Flavors of Halloween
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.
It's Halloween and you've spent so much time on your costume that you haven't had a minute to think about dinner. Not to worry.
There is still time to serve something hauntingly delicious. And if you have any black dishes left over from the 1980s, now is the time to break them out.
You can decorate your table quickly, using black fabric if you have it, or orange, gold or dark purple if you don't. Scatter dried leaves on top and set low candles everywhere possible. Add pomegranates and white mini pumpkins here and there.
I like to serve beverages in old vessels — anything from small Mason jars to tarnished silver flutes — no matter what goes into them, and I like the room lights dimmed or entirely off.
Today's recipes call for dried beans and you won't have time to soak them overnight; instead, boil them in water for 10 minutes, cover, rest for 10 minutes, drain and use as you would soaked beans. In a pinch, use a good brand of canned beans.
Forbidden rice, which is black, was once eaten only by China's emperors but is now widely available. It has an aroma similar to jasmine rice and a texture chewier than either white or brown rice. It is delicious paired with creamy white beans. For a more substantial meal, fry four spicy sausages, such as Franco Dunn's Calabrese, slice them and scatter them on top of the beans and rice before adding the sauce. Vegetarians can top the beans and rice with sliced and steamed winter squash instead.
Forbidden Rice, Evil Beans and Pumpkin Blood
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 cup Forbidden rice, rinsed in 3 changes of water and drained
— Kosher salt
— Boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white beans, such as marrowfats or cannellini, soaked for a few hours, drained
1 or 2 fresh habañeros or other very hot chiles
— Several threads of saffron
1 teaspoon hot water
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half
½ cup creme fraiche
— Habañero or other bottled hot sauce
First, cook the rice. Fill a steamer or other deep pot with about 3 inches of water.
Put the rice into a deep bowl that will fit inside the steamer, add a pinch of salt and completely cover the rice with boiling water; you should be able to see the water a bit above the rice. Set the bowl into the steamer, cover the pot and cook until the rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Begin checking after 30 minutes, as cooking times vary based on the age of the rice. When tender, turn off the heat and let the rice rest, covered, in the steamer.
Meanwhile, cook the beans. Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the onions and saute until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 2 minutes more and season with salt. Add the beans and quickly pour in enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Add the chiles, increase the heat and when the water boils, lower the heat and simmer gently until the beans are very tender.
Remove the beans from the heat, use tongs to remove and discard the chiles and puree with an immersion blender, either partially or fully. Taste, correct for salt and season with black pepper.
While the beans and rice cook, prepare the sauce. Put the saffron into a small bowl, add the hot water and let rest 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and stir in the milk. Add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Cover and set aside.
To serve, set a generous amount of rice on one side of individual plates and ladle beans alongside. Drizzle slashes of sauce over both the rice and the beans and serve immediately, with hot sauce alongside.
This lovely soup was inspired by the black-and-white character Deburau, the combination of mime, sad clown and fool from the compelling 1945 French film, “Children of Paradise.” It is best made with heirloom beans though even supermarket beans produce good results. Rancho Gordo dried beans are among the best around and are widely available throughout the North Bay. To prepare the soups in a pressure cooker, just follow the manufacturer's directions but be sure to saute the aromatics first.
Makes 6 servings
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 small yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons cumin seed
— Kosher salt
1½ cups white beans, such as marrowfats, cannellini or Ayocote Blanco, soaked for a few hours, drained
1½ cups black beans, such as Midnight Black, Black Valentine or Ayocote Negro, soaked for a few hours, drained
1 bay leaf
1 medium celery stalk
— Black pepper in a mill
¼ cup creme fraiche, stirred to loosen
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
— Bottle hot sauce of choice
For the soups, you'll need 2 medium or large saucepans or soup pots.
Set the pots over medium heat, pour half the olive oil into them and divide the onions between them; add the carrot to one pot. Saute until the aromatics are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Divide the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Divide the cumin seed, stir and season with salt.
Working quickly, add the white beans to the pot with the carrot and the black beans to the other pot. Pour in enough water to cover both beans by about 1½ inches. Add the bay leaf and celery stalk to the pot with the black beans.
Increase the heat under both pots and when the water boils, lower it again and simmer gently until the beans are very tender, about 40 to 60 minutes, depending on age and variety. Add water as needed to keep the beans from drying out and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
When the beans are fully tender, remove pots from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Use tongs to remove and discard the bay leaf and celery and puree the black beans with an immersion blender; leave a portion of the beans whole if you like. Taste, season with pepper and correct for salt.
Puree the white beans with the immersion blender until very smooth and creamy. Taste, season with pepper and correct for salt.
Thin the soups as needed to achieve the proper consistency.
Make sure both soups are hot and then pour them, separately, into large pitchers.
Pour the soups, one from the left and one from the right, into soup plates, pouring slowly and at the same time so that the soups meet in the middle but don't mix.
Drizzle thin slashes of creme fraiche over each portion, scatter cilantro on top and serve immediately, with bottled hot sauce alongside.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
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