Tuesday, July 22, 2008

a coleslaw miracle! (also notes on cannellini beans and polenta)

The miracle: my kids ate it. It's based on a recipe in The Best Recipe -- I chop the cabbage and grate th carrot, and toss them together (also a few radishes and scallions, this time) in a colander with about 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 tsp kosher salt. I let it drain for several hours and then toss it with some oil and cider vinegar. Delicious.

It's also amazing how mild-tasting this cabbage was! I love cabbage, I have to say, but it is often quite strong-flavored. This one is so sweet and almost delicate.

I also made Barbara Kingsolver's "Disappearing Zucchini Orzo" which tastes better than it looks, honestly, so I didn't take a picture. It's kind of bland looking, but it tastes great.

(I called it "grated dinner.")

Finally, I cooked some cannellini beans from Baer's. I don't have good luck with cannellinis. I don't love canned ones because the skins are often tough, but when I cook them myself, well, the skins are also often tough. I don't have this issue with other kinds of beans, by and large. Once I tried the Cook's Illustrated method of soaking them in salt water, then draining them and cooking in fresh water. I was amazed by how soft the skins were, and how quickly it happened -- so quickly, in fact, that they basically dissolved and turned to mush before I noticed. Whoops. Not that that's always a problem, since I often mash them with garlic and olive oil, anyway.

Well, so I emailed the Rancho Gordo guy and asked him what he thought of this technique and he basically said, why bother? He felt that he has refined his technique well enough.

But I am feeling after multiple attempts that maybe cannellinis just have a tendency toward tough skins and this is a way to compensate. (Plus I sort of hope that somewhere in the ancient world there might be a precedent for this -- soaking them in seawater or something -- but I haven't seen any evidence for it!) So next time, I'll try the salt brine again and then watch them really carefully to keep them at a low simmer and test them early and often . . .

Today I decided that polenta would go well with the white beans and beet greens I'm making for dinner -- I really make an effort to vary the grains in our diet. It's so easy to eat wheat at every meal, but I just don't think it's the best for us. And since I bake so much bread (though not so much lately, as it's been hot) . . . I try to incorporate rice, corn, quinoa where I can.

I remembered reading about a cooking technique for polenta where you bake it in the oven instead of stirring it constantly on top of the stove, and I gotta tell you, I'm now a convert! It's cooling in a loaf pan in the kitchen as we speak. I used the cooking water from the cannellinis as the broth, and I had a little trouble figuring out the amounts, but it seems to have come together okay. I started out with 4 cups of broth and 2 cups of coarse cornmeal (Bob's Red Mill, I think), but after about 40 minutes it was REALLY dry. So I whisked in an additional 2.5 cups of water and gave it another 45 minutes, and I think it'll be good. I also stirred in some grated Romano -- maybe about a cup?


S. said...

Confession: I have never figured out cabbage. We had our friends' CSA share for two weeks while they were on vacation. Both weeks, cabbage was threatened, and I was completely relieved not to have it show up.

Tall Kate said...

S., thanks for stopping by!

I wonder if cabbage is one of those things you have to grow up with? I have great memories of my grandma chopping it for coleslaw, filling pierogis with it . . . she always gave the kids the core to nibble on.