Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: beans and legumes (page 2 of 2)

HABICHUELAS CON CHORIZO (Beans with Sausage)

Whether you call them, habicheulasfrijoles, or granos,  beans are a popular foodstuff in Puerto Rican cooking. In my parents day, during the dark times of the Great Depression, beans and rice is what staved off hunger on the island. It was cheap and nutritious. When Boricuas first came to New York during the mass wave in the 1950s, they brought with them their penchant for beans . I was raised on beans and whatever grain was available. And the dish given below was one of our favorites. It’s Bean with Sausage. The sausage being chorizo, the cured, spicy Spanish sausage so beloved in our culture. They come in an 8-ounce package and, for this meal, you’ll need three.

Now, if you’ve acquired my book, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press) you will note that I give two  methods for soaking beans. Most likely you’ll be getting dried beans from a store or supermarket. They require soaking in water before cooking if for no other reason that the dry beans you pick up could be older and drier than last year’s meatloaf. I prefer overnight soaking as oppose to the quick soaking method. It follows that the more soaking time, the more tender the product. But, if you’re pressed for time you can do quick soaking: put the beans in a pot with water to cover (about 2 inches). Bring water to a boil and cook beans for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let soak for 1 hour. Drain the beans, rinse and cook according to recipe.

Now, for this recipe you can use whatever beans are available. It can be red kidney beans, black beans, white beans, Lima beans, pink beans, black eye peas, or green peas (what we call pitipuas, a mispronunciation of the French petitpois).  This time around I used pinto beans, which we hand on hand. Yes, you’re saying, who not just use beans from a can. You could, and it would be convenient, but it just wouldn’t taste the same. Believe me, the result would be different.  If nothing else, dried beans are healthier (canned beans are chock full of salt).

Also, in preparing the beans, I use sofrito as a condiment.  Sofrito is an aromatic mix of herbs and spices that is a base for cooking countless dishes. In my cookbook I give a recipe for making sofrito. You can also access a recipe from my post of 11/08/10. Or you can prepare the recipe without it. Some cooks use Sazón Accent (Goya makes a good product).  And, of course, the perfect side dish for this recipe is white or yellow rice

HABICUELAS CON CHORIZO
(Beans with Sausage)

Ingredients:

1 pound package of whatever bean desired
3 cups water
½ cup olive oil
3 chorizo sausages, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 tablespoons sofrito
¼ cup tomato sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Instructions:

1. Rinse the beans in a colander under cool running water. Check and discard any stones or other debris. Soak overnight in a pot with water to cover.
2. Drain and rinse. Place in heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over moderate-high heat for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil. Add chorizo and stir-fry on moderate heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add sofrito, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and oregano. Sauté another 5 minutes.
5. Add sofrito mix to the beans. Stir, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Serve with rice.
Yield: 6 servings.

 

 

 

Shrimp with Black Beans

I was recently given a jar of fermented black beans as a gift. The first thing I asked is, How do I use this thing?  Then I discovered it is very common in Chinese cuisine, and it’s an item found  in Asian stores.  I also learned that, in cooking, it should be used rather sparingly. Its not like opening a can of beans and adding it to your stew. A little bit goes a long way. The recipe I tried it with is stir-fried shrimp.

The dish is easy to cook and calls for the usual ingredients found in Cantonese dishes: soy sauce, sesame oil, bok choi (or other cabbage, if desired), ginger, and scallions. I decided to give it a sweet and sour affect by adding honey to the mix. The result is given below. Served over steamed rice, or, if you like, lo mein noodles, it’s delicious.

SHRIMP WITH BLACK BEANS

2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry
2 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound bok choi, trimmed, washed and dried (can use regular cabbage)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 cup minced scallions

1. Soak black beans in wine or sherry. In a large bowl, marinate shrimp in 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sliced garlic, salt and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Separate bok choi leaves from stems. Chop stems into 1-inch pieces, and chop leaves roughly.
3. Preheat a wok, large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Raise heat to high, and when it begins to smoke, add minced garlic and immediately add shrimp with its marinade. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon shrimp out of wok into a plate and set aside.
4. Add remaining tablespoon peanut oil to wok and, when it smokes, add ginger and bok choi. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.
5. Add shrimp to wok. Stir in black beans and their liquid, scallions, and remaining honey and soy sauce. Cook for 1 minutes. Turn off heat, drizzle remaining sesame oil on top, and serve.  
    Yield: 4 servings.

Cooking with Bay Leaves

Some folks I know don’t like to use bay leaves in their cooking. I could never figure that one out. I cook with bay leaves all the time. They add an aromatic flavor to dishes that is hard to replicate. Bay leaves go back a long way. They were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans not only as a flavoring but also for medicinal  purposes. They were good for soothing an upset stomach, as a diuretic, for treating muscle pain, and even as an insect repellent (that’s right: insect repellent). Today they are used worldwide and are particularly prominent in Classical French cuisine. They are used whole and are often removed from the dish before serving (to prevent choking on the things).

Bay leaves have a tea-like aroma which is great for soups, stews and sauces. Stored in the freezer, they’ll last forever. I prefer dried bay leaves to fresh. I know, this is heresy. But, to me, dried bay leaves rule. Why? Dried bay leaves are usually imported from the Middle East, namely, Turkey. Most fresh bay leaves come from California, and they have a strong eucalyptus flavor that can overcome a dish. Dried bay leaves have a milder flavor and an herbal, floral fragrance similar to oregano or thyme. To my mind, they are better for cooking. In fact, I’m told California fresh bay leaves are not the same as dried. They are two distinct products. So, stick to dried bay leaves—unless you want to end up with an inedible dish which reeks of menthol.

Given below are five dishes using bay leaves. This may give you an idea of its true versatility. If nothing else, the next time you have indigestion, just steep some bay leaves in hot water for a great, soothing tea to quiet your tummy.

BASMATI RICE WITH BAY LEAVES:

Wash 1 cup Basmati rice in cold water, drain. Add rice to 1 3/4 cups boiling water. Add two bay leaves along with a cinnamon stick and 3-4 cardamom pods. Lower heat and cook 15 minutes. Cut off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving (don’t forget to remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick). Note: if desired, you can use jasmine rice as well.

BEANS WITH BAY LEAVES:

In a skillet or fry pan, sauté  1 medium chopped onion, and 2 cloves minced garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2-3 bay leaves and continue cooking until onions are soft and translucent. Add 2 cups  canned beans (either red kidney beans, black beans, white cannellini beans, or black eye peas), 2 fresh chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Simmer on low heat, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.

CHICKEN  WITH BAY LEAVES:

Cook 8-10 bay leaves in a dry skillet until brown and toasted. Then take a whole chicken (or chicken parts) seasoned with pepper and salt, and moisten with some lager beer or white wine (for a richer flavor, you can use brandy or whisky). Wrap the chicken in aluminum foil with a carpet of toasted bay leaves on the bottom and on top. Seal and place in a preheated oven (375 F.) and cook until done (30-45 minutes depending on whether you use a whole chicken or chicken parts).

MEAT PASTA SAUCE:

In a skillet or pan, sauté in oil: 1 medium chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 4 bay leaves, and 2 cinnamon sticks. When onion is soft and translucent, add 1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, or turkey). Cook until meat is browned. Add 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, 1/3 cup dry red wine, and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 1/2 hour. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and serve with favorite pasta. If desired, you may add whatever vegetables you like during cooking.

SHISH-KEBAB:

Soak as many bay leaves as needed in water. Then place them on skewers along with the chicken, lamb, beef, veggies, whatever. And grill as you normally would. When done, remove from skewers and discard bay leaves.   
     

Chick Pea Salad

The endless summer continues, and cool salads are still the preference. Following that vein, chick peas or garbanzos, as we call ’em, is one of my favorite dishes. Traditionally, we serve chick peas as a stewed bean dish over rice. Everyone these days is familiar with hummus, that versatile appetizer made with chick peas. Chick peas are also great in salads, as in the famous Three Bean Salad. I make a different chick pea salad. Here, it is paired with olives and fennel.

Now, fennel is something that I discovered back in my young manhood. We never heard of it in East Harlem. Once I discovered it, I fell in love with the thing. It is a flowering plant that yields a pale green bulb with a fragrance akin to anise (as in anisette). It is crunchy and slightly sweet, and very popular in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s health benefits are legion. In the past, fennel was used as a cure for indigestion, constipation, and flatulence. I don’t know about its curative effects, but is it high in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. The thing is good for you.

This is the archetypical summer recipe. No need to light up the stove, or heat anything. Canned chick peas are fine. The whole thing takes less that 20 minutes to prepare.

CHICK PEA SALAD

3 cups chick peas (if canned, rinsed and drained)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
18 large black olives, pitted and halved
2/3 cup finely diced fresh fennel
2 tablespoons minced scallions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon black olive paste (available in fancy food shops or stores)
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 medium tomato, sliced in 1/2-moon shapes (for garnish)
1 hard-boil egg, sliced (for garnish)

1. Place the chick peas in a serving bowl. Add the garlic, oregano, olives, fennel, scallions and parsley. Mix to combine.
2. In a cruet or small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the olives, olive paste and olive oil. Pour over the chick pea mix and toss gently.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir to mix again. Garnish with tomato and egg, and serve.
    Yield: 6 servings.

Holiday treat: Rice and Pigeon Peas

In Puerto Rican cooking, rice and pigeon peas, or arroz con gadules, is the preeminent holiday side dish. When I was a kid back in the Barrio (Spanish Harlem) there wasn’t a home that didn’t have a steaming pot of arroz con gandules to go with the turkey at Thanksgiving, roast pork shoulder (pernil) at Christmas, ham or lamb at Easter. This tasty mix has been with us since I can remember, and it served as a change from the standard rice and beans.

So, what are pigeon peas? Well,  they are a legume (or fruit pod) such as beans, peas, soybeans, peanuts, alfalfa, etc. They’ve been around for about 3,500 years; and were first cultivated in eastern India, and from there spread worldwide. They were brought to the Caribbean islands by the slave trade; and until recently were virtually unknown in mainland North America. I remember that when I traveled to New England or the Midwest I couldn’t find the things anywhere. Today you can find them in any Hispanic or Caribbean market.

In the recipe given below, you can either prepare gandules from scratch, like you would do any beans, or simply get canned pigeon peas. I’ll tell you right now, there is no shame in using canned pigeon peas. I know, the purists will howl—but as viable shortcut when time is essential, the canned stuff is just as good. You may have to doctor the canned peas somewhat by adding spices such as black pepper and oregano, but the results will be acceptable.

Note that in the recipe, I favor the overnight soaking method for dry beans rather than the popular quick-soaking method where beans are covered with water, then cooked uncovered over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Afterward, they are removed from heat and left to soak for 1 hour. Then cooked as required. What bothers me about this method is that the package beans you pick up at the supermarket may be older (and drier) than last year’s leftover meatloaf. So it follows, the more soaking time, the more tender the final product. The recipe also calls for sofrito, the base flavoring used in criollo cuisine. If you don’t have sofrito, then in a small bowl combine 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/2 onion, chopped; and 1/2 cooked chopped fresh parsley. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, and then add this mixture to the recipe.

One final plug: this recipe is from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America, which is going into its third printing. Want to savor more gems kike this one? Buy the book, make me rich.
 
ARROZ CON GANDULES
   (Rice and Pigeon Peas)

1 pound fresh or dried pigeon peas, or 1 pound canned peas
2 cups rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound salt pork, rinsed in cold water and diced
1/4 pound lean cured ham, rinsed in cold water and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium green bell pepper (pimento), cored, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons sofrito (or the substitute given above)
1 cup alcaparrado (olive-caper mix available in Latino markets)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt to taste

1. If you’re using fresh pigeon peas, you’re ahead of the game. They can be cooked just as is after rinsing in cold running water. If using dry beans, they need to be soaked overnight in water to cover by at least 2 inches. Drain beans and place in a pot or kettle (a Dutch oven is perfect for this) with 2 quarts (8 cups water) and bring to a boil. Cover and boil over moderate-low heat until beans are tender (about 1 hour).
2.   Drain cooked peas and set aside, reserving 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid.
3.   Wash rice and drain.
4.   Heat oil in a heavy kettle or pot (I prefer cast-iron). Brown the salt pork.
5.   Add ham and cook on moderate heat until golden-crisp (about 4-5 minutes).
6.   Add onion, bell pepper, cilantro, sofrito, alcaparrado and tomato sauce. Sauté for about 5 minutes.
7.   Stir in rice. Add peas, reserved cooking liquid, wine and salt.
8.   Boil on moderate-high heat, uncovered, until water is absorbed (about 5-8 minutes).
9.   Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
10. Turn off heat and let rice sit for 10 minutes before serving.
      Yield: 8 servings.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

I’ve always enjoyed Creole cooking. This is a style of cuisine that originated with the descendants of colonial settlers in Louisiana, mainly of French, Spanish and African descent. They have given us such popular entrées as Gumbo (a seafood stew), Jambalaya (a mix of meat, vegetables, rice and seafood) and Crayfish Étouffée (shellfish over rice). Add to that, my favorite: Red Beans and Rice (a standby in New Orleans). I daresay there as as many versions of this dish as there are chefs in New Orleans.

Traditionalists claim that New Orleans Red Beans and Rice should be made with small red beans. I’m all for tradition, but I prefer using red kidney beans. This is what I grew up on, along with black beans for Puerto Rican style black beans and rice or, as they term it in Spain and Latin America, “Moros y Cristianos” (Moors and Christians). New Orleans red beans and rice calls for Andouille sausages (a spicy sausage associated with Cajun cuisine). But you can substitute smoked sausages, or (my preference) Spanish chorizo. My version also includes salt pork rather than bacon grease which is normally used for frying. You can find salted pork in almost any market these days. They usually come in 12-ounce packages and give a heartier flavor to stir-fry dishes.

Note that the traditional way to serve this dish is to ladle the beans onto a plate, add a scoop of rice on top and season with a squirt or two of Tabasco. This is the correct procedure, sworn so by New Orleans residents. Diverge from this procedure and you will incur the wrath of the gods.

NEW ORLEANS RED BEANS AND RICE

1 pound dried red beans
1/2 cup salt pork, washed and diced
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste if you like it spicy)
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 pound chorizo or smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound smoked ham hocks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
10 cups chicken stock
Cooked white rice (about 4-6 cups)
1/2 cup chopped scallions

1. Place beans in a pot or Dutch oven cover with water by 2 inches.  Let soak overnight. Drain, place in a bowl and set aside.
2. In the same pot or Dutch oven as before, heat the salt pork over medium high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until pork pieces are well browned (3-4 minutes).
3. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, until the onion and bell pepper are soft (about 4 minutes).
4. Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, chorizo, and ham hocks. Cook, stirring, until chorizo and ham hocks are brown (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the beans and chicken stock. Stir to mix, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender and the liquid starts to thicken. This should take at least 2 hours or more. If the beans become too thick and dry, you can add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
6. Remove pot from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 cup of the beans against the side of the pot. Put back on the burner and continue to cook over low heat until the beans are tender and creamy (about 15 minutes more). Remove the bay leaves and serve with the rice, garnished with scallions.
    Yield: 6 servings.

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How to Cook Beans


Beans, beans are good for the heart; the more you eat, the more you . . .” Well, we all know the rest to that ditty. Fact is, beans are good for the heart. The lowly bean (or legumes—the fancy word) is a good source of thiamine, niacin and other components of the vitamin B complex series. They are also great comfort food. Think of a hearty French cassoulet casserole; Mexican refried beans; Boston bake beans; the three bean salad for barbecues; and the Middle Eastern hummus. Life would be sad indeed without beans. But how to cook the suckers? Easy enough to open up a can of beans but, for real flavor and texture, nothing beats fresh beans or the more common dry beans you find in 1 pound packages at the store. Be aware that the dry beans you get at the supermarket could be older (and drier) than last year’s leftover meatloaf. Thus they need to be soaked beforehand in water. And the more soaking time, the more tender the final product. That’s why I recommend overnight soaking rather than the quick soaking method where you cover the beans in water, bring to a boil, then cook uncover over moderate heat for approximately 2 minutes; and afterward let them soak for an hour.

The overnight method involves placing beans in a colander, discarding any broken or shriveled ones, and rinsing in cold running water. Then you place the beans in a pot with water to cover at least 2 inches.  Never use warm or hot water. In extremely hot weather it’s a good idea to soak the beans in the fridge. Ideally, one should change the water several times to prevent the beans from fermenting. After overnight or quick-soaking, drain beans and place in a heavy kettle or Dutch over with 2 quarts (8 cups) water and bring to a boil. Cover and boil over moderate-low heat until beans are tender (about 1 hour). From hear on you can finish up with any of the three basic bean recipes given below. Let me add, the recipes are good for almost any kind of legumes: black beans, red kidney beans, pigeon peas, small red beans, Lima beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, pink beans, chick peas, etc.

 BASIC BEAN RECIPE

A. Sofrito Method:
This method uses sofrito, an aromatic mix of herbs and spices which is used a a base for cooking countless Caribbean dishes. You can buy prepared sofrito in most supermarkets or Asian and Caribbean markets. If you want to make it from scratch then you can check my blog post of  11/08/10 which gives an easy sofrito recipe. Or, better still (for me), get it from my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America  (Perseus Books Group—Running Press)

1. To the soaked beans, add 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes; 3 tablespoons sofrito; 1 beef bouillon cube; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano; and 1/4 cup tomato sauce. (My mother, of blessed memory, would add 2 tablespoons dry red wine at this point—a tip she got from a Cuban friend). Mix well.
2. Cover and cook over high heat until water is boiling. This should take 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until beans are completely tender and sauce has thickened somewhat.

B. Skillet Method:
1. Place the beans in a pot and boil in 2 quarts water as outlined above; but add half a medium green bell pepper, seeded, to water.
2. In a skillet or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 teaspoon dried oregano; 1/2 cup tomato sauce; and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Saute on moderate heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add skillet contents to beans plus 1 large potato, peeled an cubed, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well.
4. Cover and cook over high heat until water is boiling (5-10 minutes).
5. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until beans are completely tender sauce has thickened.

C. Oven Method:
This is an oven method that is very popular in Italy, particularly in Tuscany. The beans are soaked overnight in the same manner, then rinsed and place in a pot or casserole. The rest of the recipe is as follows:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2. Add 1 small onion, peeled and chopped, to beans and water to cover by 1/2 inch.
3. Cover and bring the water to a near boil over low heat.
4. Place the pot in oven and bake until beans are tender (45 minutes to 1 hour). Make sure the water does not evaporate during cooking to below the level of the beans.
5. Remove from oven and add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
6. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over beans and serve.

Note: the above recipes yield from 6 to 8 servings.

photo: courtesy of NewlyWed Nutrition

Ham Hocks and Beans

Back in my Marine Corps days one of the most memorable persons I met was Staff Sergeant Hollins. He was a warrior and lifer grunt who loved two things: the Marine Corps and ham hocks and beans. He would rhapsodize about the dish and how it was his favorite meal from boyhood onward. We knew that in the southern U.S., whether you were white or black, ham hocks and beans was, and is, a rite of passage. When I discovered how tasty it was I also became a fan of the dish.
I’m pretty certain Staff Sergeant Hollins would approve of the recipe given below. With a beer or, if you prefer, a hearty red wine such as a Cabernet or Chianti, nothing could be better.
1 pound dry pinto or navy white beans
4-6 smoked ham hocks (about 4-5 ounces each)
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 bay leaves
1. Soak beans in cool water for about 45 minutes. Drain, picking out any bad ones, gravel or rocks.
2. Place beans, ham hocks, onion, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and bay leaves in a large Dutch oven or pot. Fill with water until an inch to cover beans.  Bring to a boil, cover with lid and simmer on medium-low heat for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally, adding more water if needed. Remove ham hocks when they are tender and meat fall off the bones. The longer you simmer the thicker the broth will become.
3. Remove ham hacks from the broth, and allow to cool so they can be handled.  Remove meat from the ham hocks, discarding fat and bones and return to the stockpot. Remove bay leafs, adjust seasonings to taste, if necessary, and serve (I prefer it with steamed rice).
    Yield: 4 servings or more.
Photo: Courtesy of heatherchristo.com

Hoppin’ John – A Southern Tradition

In my first foray down south, years ago, I discovered a traditional New Year’s ritual: Hoppin’ John (or Hopping John, for all you uppity types). Southern lore has it that Hoppin’ John is the birthright of every southerner. And it’s a double edged sword. See, Hoppin’ John is the dish that everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line must have on New Year’s day. It ensures continual good luck for the coming year. Skip it and you risk damnation and an accursed 365 days to come. If you don’t eat Hoppin’ John on January 1st, well, all bets are off.

I’ve taken this fable to heart. I partake of Hoppin’ John every New Year’s day. What is consists of is black-eyed peas and rice. Some variations have the beans and rice cooked together. I prefer cooking them separately, and serving the black-eyed peas over the rice.

I assume there are as many Hoppin’ John recipes as there are southern cooks. Most call for ham hocks, country ham, bacon, or ham steak added to the peas. I use ham hocks, which gives the dish an earthy flavor. So here follows the Rivera family version of a southern favorite. By the way, how the dish got its name, I have no idea. If anyone out there knows its history, please let me know.

HOPPIN’ JOHN

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium ham hocks
1 large onion, sliced into rounds
1 red or green bell pepper (pimento), chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 chicken bouillon cube
4 cups water
Cooked white rice (3-4 cups)

1. Preparing the peas: initially I would soak them overnight in water, drain, and cook the next day. I’ve discover that a more convenient (and better way) is to cover the peas with water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Then remove from heat, cover pan and let stand 1 hour. Finally, drain peas, rinse well, and set aside.
2. While peas are are being done, rinse ham hocks under cold running water, and pat dry. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sear ham hocks until browned. Add water just to cover ham hocks, bring to a boil, partly cover, lower heat and simmer ham hocks until tender (about 45 minutes).
3. Add peas, onion, pimento, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt, hot pepper sauce, bouillon, and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender (about 45 minutes).
4. Serve over white rice or, if preferred, you can mix the cooked rice and beans together.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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Summer Dishes

AioliImage via Wikipedia

Mid-August and it’s sizzling out there. This is no time for elaborate meals and dinners. We want something fast, nutritious and cool. Below are some quick summer dishes one can create in minutes. All dishes should be served at room temperature.

Mushroom Salad: Wash and clean a bunch of mushrooms (about 1-2 pounds—you can choose whatever you want: white mushrooms, criminis, portabellos, etc.); cut in half or quarter any large ones. Steam about 5 minutes. While still warm, toss with sliced shallots or onions; add olive oil, minced garlic, ground black pepper, coriander, chopped fresh cilantro, and red wine vinegar.

Combination Beans: Combine cooked or canned beans, drained. You can mix any variety: black beans, red beans, chickpeas, etc. Add diced red and green pimentos, and a minced jalepeno or tabasco pepper (make sure you remove seeds). Season with juice from one lime, chopped marjoram, oregano and ground black pepper to taste.

Horta (a seasoned salad): Steam or poach two pounds of dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale, etc.). Drain, cool, squeeze dry and chop coarsely. Add olive oil, oregano, ground black pepper, and fresh lemon juice to taste.

Basic Green Salad: Wash and cut plum tomatoes into slices. Lay in a circle on a big plate with mixed greens, black olives cut in half, and cubes of goat cheese (preferably manchego—if you can get it). Season with ground black pepper, salt and oregano. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Garnish with a sliced boiled egg.

Aioli is a sauce popular in Provence that’s served with seafood, shellfish, boiled eggs, and potatoes. In a blender or food processor, blend 3 cloves peeled garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil until creamy and smooth. Transfer to a bowl (preferably wood), and very slowly add 3/4 olive oil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens. Traditional Aioli included a raw egg, but nowadays that’s not recommended due to health reasons.

Whichever recipe you prefer, enjoy. Or you can try making up your own summer snack. The possibilities are endless.

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