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like a [phat] kid loves [cheese]cake

Friday, March 6, 2009

When Life Gives You Cheerio's, Make...Breadcrumbs!

My first savory post here! This is one of few, since I tend to only make desserts, and my savoury dishes are usually eaten up before I remember to take a picture...or they just don't look appetising enough.

Last year, when I joined Culinary Kids as a camp counselor, I got Alice Water's book, "The Art of Simple Food" AUTOGRAPHED! Yea, that's right, be jealous. This book is amazing, and I definitely recommend it for all types of cooks, novices to experts. Everything is easy to follow and delicious, and leaves lots of room for throwing in your own ideas, which is exactly what I did here.

The original recipe is a cranberry bean gratin, but I have 4 bags of pinto beans I need to get rid of, so ta-da! Pinto bean gratin it is. I also doubled the amount of carrots and added some sliced serrano chillies for some heat [I'm Indian, so everything has to be spicy!

I was supposed to finish it off with toasted breadcrumbs, but I didn't have any bread, so I used...Cheerio's! You read right; Cheerio's. Crushed, toasted, topped, baked, and...still delicious! It just goes to show that with a little experimentation and scrounging around the kitchen, you can create an entirely new recipe that comes from Chez!

Cranberry Bean Gratin
(6 servings)

Soak overnight in 4 cups water:
1-1/4 cups dried pinto beans. Drain and cover with fresh water by 2 inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and skim off any foam. Simmer gently for 2 hours or so until the beans are tender. Add more water if necessary during the cooking.

While the beans are cooking prepare the "breadcrumbs." Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place Cheerio's in a food processor until fine crumbs OR place in a sealed ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush.

Lightly toast in a skillet over medium heat and toss with:
Salt and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

When the beans are cooked season to taste with:

Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid. Meanwhile finely dice:
1/2 onion (about 1/4 cup diced)
2 carrots (about 1/4 cup diced)

Heat in a heavy-bottomed pan:
1/4 cup olive oil

Add the diced vegetables and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add:
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
2 serrano chillies, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon salt

Cook for 5 minutes and then stir in:
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned organic

Cook for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Mix the beans with the vegetables and put into a medium-size gratin or baking dish. Taste for salt. Add enough bean liquid to almost cover. Drizzle with: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

Cover with the toasted breadcrumbs and bake the gratin at 350°F for 40 minutes, checking occasionally. If the gratin is drying out, carefully spoon in a little bean liquid (pouring at the sides of the gratin dish to avoid getting the crumbs wet).

• Fresh shell beans make an even tastier gratin. Shell 3 pounds fresh cranberry beans. Cover them with water to a depth of about an inch, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and start checking for doneness after about 20 minutes.
• You don't have to turn the beans into a gratin. Simply cook the beans together with the tomatoes and vegetables for 10 minutes before serving.
• Other herbs can be substituted for sage: try about 1/2 tablespoon of the finely chopped leaves of rosemary, thyme, summer or winter savory, marjoram, parsley, or oregano.

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