weekend bliss and a little bit about beans

by Kendall Woodruff


Why can't every day be the weekend? Seriously. The minute I leave the office on Friday nights I feel wild and free. The street music on Powell is loud and crazy, teenagers are out boppin', cars can't go anywhere because there's just all kinds of crazy hoodlums and tourists everywhere...it's a beautiful thing. Life is good. 

Saturday mornings are even sweeter. Sleep in, walk a block over to Contraband to meet Mady for some coffee (a top contender for the best in SF, in my opinion), walk back to my place to give the lazy bum I like to call Hameed his beloved cappuccino, then we're off to the market. Winters around here are just plain awesome. Crispy cool, sunny, and bright blue skies.

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Drummer dude always doin' his thing on the trash cans in front of the Ferry Building. Gotta love it.

Mady and I came upon a vendor at the market a few weeks back called County Line Harvest. These guys have an organic farm up in Petaluma (about 40 miles North of SF) with some fantastic produce. I usually get a big chunk of my loot from this place - beets, purple kale, dino kale, french breakfast radishes, carrots, broccoli rabe, cilantro, dill, and the most beautiful selection of lettuces (little gem, chicory, red romaine, etc.). 

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We typically plan menus around one or two ingredients. The rest is decided by what we see at the market. Mady wanted to do a vinaigrette with a blood orange reduction for our salad that night, so we picked up some little gems and pink turnips at County Line Harvest - they worked perfectly with the sweet tangy blood orange dressing (a little avocado doesn't hurt either). 

What else do you think was on the menu? Well, there's no use trying to hide it. We're bean freaks. Rancho Gordo bean-iacs. Legume lovers. Legume LUNATICS is probably more fitting. But tell me, is there anything better than a giant pot of fresh beans? Spicy black beans, creamy gigante white beans, big black scarlet runner beans? Okay I'll stop.

This weekend's bean night? Garbanzo beans! Yes! Chickpeas! I know you're excited. Yeehaw. 

The great thing about beans is their versatility. You can keep 'em simple or dress 'em up.  Saturday night we wanted to spice 'em up in a spicy garbanzo bean stew.  Picked up some carrots, onions, dino kale, and fresh bay leaves at the market to use in the stew. Fresh bay leaves are fantastic. They're not technically "fresh," as the leaves have probably been dried for two days or so (I think the leaves are too bitter straight off the tree).  But they're definitely fresh compared to the shriveled up twigs that I've bought at the grocery store before. These leaves are big and crisp and pack a much stronger flavor.

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To spice up the stew a little bit, I was excited to make use of some seeds that I recently purchased at Rainbow Grocery (a magical place that I must talk about another time). I had cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and coriander seeds. I could have also thrown some curry powder in there but I wanted to keep the flavors simple but interesting. I toasted the seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, then ground them to a powder in a mortar and pestle. Turns out that pulverizing tiny particles into even tinier particles is one of my passions. True story.

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We cooked the beans in one pot and got the onions, carrots, spices, bay leaves, and lots of garlic goin' in another pot. I love all the different colors from the carrots - the stew was speckled with orange, yellow, and deep purple carrot slices. For the sauce we used a mixture of canned tomatoes (I like the whole peeled San Marzanos) and fresh roasted cherry tomatoes. I'm really happy with how it all turned out! 

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I knew I was going to have to have this stew with a big dollop of yogurt on top. Whenever Hameed and I eat Pakistani food, I just gotta have a big bowl of Raita (a yogurt-based condiment usually mixed with cucumbers and spices). As if the tikka masala sauce at House of Curries doesn't already have enough cream, I just have to douse my plate with yogurt and sop it all up with some naan.  

But back to the garbanzos. We mixed some shaved red onion, lots of fresh dill, and a squirt of lemon juice with plain greek yogurt to serve with the stew. Yum. A few sprigs of fresh dill, a dollop o' yogurt, and BAM! Let's eat. 

Mady and I are funny in the kitchen. One minute we're relaxing with a drink on the couch while the beans simmer peacefully away on the stove, the next minute it's like SHIT! THE TOMATOES! Saturday night I forgot to add heat (aka chile powder, red pepper flakes, and/or jalapeños) and I also forgot to add the kale. A great stew none the less, but it really really would have been awesome with HEAT and KALE. Next time. 

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Delicious, healthy, and filling. It's all about the beans, guys. You can order Rancho Gordo beans online from their website (www.ranchogordo.com) or you can check out if they're sold at specialty food shops in your area. You won't regret it! If you're overwhelmed by the varieties, just get the midnight black beans. Simmer with an onion and 2 diced serrano chiles (leave the seeds in if you like some heat), and there ya go. So good. Beans for days. 

Since it's probably bad form to close on "beans for days," I think I'll close with a cocktail. Nothing says happy hour better for me than a Negroni. Okay, so the Old Fashioned might say happy hour pretty damn well, but sometimes we shake things up around here and drink gin. Mady has been mixing some of her favorite cocktails and then aging them in a one-liter charred oak barrel. She aged a Boulevardier for 26 days, a Manhattan for 34 days, and a Negroni for 18 days. The Boulevardier was AWESOME, but I'll let her tell you about it because she's definitely going to run it back with that one. The Negroni was super smooth and all it needed was a big ice cube and a sliver of orange peel. 

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Cheers! Hope everyone has a great week.