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Ayocote Negro & Vegetable Soup

Thanks to Rancho Gordo I have been discovering many new kinds of beans this year. There haven’t been any I haven’t liked, but some really stand out from the crowd. The Ayocote Negro is one of those. This week, faced with rainy weather and homemade chicken stock I had in my freezer, I decided to make a soup using the Ayocote beans. And I am so glad I did! This soup is light, but hearty enough to fill you up and give you energy. The jalapeños and the cumin give it a great level of heat and flavor that complements the simple, delicious vegetables and the large toothsome beans.

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Ayocote Negro & Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

1 lb ayacote negro beans (or any bean of your choice)

1 bay leaf

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, diced

1-2 jalapeños, minced

3-4 teaspoons ground cumin

5 celery stalks, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

10 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 bunch cooking greens, chopped (red kale, lacinato, swiss chard, green cabbage, etc.)

Optional: sour cream, cilantro, diced avocado

If using dried beans, cover generously with cold water and soak overnight in a bowl. The next day, drain, rinse, and add the beans to a large pot. Cover generously with water, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately one hour, or until the beans are just tender.

Drain the beans and set aside.

Rinse out your large pot and return to medium heat. When warm, add the olive and allow to warm. Add the onions, garlic, jalapeños, cumin, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook, stirring frequently for about 10-15 minutes, or until they begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the beans, and the stock. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 50 minutes, then add the greens and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until the all vegetables are tender.

If desired, garnish with sour cream, fresh cilantro, and/or diced avocado.

take a gander at gooseberries

another highly enjoyable weekend in vermont has come to a close. and once again there was no shortage of activity both in the kitchen and out. the garden is thriving, despite the heat wave, with a nice crop of yellow wax beans, a handful of fava beans, some cherry tomatoes, and plenty of spicy asian greens, lettuce, and arugula. even the bees were busy!

this weekend everyone was in the mood for a little grilling, and my mom found some savory rabbit sausages at the walpole grocery in walpole, nh. we had the meat, we just needed the rest of the meal. sam sifton’s article on biscuits this week helped steer us in a southern direction, so in addition to biscuits we added some braised kale. the only thing left to make was some kind of sauce that would compliment the sausages and give us something to dip our biscuits in.

conveniently, we had a pint of red gooseberries lying around that my dad had picked up during the week. gooseberries are an underappreciated summer fruit that look–and taste–like a cross between a cranberry and a grape. They’re a little sour for eating alone, but perfect for any kind of cooked preparation, with a bit of a sugary assist.

i considered making a crisp or jam with the gooseberries, but we had already baked a blueberry-peach pie the night before, so the last thing we needed was more dessert! however, the tart flavor of gooseberries also makes them a wonderful addition to many savory dishes. my trusty copy of the new best recipe pointed the way, and i made some changes to their cranberry-onion confit recipe to create a gooseberry-onion confit. the entire meal was a hit — the sausages were excellent, the biscuits light and flaky, the kale tender, and the gooseberry-onion confit sweet and sour and delicious!

gooseberry-onion confit

serves 6 as a condiment

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 pint red or green gooseberries, de-stemmed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper, ground

1. heat the butter in a large, heavy (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium-low heat. add the onions, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent, about 25 minutes.

2. add the sugar to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 15 minutes.

3. add the remaining ingredients to the pan and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the confit achieves a jam-like consistency.

4. the confit can be served hot or room-temperature, or stored in the fridge for a week.

besides adding a beautiful deep green color to the whole plate that complements the red hues of the confit, the kale adds a hint of earthy flavor and ensures that you get some important nutrients, specifically vitamins A, C, and K. since kale often goes well with vinegar, and since the confit was so delicious and slightly vinegary, i thought i would go ahead and add a spoonful of the confit to the braising kale. the result was a deeply flavored kale with wonderful sweet and sour notes.

braised kale

serves 6

1 large bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tbps olive oil

1/8 cup water

1 tbsp gooseberry-onion confit (above)

salt & pepper to taste

1. heat olive oil  in a large, heavy (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium-low heat. add the onions, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

2. add the confit and stir to mix. then add the kale, and cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. add the water and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leaves are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. season to taste before serving.

peach pie now!

it’s been a week since my peach panna cotta, and i haven’t had my fill of peaches yet. they are just so delicious! and it takes so much patience to let them ripen properly while they sit temptingly on the counter. by the time they are ripe i can’t be bothered to make my dough, roll it out, create a mess of flour all over the kitchen, and watch it bake for an hour or so while inhaling those amazing peach pie aromas. i need a quick fix – otherwise that peach is going to be popped straight into my mouth and it will be gone in 2 minutes.

but i knew there had to be a compromise between the immediate gratification of devouring a fresh peach and the delayed reward of a fresh-baked peach pie. thus, the 20-minute peach crisp was born. who needs a pie plate when you have the natural cup of a half-peach? who needs dough when a few easy ingredients can be tossed together for a delicious crispy topping? not you! this 20-minute crisp is a warm, satisfying treat that is great on its own or as a perfect little boat for a melting scoop of ice cream.

20-minute peach crisp

3 yellow peaches

1/2 cup granola of your choice. i suggest a simple mix with nuts rather than dried fruit.

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. pre-heat the oven to 350°f.

2. cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. with a grapefruit spoon or paring knife, cut a small hollow from the center of each half to make room for the topping.

3. place the peach halves skin side down in a small casserole or baking dish in which all the halves fit snugly. spoon an equal amount of granola into each peach half. pour the maple syrup and sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon evenly over the peaches as well. put 1 piece of butter on top of each half.

8. bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until the peach is soft but still holds its shape. then increase the oven temperature to broil and bake for another 3-5 minutes, or until the granola becomes golden brown. remove from the oven and serve, with ice cream or whipped cream if you wish.

“i gave my love a cherry…

…that had no stone,” sang burl ives, pete seeger, and carly simon, among others. so, when my parents handed me a beautiful basket of sour amarelle cherries from mike’s organic delivery i decided to give my love, a cherry aficionado, an appropriately delicious dessert. undaunted by my first foray in the kitchen with this bright red-orange fruit, i scoured recipes for ideas and came across one published in 1994 in the new york times column fruit for thought. however, the recipe – a simple sour cherry crumble – needed some tweaking to bring it into the 21st century. the addition of a few key ingredients – most notably kirschwasser, or cherry liqueur – made this into a rich crumble with a satisfyingly sticky filling and a sweet, crispy, nutty top that complements the cherries’ light sourness. the cherry on top, so to speak, was the great reception it got from my husband!

before you start: i find the easiest way to wash cherries is to put them in a bowl and cover them with cold water. let them sit for a few minutes, stirring a few times to loosen any debris. then, lift a few at a time out of the water, remove the stems, and put them on a dish towel to dry. once all the cherries are stemmed and dry you can move to the pitting. this can be accomplished with a pitter or by using a small paring knife to cut the cherries in half and then removing the pit by hand.

fresh from the oven!

grown-up sour cherry crumble

3 1/2 cups fresh pitted sour cherries, with any juice that comes out during pitting

1/2 cup dried sour cherries

1/8 cup kirschwasser (i love clear creek distillery)

4 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup whole spelt flour (or flour of your choice)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into about 24 pieces

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup rolled oats

1. preheat oven to 375°f. in a medium bowl, combine the dried cherries and kirschwasser and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat. strain off the kirschwasser and discard, then add the fresh cherries and sugar to the dried cherries, stir to combine, and let stand for another 10 minutes. place in a sieve and drain well, reserving the liquid. place the cherry mixture evenly in a 9-inch pie plate.*

2. in another medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. mix the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. add the walnuts, almonds, and oats and toss lightly to combine.

3. cover the cherries with the topping and bake until the topping is crisp and beginning to brown and the juices are bubbling, about 35 minutes. place on a rack to cool slightly before serving.

4. to serve, i suggest a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of the reserved cherry liquid, although this crumble also has enough flavor to be enjoyed with no accessories at all!

if you enjoy this sour cherry crumble as much as i did, stay tuned… on august 3rd i’ll be releasing another cherry recipe as part of the food network’s summerfest!

*in exchange for the cherries, i wanted to give my parents some crumble, so i used several smaller ceramic dishes for baking rather than one large pie plate.

welcome!

about a month ago, a good friend of mine spent a weekend with me at my family’s house in vermont. she was impressed with the passion with which we approach food – from our early morning excursions to the local farmer’s market, to the days spent digging around in our small vegetable garden, caring for our recently planted apple and peach trees, hiking and mushroom foraging, to our dinners spent with friends and family enjoying the results of the day’s work and a few hours in the kitchen. and, since i love gardening, buying, eating, cooking, and talking about food so much, she suggested i start a blog.

so, here i am, ready to start blogging. in addition to writing about food i love and recipes i’m cooking, i will include definitions for technical cooking terms (in bold) that pop up from time to time in recipes, and which my short time at the Culinary Institute of America (see About) has given me an affinity for. one of the things i love about the art of cooking is that it can be delicious when you throw a bunch of rough chopped veggies into a simmering soup, as well as when you spend an hour carefully preparing your mise en place.

i hope you enjoy hearing about and trying out for yourself the food that i love to cook!

mise en place: selection of prepared (washed, chopped, peeled, etc.) ingredients laid out in advance to facilitate cooking your dish. this ensures you have all the necessary ingredients before you begin!