Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Glorious Bourguignon of Beans

beans bourguignon close

There are few things as comforting as a warm bowl of soupy beans.
Whether they are red, black, pink or pinto, a good bowl of beans never fails to satisfy.

As a child, I would always help my dad to make the famous family secret beans recipe. Made with a blend of pinto and pequiño beans, hamhock and garlic, and a special mix of spices, eating these beans was truly a transcendent experience. It is a recipe that simply must be shared... but not today.

No, I’m afraid that for the time being the family secret, which must be passed on to a male heir, is safe. However, I do have another recipe for you. It’s one that I developed and it is, of course, a winner!

When making beans recently, I realized there are many parallels between the creation of a batch of fine beans and beef stew. Like boiling and uh long cooking times… I think I made them both on Sundays. In any case, I was inspired to combine the two recipes into one glorious bourguignon of beans!

Beans Bourguignon Recipe
1 cup pinto beans
1 cup black beans

1 cup of Pinot Noir
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons of garlic
1 small yellow onion – diced
a strip of orange peel
1 teaspoon of salt + more to taste
Pepper to taste

bean fixin's

Begin by thoroughly washing beans in a colander and removing any deformed and half-beans as well as any errant debris you may find. When the beans are washed, place them in a large pot and soak them over night.

12-24 hours later…
Drain the beans, return them to your large stock, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches.

Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat until the water is at a simmer. Allow the beans to cook through until they are soft but just slightly al dente. Depending on the hardness of your water, this can take an hour or two (or looooonger).

When the beans are ready, drain the liquid, preserving 1 cup of the broth.

Return the cup of preserved broth to the beans, add the wine, tomato sauce, rosemary, garlic, onion, orange peel and salt.

Note: when making beans, it is important to always add the salt to the beans during the final stage of cooking. Adding it too early will make the water too saline for the beans to get soft :(

Mix all of the ingredients in with the beans until everything is evenly incorporated and return the pot to heat until it reaches a simmer. Allow to cook for another hour and bon apetito!

beans bourguignon

I think this is a fun, experimental recipe and I’m pleased to be able to share it. I also think it makes a fine beef stew replacement for my vegetarian readers. The richness and bold flavors of a bourguignon without the burden of flesh!

P.S. You might have noticed the carrots in the assembly picture above. I did add carrots to the mix initially but I didn't like the flavor combination so I removed them and consequently omitted them from the final recipe. And now you know.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pineapple Tarts

pineapple tart 2

Hopefully, you still have some of the pineapple jam you made last week because we will need it to make Pineapple Tarts. Wait, you haven’t made it yet? Well, go on and click here, I’ll wait…

Now, aren’t you glad you did that? It’s freakin’ delicious, right? The only problem is that now you have to wait for it to cool. It’s fine, do what you gotta do. Again, I don’t mind waiting. Anything for you.

Hi again! Now that we have the pineapple jammaking out the way, we can proceed with the recipeing.

Pineapple tarts can be found at many Chinese bakeries and are like sweet, buttery, bites of fruity pie. They are fairly easy to make and lend themselves to a lot of creative possibilities in terms of their assembly. I have seen them shaped like tiny pineapples, rolled into little balls, and formed into miniature pies. No matter how you put them together, they are a delight and the perfect treat for any pineapple lover.

Pineapple Tarts
½ cup softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cream cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon malted milk powder
½ teaspoon salt

1 egg – beaten (for egg wash)

½ Pint of Pineapple Jam: recipe here (if, for some reason, you STILL haven’t made it)

Cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Add the flour, salt, malted milk, and baking soda and mix until combined.

Pat the dough into a ball and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes.

After it has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and remove the dough from your refrigerator.

Using rounded tablespoons of dough, place the dough into a flat-ended pastry tip and force the dough through with your thumb (1). You should get about 2.5 inch long strips (3??). (Alternately, you could roll the dough into a disk that is about ¼ of an inch thick and cut the strips using a paring knife. But then you would not get the cool texture).
tart assembly
(whoa, that can't be the correct order, I need to update this photo)

After you have formed all the dough into strips, take a teaspoon of pineapple jam, place it in the center of the smooth side of a strip (2??) and roll the dough around it(4, ok now I'm making sense again). Place the roll, seam-side down, onto a silpat or a lightly greased cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

Create an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, apply and even coat of the wash to each roll.
egg wash

Place the tarts into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool and enjoy!

pineapple tart

Unfortunately, I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed to make the traditional pineapple tarts recipe. However, I was able to improvise and although the result was not quite the melt-in-your-mouth butter joy I generally associate with this desert, I do think the recipe is worth sharing.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Jam Making -- Jammaking!

Homemade Pineapple Jam

pineapple jam biscuit

I LOVE jam. I have a hard time quantifying the things I love but jam, or fruit preserves containing both fruit juice and pieces of the fruit's flesh, would defintely be near the top of the list (somewhere between chocolate and my Texas state-flag under shorts). At one time, the contents of my refrigerator consisted soley of Tecate, milk and at least 10 varieties of jam. Although my proclivity for drinking cheap beer and copious quantities of milk has greatly diminished, I am fairly confident that jam will always remain dear to me.

Growing up on a ranch in rural Arizona, I was blessed every summer, not only with an abundance of readily available fresh fruit but also with more homemade jam than I could shake a mason jar at. I would gorge on the best blackberry, peach, apricot and cherry jams that have ever been made.

With all this jam eating experience under my belt, I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur; I can taste the quality of the product or the lack thereof, which is why I have always stayed away from store-bought pineapple jam. Although I think there are some fine jam brands out there, I have consistently been under-whelmed with the quality of the pineapple variety. Unfortunately, I’ve never made my own because jam, preserves, and canning in general has always seemed like some mystic art that was just beyond my skill.

So last weekend, with no trustworthy brand to turn to and a wicked yearning for pineapple, I decided to finally try my hand at jammaking (oh, it’s one word on this site, baby—pronounced “jamma-king”). I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised; it turns out that homemade jam is both incredibly easy and exceptionally delicious. I started with this recipe as a base and made my own modifications, which ultimately inspired a “Wow!” from my roomie upon her first taste.

jam background

Pineapple Jam
2 cups of freshly grated pinapple (basically one grated pineapple)
1 orange – peeled, seeded and grated
1 lime – peeled, seeded and grated
1 ½ cups white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon chinese five-spice powder

Use your preferred method of peeling and coring your pineapple and cut it into 4 manageable chunks. Using a cheese grater, run the pineapple across the large grater/shredder-wholes into a bowl until it is all evenly grated.

grated pineapple

Peel and grate the orange and lime in the same manner.

orange lime pineapple

Combine the pineapple, orange, lime, sugar, vanilla and five-spice powder in a large saucepan, mix together and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes (stirring frequently) or until it reaches a thick jammy consistancy. Now you jammaking! Allow to cool and enjoy!

Pineapple jam makes a great spread for toast, biscuits, pancakes or other jams. It’s good on everything!

pineapple jam