Saturday, February 7, 2009

because they were there

i've been accused of morphing into a dangerous person
in the grocery store.
i may have a plan: 
hummus and pitas for lunch,
some tomatoes and a lime,
coffee filters,
a log of goat cheese 
and a box of rigatoni.
but then, (usually it happens somewhere amidst the produce)
i stop short
and start dreaming kitchen dreams,
because i've spotted something slightly
an item, i've been searching everywhere for.

one time, i was in the market for 
soft shell crabs,
but i never made my way to the fishmonger,
because instead, i stumbled upon a bin of
uncured olives.
it never occurred to me that i could cure my own.
so i did what anyone would do
(honestly, i couldn't believe that others were just 
glancing at the orbs as they walked by)
and bought a handful. 
that night, i studied up on home-curing 
and set to work
on the 14-day process involving very simply,
salt and water.
six days later, i tossed the rotten olives -
they were moldy and wet and not good - 
and started over. it took me four trips,
four different experiments and 4 botched 
batches before i finally came to the realization
that olives, when left in my hands, are

there were exotic fruit nights, 
when every thursday,
for an after dinner treat,
i brought home a different item:
monstera deliciosa (kinda weird) 
prickly pears,
dragon fruit,
pepino melons,
lychees (my favorite),
mangosteens (use a hammer and screwdriver)

my latest fruit moment, was 2 weeks ago
when blink-and-you-miss-'em
meyer lemons, came into stores. i was so into the 
spirit of the sweet and tangy citrus
that i picked up four without any ideas. 
i finally figured out a plan, 
so exciting (to me) that i've actually
been dreaming about them.
i'll tell you all about it soon.

and then, my favorite,
but for those around me, probably the scariest of 
the Japanese market that is very close to where i work.
it's fascinating, and even though 
very little is actually in English 
and i don't speak
a lick of Japanese, i'm determined to experiment, 
and purchase something new, each time we go.
sometimes we've been lucky, with really amazing
spicy boiled clams, 
perfect udon noodles 
and fermented black beans.
other times...

a sushi place that we go to makes amazing futo maki that has something odd and pink in it. even though the list on the label included cod and sugar, when i saw this box, i knew i had found my secret ingredient. but it wasn't until i got home that i realized, i'm not rolling my own sushi any time soon. now what am i going to do with it?

recently, determined to find a partner-in-crime for Japanese market shopping, i dragged my friend jenn (and a resistant larry) into the store. then, to make up for the dragging,  i made (asked, asked) each of them to pick a treat , hoping they would get into it and reach for something interesting. larry picked pocky. jenn was a really good sport and chose these adventurous, surprisingly good and almost-alarmingly astringent pickled plums.

so it should be no surprise, 
that last week, when reaching to grab 
a bunch of scallions,
my hand ended up in the basket of
fresh garbanzo beans.

i felt kind of silly, that even though my cabinet
is often stocked with canned chickpeas,
that i've soaked the dried variety overnight
and used the next day in soups,
that i never thought about the bean in its raw state. 
and, without the label, i probably wouldn't have 
known what they were.

i shopped light - worried about another olive
experience - and bought only 1/4 pound.
when i got home,
i showed them to larry, and then said,
let's each eat one,
while silently praying that when i finally researched the pods
it wouldn't read, 'poisonous when consummed in its raw form.'

the small beans were 
crunchy and much closer in taste
to a green bean
than a chickpea, the way we know them to be. 

a little investigating taught me that they are 
great freshly shucked and thrown into salads
(whew, that's a relief),
cooked out of their pod or prepared similar
to edamame. i was glad for this. if shelling one 
had taught me anything, it was that
it was sure to take me quite a long time to remove
them from their casings by myself. edamame-style was the answer:
every man for himself.

i was all set to boil them and sprinkle 
with a little salt, but then i read further and found
multiple warnings, that not
only are they the perfect secret vessel for boiling water -
they're also capable squirters. 

so instead, i did what i love best -
a taste test.
one group was steamed (sort of),
one roasted (of course)
one sauteed.
the outcome? 
they're all worthy methods,
and interestingly enough, 
cooking them encourages
a more prominant family resemblance.

some words of caution. while soybeans
are simple to remove from the pods, these
do take a little more work - some of the feisty ones
require a little help from your hands (more like peanuts).
and, inside, you'll find two small beans max, 
not three or four.

they'd be great as an appetizer,
for a farm-inspired meal,
or just as a nibble with wine
or even beer.

after some discussion, 
i realized it was worth it to share all three -
go find beans. cook them the way you see fit.
you be the judge.

microwave-steamed fresh garbanzo beans
with lime juice and fleur de sel
i made this with a handful of the beans, so i've adjusted the recipe accordingly. this is meant to be a very simple preparation - that's why i haven't involved an actual steamer. these are fresh and bright and quite addicting. i offer the same warning from above - watch out for pods that seem overly heavy. i did get a steady stream of warm lime juice straight to my cheek when i bit into one.

1/4 pound fresh garbanzo beans
1 Tbs. water
1/2 lime, juiced
fleur de sel
in bowl, combine fresh garbanzo beans and water; cover with plastic wrap. Heat in microwave 1 min., 3o sec., shaking bowl once, or until pods turn bright grean. transfer to small serving bowl; squeeze lime juice over beans. sprinkle with fleur de sel.

roasted fresh garbanzo beans
with ground cumin and ancho chili powder
these cooked quickly, so keep an eye on them and shake often. feel free to change the seasoning combination to a favorite - i think they would also taste really amazing tossed with lemon zest and thyme or black pepper and finely chopped rosemary.

1/4 pound fresh garbanzo beans
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
kosher salt
heat oven to 375˚F. place garbanzo beans on a rimmed foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray or olive oil. drizzle with olive oil. Roast 5 min., or until golden to deep brown in color, shaking pan often. immediately transfer beans to bowl; sprinkle with chili powder, cumin and kosher salt. toss to combine.

sauteed fresh garbanzo beans
with marcona almonds, garlic and red pepper flakes
we really loved the flavor combination of these beans. while the garlic and red pepper flakes really stand out, the almonds add a welcome crunch that offers a nice break from all the bean removal. i'm a big fan of these slightly heart-shaped almonds that are typically sold already husked.

1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and each cut into 6 pieces
1/4 pound fresh garbanzo beans
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup marcona almonds 
kosher salt
in skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and garlic pieces, 1 minute, or until the oil is hot and the garlic is just tender. using slotted spoon, removed garlic pieces from oil; set aside. increase heat to medium-high; add beans and red pepper flakes. cook 3-5 minutes, or until pods become golden brown, shaking pan often. add garlic pieces and almonds; cook 1 minute more, or until garlic and almonds are hot. transfer to bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt.

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