Beans. What can I say about beans? That they're delicious, economical, easy to prepare, store well for Armageddon and are super tasty??? Yes, they're all that and a bag of kale. In fact they go great with kale, but that's another issue. Beans are nutritious, high in fiber and a great source of protein. Which brings me back to Meatless Monday and the search for filling deliciousness.
As someone of Italian ancestry, I know from beans. My family comes form Northern Italy; from Florence to be exact, where the nickname for the citizens was mangiafagioli or "bean eaters".
Most of the beans I ate in my childhood were cannalini beans, white kidney beans with olive oil and sage, or checchi beans (chickpeas) prepared in a variety of ways. Then I started cooking Indian food and cecchi beans became choli and kidney beans razma dal.
So when my friend Sheana Davis told me about Steve Sandos' visit to her shop last weekend, I was eager to check out his beans. I'd heard all the stories of how great Rancho Gordo beans were and I was eager to get my bean-eating mitts on some.
Talking to Steve, I discovered that Rancho Gordo didn't have any kidney beans razma dal. I had been tempted by the beautiful kale from Lunita Farm and I had a dish in mind. I asked Steve for a recommend. He said go for the Cranberries. Cranberry Beans would be great for the dish I was planning. I quickly bought a bag and carried them off.
One of the most important things about beans is the pre-soak part. Yes, I know that some people think they can boil them real hard and you can pressure cook them. But I don't have a pressure cooker and since I like to roll old school, I soaked.
I soaked a cup of beans in 5 cups of water overnight and a bit extra. Finally my beans were well and truly soaked. I was all set to cook.
There is a classic Indian dish that combines kidney beans with turnips, called razma gogji. I wondered if I could do it with the pretty kale I was carrying around like a beauty queens bouquet. So I tried it.
Put 1 cup of soaked, drained beans into 5 cups of water and bring it to a boil.
Let them boil for 15 minutes. Then, turn down the heat and simmer it for about 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours in a partially covered pot.
While this is going on mix together:
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1/2 tsp of garam masala
When the beans are nicely cooked and tender, drain them and set them aside.
Heat 2 Tbs of oil in a deep skillet or kadhai. When the oil is hot toss in:
1/2 onion finely chopped.
Add in 2 bay leaves
A 3/4 inch piece of ginger finely chopped
1 stick of cinnamon
2 shallots finely chopped
When the onion has cooked down a bit and is lightly browned, add in the ground spices and 3 dried red chilis.
Stir things around a bit and then add in the cooked beans and a bit of the cooking water . Add enough water to give the beans a bit of sauce.
Bring the whole thing to a boil and cook it for about 5 minutes. Keep it moving so nothing burns.
Take one bunch of kale, wash and dry it and take the center stem out.
Chop it well.
Now here's where I'll tell you what you might want to do differently. In my case I chopped the kale and then added it into the kadhai full of beans, turned the heat down, put a lid on it and let the kale steam itself into tenderness.
salt to taste
Or, you can do what I'd wish I'd done and that is lightly steam the kale first and then toss it into the cooked beans. Either way it turned out great. The key for me was the fresh heirloom beans and the super fresh organic kale right out of the garden.
Served with a spicy cauliflower with two kinds of mustard and a crunchy walnut chutney, it was another memorable Meatless Monday.
So, now that I've tried my first Rancho Gordo beans, I'll definitely be back for more. There are a lot of Indian bean dishes and anything that cooks so easily unattended is a great way to start off the work week. Next up, a spicy cauliflower with two, count 'em two kinds of mustard seed!! TGIMM!!