I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”]

[Oh, and before I continue:  notice the photo?  Notice anything different?  Um, like, actual detail on the food?  Well, this here is my very first shot with my new, stunningly beautiful, too-complex-for-my-current-level-of-knowledge, can’t-believe-how-heavy-this-thing-is, smashing and awesome and really, you shouldn’t have but I LOVE IT camera!  It was my birthday gift from The HH last week, and  I am thrilled to bits with it! (I can’t wait to actually learn how to use it.) 😉  For now, I’m still learning, so please excuse the awkward and unretouched photos that may appear here for a while. . . but wow, just look at those beans!!]

My friend The Architect married his highschool sweetheart this past weekend. Well, not literally.  You see, they didn’t actually know each other in high school. However, she teaches high school, and she’s also his sweetheart; so, close enough.  As both of them are extremely involved in environmental issues and preserving the local habitat, the wedding was an elegant event in a bucolic setting just north of where we live.  And, true to form, the ceremony was outdoors, amid the towering maples and the burbling streams and the chattering squirrels.  Oh, and the pelting rain and the occasional snowflake and the sodden leaves being torn from the trees and whipping across our faces path.  Because, you see, it was late October.  In CANADA.  (Let’s just say, I wore earmuffs to the ceremony).*

Still, it was a joyful, enjoyable affair and the HH and I ate, drank, and danced like it was 1999.  After so much weekend revelry, I decided I wanted something simple for dinner yesterday.  

Now, it’s possible I’ve mentioned before that I am basically a lazy cook.  Extremely lazy.  And, as I (now) do with chickpeas for the occasional mock tuna salad, I also tend to keep cans of baked beans on hand for those occasional evenings when I crave their sweet, soft, quick and filling nourishment. 

I didn’t even realize there existed specifically vegan baked beans until I was an undergrad in university, when I first lived (and cooked) on my own. Because my mother was an unacknowledged vegetarian herself, the only kind of baked beans she ever used were the “in tomato sauce” flavor (naturally vegan). In university, however, my room mate was the grocery shopper.  One week, I requested canned baked beans, and she brought home the bacon beans.  I opened the can in anticipation of my usual leguminous fulfillment.  What I encountered, instead, was a single cube of pasty, greyish-white, gelatinous pork fat.  At first, I couldn’t imagine what it was, but then I read the label and. . . wow, you wouldn’t believe how those saucy beans stick to the inside of the garbage can.

I love to eat baked beans just as they are, with a plump spelt bagel torn into pieces that I use to sop up the sauce.  The Nurse doctors hers up with kethcup, mustard, maple syrup, corn kernels (!) and hot dogs (blech); the CFO makes hers from scratch (also vegan, but that’s just a coincidence).  Lately, I’ve been trying to eat greens every day, so I thought about combining the beans with something dark and leafy.  As it happened, my mind was already on steamed greens since I read about kale boiled in stock on Orangette (but 30 minutes?  Molly, is that really necessary?) and Sally’s latest post on Beans and Greens.  I figured, why not use up some chard I had in the house?  Molly served her kale with eggs; and don’t those beans have a naturally ovoid shape?  It was meant to be(an).

You won’t believe how easy this dish is.  I loved the textural contrast of the beans’ exterior firmness and slightly creamy interior, set against the soft yet springy chard; the sweet-smoky bean sauce and the astringent bitterness of the greens, in every bite.  Of course, you could also simply toss the two ingredients together, but those beans look so much more jewel-like when nestled sweetly inside the wreath of chard, don’t you think? A perfect way to follow up that weekend of celebrations.

I’ll be away visiting the CFO this weekend, so I’m going to miss all the Halloween fun!  However, thanks to the magic of WordPress, I do have a Halloween-inspired post for y’all over the weekend. 

Have fun Trick or Treating, everyone!

Baked Beans Nested on Greens

1 large bunch of your favorite leafy greens, washed, trimmed, sliced thin (chop and use stems if possible)

about 1/2 cup vegetable stock, any type

1 can of your favorite baked beans (or homemade if you have them), heated through

Heat the broth in a nonstick frypan or dutch oven over medium heat. Place the stips of greens over the liquid, press down to cover as much as possible, and cover the pan or pot.  Reduce heat to low, and cook the greens until just wilted, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the beans according to the directions on the can.  Arrange the greens in a wreath on a plate, and gently spoon the hot beans in the center for a nested effect.  Eat.  Makes 2 servings.  (Quick.  Easy. Tasty.  So simple, a little birdy could almost make it.)

Mum, the beans look okay, but if that little birdy isn’t doing anything else, you know we’d be happy to, um, dispose of it for you. . .

* Let’s also just say, I want to move to California.  Or New South Wales.  Or the Bahamas.  But no, I’m stuck here, where I wore earmuffs, on October 26th.  The older I get, the more I realize: comfort trumps fashion, every time.  And–why, yes, I do believe this marks the official launch of my “the weather is too cold I hate it I have to move away from here somebody save me” winter weather whingeing.  And–lucky you!–it continues unabated, for the next 6 months!

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Date Pasta

October 27, 2008

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[No, not “date” as in “dried fruit with pit and high sugar content.”  I mean “date” as in the classic Saturday night event, “evening out with someone you like and with whom you might like to be, um, romantic.” ]

It’s been a whirlwind weekend, first, with a birthday dinner (THANKS for all those amazing well-wishes, everyone!) followed immediately by a wedding (the birthday dinner featured the HH and me; the wedding did not).  More on both next time, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.  Today, I’m just as excited to tell you about Date Pasta instead.

When we were undergrads in our 20s, one of the things that welded the friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was our singleton status.  No matter how many relationships and breakups the rest of our friends experienced, and no matter how many blind dates, dating services, personal ads, university parties or fix-ups we two endured, Sterlin and I somehow managed to remain perpertually alone (well, I guess technically we weren’t “alone,” since we spent most Saturday nights with each other–but you know what I mean). 

Being permanently unattached until our mid-twenties (okay, fine, late twenties) didn’t mean we ever stopped trying, however. This pasta dish was Sterlin’s go-to recipe pretty much every time she wished to impress a potential boyfriend, or every time she scored a second date.  It was quick, it was easy, it was foolproof, guys seemed to like it, and–most important–it was the only dish she knew how to make. 

The guys in question, upon being served the pasta, would inevitably utter an appropriately impressed response, then spend an engaging evening drinking wine, gobbling up the pasta, and raving about how good it was, before leaving and never calling again. (What’s up with that, anyway?  Was it something we said?  Was it our nerdy demeanor?  Were they just not that into us? Or were they perhaps paralyzed by our incomparable wit, intelligence and (reasonably) good looks? I guess we’ll never know. ) Despite its inability to produce a lasting relationship, Date Pasta was so good that Sterlin kept making it throughout our university career.  

In fact, I was also so impressed with the dish (and ever hopeful about the fact that guys seemed to like it) that I asked for the recipe, and proceeded to cook it up dozens of times myself over the years.  It wasn’t until the HH and I were happily ensconced in our current long-term relationship and sharing the same abode that I dared to cook it for him. 

And then–magically–when the HH ate it, the curse was broken; he was able to love Date Pasta, and still love me, too.  

I hadn’t eaten Date Pasta in years, though.  First of all, the HH and I no longer go on “dates” (well, I suppose you could say our weekly sushi lunch together might qualify, but still). More importantly, however, the ingredient list of the original recipe contained spicy capicola salami, cut into cubes and flash-fried along with the other ingredients.  These days, I feel about salami sort of the same way I feel about steak.  When I altered my diet ten years ago, I placed the recipe in a file folder, and forgot about it. 

This past week, the HH’s friend the Engineering Guru came over for dinner.  Could it be that he resembled a guy I fancied in high school?  Or maybe it was that he’s tall and strapping and I know he, like the HH, is an avid meat eater?  Whatever the reason, Date Pasta came to mind.  The HH even remembered it from our early days and enthusiastically coerced browbeat badgered encouraged me to whip it up again.  So I did what I often do when cooking for the HH and me: I made a huge batch of the recipe in a meatless format I could enjoy, then let the guys add their own meat to their portions. 

Why did I never think of this before?  All these years, I’ve been avoiding Date Pasta, and missing out on this remarkably easy and delicious dinner! It’s so chock full of pungent, toothsome, salty and briny add-ins that it almost doesn’t need the pasta, and certainly doesn’t require the meat.  Who knows?  Maybe if I’d made it this way from the start, I’d have had more success in those early dateless years.  (Then again, I would never have enjoyed all those Saturday nights with Sterlin).  And so, Date Pasta, welcome back (can’t say that I miss the singleton status, though).

Oh, and now that I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m happy to submit this to Melissa at The Cooking Diva, who’s hosting Presto Pasta Nights, the weekly event originated by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Date (or any other occasion) Pasta

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

While this is great as is, if you’re craving a meat stand-in, I think this pasta would be phenomenal with some cubed, smoked tofu as well.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.