Friday, July 29, 2011

Homemade refried beans



Today I made homemade refried beans. It was easy, cheap and I had all the ingredients on hand (with some substitutions, of course).

When I made my plum tart two weeks ago, it was getting late and I didn't have pie weights so I ran out to Target for some pinto beans to weigh the tart shell down while I was blind baking it. However, I only used half of them. So when I was going through the cupboard this morning making our grocery list for the farmer's market this morning, I pulled out the dried pinto beans and looked at the recipes on the back: one for rehydrating the beans and the other for vegetarian refried beans. So I thought, what the heck?

Here's what you'll need:
1/2 lb. of dried pinto beans
1 tsp salt, divided
3 tbps olive oil
1 medium onion (from the farmer's market)
1 jalapeno pepper (I used half a green bell pepper--again from the farmer's market)
1 medium tomato (I used 1/3 of a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp cumin
pinch cayenne pepper (I used a teaspoon of red pepper flakes)

Here's the instructions:

1. Rinse and remove any foreign material from the beans (I've seen small stones in them before, but nothing worse).
2. Put 4 cups of water and 1/2 pound of beans in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer two minutes.
3. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Then drain the beans.
4. Bring 3 cups of water and the beans to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low for 1.5 hours or until beans are tender.
5. Don't drain the beans. Take them off the heat and, using a potato masher, mash the beans. 
6. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and simmer on low while you cook the vegetables.
7. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, peppers and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender.
8. Add remaining ingredients. Cook another 3 minutes, until tomato has softened.
9. Add beans to skillet, mix well. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

I used some leftover brown rice, whole wheat tortillas (which admittedly, I had to run out and buy) and shredded cheese to make burritos. I'll throw them in the freezer and eat them for lunch next week with some salsa that we had leftover from D&D a couple of weeks ago. I had a fresh one for dinner tonight and after 45 seconds in the microwave, it was piping hot and ready to go.



Yum!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Bounty

Doug and I really love going to the farmer's market in Burke, where we live. It's very near our condo and we go every Saturday morning. There is always a ton of great produce, baked goods, dairy products and a smattering of other things like flowers and various home-canned products.

Here is our most recent haul:


Clockwise, from left: huge, fragrant freestone peaches, fresh-from-the-dairy 2% milk in a glass bottle that we exchange every week, farm fresh eggs, green beans, the sweetest blueberries I've ever eaten, super-sweet pear tomatoes and delicious green peppers, which will be used for stuffed peppers and jambalaya some time next week.

This past week, I also drove up to the U Street farmer's market in DC to check out a friend's new farmer's market stand called Whisked! Jenna is the person who baked the cake pictured in our first blog entry (aka our wedding cake). The cake was a take-off on bananas foster with banana cake, rum-flavored caramel between the layers, salted caramel buttercream frosting and little cracked up pieces of caramel around the sides. There are people who still tell us it's the best wedding cake they've ever had every single time we see them.


Anyway, at the Whisked! stand, I also picked up a mango chile popsicle because it was insanely crazy hot this weekend, a pulled pork savory tart for dinners and lunches this week and a lemon blueberry poundcake, which got sliced up and taken to church this morning. Also at the U Street farmer's market, I bought a ham hock for beans next weekend, a pound of organic, free range ground beef for the stuffed peppers, a package of freshly made gnocci (Italian potato dumplings), a package of roasted corn and tomato ravioli and a jar of roasted shallot and Barolo tomato sauce. I'd share a picture of my second harvest this weekend, but the fact is, we've already eaten a great deal of it.

The funny thing is, before Doug and I met, Doug had never been to a farmer's market, even though the one in Burke is one of the oldest in Fairfax County and he had lived right beside it for nearly five years. I, on the other hand, was fully familiar, having grown up in San Luis Obispo, California where they close the main street through downtown to car traffic every Thursday night year-round and have a big community gathering, where you can also buy produce, meat, cheese and anything else your refrigerator might be lacking. The photo below encapsulates it pretty nicely.


What is great is that we have discovered that there are many fruits and veggies Doug thought he disliked, but really he just liked the unripe and flavorless or mushy and over-cooked variety he had been exposed to as a kid. Now he eats peaches, green beans, zucchini, summer squash and pretty much anything else except eggplant, which we both agree isn't very good and even if it were, wouldn't be worth the trouble.

And because we're good little nerds, here is a short checklist of things to bring and/or consider before heading  to a farmer's market for the first time.

1. Save your plastic grocery bags. We use them for the produce and meats we pick out. All the stands have them anyway, but why use their new ones, which cost them money, when you can reuse your old ones?

2. Bring your reusable grocery bags. When you start seriously shopping the market, you'll probably need more than one because, as we discovered the hard way, glass milk bottles are heavy.

3. Bring cash. We usually need around $35 or a little more if we want flowers or two jars of milk. Some stands take credit cards, but not all. It's also more expensive for the farmer if you use a card because they get charged a processing fee.

4. Have a flexible list. You might think you want apples, carrots, peas and potatoes, but probably not all of those things are in season at any given time. Our list usually looks more like: 8 fruits, 4 vegetables, milk, 2 meat, eggs and bread. Being flexible lets you pick what looks best and is most abundant that day.

5. If you don't know how to use a particular item, just ask. Either the people running the booth or the other customers will tell you. This is not the grocery store. People expect you to strike up conversations.

6. If you'd like a taste, just ask. Many stands will have already cut-up fruit, cheese or whatever for you to try. If they don't ,feel free to ask for a sample. I've never had anyone say no.

7. Get there early or be prepared to be patient. We usually try to get to the market right when it opens at 8, but we're not always so virtuous. If we're later than 10 minutes early, at the popular stands, lines can get long. Also, after a couple of hours stands start to run out of some things. You'll be fine as long as you just want peaches, bell peppers and squash, but if you're looking for eggs, berries or our favorite treat, a particular bar cookie called an oatmeal carmelita, you may be out of luck.

And that's it! Happy marketing!

Nesting Nerds Need to Eat

Unfortunately, it has been conveyed to me that in addition to annoying all my Facebook friends with our condo redecorating, I have also been annoying my friends with my constant reportage of our meals. I didn't realize I talk about food so much, but what can I say? I like to eat and so does Doug.

Here's a recent project, a plum tart for a dinner party at a friend's house.

First, the recipe: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/plum-tart-lemon-shortbread-crust.aspx

There are two important things to note about the recipe: A) read the whole thing first so you know that it's going to take about three hours of (granted mostly hands-off) time so you should not start at 8 pm and b) believe the commenters who tried to warn you that it really is too lemony. It's too lemony. We bought beautiful, flavorful farmer's market plums and you could hardly taste the plum because of all the lemon. I like lemon and I am inclined to trust recipes the first time before altering them the second time, but learn from my experience here. Halve the lemon zest.

Now, for pictures. Here is the big pile of plums I cut up:


These need to chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

And here is the tart shell, before spending an hour in the refrigerator and before blind baking:


And here is the finished tart:


It took all the willpower I had that morning not to eat it for breakfast. It turned out pretty and everyone liked it (at least, they all had seconds so I assume they liked it).

Next time, farmer's market gain and glory.
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