The self, the other, and the beans that bind

Daily Prandium is back on the bean trail. Today I am preparing Dominican style beans that my friend B’s mother and aunt taught me to make a few weeks ago. I know. It’s been a long time since they came to my home to share their recipe with me. Like I tapped yesterday, I’d fallen off the prandium wagon. I am indeed proving–at least to myself–that eating at home and time are the essence of keeping it healthy and svelte. Reminder to self–each day beginning with a yoghurt, glass of seltzer, and café au lait helps maintain gastric wa.

I also believe posting the recipe straight from how it was prepared for me violates an unwritten cultural copyright. So here follows the recipe as a hybrid of an afternoon spent with my loving teachers and this afternoon fumbling in the kitchen. I found myself feeling a bit green in the kitchen today supposing because this still is not my recipe, yet.

Habichuelas del DR Norte
Feeds one hungry gringa three or four times

Habichuelas
Rice
Pumpkin cut into small cubes
Half small fresh red pepper
Half small fresh green pepper
Fresh cilantro, washed well, ends cut but leave whole in a bunch and mash with the side of a French knife blade
Half one small red onion
Water
Garlic mashed with mortar and pestle
Olio
Naranja agria
Chicken bouillon cube
Half packet Goya sazón
Piper
Sel
Chili sauce

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The type of rice will determine the amount of water needed to cook. Brown rice ranges from one and a half to two cups of water per cup of rice. Most varieties of white rice cook at a one to one ratio. Today I cooked two cups of jasmine white rice with two cups of water and a pinch of sel. I admit I am far from mastering the art of rice cookery so please do a search online for likely more helpful instructions.

My teachers explained you can use any type of bean you like to prepare them Dominican style. This dish is a staple in the Dominican community and we laughed at our collective love of all beans. On the afternoon they showed me how to prepare them, we could not find lima beans at the local market. We prepared gandules verdes, aka green pigeon peas, instead. Today I prepared the dish on my own and used frozen lima beans. If you prepare pigeon beans, be sure to rinse them well and pick out the peas that look bad, too scrawny, too dark, and also any twigs. Otherwise, directions will be more or less the same for any type of bean you choose. If you use dry beans, be sure to soak them overnight to rehydrate them. Your beans of choice will boil in a pot with two cups water for every cup of beans.

Add beans, pumpkin cubes, red onion half, and red and green peppers to the pot and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, add cilantro, one half packet of sazón,–your eye will determine the right colour to season to–one bouillon cube, piper, sel, and a couple or few splashes of naranja agria. My kind teachers explained naranja agria is the secret ingredient and is used in all Dominican cooking. It goes in all of their meat, bean, and vegetable dishes. When we shopped at the market I thought it was a bottle of juice to drink while we cooked. Silly gringa, me.

While the pot slow boiled, my teachers and I talked about sewing. They are both expert craftswomen and make clothing and upholstery. I spent a year studying couture design so they advised me on how to fix a dress I am not happy how the lining turned out. If you know about these matters, what you pay for in a couture garment is the lining.

Returning to the kitchen. In a sauté pan, heat olio until it is very hot. This is the step I modified today. I never let oils or fats heat to smoke point when they begin to form carcinogens. I save the ‘C-credits’ for summer barbecue. Also, I do not have a fire extinguisher. Fortunately I don’t have a curtain in my kitchen window either, which is next to the stove. The oil caught fire when we added the mashed garlic and the flames climbed immediately to two or three feet. I proved a failure for not having my camera ready and missed the shot, but have no interest to recreate it. We all smiled nervously at the show and put a lid on it. Let the garlic brown, scoop half of the beans and pumpkin into the sauté pan and mash them. Then return the mash to the pot, stir and let cook a few more minutes.

Serve the beans in one bowl and rice in another. My teachers explained you scoop some rice and then beans, or scoop some beans then rice, to eat each bite. My version tastes good but is missing something. Perhaps acrylamide is another secret ingredient. I’m beginning to suspect that I am not in love with the lima bean. I’ll find a third recipe to prepare them. After that, as the line goes in Project Runway, ‘You’re out.’

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Buen provecho..

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