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Slow Ranch–Take it Easy (Beans!) November 12, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker,spice blends,thrift,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 2:53 pm
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Frijoles!

We love beans.  Inexpensive, nutritious and filling, legumes also take top honors for tastiness. Most every culture boasts a beloved bean dish or two.  And many plant-centric cuisines offer multitudinous manifestations of leguminous medleys, from India’s diverse dals and China’s breadth of ingeniously transformed pulse products, to the frijoles (of Three Sisters agricultural and numismatic fame) of the original Americans.

While I certainly appreciate an elaborate cassoulet or feijoada, and have amused my family’s palates with various homemade incarnations of Indian treats such as dosas, idlis, badas and badis, I usually keep my bean cookery fairly simple, as in straightforward brews of Texas field peas (see “Hoppin’ Jean“), Indian dal purees (I particularly enjoy mung dal), or often just adding a can of cooked garbanzos, kidney beans, or white beans to sautés and stews.  Here’s an easy seasonal bean dish to put your slow cooker to good use.

SLOW COOKER RANCHY BEANS makes a more than a half-gallon

  • 2 ½ cups organic dried pinto beans, picked through for pebbles.  I buy these in bulk at either Central Market or Whole Foods.
  • 3 Tablespoon tasty fat.  Bacon grease is perfect, of course, but any good animal fat will work, as will olive oil for a vegetarian version.
  • 1 large or 2 small or 1 ½ medium (you get the idea) local and/or organic onions, chopped.
  • 1 good-sized local bell pepper, whatever color’s at hand, chopped.  I just bought some shiny organic red/green marbled beauties from Milagro Farm at the Austin Farmers Market.  Or use an equivalent amount of other local sweet peppers.
  • 1 spicy chile, such as a jalapeno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed if kids will be partaking.  Use more chiles and leave the innards in for the NC-17 crowd.
  • 1 bay leaf—try growing your own.  The plant will survive cozily in a pot if necessary.  Ours has thrived organically outdoors for years.
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic, minced.  I prefer more but garlic tolerance is very personal.  When I can’t find local (it’s mostly, if not all, gone for now), I purchase domestic organic.
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teapoons good quality chili powder.  I mix my own.  See recipe.
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
  • 1 28-ounce can organic crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted.  You can briefly whirl canned diced or whole tomatoes in your food processor for an interchangeable texture.
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon cane syrup, sorghum syrup or molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.  WF sells it in bulk.

Soak the beans overnight (at least 8 hours) in cold water.  Drain and rinse them.  If you can’t cook them right away, they’ll keep, covered, in the fridge for up to four days.  Don’t oversoak them (24 hours or more), however.  The skins will toughen and the insides will fall apart.

Heat your fat in a Dutch oven or other very large (6-quart is good), wide pot.  Saute the onions and peppers with the bay leaf until softened.  Add the drained beans and continue to saute until your ingredients pick up some brown spots.  Stir in the garlic and let the fragrance bloom.  Add your dried seasonings and stir a bit.  Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat off while you get your slow cooker ready.

Plug in a large (6-quart) slow cooker and set it to HIGH heat.  Carefully pour your bean mixture into the crock and add enough water to cover the beans by about one inch.  Give it stir, put a lid on it and cook it all day.  If you’re passing throught the kitchen at about half-time, go ahead and stir it again, quickly replacing the lid.

These beans can take up to 9 hours to cook through, as the acidity of the tomatoes slows softening.  Later in the cooking, if the beans appear threateningly dry, add a little more water (hot water, please!).

When your beans are tender and cooked, correct the salt if needed.  Serve with fresh-cracked black pepper and spicy chiles.  Roll ’em up in a corn tortilla or swipe at ’em with a homemade roll.

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that’s a crock…of potatoes July 13, 2009

Filed under: potatoes,slow cooker,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:35 pm
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Fresh and flavorful local potatoes are all over our markets lately.  If you’ve yet to taste a spud not long out of the ground, you’re in for a savory treat.  Our area farmers are offering mostly reds and yellows.  Get yourself some smallish taters, two inches or so across, and roast ’em outside in your slow cooker.

SLOW COOKER-ROASTED POTATOES around our house this barely serves 3

  • 1 1/2 pounds small (about 2 inches across) red or yellow potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil,  preferably organic, plus just a little more
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt–I like Diamond brand
  • up to a whole head of garlic cloves, peeled (use at least 1/2 dozen)
  • 3 good-sized (about 6″–that’s a good size) sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 good-sized sprig of fresh thyme

Wash and dry your potatoes.  Put them in the crock, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt.  Mix them up.  Rub your garlic cloves with olive oil and nestle them amongst the potatoes.  Some of the garlic might sneak down to the bottom but try not to let the cloves touch the crock.  Rub your herb sprigs with olive oil and lay them on top of the potatoes and garlic.  Roast on high for about 3 hours.  The potatoes are done when you can poke right through them with a pointy implement.  If they roast a little longer you’ll get crispier skins.

 

slow artichokes part 2 May 12, 2009

What do you do with those giant artichokes on sale at Newflower Market (2 for $4, only one more day!)?  Yes, you can cook them in the slow cooker but you gotta cut them in half.  Otherwise you’ll be cooking them longer than you can stand it.  I use a large (6 quart) oval cooker.  Three of these big un’s just fit.

First load up your cooker with:

  • ½ cup white vinegar—Whole Foods (WF) 365 organic is the best buy I’ve found
  • about 6 cups of water
  • some celery leaves if you’ve got ‘em—Finca Pura Vida at Sunset Valley Farmers Market (SVFM) grows gorgeous celery leaves that keep well in the fridge, wrapped in a tea towel and cradled in a plastic bag.  OR a stingy to generous pinch of celery seeds, to your taste.
  • a strip or two of lemon peel—Central Market usually has the best price on organic lemons, not that they’re a bargain, but right now Sun Harvest has them on sale at $2.97 for a 3# bag.  OR if, like me, you bought a likely lifetime supply of lemon oil some years back, just add 12 drops
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 peppercorns
  • as many cloves of fresh garlic as you care for—Hairston Creek Farm at SVFM has it right now. peel them if you can, but don’t frustrate yourself.  Very fresh garlic is hard to peel.
  • About a tablespoon of kosher salt (I prefer Diamond Crystal) or half that amount of table salt (I go for RealSalt and WF sells it in bulk for the best price.

NOW, trim up and rinse your artichokes.  Check http://www.saveur.com/article/Mise%20en%20Place/Trimming-Tips for guidance.  Next, stand your globe stem end up and slice it into two equal halves.  Just slice right down with a good sharp chef’s knife.  It’s easier than it looks.  If the baby’s sleeping go ahead and scoop out the choke.  Otherwise just remove that part at eatin’ time.  Cram the artichokes into your crock stem ends up.  Here’s the fun part for Central Texans:

Put the slow cooker outside!

The slow cooker doesn’t warm up the house as much as the pressure cooker (my usual artichoke cooking appliance) or the oven, but why even let that heat in?  Turn it on to High and check your chokes in about 8 hours.  They’re done when you can easily pull out a leaf, no resistance.  Eat ‘em hot or cold and don’t forget to eat the garlic.  We don’t fuss ‘em up further with sauces ‘cause they’re already seasoned.  And portable!