This week, 4/1-4/8/2018

Last week I did a pre-Passover clean out, doing what I should have done a long time ago. I separated out old food. I know, this is old news to you all – but a brand-new, “cripes why didn’t I do this before,” thing to me. And I am super pleased with it.

Trashed or composted:

  • Anything that was more than a year out of date.
  • Dried &/or processed food more than 6 months out of date.

Use Soon section (brand new!):

  • Canned goods that were up to a year out of date –  put in a Use Soon section.
  • Anything that would be out of date within the year.

Gave away

  • Anything that would be out of date within the year that I couldn’t see eating somewhat immediately.

I’ve also made a list of fridge food that goes bad.

Since I now have an old food section, it’s pretty clear what needs to be dealt with immediately, and that is good. So now I’m trying to figure out what to do with this old food. Job one, and probably the most disgusting one, is using up spam.

The goal is to use some old food in every non-breakfast that I make for myself. Because breakfast is devoted to the temple of steel-cut oatmeal.

Spam Carbonara
Using this recipe, I made a quarter portion & subbed fried spam for bacon. I subbed egg noodles for spaghetti. And I put the heatproof bowl of beaten egg, half-n-half, noodles and some of the parmesan in the lowest possible temp oven to keep it warm but not cook the eggs. I would have liked to have added some white beans, but I didn’t. I garnished with romano & more parmesan.

I wouldn’t recommend this, but I did use up some spam & some half-n-half and that was the plan. So go me. Next time, beans and peas to make it a smidge healthier.

Spam burrito bowls
I used some fridged Guatemalan black beans. And some fried spam. This is a great application for spam. I could have used the whole can for this. Live and learn.

Roasted garbanzos
Used this recipe for the roasting, and seasoned with lemon pepper, salt & french thyme. This is the first time I’ve used oil in roasting chickpeas. The seasoning sticks on better, but I’m grossed out by the greasyness. If I’m making these for myself, no oil. These were used as croutons for my

Greek style barley salad
Used this recipe for the barley, and groovy apple juice for the cider.  I made 2 dry cups barley (in three batches; the first two were .5 cup dry, until I realized that I wouldn’t have enough to share with just that) in my rice cooker (about all whole grains end up there, save steel-cut oatmeal) without soaking for about 40 minutes. Depending on the website, both barley & farro have wildly different ratios.

The first run of barley started with 1:2.5, and ended up with an apple juice tahdig and the barley was orangey – that was not what I wanted – so I ended up washing the cooked barley, which improved the appearance and didn’t hurt the taste.

Batch two, was 1:3, which was better, but still not where I wanted it to be.

The last batch, was 1:4. I ended up needing to drain the barley, but not by much, and the results were just where I wanted them – tender, flavorful, sans tahdig, and barley colored.

For the vegetal parts, I used chopped pistachio, quartered grape tomatoes, chopped red bell peppers, chopped & pitted green & black olives on a bed of italian parsley & watercress leaves. As this was for a vegan potluck, feta on the side.

For the dressing, I went with this. It made a smidge too much dressing in spite of my using twice as much barley. I would definitely add more lemon zest, because lemon.

I got lots of compliments. I would definitely make this again, and this will probably go into regular rotation with less (and less oily) dressing and white white or cannellini beans. I bet haricots verts could be a very good addition, too.

I am definitely going to make a non-Greek style variant using bottled blue cheese & oil dressing, walnuts, and red leaf lettuce – I can’t imagine that not being fabulous.

Packaged ramen
Horror of horrors, I ran out of oatmeal. So I made T0p Ramen with a smidge of the MSG powder, tired homemade chicken broth, frozen turkey meatballs & fresh broccoli, garnished with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, and togarashi. If I add the meatballs and broccoli stems right when the liquid boils, this takes no more time than the ramen plain. Florets in maybe a minute in.

My usual MO is to add frozen veg with the frozen meatballs at the beginning, fridged & prepared meat or veg midway (so it can warm through), and fresh or frozen baby greens at the end. Since I amazingly have fresh broccoli in the house, well, there you go. I am rarely unhappy with doctored packaged ramen, and I definitely was not unhappy with this.


dietary fiberful whole grain overachievers


(This may be comparing apples to oranges. I believe these are cooked portions, where 16g = 1/8 cup… but I could be wrong. So wrong. Bolded items are from Old Ways, whereas unbolded are (mostly) from Bob’s Red Mill. Take with a grain of salt. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited by law.)

Whole Grains % of grain
that is fiber
Fiber in 16g
of this Grain
bulgur wheat 18.3% 2.9 grams
barley 17.3% 2.8 grams
farro 2.53.5 grams
oats, steel-cut 2.5 grams
rye 15.1% 2.4 grams
triticale 14.6% 2.3 grams
wheat 12.2% 2.0 grams

Sources: Old Ways Whole Grain Council, Bob’s Red MillUSDA Nutrient Data.

More: USDA cereal grains nutrient list by fiber content – not terribly complete.


No recipe pesto

In the Tablespoon category:

  • 1 part nuts to 3 parts oil

In the cup category:

  • 1 part parmesan to 6 parts sturdy, flavorful leaves & tender stems (nasturium, parsley, basil, spinach)


  • at least a garlic clove

Combine everything but a third of the smaller leaves in a food processor and whirr until it is coarse. Salt & pepper to taste.

Garnish with the reserved small or chopped leaves, additional cheese &/or oil, and if you want to be fancy, edible flowers from your leaves & stems.

The wonderful world of beans

Beans are delicious, cheap, high fiber, high protein, low-acid, limiting blood spikes in glucose after eating, and most are low-glycemic.

The whole gas/farting issue

I know lots of people who don’t eat beans (often) because of gas. Here’s the deal – if you don’t eat them often, your body never fully adapts to the extra work required to digest their complex sugars. Gradually increase the frequency – your body will adjust.

Dried versus canned

My opinion: home-cooked fresh dried beans are cheaper and taste better than their canned cousins. But there is no shame in using canned beans.


Given that a pound of bulk bin dried beans (83 cents to $6 a pound for good, fresh beans) costs about what a can of beans (cheapest national brand is 79 cents; the really delicious beans hover around $2) costs…well, if you eat a lot of beans, it’s generally significantly cheaper to cook beans from scratch – and you can control the taste, nutrition, fat and salt that goes into each serving. And even if you compare very high quality fresh heirloom dried beans (something like Rancho GordoNorth Bay Trading and Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans who have an astounding variety for around $6 a pound) to Cento, Goya, or Ducal (all hovering around $2) – well, you’re still saving some cash – just not hand over fist.


If you’re buying bulk bin or bagged low-end dried beans, you want to be sure to be sure they are fresh. Fresh is less than 2 years old. Older than that, you’ll find that beans cook unevenly (crispy beans are never good) and don’t taste as good. Bagged beans should have a sell-by date.

If you are frequenting a store with a significant Latinx clientele, you’ll probably be safe getting black, turtle and peruano/flor de mayo beans from the bulk-bin.

Bulk-binning other beans – there lie dragons. With white, navy, and cannellini beans, I’ve had fails buying at the discount grocery where I get fabulous Latinx beans. It’s all about turn-over. Talk to the bulk manager – if they know what fresh beans are, that theirs are, and that they will make it worth your while if that isn’t the case, your chances of success are much better.

Cooking, or here’s how I do it

Picking over & rinsing – yes, always, in all cases. Remove all beans that are split, broken or otherwise not normal. Rinse well.

Soaking or not – I don’t.  It doesn’t substantially reduce cooking time, it doesn’t reduce gas, it can diminish the color and flavor.

Basic cooking – In the cooking pot – cover with 2 (or more) inches of water (clearly, if you’re making soup(y) beans, more). A heavy pot (like a dutch oven) is a good idea. If there are obvious floaters – remove them – they won’t cook evenly. Season the water generously (but not as much as pasta) with salt. Bring to a boil. If you are baking the beans, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Reduce to a simmer, (partially) put a lid on it (and put in the oven if that’s how you’re doing it). Start checking the beans after 45 minutes. If they are not (still) covered with water, add some so they are (well) covered. Remove any scum, if any. Cooked beans should be tender but not falling apart. Depending on their freshness, cooking time can range from 45 minutes to 2 hours. More than 2 hours, your beans were definitely not fresh. In most cases, don’t be afraid of overcooking.

Pressure cooking, obviously, is much faster. I can’t speak to that.

Seasoning while cooking – I like to season after the beans are cooked so I have more options in how I will eat them, but you can do anything you like.

Salt, obviously. Alliums are always good. Celery or fennel, carrot, bay leaf are classic. Be cautious with stock or broth – concentrating the flavors of processed, canned, boxed, or bouillon isn’t always a good idea. Kombu can add umami. Fresh or dried epazote, hoja/hierba santa or avocado leaves as well as fresh or dried chiles are traditional in central america. And salted pork, chorizo, ‎longaniza, ham hocks – you get the idea – to use as a condiment. Acidic things, like tomato, are fine to add once the beans are just about cooked.

Seasoning & garnishes after the fact – just about anything. Beans are a tabla rasa, like tofu. Salt (if needed) & pepper. Cheese. Sour cream or crema. Mexican oregano, epazote, hierba santa. Sage leaves. Tomatoes. Salsa. Crushed red chilies (or dried chile in strips). Fresh chile. Bell pepper. Chicharrónes. Fried plantains. Fried (or poached, steamed or boiled) egg. Condiment pork. Cumin and/or chili powder. Olive (or other flavorful) oil. Lime. Lemon. Any number of latin american or southwestern seasonings. Fresh cilantro. Avocado. Onion (green, red). Tortilla (strips, chips or tostadas). Soy sauce, ginger & sesame oil (oh, yes!).

Storage – Let cool in their liquor. Refrigerate cooked beans in their liquor in a covered container for up to 5 days. They can be frozen for up to 6 months in an airtight freezer container.

Mashed or refried – Any bean is great mashed or refried. You can blend or mash the beans with their liquid and then reduce them in a skillet with or without herbs, spices, alliums, and fat. Olive oil tastes great here – so does bacon grease, lard or schmaltz. Though seasoned mashed beans without fat are pretty damn good too.

Ramen additions, perversions & experiments

Ramen additions

  • Yes.
  • Frying mushrooms & peas
  • spinach
  • sweet potato.
  • Steamed or Soft boiled eggs
  • Bonito flakes
  • bacon?!
  • butter
  • kamaboko
  • stirfried or simmered cabbage
  • chiffonaded scallions
  • raw enoki mushrooms
  • grated garlic
  • kimchi
  • nori
  • wakame
  • beni shoga (pickled ginger)

ramen perversions

Speaking of perversions, I made the mac-n-cheese, a quarter recipe, yesterday (3/25/2018).

Hacks: soaked noodles in a bowl with boiled water, microwaved sauce, sour cream rather than milk, different cheese (cream, extra sharp cheddar, & romano), different hot sauce (secret aardvark habanero), added a pinch each of powdered mustard & dijon mustard.

Results: Meh. I get that this is supposed to be a novelty. It really needed some sharpness, and a quite a bit of Aardvark didn’t cut it. If Aardvark doesn’t cut it, that’s a problem. That’s when I added – as is traditional – the mustard. That made it edible.

In the end, this felt fussy, much more fussy than doing a soup style with homemade stock & every addition that I have in the fridge &/or freezer, much more fussy than a ramen frittata (with every addition, etc.) – both of which are very likely to happen in my kitchen. It didn’t feel satisfying, and it wasn’t really delicious. And definitely not good for you. Cooking, for me, needs to be at least one of these.

I am intrigued with the idea of subbing ramen for pasta (and the idea of subbing pasta for ramen), so I’ll be revisiting this.

White bean stew/soup

This guide is inspired by Jacques Pépin (Essential Pépin video, ~3:12; recipe) and Milk Street (March/April 2018). This can be on the stove or in the oven.

You want some cooked white beans or cannellini. If cooking from dried, Pépin doesn’t soak, and does cook the beans with a generous amount of salt. Dried beans will take anywhere from an hour to two, depending on how fresh they are (less than 2 years old – I’ve written about fresh beans elsewhere) – otherwise, just used canned)  You can stop here, or…

Dice panchetta or bacon and fry until it takes on a little color. Add cubed or chopped onion tomato (if canned, add with the beans), or onion with fennel bulb and garlic and let them soften. Maybe add fennel seeds, or sage with crushed red pepper. Then add to the beans with their liquor along with some thyme or rosemary (rosemary is especially nice with fennel. But use what you have). Taste & season. Let simmer for more than 15 minutes or up to 45 minutes or so. If you used fresh, hard-stemmed herbs, it’s time to pull them out – but you knew that. Give a portion a little (immersion) blending (or mashing) to give some body to the broth. Season to taste. You can stop here, or…

Before serving, garnish or serve with fresh herbs &/or lemon wedges &/or sage/sage oil &/or parmesan.

What I made this week

Cooks Illustrated Soda Bread
Results: so-so
User error: maybe
Bake again: no
This time, my dough was too wet and I had to run to the store & get some flour. Then I had to wait to bake it. Not my best effort on this, but still fine, toasted in the oven and served with butter & jam.

Peruano beans
Made a pot of peruanos (with a 1/4 of an onion & some epazote, ala Diana Kennedy), but forgot to salt them and they didn’t taste like much. I usually cook my peruanos with mirepoix & bay leaf which makes them true comfort food, needing just a smidge of salt to make them like bean candy. These were fresh beans.

I usually leave the beans fairly neutral & season them when I eat them so they work well with the other ingredients. I had some friends coming over with the rest of the fixings for tacos, so I mashed about half the pot in a smidge of bacon grease – you don’t need a lot of fat if you have you have a fair amount of pot liquor – and seasoned them with chili powder, celery & garlic salt, Mexican oregano, and a pinch of cumin. Pretty damn good.

Martha Stewart’s Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with pasta
Results: so-so
User error: maybe
Cook again: no
I made a 2/3s recipe as that was the amount of grape tomatoes that I had. As usual, I hit a hitch. Got about halfway through the roast when I had to run out of the house. Finished the roast once I got home. My g-ds, did the house smell good, and the tomatoes looked gorgeous.

The results were okay, though there was much too much liquid to drizzle & then have left over in the pan. I used to be more okay with greasy things than I am now.

I cooked up some lasagna noodles (part of using up the old food initiative) al dente, sliced them into thinner shorter strips, and tossed them in a fry pan with the tomatoes (but no oily drizzle) and a little of the pasta water.  Seasoned with peperoncino (crushed red pepper to the rest of us), pepper, parmesan & pecorino.

It was a little too sweet. Okay, maybe more than a little. While I love the oven roasting, I  I’ll try stovetop next time.