Pesto Power

Pesto Power

This just in! Hey E, you got a recipe for pesto to die for, (or kill for – that is, cut down the basil plants)?

OK, wrinkle: how about vegan, i.e. minus the Parmesan?

And, further from tradition, but more in line with folks that just can’t afford $30 a pound pine nuts, how about with walnuts?

My pleasure, buddy; this one’s right in my wheelhouse! When it comes to delicious, nothin’ tops simple and good; like a stripped down tomato sauce from primo fruit, a basic basil pesto is hard to beat. Keep in mind that ‘pesto’ stems from the verb pestâ, to pound, hence pesto can be made from many things other than basil. That said, ya gotta start somewhere and basil pesto is that place!

Classic Basil Pesto
1 well-packed cup of fresh basil leaves
¼ cup Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, fine grated
3 or 5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 small garlic clove, fine diced
Salt to taste

Basil requires gentle handling; it doesn’t care for being doused, so don’t if you don’t need to. Inspect your basil and brush clean of dirt, etc.

In a sauté pan on medium heat, toast pine nuts until they just start to turn golden brown. Don’t walk away during the process; nothing burns faster than nuts!

I use a molcajete for grinding stuff in lieu of a standard mortar and pestle; I like the rough granite texture and find that it gets ingredients to the consistency I like faster and more uniformly than any other hand grinder. Just as guacamole really needs to be made by hand in a molcajete to taste right, so pesto must be ground by hand!

Put basil, toasted nuts, and garlic into your molcajete and gently but firmly grind the ingredients against the wall of the vessel until you get a nice, uniform paste.

Add grated cheese and combine with a fork or spoon.

Add olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency you like; a little more or less is fine, do it the way you wanna eat it!

Add a little salt just to brighten and raise flavors and blend, not to make it salty!

Serve pesto right away, mixed with pasta of your choice, (It’s great with angel hair, or with tortellini, etc.

Recipe makes about a cup of finished pesto.

Options:
In keeping with Dennis’ request, a vegan alternative to traditional pesto, aka, a no-cheese version: I’d say a few tablespoons of miso would get you to a very decent alternative!

Now, once again, almost anything goes with a pesto; your main criteria are tastes you like and ingredients that will bind and stay together for service. You can use any nut or cheese you like, and I’d substitute at the same volume as the original recipe calls for.

I’ve done a mint/pecan/feta version that was fantastic, as a for instance. Also, sun dried tomato pesto is spectacular and a real treat; I’ve done that with fresh, (Soft), mozzarella with great success as well.

Bottom line, experiment in small batches and have some fun!

Das Spaetzle

Reading the paper this morning, I saw an article on a local restaurant serving Pan Roasted Halibut with Dijon Spaetzle; I pretty much started drooling right off the bat… I was drinking coffee, hadn’t had breakfast, and didn’t have any Halibut, but I sure do have the basics for Spaetzle: There was no recipe in the article, but being a savory breakfast guy, I knew I could figure that one out and do it up, so I did, and here it is.

Spaetzle means “little sparrow,” in German, which I guess is a take on the shape or size or… I dunno, anyway, I love it and hadn’t made or had it in years. Spaetzle is basically a little noodle that is most commonly served as a side, like spuds, but you can do all kinds of things to it, since its basic dough just begging for inspiration. They go great as a bed for something wonderful, (Like the article noted), or as a side; only limit is your imagination and larder.

My version came out great, so I’ll lay it on ya here. I think Spaetzle screams for cheese, personally; most of the German cheeses are white and lean toward the Swiss than cheddar, etc. I made some Queso Blanco last night, and decided to try that with these guys; they paired up wonderfully! ( I re-posted the queso recipe below as well.)
Note on the chives; I used ’em because we grow ’em and I love ’em, but you could use anything that pairs well with mustard; Rosemary, Shallot…

Dijon Spaetzle

4 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
2 cups all purpose flour, (Not self-rising!)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chives, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Salt a pot of water until it tastes salty, (Kinda sea waterish) and bring to a boil.

Combine eggs, milk, mustard and chives and beat well. Add flour slowly but surely until you end up with a sticky batter, (More toward the pancake side than the dough side).

Spoon about half the batter into a sieve or colander with roughly ¼” holes. Take that to your pot of boiling water, take a spatula or pastry knife and gently scrape the batter through the holes.

Allow Spaetzle to boil for about 2 minutes, until it’s just al dente; remove from the water onto a clean plate.

Melt your butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss in your Spaetzle and stir constantly so they butter thoroughly coats the noodles, and you just start to get a bit of golden brown in them.

Transfer Spaetzle to a serving plate, add salt and pepper and garnish with fresh parsley.

Queso Blanco:

One gallon whole milk
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt to taste

Heat the milk in a non-aluminum pot on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until it looks like it’s just about to boil (DON’T let it boil!); temperature should be 185 degrees.

Add lime juice. The curds will separate from the whey and the mixture will look grainy, kind of like you’ve just thrown a bunch of corn meal into a pot of skim milk. Simmer for a few minutes.

Pour contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain thoroughly: To save the whey to make ricotta, put the colander over a pot.

Sprinkle the curds with salt; go saltier than you normally would; the salt will drain from the cheese as it dries. Now is the time to add any herbs, spices or chopped chiles if you like.

Gather the curds in the center of the cheesecloth and tie the ends; hang the cloth on the faucet to drain for a few hours, (At least four hours, overnight is better.

Refrigerated, it keeps about the same as fresh milk.

Viva Tomate!

This just in: “Tomatoes are coming! You’ve written a lot about preserving, so how about some of your favorite fresh dishes as well as a thought or two on preserving tomatoes?”

It will be my great pleasure! I walked the tomatoes at Neighborhood Gardeners with Grant, and the smell is still fresh in my mind; to me, there’s nothing like the aroma of growing tomatoes that says ‘garden’ more. I envy y’all the amazing varieties you’re gonna enjoy, especially among the heirloom stuff that you’ll simply never, ever see in a store.

OK, so fresh stuff first:

With beautiful heirloom ‘maters, (Southern for Tomato…), you’ve simply got to do a dish or two that lets the fruit speak; here’s another fantastic amuse bouche.

Simply take a tomato or two of your favorite variety, slice them about ¼” thick, arrange on a plate, season with a little sea salt and a light drizzle of olive oil, and that is that – You don’t need anything more and this way, you really get to enjoy the depth and character of a truly good tomato!

Next comes sauce, because you simply must do this as well. This version is a take on a classic Pomarola, (Known over here as Marinara, this is how to really do it; nothing like the commercial crap out there…) There are a bunch of varieties, this is my take on a Sicilian style.


Salsa alla Pomarola

1 lb of tomatoes, blanched, cored, peeled and rough chopped (About ¾”)
4 or 5 sun dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, (See below and make your own!)
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, fine diced
1 celery stalk, fine diced
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves

Sauté garlic, carrot, and celery in olive oil until carrots are fork tender.
Add tomatoes, ½ cup white wine, 3 tblspns of olive oil and bring to a simmer.
Fine dice, grind or process your sun-dried tomatoes into a nice paste; add this to the simmering good stuff. Let the mix cook for 1 hour, covered.

Remove sauce from heat, and blend thoroughly, (Blender, food processor, or my personal fave, a stick blender, AKA boat motor)

Return blended sauce to heat, add 4 ounces of butter, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes more.

Chiffenade your basil leaves, and grate some fresh Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, or Asiago cheese.

Serve over angel hair pasta, garnished with fresh basil and cheese.

OK, how about a super simple, cool summer tomato dish?

Tomato – Avocado Salad

3 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, cored and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 small bulb Shallot, minced
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine tomato, avocado and shallot, mix gently in a non-reactive bowl. Add roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve straight up, or with toasted Italian or French bread, lightly brushed with a garlic clove.

How about another, since we’re on a string of 100+ degree days down here? This is my take on an Spanish favorite:

Gazpacho Andaluz (Cold Tomato Soup)

2 pounds tomatoes, roasted, peeled, and cored
1 clove of garlic
½ Lemon Cucumber, peeled and cored
½ red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, roasted and peeled
½ cup day old bread, diced ¼”
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

To roast your tomatoes and peppers, cut them in half, brush lightly with olive oil and put them on your grill or under a broiler until the skins start to blacken; pull ‘em out and let ‘em cool before prepping further.

Put the whole shebang in a blender or food processor, (Or have at it with the boat motor) until everything is smoothly blended. Place in a non-reactive bowl or container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt in the middle of a cup or bowl of soup, and a nice piece of bread to wipe it all up with!

And finally, tomato desert, you ask? Absolutely… Keep in mind, technically, tomatoes are fruit, not vegetables, and as such, they make fine deserts indeed!

Tomato Granita

2 pounds tomatoes of your choice, (Naturally, go for something nice and sweet!)
1.5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, (FRESH, NOT bottled!)
¼ cup fresh cilantro
salt
Optional: For a version with zing, add a moderately hot chile of your choice, blanched, peeled and veined.

Blanch all your ‘maters, then peel ‘em and put everything into a blender, food processor, or have at ‘em with the boat motor.

After blending, run the mixture through a chinoise or strainer, (A chinoise, the conical metal strainer, is really perfect for this kind of thing and super handy for canning and preserving; get one.)

Pour your strained mixture into a glass baking dish big enough to allow the layer to be roughly ½” thick or so.

Set the dish on your freezer for around an hour, or until the mix looks frozen around the edges. Use a fork or small spatula to scrape all the icy part into the middle of the dish, then let it freeze some more. Keep repeating this cycle about every half hour or so until everything is frozen evenly.

Serve in a martini glass with a little sprig of mint.

You can easily prepare Granita the day before as well!

So, preserving, eh?

Well, here again, my favorites are canning and drying.

As for canning, while traditionally tomatoes are done via the hot water method due to their relatively high acidity, I think that pressure canning yields better and more intense flavor; also, if you’re canning tomato-based sauce, you really do need to pressure can for your safety.

There are lots of canned tomato recipes out there, so I won’t go into specifics about that, other than to say that you should certainly can tomatoes in your favorite styles; if you like the Pomarola, make a bunch and can it. I like to use several versions of tomatoes when I cook; sometimes I want whole, sometimes crushed, sometimes sauce, sometimes puree – If that’s the case for you, too, then can all your favorite versions and, this winter, enjoy a level of taste and quality no store will ever, ever touch!

Drying:

Sun dried tomatoes are a huge treat; nothing but the sun adds such intense flavor in them!

Slice your favorites ¼” thick and lay them out to dry, (Or use a dehydrator, if you must.) Dried tomato flake is a wonderful thing to have in your spice cabinet, so cut those slices into roughly ¾” pieces and dry those – You can add them to soups, stews, eggs, all kinds of things. Quarter or half your favorite variety, dry them and then preserve those in olive oil; they’re unbelievable on pizza, or with smoked chicken, basil and mozzarella cheese in a grilled sandwich. Finally, put dried tomatoes into a coffee grinder, (Do you have one of these just for spice? NO? GET ONE!! You can find used grinders for a couple of bucks at a second hand place; I keep two around just for spices – We all know that spice lasts longer and tastes better if kept whole; store yours this way and grind what you need when you need it; you get better flavor, longer lasting spice, and lower cost to boot.) Anyway, back to those tomatoes…. Grind them into powder, and you can add that to soup, stew, or to biscuit, pasta, pizza or tortilla dough for a fantastic flavor and a very cool look too!

This weeks other mail bag question: “you wrote about not using table salt for canning, what about for cooking? I see a lot of salts out there, is there really any difference?”

Short answer; ye Gods, YES! Excellent question and thank you for not letting me gloss over this; let’s talk about salt and pepper, since they’re the main go-to seasonings.

One of the main things about good restaurant food, or great restaurant food versus yours, maybe, is the nature and quality of seasoning. Great chefs don’t need nor use 14 things in one dish; they use 1 to maybe 4 or 5 max. The idea of seasoning is to enhance flavor, not overcome or mask it. Salt is incredibly versatile and absolutely necessary in cooking as far as I am concerned, and pepper runs a close second.

Notice that even in relatively sweet dishes, like the roasted corn salsa we made a while back, there is salt; this is because it definitely enhances flavor when used properly, and by used properly, I mean not overused!

That said, what salt you use matters a great deal. Treat salt no differently than any other ingredient; in other words, would you settle for a lousy cut of beef or veggies that weren’t fresh as you can get ’em? No, of course not, so don’t settle for sub-par seasonings either! Plain ol’ table salt is crap – NO flavor, treated with iodine, and terrible for seasoning and cooking. The bottom line is, If I have to buy salt from the grocery, I get either untreated sea or Kosher salt and so should you; read your labels so you know what’s really in there! I use good quality salt from a known source with nothing but salt in it; (Even Morton Kosher salt has prussiate of soda in it as an anti-caking agent; I neither need nor want that in my food, frankly…).

OK, on to the second part of the question, regarding the varieties out there and whether they’re worth it or not: Short answer, you betcha! I just went and counted, and I have 11, count ’em 11 varieties of salt in my pantry, including; curing, kosher, a couple varieties of smoked, (Alder and Mesquite), sea salt, sel de mer, Janes, Utah Basin, Murray River Flake, Hawaiian, and Black. Each and every one has a completely unique flavor profile that lends itself to certain styles and genres of cooking. For me, it’s a requirement; you don’t probably need that many, but two or three really good salts will serve you well and make your food taste that much better.

Similarly, plain ol’ black I-don’t-have-a-clue-where-it’s-from-or-what-variety-it-is pepper is junk. Pepper is a great baseline spice to add a little bit of zing to a dish without getting overboard or exotic; to me, good pepper is a must-have in, once again, more than one variety. Malabar or Tellicherry are great black peppers, with genuine flavor and consistent quality. That said, green, red, and white pepper have completely unique tastes that will go better with some things than black does. Our every day pepper here is a hand blended mix of all those colors and adds a really nice note to food. Once again, don’t buy it from the store; they may have it, but for what they charge for a tiny jar, you can and should buy a pound of good stuff online.

We’ll get into broad seasonings later on, but for now, suffice it to say that most of what you can get from the average grocery is crap and not worth your money. For dependable quality, you either have to go local with someone you know and trust, or buy online. Butcher and Packer and World Spice are tremendous spice resources; the quality is the best you’ll find anywhere, and the prices are seriously good; check them both out.

Classic Bruschetta

OK, well tomatoes are coming, and I have seen the variety and tasted the quality, so y’all are up for some wonderful treats! We’ll start into tomato dishes with a classic Bruschetta, perfect for a summer evening.

Classic Tomato Bruschetta

3 or 4 ripe tomatoes of your choice
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tblspns extra virgin olive oil
1 tblspns balsamic vinegar
3 or 4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Salt and pepper to taste

To chiffonade:
Stack your leaves so they’re all lined up the same way. Now roll the leaves into a nice, tightly rolled bundle. Start at one end with a sharp parking knife and make cuts clean through the roll, about 1/8″ apart – The tighter the roll, the finer your cut – You can go thinner than an 1/8″ as you see fit!

1 loaf of Focaccia, Ciabatta, or French bread

scald your tomatoes by dropping them in water that you’ve just brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. Let ’em sit for about a minute and then pull ’em out and pat ’em dry. use the edge of a paring knife to peel the skins off the ‘maters.

After you’ve skinned ’em, cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove the centers and seeds. Now cut your bounty into a rough 1/4″ dice.

Combine the minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil in a non-reactive bowl, toss to coat everything thoroughly, cover and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice your bread into nice, grab-able slices and arrange on a cookie sheet. Brush each slice lightly with extra virgin olive oil and put ’em under your oven broiler until golden brown.

Keep the bread and bruschetta separate, so that folks can spoon up their own, and to keep the bread from gettin’ soggy.

Serve with a nice, cool bottle of white wine and enjoy!

Gotta have Tzatziki!

If you’ve never had Tzatziki sauce before, we’ve got a real treat in store for you! Here is one of the finest uses for cucumber and a wonderful, cool sauce for summer dishes. In Greek restaurants, its often served with lamb, but I’m here to tell y’all that Tzatziki is excellent on eggs, fantastic on flat bread, pleasant on poultry, and beautiful on burgers; in other words, like hot sauce, it’s good on durn near everything!


Classic Tzatziki Sauce

1 8 oz container of Greek Yogurt, (You can use regular too)
1 med cucumber
2 tbspn olive oil
Juice from 1/2 to 3/4 lemon, (Your taste)
1 tspn dill, chopped fine, (You can also use mint instead)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt to taste

Line a colander or strainer with paper towel and drain your yogurt for around 30 minutes, (Critical step to avoid runny Tzatziki).
Peel, seed and grate cucumber.
Combine everything and mix well by hand, (Blending or processing makes your yogurt break down).
Place in a non-metallic bowl and refrigerate, covered for 2 hours.
Serve chilled

For a first taste, try it with lightly toasted pita bread and a little crumbled feta cheese – εύγευστος! (Delicious!)

Enjoy!

Chiles Rellenos

OK, now don’t get skeert – We’re gonna open with the mother of all chile dishes, the Relleno! This is one of the finest uses for great peppers and this is my take on an all time fave style.

You’ll see that I’m offering the complete homemade version, but listen, if you don’t wanna go whole hog right off the bat, just buy some sausage and some cheese and do the relleno part; just make sure you do the whole thing afore too long, hear? So, get you some of those HUGE, beautiful Poblanos I saw over at Grant and Christy’s and get to stuffin’, y’all!

😉

REMEMBER: This is interactive as you want it to be, so if you got questions, ask ’em!

Eben’s Oaxacan Chiles Rellenos

Chorizo:

2 lbs pork butt
1 pound beef chuck

3 Tbsp salt
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp chipotle, flaked or ground
4 cloves garlic, fine diced
1 Tspn Mexican Oregano
1 Tspn ground black pepper
½ cup water

Grind the meat, add all ingredients to that in a non-metallic bowl.

Stuff into 1.5”/40mm hog casings.

Allow to hang and dry overnight.

Queso Blanco:

One gallon whole milk
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt to taste

Heat the milk in a non-aluminum pot on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until it looks like it’s just about to boil (DON’T let it boil!); temperature should be 185 degrees.

Add lime juice. The curds will separate from the whey and the mixture will look grainy, kind of like you’ve just thrown a bunch of corn meal into a pot of skim milk. Simmer for a few minutes.

Pour contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain thoroughly: To save the whey to make ricotta, put the colander over a pot.

Sprinkle the curds with salt; go saltier than you normally would; the salt will drain from the cheese as it dries. Now is the time to add any herbs, spices or chopped chiles if you like.

Gather the curds in the center of the cheesecloth and tie the ends; hang the cloth on the faucet to drain for a few hours, (At least four hours, overnight is better.

Refrigerated, it keeps about the same as fresh milk.


Oaxacan Rellenos:

Sauté chorizo and allow to cool; combine with queso 50/50;
add ¼ cup fine diced roasted or sautéed almonds and set aside.

Heat 3 Tbsp of lard or pork fat in a sauté pan top medium heat.

Add 1 medium onion, diced; sauté onions until well browned.

Puree 6 medium tomatoes and add to onions.
Add:
½ tspn cinnamon
½ tspn ground black pepper

Raise heat to medium high and reduce to a thick tomato sauce consistency, then reduce heat to low.

Prep fresh Poblano chiles, and heat a skillet with at least 1” of oil to 350º F and fry the chiles for a minute or two until well blistered. Remove and cool chiles.

Stuff chiles with filling mixture and stitch with a tooth pick.

Separate the whites and yolks of 6 eggs; add ½ tspn salt to the whites and whip until they hold a stiff peak; beat the yolks into the whites until thoroughly blended and then beat in 2 Tbsps flour.

Set 1 cup of flour on a plate as a dredge.

Take each chile, roll it on the flour dredge, and then dip it thoroughly into the batter, and then fry about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Heat oven to 375 and place chiles on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes to heat thoroughly.

Bring tomato sauce to a low boil.

Ladle sauce into a bowl and place a relleno on top of the broth. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot!

Neeeeeext!

Well, went and opened my big mouth about the corn pico, so gotta provide the full meal deal on that! Here ya go:

Roasted Corn Pico de Gallo

Rinse clean and dice:

½ onion
1 cup cilantro
3 medium-sized tomatoes
Kernels from 1 ear roasted corn
Juice of 1 large lime
Splash of orange or grapefruit juice
Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

Add a chile or pepper, as desired; if you’re a heat weenie, (And you know who you are), dice bell pepper and go with that. For you Chileheads, anything from Jalapeno to Serrano to Habanera will do – Once again though, TASTE YOUR CHILE BEFORE YOU ADD IT, so you don’t make stuff too hot to enjoy! With the hotter chiles, always vein and seed ‘em before dicing and don’t go to the bathroom right after preparation….

Incorporate all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl; let sit for an hour for taste to mingle and develop. Keeps for a couple days refrigerated.

One additional note on beans; you CAN freeze ’em, ya know. If you put ’em in a good sealing freezer bag and suck all the air out, (Poor man’s vacuum packaging), they’ll last for 90 days easily and still maintain their taste. Of course, canning is much preferred, but sometimes ya gotta do whatcha gotta do, right?

Beans, Beans, they’re good for your heart…

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

OK very first question for the chef blog, and here we go:

“This week it’s a bean glut if you are eating locally here in Northern Minnesota. Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members and customers at our market stand will find lots of just-picked green, purple, and striped fresh beans available.

Of course, the first green beans of the season deserve just steaming with some butter on top, but after that—what to do with pounds of them? How about some suggestions for all of us snap-bean-lovin’ locavores? Maybe some ways to spice them up a bit? We know that’s right up your line!”

Indeed, it IS!

Beans aren’t just fun to look at, they’re great food and can take on a bunch of roles in a meal, from the common to the exotic. As the question notes, one thing you MUST do is present them as plainly as possible when they’re at the height of freshness:

Ever heard of an amuse bouche? This is a little one or two bite gourmet introduction to a meal, and really, is also a pretty good introduction of the chef: If you’re serving a certain nationality, announce, (Or maybe just hint at), what is to come: Here’s a quick and easy one to try with any of the varieties the gang has ready right now:

Beans Provencal

Choose 2 or 3 nice beans for each guest, cut the ends off leaving roughly even lengths of bean.

Core, seed and dice a ripe tomato

Mince about 3 tablespoons of onion or shallot.

Prepare a dressing of the following:
1 tblspn white wine vinegar
2 tblspn olive oil
1 tblspn grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tspn basil
1/4 tspn thyme
small garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Steam beans until just al dente, (Crisp-tender, if you will).

Combine beans, tomato and onion in a bowl and pour the dressing over them, toss everything to incorporate, serve right away.

If you want to be a bit fancy, tie 2 or 3 beans together with a piece of chive and serve on a small plate with a basil leaf – Looks great, tastes better!

OK, enough of the small stuff; part of the question was “what to do with pounds of them?” Monica’s not here right now, but I know, KNOW that if I didn’t pass this along, she’d kill me…

Any Bloody Mary fans out there? Thought so… Well, if you like those and/or pickled stuff, (And who doesn’t?) then you MUST make pickled beans! They’re the cat’s meow in a Bloody Mary and darn fine munching any other time. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making your own.

Quick Pickled Beans:

1 lb whole beans, ends cut off and rinsed.
1 red bell pepper, veined and seeded and cut into strips
2 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
2 tbspns sugar
2 tbspns salt
2 tbspns whole coriander seed
2 tbspns whole mustard seed
2 tbspns whole pepper seed

Put beans, pepper strips, garlic and bay leaves in a non-metallic bowl large enough to hold that and the liquid you’re gonna use.

Put everything else in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stir until salt and sugar dissolve. reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the beans and make sure they are completely covered; if they’re not, add water until they is!

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 48 hours. Beans will keep, refrigerated, up to a week. If you want or need longer than that, then it is canning time, and that is a good thing! Pickled beans can be canned via hot water bath, but if you’re gonna do fresh beans, (Which you really SHOULD do), you’ll need to pressure can them – We’ll talk more about canning towards the fall, unless questions come up sooner.

Now another part of the questions was, “Maybe some ways to spice them up a bit?” and pickled beans is a GREAT way to do just that. Our gardener pals have some fantastic hot peppers as well, you know, (Anybody who was around for my roasted corn pico de gallo the other week knows I ain’t lyin’…). Just take a couple of your favorite hot peppers, (From 1 to 4 per batch, depending on the pepper and your tolerance for heat), and add that to the mix and bingo, you got spicy pickled beans! Seriously though, if it’s habaneros, 1 is gonna do it; jalapenos, you could get away with 3 or so, but TEST THEIR HEAT BEFORE YOU COOK – Ain’t no fun making great stuff that’s too hit for anybody to eat, right?

Last offering for beans is a southwestern take on the classic American Three Bean Salad, tweaked for string beans – This is a great summer cook out dish and always a hit at a potluck. The slight smokiness of the paprika and the tang of fresh cilantro are a real treat!

Eben’s Southwestern Three Bean Salad

1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1/2 pound of string bean of your choice, steamed al dente
2 stalks of celery, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped cilantro
Optional: 1 ear roasted corn, kernels cut off the cob
Optional: 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped fine

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tspn smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix beans, celery, onion, and cilantro and corn

In a separate bowl, mix everything else together and whisk to incorporate; add the dressing to the bean mixture and toss to coat. Serve chilled.

OK, that’s all for now – Feel free to ask questions, etc and see y’all next time.