Sunday, March 30, 2014

White Bean Soup with Garlic, Rosemary, Sausage, and Greens

This is one of those bean recipes where cooking the beans from scratch really makes a difference. You could try throwing this together with canned beans, but don't - it won't really be worth it. The beans play a starring role here, and cooking them from scratch produces a flavor and texture you just can't get out of a can. My six-year-old declared it one of his new favorites, and for a dish containing visible greens, that's something.

This recipe calls for cooking the beans in the pressure cooker, which is quick, easy, and reliable. But you could also turn it around and do them in a slow cooker, just adding the sausage and greens at the end.

2 cups dry navy beans or other small white beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
8 cups chicken stock
1 whole head garlic, loose paper removed but not peeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus additional chopped rosemary for garnish if desired
2 Tbsp olive oil
Parmesan rind (optional)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb spinach, kale, or other greens, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the beans for at least 4 hours (overnight is okay). Drain and rinse.

Place the beans in the pressure cooker with the barley, chicken stock, garlic, rosemary sprigs, oil, and Parmesan rind if using. Lock the lid and bring to pressure. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, or according to the directions for white beans that came with your cooker. Let pressure release naturally - this may take as long as 20-30 minutes.

While the pressure releases from the cooker, cook the sausage over high heat in a frying pan. Brown it well, breaking it up into small pieces as you go.

When the pressure has completed released, unlock the cooker's lid and open it. Taste a bean to make sure they are tender (if not, simmer until done). Remove the garlic and let it cool enough to handle. Also remove the rosemary stems (the leaves can stay) and the Parmesan rind if you used one. Add the sausage and greens to the soup.

Squeeze the garlic out of its peels. Mash or quickly puree it, then stir it back into the soup. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. If desired, sprinkled a little chopped fresh rosemary over the soup upon serving.

Serves about 6.

No-Knead Bread II

This is my favorite adapted version of the famous no-knead bread recipe developed by Jim Lahey and popularized some years ago by Mark Bittmann. Back in 2009 I posted a version that's a bit closer to the original, but I've been playing with it since then and I like the version below better - plus this one is made entirely with whole grain flour, so more nutritious, too.

I get local wheat from  Upinngil Farm or Four Star Farms and grind it at home, though pre-ground flour is available from both farms and Four Star Farms grain and flour is available at Green Fields Market.

That's my flour mill
To bake this bread, you will need a good sized covered casserole pot, preferably ceramic or cast iron (I use a cast iron dutch oven). Glass is okay but not as good. Be sure the pot and lid are oven proof at high temperatures.

Overnight version
1 cup oat flour (whiz some rolled oats in a food processor if you don't have the flour on hand)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use a hard red wheat)
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp yeast
2-3 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Combine all ingredients except cornmeal in a large bowl. The dough will be very wet. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15-18 hours (this is flexible: can be less, especially if the room is warm, or can be as much as 24 hours if you forget about it accidentally).

Liberally flour a work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl. Using well-floured hands and maybe a dough scraper, form the dough into a ball. You will need to keep sprinkling it with flour as you do this, until it is not sticky to the touch.

Sprinkle cornmeal onto a dish towel (not a fuzzy one!). Place the dough on the cornmeal and sprinkle more cornmeal over it. Cover with another towel and let rise for 30-60 minutes.

When ready to bake, put your pot and lid in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. When the oven and pot are both nice and hot, take the pot out of the oven and put the dough into it. Give the pot a little shake to even out the dough if needed. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

Quicker version
This is not quite as good as the overnight version, but it's close. What I like about the overnight version is that it develops a faint sourdough flavor from sitting out so long rising.

Use 1 Tbsp yeast instead of 1/4 tsp. After combining all ingredients in the bowl, cover and let rise for about 4 hours. Follow the same procedure as above with the flour and cornmeal for the second rising. Follow procedure above for preheating and baking.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Vietnamese Root Vegetable Hash with Fried Egg

A root vegetable hash with egg on top is a pretty yummy idea even without the the Vietnamese sauce making it special. My original idea for this dish was to turn the shredded veggies into fried pancakes, but I quickly realized it would be much faster and easier - and at least as good - to just mash a hash instead. With a food processor to do the shredding, this goes together pretty quickly. I liked the flavor of the celeriac here, but feel free to mix and match with other root veggies.

Hash with egg
Nuoc cham
Nuoc Cham
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Make the Nuoc Cham first (unless you have some from a previous batch in the fridge already) so the flavors can meld while you prepare the bowls.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and let sit.

Leftovers and a fresh egg
Root Vegetable Hash with Fried Eggs
2 large shallots or a small onion, minced
1 lb celeriac, peeled and shredded
1 lb potato, peeled and shredded
Canola oil
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Butter to fry the eggs
8-10 eggs (2 per diner)

Combine the shallot or onion with the shredded celeriac and potato and mix well. Heat a tablespoon or so of canola oil in a large skillet (or wok if you don't have a large skillet) and add the shredded vegetable combination. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are nearly tender. Stir in the cilantro, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook until the vegetables are completely tender. Remove from heat.

While the hash cooks, melt a little butter in another skillet and fry the eggs, a few at a time. Sunny side up makes the prettiest presentation for the dish, but cook them however you like best. Ideally the yolk should still be quite soft and oozy so that it will combine nicely with the hash once broken.  Keep the cooked eggs warm on a covered plate while you finish frying the remainder.

Serve mounds of hash on each diner's plate, topped with a fried egg or two. Pass nuoc cham at the table and top the whole dish with a couple spoonfuls before digging int.

Serves 4-5.