A couple of Saturdays ago my neighbor Ryan dropped in and said that he had gotten some morels at the Farmer’s Market that morning and asked if I had any suggestions about how to prepare them. I, too, had found some at the market that morning and was thinking of what would be the best way to show off the morels. It seemed natural to combine them with pasta and we checked a few cookbooks to see how other people prepared morels.
These gorgeous huge beans are about one and one-quarter inches long and look like big carnelians with cream-colored markings. They have a creamy texture and a rich flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. Lima beans never did much for me until I learned about Christmas Lima beans from Rancho Gordo. In his great book, The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, Steve Sando writes that it is thought that this bean originated in Peru and after it migrated to Italy it was called Fagiolo di Papa or the Pope’s bean. SlowFoodUSA/Ark of Taste states that this bean was introduced into the U.S. in the 1840’s and was especially popular in the Southwest. It is sometimes called Speckled Calico Lima or the Chestnut Lima. When they are cooked the vibrant red and cream markings mellow to a light and dark red brown. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ENTIRE ARTICLE
This is a dish for special occasions, especially when served with Apple-Walnut Salad with Honey Mustard vinaigrette. Some warm rolls and chilled dry Prosecco (or hard cider) will complete the meal. This is my go-to recipe when I want to make something a little fancier than usual for a holiday meal in winter. This recipe makes two generous servings and can be easily multiplied for more servings. It is even more celebratory with gingerbread cake for dessert. The cranberry mostarda can be made the day before as can the gingerbread cake. Also, the vegetables can be cut up ahead of time to make it a little easier.
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While in the supermarket I found myself in front of a display of dried corn husks. I stood there, lost in memories of all the tamales I had eaten: the sweet, cinnamon-flavored ones from a little place on lower State Street in Santa Barbara before the freeway went through, the one’s that my friend Lodi’s mother made every year for Christmas. But I quailed at the thought of the time and energy required to make tamales. Then I thought of the tamale pie our neighbor, Aileen, used to make in the 60’s.
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink informs us that tamale pie showed up in the early 1900’s and became enshrined in the 1905 Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2. According to the Oxford the high point of tamale pie was in 1956 when the Loyalty Cook Book: Native Daughters of the Golden West by Willow Borba was published with nineteen recipes for tamale pie.
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When I started exploring plant-based diets a couple of years ago I relied on canned beans. It was hard enough trying to figure out what we were going to eat that day and preparing all of our meals and the thought of preparing my own beans seemed to be too much. So I was happy to use canned beans in my recipes. I have since seen the light and when someone tells you that beans cooked at home are light years away from canned beans, believe them. It is true. And the fresher the beans, the less time they take to cook.
A while back I asked my sister, who lives in Santa Barbara, to send me some specialty beans that are available there. She said she would and then asked me if I knew about Rancho Gordo, the bean place. I didn’t so I immediately Googled them and then my life changed.
WWW.RANCHOGORDO.COM has many different beans and their story is interesting. Feeling like a kid in a candy store, I ordered several beans including Bayo Chocolate. Who could resist the name? These small beans are indigenous to Mexico and while they look like chocolate, they don’t taste like chocolate. Which is a good thing.
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