Wednesday, March 12, 2008

four cool things plus white bean stew

fast white bean stew

  • It only took us four months, but we have finally set up a store where those of you who are interested can buy prints of our photos. We ordered a couple of prints a few weeks ago to verify that the quality was what we had hoped, and were pleased with the results. We hope that you will be too. We’ve uploaded some of our favorite photos, but if there are any photos from our Flickr page or from this site’s archives that you’d like to purchase, just let us know and we’ll add it to the store. Unfortunately, you will find that many of our older pictures are not big enough to yield more than a small print–believe me, we’re kicking ourselves too! [The Smitten Kitchen Photo Store]

smitten kitchen on smugmug

  • If you’ve made a recipe from this site and left a note about it in the comments, created a link to it from your blog, or tagged it with “smittenkitchen” on Flickr, I have probably checked it out because I simply love to see how these things work out for you, and what you may have done to adapt it. However, this is not the most efficient system, so when a brilliant commenter suggested yesterday that we create a smitten kitchen Flickr photo pool, I jumped right on it. This group is open to anyone who posts pictures on Flickr, and I can’t wait to see what you add to it. And yes, bonus points will be awarded for pictures of said baked goods accompanied by puppies or babies. [Smitten Kitchen Recipes Photo Pool]
  • Dedicated food bloggers Elise, Kalyn and Alanna teamed up to create something I think the Web has been missing for some time: a custom food blog search engine. Powered by only the best–Google Search–it includes results from over one thousand food blogs. Nowhere but food blogs will you see recipes tested and reviewed with such enthusiasm and imagery. I use this resource so often, I put a widget for it in the sidebar, as well, but you can just bookmark the The darling imagery was created by Loberstersquad’s Ximena. [, a custom search engine]

can beans be hot?

And finally, my newest overdue obsession: Rancho Gordo. It has been over a year since I promised that I would forevermore soak my beans with glee and ebullience as I have seen the light of freshly soaked beans at last. Sadly, this didn’t last long. I found that the beans I could get at various reputable stores were terribly unreliable–they didn’t get soft, their skins flaked, their flavor lacked; in short: they were on the shelf too long. Enter Rancho Gordo, an heirloom bean grower out of Napa Valley, which I have read so much about but was cautious to buy something so particular from so far away. I’m glad I got over it because these beans are delicious. There’s no comparison. I started with the European Sampler but you’d better believe I’ll be getting some of their Mexican/Latin Sampler soon.

runner cannellini

I used my first batch of Runner Cannellini beans to make a Fast White Bean Stew I’ve had bookmarked from Gourmet Magazine for some time. The results were… good enough for a Tuesday night, if you know what I mean. I needed more zip, in my mind… some smoky spicy Spanish paprika, red pepper flakes, a glug of vinegar or wine, less broth. I haven’t gotten back to it to figure it out, but I suspect that one or several of you will come up with something brilliant. Only the show stopper beans saved it. It has ham in it, but this could be easily skipped if you’re vegetarian or rendered extra-carnivorous with sausage. I used spinach, but I think that a heavier green, if cooked longer, could work as well. In summary: use this recipe only as guidance and hit it up with your creativity.

fast white bean stew

Soaking Dried Beans

Rancho Gordo wants soaking beans to be less complicated that it is made out to be. There is no one method, they tell you–just simmer them until they are soft. Soaking them first can speed up the process, vegetables or stock can make them more flavorful, but in the end–and especially if you’re using their delicious beans–you could do neither and still have a stunning dish.

I used the cooking method outlined on their site, but to summarize:

If you can, presoak the beans for a few hours, overnight or up to a day. Put the beans and their soaking water to a large pot–there is no reason to discard the soaking water. Bring the pot to a full boil for five minutes, before reducing the heat as low as you can possibly go so that bubbles will still appear. Depending on the size of your bean and the amount of time you have soaked them, they should be ready in between two or three hours.

Fast White Bean Stew
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2007

As I mentioned above, this stew is completely edible but a wee lackluster. Do consider kicking it up, as they say, with spices and extra ingredients.

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14- to 15-oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (19-oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
1 (1/2-lb) piece baked ham (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-oz) bag baby romaine (er, what? I used spinach) or baby arugula (10 cups loosely packed)
8 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette

Cook garlic in 1/4 cup oil in a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Coarsely cut up tomatoes in can with kitchen shears, then add (with juice) to garlic in oil. Stir in broth, beans, ham, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in greens and cook until wilted, 3 minutes for romaine or 1 minute for arugula.

While stew is simmering, preheat broiler. Put bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Serve stew with toasts.


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