|Dried Beans - Good Stuff|
|A Tagine Cornocopia|
|Beans at the ready w/Herbs & Spices|
These seeded pods derived from myriad of legumes are among the oldest of foods known to man/woman-kind, dating as far back as 4,000 years. Beans have been a “go-to” food throughout history, and for a few very lean years in my household, when animal proteins are scarce or too expensive to purchase.
So, are beans seasonal? Well yes, they are. Fresh beans are best during the summer and fall seasons. Winter they are dormant. Today we know beans in two distinct categories, dried and fresh. Fresh beans are usually purchased while still in their pods the most common being Green Beans, Lima Beans and my newest favourite, Fava. On your grocery shelf near the pasta and rice you’ll find bags of dried beans, such as Black Beans, Pinto Beans and Kidney, as well as a host of many others. Of course, we are lucky in this country to be able to have our choice of many types of Beans in the forms of fresh, dried or canned. Just remember, canned beans are prepared with an abundance of salt and preservatives.
Beans are such an excellent source of protein, (two to four times more than grains), as well as calcium, phosphorus and iron, not to mention they’re easy to prepare and quite adaptable. I’ve decided to use three types of beans as a component of this week’s recipe.
There isn’t a produce section that isn’t offering the winter squash, Butternut. An obvious seasonal choice I know, but one I believe is under-utilized in our home kitchens.
Before I start cooking here’s what I know about the Butternut. When selecting your squash look for skins that are smooth and free of cracks or greenish tinges. If you can press your finger into it the squash is not yet mature and will lack flavor and sweetness. It should feel heavy and dense for its size when you pick it up. This is due to the naturally high water content. Butternut lose some water though when they are harvested. The unique shape and hard rind can make it tricky to cut, just be sure to slice off the top and bottom ends first to give yourself a flat surface to place on the cutting board. Then cut in half lengthwise so you can clean out the seeds and fibrous strings. This is also when it’s easiest to peel the skin using your potato peeler. Inside the Butternut will look like its botanical sister, the pumpkin, and like its sister, the seeds are edible. If roasting you can leave the squash in two halves, for cubing you will simply cut the two halves into sections that can manageably be diced into cubes.
Butternut can be baked, steamed, simmered or roasted. I love it roasted and topped with butter, salt and pepper. And oh! ~ a bowl of rich, warm, creamy Butternut Squash soup, topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of turmeric or even dill! Absolutely a most satisfying dinner in front of the fire on a cold winter’s evening. But those are such common uses of this cylindrical vegetable I wanted to do something different.
This week I’m integrating South, (Mexico) with East, (Middle East), and preparing Butternut & Kale Tacos. Tacos have been around for a very long time themselves. The Mayans, Aztecs and Zapotecas used their soft flat bread, we know it as a tortilla, as a kind of plate to hold spiced meats and seafood. Did they roll the filling up in the flat bread or fold it over? I’m not sure. If you know the answer please share.
The Middle Eastern aspect comes from the spread in my recipe, Hummus or Houmous. A very familiar condiment to us these days. Just so you know, Hummus is a Levantine food, which has been popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa for forever. At its very basic, it is simply a blending of Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo Beans, Tahini, olive oil, a little lemon juice, garlic and salt. I’m preparing three types of Hummus, one using Chickpeas, one using Cannellini Beans and one using Black Beans. Each will be seasoned according to what I believe best suites the bean and will have incorporated into it, a complimentary herb. The Butternut will be roasted until sweet and near-caramelized and then is combined with kale and garlic. The tacos will be finished off with Crema Mexicana and the toasted seeds of the squash. I’ll throw the skin into my composting pail. Perfect use of the entire vegetable, always a good thing.