The rewarding experience of cooking at home with family and friends can be seen as a silver lining in the era of COVID lockdowns and economic uncertainty. As the saying goes, “the table unites.” Sharing ideas and stories that bring everyone closer to one another is like the frosting on the cake. The cherry on top is that it saves time, money and resources.
Coming together to share in the prep work for the simple food items that can help make putting together healthy and wholesome meals during the week a breeze. Once you have the base ingredients for such items as vegetable stock and heirloom beans, you can store in the fridge or freezer for when you need it for a whole variety of dishes. Once you groove with the habit you’ll realize how convenient and sustainable it can be. And another bonus! Almost nothing goes to waste.
A good principle to keep in mind is that stocks, especially vegetable stock can be either sweet or savory. The ingredients are the clue as to which type of vegetable stock to use when cooking. Sweet vegetable stock goes well with pumpkin, hard squash, or any type of fruit. While savory vegetable stock goes very well with tangy, lemony or earthy flavors. Both stocks are easy to make and easy to store.
Following are recipes from Chef Michel Nischan’s book Sustainably Delicious. Nischan is an advocate of sustainability of movement.
Savory Vegetable Stock – makes about 4 quarts
1 Fennel bulb, trimmed and quartered
3 Large leeks, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 Large onions, peeled and quartered
1 Rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Pound mushroom stems or who mushrooms
Step 1. Pre-roasting your vegetables will make any vegetable stock richer and more flavorful. It also cuts simmering time in half.
Step 2. Combine the vegetables in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat.
Step 3. Simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours or until the stock is nicely flavored.
Step 4. Strain the stock. Let it cool to room temperature.
Step 5. When cool, transfer to lidded containers and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or you can freeze it.
You can also save the vegetables that are not grossly overcooked to use with other hash recipes.
Dried Heirloom Beans Recipe
Since legumes are high in protein, fiber, and minerals, while low in fat, they can help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. Many find heirloom beans to be tastier than the more common varieties.
2 Cups of dried beans such as christmas lima/chestnut limas, Appaloosa, Indian Woman
5 -6 FreshThyme sprigs
2 Garlic Cloves
½ Fresh bay leaf
Sea Salt to taste
Pinch of baking soda
1-2 Bayleaf (either fresh or dry)
1-2 Tablespoons of sweet butter
Step 1. Put the beans in a bowl and cover generously with cool water. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer the better. Change the water several times during the soaking process, if you can.
Step 2. Transfer the beans to a large saucepan and cover generously with water. Add the thyme, garlic, bay leaf, and baking soda. The baking soda helps soften the bean’s skin. (Do not add salt to the water; salt toughens the beans).
Step 3. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a low and simmer very gently, partially covered, for about 2 hours, or until the beans are nice and tender. (High heat will not speed up the process but it will break up the beans). Sprinkle enough salt into the water until the water tastes as salty as seawater.
Step 4. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Let it stand for 10-20 minutes, or until the beans are perfectly salted.
Step 5. At this point the beans can be drained, cooled and refrigerated for up to 5 days or used in recipes that all cooked dried heirloom beans. You can also freeze them for a longer period of time.
To serve right away, drain the beans and serve hot, tossed with the butter and thyme.
Hard Squash and Heirloom Bean Soup
With these 2 of the three-sister-plants of Native American agriculture, Chef Nischhahan celebrates the relationship between beans and hard squash. (In case you couldn’t guess number 3, it’s corn) The indigenous practice of growing these plants side by side that helps all to flourish represents one of the best examples of companion planting recognized for centuries in the Western Hemisphere. Hard Squash lasts for long periods and is very easy to cook in no time. (Insert the link to the Homemade heirloom beans recipe)
2 lbs of hard squash, such as buttercup, caboch or butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Sweet onion cut into ¼”
6 Garlic cloves
2 Cups kale or other hearty winter green
½ Small red Thai or jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and finely sliced
4 Cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock preferable
3 Cups cooked dried heirloom bean home made see below
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, marjoram, or sage
Preheat oven 350 degrees F
Step 1. Toss the squash cubes with 2 tablespoon of the oil in a large bowl. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 2. Spread the squash evenly on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, or until the squash is nearly tender when pierced with a fork.
Step 3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. When it melts, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, or until the onion softens and begins to brown.
Step 4. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly browned and softened, stirring continuously, for about 8 minutes longer.
Step 5. Add the kale and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the green begins to wilt.