Cranberry beans with charred peppers, garlic, sage, and Big Fork Black Pepper sausage over mustard greens

Borlotti beans with mustard greens, Big Fork sausage, charred pepperrs, garlic, and sageThis recipe is adapted from Saltie, A Cookbook, by Caroline Fidanza, who explains that the recipe originated with Marcella Hazan, who it turn got the recipe from her husband’s housekeeper. (http://bit.ly/1fCkSFz) While all of the recipes in Saltie sound fantastic, the book reads almost like a memoir, so it’s taken me a very long time to move past the stories and into the food. But now that I’ve crossed the line I anticipate a spate of Saltie-based dinners. Because man–this recipe was delicious! Admittedly, a lot of the yum came from Big Fork’s perfect, perfect sausage. (http://bit.ly/1fa2ofI) Which is not in the original recipe. And I used frozen, not fresh, beans. So my version of this recipe differs slightly from the original. Only slightly, though. Here’s what I did.

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberry beans
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, 6 halved, 6 thinly sliced
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt
3 bell peppers, yellow, orange, and/or red
1 bunch mustard greens, washed and trimmed

Bring a pot of water to boil, add the cranberry beans, halved garlic, a glug of olive oil, and 12 sages leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Salt liberally and allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. Or, alternatively, drain the beans, salt, and dress with 3-4 tablespoons of oil. While the beans are cooking, core and seed the peppers, then slice them into strips that are approximately 1 inch long, and 1/2 inch wide. Don’t worry about being precise. Variation in sizes will just result in the smaller pieces being more charred. The only trick is to make sure all of the peppers get cooked, to bring out the depth that comes with carmelizing. Raw peppers are lovely in their place. Just not here.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Being careful not to overcrowd, spread a layer of peppers in the skillet, salt, and cook until well-browned/slightly charred, about 8-10 minutes, using tongs to turn. Transfer to a heatproof bowl when done. Repeat, adding oil as necessary, until all of the peppers are cooked.

garlic and sage

Pour the remaining oil (you should have about 1/4 cup) into a separate skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and saute, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until it turns gold and starts sizzling. Add the rest of the sage leaves, stir for another minute or so, then remove from the heat. Pour the contents of the pan over the peppers.

Slice the sausages (1 per person) into 3/4″ rounds, and saute for 5 minutes or so, until browned, in the skillet that you used for the garlic and sage. Turn to make sure both sides are browned, working in batches if necessary to ensure there is enough space around each piece for even browning. If you haven’t already done so, drain the beans. Add the cooked sausage to the beans.Borlotti beans and sausage

To serve, place a few mustard greens in the bottom of individual bowls or a large serving bowl or platter. Top with beans, sausage, and the pepper-garlic mixture.

Note that I used a lot of mustard greens. Probably 3 or 4 leaves per serving. In retrospect, it was a bit much. I will probably go with 2 leaves next time. Also, this time I followed the original recipe and kept the leaves whole. But it was kind’ve a pain to cut them. Next time I will tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces first. If you try this out, please let me know what you do. And how you like it. Note that you can easily make this recipe both vegan and gluten-free. Just leave out the sausage.

Eating the Sun Meditation

As an apology for my recent lack of posting, for which I have no excuse, I offer up this wonderful post from Nicole Cody, of Cauldrons and Cupcakes. I read it a few weeks ago, but for some reason I was too self-conscious to re-blog then. Because this post hasn’t a thing to do with beans or cooking. Instead, it’s about connecting with the elements, and energy, offering solid, practical advice about what to do when you find yourself taking on other people’s energies. Which is something I’ve done all my life. In the past year or so I’ve made great efforts to stop. To create and maintain clear energetic boundaries between myself and all others. Which is a good idea. But lately I’ve begun to realize that as necessary as boundaries are, love requires a certain level of porosity. That sometimes we can’t help but take on the energy of those we love, to help them carry their burdens. To share the weight. This is the great risk of love, the requirement of vulnerability that comes with opening oneself up to the other. Today is Valentine’s Day, the hallmark holiday on which we’re supposed to celebrate love. There’s much to dislike about this holiday. However, a celebration of love is a very good idea. So. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, may you feel the love of “two mothers, Mother Earth and dat good Sun.” Happy Valentine’s Day.

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

Malcolm Jagamara - "Inapaku dreaming"Malcolm Jagamara – “Inapaku dreaming”

“The deeper we look into nature, the more we recognize that it is full of life, and the more profoundly we know that all life is a secret and that we are united with all life that is in nature.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious–the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” ~ Albert Einstein

The next installment of my Kimberley Story

One of the most nurturing and empowering meditations I know is the practice I call ‘Eating the Sun’. I use it for energetic cleansing. I use it for physical healing. I use it for emotional and spiritual healing. I use it to recharge my batteries. I use it when I’m burdened and my soul aches.

It was taught to me during my time in the Kimberley by Little…

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Gluten- and dairy-free blueberry muffins without refined sugar

blueberry muffin insideDespite the almost slogan-like title, these muffins are delicious, solidly structured with a perfect balance of sweetness that’s just right for breakfast. Or at least so I believe. But I could be wrong. Because I made them yesterday for a brunch that wound up being cancelled at the last minute. So no one but me has tried them. And I have a cold. Which brings my palate into question. Still. I’m pretty sure they’re good. And I’m certain that they’re good for you, full of whole grain flours, coconut oil, and blueberries. And free of all those trendily objectionable ingredients.

Indeed, my original goal was to make free muffins that were vegan to boot. blueberry muffin failBut that version (the little sunken lava cakes pictured on the right) refused to rise or even cook all the way through. So I gave up. Used eggs. Because, while the problem with version #1 may well have been an excess of blueberries, I was in a rush, and just didn’t trust that ground flax seed and water can really provide the structure eggs lend to baked goods. And I have no regrets. Because the end result  turned out perfectly, with a crispy rounded muffin top, a tender crumb, and a rich bite that reminded me of  a much less sweet form of pound cake.

blueberry muffinsAll that and the recipe includes beans! Sort’ve. Here’s what I did.

GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR MIX
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch

My mix is based on a thoughtful post from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. (http://bit.ly/1fARZsO) I discovered the site a couple of years ago after Shauna (Gluten Free Girl) and Danny (The Chef) Ahern published their first book, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes. (http://bit.ly/Lrhj9I)  In addition to great recipes, both their books and their blog include a ton of useful information about living well on a gluten-free diet. Plus their entire life seems like a sweet love story that is real and true and thus inspiring. So that’ s nice too. But I digress.

If you read Shauna’s post, which I encourage you to do, you’ll see that she and the Chef don’t like bean flours. Which gave me pause. I wanted to use garbanzo bean flour so that these muffins could include beans. That seemed like the only way I could avoid feeling like a total fraud for posting this recipe on my bean blog. Yet I didn’t want to make something icky. What to do?!

For this first time, I decided to risk the garbanzo bean flour. For the sake of the blog. Happily, my gamble paid off. Next time, though, I’ll probably try a different blend. Just to see.

To mix the flours, I started with the whole grains: brown rice, garbanzo bean, and sorghum. (Check out this post for some good information about sorghum (http://bit.ly/1envadS).) (The bags (I used Bob’s brand) are pretty small, so I had to pour the flours into the measuring cup instead of using the cup to scoop it out. To avoid waste, I measured over a bowl. When I finished the whole grains, I put the excess into a separate bag. Then I repeated the process with the white flours. So I now have three gallon-sized freezer bags in my freezer that are labeled as follows: 70/30 G/F mix; mixed whole grain G/F flours; and mixed white G/F flours. The idea is that over time, I’ll wind up with a sort’ve grab bag approach to gluten free baking. Super fun! And convenient. Because I’ve recently considered that the sometimes painful stiffness in my joints may correspond with my all too frequent over-indulgences in baked goods. This doesn’t mean I’m anywhere close to giving up bread. Or delicious pastries. But, as with refined sugar, it does mean that I will mostly eliminate gluten from the food I cook at home. If you’re not so committed, however, you may be interested in reading this review of a few commercial blends. (http://bit.ly/1alqlAZ)

MUFFINS (recipe adapted from Laura C. Martin’s trusty Green Market Baking Book (http://bit.ly/1k5guCC).)
2-1/4 c. gluten-free flour mix
4 t. baking powder
1 t. sea salt
7 T. coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup maple syrup
zest from one Meyer (or regular) lemon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
11/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 12-cup muffin tin with a little bit of coconut oil. Whisk the flour mix, baking powder, and salt until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut oil, syrups, lemon zest, eggs, and milk together until well blended. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Using a 1/2 cup measure, spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each cup almost to the rim. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then cut along the sides and pop out to cool on a rack.