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Today I'm talking about one of my favorite cookbook authors: Crescent Dragonwagon. You might remember when I first introduced you to her in my Double Dose of Crescent Dragonwagon post or perhaps you were baking up a storm after my review of her Cornbread Gospels.
I waited patiently all fall while her new book, Bean by Bean, was undergoing final edits and then was sent to the printer. When her book arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was relieved to learn that my patience was rewarded because Dragonwagon has written another winner. Bean by Bean is quickly becoming my go-to source for dinner.
The first thing I noticed about Bean by Bean is its fresh and appealing design, with its green-and-white color scheme, fun fonts, cute drawings, and thoughtful layout. My eye was also quickly attracted to the many great extras:
- quotes from cookbooks, comedians, food writers, and literature
- informative sidebars about chiles, Thai condiments, fresh herbs, soy, and more
- recipe introductions with tips for success
- menu ideas to help you pull together just right dishes
- appendix with information about each type of bean and weight and measure conversion charts
The recipes themselves include everything from appetizers to desserts (yes, bean-based desserts!). You'll find dips, soups, salads, chilies, stews and curries, casseroles, and stir-fries. The beans, by the way, include all kinds: fresh beans from the garden, dried and canned beans, and legumes. This means you'll use Bean by Bean all year long.
Oh, and I almost forget one of the coolest, most useful features. Each recipe is flagged with one or more color-coded icons. This makes it easy to tell at quick glance whether the recipe is suitable for vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters, and/or gluten-free diets. I'm telling you, Bean by Bean is a book all of you can use. And because of the variations, one base recipe can often work for everyone, just by changing an ingredient or two.
Want some idea of the recipes themselves? Here are few I want to try:
- The 7-Layer Middle Eastern Mountain (a take-off on the popular layered Mexican appetizer/dip)
- Three Sisters Salad (green beans, zucchini, corn, and tomatoes)
- Baked Beans Brazilian (casserole with olives, cheese, and pork)
- Falafel (fried chickpea balls traditionally served in pita)
I made the following bean and pasta recipe, which was quick and easy and a big hit. I picked broccoli rabe for my greens, which just happened to be one of the suggested variations, and served it with fresh-baked bread. I'll give you the base recipe here. The directions give you a sense of Dragonwagon's writing style, which is easygoing and personal.
CD's Beans & Greens Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Chile
Vegetarian (Vegan if the cheese is omitted)
- 16 ounces dried pasta
- 2 to 3 whole dried chiles, stemmed and broken in half
- 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, rinsed well (but with some moisture still clinging to the leaves), tough ends of stems removed, leaves and tender pars of stems sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch ribbons
- 3 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained well
- Coarse sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely grated Parmesan cheese for grating
2. Meanwhile, set a large, heavy skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium-high heat. Place the chiles in the skillet and toast, stirring them or giving the pan a shake occasionally, until they darken slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. (You might want to turn on an exhaust vent, if you have one, or throw open the windows; the air gets pretty pungent and cough-producing.)
3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and then, almost immediately, the still-wet greens. Stir. There will be a big sizzle and the greens will quickly start wilting down, deepening in color. Immediately, just as soon as the greens have been stirred into the chile and olive oil, pop a tight-fitting lid over the skillet. Lower the heat just a bit and let the greens steam in their own liquid for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Lift the lid and stir in the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, just to take the edge of rawness off the garlic (don't let it brown), stirring to distribute everything. Then turn off the heat, squeeze half the lemon over the greens (squeeze through a strainer, to trap the seeds), and add the beans. Stir some more to heat the bean through (the pan will still be plenty hot). Add coarse sea salt and pepper to taste.
5. When your pasta is done (which might be about now, or midway through lemoning the greens), drain it well. Pile it, steaming hot, onto plates and divide the greens and beans over each portion. You can try to pick out the chiles if you like, or warn diners that they are there (if you're using red-stemmed chard, it's quite hard to spot those chilies, so, I repeat, warn those who like their food tamer). Drizzle each portion with a bit of the remaining olive oil. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges and pass them along with the Parmesan at the table.
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Published by Workman, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)