Saturday, July 21, 2012

Packed with Nutrients and Flavor

It’s summer time and Three Bean Salad figures prominently on our table.  But, the Bobbie Sue Three Bean Salad would be unrecognizable to most Americans.  Why?  Well, to be blunt, commercial or restaurant Three Bean Salad has earned a distinguished place on my Scary Food List.  Usually made with canned legumes, soggy over-cooked or canned green and yellow beans, these salads are made with enough sugar to stop a tank.  The ingredients label for commercial three bean salad contains a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, which means in addition to qualifying for a high ranking on my Scary Food List, they meet my criteria for processed food.  Bobbie Sue’s Three Bean Salad uses red kidney beans, lima beans, green peas, and absolutely no sugar.  And, it is packed with nutrients and flavor.

Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are a wonder food.  Having been cultivated in Peru for over 7,000 years, lima beans are among of the earliest cultivated crops of the indigenous people’s of the Americas.  They have a deliciously subtle flavor and a rich buttery texture, hence the name they are known by in the American South—butter beans. High in many important trace minerals, they are also high in cholesterol scrubbing fiber.  The high fiber content makes lima beans an excellent choice for diabetics as it helps prevent spiking in post-meal blood sugar levels.  For vegetarians and vegans-- when lima beans and rice are combined a complete protein is formed. 

Regrettably, the growing season in Northern Vermont is not lima bean friendly.  We are able to grow kidney beans and green peas, which is why they are both featured in this recipe.  Enjoy!

Notes for this recipe: Although the texture and flavor will suffer, canned (rinsed and drained) dark red kidney beans can be substituted for dried. Cilantro can be substituted for dill.  Yellow onion can be substituted for red, and finely diced celery can be added in addition to the celery seed.  Please do not substitute yellow mustard for Dijon.  This dish tastes best when made a day ahead.  

 Bobbie Sue’s Three Bean Salad

1 lb. dried kidney beans
3 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
1 lb. lima beans (fresh or frozen)
Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic peeled & minced
1/3 c. finely chopped dill
¼ c. finely chopped red onion
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. canola oil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. celery seed
Sea Salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Prepare kidney beans as directed in my previous post Preparing Legumes.  Alternately, you can cover the beans with cold water and soak them over night, and then follow the directions for Preparing Legumes.  Soaking reduces cooking time.  When the kidney beans are cooked, pour into a colander and rinse immediately with cold water.  Allow them to drain well.

While the kidney beans are cooking, select a large pan, fill with water, and bring to a boil. While you wait for the water to boil, place a large colander in the sink, and have a heat-proof bowl and skimmer next to the stove.   Add 1 Tbsp. Kosher salt to the water, when it boils again, add the peas and cook to just tender.  Use the skimmer to remove the peas from the water to the heat-proof bowl.  Transfer the peas to the colander in the sink and spray immediately with cold water, and allow to drain.  When well drained tip them into the bowl with the peas.  Add the kidney beans and set aside.

Return the pan of water to a boil and add the lima beans.  While the lima beans are cooking, tip the peas into a bowl.  Return the colander to the sink. When the lima beans are cooked to just tender, pour them into the colander and rinse immediately with cold water.  Allow to drain. When well drained tip them into the bowl with the peas.  Add the kidney beans and set aside.

In a small bowl place the minced garlic, chopped dill and onion.  Add the red wine vinegar, oil, mustard, and celery seed.  Mix to combine.  Pour over beans, and fold in with a rubber spatula until beans are well coated.  Scrape into an airtight storage container and refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Allow the dish to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Swoon Worthy

It’s summer in Vermont, which means we are eating all manner of locally grown fruit.  We start with strawberries and move to rhubarb.  Then come the black currants, red currants, and the magnificent Gooseberry.  This marvelous berry has a very short, and often fickle, season--three weeks at most. 

Although the Gooseberry has a long and illustrious culinary history in Europe, it tends to be less well known here in the States.  As the Gooseberry is hardy and tolerates cold climates very well, it has a long history in Vermont.  Green and pink varieties are the ones most often grown here.

The Gooseberry resembles a large green or red grape, the skin is most often smooth, and the plant itself has rather long spiky thorns.  (Pickers beware!)  Although tart when raw, the fruit when combined with sugar and cooked has a delicate slightly floral flavor that is swoon-worthy. 

If you happen to be fortunate enough to score some Gooseberries (they will be dearly priced) snatch them up and indulge in the great treat of Gooseberry Pie.  

 Notes for this pie:  We prefer our pies on the tart side.  If you tend to enjoy a sweeter pie, increase sugar to 1-1/2 cups.  Or, keep sugar the same and serve the pie with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream.

Gooseberry Pie

10 c. (approx. 2 quarts) Gooseberries, rinsed and drained
1 c. sugar
¼ c. granulated tapioca (a.k.a. instant tapioca)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. milk

Make pie crust and chill.  While crust is chilling, stem and tail gooseberries.  Place stemmed and tailed Gooseberries in a large bowl.  Add the sugar and tapioca, and a good grating of fresh nutmeg (10 or 12 scrapes) mix to combine and evenly coat berries.  Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 425.  Select a 9 or 10 inch deep dish pie plate or 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet and have handy.  Remove pie crust from refrigerator.  Cut into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  Roll out the larger piece and place in the bottom of your pie plate.  Triim evenly to about ½ inch from edge of pie plate.  Scrape in the fruit.  Break the butter into two or three pieces and place on top of the Gooseberries.  Roll out the smaller piece of pie crust.  Fold into quarters.  Select a sharp knife and carefully cut vents.  Place and center on top of the Gooseberries.  Gently unfold the crust.  Trim top crust to hang slightly longer than bottom crust.  Fold the overhanging top crust under the bottom crust and crimp to seal.  Put the egg yolk in a small bowl, add the water, and beat with a fork to combine.  Brush evenly over the surface of the pie crust using a small brush.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 40 minutes or until filling is bubbling up through the center vents and crust is a deep golden brown.  If the crust becomes too brown, lightly place a piece of tented aluminum foil over it.  When pie is baked, remove to wire rack to cool. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Favorite Things

It is the simple pleasures in life that bring the most satisfaction.  So experience has proven time and again.  For DH and me, one of the life’s simple pleasures is the ritual of afternoon tea.  Whenever we are home together at a time that can be remotely construed as tea time, we stop whatever we are doing and have afternoon tea. In this way we pass a pleasant hour in each other’s company sipping tea, nibbling on scones and catching up.

Tea is a simple event for us.  No fancy china or silver spoons are required.  Just a well brewed pot of tea and something to munch on—preferably scones.  It’s taken us a lifetime to discover these delicately flavored morsels of magnificence.  But, better late than never!  It is no wonder the English have scones with tea, the two compliment each other perfectly. 

To be honest, I was prodded to begin making scones by the disappointment DH experienced every time he purchased a bakery scone.  One bite and his act of optimism was dashed once again.  My foray into scone baking was an act of desperation--I couldn’t bear to see DH repeatedly disappointed.

DH loves Black Currants, and last year planted several bushes in the berry patch.  This week when he returned home with yet another bucket filled with these tasty berries, I decided to combine two of DH’s favorite things—scones and Black Currants.  Yesterday for tea we celebrated the scones by pulling out some teacups and fancy plates and had ourselves a proper tea.  After eating a whopping four, DH deemed the scones a success!

Oh my!  Where has the afternoon gone?  It’s tea time!  Better put the kettle on and get DH.  Today it will be tea on the porch with Bobbie Sue's Swirled Black Currant Scones. 

Notes for this recipe:  A potato masher with a grid base works best for mashing the berries.  The Black Currants will stain the dough indigo—don’t be alarmed!  If you don’t have a ¼ c. scoop, use a ¼ c. solid measuring cup.  Don’t crowd the scones on the cookie sheets—nine per sheet leaves plenty of room for them to spread out and brown nicely.  If batter makes more than 18 scones, just drop them in the larger spaces.

Bobbie Sue’s Rippled Black Currant Scones
Makes about 18 scones

1 c. Black Currants, stemmed and picked over
1 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. water

3 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 c. buttermilk
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Have two cookie sheets handy.

Put the black currants into a small heavy bottomed saucepan.  Use a potato masher to crush the berries.  Add the water and sugar; stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries are cooked and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.  Use a two cup liquid measure the 1.3 c. buttermilk. add the eggs and vanilla and beat lightly to blend.  Set aside.

In another bowl beat the butter until light and creamy, add the sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until almost blended.  Add the buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.   

Scrape the Black Currant filling into the bowl and gently fold in until the dough is rippled.  Do not blend in completely.  Use a ¼ c. scoop to drop the scones onto the cookie sheets.  Dip your hand in flour and gently pat each scone to flatten slightly.

Place the filled sheets into the preheated oven.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes or until the scones are set and slightly golden brown.  

 Remove scones from sheets to wire racks.  Eat warm with plenty of butter or clotted cream or cool completely and store in an airtight container.