hocks (as meaty as you can find: one really meaty hock is great)**
8-16 oz. of Salt pork [fat back] (that is about 30-50% lean is good) (possible substitutes, 3 tbsp. bacon fat or olive oil.)
Onions (2-4 large or 5-7 medium or small)
Carrots (1/2 to 3/4’s of a pound)
Celery (at least Half a Bunch)
Oregano (~1 tbsp. for a large pot)
Thyme (1 tsp. thyme)
Bay Leaf [2 for a large stock pot] 
Pepper to taste
Salt (only if necessary after all ingredients have been combined and simmered)
10 Quart Stock Pot
Day before: 
  1. Make a ham broth from a smoked hock. Cover with water and simmer 3-5 hours on the stove, or place on low heat in a crockpot for 6-8 hours or high for 5-6.  Skim off fat (optional). 
  2. When broth is done, remove bone and meat to cool and pick apart.  Make sure to cut up large pieces of meat before putting them into the soup.  
  3. Put dry beans in water according to package directions, maybe with a little less water (6 cups). Bring to a boil and turn off. Soak beans overnight.* 
  4. You may wish to prep vegetables for processing a day ahead.  Chop into 1/2” pieces and place in an airtight container overnight.  
Day to make soup:
  1. Cook beans until just tender. Meanwhile reheat ham broth.
  2. Cut vegetables into 1/2” pieces and chop until fine in food processor
  3. Separate fat from lean of salt pork. Dice the meat Render the fat in the bottom of your stock pot and remove. Add the diced salt pork to cook. 
  4. When the salt pork is cooked (remove if you wish and) put in the chopped veggies and cook them 10-15 minutes.  They should be turning translucent.  You can add the bay leaf in this step.
  5. Add the seasonings to taste - suggestions above.
  6. Add ham meat (if your hocks were not meaty, add some cubed ham also); then beans; add however much of the bean water and ham broth you can fit in your pot (at a 1 to 1 ratio).  Fill the pot three-quarters of the way up.  Extra broth or bean water can be frozen for other uses.
  7. Simmer 30-45 minutes before serving.  Taste and add salt if needed.
Serves: 8-10 or more...
Recipe Notes:
* Use fresh shelling beans if you have them.  If you do, then only cook them the morning of.  Fully cook them before combining with other ingredients.  
**Any smoked ham and bones would work.  For example, you could use ham neck bones, however, there are more small bones to watch out for.  
Make and serve same day or make ahead and re-heat. This soup tastes even better as it sits. 
If you are watching your intake of saturated fat you could leave out the sat pork and use another oil of your choice.  The soup is very light and not rich, so this may not be necessary.  
If you want to make it vegetarian; use the oil of your choice and a vegetable broth.  Some mushroom broth would help to give it the depth that the ham broth gives the soup.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Official First Post - Banana Muffins

I decided to start a blog about cooking; because everyone needs a hobby right? What better time to start one than a month before exams, because I just have so much free time; or not.  So for a quick description of why this blog I will just say for now that I like to cook and create recipes, so I will post recipes that I have either created or modified.  This will accomplish two things: first, I will be more likely to record my recipes for future use; and second, I will be better be able to share them with friends...and the world?  Eventually, I will do more than post a few recipes and actually develop the blog more, but I will just start sharing for now.

Due to some recent changes in diet, I have been forced to use my albeit amateur know-how-of-cooking to be extra creative in the kitchen, which absolutely is pushing my ego through the roof right now. Nothing is more satisfying that accomplishing a new trick in the kitchen.Ego, what ego?

I came up with the following recipe for Banana Muffins to use up two bananas.  Since I have gone off dairy and sugar, I had to come up with something that would both be sweet and fluffy.
Banana Muffins - Dairy-Free/Sugar-Free/Gluten-Free Alternate (untried)
Two (Long) Ripe Bananas mashed
4 eggs separated
1 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1-1.5 inches of vanilla bean scraped*
a dash of salt 
1.5 cups Almond Milk
1/4 cup grape seed oil
5 drops stevia liquid (10 for a sweeter muffin)
1 cup Brown rice Flour
1-1.5 cups Spelt Flour**
1 cup of Quinoa soaked overnight (drained and rinsed)
Oven pre-heat: 350°F
  1. Blend with mixer the mashed bananas with the 4 egg yolks, vanilla bean, salt, stevia, and leavening agents. Add almond milk and oil.
  2. Add quinoa and flour, stir with mixer until just blended.
  3. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold in by hand (it does does not have to be perfectly blended; do this more like you would for pancakes).
  4. Bake at 350°F. 25 minutes for mini’s - rotate if necessary.  1 hour+ for larger muffins. Cook until a knife (or toothpick) comes out with a few moist crumbs.  As long as you don't see uncooked batter on the knife, it is done.  
Makes: 12 large-medium and 36 mini’s; or you can do 24 medium muffin’s. 
Recipe Notes:
The first batch came out fluffy and lightly sweet.  I only used 5 drops of stevia, but you could use more.  It is a powerful sweetener, so I did not want to over do it.  I did them in papers, but due to their highly moist insides, you easily could go without paper liners.  If you do, you could perforate one side of the bottom after they come out of the oven to let steam escape.  You could also cut the almond milk by a half or quarter cup and leave everything else the same to make it less moist. 
You could probably leave out the Quinoa without needing a substitute, but it adds some texture, protein, and calcium.  Quinoa also adds its own flavor.
I suspect this recipe would also make great banana pancakes. Feel free to try this, and let me know how it works.
It would be hard to make this vegan, because the whipped whites are needed to give the muffins some structure.  Since I do not do a lot of vegan cooking, I do not know the solution to this.  
*For this first attempt I did not get to use the vanilla bean, because I could not find some at a price I was willing to pay.  I used 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead, which does contain sugar (but a negligible amount given the overall size of the recipe). 

**Since I just made the first batch two days ago, I have not developed an effective gluten-free version yet.  Spelt is low in gluten, and since I have been told that I can have a little gluten, I will be using spelt some of the time.  However, if you need to go gluten-free try using buckwheat flour or other heaver weight gluten-free flour or all brown rice flour.  Buckwheat has it’s own strong flavor, so you may want to use a more neutral flour.  Be sure to add a tablespoon of guar gum (derived from corn) or xanthan gum (derived from bacteria) for help with volume. 

Nearly six months later, 
I finally post a picture from when I made the muffins.