Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tomatoes, Beans, Martha and Lorenzo's Oil

By Amy Baranski

Yesterday I thought I was on it. I went out back and pruned our tomato trees. The gardeners on the radio said to remove excess foliage around the fruit, allowing more sunlight to reach and ripen them. I'd never pruned a tomato tree before. Nor have I grown one.
Pruned tomatoes with amazing DURA cages.

As I clipped the flowerless sprouts I became disappointed that what had seemed an abundant harvest was not. On the other hand, I feel satisfied that the somewhat gimmicky DURA tomato cages I purchased at the NW Flower and Garden Show this year totally worked. No fallen tomato trees. Next year I'll invest in a few more.

My mom says Martha Stewart is not a real artist.

I tend to agree. But I still find her information and site beneficial in some regards. So after pruning the tomatoes I went online to grab some dinner menus for the rest of this week. I use this handy tool called ZipList, which I originally found on ZipList provides a free online account that you can use to keep track of your grocery needs, including household items such as toilet paper. The account links to your mobile device, so when you're ready for the list you text "list" to your ZipList contact. It then returns your shopping list to your phone. In the recipe sections of Martha Stewart's website you'll find a ZipList option close to the "print-this-recipe" option. When you click on it you can either add the recipe to your virtual ZipList recipe box and/or to your shopping current list.

I love this tool and have been using it for a couple years now. After my menu choices were made I tidied up my online list and met up with Melissa to head to the co-op.

If it's no-bake does it still count as from scratch?

Coming up this week will be a no-bake lasagna with the ricotta cheese made from scratch. Even though it may taste more like an insalata caprese lasagna, I will also make mozzarella from scratch. Not all people in my household like creamy cheese, even if they are of Italian origin. To make the cheese Melissa said I could borrow some of her rennet, so I just needed citric acid and cheesecloth from the store. She said the citric acid was in the bulk and herb section. I'm so helpless and clueless in these matters sometimes that I wandered around the bulk and herb section looking for a beaker-style vile that would contain some bubbling liquid. I kid you not. It turns out citric acid in the store is powdered and looks A LOT like sugar.

The best beans of my life.

Aside from the single-serving style no-bake lasagna. I'm also going to make a Niçoise salad. I'll probably use canned tuna packed in oil, and if I can find a fresh sardine to grill, girl you know I will. I'll leave the anchovies for the dressing. In related matters, I like to roast (not boil) my potatoes, and I have some fresh green beans and salad greens from the garden. I think I'll also roast some cherry tomatoes and let them cool. I found, after we roasted/steamed tomatoes on the grill this weekend, they tasted sweeter in the morning after they cooled.
best beans of my life.

And onto the plate will also go The Best Beans of My Life.

I made them yesterday (it actually took my two days to make). My friend Jessie is an amazing gardener, cook, entrepreneur, mom, soccer player, and just, you know, your basic NW rock star. (No, this sidetrack is not tangential). She runs a business in the Bellingham Farmer's Market called 22 Greens, and earlier this year I was lucky enough to see her operation from the inside. She makes the most amazing beans that she puts in her gorgeous salads. I don't have her recipe, but maybe someday she'll publish a recipe book, I would totally buy it. So, I did do a couple things she does and Holy Wow those beans are good. So let's just throw those on the Niçoise plate tonight.

Bhak bhak bhak - writing animal noises is strange.

I also bought a whole chicken. I had roasted some beets that were loosing their firmness and stuck them, still waiting to be peeled, in my fridge. So I thought with the chicken and beets and leftover beans I'd be able to throw together a simple chicken dinner for Saturday or Sunday. Then with the left over meat and bones I can make my own chicken stock.

Stuff salvaged from the basement.
Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

So things were looking pretty home-steady up in my mind and home yesterday. I even helped  my neighbor Amanda rescue an old cabinet from the basement that she might upcycle to use as a wardrobe. And the cleaning out the basement project is coming along. I'm making a run to goodwill to drop off some old abandoned tools that have been in the building for years. (Yes Dad, we are keeping all the ones that make sense).

Urban convenience outweighs girl's will to stay on the urban prairie sans television.

After all that though, which in reality took a lot longer to type out here than do, I just lost steam. I worked for the rest of the day and then I totally violated the reduce screen-time challenge and got sucked into the world of Netflix, not before which I caught up on MTV's train-wreck reality show called Teen Mom.

I watched Awakenings with Robin Williams and Robert Dinero, and Lorenzo's Oil. I had no idea about the leukodystrophies. A totally heartless set of diseases. The boy, Lorenzo, had ADL. Which, in the crudest of explanations, meant that he had a genetically linked metabolic deficiency, lacking an ability to digest fatty acids. The result of which is that very long chains of saturated fatty acids would accumulate in his body and dissolve the myelin--a fatty sheath that protects the brain and many important nerves. This in turn causes severe damage to the nervous system.

Can you imagine being taken into the doctor's room and told that your boy has an extremely rare condition, so rare in fact that the medical community is not studying it to come up with treatments because there's no real profit margin in sight.

I was just drinking wine and watching this movie and totally welling up with emotion. Susan Sarandon, one of my favorite silver screen sirens (since Rocky Horror Picture Show) and even Nick Nolte with his stupid-ass fake Italian accent gave riveting performances. Or, maybe this is the $4.95 bottle of wine talking. Anyway, I walked away from the movie reminded by the power or importance of questioning even what the experts have to tell you, because human motivation has many fuels.

I haven't watched any movies or t.v. today. Guess I should go read my 45 pages.

The Best Beans of My Life Recipe:

3 cups dried cannellini beans
4 gloves fresh peeled garlic
2 rinds Parmigiano-Reggiano (or one big one)
1 bunch Thyme
1 bunch Rosemary
Handful of salt
Olive Oil

Submerge the cannellini beans in water for almost 12-20 hours.
Drain and discard any malformed beans.
Place beans in slow cooker and cover with olive oil about two inches above the beans.
Toss in the garlic, Parmigiano rind, Rosemary and Thyme.
Turn the slow cooker on your low setting (mine has a 10-hour low).
Wait until the mixture comes to a simmer.
Then, turn the slow cooker down to warm.
Throw in a handful of salt.
Come back in 10-20 hours.

Then strain the beans away from the oil and set aside. You can reuse this wonderfully infused oil for other sautes, even scrambled eggs.


wj said...

Can you share the bean secret recipe? They look amazing!

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

No problem. I just updated the blog post with the recipe -- it's at the end. Enjoy and let me know how your's turn out.