Intentions

Today marks exactly one year since I started this blog. A year of not being afraid to fail. Or, rather, trying despite the fear. Because despite what Yoda said, trying is doing. (http://bit.ly/18Zte7X)

A year ago I started out full speed, overflowing with energy and ideas and expectations about how things would be. Daily posts lasted, what, a month? Or maybe it took less time than that for me to slow down, eventually being lucky to post weekly. Although I could, I’m not going to look it up right now. Because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I accomplished the larger goal. Dreamsofmyfava exists. You read it. A fact for which I am deeply grateful every day. Truly.

I’m not cooking today.  And I’m not going to post a recipe. Because (a) my freezer is full of food I’ve made over the past month; and (b) I want to spend time hanging out with two of my dearest friends, who are in town for a very short visit. So my plan for today is to pull some buckwheat waffles with pecans out from the freezer (http://bit.ly/1g0Eimk) and relax with my friends until it’s time for them to leave. Then, afterward, maybe practice yoga on my own. Set some intentions for the new year. Eat some more food from my freezer. Above all, whatever the days holds, to stay present in each moment, as it is. Open.

Although I’m not cooking or posting about food today, I decided to write anyway, while they’re still sleeping, because I wanted to thank you for helping me make this happen, for reading what I write, trying out the recipes, sharing in this process. This year my plan is to follow through on the idea that started this project and write a cookbook. Make something tangible, a compendium of recipes and information about cooking and eating beans. That will maybe also be about some of my experiences over these past couple of years, things I’ve noticed as I went through a divorce, got serious about my yoga practice, started improv, and started to open up.

Honestly, I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. It may not. We’ll see. What I am sure of is that the process of trying is what matters. That I will learn something along the way, that I will grow. Which is, as best as I’ve been able to figure out, the point of being alive. Doing your best, day after day after day. Happy Near Year. I hope 2014 is good to you. That you love and are loved until your heart cracks wide open and stays that way so that you are overflowing with  and in love. Life is good that way. Even when it’s hard. Peace.

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Basic beans

Today’s a work day, the first one of the year. I was out of the office for most of the past two weeks, spending time with my mother over the holidays and enjoying Chicago, leisure. Which was awesome but also means that I have a lot to catch up on and therefore won’t have much time to cook for the next few days. I have the cabbage rolls from yesterday (they turned out well!), but I’m not crazy about eating the same thing more than twice in a week. So. What to do? I’m going to cook a pot of beans, chickpeas, in the crock pot. That will give me several options: chickpea gratin, hummus, arugula salad, and/or some soup.

While one could use canned beans, I prefer to use dried. First, canned beans don’t taste as good or have the same texture as beans you’ve cooked yourself. Second, the environmental impact of canned beans is far greater than that of dried. Finally, there’s something satisfying about dried beans. Many years ago, well before I had any clue how to care for myself, I had a friend who was far more together than I and who had a kitchen with mason jars that were filled with dried beans and grains. In my mind those jars epitomized the life I wanted. Now I’m all grown up, or at least as much as I’ll ever be, and I still don’t have neat rows of mason jars in my kitchen. But I do have a line of plastic containers from IKEA, six of them, which are filled with beans. The varieties rotate. And sometimes a few are empty. Other times, like now, a few plastic bags of beans and various grains from the bulk section are snuggling with their more formal friends. At all times, however, I derive enormous satisfaction out of the simple sight of dried beans. Which is nice.

To soak or not to soak. According to Steve Sando’s The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, which I heartily recommend, beans are high in antioxidants and B vitamins. It seems to me that a lot of those vitamins will be washed away by presoaking. I also try really hard to waste as little water as possible. But there is a school of thought that presoaking helps digestion. I haven’t found any difference, but that may be because my digestive system has adapted since I started eating so many beans. Or it may be because I cook the beans with the sea vegetable “kombu.” In Clean Food, Terry Walters explains that kombu infuses legumes (and grains) “with minerals, improves digestibility, reduces gas and tenderizes.”

So. How to cook a pot of beans. Believe it or not, the best way I’ve found to cook dried beans is to use a crock pot. Indeed, I can’t recall where I read it, but apparently the crockpot was designed specifically to cook beans. The original name was something like “The Bean Cooker.” I think. One of these days, when I have some time and get a bit more savvy with WordPress, I’ll research and link to that information. For now, back to cooking a basic pot of beans.

2-1/4 c dried beans
1 thumb-sized piece of kombu

Pick over the beans to remove any that are broken, as well as stones or other debris. Cover with about 2 inches of cold water (or, if presoaked, about 1 inch). Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the condo and salt to taste.

Note that cooking times vary depending on how old your beans are and the ph of the water. According to Harold McGee, in Keys to Good Cooking, “[h]ard water high in calcium can keep seeds firm.” I’ve never tried it, but if you have this problem, Mr. McGee recommends cooking with distilled water. Also, if this is your first time cooking beans in a crock pot, you may want to choose a day when you’ll be able to check on the water level after a few hours. Some beans absorb more water than others. You don’t want to cook the beans in a ton of water, as that will dilute both the nutrients and the flavor. But you do want them to remain submerged.

I’m off now. Have a good day!

p.s. After I posted this, a friend pointed me to this post by Michal Ruhlman, which provides a great explanation about how to cook dried beans.