Monday, February 23, 2009

White Bean "Borscht" with Red Cabbage and Roasted Beets

Beans and Legumes: Fart Free!

There is a foolproof way to cook any bean perfectly, every time. First of all, you will save cook time by soaking most beans overnight. Even a one-hour soak will speed up the cook time. Throw away soak water and start again with fresh water to cook; almost any bean will be fully cooked in one hour this way. The trick is to cook it by itself. No salt, no seasoning, just beans and water. Yes it is another pot to wash, but to me there is nothing more tragic than a flavorful chili with inedible little rocks that could have been easily digestible, fully cooked beans if the cook used 2 pots. One for the beans and one for everything else that is being added to the beans, i.e., spices and herbs, other veggies, etc. When your beans are fully cooked, then add them to everything else. With most bean dishes, I drain the beans (my plants like the bean water). With red lentils and other small legumes like Moong beans, where bean disintegrates into a thick slurry, of course there is no liquid to drain.

Today I am making a thick hearty white bean “borscht” with red cabbage and beets. You’ll notice that the basic technique is very similar to my minestra recipe posted a few days ago.

• the beans are cooked in a separate pot with only water – no salt or seasonings. When they are fully cooked, they are added to the other vegetables, which have been cooked with seasonings.

• Often, I roast some of the veg (today it is beet slices) in the oven and then add to the pot when they are done. This brings out a much yummier flavor for things like beets, which hold a nicer shape, texture, and colour, and a sweeter taste if roasted vs. boiled.

• Onion is so much nicer well-cooked – my pot starts with cooking the onion a good long time, either with a bit of olive oil or with a few strips of bacon cut into small pieces. I use my signature “froil” technique: fry it, add a bit of water when it starts to stick, stir constantly as water burns off, repeat till done: so it browns evenly and caramelizes – a natural sweet flavour emerges.

• That little bit of bacon fried with onion at the start makes my Dear Husband happy to eat what is essentially a huge plate of cooked beans and vegetables, along with some of my new baking passion – sprouted quinoa bread – and call it a meal. It’s loads of extra flavour but optional.

• if you purchase parmesan cheese in solid block form, (the only way if you love cheese!) start to save your rinds for making soup! Add it to pot when cooking veg so it gets soft enough to cut into tiny chewy pieces and add back to pot. Great mouth feel!

In medium pot:
One cup white beans (best contrast with red beets and cabbage but any bean will do)

In larger pot:
1 large onion, cut in semi-circles
4 strips of bacon cut to small pieces
4 stalks celery, cut bite size
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
half a red cabbage cut in strips
a few small florets of cauliflower for a different white shape
Parmesan cheese rind
One can diced tomatoes
seasonings: salt, cayenne or black pepper, oregano,

On baking sheet, lightly oiled
3 large beets sliced in uniform rounds (I use mandolin; cut rounds into smaller pieces if your beets are large)

All three items above will be fully cooked in under an hour; add your roasted beets and fully cooked drained beans to your vegetable pot, mix together, and it’s done. I made mine thick, more like a stew you eat with a fork, and served with my multi-grain sprouted quinoa bread.

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