Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Cook Black (Dry) Beans

First of all, let me apologize to Kami, whom I owe this recipe to.  A few weeks ago we were at Happy Hour and I was talking about how much more authentic (not sure if I mentioned ECONOMICAL) it feels to cook beans from scratch (dry).  She asked me to send/give her a recipe, and I've owed it to her ever since.  It's a good thing she reminded me today, or I may never have gotten around to it!  Before getting to that recipe, however, let me tell you about a few things coming up (partly to get you excited, but mostly to keep track of what I've been cooking/eating and not forget to post about it).

  1. Lunch at a Thai restaurant near PCC Cascade.
  2. Learning Garden Harvest Party 
  3. Today's Organics to You bin contents
So......without further ado:

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)

1 lb package of dry black beans
1 small onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
Salt (or Adobo seasoning from Goya) to taste
1/3 of a bunch of cilantro


First, you'll need to presoak the beans.  The overnight method requires that you soak the beans in a pot for 8-10 hours (make sure there's lots more water in the pot than beans - they should be covered by at least 2-3 inches of water as it will be soaked up by the beans.)  The quick-soak method  requires that you cover the beans by as much water, but then bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from heat source, cover, and let sit/soak for 1 hour before moving on.

After the beans are presoaked, you'll need to drain away the nasty soak-water and replace with fresh water.  For a 1lb bag of beans, I'd use about 6 cups of water.  (For extra extra flavor, use some sort of broth instead of plain jane water).  At this point I'd add the onion - either halved or quartered, and the cloves of garlic - lightly smashed to release the flavor.  

Bring the pot to a boil at high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for about an hour or hour and a half (do you like your beans al dente, tender, or straight-up mushy????) About 45 minutes into the process (when the liquid starts to thicken,) it's time to add the other seasonings.  If you can find Adobo, go for it!  Otherwise, salt is just fine.  Finally, add the cilantro, but not all chopped up....you don't want it in your teeth, you just want the flavor to infuse.  

Once your beans are done, you are ready to enjoy them atop a lovely mound of white rice, as a base for a black-bean soup, or mashed up in a pan as a "refried" version which goes super well with sweet plantains and sour cream. Mmmmmmm.   Makin' me hungry......


People sometimes use these ingredients to flavor their beans.  I have used/tried all of them and do also throw them in if I have them in the house.  Any or all of them are good depending on your taste.

1. Chopped green bell pepper
2. Cumin
3. Ham hock, thick bacon, etc.
4. Bay leaf
5. Jalapeno (or juice from pickled jalapenos).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Night Out: Portland Drinks & Appetizers

Friday night the kids were scheduled to sleep over at Silvia's house, so Rob and I were excited for a date night out.  I've always wanted to do a sort of progressive dinner out (start at one place for drinks/appetizers, move on to another for a main course, then yet another for dessert) - or something like that.  Well, something like that is exactly what we did!

Tostones at Oba
We started the night at Oba, which is located at 555 Northwest 12th Ave in the Pearl District. I'd been there before with Misty and Lynn, so I knew Rob would like it. Oba is all about "Nuevo Latino" cuisine (reminds me of the movie Tortilla Soup) and the music and lighting are totally conducive to having a great time.  I ordered a Ginger Mint Martini, and we decided on the beef-topped tostones (crispy fried plantains).  The drink was good enough, but didn't taste very gingery at all and actually reminded me more of a mojito in a martini glass than anything.  BUT, the appetizer was truly to die for.  The row of tostones was lined up on a bed of vinegary curtido (sort of like a slaw) and looked elegant and tasty.  Eeach slice of fried plantain was topped with a heap of tender, shredded beef spiced to perfection.  On top of that was a smaller heap of guacamole.  At first I thought the guacamole was tacky, but it's lemony taste and creamy consistency were the perfect complement to the other flavors and textures.  This is a MUST.  We were having so much fun, we decided to make the night all about visiting different places and having ONE drink and ONE appetizer.

 We walked around the corner to a place called Paragon (1309 NW Hoyt St.).  It was absolutely gorgeous, with an amazingly beautiful bar albeit a much darker ambiance than Oba.  There was a roaring fireplace and a DJ spinning music that was not loud enough to overpower conversation.  Perfect.  I was craving a flowery cocktail (remembering a lavendar martini recipe Denise sent me) and asked the bartender if they had such a thing.  He wisely suggested the Peach Elderflower Cosmopolitan, which BLEW ME AWAY!  This is my favorite new drink.  It was sweet and fresh, flowery but not too perfumey.  It was complex and fun, and I just loved it.  For our appetizer, we ordered a Rockfish Ceviche with Yuca Chips.  The concept was great, but I found the ceviche a bit too limey and the fish itself was a bit chewy and rubbery.  No matter - I WILL be back for the drinks so I will definitely try other appetizers.  Side note: I was chatting with the Beverage Director, Bob Brunner, and telling him of my interest in flower-flavored concoctions and he introduced me to a rose-flavored vodka which he kindly allowed me to sample.  It changed my life.  Now I am on a mission to find it (to bring home). :o)

Peach Elderflower Cosmo
Next, we walked up to 50 Plates, but after looking at the menu posted outside decided to move on.  We crossed the street to Cargo Inc to take a break from eating/drinking and check out some cool things.  When we walked in, however, we were treated to (not a sample, a GLASS) of delicious red wine.  I regret not noting the name of it, but we enjoyed it as we walked around, not believing our luck.

We decided to move on from the Pearl and headed over to NW 23rd/Nob Hill area.  I had been to Casa del Matador on Burnside with co-workers, but didn't know there was another one on NW 23rd.  We arrived shortly after 10 p.m. and found that Happy Hour had just started....what luck!!  It was very busy, but we had no trouble finding seating.  In the end, we opted for the outside sidewalk table, which was lovely. I decided to forgo the exotic cocktail and opted for a standard gin and tonic.  Since it was happy hour, we decided to splurge and order two appetizers.  We got the Jumbo Habanero Prawns and Chorizo Tacos.  The prawns were Rob's favorite "eats" of the night.  He actually ordered seconds.  The chorizo tacos were on soft flour tortillas and at first looked more like salad tacos than anything.  Biting into mine, though, I realized what a good, fresh complement the fresh lettuce and tomato was to the spicy chorizo. Delectable.


Our friends Janaki and Bryce met up with us at Casa del Matador, then we headed out for some Karaoke. At the insistence of Janaki and Rob, I sang my first karaoke song ever: Madonna's "La Isla Bonita."  The only thing that sucked was having to sing after Janaki, who is such a talented singer, but I had fun.  And people DANCED!!

Right after that adventure we needed something to satisfy our sweet tooth. Janaki suggested a food cart on Hawthorne that sells fried pies and is open late-night.  I am so glad we went!!!!  The cart is called Whiffies Fried Pies, and sells only....you guessed it.....fried pies.  These pies look something like an empanada and are filled with heavenly delights such as blackberries, peaches or (this was my choice) - chocolate, coconut and some type of cream.  The latter is called "Mounds" and is fashioned after its namesake candy bar.  Yum.  No, double-yum.  We left at 2 a.m. and the entire little conglomeration of food carts was still poppin'.  I hope to be back soon.