Black Bean Brownies

“Beans in my brownies?!” While I’d never suggest you keep an ingredient’s identity hidden, you might want to, depending on your audience. You’ll win them over with one bite, after which you can choose to disclose your secret (or not).

Makes 1 (9-inch-square) pan of brownies, 9 to 12 pieces, depending on how you cut them.

Pan spray, for greasing pan

2 cups cooked black beans

3 eggs

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

⅔ cup sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch-square baking dish with pan spray and line the pan with parchment or waxed paper.

Purée beans in a food processor. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla and pulse to combine.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in wet ingredients from food processor until evenly combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape mixture into prepared pan, smoothing top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the center doesn’t wobble when the pan is jostled. Let the brownies cool before cutting them.

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Bean Fritters with Salmoriglio Sauce

Not quite falafel and not quite a bean burger, these crisp patties are an easy and fast meal-maker. Serve alongside braised greens or sautéed vegetables, or make mini fritters to serve as a snack. Fritters can be shaped a day ahead— store them dusted with flour and covered with plastic wrap until ready to fry.

Makes 4 servings

2 cups cooked beans of your choice (we used pintos), cooking liquid drained off

2 scallions, finely sliced

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley or cilantro, or a combination of both

2 tablespoons finely grated cheese (Parmesan is a good choice, but cheddar or Gouda are good, too)

Salt and pepper to taste

⅓–½ cup all-purpose flour

Oil for frying

Salmoriglio Sauce (recipe below)

In a large bowl, use a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands to mash beans, scallion, parsley, cheese, and salt and pepper together.

Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions. Form each into a patty, using the flour to coat the sides and keep the patties from sticking to your hands.

Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add a thin layer of oil and fry the fritters until browned on both sides and warmed all the way through, about 3 minutes per side. Serve drizzled with Salmoriglio Sauce.

Salmoriglio Sauce

This sauce provides a citrusy spark to any plate. Oregano is traditional, but substitute mint or cilantro if preferred. This sauce will be best the day it is made, when the herbs are at their freshest, but any leftovers are great as a marinade.

Makes 2 cups

½ cup hot water

½ cup lemon juice, from 2 to 3 lemons

1 cup chopped parsley

½ cup chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried oregano)

1–2 cloves garlic

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put water, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, and garlic into a blender.

With the blender running, pour in olive oil in a slow stream. The mixture will emulsify and thicken. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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Bean and Wheatberry Stew

This stew will be prettiest (in my opinion) if you use a white bean like cannellini or navy, but there is no reason to run out and buy anything special to prepare it. Use whatever is on hand in your pantry. Wheatberries can be found in health food stores and co-ops. Farro or spelt are good options as well.

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices of bacon, chopped

1 cup wheatberries

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 [15-ounce] can diced tomatoes, including liquid from can)

½–1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (the heat level is up to you)

1½ quarts chicken broth or vegetable stock

2 packed cups chopped Swiss chard

2 cups cooked white beans (see page 20 cooking tips)

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and bacon and cook, stirring until bacon is browned and crisp. Remove bacon from pot, leaving fat behind. Add wheatberries and toast until just a little darker.

Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook until vegetables are softened, 6–8 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes.

Add broth to pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until wheatberries are tender, 60 to 90 minutes.

Stir reserved bacon, Swiss chard, and beans into pot, and cook until chard is wilted and the beans are hot. Add a little water if the contents of the pot are thicker than stew-like. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into soup bowls and give each serving a generous glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly shaved Parmesan.

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Full of Beans

Beauty (and dinner) is in the eye of the bean-holder

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Did you know dried beans have a season? Admittedly, we’d never suggest this query falls into the category of cocktail party conversation starter, but still—did you know that?

Yes, dried beans are found year round, but many of our local farmers are growing bean varieties destined for the soup pot now. Black turtle, New England’s own Soldier Bean, Jacob’s Cattle, Scarlet Beauty … the list is long and ever-changing. The virtues of a “fresh” dry bean are several: faster cooking time, brighter colors in the cookpot, and more vibrant flavor. Plus, local dried beans are an affordable local protein source.

New to the dried bean game? Read on.

Cooking dried beans

There is no one right way to cook a bean, but here are my favorite methods:

If I’ve planned ahead, I have soaked dry beans overnight in enough water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Then, I drain off the water, pour the beans into a pot, and cover with fresh water (again, by 2 inches). Add any aromatics like an onion, whole garlic cloves, herbs, or (my favorite) a Parmesan rind. Add a generous few pinches of salt. Bring pot to a simmer and cook until beans are tender, 45 to 90 minutes. Top off the pot with water if needed.

If I have not planned ahead, I just dump the beans into a pot (following seasoning instructions above) and cover with water. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours. Top off the pot with water as needed.

Store cooked beans in their cooking liquid. Don’t throw the liquid away—it makes an amazing base for soups. I’ve even used it as a liquid in my homemade bread!

Bean basics

It’s a good rule to wash and pick through beans before cooking. While bean shucking technology has gotten better, there is still a risk of small stones or dirt being in the bag.

One cup of dried beans will yield about 3 cups cooked. One pound of beans will yield 4 to 6 cups, depending on the bean.

The fresher the bean, the faster it will cook. Buy from stores or markets with good product turnover.

One cup of cooked beans contains up to 15 grams of protein, which makes them a great option if you’re trying to eat less meat.

Adding acid too early in the cooking process (before the beans have started to soften) will toughen the skins and extend cooking time by hours. Use baking soda to raise the pH of the cooking liquid, and the skins will soften quickly (this is great for preparing beans for refried beans or purées).

Not a Crumb Wasted

By Mary Reilly, Photo by Dominic Perri

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Rustic, lovely loaves of bread rise up across our Valley. The use of local flour and sourdoughs only adds to the sense of place found in each slice. It seems like a crime to waste even a bite. Instead, try one of these no-brainer bread-savers:

Make croutons. Toss cubes of stale bread with oil and a pinch of salt. If storing the croutons for later, they should be dried out completely, so put ½- to ¾-inch-thick cubes or slices into a low oven (275°) until completely dry and crisp. Use a high oven (375°) and larger cubes if using your croutons right away—in panzanella, for instance.

Breadcrumbs. Cut thin slices of stale bread. Pulse in food processor until as “crumby” as desired. Toast in low oven until dry, or store “fresh” in the freezer. Toss crunchy crumbs over pasta or bean dishes to add texture.

Panade. French onion soup without the soup: A cheesy rich layering of stale bread, onions, and broth. See EPV issue 18 for a method.

Panzanella (or bread salad, pictured below) does not need a recipe and is one of my favorite year-round go-tos. Toss croutons with chopped fresh vegetables and a citrusy dressing, adding beans or hard-boiled eggs to up the protein. In the summer, it’s all about the tomatoes, but as we enter fall, I’ll use shredded kale, roasted butternut, and pickled onions.

Fresh Turmeric and Ginger Rice

Recipe by Brittany Wood Nickerson, reprinted with permission from ThymeHerbal.com.

As the weather gets colder, herbalist (and Casey’s partner) Brittany Wood Nickerson suggests warming up with carminative herbs and spices. According to Nickerson, “Carminatives increase circulation to the digestive tract, improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients.” Get started with carminatives with this recipe highlighting Old Friends Farm’s ginger and turmeric crops.

1½  cups white basmati rice

2 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons grated fresh turmeric root

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water until the rinse water runs clear. I do this by running cold water over the rice while it sits in a fine metal strainer or in a glass measuring container (the rice sinks to the bottom and the water washes through it, then spills out the sides).

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan. Over low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once simmering, reduce the heat to as low as your stove will go, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed. This rice goes well with almost anything and is yummy garnished with cilantro (which, by the way, is a carminative!).