My other favorite cookbook is even newer. One afternoon last week, darling son resembled an out-of-control little tornado and I was a wreck by the time Scott got home from work. Scott graciously told me to take the evening off, even from dinner, and go out somewhere. I went to one of my favorite restaurants (a cute little place that specializes in rice and bean dishes) and then I browsed in a bookstore. Never a good idea. I discovered The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and my evening out got more expensive by the price of the book. :)
I have found that as I've embraced the concept of using local ingredients, my cookbook needs have changed. I don’t need a book with a lot of new recipes. Instead, I need instruction in how to make the best use of the local ingredients I’m learning to love. I finally found what I’ve been looking for in the Waters book. The book teaches how to cook, but emphasizes local and seasonal eating. Those who are already excellent cooks might find the author boring, but for those like me who are very much still learning, she is fantastic. I studied the teaching half of the book like I was back in college! The second part of the book has recipes, but Waters main advice is to buy the best quality ingredients and cook them simply, tasting as you go. My kind of cooking! The book also coached me through last week's pasta making. I couldn't have asked for better directions.
This week’s experiment in local eating was inspired by the fireman cookbook. One of Scott’s favorite dinners is my "taco casserole," a recipe that calls for refried beans. I had never even dreamed of making my own until I saw the recipe in the fireman cookbook. I’ll print it in it’s entirety so you get the flavor (pun intended) of the book:
Refried Beans (Frijolito)
2 c pinto beans
This ain’t brain surgery. As always with any bean, soaking them first will reduce cooking time. Boil beans in 4 cups of water with ½ teaspoon of salt til soft. If not soft add more water & cook longer. Dice and fry 3 strips of bacon, add to cooked beans and Ole!
Cute, huh! But not quite enough information for a beginner. When I got the Alice Waters book, I saw that she had a chapter on what to do with beans including how to soak them, cook them and use them in recipes. She also gives very clear directions for making refried beans, so forgive me Mr. Fireman, but I decided to use Alice’s recipe instead of yours.
I soaked the beans (local from Azure Farm) and then that evening began to make dinner. If I’d read the directions just one more time, I would have remembered that the beans needed to simmer for at least an hour before I could use them and I would have started sooner... I had to use canned beans in the casserole and then after dinner, when the pinto beans were finally soft, I made the refried beans with local onion and bacon fat from our pig. Hey, next time I make that casserole, I’ll have all-local refried beans to add to it!
The refried beans turned out very tasty, although before I use them I want to mash them better so the skins aren’t so evident. Even though the beans missed dinner, it’s another triumph for the "eating local" project. This is fun.