I was going to offer up more pictures of the new kitchen and also the garden, but weather, work, and a whole lot of chaos relating to our upstairs remodeling project got in the way, so that will have to wait. In the meantime, in order not to fall back on my blog-procrastinating ways, I’ll dish a little bit about the house and share the recipe for the black bean soup I also made in anticipation of the hurricane.
When we went looking for a house, there were many criteria on our very long list of needs, but of paramount importance were a big yard for the Monster, who clearly missed the grassy kingdom she ruled in Seattle, and of course a well-appointed kitchen, or at least a kitchen space large enough to be made well-appointed with a reasonable amount of renovating. After much searching and a fair amount of nail biting, we landed Chez Disdain, which, while it has its downsides like any old house, has both yard and kitchen in spades.
The plot is mind-bogglingly large for being still within city limits, and since it has both expanses of lawn and trees and shrubs around the fence line, it’s like her very own dog park (with the corresponding downside for His Lordship of that much more ground to cover with his push mower). There is also plenty of room for gardening in containers on the patio and even in numerous sunny spots on the ground, so my dad, who came with my mother to help with the move and settling in, planted a stunning variety of things that are now, despite the ridiculous weather, yielding up some great dividends. We have three varieties of tomatoes currently producing enough for a little bit of salad or salsa every week or so, both bell and long twisty peppers turning a nice deep red, a ton of different herbs I’ve been using pretty much daily, and in about a month we’re going to have as much winter squash as anyone can handle, by the looks of the rapidly-swelling vines. Our two failures so far were the watermelons, which just got into the ground too late and won’t have time to turn those flowers into fruit before summer truly ends, and a summer squash that didn’t survive the tipping over of its pot while we were moving it.
The kitchen, as I hinted in the previous post, is the best I’ve ever had by a mile. Since it’s the one place the prior owner actually seems to have put a large investment into (don’t get me started about where she should have and didn’t), it reads like the househunter’s impossible wishlist. It’s gigantic, has acres of counters even before you factor in the big island/breakfast bar, contains so much cabinetry that even I haven’t been able to fill it all yet, and let’s not forget the aforementioned six-burner Viking range. For the first time ever, I’m able to have pretty much every appliance out and ready for use at all times, from the Kitchenaid to the rice cooker, and I could cook about six different things at once if I thought I could keep it all under control.
The only things that I don’t so much love are the lack of plugs in the island, the slightly smaller than ideal sink, the lack of window in the oven, and most irritatingly, the fridge. It’s one of the French door side-by side models with built-in ice and water dispenser, so I’m sure it was pricey, but the configuration makes no sense at all for anyone who actually wants to cook. The refrigerator side is much too narrow, unable to hold a cookie sheet or an average sized turkey for the holidays, and a frosted cake would require major reorganizing of the bazillion jars of jam, pickles, condiments, etc. that we can’t live without. The capacity is so low that we have to think carefully about what we buy on the weekend shopping trips, and it would probably be better if I adopted the European style of buying produce a couple of times a week, because the vegetable bins aren’t very big either. We’ll eventually replace it with something better but right now there are just too many things ahead in the queue of our thrilling adventure in home ownership, starting with every single bathroom.
But since this is a food and snark blog rather than a This-Old-House-cum-Money-Pit blog, and I promised a certain person the recipe for black bean soup, let’s get back to what you can do when facing a preposterous weather event. This soup is adapted from a recipe from Millennium, the schmancy San Francisco vegan restaurant, which His Lordship took me to one birthday when we lived on the other coast. I find the cookbook overly fussy in some ways, but if you cut out the garnish components and pare the recipes down to the essential parts, many of them can be made deliciously reasonable for everyday use. Apart from the extra time of cooking the beans from scratch, this soup is easy and yummy and comforting, whether you’re staring down a hurricane or just a drippy early-fall day.
What makes it “Brazilian” is the combination of orange and coffee added to the basic aromatic vegetables and generally Latin spicing of cumin and chile. You might think that adding orange juice would make it weirdly sweet, and putting ground coffee straight into soup would leave it gritty, but both just dissolve completely into the broth and create a lovely complex, smooth base in which the beans can shine. While I adore black beans in pretty much any form, this is one of my absolute favorite applications for them. It’s a meal in itself, especially rounded out with some fried plaintains, but it would also be a great first course for a pan-American feast.
Brazilian Black Bean Soup
(Adapted from Erick Tucker & John Westerdahl, The Millennium Cookbook)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small serrano chiles, minced
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground chipotle
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon finely ground coffee
1 pound black beans, cooked, with their cooking liquid (about 6 cups beans and liquid)
1 cup orange juice
3 cups vegetable broth
Salt or soy sauce to taste
Sour cream or creme fraiche and lime wedges for serving
In a large, heavy pot, saute the vegetables in the olive oil over medium heat until beginning to turn soft and translucent. Add the spices and coffee and cook a minute longer, stirring constantly.
Add the beans with their liquid, juice and enough broth to cover and season with several pinches of salt or a few shots of soy sauce. Bring to a boil, lower heat enough to maintain a strong simmer, and cook uncovered 24-30 minutes, until the broth has thickened a bit and all the flavors have blended well. Taste and add more salt or soy as needed.
Serve with a spoonful of sour cream on top and lime wedges on the side.
The original recipe cooked the beans in the soup straight from a pre-soaked condition, which made the total cooking time 1 ½-2 hours. I prefer to cook the beans separately the night before in the slow cooker, so I can have the option of making half the recipe and freezing the rest of the beans for later. If you want to cook the beans in the soup, omit the salt until the last minute and keep the soup covered while it cooks.
If you get sick of the leftovers, the soup freezes very well, but it can also be transmogrified into really easy and tasty burgers. Pulse the soup with an equal amount of cooked rice, some additional cumin, salt and pepper in a food processor just until it starts to form a chunky paste. Turn out into a bowl and stir in enough fresh breadcrumbs or panko to create a moldable mixture. Shape golfball sized amounts into patties and pan fry in a bit of olive or canola oil until crisp on both sides. I served it with a quick ranch-type sauce of mayonnaise, creme fraiche, a little buttermilk to thin it, and a lot of freshly cracked pepper, plus some cherry tomato salad. It’d do just as well on a toasted bun with the usual fixings.