October 31, 2011

Pinto Beans, Chicos and Roasted Chiles

Fall in New Mexico offers a delicious harvest. In this arid climate, local people have been growing beans and corn for centuries. The abundant desert sun also allows chile peppers, sweet yellow, mild green, and spicy red, to grow bountifully. Every Saturday, vendors from the nineteen Northern New Mexican Pueblos come the the Santa Fe Farmers Market to sell their produce. 

I had the opportunity to talk with a farmer who had just threshed his crop of pinto beans, sweet corn, and chiles. As I sifted my fingers through the bushel basket of beans, he shared his wisdom about ways to cook the pintos so that they grow soft and digestible while maintaining their shape. 

Here is my interpretation of his recipe for cooked pinto beans:
Chiles with chicos (left)
and pintos (right)
In a stockpot, place 1 cup of beans in 5 cups of boiling water; boil for 2–3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. The next day, most of the indigestible sugars will have dissolved into the soaking water. Drain, and then rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking. Cook fresh beans for 30 minutes or dry beans for 50 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

"We cook these beans with chicos", he told me, while opening a bag of smoked sweet corn for me to smell. The aroma, earthy and rich, tantalized my senses. I listened to his stories about the importance of preserving corn so that it lasts for the whole winter. First he described making chicos, sweet corn kernels smoked in their husks and dried in the sun. 

Then, he detailed the way to make posole, corn soaked in lime water and ash. This process, known as nixtamalization, is essential for producing whole grain dishes such as posole and hominy as well as masa harina, the corn flour from which tortillas and tamales are made.
Soaking the corn keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts B vitamins into a form that the body can easily absorb. It also makes amino acids and calcium more readily available.

Both forms of alchemy allow the corn to last for many months while creating a flavorful and digestible variation on this starchy vegetable.

Even though you may not be able to find chicos outside of New Mexico, posole is more readily available. When you have a winter day to spend at home, try this recipe for Posole Stew. It will take about 6 hours to cook and the final flavor is well worth the wait.

1 pound prepared posole corn, well-rinsed         
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups water
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 cups water, approximately
3-6 dried red chile pods, rinsed and crumbled
2 tablespoons salt                     

Place posole and 10 cups water in large stewing pot. Bring mixture to a boil at high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer posole for 5 hours. Add the remaining ngredients to posole and simmer for 1 hour. 

Whether cooking beans with chicos or posole, many New Mexicans add freshly roasted green and red chiles. Their spicy sweetness lends even more depth to these traditional foods. 

Beyond being staple foods of the pueblos in Northern New Mexico, beans and corn are both food and seed. Every time we save a kernel of corn or a bean, we create the possibility for another crop to grow next year. Beyond their capacity to nourish us with a balance of protein and carbohydrates, these delicious seeds also feed the soil with their bio-available abundance of nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium.

No wonder each pueblo offers gratitude for beans and corn in its traditional dances and speaks of their meaning in their creation stories. Make time to cook and savor the simple richness of these foods for yourself.
Roasted Chiles

Roasting Chiles

October 12, 2011

Harvest Moon Recipes

This full moon also known as harvest moon, the hunters' moon, blood moon, and moon of first frost. The last squashes and hardy greens are coming from the garden as crimson and gold leaves cover the beds, mulching the soil as they decay.Take time to cook simple, warm, and nourishing soups and whole grains. Choose as few ingredients as possible. Let them speak for themselves as you savor their simplicity with each bite.  

Pumpkin Paprika Soup
1 two-pound cooking pumpkin or Kabocha squash to yield 3 cups roasted pumpkin OR two cans of pumpkin purée
4 Tablespoons coconut oil OR butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
¼ cup cream OR ½ can coconut milk

To make pumpkin purée, cut a Kabocha squash or pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds* (an ice cream scoop works well), and place face down on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees until soft, about 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then scoop out the flesh.
Freeze whatever you don't use for future use.

*You can save the seeds, rinse them, coat them in salt, olive oil, cumin and coriander and toast them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes. They are a delicious snack or a lovely soup garnish.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables for the soup.
When pumpkin/squash is ready, melt butter or coconut oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add all spices and stir briefly.
Add pumpkin purée. Add broth and water. 

Mix well with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender or a food processor. Blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. 
If you have an immersion blender, you can blend directly into the soup pot.

With soup on low heat, slowly add the cream or coconut milk, stirring to incorporate. Add salt to taste. 

Serve with biscuits or cornbread. 

Pumpkin: high in Vitamin A and fiber, this sweet, satisfying winter vegetable has a high carotenoid content, which lends an orange color and provides zinc to strengthen immunity and lutein to stave off free radicals that contribute to macular degeneration.

Kasha Biscuits
¾ cup cooked kasha (buckwheat groats)

¼ cup coconut oil OR butter
¼ cup ground flax seeds

¼ cup ground sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda, salt

Place ½ cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 1 ½ cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until kasha begins to thicken.

Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grind flax seeds then sunflower seeds in a spice/espresso bean grinder until they reach a flour-like consistency.

Place in a mixing bowl and add the coconut oil OR butter, cut into chunks.

Add spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. Incorporate the cooled kasha and then the lemon juice.

Drop mix in heaping spoonfuls on a greased glad baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges have turned dark brown.

Kasha: also known as roasted buckwheat groats, this gluten-free whole grain contains all essential amino acids (eight proteins that the body cannot manufacture), provides a complete protein source, and soothes the nervous system.

Millet Cauliflower Casserole
Pour 1 cup millet into a cooking pot with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and add 1 teaspoon each: turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt. 

Cook with the lid askew, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop one large yellow onion into crescents.

Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil, heat the oil, and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and saute for 10 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

Rinse and chop 1 head cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. 

Push onions to the edges of the skillet and add cauliflower.

Splash 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or white wine over the cauliflower, cover, and sauté for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and add a splash of water if vegetables are sticking to the skillet.

Once cauliflower is browned, incorporate with onions, turn off the burner and set aside.

Tend to your millet. Stir it as though you were cooking oatmeal. Add 3 Tablespoons olive oil.

Cook on low heat and stir occasionally until millet reaches thick consistency. Cook it long enough so that the grains break down but the mixture maintains a batter-like consistency. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Grease a 9x9 square glass baking dish. Assemble the casserole by starting and ending with a layer of millet. Alternate layers of millet and vegetables.

Bake for 20 minutes, until top has started to brown. Enjoy with grilled tempeh, chicken, or white beans and a bowl of soup.

Millet: gluten-free whole grain, rich in B vitamins and iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus; ideal for blood glucose control and weight management.

October 2, 2011

Warming Fall Foods

Celebrate the creative order of autumn. This season offers an opportunity to simplify our busy lives, strengthen our bodies with warming foods, and tap into the creative flow that arises from grounding and centering ourselves.

Try to take three deep breaths, in and out, before you eat a meal. Let go. Embrace the present moment. I try to remind myself that 'I am here, nourishing my whole being'.

Fall foods are sweet, earthy, and cooked longer. Focus on soups, roasted root vegetables, rice, and your favorite fats such as butter, olive oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil.

Try these recipes to strengthen your body and warm your spirit. Both recipes include immune boosting herbs.

Spiced Tea - based on a chai recipe
Tea Spices
Spice measurements can be approximated.
1/2 gallon water
12 whole cloves
20 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks
6 inches fresh ginger root, chopped
pinch salt
Astragalus root slices

2 Tablespoons astragalus root 
4 reishi mushroom slices

Boil spices in water for 10-15 minutes. You can save some of this tea in the freezer if you like.

If you are ready to serve it, add 1/3 cup milk (cow, almond, or rice) and raw honey to taste. For a caffeinated version, add 2-3 Tablespoons black tea or 4 tea bags (try English Breakfast). Enjoy!

Chicken Stock

Place leftover bones and skin from a chicken into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. 

Coarsely chop and add vegetables: 2-3 stalks celery, 1-2 onions, 2-3 carrots. Add 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

You can also add 2 inches fresh ginger root to make a warming, spicy stock.

Reishi mushrooms
Feel free to add 2 Tablespoons each astragalus root and reishi mushroom slices to enhance the immune boosting properties of the stock.

Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours or so. 

Remove the bones and strain the stock.

Save the vegetables, puree them in a blender with olive oil and artichoke hearts, and eat as a spread on bread.

You can store the stock in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Use the stock to cook rice, kale, or make soup.

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