Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bean Jazz #6, Easy Chick Peas w/ Lemon, Parm and Olive Oil

I found this recipe at, a wonderful food/eating/life blog run by Molly who very graciously said I could use it here. If you like to cook or to read or to think about life and how to live it, I highly recommend that you check out Orangette. Most of her recipes are not this easy but they are excellent and her posts are always fun to read.

I first made this a few weeks ago and now I'm hooked. I bought a bag of lemons at Pete's Fresh Market (my favorite place to get fruits and veggies) and I've made it about 8-10 times in three weeks. If you are scoring a recipe on the Tasty:Easy ratio, this one gets a perfect "10". My favorite way (so far) to eat these is next to some warm brown rice that has been sprinkled with soy sauce and olive oil.

Easy Chick Peas with Lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Olive Oil

One 15 oz can chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
Juice of about one lemon
Two tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese
A pinch or a few shakes of salt

(I'll make this as complicated as possible)
1. Rinse the beans and put them in a bowl
2. Squeeze the lemon juice onto the beans
3. Grate the cheese and throw it in the bowl
4. Pour the olive oil in the bowl
5. Add salt to taste


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bean Jazz #5, Black Eyed Peas, Mediterranean Style

For the last 10 years or so I have made a dish with black eyed peas, mustard or collard greens, onions and feta cheese. It was pretty tasty but I recently had a case of Need To Tweak Syndrome (NTTS). Most of the time when I experience the NTTS, the result is odd and maybe not so good. However, this time I thought and thought, dozed off, thought some more and came up with this tweaked version of my old standby black eyed peas recipe. I don’t know if they eat black eyed peas in the Mediterranean region, but if they did, I imagine they would be something like this...


1 lb. dried black eyed peas
2 extra large or 4 medium onions
1.5 lb. fresh spinach or 1 lb frozen spinach (more or less to taste)
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup Vinaigrette or Italian dressing that you like

Step 1. Soak and cook the black eyed peas. I use the quick soak method: In a large pot, cover the beans with about two inches of water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the beans to soak for at least an hour. Drain the beans and cover with an inch of water and return to a simmer. Leave the beans on simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, until they are tender.

Step 2. While the beans are cooking, when you have about 45 minutes to go, coarsely chop the onions and sauté them in a large frying pan over high heat until they start to turn a russet (reddish brown) color, about 7-10 minutes.

Step 3. Add about half the fresh spinach to the onions and cover the pan. (If you’re using frozen spinach, you can add it all at one time.) After a few minutes, stir the shrunken spinach into the onions and add the rest of the spinach, shrink it down again for a few minutes and stir it in.

Step 4. Add the diced tomatoes and stir them in, bring to a low boil and simmer the onion, spinach and tomato mixture for about 10 minutes.

Step 5. While that is simmering, chop the walnuts. Add the walnuts and feta cheese to the mixture. Simmer for about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted.

Step 6. Drain the cooked beans and return them to the pot. (You can also use canned beans if you like, about 3 or 4 cans ought to do it). Pour the onion, tomato, spinach, walnut and feta mixture into the beans. Serve over rice or with bread.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sidebar #2 Congo Squares

I must have dozed off there for a minute... Anyway, when I was a kid, in the 60's, for potluck dinners and bake sales, my mom made a super delicious desert called Congo Squares. I have no idea where that name came from, but the recipe came from Delores Gravenstreter who, to the best of my knowledge, was a 60's suburban Detroit mom, much like my mother. I remember bringing a pan of these to school for a third grade bake sale and being sad that I didn't get to eat them all. Last year I discovered the recipe in my mom's recipe box and started baking them myself. They taste every bit as good as I remember and as good as you would expect 60's-suburban-mom-baked treats to taste. Take me back baby...

Congo Squares from the kitchen of Delores Gravenstreter


2 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup margarine (though I imagine butter would work too)
1 lb. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup nut meats (I use walnuts or pecans)
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate bits (nowadays we call them chocolate chips)


1. Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt
2. Melt shortening & add brown sugar
3. Cool slightly (this is important, be patient, you don't want to cook the eggs in step 4 or melt the chocolate bits in step 7)
4. Add eggs ones at a time beating well after each one
5. Add the dry ingredients, mixing them in well
6. Add the nuts
7. Add the chocolate bits
8. Spread it all in a 10 1/2" x 16 1/2" x 3/4" pan
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes
10. Pull them out of the oven, cut them into squares and go back in time

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bean Jazz #4, Chana Masala

When I moved to Chicago in 1986 my roommate Steve had a buddy from Mumbai named Sandip who was a student at Loyola University. I never met anyone like Sandip, before or since. In the hallway of our apartment, he could put one hand on each wall and climb up to the ceiling, putting his back against the ceiling and he would look down at us and laugh. For fun, early one Sunday morning, Sandip found a vertical nook in a 20-story building and shimmied up the side of the building with one hand on each side of nook, right to the top. He shimmied down without incident but I hear he startled some poor soul on the 16th floor. Sandip had a fabulous handlebar mustache and once won the “Best Mustache” contest at Pump Boys and Dinettes, a long-running musical in Chicago. On top of all that, Sandip was a great cook. This dish was inspired by my friend Sandip. I lost touch with Sandip but I think of him every time I eat chana masala.

This recipe makes a heapin helpin but it freezes very well it’s easy to cut in half. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, I'm sorry for you. But you can find lots of masala information here.

Chana Masala a la Bean Jazz
2 cups (dry) regular brown rice
5 medium onions
1/2 cup canola oil
8 cups cooked garbanzo beans (1 #10 can)
2 jars Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound frozen peas, warmed

1. Start cooking the brown rice your usual way. (Generally 3.5-4 cups water, add the rice, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cook 40-45 minutes).
2. Coarsely chop 5 medium onions.
3. Cook half the onions on high heat 7-8 minutes in 1/2 cup canola oil, set aside the other half of the onions.
4. Add the garbanzo beans, masala sauce, tomatoes, curry powder and suger to the pot and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, reduce to a healthy simmer.
5. Go enjoy a beverage for 15-20 minutes.
6. Saute the other half of the onions in a bit of oil until they are just soft but still have some firmness or pop to them.
7. Warm up the frozen peas but don’t really cook them.
8. When the rice is ready, add the peas and onions to the pot, stir it up.
9. Add rice until the rice/bean ratio is how you like it. I usually add a bit less than the whole two cups of rice.
10. Scoop it out and enjoy.

And a word about the "Jazz" in Bean Jazz. Each movie has as a soundtrack a song that moves me. What you'll hear in #4 is by Stanton Moore, a New Orleans drummer known for his work in the funk band Galactic. The CD "All Kooked Out!" by Stanton Moore is right up my alley, funky, soulful jazz. Great for cooking or eating beans.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bean Jazz #3, Slow Cooker Black Beans

Enough of this cake business, we're back to beans and jazz today. First, I have to confess, last week I made some 16 bean slow cooker soup and it didn't quite hit the high note. I'm going to try it again soon with some revisions, but today I made black beans in the slow cooker. I'm happy with the result. I read a dozen or so black bean recipes and went with the common themes and what made sense to me.

The recipe:
2.5 cups (one pound, 450 g) dried black beans
2 medium onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
Half a jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
1 heaping tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. boullion
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

Pour all the ingredients into the slow cooker and turn the heat to low for 8-10 hours. Serve over rice topped with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes. Salt to taste.

Update 10/9/08-- The video post was pulled from YouTube due to a copyright claim on the music I originally used. My bad. I have replaced the music with "Ahmad's Blues" by the incomparable Ahmad Jamal (freely shared in the YouTube music library) so the video is back up. I suggest you check out "The Awakening" by the Ahmad Jamal Trio, one of my favorite records by a jazz trio.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sidebar #1 Orange Bundt Cake

OK, this has nothing to do with beans or jazz, but is by special request. My awesome nephew, Brian, is having a birthday party this Sunday and I'm bringing the cake. So I tried this Orange Bundt Cake recipe (excellent pan here) to make sure it was okay. My daughter Hannah took some to school and I hear it was well received.

I found the recipe HERE

and tweaked it (below)


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter


  1. Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in 3/4 cup orange juice, oil, eggs and orange extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. As soon as you put the cake in the oven, cook 1/4 cup orange juice, sugar and butter for two minutes in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it cool while the cake bakes.
  5. Drizzle the lukewarm glaze over the cake in several layers so it can soak in.
No beans. No jazz. Just good cake.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bean Jazz #2, A Love Affair with Lentils

If I had to pick one bean as "my bean" it would be without a doubt or a moment's hesitation, the lentil. A timeline of my love affair...

1975: I first eat lentil soup at the age of 14. My parents drove my brother and me to the "World Vegetarian Congress" in Orono, Maine. They were not vegetarians but I had become a vegetarian on my 13th birthday and wanted to go. I didn't realize until years later just how cool my parents were. Anyway, I still remember the lentil soup at the Vegetarian Congress. It had a strange taste, not as in good strange, but as in strange strange. My mother wouldn't eat lentils for years after that and referred to "that bad lentil soup" in Orono many times over the next decade.

1979: College. Freshman fall. A beautiful late September Tuesday. The vegetarian entre for lunch that day in the cafeteria was lentil stew. I was a little dubious, but as that was the option, I gave it a try. I added some salt. I went back for seconds. And thirds. "Can you make it a little bigger this time?" The woman behind the lunch line thought I was nuts. Every other Tuesday lunch it was me and three heaping plates of scrumptious lentil stew.

1983: I'm doing and internship in Washington, D.C. and living the life of an unpaid intern. I start to experiment with cooking lentils myself.

1984: I'm living in Philadelphia, scraping by on two part-time jobs. More experimentation with lentils.

1985: I move to Kalamazoo, live in an attic and have not even one part time job. I eat lentils every day. Around this time I settle on my first generation lentils and rice recipe which is basically garlic added to the lentil cooking water and margarine and salt on top of the finished lentils. If I was lucky enough to scrounge up a tomato, I would dice it up and put that on the very top. It was tasty but not so healthy with the margarine.

Later 80's: I get a regular job and can afford to add a diced tomato every time I eat lentils.

Early 90's: I decide to cut the fat from the recipe. However, without the margarine, the lentils are a bit dry. More experimentation.

Mid 90's: By trial and error I come up with a fairly stable second generation lentil and rice recipe that is really more of a stew. I've been eating it and serving it to my family regularly since then. It's the one thing everyone likes. And here is the recipe, as it has developed over the years.

Bean Jazz #2: Veggie Lentil Stew
About 50 minutes, start to finish

Equipment: Rice pan, Large stock pot (at least 5 quarts/litres), large frying pan

1 lb. dried lentils (2.5 cups, 450 g)
1 lb. dry brown rice (2.5 cups, 450 g)
1 tbsp. corriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp. rosemary (in a bag or cheesecloth, I use "fill-yourself" tea bags)
3 bay leaves (also in the bag)
Your favorite bouillon to taste, (1-3 cubes)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium to large onions, chopped
1/2 lb. (225 g) mushrooms, chopped
5 medium to large carrots, chopped
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cans of 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes

Start the rice cooking, when it boils, turn it down to a simmer and set the timer for 40 minutes.
Rinse the lentils twice and cover them with 2" of cold water in the stock pot. Put them on the stove on high heat. Bag the bay leaves and rosemary and add the to the pot. Add the corriander, cayenne pepper and bouillon. When the lentils boil, turn them down to a simmer.

While the lentils and rice are cooking, heat the oil in the frying pan on high heat. Chop the onions and add them to the oil, stirring every couple minutes. While they're cooking, chop the mushrooms. When the onions are very soft and some are just starting to get brown around the edges (about 5 minutes), add the mushrooms, leave the heat high and continue to stir every couple minutes until the onion/mushroom mix is really cooked and getting brown in parts (about another 5 minutes). While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, chop the carrots and celery. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the frying pan, stir it all up and cover. Stir it every five minutes or so until your timer for the rice goes off. Drain the lentils, remove the rosemary and bay leaves, and put the drained lentils back in the stock pot. Add the vegetable mixture to the lentils and stir it up. Serve the lentil stew over the brown rice and salt to taste.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bean Jazz #1 Slow Cooker "Free-Fried Beans"

The basis for these beans can be found here. Fat-free, easy to make and super-tasty. Recipe adjustments: I added the soaking, decreased the salt to 3 tsp., increased the cumin to 1/2 tsp and heaped on the garlic.

It was fun making a movie. This is my first time. I used a little Flip camera and iMovie to edit. Easier than I thought it would be. Note the dog walking by. Also, I forgot the fresh ground black pepper when I was shooting the video but thought the beans tasted even better without it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

10 Reasons Why Beans Rule

1. Beans are cheap. (Some people say I'm cheap, but I consider myself "froo-gull").
2. Beans are delicious.
3. Beans are easy to cook. (just follow the Bean Jazz videos)
4. Beans are eco-friendly. The humble bean plant turns sunshine into delicious protein with grace and style. Ditch that Prius, eat more beans!
5. Beans are fun. "The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel!"
6. Beans make you more attractive. (OK, maybe not directly, but it you eat beans you'll have more money in your pocket and that WILL make you more attractive).
7. Beans are soooooo good for you. Protein, fiber and mysterious phyto-chemicals that do all kinds of good deeds inside your body.
8. Beans are good for people around the world. I won't bore you with the economics, but trust me, when you eat beans, everybody wins.
9. Beans keep (almost) forever. You won't have to throw them out because they're putrid or moldy. They'll wait patiently for you to enjoy them.
10. Beans are good luck. Here is a true story. When I moved out of an attic and into a very humble apartment in the 1980's in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I had almost no money. Nobody in Kalamazoo had any money in the early 80's. My friend Jay gave me a house-warming present of a plastic sherbet container filled with dried kidney beans. He said, "you'll never go hungry as long as you have these beans." He was right, I have always had enough to eat. And I still have those kidney beans.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Bean Jazz Manifesto, Part 1

1. Beans rule. See 10 Reasons why Beans Rule.
2. Cooking is fun. If it's not fun, I'm not doing it right.
3. Slow cookers rule almost as much as beans. Throw everything in the pot in the morning and come home to a tasty dinner, ready when you walk in the door.
4. Improvise when you cook! (see #2)