Food Story + Recipe

I love food not just because it’s delicious, or nutritious, but because if you pay attention it tells a story. (Even this hard-boiled egg and avocado toast sitting next to me now…I’d love to learn the history of the hard-boiled egg…but that’s for another time.)

Think for a second about your last family event, was food involved? Or perhaps the last time you had a long chat with a close friend–food? At least for me, when I think back to important times in my life, there are narratives and memories connected to the food that I was eating. Like the time of year (butternut squash in fall), or type of occasion (pies at my wedding, or lox after my grandma’s funeral).

These personal memories fascinate me; but so too does the intersection of oral histories and food. This has actually led me to learn about a brilliant field of study, ethnobotany (the study of how people use plants). I’ve been enamored with this field for quite some time now (since college in 2000 to be exact). When I’m trying out new foods I try to think about the historical stories that may be intertwined with my dish. My newest discovery: Yellow Eye Beans.

Now, I haven’t found too many stories to go along with this heirloom variety from Northern New England, mostly Maine. But I have learned that Yellow Eye Beans were first used by American Indians in the region to make a traditional bean and corn soup, which eventually morphed into succotash (also had at my wedding, it all circles back). Some culinary historians also suggest the bean could’ve been used in the original Boston Baked Bean recipe. Something else I’ve learned…these beans are delicious! Creamy, but not mushy. Rich and savory, but not over-overpoweringly so.

I received these beans in a gift box (you know who you are, and thank you!) and decided to do something rash…follow a recipe! Now I love collecting cookbooks and reading recipes. I have an entire color-coded shelf of cookbooks. Organizing them by color: got it covered; but following recipes precisely: let’s just say it’s not my forte. I do look at the books often. I generally garner inspiration from them and then go about my improvising (note: baking is a different story all together, because improvised baking soda to baking powder ratios never turns out well).

This time was going to be different (or so I hoped). I did a little web search and found this recipe over at the NY Times. I got my ingredients ready and got excited to cook up a stew. I tried, I did…but ultimately I ended up with less time to soak the beans, I eliminated the first few steps, and added a few spices…but it was close, and it was yummy!

Here is the recipe from the NY Times:

3 cups yellow eye beans, soaked 4 to 6 hours

1 carrot, peeled

2 ribs celery, halved

1 onion, quartered

1 head garlic, halved across the equator

Stems from 1 bunch Italian parsley, tied in a cheesecloth sachet

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

5 ribs celery, diced

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, diced

1 head garlic, cloves peeled and finely grated

1 1/2 teaspoons red chili flakes, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Rustic bread, sliced

1 clove garlic, halved.

1. Prepare the beans: Drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Add 3 quarts cold water, the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley stem sachet. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans are soft and creamy, but not falling apart. (Start checking after 25 minutes; the fresher the beans, the shorter the cooking time.) Add the salt, pepper and olive oil. Discard the sachet and vegetables. Let the beans cool in the liquid.

2. Prepare the soup: Pour the olive oil into a large pot set over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, chili and rosemary. Cook until the rawness of the vegetables is just gone, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes more. Add the beans and their cooking liquid, bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, add the parsley. Toast the bread slices. While still hot, rub them with the garlic halves, then tear into large pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with a few toasts, then drizzle with olive oil. Serves 6 to 8.

My recipe was slightly different. I didn’t use the spice sachet, but instead added celery greens. Instead of soaking the beans, I boiled water, poured it over and let them sit for about an hour before beginning step 1. I added cumin, cinnamon and paprika to the soup. And I made rosemary, garlic toasts to go with it. See: small modifications. I’d say that I basically followed this one! Check out my photos below and click here to buy Yellow Eye Beans.

Beans from Rancho Gordo

Dry Yellow Eye Beans

Chopping up the leeks.

Sautéing on the stove.

Making the garlic toasts–Yes, that’s a hunk of butter!

The finished version. Warm, super-satisfying and healthy!

Do you follow recipes?

xoxo,

Jessica

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Hmmm…What’s in the fridge?

This one’s for the fellas, although I must admit, anyone could make this at home. On my drive home from work I pondered what I would make for dinner, knowing that I would be eating alone. “We don’t have anything!” chimed the voice in my head. So on a whim I threw this together.

You really don’t need to have a plan, mine just sort of evolved as I started rummaging through the fridge finding things that looked tasty. Here’s what I found.

Ingredients: Tomato, cheddar cheese, salami, basil, egg, frozen corn, frozen butternut squash and 2 frozen bread rolls.

Step 1: Defrost bread rolls in toaster oven

Step 2: Boil water for poached eggs (we received 2 poach pods from our registry from Crate & Barrel –I highly recommend these!)

Step 3: Place frozen corn and squash in a bowl and mix in some paprika. Place in microwave for 3 minutes, stirring half way.

Step 4: Check on bread. Bread should be crusty but not frozen. Cut in half and add a thinly cut slice of cheese to each half.

Step 5: Slice tomato; cut salami and basil into pieces.

Step 6: Assemble. Once the poached eggs are ready (after water boils, eggs are placed in pods for 4 mins). A) Scoop corn and squash mix onto plate; B) Place halved rolls with cheese on or next to corn and squash mix; C) Add tomato to top of melted cheese; D) Add basil and salami; C) Add poached eggs.

End result should look something like this. Upon tasting the creation I would have to say that the tomato, basil, salami, cheese, corn and squash mix is an explosive mix of deliciousness combining flavors that are sweet, salty, smoky and earthy. I would even go so far to say that the egg was just gratuitous and excessive, but alas, it was indulgent, and I suppose that was the point, considering it was a mad dash into the fridge for whatever may lie inside.

I hope your next creation is as creative and tasty…remember, you don’t need to have a plan as long as it tastes good.

Enjoy!!

– Jesse

Fiddling and Fiddleheads

Ok, I’m going to just say it…the title of this post is misleading. Jesse is a fiddler–as in he plays the violin, sometimes in a bluegrass-esque manner. This post isn’t about violin playing, but it is about ukulele playing, and fiddlehead ferns!

Jesse’s new band, “A Few Good Ukes,” played a show this weekend at Nashoba Valley Winery about 45 minutes west of Boston (who knew that there were vineyards in MA).  I went, because I’m a good groupie, and hey, what’s not to love about sitting in the sun, drinking home-grown cider and listening to great music. I may have taken about 500 photos, the farm was so picturesque with apple trees blossoming, the sun shining bright and kids everywhere! I’ll spare you all but a few of them below.

“A Few Good Ukes” singing on the left, and then all of the kids at the winery (because I guess kids like wineries too) joining in for You Are My Sunshine.  At one point each band member had a kid on their lap helping them play the uke! It was the cutest!

The apple orchard in bloom.

A silly series of J&J photos.

And ferns–I just can’t resist…they’re my favorite plant.  I think it’s the symmetry, the color, the simplicity. They’re just so photogenic, don’t you think?

Have you ever eaten fiddleheads? Oddly I haven’t. But it’s the season here in New England and I want to saute them up with butter and garlic! Here are some recipes from Saveur.

And here’s what Maine Cooperative Extension has to say about the edible fiddlehead:

Fiddleheads, an early spring delicacy throughout their range, are the young coiled fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Nearly all ferns have fiddleheads, but those of the ostrich fern are unlike any other. Ostrich fern fiddleheads, which are about an inch in diameter, can be identified by the brown papery scale-like covering on the uncoiled fern, as well as the smooth fern stem, and the deep ”U”-shaped groove on the inside of the fern stem. Look for ostrich ferns emerging in clusters of about three to twelve fiddleheads each on the banks of rivers, streams, and brooks in late April, May, and early June. Make sure that you have landowner permission before harvesting fiddleheads.

I like that last sentence–no fiddlehead stealing! Promise?

xoxo,

Jess