Saturday, January 13, 2007

Beans, Beans, the Frugal Fruit

You may be hearing more about eating within a budget in the next few months. Over at Belly Timber it is indeed on the menu.
In fact, living frugally is all the talk nowadays.
Well, we here at I'm Mad and I Eat are nothing if not early adopters.
Only around here, it's known as "eating leftovers."
I hate wasting food, and it's fun to devise new ways of turning a dish that had a distinct personality yesterday into an entirely new beast today.
It's even more fun when some of the food is free.
I had two kinds of cooked meat in the fridge, gifts from two different people. Together these two meats would provide the synergy for a great pot of white chili.
I have to share the basics with you, but (yawn, heard this before?): "This Is Not a Recipe Blog."

PROCUL HARUM CHILI (A Whiter Shade of Yum-O)

OK. In a pot, cook presoaked white beans (I used Great Northern) with a bay leaf or two and a pork bone if you are so lucky to have one that you have trimmed off the free slab of pork roast, in water just to cover. A little salt. Cook to near-tenderness; check the water level (it can dip down slightly toward the end, but I like mine a little soupy). Remove the bone at this point.

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, toast some dried herbs and spices over medium heat until they smell fabulous, a minute or so. I used oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder (just pure, ground, dried chiles, not that flavored mess from the chain market), and — a pinch of Chinese 5-spice powder. (Trust me. Don't overdo it, but do it.) The spice flavors are allowed to be a little potent at this point; they will be absorbed by the beans later.

Now add some olive oil to the spices in the pan and stir; toss in chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped green pepper (one with a little heat would be good) and chopped, de-husked tomatillos. A little salt. Cook gently until you have a smooshy, gooey mess (it's important to get the tomatillos to melt down), but with still-discernable pieces of vegetable.

Next, stir the vegetable-spice mixture into the beans. Let the whole mess simmer gently until the beans pick up some of that flavor. (I just turned off the heat, covered it, and left it alone for an hour or so.)

At mealtime, cut up the free meat. Mine was sausage and pork, and since it was already cooked, all I wanted to do was heat it, not vaporize it. Add the meat to the beans, warm gently, check seasonings (I added some habanero powder) — and eat.

The two must-haves in this dish are the tomatillos, for the smooth, almost slippery texture they add — the mouth-feel is pure, frugal luxury — and the 5-spice powder for that kick-ass je ne sais quoi. I liked it a lot.


mrs d said...


Points to $1.30 bowl of faux pho which would be only 53 cents if it weren't for Chopper's sausage and tempeh splurge.


Gee, ya think that living frugally thing might have something to do with the Bush economy? Naaaaaah...

cookiecrumb said...

Sorry, MizD. I fully intended to link to that delicious post; I've fixed it. (But what can be done about my fonky memory? Can I blame Bush?)

Dagny said...

Mmmmm. Beans. And yes, you can blame Bush for the memory problems as well. Non-support of stem cell research and all.

mrs d said...

Oh, now you didn't have to do that (but thank you!). I just wasn't sure if you'd seen it yet, and since we were on the same wavelength and all... :-P

Btw, we've still got two quarts of frozen hoppin' john from New Years. How's that for frugal?

Oh, and I blame my fonky memory on 80s song lyrics. They take up entirely too much brain space.

Greg said...

Got to say I'm all for frugal. I get a little turned off when I read things to do with dryer lint and washing old plastic bags.Beans however are on my A List.

Sam said...

i am not sure about how frugal I can be, but my aim is to definitely learn about much I am paying for food as usually I don't pay enough attention. I have bee writing down everything I spend at the farmers market so far this year and keeping a note. Mr Rancho Gordo gave me free beans yesterday (how nice is he?), so I will be playing with them soon as I am not really too much of a bean girl in general.
I look forward to learning, his beans look so beautiful.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: Yes, mmm. Beans play a big part in our diet, and not just for cheapo reasons.

MizD: Shout, shout, let it all out.

Greg: Oops! I've been know to wash out freezer bags (they's expensive), and I'm saving dryer lint for an art project. Can we still be friends? I took a tiny sliver of soap out of the shower and asked myself, briefly, "should I save it and melt it into a new bar with other scraps?" Then I threw it away.

Sam: It's good to know how much you're spending, sure. Probably more horrifying to know how much you're throwing away.
Steve Sando's beans are very good, very tender. They come with a lot of intrinsic taste, so you might not want to tinker as much as I do. Remember, beans love fat.

Anna Haight said...

I've been into beans too, of the soy persuasion. They are certainly frugal. But healthy too!

cookiecrumb said...

Anna: My, yes you have. I've been meaning to come back and comment (I was reading on RSS).
Oh dear. Another piece of equipment I must have?
Everybody else: Go visit Anna. Marching orders.

sher said...

Frugal, yes. And it sounds delicious. I grew up eating a lot of beans--and I guess it was to save money. But, they are so good, I didn't realize that was the reason.