Sunday, April 20, 2008

Of Beans and Gardening

I love beans. I love them in soups, stews, tacos, burritos, with rice and with veggies. They are probably one of the most perfect foods around from a nutritional standpoint, if not a social one. In Chinese medicine, black beans are good for the kidneys (as well as kidney beans, of course), while white beans are good for the kidneys and the lungs.

And that's a good thing, too, after spending a day bending over in the garden, pulling weeds and inhaling probably more than my share of dust. I hauled bricks away and put stones in place, reminding myself how grateful I am that I work on my abs every day. I treat enough back patients to know I don't want to become one! As the kidneys are located in the lower back, I'm always happy to treat them to foods as well as exercise which nourish them.

The days become longer, and the garden becomes more central to my life. I need the respite of it's greens and purples, it's stones and mulch. I need my little corner table to sit and read or journal.
And when the day is done, I need something hearty but not heavy. At this time of the year, something stovetop, not oven. Beans, anyone? Burritos? Chili? I decided to revive an old favorite for this evening, and to create a new one for tomorrow for lunch. Tonite's fav is Tex-Mex style chili. Tomorrow I go for the burrito! Chop an onion and sautee it in some canola oil with some chopped garlic. I used 3 cloves. Add ground meat. This time I used --- hold on to your hats -- ground buffalo. How's that, you ask? Well, I went out to dinner with some friends last nite and actually ordered a hamburger of all things. But this place gave you a choice - ground beef, lamb or buffalo. Who was I to argue about buffalo? Anyway, you can obviously mix and match whatever kind of meat you like. Add a dash of oregano, salt, pepper and some kind of hot chili powder. If you can't get ground red chilis, you can use cans of green chili. Those are usually pretty mild. If you want more heat, use some Hungarian paprika. (When you mix red and green chili it's called Chili Colorado.) Or if you're like me and like it hot, you can dice up some jalapenos and add them. Just remember to remove the seeds first, and then don't, under any circumstances, touch your face or your eyes! When the meat is browned, add a can of beans if you haven't cooked any the old fashioned way. This time I actually did make some in the pressure cooker, but canned works well, too. Then add a can of chopped tomatoes. Stir, simmer, taste and correct seasonings. One thing I like to add when using tomatoes is fennel seeds. There's something about the combination of fennel and tomato that I like. I'll use it in everything from marinara sauce to moussaka. It may not be the usual addition to chili, but once you open the doors to tinkering, what's to stop a little fennel seed from blowing in?

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anya said...

Your garden looks like a perfect place for relaxing and savouring life's moments!!

Your 'chilli warning' is definitely to the point. Once,I was careless enough to touch my lips, nose, eyes, etc after deseeding the chillis. Well, for a good few days I felt that much 'fiery'. :)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've been making pots of black beans in my slow cooker (18 hours with no presoak), so I have them on hand for soups, stews, and of course chili.

glamah16 said...

I have been doing a lot of beans lately. Once a week. It's cheap and healthy if cooked right. The boyfriend is starting to tolerate it. Beautiful garden!

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

Buffalo indeed, Toni! We've made buffalo burgers a couple of times. The meat is leaner and a little lighter tasting than beef. Somewhere between ground turkey and ground beef when you use it for chili, I should imagine.

I love all your less than traditional tinkerings. That's precisely what keeps cooking--and eating--fresh.

Chris said...

I love soups/stews, but I really love your garden! I would never leave me home. The peaceful place I need. And your Ying Yang - you do that? Very cool.

Cynthia said...

You warmed my heart.

Cynthia said...

Love the design with the beans!

Toni said...

Anya - I do love my garden. Wish I could get there more often!

Lydia - I seem to forget about my slow cooker....Thanks for the reminder!

Courtney - Beans are really the perfect food. And good for you to coax the boyfriend into eating them!

Terry - Well, I confess I haven't cooked with it before, although I ate it once before. I like it better than beef, for sure.

Chris - I love my garden too. It's tempting to ditch work, for sure, but I have to pay for this place! (Darn!)

And yes, I was playing with my food again!

Cynthia - Thanks! You warm my heart, knowing that you've taken time away from your book deadline to comment on my blog!

Emily said...

I think beans are pretty magical.

Tex-Mex chili sounds great!

Take care of that back of yours, and I'll do the same.

Unknown said...

Emiline - Yes, they are magic!

Anonymous said...

i love beans. love. this reminds me that i want to place an order with rancho gordo, to see what all the fuss is about. because if i haven't mentioned it, i love beans.

Susan said...

Toni, I love that little nook you created for yourself in your garden. I would like to tuck into a bowl of chili tucked into a corner of that deck.

Rachael Narins said...

Fab photo and lovely post!
Beans rock.


Toni said...

Michelle - I get it! Beans! Yes, I agree - they're great!

Susan - Well, any time you're in San Diego, c'mon over and we'll sit in that little corner and share a meal!

Rachael - Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Your yin/yang arrangement is so beautiful!! I loooove beans too and have to eat it at least 3-4 times a week. Love the chili!
Our weather is definitely screaming out "gardening"!!