red bean gumbo
bathing in fluorescent light
surf and turf twelve-ninety-nine
i dream of sizzler
kidney beans. white mushy paste held together by a tough and flavorless red skin. the kind that gets caught in your teeth and gums making for that oh-so-flattering, banjo-picking, first-cousin-courtin', mash-distillin', blacktoothed-hillbilly look. kidney beans. they make me think of cheap salad bars and tin cans. it's strange that i've always had such contempt for this innocuous little fellow because i love beans. with this one exception i don't think i've ever met a bean that me and my ever-ready jar of beano didn't like.
well imagine my surprise on that fateful day when i bypassed tin can alley and cooked up a batch from the real, dried, organic, kidney-shaped thing. what a revelation! neither starchy nor mushy but with a meltingly tender interior held in a firm yet gentle embrace by this smooth, taut, beautiful expanse of maroon skin. kidney bean, i apologize. it was not your fault that your sensitive nature was not strong enough to stand up against the cold and brutal world of mass production, saline injections and tin entombment.
if you have the opportunity i encourage you to experiment with cooking your own beans at home. with a pressure cooker and the addition of salt in the cooking water, you and your trusty can of beano can also come a little closer to the divine spirit of legume.
onto today's recipe from deborah madison's vegetarian cooking for everyone is red bean gumbo with greens. this is a simple tasting dish that sports a lovely rich and nutty roux base that is just hearty enough to stand up against the somewhat assertive beans and greens. with bell peppers, greens, beans, onions, celery and garlic it has a lot of heart-healthy goodness going for it. this is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day once the flavors have a chance to meld, or as we like to put it in our house, "once it gets a little rotty".
red bean gumbo with greens
2-3 large bunches of assorted greens (mustard, turnip, collards, kale, etc.)
1/3 cup oil
6 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2" pieces (any color but red is prettiest)
3 stalks of celery, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked red kidney beans
2 quarts stock or reserved greens cooking water or reserved bean cooking water
thoroughly wash the greens in several changes of water to get rid of any sand and dirt and chop horizontally into 1/4" - 1/2" slices. you may remove and discard the really tough parts of the stems but i like to use as much of the plant as i can. bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the greens for about 10 minutes or until they're tender (this will depend on the type and age of your greens). drain and reserve some of the cooking water for later.
and now the roux. in a wide and heavy pot or skillet heat the oil over medium high. whisk in the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a dark reddish brown. this is probably gonna take a little while, maybe 10-15 minutes or more. do not skimp on this step as it adds the characteristic, deep, rich, velvety gumbo flavor. if you are trying to avoid oil you can use bryanna grogan's "browned flour" method of thickening which is to brown the flour in a hot, dry non-stick pan and stir over a medium flame until the flour is browned. mix the browned flour with a little water (to avoid clumping) and add to the stock. once boiled this will thicken the sauce and provide a bit of a toasty flavor to the dish. i highly recommend using the oil in this particular dish as it really adds a great flavor. if you want to reduce the oil do so to only 1/4 cup, no less, as the roux will get too thick to properly stir beyond that point. the instructions then say to stir in the seasons and vegetables before adding the 2 quarts of reserved greens cooking water (or reserved bean cooking water) or stock directly into your pot. i usually make my roux in a saucepan and add the water directly into the pan, whisking like crazy to make sure all the clumps come out. then i place the vegetables, seasonings, thinned out roux, beans and greens all together in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes or so.
after 30-40 minutes begin adjusting for seasonings. i usually have to add quite a bit more salt, red pepper, thyme and onion powder to get the flavors up to where i like them. for me this recipe takes a bit of fiddling to get the flavors just so but then again i have a somewhat brutish and lazy palate.