Beans & Greens

After seeing these pictures of how wonderful a simple pot of beans could look, I was inspired to cook some dried beans myself. We usually use canned beans for all our beany needs, so I had to pick up a package of dried cannellini from the store.

I cooked them with a 4-5 cloves of garlic, a bunch of sage, and some salt, using the Russ Parsons method even though I had already soaked them overnight. In short, his method is to bring the beans to a boil on the stove, then chuck the entire pot, covered, in the oven at 350F and cook till done. I don’t know if it’s the method or the soaking, but these beans were soft at the 30 minute mark! I let them simmer for another 20 minutes in the oven while I cooked up the measly greens from our garden — kale and swiss chard with a clove of garlic.

Cooked beans and greens for dinner. Dry beans do taste better!

The beans were then taken out of the pot with a slotted spoon, to allow the cooking liquid to drain. Dressed up with some quality olive oil, another pinch of salt, and some freshly crushed pepper, they were ready to serve.

Were these beans life-changing? Eaten with a few pieces of toasted bread, they were pretty good! Some of them did have a creamy consistency inside. The only shortcoming is that the skins were tougher than I would like. Maybe next time, adding some baking soda will make the skins as soft as the interior of the bean.

One thing that surprised me was that the bean cooking liquid, only flavored with sage, beans, garlic, and salt, turned into a tasty broth!

Vegan Katsu Curry

Finally, a food-related post! As you can see in the picture with the pliers on my dining room table, I’m still in the process of unpacking, organizing, and moving in. I took a break from all that to whip out a proper home-cooked dinner. On a weeknight, no-less! Well, sort of.

Vegan katsu

The night before, I prepared some seitan from a package of vital wheat gluten (like this one.) Vital wheat gluten is a weird thing. It has the texture of flour, but once you add liquid (or broth, in my case) and start kneading it, it becomes a porous, spongey, dough that’s very unlike regular bread dough. I shaped the gluten mass into various cutlet-like pieces and boiled them in salted water with kombu for about an hour. Boiling the wheat gluten before use is crucial — a step I missed the first couple of times I prepared it. Otherwise, the gluten becomes a chewy, tough, mass.

I prepared the katsu by breading it in panko and frying in the cast iron frying pan with shallow oil on both sides. That part was easy.

Almost as easy was the curry sauce, which was basically a roux. I threw some oil and chopped onions in a pan and waited for the onions to soften. Then threw in two heaping teaspoons of madras curry powder. Stirred it around until fragrant, added a few teaspoons more oil, about two tablespoons of all purpose flour, and stir, stir, stirred until the flour browned. Then, I poured in about 1 cup of broth while stirring frequently. This should make a very thick paste-like roux. Then pour in another 1 cup of water to thin it out, add salt and soy sauce to taste, dump in some chopped carrots, turn down the heat, and cook, covered until the carrots soften, stirring occasionally so the curry doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Maybe I was heavy-handed with the curry powder because it packed more heat than I realized, but a little sweating is good now that the weather is starting to cool, no?

Dinner: Bittermelon and Chicken

Will’s getting really good at making these two dishes lately: 白苦瓜 and 宫爆鸡. Okay, so the chicken in the dish is wheat gluten and not real chicken, but trust me when I say that the amount of spice in the dish makes that fact irrelevant.


What’s great about these two dishes is that supposedly, bittermelon has cold characteristics, which balances out the heat of the spicy chicken dish. The original recipe for 宫爆鸡 doesn’t mention water chestnuts, but sometimes Will throws it in anyway. I think it’s a great addition because the crunchy and sweet pieces are a nice break from the painful burn of the sauce.

There’s also scrambled egg in with the bittermelon because it just tastes better that way. I think egg’s richness eases away some of the bitter taste of the melon, which is great for weaksauce people who can’t stomach the taste of bittermelon.