How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beans for the Birds

My contribution to Nueva Receta this week was a simple and satisfying bean dish, based on a recipe for Bird-Style Beans (Fagioli all'Ucceletto) from page 208 of Aliza Green's comprehensive classic, The Bean Bible: A Legumaniac's Guide to Lentils, Peas, and Every Edible Bean on the Planet! (Note: the exclamation point is part of the title.) It is appropriate that the author of this book is named Green, an aptonym given the prevalence of vegetables in the book!

This recipe calls for dried borlotti (or cranberry or pink) beans, chicken stock, olive oil, plenty of garlic, sage, fresh plum tomatoes. I chose the pink beans (from Goya -- similar to pintos), because I had no idea how to find the other two. I used vegetable bouillon in honor of our resident vegetarian, and I used "fresh" regular tomatoes from the grocery store. I will be sure to try this recipe again when local tomatoes are available. I also used minimal salt, rather than the two teaspoons called for. I found that a dash of Tabasco sauce worked very well in place of excessive salt. When I prepare this next, I will try to find a way to avoid using both a stock pot and a Dutch oven, as this created more dish-washing than seemed warranted.

The result was a warm, satisfying, if very simple meal. I dipped a bit of tortilla in mine, and would have welcomed some more substantial accompaniment, but it did work well with a salad for a light meal. After we ate it, I noticed that the author recommends serving this with grilled meat or poultry -- something we will definitely be trying. It is worth noting, though, that the Tuscan originators of this recipe apparently prepared it as a substitute for game birds that they could not afford.

This was a perfect book for our project, as it has been displacing significant shelf space without inspiring a proportionate number of meals. Using our underused cookbooks is precisely what this blog project is about, and now that I've used the book (not for the first time, but for the first time in a long while), I expect to be tucking into it again and again. It is interesting that one of the reviewers notes that she purchased this book after borrowing it from the library and determining that she would actually use almost all of the recipes.

The same reviewer notes something else interesting: no pictures accompany any of the recipes in this volume. We had just noted the exact opposite phenomenon in our newspaper, which sometimes includes photos of dishes for which it does not include recipes. The most recent example was in the grilled cheese article that Pam reviewed recently, which included a photo of a decadent grilled cheese dessert with no clue as to its contents.

Aliza Green has done just the opposite: providing text that so fully prepares a cook that no images are needed.

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