Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Napa and Red Onion Salad

from Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travel in the Other China, p. 86.

I have owned this fabulous cookbook less than a week and already several pages, including this one, is bespattered and wrinkled.  As I went through the book page by page in the bookstore, I stopped counting when I reached the tenth recipe I knew I would make if I owned it. That’s my minimum. (On the same visit to the bookstore, I had the same experience with David Chang’s Momofuku, but that’s another post.) The day I brought the book home I made two salads, this Mongolian one and the Cucumbers in Black Rice Vinegar from Xinjiang (I have NO idea where that is). I have the summer ahead of me to delve more deeply. In the meantime, this is a salad that will suit the summer heat.

I learned one great trick from this recipe:

  • Pouring boiling water over the shredded cabbage in a bowl, waiting a minute or two, and then draining it keeps the color of the cabbage bright and the leaves still a little crunchy.

The recipe needs practically no emending:

1 small or 1/2 medium-large red onion (1/4 pound)

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 cups shredded Napa cabbage, sliced crosswise into thin slivers

2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil, or to taste

Shadowcook: Frankly, since most of us chop up a whole head of cabbage, I’d make it 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste

About 1/2 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves.

Slice the onion lengthwise into quarters, then very thinly slice each quarter lengthwise. You should have about 1 cup. place in a sieve, add 1 teaspoon of the salt, and toss well. Set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes to drain.

Meanwhile, place the cabbage in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover (about 4 cups). Let stand for a minute or two, then drain in a colander. Place back in the bowl and set aside.

Rinse the onion with cold water, then squeeze dry and add to the cabbage. Set aside.

Heat the 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a small wok for small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the vinegar, and once it bubbles, pour the mixture over the salad. Toss to blend, then add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and toss again. The salad can be served immediately or left to stand for up to an hour so flavors can blend.

Just before serving, taste and add a little more sesame oil if you want to bring that flavor forward, as well as more salt if you wish. Add the coriander leaves and toss.

 

NYT’s Herbed Bean and Sausage Stew in Small Slow-cooker

You can find the original recipe here. Suggestions for a vegetarian version appear at the end of this post.

I swore off buying new appliances, sold quite a few of them at a driveway sale last summer, and scaled back on my cooking once I embarked on another long course of Weight Watchers. My appliance abstinence lasted all of two months. Last week, I bought a small Cuisinart three-quart slow cooker. It’s a perfect size for this single-eater household.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published this recipe. It calls for skipping the pre-soaking part of bean cooking. I liked that idea, especially since lately I switched to using Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans, which are much fresher than most store-bought kind. Not only did I not pre-soak the Rancho Gordo beans, but the stew  finished in under 8 hours on the Low setting. The amount of water needed will vary according to the freshness of the beans and your preference for soupy stews or stewy soups. However, the recipe does not call for a slow-cooker, so I’ve had to adapt it. Perhaps it works best on a weekend morning, when you can do the prep cooking without rushing. A vegetarian adaptation appears at the end.

The result is a rich, smoky, and flavorful pot of beans and sausage:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving

1 pound fresh sweet Italian sausages, sliced 3/4-inch thick

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 medium carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through

Shadowcook: Or canellini or mayacoba bean. In any case, a white bean that holds its shape.

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Shadowcook: Interesting that whoever thought this up has you put kosher salt into the pot with the beans at the beginning of their cooking. Most cooks claim salt retards absorption of water in a hard bean. I suspect the older the bean, the more likely that’s true. But if you’re using recently dried beans, salt may not impede the softening process as much. I followed the directions and the beans cooked quickly.

2 thyme sprigs

1 large rosemary sprig

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Shadowcook: Don’t crowd the sausage rounds. Insufficient space around anything that is sauteeing creates steam. Food needs room to brown and fry properly.

2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

Shadowcook: For the slow cooker, after you have cooked the tomato paste, cumin, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, transfer it all to a slow cooker. Make bring you all the oil and bits with the vegetables to the ceramic pot. Then add the beans and herbs to the pot. Pour in 6-7 cups of water. The rule of thumb in converting recipes to slow-cookers is to reduce the liquid by half. I began this stew with 4 cups and within 4 hours (the beans still hard) I had to add another 3 cups. Set the temperature to Low for 10 hours. Walk away, but come back in four or five hours to check the beans.

3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

Shadowcook: For a vegetarian version, substitute a bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves and 2 chopped leeks for the sausage. Sauté the chopped chard and leeks in olive oil, add the remaining ingredients to the sauteed leaves, and proceed with the recipe.

For another meat version, consider adding a ham hock to the beans and water, after you’ve sauteed the vegetables in olive oil.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Smoky Lime Dressing

It will comes as news to most people that the grain called quinoa is 100% protein. At least, that’s what Weight Watchers claims. Now that I’ve finally got the hang of making dry, fluffy quinoa, thanks to a friend who makes it all the time, I’m making it more often than before. The trick, I learned, is NOT to rinse it (contra WW) and to use an amount of water just under double the amount of quinoa. This recipe — the source of which I have lost but it’s from either the New York Times or the Guardian — falls into the category of Grub for its heft and into that of Salad for its forgiving caloric nature. The dressing is what really makes it.

I’ve adapted the recipe for two people on a Weight Watchers diet. It’s still really good.

Serves 4

Calories per serving: 150

Weight Watchers points per serving: 3

1 cup uncooked quinoa

4 green onions, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained [OR, preferably, Rancho Gordo’s black beans, cooked]

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1 small garlic, finely chopped

Place the quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

Shadowcook: I started with 1 3/4 cups water and kept an eye on it.

Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in the green onions, black beans, and cilantro. Puree the remaining ingredients together in a food processor; pour over quinoa and stir to coat with dressing.

Shadowcook: Chop the green onions in chunks. The crunch makes the salad even more satisfying.

Shadowcook: I wouldn’t pour the entire amount of dressing. Try half of it and then taste. Add more if the flavor doesn’t stand out. You don’t want it to get soggy.

Adjust seasoning with salt and additional lime juice if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Shadowcook: I’ve thrown in a chopped hard-boiled egg and some blanched, chopped spinach. What else? Nuts?