Saturday, December 18, 2010

Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain: Alubias Rojas de Tolosa con Berza

Delicioso!I've been plotting out my course for the new year. See, like a lot of people, I make food-related resolutions, and money-related resolutions. This year, however, I'm making a food-AND-money-related resolution: I'm going to cut back on my food expenditures by planning ahead and actually bringing a home made breakfast and lunch to work with me, rather than going out. Even just walking to the grocer's near work to buy a frozen whatnot adds up, if not in pennies, then in healthfulness. I like to cook, I cook well, what I cook tastes better than what I'd pick up at the grocer's, and so, darn it, I should do it. I was going through old favorite recipes, and kept running smack up against ones that I'd written about here. So here we are, back at the good ol' blog!

We're starting the new year celebration a touch early with a festive sort of cuisine in Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas (Alfred A. Knofpf, New York; 1996). I was lucky enough to get to go to Spain a few years back and walk the pilgrim trail to Santiago; it was an amazing experience, and odds are I'll pepper these posts this week with pictures and stories from the Camino. Like... this one from kilometer 99...a little over 60 miles from Santiago.Pilgrims carry stones with them from their homes and place them along the route; I had one from my mother's yard in Oregon, and one from my yard in DC.

Camino de Santiago, kilometer 99. Photo by Wendy A F G Stengel, some rights reserved.

I ate amazing food in Spain, none of it fancy. Really, not fancy at all. Soups. Stews. Lentils. Cheese. Really filling and tasty. Today's recipe reminds me of that food.

Alubias Rojas de Tolosa con Berza
(Red Beans with Cabbage)

Start prepartion 1 day in advance.

A dollop of cabbage, placed in each bowl of beans, is a delicious complement to this bean stew based on the outstanding red beans that grow in Tolosa in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa along the banks of the Oria River. you can use any kind of red bean to make this dish, but the results will be best with Tolosa, Adzuki, or other dark red beans, sometimes available at food specialty shops.

Serves 4

1 pound small, deep-red dried beans
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half crosswise
1 large carrot, scraped and cut in half crosswise
1 small leek, well washed
A 1/4-pound piece slab bacon, preferably fresh (otherwise cured)
1/4 pound sweet chorizo
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons imported sweet paprika

Sauteéd Cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover. Drain, then combine in a large pot with 6 cups fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the onion, carrot, leek, bacon, and chorizo. cover and simmer 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the chopped onion and garlic, and sauté slowly until the onion has wilted. Stir in the paprika, then add to the beans. Season with salt, cover, and continue cooking about 30 minutes more, or until the beans are just tender. Wipe out the skillet.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the cabbage. Heat the oil in the skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion has wilted. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and stir-fry about 10 minutes. Cover and continue cooking until done to taste.

Serve the beans in soup bowls, accompanied by crusty country bread. Heat the cabbage, transfer to a serving bowl, and pass separately. Typically, a spoonful or two of cabbage is placed in the soup bowl, off to one side--not mixed into the beans.
Yes, please. This would be such a welcoming dish to find at a pilgrim's table after walking 30 kilometers (or even after 3). Hearty. Simple. Serve it with the bread (oh, the bread in Spain!) and a glass or two of wine. My thoughts on wine: stick with Spain, and stick with northern Spain. An Albariño would go great with this, and I know--Albariño is from the northwest of Spain, and Tolosa is in the northeast, but it'd still taste great. I'd go a bit off-local on red, too, and pour a Ribera del Duero.

I feel like going off for a bit on the wines I tasted along the Camino, but I suspect I'll be wandering through that topic a few times this week.

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