Feijão (Brazilian Beans)

I’m currently reading Heliopolis by James Scudamore. One interesting fact is that right before we went to Charleston a few weeks ago, I was reading The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (and by “right before”, I mean I read the last sentence as Mark pulled into the airport parking garage), and the main character’s name in that book is Ludo. Well, we’re gearing up to go to Charleston again in a couple of days – I may well be finishing this book at the airport – and the main character in this book is named Ludo. Okay, maybe not that interesting, but I thought it was a funny coincidence.

Another, perhaps more interesting, thing about Heliopolis, which takes place in São Paulo, is this Ludo and his mother were rescued from a favela by a very wealthy family after his mother served the wife a humble but delicious meal of feijão. The wealthy woman asked how Ludo’s mother could possibly have made the beans taste so good when she could not afford to buy anything to season them with. Ludo later believes this impressive feat is what caused Rebecca to hire her as a cook, and subsequently the family to adopt Ludo. So basically Ludo’s life was saved (he firmly believes he would have died young, like so many others, had they stayed in the favela) by a bowl of beans. Beans, and other food, play a predominate role in the book: Ludo has inherited his mother’s love of cooking, and the types of food characters eat and enjoy is often used as a way to judge their character.

So of course I had to make feijão, right? Feijão just means beans. And after doing some research, I’ve found there really is no particular way you have to make or flavor them to make them particularly Brazilian, nor are there even particular beans you have to use. Really, you just pretty much cook some beans however you want and that’s feijão. I imagine it’s akin to saying, “I’m making some beans” in English. So I really don’t have an exact recipe for you, but that’s totally in keeping with the book: before she moved to the Carnicelli weekend farm – and even afterwards, when her access to ingredients was vastly improved – Ludo’s mother makes beans just however she can.

Pintos and black beans seem to be especially common, but any bean is okay. Pintos are my absolute favorite bean, but I decided to make black beans for a change. Here’s what I did, but definitely don’t copy me: do whatever you want with your beans!

Feijão

1 cup dried black beans, soaked over night in cold water or speed soaked for one hour in hot water
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 Tbsp bacon salt (Bryanna’s is not very salty; this would probably be way, way too much commercial bacon salt)
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp smoked pepper
1 Tbsp vegan “bacon” bits
vegan broth to cover the beans
smoked salt, to taste
hot sauce, to taste
lime wedges, for garnish

Heat some oil in a heavy pot, then add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are beginning to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are soft (an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how old your beans are). Remove the bay leaf.

Serve with rice, drizzled with lime juice. If desired, top with hot sauce and/or vegan bacon bits. I also made some turnip greens and corn on the cob. I think Mark was worried when he saw the turnip greens (which I knew he would refuse to eat), thinking he wouldn’t get enough to eat. However, after his first bowl of rice and beans, a propos of nothing, he announced, “this rice and beans is so simple but so f’ing awesome!” He didn’t realize it, but that was the perfect thing to say. Then he excused himself to retrieve a second bowl.

To elaborate, Mark would like me to tell you that “Bac-o-Bitzzzz is the shitzzzz and Tabasco Sauzzzz is the bozzzz.” Also, he had some wine. He adds, “wine makes me shine!”

Mark has just instructed me to reverse engineer bacon bits, because I will then rule the world. He wants me to call them “Smark-o-bits”. He sure loves bacon bits.

Comments (5)

PopCo's Let Them Eat Cake cake

Just before Christmas, Kylie sent me a book she thought I’d like, PopCo, by Scarlett Thomas. I finished reading it last night and was gratified to find a vegan cake recipe at the end, opposite a list of the first 1,000 prime numbers – a juxtaposition that as a vegan and a former high school Mathlete, I found delightful. Actually, the book sort of advocates veganism, and yes, the characters did eat the cake in the book. Naturally, today I had to bake the cake. Perhaps I’ll start a regular feature in which I cook from fictional books.

The book is British, so I’ll give you the original recipe, direct from the book, first, and then I’ll “translate” it for my American readers and add my commentary…basically I just measured everything for you after weighing it, although I will state that I much prefer baking by weight and I encourage you to buy a good scale if you don’t have one.

Let Them Eat Cake cake

Ingredients

2 oz ground almonds
6 oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 oz light muscovado sugar
150 ml corn oil
200-250 ml soya milk
zest of two unwaxed lemons
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp orange flower water
1 tsp natural vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, or less if it’s a fan oven.

Grease a cake tin. A deep six-inch tin is good but any will do.

Sift the flour and the baking powder into a bowl and then add the sugar. Mix in the ground almonds and the lemon zest. Add the oil and the milk. Use slightly less liquid to make the end result for of a cake and less of a pudding. You don’t have to be 100per cent precise with the liquids in this cake.

Now add the lemon juice and mix in thoroughly. Add the flower essence and the vanilla extract and mix again. The result should look like a thick batter.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for about forty minutes. The outside should be brown and the inside very soft. Turn out, cool, and decorate with fresh mint leaves and strawberries.

Alright, now here is the recipe from my American kitchen:

It’s hard to find self-raising flour in America, so I’ve used all purpose and added additional baking powder and salt. Wegmans had muscovado sugar but it felt rock hard and not particularly fresh, and I figured it may not be super easy for Americans to find anyway, so you can substitute light brown sugar or turbinado sugar. The orange blossom water may be difficult to find. I found it in a Mediterranean grocery. If you simply can’t find it, you can try a few drops of orange extract, but be aware the orange blossom water has a floral component you will be missing. It is, however, a fairly subtle flavoring.

2 oz, or scant 1/2 cup almonds, ground (measure before grinding)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
heaping 1 Tbsp baking powder
heaping 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (unpacked) light brown, light muscovado, or turbinado sugar
2/3 cup corn oil
1 cup soy or other non-dairy milk (I used hemp)
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
juice of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp orange flower water (also known as orange blossom water; can be found in Mediterranean and other specialty grocery stores)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grind the almonds, pulsing to ensure they don’t turn to a paste.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, you can just use a strainer, as I’ve done here.

Add the sugar and almond meal to the bowl.

Zest the lemons; you can do this right into the mixing bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients together well.

Juice the lemons and set aside.

Measure the oil – I barely had the 150 ml I needed, but here it is in both American and metric sizes:

Add it to the bowl, then measure the non-diary milk.

Add the milk to the bowl and mix well. Then add the orange blossom water and vanilla extract and mix well again.

Grease a cake pan. I’ve used an 8″ square baking dish. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen a 6″ cake pan.

Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then place an upside down cooling rack over it …

… and invert. Let cool.

I didn’t have any fresh mint or strawberries, so I just topped with vegan whipped cream. Strawberries and mint would have been delightful though. Interestingly, Mark thought the cake smelled of strawberries, but in fact it tasted quite lemony, as you could probably have guessed from the ingredients list. It was very moist; I used the lower amount of liquid recommended and can’t imagine having used any more. I had it with tea, which was perfect, especially since I think a cup of tea was drunk on at least every other page of PopCo.

PopCo, with its emphasis on math (mostly as it relates to cryptology) proved to be an unintentionally interesting segue to my next book, which I’d been on the wait list for at the library and which finally arrived: The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, what with Dirac being a very mathematically inclined physicist. (Well, all physicists are probably mathematically inclined, but until he became enamored with relativity, math was Dirac’s direct calling.) This is a strange book for me to be reading because I very rarely read biographies. I find I simply don’t care enough about anyone to read an entire book about them. I largely prefer to read fiction. But from the reviews I’d read of this book, it’s pretty heavy on the physics – it was written by a physicist – which I like. And it’s been a strange reading year so far: exactly half of the 8 books I’ve completed have been non-fiction. Compare that to the 93.6% fiction (of 109 books) I read in 2009. I don’t know how I’m tolerating all these facts!

Speaking of the library, I also checked out Vegan Soul Kitchen. Anyone have any favorite recipes from that book I should definitely try?

And now, Brachtune takes a bath…


(She’d just finished yawning.)

Comments (11)

2666 Brussels sprouts

No, I didn’t buy 2,666 Brussels sprouts. What I did was read a book with 2,666 pages. Okay, not really. It was 898 pages and it was called 2666. I finished it a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with it, but it consists of five parts that are only loosely related. The third is The Part about Fate (Fate being a person) and it contains a character named Barry Seaman, who delivers a long speech that contains a recipe for Brussels sprouts. You read that right. So I decided to make those Brussels sprouts!

Here is the original, direct from the book:

I see lots of fat people in this church, he said. I suspect few of you eat green vegetables. maybe now is the time for a recipe. The name of the recipe is: Brussels Sprouts with Lemon. Take note, please. Four servings calls for: two pounds of brussels sprouts, juice and zest of one lemon, one onion, one sprig of parsley, three tablespoons of butter, black pepper, and salt. You make it like so. One: Clean sprouts well and remove outer leaves. Finely chop onion and parsley. Two: In a pot of salted boiling water, cook sprouts for twenty minutes, or until tender. Then drain well and set aside. Three: Melt butter in frying pan and lightly saute onion, add zest and juice of lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Four: Add brussels sprouts, toss with sauce, reheat for a few minutes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side. So good you’ll be licking your fingers, said Seaman. No cholesterol, good for the liver, good for the blood pressure, very healthy.

Now, I don’t know where Seaman got the idea his recipe does not contain cholesterol, because it certainly does, unless by “butter” he meant “vegan margarine,” which I doubt. My interpretation, of course, is cholesterol-free! The only change I made was the margarine, and dried parsley since I didn’t have any fresh.

Barry Seaman’s Brussels Sprouts with Lemon


2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
2-3 Tbsp vegan margarine
1 onion, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp dried parsley (or a sprig of fresh, minced)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash and trim those sprouts.

Bring a pot of water to a boil then add some salt and the sprouts. Cook until tender (15 to 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, zest …

… and juice the lemon.

And mince the onion.

When the sprouts are tender, drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking.

In a large frying pan or a wok, heat the margarine …

… then add the onions and parsley and fry for 5 minute or until soft.

Stir in the lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper.

The toss in the sprouts and cook just until heated through.

I’m sorry I forgot to include my lemon wedge because it brightened up the plate, but here’s the meal:

What do I think of the culinary prowess of Mr Seaman? It was an okay change of pace, but I prefer my roasted Brussels sprouts, and I suspect Mark does as well because he didn’t eat as many as usual. But I still thought it was fun to cook from a novel. I should pay more attention to food in the books I read and try to recreate some fictional meals. You don’t usually get a character telling you exactly how to make a dish but it would be fun to make things up.

Comments (7)

Next entries » · « Previous entries