From Scratch

A bowl of beans–with the notable exception of cassoulet–is not very sexy. But when every part of the dish (including the bowl) is homemade, the results can be pretty sublime for something so humble.

The beans were black-eyed peas, which I did not grow. I’ve used up all our dragon’s tongue beans except the ones I saved for seed, so I had to outsource this part of the meal. I like black-eyed peas a lot, not least because they cook up really nicely in the pressure-cooker without presoaking. These took about half an hour on low to get soft and yielding. I cooked them very simply using a bag of homegrown mirepoix from the freezer, homemade guanciale, herbs from the pots in the dining room, and chicken stock I made with a carcass a few days ago.

It must be said that if there’s a more profoundly enticing aroma than guanciale and mirepoix (my blend inclues fennel and leek) sweating gently in a pot I have yet to encounter it. Though fresh-baked bread does come pretty close. OK, it’s a tie. But still. A good unctuous, roasty stock is wonderful, of course, and this one had a nice herbal note resulting from the film of pesto gravy that had stuck to some of the pieces of bird. And then the croutons: a fossilized hunk of sourdough boule hacked into approximate cubes with the cleaver and browned in olive oil with garlic, Espelette pepper, and salt until browned and fragrant.

Frugality never tasted so rich. There was also wine: a 2007 Guigal Côtes du Rhône, which is mostly Syrah and Grenache. I’m a big fan of the Southern Rhône for bargain hedonism, since the well-made basic wines usually have many of the leathery, earthy qualities of their fancier siblings (without the layers, subtlety, and aging potential) at a fraction of the price. This retails for about $12, but I got these for $8 because I know a guy. At that price, it’s impossible not to utterly love a bottle like this. And it made for an even more perfect union with the lowly-luxe bowl of beans.

9 comments to From Scratch

  • My mouth is watering reading this! Yum, and what a pretty bowl! I have a kiln sitting in my art studio calling my name, but I have yet to set everything up in our new home. My art studio is pretty much “crap storage” right now, can’t wait to get it cleaned out and going again.

    Do you dry your dragon’s tongue beans? I’ve only had them raw and I love them, it never occurred to me that they could be matured fully and dried. I doubt if I grew them they’d ever get that far.

  • This recipe is beautiful on so many levels I don’t know where to begin! Home-made guanciale? Home-grown Mirepoix!??! Photography that makes my mouth water?!? A pressure cooker… oh stop it!!!

    I also sometimes substitute celery for fennel – what a rich non-fennely taste!

    Ciao,

    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

  • Peter. Did you actually cook something appropriate for a Meatless Monday?

  • You have now inspired me to throw leeks and fennel into my mirepoix. Until I can get my hands on some gunaciale though, I may have to take your word for it about how good it smells.

    • Yes, and somehow the idea of freezing bags of my homegrown mirepoix never occurred to me! I’m so madly in love with both leeks and fennel, they will definitely be making the cut!

  • Wait, wait, back up. I’m new(ish) to your blog. You made your OWN guanciale???? Wowza. These beans look very tempting.

  • Peter

    Monique: I dried most of them; the get big so fast I figured it was easier and more rewarding to let them dry. I also planted filet beans for picking skinny and eating. Use that kiln!

    Laura: I like them both together in mirepoix and as a thinly shaved salad.

    Jen. I did, but I assure you it wasn’t intentional. Is that a thing? Do you like my sexy $2 light box?

    Rachel: You should try making it. It’s so easy.

    Monique: I pick, wash, cut, bag, and blanch tons of it at the end of the summer. It’s pure gold all winter long.

    Nicole: I do. Everyone should.

  • Do you have a post from when you made your guanciale? Also, do you sell your pottery anywhere? I posted on your pics on facebook, such gorgeous bowls! I want some!

  • OMGosh… I switched my comment around. I meant fennel in place of celery!! I’ve also done the switcharoo with the 4 hour Bolognese Ragu… tastes great!!! Of course, now I pressure cook everything so my 4 hour Bolognese is only a 2 hour sauce (I still sautee and reduce everything individually, but the simmering is down from two hours to 20 minutes!)

    Ciao,

    L

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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