Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eating Off the Map

I'm listening to Robbie Robertson's Contact From the Underworld of Redboy and looking out at another rainy day. I see snow on the gorge cliffs across the river from me. Blackberry vines are growing up along my window, pushing away the rhododendrons. Suddenly I feel like Briar Rose asleep in my castle after being pricked by...what? Or am I coming awake? Like Thelma and Louise out in the desert, at dawn, looking around at the wild. Thelma said, "I don't ever remember feeling this awake." I'm almost there with you, Thelma.

I'm cooking up a storm this morning. I'm making aduki bean and butternut squash soup and luscious lima bean soup. I've made the aduki bean soup many times. This is a first for the lima bean soup. My friend Tara brought it to a workshop I attended last weekend. Usually I can't eat anything anyone else brings, but I gobbled up three bowls of this soup. Tara tweaked the original recipe and I tweaked it even more.

First, I soaked my lima beans for forty-eight hours. (Overnight would have been fine.) Then I boiled the beans for a couple of hours, with a bit of kombu. Meanwhile, I cut up the carrots, celery, shallots, and leek and I sweated them in a pan. I added garlic, too.

(My friend Michelle taught me this method of cooking when I told her I didn't want to fry anything. It doesn't necessarily have as rich a flavor as when you saute, but that's all right with me: Fried food does not agree with me. To sweat, you put all the veggies in a pot, turn the heat up low, cover it, and the veggies will begin to "sweat" and cook.)

When the veggies were cooked through and the beans were done, I poured the veggies into the beans. I let them cook for a while longer and added salt and pepper. Then I ripped up some rainbow chard and added it.

I didn't use bouillon, as the original recipe suggested. I don't have any, but even if I did, that's too much sodium. I just tasted the broth and seasoned it with salt and pepper as needed. This soup is so creamy and delicious, just perfect for this wintry day. (Yes, I know technically it is spring.)

Besides the soups, I also roasted grated sweet potatoes. While that was finishing up, I had saved the pan that I'd sweated the veggies in. I added a little water to it so there was a nice little broth in the bottom of the pan. Then I steamed some ripped chard in it. When the chard was done, I took it out and put it on a plate. Then I cooked an egg in the remaining veggie "broth." The texture of the egg was exquisite. The white was firm and the yellow was just slightly runny. The white had taken on some of the golden color of the broth. It was the best egg I've ever eaten!

With all this wonderful food under my belt (and now in the fridge and the freezer), I'm ready to start my final paper for my final class for my graduate certificate on Sustainable Food Systems and Permaculture. I need to wander off the map a bit and see what answers will come to help me envision a sustainable and resilient culture and community. With all this wonderful grounding food this morning, I feel as though I can take this journey. Wish me luck!

Lima Bean Soup

2 cups dried lima beans (soak 24-48 hours)
1 4-6 inch strip of kombu
4-6 carrots, sliced
4-6 celery stalks, sliced
1 leek, chopped
3 garlic cloves, diced or put through the garlic press
1 small shallot or 1 small onion, diced
2 stalks rainbow chard, ripped

Drain and rinse soaked beans. Put in a pot with water an inch or more above the beans. (If you have your own stock, use it instead of water.) Add kombu strip. Boil and then simmer, watching the water level, until tender. More cooking won't hurt; that'll just make it creamier. Combine all the vegetables in a separate pan or pot. Cover and turn up heat to medium and then immediately to low. Let the vegetables slowly "sweat." They will produce enough water to cook as long as you let keep the heat low. Stir every once in a while. When the veggies are done and the beans are soft, combine. Check the flavor and season. Cook for a while. Rip the chard leaves into bite sized pieces and stir them into the soup. Check the seasoning again. Serve. It gets better each time you reheat!

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