Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pinto Beans

I've heard people complain about soaking dried beans, but I think that's silly. Dried beans really just take the tiniest bit of forethought, and I can give you 5 reasons right now why dried beans are better than canned: (1) seriously lower in sodium than canned beans (2) way easier to get your hands on in Japan (3) make your whole house smell earthy & yummy when they're cooking (4) taste better (5) cheaper. So, dried beans--don't be scared.

Anyway, beans in general are pretty awesome (tasty & super healthy), and i really wanted to finish off this bag of pintos. You could use black or whatever--just not adzuki. This recipe is seriously simple and just goes to show that you don't need a bunch of fancy ingredients to make something taste really really good.


6 cups water (or water + vegetable broth)
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 onion, diced
2 medium green bell peppers, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste (1)
salt & pepper to taste

(1) トマトペースト

The pinto beans are from Corocao Do Brasil in Takaoka. The onion and peppers are from the yasaiya near Kosugi Station. Everything else is from Albis in Kosugi.

I listened to Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd-Jazz Samba while cooking this.

Let's Go!
1. Soaking your beans not only reduces cooking time and facilitates even cooking, it also reduces the amount of the indigestible sugars that cause gas. So soak your beans (2:1 water to bean ratio). All you have to do is put them in water the night before (if you're cooking in the morning) or before you go to work in the morning (for dinner time). Make sure you dump the soaking water (it's full of dirt & the aforementioned indigestible sugars) and give the beans a quick rinse when you're ready to cook. Before & after shot:

2. Bring your water (or vegetable broth + water) to a boil. Add beans, onion, pepper, celery, & garlic. Do not add salt, tomato, or anything acidy at this point. Your beans won't cook right. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

3. Chill out, prepare the rest of your meal, have a glass of wine. You can check to make sure your pan isn't dry from time to time, but if you are cooking on low heat, you should have enough water to finish. The beans should take 1-1 1/2 hours to cook.

4. When the beans are tender (not mushy), add tomato paste, salt, and pepper.

5. Now, this is the part that will give your beans that authentic southern style texture. Take a fork and smash some of the beans against the side of the pan. Give everything a stir, and now they're nice and thick. If you aren't sure how much to smash, you can scoop out about a cup of beans, mash them in a separate bowl, and then stir them back in. Remember, things will thicken up even more once you take the pan off the burner.


Perhaps the best way to eat these beans is with rice, but I go through serious rice hate from time to time in this country, so I just ate them with a bunch of vegetables, cornbread, and homemade vegan andouille. Perfect!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jalapeño Cornbread

Where to get cornmeal in Japan? You might be able to get tiny bags of it in the baking section of your local supermarket. Also, I know you can order it online here, or, if your mom is awesome like mine, she can send you a big tub from America. I've gone through more cornmeal this summer than my entire time in Japan, mostly because I've been working on a little project. It involves inviting unsuspecting non-southerners over to my house and serving them a huge meal that includes a plate of fried okra. Almost every time it's about 20 times more delicious than they thought it would be. It's nice to see people smile like that. But seriously, talking to them really helps me to understand the kind of deprivation that people experience in other parts of the world.

Max: Yeah, I've never even seen fried okra before.
Me: Oh yeah? How do you eat okra in California?
Max: We don't.
Me: o_O

Anyway, I'm about fried okra-ed out, so when I made up a mess of beans for dinner, I didn't mind using most of my cornmeal to put in this lovely cornbread. My recipe is heavily based on this one, but I tweaked it a bit, mostly to make it sweeter & fluffier. It's still the densest cornbread I've ever eaten, but I really liked it. A little jalapeño powder gives it a nice kick.


2 cups soy milk (1)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (2)
2 cups cornmeal (3)
1 cup flour (4)
3 tsp baking powder (5)
1 1/4 tsp jalapeño powder (6)
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup salad oil (canola, soybean, etc.) (7)
3 tbsp maple syrup

(1) 豆乳 (2) リンゴ酢 (3) コーンミール (4) 粉 (5) ベーキングパウダー (6) ハラペーニョペッパー (7)カノーラ油 ,大豆油

The flour is from Alishan. The cornmeal is from my mom. Everything else is from Albis in Kosugi.

I listened to the Fever Ray album while making this.

Let's Go!
1. Pour the apple cider vinegar into the soy milk and set aside.

2. Sift cornmeal, flour, baking powder, jalapeño powder, & salt into a big bowl.

3. Whisk oil and maple syrup into the milk & vinegar for a couple of minutes. It should be nice & bubbly.

4. Mix wet ingredients into dry.

5. You probably don't have a cast iron skillet, which would be ideal. I used a deep round cake pan. It worked just ok, but i would recommend something shallower. You can even use a muffin tin. Anyway, lightly oil whatever pan you use to keep your bread from sticking.

6. Bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes. You can do a toothpick test to make sure it's done.

Cornbread is definitely best hot. Beans are my favorite accompaniment for cornbread, but it goes well with soups or anything drippy that needs sopping up.

One of the best things to do with cornbread is dip it in a bit of molasses. I highly recommend you try this at some point, but make sure you're sitting down first.