Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions.

Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SUSTAINABLE EATING: Means cooking from scratch and starting with fresh produce

Eating better goes beyond cookbooks. 

Yesterday, at the local Farmers’ Market, besides the beautiful and colorful display of fruits and vegetables, I noticed that the shoppers had one thing in common – they were middle-aged to older immigrants like me. Is it because we have more time to spare? Possibly.

 - Or is it because our eating habits reflect our roots and cultural identity?
 - Or is it the instinctive frugality of our family meals made of humble and seasonal ingredients?

By the way, I bought cranberry beans.

Cranberry beans (Fagioli Borlotti)

On my way home, I stopped at the supermarket, where convenience rules, to buy milk. At the checkout counter, I struck a conversation with a young mom who came to the store to buy ingredients for an old-fashioned, Italian dish called Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and bean soup). In her shopping cart, she had 2 cans of beans, canned tomatoes, chicken broth and chopped meat. She was following her mother’s recipe. My immediate thought: sugar, preservatives, sodium, nitrates.  She knew no other way. 

Had she planned her meal ahead of time, she could have purchased a bag of dry beans the day before and cooked them in the evening while doing homework with her children. The next day, she could have sauteed some onions, added 3 or 4 diced fresh tomatoes (if available) or a can of whole or diced tomatoes, the beans and pasta, and Voila!
Think about it, she would have had enough beans for several meals. Like anything else in life, planning ahead means getting the most for your money and time while minimizing waste.

But what do I know? I am an old, Italian immigrant.

Oh yes. The cranberry beans.

Fresh Shell Bean Stew
Time: 1 hour
6 servings

3 cups fresh cranberry beans (3 pounds in the shell)
1 quart of water
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 thyme sprigs and 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves
Pinch of baking soda
1 pound of tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

  1. In a saucepan, combine the beans, water, thyme sprigs and baking soda and bring to a boil.  Simmer over low heat until the beans are tender. 30 minutes or so.
  2. Drain beans, reserving 1 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.  In a saucepan, add the olive oil, saute' the garlic until golden, add the tomatoes and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the beans and the cooking liquid.  Simmer the stew over moderate heat for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add thyme leaves and serve.