Beans

Type of Post: 
What's on my Plate?

Boston Baked Beans in the traditional beanpot

Beans are one of the Three Sisters, the trio of local foods that supported the Pilgrims and other early settlers. Thanks to their hardiness, easy cultivation, and excellent storability, beans soon became a core component of colonial New England cuisine. In fact, beans became so identified with New England that Boston became popularly referred to as Beantown.

Beans are a climbing plant. Today if you grow beans in your garden, you probably let them climb a beanpole. The Native Americans had a clever way to save space in (and dig less of) that stony New England soil: they also grew corn, and used the cornstalks as beanpoles.

You can find a lot of interesting information about beans in this article from the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine. The beans part starts in the fourth paragraph and continues to the end of the page.

Soak Beans Overnight

Fresh green beans can be steamed right from the garden, of course, but the great value of beans is their ability to be dried, stored and transported over primitive roads with low risk of spoilage.

Colcannon

Colcannon Colcannon is a traditional Irish vegetable side dish made with mashed potatoes and shredded cabbage, flavored with leeks boiled in milk or cream. After it is all mashed together it gets baked again and served with melted butter that sits in a well in the center.

Because it has the cream and it gets baked after it is all mashed together, it get a sort of twice-baked potato texture and flavor that goes well with Irish Baked Salmon.

Though I seldom eat potatoes, I have made this easy recipe again and again to share with friends. The biggest part of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time for later reheating. It's a nice change from the ubiquitous garlic-mashed-potatoes and others of that ilk served at so many restaurants today.

Potato-Caraway Bread Redux

Potato-Caraway Bread Redux, photo by BBQ Mike ConrodHere's a hearty bread for deli sandwiches or stew bread bowls.

It's the basic recipe for Potato-Caraway Bread, with flax meal and rye flour added. This recipe also calls for baking the potatoes for mashing, rather than boiling them. 

Because this recipe makes a loaf with such a great crust, this redux version includes some tips for using it as bread bowls.

Kulebiaka

a small KulebiakaThis Russian fish pie is wonderful made with Atlantic salmon. It's a big recipe, and a festive one, so it's great to prepare a big one for a crowd or you can make four smaller ones for a more intimate dinner (as shown here). Much of it can easily be prepared ahead of time, leaving only the final assembly and baking to be done on the day of the great feast. 

This is a great crowd-pleaser recipe, because it's easy to make and it makes you look like a culinary genius! 

It's an easy matter of making the crust and then filling it with layers of rice, sauteed mushrooms, hard-cooked egg, and poached fish, all of which can be prepared ahead of time. When you take that into account, the time required to prepare this for a fancy dinner is no more than an hour if you have prepared all the components beforehand.

a kulebiaka, cut

This recipe looks like a big dinner, but it's not as heavy as it looks, so it works for summer as well as winter. Serve this with a dry New England hard cider, or a crisp rose wine (or chilled vodka, or beer, or whatever you please!).

 

Castagnaccio

CastagnaccioCastagnaccio is a traditional Tuscan unleavened bread for travelers and field-workers. It's heavy, flavorful, and nourishing without being too sweet.

Castagnaccio is made with fresh chestnut flour, olive oil, rosemary, and pignoli, and sometimes raisins. I get chestnut flour in Boston's North End at Polcari's Market or at Salumeria Italiana; I am told that it is also available at Whole Foods sometimes. 

Around the World in Worcester

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Worcester, MA
Best of Show: 
The Compare Market's selection of Caribbean foods
Weintraub's Deli, in Worcester

Richmond and I made a special expedition to Worcester to get Jamaican Ingredients for John's Jamaican Birthday Dinner. We ended up visiting 16 markets representing many nations in a single busy day!

We went to:

Barm Brack

Irish Barm Brack

Van Morrison includes this sweet tea bread among his reminiscences of youth in his song Sense of Wonder, and most Americans have no idea what he's talking about, or even the words he's using.

Barm Brack is an old Irish recipe typically served with tea in the afternoon. The name means "speckled bread" because it contains raisins or currants. It can be made as a yeast bread or as a soda bread. 

Barm Brack is also traditionally served at Halloween time with some standard trinkets baked into it; if you get one of the trinkets in your slice, then you know your fortune for the coming year. 

Grille 58

Grille 58 from the street - photo by Richmond Talbot

Grille 58 at 284 Monponsett Street in Halifax is a place I’d never have come to but for word of mouth. It’s set in a strip mall of the sort you’d pass without a sidewise glance if you weren't in the know. I had recommendations from Frank who works at the garage where I get my car fixed, and from Annette’s aunt Valerie, who knits sweaters for our grandchildren. The praise was so effusive Annette and I ventured into the countryside to see what the excitement was about.

Where some cafés have jukeboxes, Grille 58 provides a tableside television into which you’re invited to feed coins. I was disposed to make snide comments about the poor man’s dinner and a movie, forgetting that in the privacy of my home I've been known to sup before the flickering screen. I suppose the invention is useful for families in which the children haven’t learned restaurant manners and need an electronic drug to prevent them from running amok betwixt the tables. There were no children when I was there, and none of the TVs was on.

Eggs in Red Wine Sauce

Oeufs en Meurette

Ouefs en Meurette is a classic dish from Burgundy that features poached eggs in a richly-seasoned Meurette red wine sauce.

This dish has that great Burgundian combination of red wine, bacon, onions, and mushrooms, but it's not as heavy (or as time-consuming) as Beef Burgundy

It's a great brunch dish traditionally served over toasted rounds of crusty bread, but I like to serve it as a light supper dish in the wintertime, served over a bed of rice to get all of the delicious sauce.

John's Jamaican Birthday Dinner

Ever since my Island Foodie expedition to Jamaica, I have wanted to make a Jamaican feast. There's no time like the dead of winter to bring on that tropical dreaming, so I finally made it in January 2015. We had a lot of fun.

Ackees and Saltfish

We had:

All the recipes except for the Black Cake came from The Real Taste of Jamaica by Enid Donaldson.

The ingredients were acquired by Richmond and me on our special one-day Around the World in Worcester expedition.

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