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Well, I was hanging out with the Dubious Citty Katt and a dozen friends of a Sunday evening’s repast.  I made a big mess of greens – which are now plentiful and a dollar a bunch at the farmer’s market.  For $3 worth of greens, 2 cups of rice and 1 cup of dried beans, this dish is as easy as 1,2,3.

(photo courtesy Brian Foster)

Get you a deep cooking pot – I often use a cast iron Dutch Oven – with 2-3 Tbsps of olive oil, or other fat.

saute over medium heat:

1 heaping cup chopped scallions (or a medium onion)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 jalapeno pepper, simply slit up the middle, but still whole

After these ingredients have become transluscent, add:

1 handful of fresh basil, torn (or 2 tsp dry)

big handful cilantro chopped roughly

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp dried crayfish or dried shrimp powder

1-2 tsp smoked paprika

6-8 cups torn/chopped greens:  this could be any one or more of the following –

mustard, turnip, beet, chard, collards, spinach, kale (curly, red, Tuscan, etc), wild greens (lamb’s quarters, sour grass)

1/2 cup vinegar – I used cider vinegar

1-2 cups water, broth or stock

Cover the pot loosely & cook for 15-30 minutes over a medium flame.  It is well known that many people grew up with greens that were cooked for an hour or two, but I have always found that 30 minutes or less gives you plenty of flavor, retains more nutrients & fiber.  Stir from time to time.  Remove from flame & allow to cool.  Don’t worry if you have  what seems to be an excess of cooking liquid.

Beans

1 cup dried beans, sorted and washed

3-4 cups water

Soak the beans overnight – or if you want to use the quick method- bring to the boil over high heat, remove from heat and cover.  Allow to stand for an hour.  Make sure the beans are well covered with water & return the pot to a medium high flame and bring to a boil once again – lower the flame to medium low, cover the pot & cook for 30-45 minutes until you have achieved the Five Bean Rule:  Give the beans a quick stir & select 5 random beans; give each of them a little squish between two fingers, and if all five are soft enough to squish – the whole mess of beans is done.  If one or more is still a little starchy or dinty, give the beans a little more cooking time.  And if you need more cooking water, make sure it’s hot water.  And never add salt to beans until after they are done cooking, or they will be hard and indigestible.

Rice

for 12 people I used 2 cups of white rice

Rinse the rice in a sieve or in the cooking pot until it has given up most of its exterior starch and the water runs clear.  Add a tsp salt & 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover & turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork

Now comes the fun part:  Mix all your greens and pot liquor, beans & pot liquor and the rice in a big vessel – this is ready to serve right away, but it only gains virtue with a day or 2 in the refrigerator.

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I’m trying to figure out why my entire posting disappeared – I will come back and recreate the recipe soon 🙂  

risotto with prosciutto, peas and mushrooms

That was yesterday evening!  OK, so there are a huge number of foods that I have never made in my life, which in each case means that I am waiting patiently until the right time, a special occasion or inspiration arrives–or I am possibly intimidated by trying to make a familiar/famous dish (you know, like osso bucco, Cherokee bean bread, paella, souffle, tamales in banana leaf, creme caramel, etc).

I have cooked lots of things over the years that I have been pleased with- bunches of recipes from Julia’s cookbooks, reproducing a correct, authentic red chili the way the Tohono O’odam ladies taught me one summer in California.  Cooking greens, making authentic old Moravian recipes (Christmas cakes, lovefeast buns, sugar cake) and even making homemade tofu from scratch with dry soybeans.

So Risotto, a simple seafood risotto, was what I finally worked up the nerve to cook last night.  It was mostly about 45 minutes of constant stirring of arborio rice in chicken broth, which is what all the recipes say, and it’s what you see on TV if you happen to catch someone on a cooking show making risotto.  It was very exciting to see the risotto take shape on top of my stove, and even though it was almost an hour of careful, nonstop stirring and cooking, it is worth the effort.

I got the inspiration because I was at the grocery store and I picked up a packet of arborio rice , which I have done dozens and dozens of times in the past.  But I looked at the price, realized it wouldn’t put a bad dent in my food budget after all, and then I got a small packet of frozen, mixed seafood for about three or four dollars.  All reasonably affordable.

Here’s how I made it:

4 cups stock (I used chicken)- heat it and keep it simmering the whole time.

12 oz by weight of arborio rice

2 Tbsp good olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

1 onion chopped

1 clove garlic minced into atoms

2 bay leaves

grating of the zest of 1/2 a fresh lemon

a grating of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup of a white wine, or you can substitute a little apple or white grape juice with a  spoonful or 2  of cider-, or white-wine, vinegar if you don’t use alcohol.

big handful of chopped fresh parsley (probably 1/4 to 1/2 cup)

2 cups fresh or frozen peas

1/3 cup heavy cream (you can use half and half, or even milk if you want)

small bag (1 pound) frozen, previously uncooked, ready to stir-fry mixed seafood).  This will probably be a mixture of scallops, shrimp and calamari.

-a couple of good handfuls of grated or shredded good Parmesan cheese

Chop your onion (I used a medium onion) and let it sweat over medium heat in a very large heavy skillet with a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, along with the bay laurel, and a pinch of salt (that helps the onion cook) and quite a few grinds of black pepper, the lemon zest and the nutmeg.  Begin adding liquid, beginning with your wine or apple juice/vinegar, after you have added the garlic a few minutes into the process.  Add the 2 Tbsp of butter.

Stir everything well together and begin adding your hot stock to the rice.  You will now start stirring this dish almost without stopping for nearly the next 1/2 hour.  Maybe not quite that long.  But basically, you add the hot stock by the cupful or ladleful, and keep stirring gently over medium-low heat for a good 20-24 minutes.  Just turn on some good music, clear your thoughts and focus on making this gorgeous rice.  Why did I ever wait this long to make it??  Meanwhile heat another good heavy skillet to stir fry your seafood- the frozen product I had said that you can stir fry it in 3 minutes or under, right from the freezer.

During the last 4-5 minutes, add a couple cups of shelled green peas- tiny spring peas would be best, but any frozen pea will do the trick.  Now stirfry your seafood as you continue to stir the risotto.  Congratulations, you have now run out of hands to stir things with.  The only important thing to keep in mind with your seafood, above all, is not to overcook it- everything will turn to rubber and you will spend more time chewing your risotto than it took to cook.

After a few minutes, you can add the cooked seafood directly to the rice (there will be some cooking liquid that comes from the seafood- simply add the whole thing, along with a handful of Parmesan (maybe 1/4 cup to start) and a 1/3 cup of cream or milk.  Keep stirring, and finally when everything seems to be a big creamy, bubbling mass, throw in the parsley.  Correct seasoning, maybe add a little more Parmesan and you have made a simple, proper risotto.

Click on the picture of the greens above-left to see how I make them

The cool weather, she has arrived!  Snow and everything.  I’ve had an unusually busy month, including travel, so there wasn’t much time to update my food blog.  But I have been cooking and photographing some of my kitchen activities.  With the temperature dropping, I made a big pot of greens and pumpkin breads made 3 different ways.  I’m writing this from Washington DC believe it or not, and I can’t wait to get home and make my own food again, after a week of eating not-my-own-food.  I’ll tell you how I learned to cook greens by asking and watching my friends- that’s usually the very best way to do it…for me anyway.  I always learn best by watching and doing