Something Good To Eat

15 Nov

“Welcome to Camp Chaos!” I chirped.

NoHo Door, Of special note, the N is on the southside and the S is on the northside

I was up to my elbows in dough and there was a halo of steam around my forehead. Isaac was home at least a half an hour earlier than I had expected him and I was running about a half an hour behind. The timing was actually perfect, I was able to finish up my kneading while he unpacked.

He was back from visiting his family for Western Orthodox Christmas. He’d given one of his sisters the New Book Of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden and so, as a treat, he whipped up lamb in yoghurt sauce and basmati rice for a light, traditional Colorado Christmas dinner. It went over gangbusters but was a bit of a gutbuster and so he was quite relieved to learn that all of the bubbling and simmering and kneading was not in fact preparation for some arcane Medieval feast reenactment, but rather for a nice, light bean and kale soup with freshly baked bread.

The Old Police HQ, NoLita

I was at first tempted to try this absolutley ridiculously good looking pork loin Luisa whipped up last week, but alas, by the time I made it to my old greenmarket stomping grounds at Tompkins Square, the pork guy was all out of pork. “What have you got left?” I pleaded. “Welllllll… I’ve got a few chicken parts… Some livers, some wings, a few necks and quite a few feet!” “Ah, I guess you’ve made my decision for me,” I replied, “I’d been torn between making a roasted pork loin and chicken soup!” So I bought some feet and wings, a few onions and lots of kale and headed home.

Bloomberg Building, Le Cirque is to the left

I do some of my best thinking just before drifting off to sleep (I’m also a champ at brainstorming in the shower), the challenge is remembering my great idea the next morning. On Saturday night I was thinking about beans. But not just any beans. Christmas Limas. Big, beautiful speckled dried lima beans that Christina had sent me in trade a few months ago for a jar of Pepi Pep Peps. In the note she sent with the beans, Christina warned that they take quite a bit more time soaking and cooking than smaller dried beans, and so I was thinking about this while falling asleep, and just then, right on the edge, I thought of a solution. The yogotherm.

The yogotherm came into our house as part of the cheesemaking kit I bought Isaac for his birthday. It’s a little plastic bucket with a lid, that slides into a styrofoam sleeve which sits inside a pretty plastic container with cows on it. Not the most environmentally responsible thing I own, but unlike other yogurt makers, it doesn’t need electricity. In cheesemaking the yogotherm keeps cultured milk warm while the cultures do their thing and make cheese, yogurt, kefir and all manner of delightful things. And so I figured, if it can make me cheese, why on earth couldn’t it make me beans?

Bryant Park Sheep

I rinsed my beans and popped them into a ziptop bag filled with warmish (probably around 100°F) water, stuck the bag in the bucket and closed up the contraption. By the time I got home 5 hours later, the beans were absolutely perfect. I have discovered something huge in bean cookery! Hear that Steve? My gigantic Christmas Limas only took an hour to cook after their yogotherm soaking. I feel like I’ve really contributed something to the culinary landscape with this.

The Old West Village Jail

To the beans I added lacinato kale and green mustard greens (thanks for the idea Toni) and a few ladles of stock. It’s the most aromatic stock I’ve ever made. I decided to forego my traditional recipe in favor of something a bit gutsier; a base of fennel, parsnips, bay leaves and thyme. I’ll definitely make this again, but there’s one thing I will not repeat.

Cooking with chicken feet. Ugh. Mine had some of the weird foamy skin still clinging to them, which skeeved me out, and then, as you’re cooking, they poke out of the liquid, looking like something that should be in the pot of Macbeth’s witches. Yes, they make good stock, but, oh man, no, not again. No more chicken feet.

Lacinato Kale

So we sat down to nice, piping hot bowls of soup with a “baguette” I had baked. I say “baguette” because this loaf was as French as EuroDisney. I followed Judith Jones‘ recipe from The Tenth Muse, but, not having a stand mixer I kneaded the loaves by hand for, oh, maybe 30 minutes? The bread has a nice crumb, but teeny tiny holes. I was hoping that the long kneading would produce enough gluten to support nice big airy holes, but alas. I actually think I may have kneaded it too much. I guess this just means I’ll have to buy myself a stand mixer for Christmas (unless someone buys me one beforehand, hint, hint…).

Western Orthodox Christmas Beans & Greens Soup

The soup was delightful. Christmas Limas get their name because to some, they taste like chestnuts, and chestnuts are associated with, well, Christmas! If you cook them to just the right consistency, you can squish the bean against the roof of your mouth, and as Christina puts it the, “inside of the bean squirts out like mashed potatoes.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Aromatic Stock and Western Orthodox Christmas Soup.

Ann’s Aromatic Stock

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: at least 3 hours

  • 1 packet Chicken Feet and Chicken Wings
  • 2 Onions, cut in chunks, roots cut off but skins on
  • 1 large Parsnip, un-peeled, cut in chunks
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, leaves and all, cut in chunks
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 10 Peppercorns
  • a few sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • Cold Water
  • Salt

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and partially cover. Cook at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. When it begins to look like stock, taste it. Season with salt. When the stock has attained your ideal flavor, turn the heat off and carefully strain the stock into another pot or into containers to chill or freeze.

Western Orthodox Christmas Bean & Greens Soup

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 1-3 hours

  • 1 1/2 cups dried Christmas Lima Beans, soaked 5 hours in a yogotherm in warm water
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Onions, sliced
  • 1 small Hot Pepper, dried or fresh, sliced
  • a large handful Green Mustard Greens, washed and sliced
  • 2 large handfuls Lacinato Kale, washed and sliced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Aromatic Chicken Stock
  • Salt
  • Lemon Juice

Heat a glug of olive oil over a medium flame in a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the pepper and the beans with their soaking water, and add enough additional water to cover the beans by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to keep the beans at the barest simmer and partially cover the pot. (For further reading on bean cookery, click here).

When the beans are done, turn off the heat. The beans are done when the water begins to take on their color and the insides are soft and squishy to eat. The outsides will always be a little tough, that’s just how it is. Put the greens and the garlic in the pot and cover. When the greens have fully wilted, carefully uncover the pot (the mustard greens can be a bit aromatically challenging) and stir the greens into the beans. The soup can now hold here for as long as necessary.

Just before serving, ladle some stock into the beans, bring back up to a bare simmer, taste, adjust the seasoning by adding salt and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy!

7 Responses to “Something Good To Eat”

  1. Ann November 15, 2007 at 2:09 pm #

    Looks yum! Now if the weather would just act right and stay cold enough for recipes like this!

  2. Julie November 15, 2007 at 7:27 pm #

    Hey, where’s the picture of the chicken foot sticking up out of the stock pot? I was looking forward to that one. I myself am squeamish both about cooking with chicken feet and eating them so I’m impressed by you at least giving them a go.

    And what a great looking bean soup. Those beans make the whole thing look very “meaty” and sharp flavored greens against mild beans sounds like a very good combination.

  3. Christina November 15, 2007 at 8:06 pm #

    Oh, that looks like a beautiful soup! Hooray! I’m so glad those beans have made a good meal for you. I haven’t prepared them in my house for a while, but with this nifty new recipe, I foresee a Christmas lima bean soup in my near future. Also, your bean soaking trip is quite handy; now, if I could only get my hands on a yogotherm.

    As for that stand mixer that you’re dreaming about, beg for it from anyone who may give it to you for Christmas. ECG gave me one for Christmas last year, and I have used it even more than I ever expected to since then. Having a stand mixer makes bread a breeze. Let me tell you, once you go stand, you can never go back to hand.

    Happy welcome-homing with Isaac!

  4. ann November 17, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    Ann — I think your wish is the weather’s command. It’s cold today!

    Julie — That’s how repulsed I was by the feet! I wanted to take that picture, but every time I looked through the camera a chill went down my spine when I thought about the fact that the picture would be around forever!
    The beans were meaty, you’re right! And, as usual, the soup was even better a few days later :-)

    Christina — Thanks again for the trade. I *heart* my beans! The yogotherms aren’t that expensive and if you think you might want to, you know, culture things or make yogurt or something like that, it’s not a huge investment.
    Yeah, I’m trying to work out a Christmas-time barter for the stand mixer. So in the spirit of the holiday, no? ;-)

  5. Toni November 18, 2007 at 2:27 am #

    The only bean I have a dicey relationship with is lima beans. I think it’s more the texture than anything else. But the rest of this soup…..well, of course I love it!!!

    I had to laugh about the chicken stock! I remember making chicken stock with chicken feet once. I opened the lid and stared in horrified fascination at all those feet sticking up out of the pot! I agree – never again! But one must try these things at least once, I think.

  6. Terry B November 19, 2007 at 2:04 am #

    Ann—I am reading your [at least to me, and at this hour] rather complex tale of beans, yogurt makers and chicken feet. I’m also listening to some of the most avant garde John Coltrane I’ve ever heard and well into my third cocktail, which could explain some of the complexity I’m experiencing. The chicken feet remind me of a story Marion tells about being in a Chinese restaurant in a previous life [how we describe anything that happened in our adult lives before we met] and ordering duck palm because it sounded so exotic and poetic. When she opened the covered dish, it was duck feet.

  7. ann November 19, 2007 at 8:46 am #

    Toni — Oh, that’s too bad about limas! I can see how it might be a texture thing, but they are so yummy. The chicken feet are so horrifying. I think I might have been okay if they hadn’t had the icky foamy skin still stuck on them in spots. *shudder*

    TerryB — Ha. It was slightly complex, sorta Coltranesque. I can see that! And Marion’s story is totally something I’d do. It’s nice to know there’s other folk out there like us :-)

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