With this chill in the air it feels like bean time. While Alubia Blancas are my favorite, I recently tried Moro beans, which are a project of Rancho Gordo with XOXOC. Moros are black beans indigenous to Mexico and grown by small farmers.

Uncooked, the beans are like little gems. You would hardly be surprised to see them along a sea shore like little pebbles you’d want to collect. They appear to be a cross between pintos and black beans and when cooked, release a delicious broth. The website notes that they should be cooked as simply as possible, which is fine. I, of course, played around with them a bit and came up with a very basic first batch, which was delicious, then turned them from there into an even more flavorful, nutritious soup. It was perfect for San Diego’s recent chilly, rainy weather, but more to the point, these dishes would be perfect for clients–and easy to change up, depending on their dietary preferences and what’s in season in your region.

First things first–actually cooking the beans. You can do this in all sorts of ways: in your basic pot on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker. You can soak them. Or not. You can add all sorts of flavorings to the cooking water. Or not. It all depends on what you want the results to be and how you want to use them.

Here’s what I did: First, I picked the beans over to remove any non-bean debris (little stones can inadvertently get into batches of packaged beans so always do this). Then I rinsed them and soaked them in a bowl of water covering them by about two inches. I did this in the morning and let them soak for about six hours. I kept the soaking liquid because that’s where the flavor and some of the nutrition of the beans can leach out.

For the flavorings I diced and gently sautéed a couple of slices of bacon, not to crisp them but to render the fat (you can skip this for a low-fat or vegetarian dish), and then added diced onions and smashed garlic cloves. Once they turned opaque I added a couple of bay leaves along with the beans and soaking water. I brought the bean mixture to a boil, then lowered the heat after 10 minutes and partially covered the post with its lid (oooh, new brilliant red Staub 4-quart Dutch oven!). I simmered the beans for a little over two hours until they were al dente, adding more boiling water (to maintain the temperature in the pot) as needed. Then I added salt and enjoyed them as a side dish.

After a couple of days I revisited my leftover beans and decided they’d make a nice soup. I’m growing lacinato kale in my garden–a wonderful variety that I think is much more tender than standard kale). I lopped off half a dozen leaves, clipped a couple of Serrano chilies from their plant, and opened a bag of shiitake mushrooms, pulling out half a dozen or so to hydrate for several hours until nice and chewy.

As you’d expect, I kept the mushroom’s soaking liquid and sliced the mushrooms. I roughly chopped the kale, and minced the chilies, along with a few cloves of garlic. The garlic started the sauté process. Then I added the chilies, then the mushrooms. The trick to getting the most beautiful and flavorful mushrooms is to place them in a single layer in your pan and just let them brown. Then flip and repeat. At that point I added the kale and sautéed them briefly–just until they began to wilt.

At this point I was ready to put the soup together. The beans went into my go-to little white Le Creuset pot with the remaining bean liquid and the sautéed vegetables. Then I added the mushroom liquid, stirred it all together, and brought it to the boil. Now it was ready to simmer gentle for about an hour. During that hour, when it started to look a little less soupy, I added a little more water to get it to the consistency I wanted. If you don’t want it to be soup, let the liquid cook down. After an hour I salted it and dug in. I ate about half and when I had the leftovers the next day, it was even better.

Moro Beans with Lacinato Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup Moro beans
Water
2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
Sea salt to taste

6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
Water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red Serrano chilies, minced
6 large leaves lacinato kale, chopped
Sea salt to taste

Directions
Pick through beans and remove any debris. Rinse well, then place in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for several hours.

Sauté the bacon just enough to render the fat, then add the onions and garlic. The goal is for them to soften and become opaque, not brown.

Add bay leaves, the beans and the soaking water. Add more water if necessary so that it is about two inches higher than the beans. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to as low a simmer as possible and partially cover the pot to allow for evaporation. Cook until the beans are al dente. If necessary add more boiling water (to keep the temperature up). Remove and discard the bay leaves.

At this point they are ready to enjoy. However, you can add additional ingredients to create more flavor and even turn the mixture into a hearty soup.

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of water until they are soft. Remove the mushrooms and set aside the liquid. Slice the mushrooms.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add minced garlic. Sauté until fragrant then add the chilies and sauté another minute. Add the sliced mushrooms, spread them into a single layer and let them slightly brown. Turn them and repeat. Add the kale and sauté until slightly wilted.

Place the prepared beans and any bean liquid in a pot with the sautéed vegetables. Add the mushroom liquid. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Simmer for an hour, adding a little water if necessary. Add sea salt to taste and serve. It’s even better the next day.

Do you prepare beans from scratch? What are your favorites or those of your clients?

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Shirataki Noodles

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 21, 2019

Chefs, if you have clients who have issues with carbs–perhaps they have diabetes or weight issues—or they have wheat allergies, there’s another option for pasta that you may not be aware of and that can complement vegetable noodles: shirataki noodles.

Shirataki noodles originate in Japan. Slick and slippery, packaged in bulging plastic bags of water, they’re not what you expect in pasta. According to Serious Eats, they are made with glucomannan starch extracted from devil’s tongue yams. Essentially, it’s an indigestible dietary fiber so it goes in and out barely leaving a trace, so you end up with no net calories or carbs. For those who are gluten free, they’re perfect for those clients, too. They’re also keto friendly.


The best place to find shirataki noodles is at your local Japanese market, although some American markets carry them (look near where the tofu is stocked). Not only are there several brands with several choices of shirataki noodles, but there’s a whole other choice you can make–tofu shirataki, made with tofu and water with a little yam flour. And these, made by a company called House Foods, are going the extra distance with varieties in shapes like spaghetti, angel hair, macaroni, and fettuccine. Crazy! They also have no cholesterol, 0.5 grams of fat per serving, are extremely low in sodium, and are all of 20 calories per serving. And additional good news–if you don’t have a Japanese market in your community they’re available on Amazon.com.

Now are either version truly like wheat noodles in terms of flavor and texture? No. Let’s not make them into something they’re not. But if your clients have been craving traditional pasta and simply can’t have it this is not a bad substitute. In fact, your clients can enjoy them on their own terms. Because they have no flavor they are the perfect delivery system for any sauce you create. And their slick, jelly-like texture is kind of fun to chew. You can add them to soup (don’t cook them in the soup); mix them up with vegetables, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese; make mac and cheese; or, as I have with a package of “macaroni,” add them to turkey chile. Or create a chilled salad.

The noodles do have a distinct odor to them, acknowledged in the package’s preparation directions. But all you need to do is rinse them under water, put them in a bowl, and heat them in the microwave for–get this–a minute. The smell goes away and you have warm noodles with a bit of chew to them and a neutral flavor. Ready for pretty much anything for which you’d use regular pasta.

What options do you create for a “pasta” treat for clients? 

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Salmon. It can make you crazy. Are we only supposed to eat wild Alaskan salmon? What about farmed? What’s in the chemicals added to make it, well, salmon colored? How about Scottish salmon? It’s so delicious but it has to be shipped here and how is that good for the environment? Forget salmon. What about swordfish. Is it okay to eat it? And, no bluefin tuna? Seriously?

Talk about sustainable seafood is all the rage. With two-thirds of the world’s fisheries reaching depletion and overfishing putting some species, including some in California, close to extinction, we have serious issues to consider as consumers. We aren’t supposed to eat endangered species or seafood caught by large trawlers with turtle by-catch. Or eat some farmed fish. We’re encouraged to eat local, but what’s local (especially for those not on a coast)? Is it from oceans surrounding our country or more specific?

We’re encouraged to eat species like swordfish that are caught by harpoon or hook and line, not net. But how do we know how it’s caught?

Good luck, chefs, keeping all the do’s and don’ts straight.

And, yet it’s important to make the effort. According to the annual Fisheries of the United States reported released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, fish and seafood consumption in the U.S. increased in 2017 to 16 pounds from 14.9 pounds in 2016. And we’re eating more of a variety of seafood. While shrimp, salmon and tuna continue to be America’s favorite fish and shellfish, the Top Ten Species List by National Fisheries Institute makes up only 84 percent of the 16 pounds consumed. In 2016, this list accounted for 90 percent of the 14.9 pounds consumed. That means we can influence what shows up in restaurants and stores. But we have to be smart about it.

So, what is sustainable seafood? Addressing how to be a good consumer is complex, not the least because depending on who you talk to you get a different definition of sustainability. NOAA holds that seafood is sustainable when, “the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations.” But others–from Seafood Watch to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to chefs engaged in seafood sustainability all have different definitions. And different issues that concern them, such as carbon footprint and community economics.

So, it’s complicated. And, some of the decision making consumers have to do centers around how much research they’re willing to put in on an ever-changing industry that is often accused of fudging its practices.

It also has to do with personal values and economics and even a willingness to try new things. Perhaps grilled sardines instead of tuna sashimi. Farmed fish instead of wild. And consuming less of it all, just as with beef, pork, and chicken.

So here are some things you can do for yourself and your clients, assuming this is a concern of theirs. First some guides to sustainable fisheries:

Consumers can find guides on websites including

Now, are these guides the easy fix for consumers? No, a pocket guide is one tool among many, including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labels at major retailers like Whole Foods.

Smart consumers should also recognize that they need to ask their vendors questions about where seafood comes from, how it was caught, if it’s sustainable. The bottom line? Buy from businesses you trust.

All this can make a difference. When there’s a shift in customer demand and interest, it can impact businesses that sell fish. Back in 2012, Trader Joe’s announced a goal of shifting all seafood purchases to sustainable sources by the end of the year. And they can use their purchasing power to leverage change among seafood suppliers.

And here’s one other issue to consider. How do you use your seafood? Are you buying strictly filets or trying other parts of the fish, like cheeks, collars, and bellies? How about preparing the whole fish?

Is seafood sustainability an issue you’re interested in? If so, how do you go about selecting your seafood?

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Winter Comfort Food: Stuffed Cabbage

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 7, 2019

Chefs, how many of you rely on cherished family recipes that come from your people or your clients’ family? Given how closely knit food, tradition, and love are my guess is that even if you don’t exactly replicate those recipes many are the basis for the dishes you prepare for clients–and, of course, yourself and your own family.

When I was in my 20s I hounded my grandmother, Tillie Gould, to write down her recipes for me. The result was a small denim loose-leaf notebook with a photo she taped on the front page of her with my grandfather Abe carving a Thanksgiving turkey. The photo was taken before I was born and I treasure it and the notebook, which is filled with all sorts of family favorites. The recipes vary from holiday classics–Jewish holiday classics, that is–to kind of strange salads of the day, jello molds, chuck roast, dill pickles, and hummus. And lots of desserts. Tillie was a wonderful baker.

But one of the most cherished recipes in this book is for stuffed cabbage, or prakas in Yiddish. Unfortunately, by the time Tillie wrote it out for me her handwriting was moving toward illegible and she had a tendency to leave out ingredients or directions in her old age. So I took out a red folder filled with recipes my mom has given me over the years. There it was. But the ingredients list was slightly different. I gave Mom a call and together we reviewed the process with me typing and editing as she talked. Then I got an assignment last summer from the San Diego Union-Tribune to write a piece on holiday dishes for Rosh Hashanah. We spent a day in late August making it together in anticipation of the photo shoot. The great thing is that this fairly labor-intensive dish is freezable, so we were able make a ton of it for the shoot and then freeze it to enjoy later. You see, prakas is a traditional Rosh Hashanah dish, but it’s not exclusive to the holiday. In fact, it’s the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s dinner.

Stuffed cabbage is one of those peasant dishes that makes great use of inexpensive ingredients to create a large filling meal. Traditionally, it’s made with ground beef but I’ve had it with ground turkey and it tastes wonderful too.

Here’s the trick for getting the leaves off the head of cabbage intact. Core the cabbage head, then microwave it in short bursts. That will loosen the larger leaves enough so you can more easily pull them off. Then trim the thick membrane and blanch the leaves so they’ll fold.

Stuff them with the ground meat mixture like you would a burrito and place the rolls seam side down in a tall-sided pan. You’ll cover them with crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, as well as dried apricots and prunes.

After two hours pull out as much  of the now soft fruit as you can and some of the juices. Instead of pushing them through a sieve, like my mom and Tillie used to do, make life easier for yourself and puree them in a blender with the pan juices. Then add a mixture of lemon juice and sugar to the puree, stir, and pour back into the pan to continue cooking. By the end you’ll have a thick sauce enveloping your cabbage rolls. I think this sweet-and-sour sauce is the dish’s most important element. Play with the lemon juice and sugar amounts until you get it just right. It should have some punch to it.

Try to make this at least a day before you’ll be serving it so the flavors can deepen.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Yield: About 20 rolls, depending on size

Ingredients

2 large green cabbages
2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups cooked or instant rice
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Large can of crushed tomatoes
Medium can of tomato sauce
½ pound each seeded prunes and dried apricots
2 bay leaves
1 ½ cups of sugar
Juice of 2 1/2 lemons (to taste to get sweet and sour flavor0

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Core cabbages and microwave each for about a minute and a half to begin to soften the leaves so they can be gently lifted with as few tears as possible. Once they become difficult to separate, microwave again at 30-second intervals. You only want the largest leaves but pull off some smaller ones to use as patches in case larger ones tear. On the back of the leaves is a thick membrane. Slice a thin piece off to make the leaf more flexible for rolling. Blanch the leaves in batches in the boiling water for about 40 seconds or until the spines are pliable. Drain and stack on a plate. Set aside.

Mix together ground meat, rice, pine nuts, garlic salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Place about 2 ½ ounces—depending on the size of the leaf—toward the bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold the bottom up and over the meat mixture. Then fold in the sides and roll to the top. It should look like a cylinder. Place each roll in a high-sided pan with the seam of the roll on the bottom. You can stack a couple of layers.

Scatter the prunes and apricots around and on top of the rolls. Pour crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce over the rolls. Add bay leaves. Cover and bake for about 2 hours or until the leaves begin to look wilted. Starting after 45 minutes in the oven, baste the cabbage rolls with the liquids. Do this a few times in 20-minute intervals (more or less).

While the cabbage rolls are cooking, mix together sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. After the two hours, remove the pan from the oven and spoon out a little of the hot cabbage roll liquid and add to the sugar/lemon juice mixture to dissolve the sugar and create a sweet-and-sour sauce. Remove as many of the prunes and apricots you can find. Put them in a blender and add the sweet and sour sauce. Puree and pour the puree back into the pan with the cabbage rolls. Stir it around to incorporate well. If it’s too thick, add a little water and stir into the sauce.

Taste and correct with more sugar or more lemon juice until flavors are balanced sweet and sour but not bland. Make sure the sauce covers the cabbage so it absorbs the flavors.

Cover and return to the oven to cook for another hour. Then remove from the oven and remove the bay leaves. The cabbage rolls can be served at this point but the flavors are best when this is made a day ahead. It can easily be frozen with the sauce.

What family recipe do you most love to share with clients? How have you updated it?

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