A few weeks ago I got so excited! I saw on the evening news that the following morning we were getting a cold front. I got ready, pulled out a big comfy sweater and a pair of baggy sweatpants, set them on the dresser and went to bed. So what the heck happened? The next morning I got up and went outside; it felt pretty darn warm. So I checked the thermostat and shoot, the outdoor temperature was 88 degrees. OMG, you call that a cold front? But, in my opinion, that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. By 7 p.m. it had dropped to 77. OK, so it was very pleasant walking my dogs while wearing my shorts and flip-flops, but it was still not an official “cold front.” Bedtime, 10 p.m., it finally dropped to 72 degrees. OK, I was optimistic. I went to the pantry and pulled out a big bag of dried red beans. I always like to make a big pot of red beans and rice when we get our first cold front of the season. Yes, I was optimistic it would get colder the next few days and beans always taste better the second day, right?
Red beans over white fluffy Texas or Louisiana rice, topped with hot cornbread crumbled over the bowl and sprinkled with a dash or two of Tabasco sauce. This is the perfect cold-front meal. I was so sure it would be colder by the weekend that I made my beans and rice and waited, 1, 2, 3 days … Finally on the third day it got down to the mid 60s. With the a/c off and the inside fans on, it felt a bit chilly. The recipes I have included are really easy and I always make plenty. So “Please Join Our Table” as we share a couple of down-home, cold-front bean recipes.
I printed the following recipe several years ago, and the other day I was with my friend, Susan Cook, who told me she lost her recipe for red beans and asked if I still had it. I promised her I would find it and post it again; here it is. By the way, I learned to make this when we lived in Baton Rouge back in 1978. Our daughters, who enjoyed it years ago, now make it for their kids. It’s a family cold-front tradition!
My Red Beans and Rice
1 pound dry, small red beans (if you can’t find red beans use small red kidney beans)
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large smoked ham hock or 3/4 pound or bone-in ham leftovers
1 pound andouille sausage (or any spicy link sausage), sliced into 1/2 inch pieces on the bias
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 jalapeno, pricked with a fork (optional)
Salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste
3 cups cooked white or brown rice (use package directions)
Sort and soak the beans in water overnight. The next day, drain and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a boil; add the onions, celery, bell pepper and the seasonings. Make sure the beans are always covered by water. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Add the ham or ham hock and sausage; continue cooking for 1-2 hours, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Stir occasionally, making sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. Just before serving, take 1/2 cup of beans out and mash them, then return them to the pot and stir. Serve heaping helpings over hot, white long-grain rice with a few shakes of the Tabasco and hot-from-the-oven cornbread crumbled on top. I like to add a tossed green salad on the side.
Note: If you can, let the beans cool, stick them in the fridge, and reheat and serve for dinner the next day. They’ll taste even better. When you do this, you may need to add a little water to get them to the right consistency.
Easy Tuscan White Bean and Beet Greens Soup
1/2 of an onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 cups chicken bone broth
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups cooked white beans or two 15-ounce cans of great northern or cannellini beans, rinsed
2 cups washed and rough-chopped beet greens (or one of the following: spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, mustard greens or kale)
2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 pound Italian sausage, cooked and drained, or turkey sausage (optional)
In a 4-5 quart pot or Dutch oven, add your olive oil, onion, celery, garlic and fennel. Sauté until slightly caramelized. Add the crushed tomatoes along with the rest of the ingredients. Simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes or until warm.
Note: My kids like to add cooked pasta to this dish.