Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mei's Red Beans with Sausage and Rice

Okay, so this isn't *real* red beans and rice, but I thought it'd be a good idea to share this recipe...


I like to use beans from scratch because I'm watching my sodium intake and I'm a little wary of the sodium levels posted on most canned beans.

For this you need 12 to 16 oz. of dried red kidney beans which should be soaked overnight in 6 cups of water. I came up with the guesstimate because I started with an entire package of dried beans (16 oz.) but took out so much gunk and bad beans from the pot that I ended up with 3/4 of the package as my final product, so you may need to be very vigilant about taking out the bad beans. They will be easy to spot because 1) they will float to the top immediately and 2) their skins will start breaking as soon as you add the water. Also don't forget to take out any stones or impurities that may come with your bag of beans.

If you have no dried kidney beans, use any kind of dried bean you may have on hand - I think this would work with black beans or garbanzos.

Soak them overnight without any salt or baking soda. If you want, go ahead and soak the whole deal in the fridge as long as possible. When you're ready to use them, don't drain them yet - let them sit for a while.


In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat about 2 tsps. of canola oil and saute about 10 oz. worth of Portuguese (linguica) sausages - in Hawaii that's about two 5 oz. packages of the skinny ones - sliced to pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Saute the sausages until they are golden brown and have rendered up to 2 tbsp. worth of fat. Set the sausage aside and drain, but leave the remaining sausage fat in the pan.

To the sausage fat left inside the pan, add the following vegetables:

1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 stalks of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 green bell pepper, diced and seeded (or use a whole fresh poblano if you want)

Saute everything until vegetables are tender: you will know it when the onions and the celery become translucent.

As soon as the vegetables are ready, add the UNDRAINED beans to the pot with about a cup or two of the soaking water. Bring the whole pot to boiling, then cover and reduce heat to as low as possible in order for the beans to cook thoroughly, about 30 to 45 minutes. You want the beans to be soft enough to cut in half with a spoon, but not too soft that they're practically mushy.

Once the beans are cooked the way you want them to be, add the sausage that you have set aside back to the pan. To this you also add 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes and let simmer for another 10 minutes - this way the acids in the tomatoes don't slow down the cooking process from the beans. The sauce will eventually thicken up on its own once the tomatoes break down and the beans cook at their own pace.

Serve with hot cooked rice.

This recipe makes about 4 to 6 generous servings, or about 2 to 3 days' worth of lunch and dinner for a hungry graduate student.


Not spicy enough? Assuming that you've used mild ingredients in the first place (no poblanos or "hot" Portuguese sausage), serve the recipe with extra hot sauce on the side.

Beans not cooked all the way through? If you've already added the tomatoes and the beans are still too hard, turn off the stove first. Then put the sauce in a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 2 days; there's something about the freezing process that breaks down the beans and turns them into mush. When it's time to reheat, you can defrost the sauce in the microwave and cook from there, or you can do as I do and chuck the whole frozen chunk of sauce into the pot with exactly 1 cup of water. Cover and leave on low heat for at least 1 hour or until completely defrosted.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Guava Jam and Other Delights

This week I'm on a fruit spread-and-cheese kick.

It started with me inheriting a pack of Wasa Multigrain Crispbread from my neighbor, which we both agreed was basically nothing more than edible - albeit good for you - cardboard. So I thought I should use what's left of my Fig and Orange Spread by eating it with the crackers.

Seriously, guys, the Fig and Orange Spread is the bomb - alone with the crispbread, the soft-and-crispy textures are just out of this world, and the flavor of the spread is so indescribably rich that it goes beyond sweet. It's a pity that this stuff is so darned expensive in the store... it's the kind of spread that just elevates practically anything and everything.

The only problem I have, however, is pairing the fig spread with cheese - which is my own problem, because I end up purchasing the Kraft Extra Sharp Cheddar when I should be springing for aged gouda or goat cheese. Yeah, I know, I ought to live a little (remember, I used to be the person who lived on pate and Brie as a college freshman) but my priorities just aren't the same this time around. Anyhow, every time I pair the fig spread with the cheddar it's the opposite of a taste sensation - the tartness of the cheese always competes with the bittersweetness of the figs - so it was more of a letdown when I put them both on the crispbread.

Now, to compensate for my loss of the fig spread (and in keeping with the broke student theme) I bought a jar of Hawaiian Sun Guava Jam, which was on sale at Foodland. (Technically, it's the Hawaiian Sun Lite Guava Jam, with reduced sugar, but I digress.) So for dinner I paired the guava jam with the cheddar, sliced extra thin with a tiny sharp knife, on top of the multigrain bread.

Again, the bread did nothing for the flavor, although the texture remained pretty crisp. The sharpness of the cheese was still pretty tart. And yet... the contrast of the creamy cheese and the stiff cracker ended up putting the focus back on the guava jam, which turned out to be especially decadent. As much as I used to hate anything related to spreadable guava (it used to get under my skin when Lady's Choice in the Philippines had peanut butter with guava jelly stripes), this combination of guava jam and cheese was pretty unbelievable. I understand that the combination isn't exactly original, but... still, it was so decadent that I almost passed up on dessert.

(Speaking of dessert: Dried apricots + Chips Ahoy = yum. No, I am serious. If you'd told me this combination worked wonders ten years ago, I would've thought you were way, way too high.)

For sure I'm going to have this combo again for breakfast tomorrow - maybe skip the cheese and go with the guava jam alone first - and if I ever run out of the crispbread I'm going to see if I could invest in a better-quality loaf of whole grain bread, or at least a good sourdough. But it's making me think about other combinations, too. (Guava jam and... Brie? Edam? Manchego? Feta? Pepper Jack? PARMIGIANO REGGIANO!?) At any rate it shouldn't hurt to be this adventurous, right?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Moment of Pure, Unadulterated Cheese

In honor of my 30th birthday tomorrow, I thought I'd just share with you this video, which has been making me very, very happy lately...

Yes, people, it's a commercial for cheese. And not just cheese, but PARMIGIANO REGGIANO! Heck, if I was a vegetable, I wouldn't be dancing for the stuff in the green canister myself.

Speaking of cheese... I should post my recipe for Skillet Tomato-Cheese Pasta on this site soon. It's gonna be a doozy, I tell you!