Hello there, and how are you? Are you getting enough summer joy?
I've been thinking about all I want to soak up before summer is over. Here is what I am inspired to do before the season changes:
Eat all the canteloupes. I'm always sad when there are no more for the year.
Read a book in the hammock, start to finish. Not in one day, but over a few, maybe napping between pages.
Star gaze. The Perseids meteor shower peaks this week. Check out SkyView Lite, a free app that makes the constellations and planets come alive. When observing the night sky I feel very small, at once frightening and comforting.
Make more summer fruit sorbet, like this one, and this one. We've had chocolate, apricot, blueberry, and blackberry sorbets this year, too, and I'll share those recipes with you, next summer.
And more to make sure of:
Eat as many grilled hamburgers, vegetables, and fish as I can.
Enjoy every meal outside. Mornings on the porch are charming. Mid-day snacks in the shade of the trees are refreshing. Dinners looking out at the valley are inspiring. Soon we won't have a choice but to eat inside.
Invite as many outdoor gatherings as we can with friends and family. Nobody knows what's going to happen to our ability to gather come fall, so I will soak up all the community I can now.
Show my appreciation to farmers by visiting as many farmer markets and stands as I can. Farmers are working so hard to bring their beautiful bounty to us. (See the Find a Farmers Market Near You links in the footer of this page for a market near you.)
Roasted Peppers, White Beans, Feta, and Herb Sauce
Using the grill to get quick and easy meals done is another summer joy I can't get enough of. This recipeless recipe is long on gourmet attitude, short on effort to actualize. Eight ingredients, three of which are herbs, and 15 minutes at the grill and, viola, you are a summer foods genius.
What are you doing to make the summer last? What will you miss about summer when it's passed?
Roasted Red Peppers, White Beans, Feta + Simple Herb Sauce
Long on gourmet attitude, short on effort and time, this recipeless guide makes summer dinner go easy. Eight ingredients, under 30 minutes, and you are a cooking genius! Use the same guide in the autumn using your oven to roast the peppers and warm the Feta and beans.
1cup eachFresh basil, parsley, and cilantro leaves and tender stems, packed and lightly chopped
¼cupExtra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Peppers, White Beans + Feta
1Red, orange, or yellow bell pepperper person
3ouncesFeta, block-styleper person
1cupCannelini or other white beansper person
Smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, or Espeletteoptional
Simple Herb Sauce
Place all sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Whiz or whirl them all together with a healthy five-finger pinch or salt and a healthy cracking of black pepper until it is creamy and pesto-like, but not ablsolutely pureed. Add a tablespoon or two of water to loosen the sauce, if desired. It's nicest if it puddles slightly rather than stands at attention. Set aside.
Peppers, White Beans + Feta
Stretch out a double-thick layer of foil big enough to hold the beans and feta in a single layer, folding the edges up to contain juices. If you have a grill basket use it instead, lining it with one layer of foil.
Over medium direct heat on a gas or charcoal grill, roast the peppers. Turn them frequently to char the entire outside. If they are burning at all, move them off the heat to cook indirectly, and back and forth to get a nice roasted exterior. The peppers will puff up a bit, and will eventually collapse into beautiful modern art shapes, full of condensed juices that will deliciously spill out when each diner cuts into them. This should take 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill.
About half way through cooking the peppers, place the foil or grill basket on the heat. Add the beans and Feta in one layer, drizzling them lightly with olive oil and sprinkling with the paprika, Aleppo, or Espelette, if using. Allow them to warm, and even brown a little if that happens, while the peppers finish.
Move the wrinkly cooked peppers to individual plates or a platter, along with the beans and Feta. Place a big spoonful of simple herb sauce in the center. The peppers will release their warm rich juices into the plate as they are cut into, adding to the sauce. Serve!
If you are using dried beans, cook according to one of the easy Rancho Gordo methods. If you don't have a grill or make this during cool-weather months, use the same guide with your oven to roast the peppers and warm the beans and Feta.
Part two of the Ode to the Bean trilogy recipe is an asparagus-bean salad with lemon vinaigrette. Its crispy lemon-panko topping is pretty special, if I don't say so myself. It makes a great side dish, but we ate it as our main course and loved it.
To bring you up to speed, last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho GordoAlubia Blanca beans. My objective was to create three unique recipes that wouldn't having us hating beans by the end of the week. The three recipes-- today's lemony asparagus-bean salad, along with pasta with beans and mushrooms, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl-- resulted in three distinct, tasty success stories.
What's so exciting about starting with dried beans?
Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with. There's a bean for every liking and situation.
In case you're wondering, it takes 19 Alubia Blancas to reach the weight of one Corona bean, which happens to be 3 grams. These are the kind of things I nerd out on!
I'll say it again-- it's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.
Growers + Makers Wine Notes:
A favorite of ours, Artisanal Wine Cellars2013 Adams Old Vine Reserve is a graceful representative of Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine was grown in the Chehalem Mountains, and is a food-friendly delight as much as it is an ethereal sipper. Notes of mineral, forest floor, and soft cherry carry through.
The soft tannins in this wine work just fine with the raw asparagus. I would think twice about putting it together with cooked asparagus.
This almost no-cook dish comes together in minutes. (The panko topping is quickly crisped up in a skillet in about 5 minutes.) Here's where the value of cooking the beans earlier in the week comes! It's not often you run across ideas for raw asparagus, and I'm not sure why-- it's a perfect salad ingredient. Gluten-free and dairy-free options are noted in the recipe.
Next up we'll wrap up the Ode to Beans trilogy with the Beans, Greens, and Pork recipe. Be well, friends.
Lemony Asparagus-Bean Salad with Crispy Lemon Topping
1bunchasparagus, thick stems peeled, thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal
1green onion or green garlic stalk, thinly sliced
2Tablespoonschopped fresh chives
1lemon, zested and juiced
2Tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the Crispy Lemon Topping
½cuppanko, regular of gluten-free
1 Tablespoon olive oil
zest of one lemon (reserved from above)
salt to taste
2ouncesshaved Parmesan (omit for dairy-free option)
For the Salad
Prep the asparagus, the green onion or green garlic, and the chives. In a mixing bowl, combine the prepared vegetables, white beans, and herbs with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving bowl or platter.
For the Crispy Lemon Topping
Heat the olive oil to medium-high heat in a small skillet. Add the panko and stir to coat it evenly with the oil. (It will absorb the oil, leaving very little at all in the pan.) Flatten the panko out across the bottom of the pan, and leave it to toast for about 45-60 seconds before stirring. Repeat until the crumbs are thoroughly toasted to a medium brown, being careful not to burn the crumbs. This should take 5 minutes or less.
Place the crumbs in a small bowl. Stir for a minute or two to cool them slightly. Add a pinch of salt and the grated lemon zest, stirring to incorporate the zest throughout. The slight warmth of the crumbs will make the zest very fragrant.
Spoon the crispy lemon topping over the salad. Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler, and place the Parmesan curls over the salad to serve.
Make it Your Own:Try fresh mint or other herbs instead of or with the chives.
I can think of no other food that radiates humble, simple elegance like the bean. Beans are easy to cook, fit into most dietary lifestyles, and are seasonless-- they make a hearty wintertime stew or a chilled summery salad with equal aplomb.
Last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho GordoAlubia Blanca beans, and made a little game of seeing what I could do with them throughout the week that wouldn't grow wearisome. The pasta with beans and mushrooms, lemony asparagus-bean salad, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl were each distinct, and each a success.
The true miracle of it is that only four ounces of meat were used to season just one of the dishes, and yet meat was not missed. Beans are tasty, protein-rich, loaded with fiber, and when used with other flavorful ingredients are totally satisfying.
This post includes the recipe for the pasta, bean, and mushroom dish. Recipes for the other two dishes will come in quick succession in separate posts. An Ode to the Bean trilogy, if you will.
In the third post, we'll address the elephant in the room-- the Magical Fruit Effect.
Why go to the trouble of cooking dried beans?
Let's talk about the advantage of using dried beans rather than canned, not that there's anything wrong with that! The texture of beans cooked from scratch is more toothsome, less waterlogged, and texturally more interesting. There are nearly infinite varieties of dried beans, each having their own unique flavor, too. Some are clean with an almost mineral slate-like flavor (the Alubia Blanca is an example), some are slightly smoky flavored, some are nutty, and some are meaty.
Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with.
A pound of beans cooks up into ten full-sized servings-- likely more when used with other ingredients-- making them a definite proletariat choice.
In their brilliant display of versatility, beans eagerly accept the flavors of the ingredients they are put with. The humble bean grows in most climates, and people from most cultures use beans in some way in their cooking. There's just so much to love about the unassuming bean.
It's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.
Grower's + Makers Wine Notes:
With the Pasta, Bean, and Mushrooms dish we served RoxyAnn Winery2017 Claret. This Bordeaux-style blend, grown in warm Southern Oregon, is rich and soft and great with these mushrooms. It's a good value, too.
There are so many fantastic things to do with a pot of freshly cooked beans, and this is one of them! Humble and unintentionally vegan, full of herbs and earthy mushroom and bean flavor, chewy pasta, and loaded with energy-giving protein, it's a dish fit for a queen.
½poundpasta, your choiceorecchiette is nice- it holds the little beans!
1poundmushrooms, any kind (these are chestnut mushrooms)
1shallot, finely diced
2 Tablespoonschopped fresh oregano
2 Tablespoonschopped chives
2 Tablespoonschopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cupbean cooking liquid, or reserved pasta water
1teaspoonsalt, plus more for pasta water
1lemon, zested and squeezed
ground black pepper to taste
Put a pot of water with a palmful of salt (about 3 Tablespoons) on to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. (It will finish cooking later.) If you don't have any reserved bean cooking liquid, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Set the pasta and pasta water aside.
While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the mushrooms. If using button mushrooms cut them into quarters. Zest the lemon and squeeze it of its juice. Set them aside.
Mix together the chopped oregano, chives, and parsley and set them aside on your cutting board.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, leaving the mushrooms in place to brown a bit before stirring. Repeat, leaving the mushrooms undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring until they are cooked through and have a slight browned color. Adjust your temperature if the shallots are browning too quickly. Remove about ½ of the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for serving.
To the mushrooms in the skillet add the beans, pasta, and bean cooking liquid or pasta water, scraping up any mushroom juices. Stir, and season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in about half the mixed herbs and the lemon juice. Allow the cooking liquid to reduce about ½, leaving some moisture in the pan.
Spoon the pasta, beans and mushrooms into a a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Place the reserved mushrooms on top, along with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.
Make It Your Own:There is no shame in using canned beans- I keep them in my pantry at all times for quick and easy meals. The beans will be mushier, so handle them a little more gently.Experiment with different types of beans, different pasta shapes, whatever mushrooms are seasonal, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. If you don't have a lemon on hand, add 2 or 3 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar instead.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.