Collards & black beans slow cooked with black cardamom

collards and black beans

On the last day of school, Isaac said, “Mom, for summer vacation I want to go to a big field somewhere and play tag.” And that was his whole plan! I love that idea. I love the simplicity of it. I can just picture our family, all summer long, in a big glowing green field, playing tag. I feel that I have less and less ambition to make big plans and take big trips. I’ve always had something of Moley about me. Or maybe Ratty – content to while away the hours in my riverside home. I do love to travel – just the other day I was thinking about how nice it is to walk around a strange city early in the morning. I do want to take the boys to other countries, and show them that their home is only the center of their universe. But for now, I’m happy spending long, slow summer days with the boys, not doing much of anything at all. Today we went creeking. They threw rocks in the creek, and found a spider the size of Isaac’s hand (biggest spider I have ever seen in real non-zoo life!) They built a pyramid of smooth creek rocks. And on the way back through the woods we found two little ponds. Malcolm waded through them, and spotted a frog. The plump bronzy-green frog swayed in the small waves made by Malcolm’s steps, his little froggy hand reaching toward the slick bank to ground himself. Malcolm made a dive for him, and he swam under a large rock. We decided to wait, as quietly as possible, for the murky water to clear, and the frog to reemerge. I’ve been trying to slow myself down, lately. I’m always impatiently on to the next thing, I can’t sit still. This is why I can’t do yoga, and I can’t enjoy sitting at the beach for hours and hours. I feel like I’m anxious to get things over with and carry on, even if I’m doing something I’m enjoying. I don’t know why. I’m always hurrying the boys from place to place like a madwoman, even though we almost never have anywhere we need to be, in the summer. So we stood very still, and listened to the wind in the trees far over our heads, and felt the warm dapply sun. You can’t hurry a frog!

In that spirit, I made beans from scratch, in the slow cooker. As I’ve said in the past, I almost always use canned beans. (I’m actually very loyal to goya as a brand, and I think their beans are fresh and tasty. My first product endorsment!) But it’s fun to make beans from scratch, sometimes. It’s nice to use the slow cooker, on a hot day, because it doesn’t warm up the kitchen too much. And I like collards in a slow-cooked scenario, because their flavor develops nicely and they don’t turn to mush. I’ve also been on a food-quest for black cardamom, lately, and I finally got a big bag, and I was extremely eager to try it out. They’re wonderful! Big wrinkly black pods, with the most amazing smoky-sweet flavor. I love them! Their taste is milder than their smell. If you can’t find them, you can use green cardamom, or cardamom powder, and add a touch of smoked paprika, if you have it. This would probably good with rice, but I didn’t think of that at the time!

Here’s Ken Parker with Groovin in Style. I love this song so much! This is what we’ll sing while we play tag in our big glowing green field.
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Slow cooked canary bean and moong dal

canary beans and moong dal

I’ve been feverishly cooking my way through all the veg from the CSA this week. I was a veritable tasmanian devil of vegetable preparation. I paused for a moment, to peer in my vegetable drawer, and…it’s almost gone! Just a head of lettuce left! So I decided to take a day off from primarily-vegetable-meals and cook some beans. I generally use canned beans, to my eternal shame. They’re just so easy, and cheap, and good quality canned beans taste fine to me! But I bought some beautiful pale yellow dried canary beans, and I wanted to cook them up. I’m a big fan of any dish that combines lentils with larger beans. Like urad dal & kidney beans in dal makhani, for instance, so I decided to make a variation on that. I used canary beans and whole moong dal. Both so pretty uncooked, and so drab when cooked! You could use any slow-cooking lentil (whole moong dal and whole urad dal are the two I know of) and any larger, firmer bean that you like (kidney and navy being two contestants). If you used a quicker-cooking lentil, it would just get softer and mushier, but that’s not a bad thing, because it becomes part of the sauce the beans sit it. I decided to flavor the beans with cardamom and smoked paprika. It all started the night before, when I simmered some bok choy with these particular spices and then topped it with peanuts. Baby, it was so nice, I wanted to do it twice! Ahem, my train of thought seems to be derailed at the moment, so I’ll just get on with the recipes, shall I?

Bok choy & peanuts

Here’s Howlin Wolf, Goin Down Slow.

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Slow cooker stew with red winter wheat, moong dal and collards

Red winter wheat, moong dal, collards

Isaac is home from school with strep throat. We’ve drawn a little book of bugs, drawn mixed-up dinosaurs (Isaac declared himself “pretty impressed” with my mixed up pteranadon/prehistoric shark!), and we’ve gone to the doctor, where he danced all around, charming the nurses, and didn’t seem very sick at all. It’s been a cold and rainy couple of days. Perfect for lying around in PJs drawing dinosaurs. Perfect for making brothy, flavorful stews in your slow cooker!! This stew combines hard red winter wheat, moong dal and collard greens – a green that can stand up to a long cooking-time if ever there was one! Hard red winter wheat (also called wheat berries, I think!) is pretty and very tasty, but needs to cook for a while (hello, slow cooker!). I chose to pair it with moong dal because whole moong dal, which also needs to cook for a very long time, is so bright and pretty and green, and looked so nice with the red winter wheat. An aesthetic culinary pairing! Of course, when they’re cooked they both pretty much look brown – but pretty tawny brown! If you don’t have moong dal on hand, you could use any other dried bean in this stew. Black-eyed peas might be nice!

The broth is smoky and a little sweet, with a kick of cayenne. The texture of the stew is quite nice – the moong dal becomes soft, the winter wheat remains a little chewy, and everything retains a bit of its original character, though it all goes well together.

Here’s Chico Hamilton with Mulligan Stew. I love this!
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Slow cooked urad dal and black-eyed peas

urad dal and black-eyed peas

My son got a couple of science experiment kits for christmas. I got a slow-cooker. I’ve never had one before! I like the idea of trying to figure out how to use it without reading too much about it. I feel just like a 6-year-old with a box full of mad experiments to try!!

The first thing I thought to cook in the big beautiful black stoneware pot was Urad Dal. I bought some this summer at an Indian grocery store. They’re beautiful, tiny, black ovoid lentils. They need to cook for a loooooong time, on a looooooow heat. And then they turn out delcious! I matched them with black-eyed peas, because they both have an earthy flavor, and because I liked the little black beans with white spots, and the larger white beans with black spots. I seasoned them with allspice, ginger, cardamom, coriander and basil. Bright and sweet – to go with the earthy. And I cooked them in butter, because Dal Makhani, the traditional urad dal dish, is cooked with butter, yogurt and cream, and I wanted to give a nod to that. Turned out yummy! I cooked it for 6 hours on high, and I think it would have been done an hour earlier, but I wasn’t home. Very tasty with basmati rice and cauliflower in a spicy cashew-almond sauce. It’s not the prettiest dish you’ve ever made, but if you stir in some chopped tomatoes and cilantro at the end, it will have a bit of color and fresh flavor.

This was fun to make in a slow cooker, because I could leave the house with minimal fear of burning it down. But I’ve also cooked urad dal on a low burner for 5 hours, and that’s worked, too. So if you don’t have a slow cooker…don’t despair.

Of course it’s got to be Slow and Low by the Beastie Boys. That is the tempo!!
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