Christmas Lima Beans and Quinoa with Beets and Avocado

Heirloom beans are so flavorful and delicious! This recipe is from the Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans cookbook.

5 small beets
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup quinoa
3 cups well-drained cooked Christmas lima beans (crockpot, stovepot, etc.) warmed slightly
1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado

Dressing: 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp honey, 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil, salt & freshly ground pepper. (Vegans: Leave out the honey)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Scrub the beets and dry them. Put in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the beets in 2 separate aluminum foil packages, putting like-sized beets with like-sized beets. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins with your fingers. Cut the beets into 1/4 inch thick wedges. Put in a large salad bowl.

Rinse the quinoa under cold running water (the quinoa can be soaked for 4 hours prior to this to remove any inherent bitterness). Bring a medium sauce-pan of generously salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the quinoa is fluffy but still slightly crunch, 15 to 20 min. Drain and rinse quickly under cool running water. Drain well and add to the beets.

Add the beans and onion to the salad bowl. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit, leaving each half in the skin. Cut each half lengthwise into 1/4 inch-thick-slices. Then cut the slices crosswise into thirds. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado from the skin and add to the bowl. Toss gently.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, and honey. Drizzle in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream, whisking continuously until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss, adjust the seasonings, and serve at room temperature within 2 hours. Enjoy!


Italian Nostalgia

When my beautiful sister, Mary, and I were in Italy, we fell in love with a Siena specialty: thick, glutinous noodles called Pici. We also discovered semifreddo; a wonderful "half-frozen" mousse-like custard.

I recreated Cacio E Pepe (Cheese & Pepper) using a variation of the recipe from the linked website, but used the pici noodles that I brought back with me instead of spaghetti noodles.

To accompany, we enjoyed a salad of organic baby arugula, radicchio, Roma tomatoes, crisp celery, walnut halves, quality olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar.

A decadent lemon and amaretti semifreddo topped with raspberry coulis was just the ticket for dessert. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

All of the above dishes were quite easy to put together, but tasted extraordinary.



Vegetable Pot Pie

This recipe might intimidate some for 2 reasons: homemade stock and homemade pie crust. But, never fear! I actually taught myself a lesson tonight... I had always thought of making vegetable stock as a huge endeavor because I've always made it in a large quantity, chopping lots and lots of vegetables, ladling it all out in the end to freeze, etc. I actually meant to purchase stock for tonight's vegetable pot pie, and when I came home realized I had forgotten it. But I'm so glad! Because the result was so much tastier as a result, and I learned that making a small pot of basic vegetable stock is a piece of cake. So, first things first:

For the stock: fill a saucepan with water. Add a cut up onion and some thoroughly washed leek tops, plus a bay leaf and a little salt. That's it. Bring to a boil, then let it gently simmer while you tend to the other business... (by the way it smells *really* good!)

Now, for the pie crust... I happened to have mine on hand because I made quiche the other night and the leftover crust was the entire inspiration for this meal... but if you don't have yours on hand, here's how to make it:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter. Mix egg, water and vinegar. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients. Gently mix, and form into 3-4 balls to chill.

The amount of crust you need for this recipe depends on how big you are making your pot pie, and the dimensions of your dish. I used about 2/3 for an 8" x 14" rectangular glass dish.

With your leftovers, I guess you'll just have to make a quiche. :)

Next step:

Chop up a variety of vegetables.

I used onion, celery, carrot, green beans, peas and red potatoes.

I didn't measure the quantities, but chopped about 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 rib of celery, a big overflowing fistful of green beans and about 7 *small* red potatoes. The peas of course were not chopped, and I think they would have measured to about 3/4 cup.

Saute the vegetables in butter, starting with the onion, celery, and carrot and adding the others after a few minutes. Add some salt and pepper and some Herbes de Provence, and continue to saute for about 10 minutes.

Then add some flour, about 1/3 cup. Cook for a couple of minutes to eliminate raw flour flavor. Then ladle in about 3 cups of the stock. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken the sauce, then pour into to a 9" x 13" or similar sized baking dish.

Now roll out your pie crust.

And lay it over the top of your baking dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serve hot, and enjoy!


Japanese-style Cabbage Salad

I made this salad for the first time last night to accompany a Japanese-style meal, and I liked it a lot. It will definitely be a regular guest at our table! Sorry, no photo. It was gobbled up too quickly ;)


1/2 large head cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix ingredients together, let sit at room temperature for a bit to let flavors mingle, and enjoy!


Yellow Eye Heirloom Beans

Yellow Eye beans are a variety of the white bean family and are creamy, rich, and delicious. Their flavor is neutral and earthy, and their texture is crumbly, just right for a chowder.

Here are the ingredients that you need for Yellow Eye Chowder...

Mise en place.

The white "eye" of the bean is where it used to be attached to the pod.

Soak for a few hours before cooking for extra tender beans.

In a soup pot over med heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant (~10 minutes). Add the beans and their soaking water, plus additional cold water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer until beans are starting to soften but still fairly firm, ~1 hour.

Add sweet potatoes, chicken, sage, + S&P to taste. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes.

Ladle the chowder into warmed bowls and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Delicious with a rustic Artisan bread.


Dandelion "Honey"

When a friend of mine posted a link to a recipe for Dandelion Honey on her Facebook page, I was more than intrigued. The amounts in the recipe sounded almost magical: "365 dandelions, 1 for each day of the year", and the idea of taking a pesky weed and turning it into something delicious was very appealing to me.

So, the other day on our 1 mile walk home from school, my children and I collected dandelions that we found growing in parks and next to the sidewalk on our route home. We weren't keeping track, just picking all the nice looking ones that we saw, and when we arrived home I found we had collected more than 800! So I doubled the recipe.

It turned out to be a real task extracting the petals from the leaves and bases of the flower, so I probably would have been wise to make a single batch... so I will give you the quantities for just one recipe! (Please note: it is important to remove all greenery from the flowers to ensure that your final product will have a pleasing golden color! Also, wash the flowers before removing the petals, then let dry out an hour or two in the sun before proceeding.)

The flower petals from 365 dandelions are mixed together with 1.2 Liters of water, 2 lemons and 2 oranges thinly sliced (preferably organic, so as to avoid the pesticides leaching out into the mixture). Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, covered for one hour. Leave the covered pot to sit overnight so that the flavors can continue to infuse the liquid.

The next day, strain the liquid, add 1 kilogram of sugar, and reheat to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes at moderate heat. Ladle it into small jars, close while hot.

This "honey" may be used in desserts and also as a cough syrup if you like! We used it this morning on pancakes.


Pasta di Carciofi

To ring in the spring season, I decided to make an artichoke pasta. I found the recipe in Giuliano Bugialli's book On Pasta.

I was so proud of myself for finally cleaning artichokes without hacking them up into unrecognizable bits and pieces... I started with 3 large artichokes, which were cleaned, then soaked in ample cold water with lemon halves squeezed and dropped into the bowl.

30 minutes later, the artichokes were cut into 8ths and sauteed for 5 minutes along with the chopped leaves of 15 large Italian parsley sprigs, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, and 1/4 cup olive oil.

I added 1 cup dry white wine, and cooked the artichokes over high heat until the wine evaporated, then added salt and pepper, covered the casserole, and continued to cook the artichokes until they were tender.

The artichokes were pureed in a food mill, then made into a dough using 5 1/2 cups flour, 3 extra-large eggs, and salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the pasta, I rolled the dough through a pasta machine to make sheets, then cut the sheets into tagliatelle using an attachment.

To finish, the pasta was boiled for about 3 minutes, then tossed with a butter and sage sauce. It was soooo yummy!

The re-telling of this recipe was somewhat abridged. For the full version I recommend you purchase Bugialli's book. It's a great resource!


Chocolate Tasting

Some number of years ago, about 6, I guess, my husband and I decided to do a chocolate tasting of various single-origin chocolates from 4 different producers. We discussed our opinions and then agreed on a rating of each chocolate on a scale of 1-10. I've been holding onto the piece of paper upon which we recorded our ratings for all these years, and it gets moved from place to place in our house, never to be discarded lest I forget our ratings and have to start all over again. Wait a minute, that's not a bad idea, is it?!?!

I've decided it's time to stop shuffling this little piece of paper around, and record these ratings somewhere more permanent. Now you can all benefit from our little experiment and perhaps sample some of these goodies for yourself!

Valrhona 2003 Ampamakia (Madagascar) ---- 4
Valrhona 2003 Gran Couva (Trinidad) ---- 5
Valrhona 2003 Chuao (Venezuela) ---- 7
Amadei Ecuador ---- 6
Amadei Grenada ---- 6
Amadei Jamaica ---- 7
Amadei Madagascar ---- 7.5
Amadei Trinidad ---- 8 (tasting note: tabacco flavors)
Amadei Venezuela ---- 8
Amadei Porcelana ---- 8
Michel Cluizel Concepcion (Venezuela) ---- <7
Michel Cluizel Los Ancones (Santa Domingo) ---- 6.5
Michel Cluizel Tamarina (Sao Tome) ---- 6/7 (we agreed to disagree on this one! - I liked it better)
Michel Cluizel Mangaro (Madagascar) ---- 7
Domori Puertofino (Venezuela) ---- 8.5
Domori Puertomar (Venezuela) ---- 9
Domori Porcelana (Venezuela) ---- 9.5

Makes me want to go pick up some bars of Domori!!! :-D