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A Legume By Any Other Name…OR…Poe’s Adventures With Beans…

Thoughtful Readers… 
 
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As if someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
(…..”Tis some memory” I muttered “tapping fully at mind’s door;
Only this and nothing more.”…..)

(…..Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak November,
As I tried that eve to tender, words to paper, sow the seed,
Here I sit now almost sleeping, softly silently composing,
Intent upon the task before me lest my eyes should fail to heed,
The silent nature of the passage, here for all to see and read;
Only this and nothing more…..) 
 
While in the midst of this most stately of Edgar Allan’s works my mind wandered off to the kitchen and to a subject close to my heart—food. Having a small get-together to attend in a few days, I was trapped in a plethora of ideas about what food dish I would throw together for everyone’s pleasure. Examining my pantry produced little in the way of answers….largely because there was little in the way of contents. Picking up a lonely can of green beans, which happened to be on a shelf right next to a lonely can of chick peas, I started down memory lane intent on arriving at a perfectly acceptable solution. But like so many ventures of this kind, I quickly lost focus on the task at hand, turning instead to random thoughts of Poe and blogging. (How those two thoughts intertwine, I have NO idea!!…).

In any event, my stroll through memories almost forgotten led me to thinking about legumes and how many varieties were in stock at my local grocery. After about five minutes of intense introspection I had arrived at a list that I was fairly certain could be documented easily.

Here’s your challenge…..While sitting in front of your computer (like me..!), make a list of all the different varieties of legumes (okay, lets make it just beans..) you can think of that are in stock at YOUR local grocery…Remember, beans only..(that means no garden peas, or snow peas, or sugar snaps, or lentils..). Please don’t force me to try to describe the differences between beans and peas. It has something to do with hollow stems vs. solid stems and tendrils on leaves, etc., etc. I can’t begin to recite the taxonomy involved and never will…because I just don’t care.!!! For this exercise….fresh beans, canned beans, dry beans, frozen beans….doesn’t matter. Oh, one other thing. I said varieties of beans. That means BBQ Beans, or Pork and Beans, or Baked Beans, or Chili Beans don’t count…..

Okay then, Ready, Set, Go…………..You still here.?? Come on get busy.!! Shouldn’t take more than two or three minutes to write them down. No peeking at my list either.!!

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List finished.?? I would guess that you should have no problem coming up with seven or eight different beans, maybe more. Vegans or Vegetarians could probably come up with at least twice that many.

This is my list the way I wrote them down along with my thoughts as I was working:

Green Beans (various cuts and styles)
Wax Beans (variation on green bean..??)
Kidney Beans (at least two variations–dark red, light..)
Pinto Beans
Black Beans
Cannellini Beans
Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas) (These could be peas, not beans..??)
Navy Beans
Great Northern Beans
Lima Beans
Butter Beans (Related to Lima Beans, but different..??)
Fava Beans
Soy Beans (Edamame) (pea vs. bean..?)
Mung Beans
Cranberry Beans
Black Eyed Peas (really a bean..?? not like a garden pea)
Field Peas (really a bean, like black eyes..??)
Crowder Peas (bean..??) (I think Crowder Peas and Field Peas are essentially the same bean..)

How did you do?? I feel certain that some of you have varieties in your market that I don’t have…and some of you have a lot more varieties than I do. That’s okay. This isn’t about winning or losing..!! And it isn’t about right or wrong, or how good your memory is….or whether you wrote down a pea instead of a bean for that matter. It is about thinking outside of the bean box. There are a tremendous number of bean varieties available to us….and most of us have not tried a lot of them. I was surprised at how many different varieties I found in my local area and how many more I did not find. My list is not an exhaustive one by any means. Looking around the Internet there are dozens of varieties out there that are not available to me where I live.

I can see the questions coming now. “What were you thinking??” Me?? I was thinking that if I did this, maybe you should too.. “Why was this exercise important??” Ah, that IS the question!! And the subject of my next post…..

Be well,

Howard

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Post Script….

Thoughtful Reader

For those who read the blog post about my dessert adventure in “Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1, this is the ending.

I left all of you with the opportunity to jump up and down on my foolishness. To your credit, you were nice about it. No one said anything ugly about my parentage, or laughed in my face (although I deserved a little ridicule..).

If you remember, I was trying to hasten the preparation of a desert sauce to be used as an ice cream topping. I started with the slightly softened peach in the bottom of a bowl, topped with French Vanilla ice cream, then drizzled with the sauce.

Photo courtesy of DAXTER at desktopnexus.com


 
 
 
This is what the topping sauce was supposed to look like—-well, at least something very close to this. A little bit lighter in color and a little clearer, but essentially like this.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Topping Sauce
 
 
 
This is what I ended up with. This is what happens when you cook sugar too long or to a high temperature. I could have avoided this by using my candy thermometer. Instead, I chose to visually watch sheeting on the spoon and counted on the bourbon to halt or slow down this process……Which it did…partially.
 
 
 
The topping ended up tasting wonderful and looking beautiful, but it was much too thick for a topping. At least it did not harden off like brittle.!!! The lesson to be learned here (or reinforced..) is to always think about the relationships between ingredients….Oh, and watch those temperatures!!!

Howard

Indoor Sports or “What to do when it’s raining…” Vol. 1

Photo courtesy of: public-domain-image.com

Thoughtful Reader…

Have you ever…

1) Wanted to smell the roses…..but it was raining..?

2) Wanted to lay out in the sun…..but it was raining..?

3) Wanted to go to the ballgame…..but it was raining..?

4) Substitute here any other outdoor thing in which you are interested…..but it was STILL raining.

In my recent analytical style of self-introspection (yes, I realize that “self-introspection” is redundant–I could have said “self-observation” or “self-evaluation”, but I just like the sound of “self-introspection,” so sue me…), I have discovered a possible cure for these blues, and blahs. Did you know that cooking feeds the soul? Did you know that ——- allows us to escape the reality of our poor misbegotten lives? And ——- ?? Did you know that ——- reinforces our memory? Which is a good thing as long as you are aware of this particular idiosyncrasy and welcome it. I mean, you know, repressed memories and all that… Anyway,  it’s true. It’s all true.

Ambrosia, Nectar of the….Common Folk??…

I am basically an outdoorsman at heart. I well remember when I was growing up dreaming of adventure in far off lands and exploring the woods and hills of nearby “wild places.” I am still that same person.  However, there are still some indoor things that occupy my interest as well. The first of which is food. That’s right, food. And the proper and skilled preparation thereof. I exhibit no hesitancy in saying that I enjoy good food and I enjoy preparing it. I consider myself to be somewhat skilled in the kitchen and willing and able to prepare meals for anyone who risks trespass into my domain. I started cooking when I was about ten years old I guess…through necessity of course. But it is only in the last fifteen years or so that I have started to take it seriously. I study the science and practice the art….

That really is the truth, so what happened a few days ago caused more than just a little consternation on my part. I was preparing a little something for a couple of folks, when I realized that I really could use a dessert of some sort. Well, lets back up a minute…..I started my prep work the evening prior.  I prepped a pork loin and set up a mild brine, peeled and prepped three nice apples for applesauce, prepped some potatoes and soaked to wash away some starch, and prepped and lightly blanched some green beans for a quick saut√©. Everything went swimmingly. The following day while finishing up the pan sauce for the pork, and toasting some sesame seed for the green beans, the realization hit me. Dessert..! No dessert.!!! Oh, crap….What to do?

Well, as you, gentle reader, have come to know (maybe..???), I am nothing if not nimble. Or as one of my readers was recently want to say, “I forgot.! You are a Thoughtful poster.” (the sarcasm was not lost on me…). I had in my possession a few almost ripe peaches and some French Vanilla ice cream; so I said to myself, I said “Self,” “Problem solved.!” Quickly blanching the peaches and slipping the peels, and pitting them required only moments. I started a light syrup and softened the peaches in the syrup for about four or five minutes. Like I said, they were just a little on the hard side. Setting them aside in the cold box to chill, I started to build a sauce for a topping. Here is where things started to go awry. I planned a caramel-like sauce, only different. I loved the flavors of peaches and bourbon together. I also wanted a clearer sauce, a little more transparent. The only way I could accomplish that was to clarify the butter first, and leave out the cream. So, here are the steps: First, reduce the peach simple syrup some as a base ingredient. I wanted to retain the peach flavor. In a separate pan, I clarified the butter, then added raw sugar. I like raw sugar both for its taste and color. I added a little honey and peach nectar for flavor. I then added the reduced peach simple syrup, and continued cooking/reducing. The color was right.! I had it made.! Well, maybe not…….

The observant among you will realize that my “sauce” mixture was sadly lacking in one base ingredient, the fats and solids that the cream normally adds to a sauce. I knew I would have to be careful with it. I cooked it down slowly, stirring and watching. Never even considering the temperature of the almost pure sugar “sauce,” I added the bourbon and burned off the alcohol. The consistency was good. The taste was almost spectacular.

So, what went wrong? Who among you would like to venture a guess? Who would like to be the first to tell the world how stupid I was? I have given you all the hints you need. Go ahead, serve me up another dish of humble pie!! Answer……later.

Be well…

Howard