Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Biscuits and Beans

As I mentioned earlier, based on a recommendation from Maia and inspiration from Heidi and their website, I ordered some beans from Rancho Gordo the other day. They arrived today, along with a bottle of hot sauce, and a package of canela (cinnamon sticks.)
Rancho Gordo Shipment
I have to admit, I was compelled to order the beans in large part because they look so cool, but I really have no idea what to do with them. I love the idea of eating more non-meat forms of protein and getting more fiber and whole foods in my diet, but I wasn't raised in a bean eating family, unless we're talking about pork and beans, or those icky three bean salads made from canned wax and kidney beans. (I still can't get over the fact that you just open the cans and dump it in the bowl. Ick!!) Needless to say, I turned up my nose at those things, even going so far as to pick the beans out of my chili when I was a kid.
Marrow and Borlotti Beans

I need a little help, people. If these were your beans, what would you do with them?

I have heirloom Good Mother Stallard, (what a great name!) Cannellini, Borlotti and Marrow beans.

Speaking of great names, I am at the section in Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, where she talks about the names for all of the heirloom varieties of vegetables you can buy. It's making me really excited to seek out some unique and unusual varieties when I plant the garden next year. (I'm going to need a lot of boxes to grow all that I have in mind!)
Biscuits
I'm just trying new things all over the place. I've made scones a million times, and shortbread for strawberries as well, but I had never set out to make big fluffy biscuits from scratch until this week - when I decided to give them a try for my supper club meeting tonight.

I actually had a false start on my first effort, following the recipe from Joy of Cooking. (You know there's a serious disconnect when one recipe that calls for three cups of flour makes a dozen biscuits, and another that uses only two cups claims to make twenty!) What I wound up with was something more akin to a cracker. They were crisp and flaky but slightly flat, and tasted sort of like like buttery saltines. I actually think they would make great canapes, baked in small squares, split and filled with cheese or salty ham. We ate them with some fig jam and bleu cheese as an accompaniment to oven fried chicken and a green salad.

This morning I got up a little early to do a re-do on the biscuits, so that I would have something to take to the supper club this evening as promised. I needed a new recipe, and I thought I remembered seeing one recently on the adorably funny blog Smitten Kitchen. Sure enough there it was, lurking among a number of delicious-sounding brunch recipes. I didn't use the chives because I wanted to be able to drizzle the biscuits with honey and/or slather them with jam, and I didn't have any buttermilk on hand so I was forced to substitute some yogurt, which worked just dandy. I was very pleased with the way these came out. They were fluffy, flaky, light and delicious - in short, everything a biscuit should be. Here is the recipe, as I adapted it.
More Biscuits

Fluffy, Flaky Biscuits
adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted her recipe from Dot's Diner in Boulder, CO

3 cups Organic All Purpose Flour, sifted
1 Tablespoon of sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) chilled unsalted organic butter, cut in 1/2 inch slices
3/4 cup organic plain lowfat yogurt (I used Trader Joes Organic)
1/4 cup organic whole milk, plus a little more as needed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda with a whisk. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles bread crumbs, with pieces no larger than a pea.

Combine the yogurt and milk in a measuring cup, and pour all at once into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon just until it comes together, adding a little more milk if necessary. Knead against the side of the bowl five or six times, and turn out onto a floured marble or stone surface. Roll out to 3/4 of an inch thick, forming a large square. Cut into 9 even pieces with a sharp knife. Flip the squares over, dust off any excess flour, and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Spray with a light mist of olive oil or brush with melted butter. Bake until the tops are lightly browned, about fifteen minutes. Serve warm with softened butter and a drizzle of honey.

To reheat room temperature biscuits, place in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. These would also freeze very well.

12 comments:

  1. All this time I thought Rancho Gordo beans were some local produce.

    You'll have to tell us how they compare to regular dried store-bought beans (if you ever actually eat them)

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  2. Yay, you got the Good Mother Stallards. Just treat them simply... soak for 4 hours, then saute a saltless mirepoix and then add the beans and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer until they are almost tender. Add salt and simmer until they are tender. Serve in a bowl, alongside pretty much anything from Mexican food to bbq.

    The other beans would be good in soup, or as a bed for grilled fish or meat. Just cook them as you did the Good Mother Stallards, then drain them (keep the stock for soup) and toss with garlicy wilted greens. Top with grilled fish... or, whatever! Or just eat them! Ha.

    jef- The Rancho Gordo beans are so much better than store-bought dried beans. First of all, you know they're fresh. On top of that, they have much more flavor and a much nicer texture. Of course starchyness varys from bean to bean, but the Rancho Gordo beans I've tried have all been far more creamy than the best store-bought dried bean. It's comprable to the difference between plain ol' American lentils and French du Puy lentils.

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  3. Your biscuits look delicious! They look made of puff pastry, so flaky!

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  4. Jef - Yeah - what she said! Of course I'm going to eat them, why else would I be looking for recipes? I'm not sure, but I suspect that these beans from Northern California are at least as local as what you'd get in the bins at Henry's or Peoples.

    Maia - thanks for the ideas! I like the idea of using them as a bed for fish, will have to try that out. Another friend sent me a recipe via email that sounds good too, for a tuna salad with white beans, red onions and lemon juice. Mangia fagioli!

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  5. This is a great, classic recipe for Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup (I love bean soups!): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/235425. I read about Rancho Gordo on Tea and Cookies and have been intrigued ever since. Do update, please!

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  6. I think I'd make a type of refried beans with the borlotti! Don't you just love getting food parcels?

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  7. I love to put cooked beans into a salad with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, pomegranite molasses, maple syrup and a touch of pepper and salt.

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  8. Ooh, I can't wait to see what you make with the beans. I was happy to see that Rancho Gordo also sells hibiscus flowers. I'm tempted to order them for summer hibiscus tea...

    I have a recipe from a friend in Pittsburgh for a wild rice salad, I'm think some beans would be good in something like that... really nice for summer to have a crisp cool side dish.

    Gosh, you're making me hungry, all that talk of biscuits and cheeses and salty ham. I recently picked up a bag of dehydrated buttermilk from Organic Valley at Whole Foods, since I never seem to have it on hand when I want it, but using yougurt is a good idea for a substitute.

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  9. Jora - thanks for the link, that sounds good! I made some of the Good Mother Stallards last night to go with some pork and they were very good. They would have been a bit better if they had soaked, but they have really good flavor.

    Patricia - thanks for stopping by! I was surprised by how flaky they were. I am sure it had something to do with the massive quantities of butter, just like in puff pastry!

    freya - that's a good idea, I just might do that! I loove getting food parcels. For some reason it feels like someone sent you a present, even if you ordered it yourself. Why is that??

    Jenny - that sounds fantastic! I will have to do a post later about all of the great bean recipes I am getting.

    Udderly Delicious - that sounds good too! I haven't tried making hibiscus tea, but I have had it before and it's good. A friend of mine gave me some edible flowers at work the other day and we ate them in a salad. Day lilies and some guava blossoms. I haven't tried the dehydrated buttermilk so let me know how that works. I have been pretty happy with my baking results using the Trader Joes yogurt, but it would be good to have another backup. Supposedly you can also just put a tablespoon of lemon juice in regular milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes to create the acid that you need to react with the baking powder.

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  10. You are right about how a biscuit should be. Now to bake me some...

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  11. Oh, I love the flaky, flaky biscuits!

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  12. GOod Mother Stallard has made a bean lover out of bean-hater me. Next time you come to SF I will take you to meet Steve, a darling whom you will adore.

    He insists I cook my beans only with mirepoix or onion and garlic.

    Insists.

    he gets all upset when I tell him I am going to add ham hocks or bacon.

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