Revisiting the best black bean soup

I’ve made the full Rick Bayless’ Black Bean Soup a couple times now (I have a Cheater version here) and is worth all of the time (mostly unattended) it takes to cook the beans. It really is fabulous.

Though today’s pot was underwhelming. The recipe says to let the beans, etc., simmer for two hours. But if your beans are very fresh, that’s way too much time.

But the real problem is the chorizo. The chorizo, from a national natural foods chain, was lousy, barely seasoned. So the soup has zero chorizo flavor.

So very sad. So here’s how I’m hoping to save it.

I started with the flavorings used in making Mexican-style chorizo: chile powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, achiote, and vinegar. Of course, I am short coriander and cloves. And achiote.

I am also adding a fair amount of both Bufálo & Frontera chipotle sauces. This salvaged a bowl for today – I’m hoping it will be better tomorrow.

Pose script: I realized that the last time I made the recipe, I used a whole bulb of fennel rather than a stalk. I’m sure this is a factor.

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an experiment with Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Last week, I made the first banana bread in the first 15 years, maybe. I made Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread.

It was pretty good, and it did contain banana, and it was cooked in a loaf pan. And it wasn’t a banana bread in the American sense.

And what do I mean by banana bread in the American sense? It’s firm enough that you can cut a slice – that it’s closer in texture to a home baked loaf of bread. It’s firm enough that you can spread a spreadable butterish spread (can I please repeat spread again?).

This was moist and didn’t slice well. And it really didn’t need butter.

Like most things these day, it’s written for a stand mixer. You could also use food processor, I bet. I don’t have the former, and my latter is perfectly fine but not big enough for this sort of thing. Suffice to say, I didn’t have a bowl deep enough to not end up with the entire kitchen covered with batter from my ancient electric mixer. Delicious, delicious batter.

Note to self – it was yummy – not too sweet, very chocolately – but not banana bread.

Avgolemono soup

This is based on recipes from Cooks Illustrated, Saveur, Diane Kochilas, and Whisk. Flip. Stir.

This feeds 2 though I make it just for me and greedily slurp it all down. Really, I should just halve this, because 2 cups should be plenty.  It does not reheat well.

On today’s version, I used some homemade chicken stock, some home-cooked white beans & their liquor (cooked in homemade chicken stock), and some tiny Mexican star-shaped soup pasta. I love any excuse to use that soup pasta! Saffron is nice, even if it’s very old, or very imaginary.

  • 4 cups stock. Or broth. Add bouillon if it needs it.
  • 2 handfuls of a small, quick-cooking starch 
  • A tiny bay leaf
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch saffron
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas or white beans
  1. Heat the stock to boiling. Add your starch, bay leaf, pods, and lemon zest. Reduce to a simmer and cook for however long your starch requires, plus a couple minutes more.
  2. Whisk together eggs & lemon juice in a bowl.
  3. Ladle some hot stock into eggs while whisking. Again.
  4. Add the beans & saffron to the simmering pot. Stir the tempered egg-lemon-broth in. Let everything warm through. Remove the bay leaf & pods. Salt & pepper to taste (white pepper is the fanciest).

Lagane e Ceci

From Lidia’s Kitchen (5:10)

Chickpeas:

  1. Soak chickpeas overnight
  2. Olive oil, crushed garlic, pancetta – fry. 
  3. Add chickpeas, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 2 bay leaves, and pepperonchino – fry for a couple minutes while stirring, 
  4. then add hot water. bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
  5. it should be only 45 minutes to an hour if the garbanzos are fresh

Pasta:

  • Salt
  • eggs
  • flour
  1. 1 egg for two people. Combine salt and egg, egg & water, egg & flour. Food process. When it collects to one side, it’s ready. Floured board, knead dough then let rest.
  2. Half the dough. Put half in the fridge & use within a week.
  3. Half again. Roll through the pasta machine 3x. Cut into large fat bite size ribbons – about half the size of glissons.

Putting it all together:

  1. Cook pasta, oil beans. Combine, add parsley and lots of pecorino.

Pozole Rojo, version 1

Last night, I made a quarter-ish pot of pozole rojo, based on Pati Jinich’s recipe and her 4 minute version.

Broth & chicken: I cold poached 2 chicken bone-in, skin-on thighs (note to self – results were good but this takes FOREVER) with most of a head of garlic. I removed the skin and pulled the cooked chicken off the bone, and then returned the skin and bones to the poaching liquid – with maybe 4 frozen chicken paws. I let simmer for a couple hours, then removed the solids, strained and refrigerated the broth. It looked like about 3 cups total broth, almost two cups chicken.

Hominy: I started with a pound of dried hominy, but lost a quite a bit between floaters and my mishaps with de-hulling. Details are here. Next time I’ll include onion &/or garlic in the cooking liquid. I ended up with about 3 cups of cooked hominy.

Chile paste: working with what I had, I used an ounce of ancho chiles. My bad: I didn’t stem or seed the chiles. After soaking the chiles & blending them with garlic, cumin & salt (I had no cloves or onion), my second bad was not forcing the paste through a sieve. I then fried it. Messy. I made a half-recipe of paste for a quarter-recipe of soup, so, not surprisingly, I only needed about a third of it.

Putting it all together: I combined broth, bite-sized chicken, hominy & about 3 cups of water, brought to a boil, reduced to a simmer. Added a little chile paste, then a little more. Broth was about the right color, and tasted of chile, but was intensely bitter. My dinner guests would be over in just a few minutes – OMG, how do I course-correct? I added some Better than BouillonTM to boost the chicken flavor (the broth wasn’t terribly flavorful to begin with) and suddenly, the broth just worked. Which was good because suddenly, my guests were here.

For the salad plate: 

  • Quartered limes
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped radish
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Tostadas
  • Chunked avocado
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chili powder

Results: not bad. Resulting soup was flavorful but gritty. I was unhappy about the grittiness. I didn’t let the soup with chile paste simmer for the full 25 minutes – I don’t know how much that affected the taste. I think I still would have had to doctor it.

Next time:

  • Season each part separately to build flavor. Broth & hominy were too bland.
  • Pay attention to the details on the chile paste.
  • Halve the chile paste recipe again – use a half ounce of chiles.

Making hominy with dried flint corn, or why lime is a good idea

I got some bulk hominy and decided to cook it like beans and see what happened. Since it was from a bulk bin, I had no info on whether it was dried nixtamal (limed flint corn) or just flint corn.

I quick-brined it, poured off the brine, covered the hominy with fresh water, brought it to a boil, and reduced to a simmer. In about three hours I had a pot of cooked hominy, tender but chewy.

Nixtamal is soaked or cooked in an alkaline solution – the Spanish word is cal, but in English we call it lime, as in quicklime or slack lime (used in pickles to keep them crisp). There’s also lime aka limón, the citrus fruit – different thing. Food-grade lye and baking soda are also options though the taste is reportedly not as good with the latter.

I understood intellectually that lime unlocks niacin, making hominy more nutritious. Note to self: it also loosens the skins or hulls from the kernels, and a person wants that. Removing the hulls on cooked hominy is time consuming and not fun.  Live and learn.

My next experiment will be with nixtamal (dried, soaked or cooked) to use as a baseline to compare ease & taste.

If and when I try again with dried – not nixtamaled – flint corn, this looks like a good way to proceed: https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/seasonal-recipes/how-to-make-hominy-corn-zebz1305znsp

A slightly less sweet Mexican style “instant” gelatina

How’s that for qualifications, huh?

Mexican gelatin is very firm, and instant gelatins can be very sweet.  Here is my attempt to keep the firm, the instant, and bring down the sweetness just a smidge. Using the appropriate instant gelatin, you can make this with water or milk.

I like D’Gari brand Gelatina Dessert. It’s instant, comes in a variety of flavors, and water vs milk types. (Make sure to get the right type – they are not interchangeable – milk gelatin really only works with milk, and water gelatin with water.) It’s available in well-stocked grocery Mexican or Latin sections.

Time: active: 10 minutes; inactive: 2 hours

Makes: 9 generous servings (slightly less than a half cup each)

Gelatina

  • 5 cups water or milk, divided
  • 1 4.9 oz/140g package instant Mexican style gelatin
  • 1 envelope unflavored Gelatin
  1. Put one cup cold liquid in a large spouted heat-proof bowl or measuring cup.
  2. Sprinkle unflavored gelatin over the liquid & let stand one minute.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups liquid to a boil.
  4. Add the boiling liquid to the bowl or measuring cup, and pour in the instant gelatin.
  5. Whisk until completely combined & not clumpy. (You may get a couple bubbles – that’s normal).
  6. Pour immediately into molds & refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Pati Jinich’s directions for blooming gelatin

A yummy & impressive homemade Mexican Gelatina, also from Pati Jinich – Tres Leches and Strawberry Mexican Gelatin