Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simple Fare

After a hard or stressful day at work, it's nice to come home, put on your pj's and cook something simple and hearty, especially now that the weather is getting cooler. Beans and rice are one of those dishes we look to for peace, comfort and satisfaction. I have the good fortune of being able to go home for lunch and yesterday I threw a few pinto beans into the slow cooker with some water. This also works if you put them on in the morning - no soaking necessary. They cook beautifully!

Our bean dinners turn out slightly different every time depending on what type of beans, vegetables, and/or herbs/spices we use. Some things never change: a little oil, onions, some kind of peppers (sweet, hot or a mixture), garlic, sofrito*, and a few pieces of tomatoes.

Most times we use Annatto oil which is made by boiling annatto seeds in olive oil until it turns a beautiful red color, but last night we used olive oil (about a tablespoon) to saute the onions, peppers, sofrito, and garlic. Into this mixture, we add the spices. This is where it gets fun. David dives into our spice cabinet and starts sniffing everything. How he feels determines the spice for the evening. Last night there was Spanish (smoked) paprika, oregano, some Goya Sazon, a little ginger, fresh ground black pepper, and a bay leaf. After the spices began to heat up, we also added some Morningstar Farms organic breakfast sausage patties and a little bit of water to steam them apart. When the vegetables were tender and the soy patties were all broken up, we added the cooked beans, tomatoes, and some kalamata olives. We let the whole thing simmer while the rice cooked.

One word of advice about rice...brown rice and jasmine rice don't mix well in a rice cooker! We've been very successful combining long grain brown and white rice together though. Anyway, after 2 cooking cycles on the rice cooker, we had our rice and pinto beans with a very nice Beringer pinot noir while we watched Monday night's  episode of The Daily Show.

So, I did a lot of "we" talking above, but really David made those beans while I worked on another simple dish for today. It's based on a dish I had last weekend at Chef Alisha's European and Bosnian Cafe (Oracle and Rudasill-ish). They called it simply "Cabbage Salad" and I can't think of a better name for it. It was shredded cabbage, olive oil, a splash of vinegar, salt, pepper and dried parsley. My first version of this was just slightly improved by using fresh parsley instead of the dried stuff. Last night, I got a bit more creative and added some color to it.

I shredded a half head of green cabbage thinly with my Cutco carving knife (and yes, I was extra careful after last week's fiasco with the smaller, but similar slicer!) and I mean as very thin as I could get it. This is important for having a tender salad as compared to one you have to chew like a cow. Then I sprinkled the shreds liberally with salt and crushed the shreds up with my (impeccably clean) hands until the cabbage turned moist and bright green in color. Then I added a small red pepper, chopped, 1 stalk of celery, chopped, and about 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley. For the dressing I drizzled 1 tablespoon of olive oil, some fresh ground black pepper, and a few splashes of rice vinegar (or you could use apple cider vinegar) over the whole thing. Mix it up and yum!

*Sofrito is a blended mixture of onions, red sweet pepper, hot peppers (to taste), garlic, some salt and lots of cilantro. You can make it in large batches in the food processor and then split it up in smaller bags in the freezer. It lasts a long time!

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