Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Very Problematic Bean

One of my father’s summer culinary memories from his childhood is a very simple and rustic dish: young giant white beans cooked with slices of bacon and then served with fried onions and a lot of butter. Those beans are commonly called in Polish “fasola Jaś”.

It was not easy to find the English name for those beans. I raised the question on one Polish culinary forum to help me find a proper translation. Here are their suggestions:
- Butter Beans;
- Lima Beans;
- Broad Beans;
- Jack Beans;
- White Emergo Beans
- Giant Beans
- Jaś Karłowy Runner Bean
- Elephant Beans

It is not surprising that one can be lost in this nomenclatural mess, as Julia Child was lost while trying to find English equivalents for French names of fish when she had been working on her first book.
To make a long story short, following the Official Journal of the European Union, it seems that “Jaś Karłowy Runner Bean” (Phaseolus coccineusis the official English name.  It is a regional product, cultivated in southern Poland, in the Nida and Wisła lowland. Probably it still does not ring a bell. Thanks to readers of the Polish culinary forum, I found out that this type of local giant beans may be replaced, for example, by White Emergo Beans.

Those beans are very popular in Poland. One can buy them dry all year round in nearly every shop. They are white, oval, a bit flat, usually 2 to 3 cm long.  They contain a lot of protein, minerals (phosphorus and calcium) and vitamins.

On the opposite, young and fresh butter beans are available only in summer time, in August, and they are not so common, as opposed to dry ones. They are covered by a thin, white skin. Fresh seeds are light green. Their taste is not as floury as the one of dried white beans and you do not have to soak them in water, which is the reason that usually prevents me from preparing dishes with dried beans.

I am ashamed that, until last May, I had no idea that those beans were available fresh in the summer. Or rather my father should be ashamed, when he reproached me once: “And why don’t you cook fresh runner beans”? He asked. “What? Green runner beans? What are you talking about?” – I yelled. It was obvious that I had to find those beans once they would be in season. And here you have them.

This recipe is based on my grandma’s preparation, which was transmitted to me by my father. I served them with fried baby ceps (boletus), which appeared two weeks ago on a local food market. I could not refrain from adding some fresh thyme and grilling an extra 2 slices of bacon.

White “Jaś Karłowy” Runner Beans with Fried Ceps

300 g white fresh Jaś Karłowy Runner Beans (which you can replace with any other fresh white beans)
300 g fresh ceps (boletus)
Fresh thyme
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 big garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices bacon

Prepare the beans: place the beans and 2 slices of bacon in a saucepan and cover with water (1 cm above the level of beans). Add some salt and cook (under the cover) until soft, but not overcooked (depending on the size of the beans, between 30 minutes and one hour). You really have to taste them. Strain them. Discard cooked bacon or use it for another purpose.

Prepare the mushrooms: Delicately clean mushrooms from leftovers of the forest. Scratch the stems to remove soil. Rinse the mushrooms delicately under cold water. Cut some mushrooms in halves, should some of them be too big. They all should be about the same size, so they will fry evenly. In a hot frying pan, melt butter, add onions and cook over medium flame for 5 minutes. Add garlic and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let onions and garlic burn. Add mushrooms into the frying pan and sauté them over medium flame until they release their juices and absorb them back in. In the meantime, in a small frying pan, grill slices of bacon until gold and crispy. Add thyme, salt and pepper generously, stir and add beans. Serve immediately with grilled bacon on top accompanied with slices of some good grilled bread.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blog of the week Publication

I would like to share with you some good news. The Polish internet magazine “” (“Cook.that”) handles a cycle called “Blog of the Week”, designated to the presentation of Polish food blogs. Yesterday, it published a brief interview with me, where I present my blog, I share my opinions and ideas about Polish and French culinary traditions, as well as food habits of Parisians.

I also revealed some news concerning my first book about Polish culinary traditions, which should be published in English, after some further revisions and final work are completed, in a close future.  I also informed that I have been working for some time on a project about “Polish Food Days in Paris”, which – if everything goes well – should take place in Paris, at the fall of 2011, when Poland will held the Presidency of the European Union. I will be informing you about those coming events. 

I also would like to thank all of you who left warm comments after the interview!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yellow, Yellow, Yellow

Do you remember that in my last post I was complaining that I did not have enough courage for cooking because of tropical temperatures? And now you know what? I came back to cooking, and this is mainly what this post is about.

August started which means that the season for all types of soil tomatoes finally started. We can actually enjoy these summer tomatoes only for two or three months a year.  The season is too short, but I dare to say that our local tomatoes are not worse than those from southern Europe. When I am in Krakow in the summertime, I always buy extraordinary ones, on the food market I my neighbourhood, from a nice woman, who, twice per week, sells tomatoes straight from her farm in various sizes, shapes and colours. When I come back to France by car, I always buy a crate of them. Not because they are cheaper than in Paris, but simply because they are delicious. A quintessence of tomato in a tomato. Skins which peel easily without blanching them in boiling water. Pulpy, juicy but not watery. Sweet.

This is nothing special for those, who have access to great organic food markets in NYC, London or Paris. But for me, who watches the changes in my country, the discovery of various types of tomatoes on a small provincial food market is a tiny proof that something has been changing in my country. I remember from my childhood only one type of plain, round red tomatoes. One could only dream about Lima or Buffalo, or cherry tomatoes.  Or yellow ones.

The leitmotiv for last Saturday’s lunch, which I prepared for my father, was the colour yellow. Soup, tart, pesto… The monotony of yellowness was slightly disturbed by “Bruschettas with Young Beans and Grilled Bacon”, as well as by “fried Chanterelles, Spinach and Parmiggiano”. There are the dishes:

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

For my Gazpacho I used very ripe round yellow tomatoes and one grilled yellow bell pepper. The soup was quite sweet. I broke the sweetness by the addition of white wine vinegar, but I believe you can add more than indicated in the recipe. It was good, but not outstanding (or it is just a matter of taste).

Serves 4

1 yellow bell pepper
1 slice of stale bread
150 ml chilled mineral water
700 g yellow tomatoes, blanched and peeled, seeds removed 
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 handful of peeled almonds, sliced
6 nice basil leaves
½ half yellow onion, peeled and chopped 
1 small cucumber (max 100 g), washed, peeled and chopped  
Lemon zest of ¼ of small organic lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
A pinch of powdered chili

1. Preheat oven until 180° Celsius. Place your bell pepper on a baking sheet and bake it for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until its skin is well grilled and does not stick to the bell pepper anymore. Flip the bell pepper occasionally, so it will bake evenly. Remove the bell pepper from the oven, put into a plastic bag and let cool down. Then remove it from the bag, place it on a cutting board, and cut it along. Remove gently its stem, the seeds and peel the skin using a small and sharp kitchen knife.
2. In a small bowl, soak the bread in mineral water for a few minutes.
3. Put bell pepper, tomatoes, bread with its soaking water, garlic, onion, cucumber, basil lemon zest in your food processor or blender. Process the ingredients until smooth. Season with lemon juice, wine vinegar, olive oil, chili, salt and pepper.
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. You can add ice cubes right before serving.

Yellow Tomato Tart with Thyme

This tart may seem too simple at the first sight. For the filling, you only need ripe but firm tomatoes, fresh thyme, garlic and shallots. And that’s enough! You can add local goat or sheep’s cheese, but nothing more. I prefer the simplest savoury tarts with one or two ingredients – the onion tart Provencal style and this tomato are my favourite so far. The key is how you prepare this one ingredient. I like tarts, but except for Quiche Lorraine, I rather do not enjoy all those with heavy cream and eggs; usually, the sauce soaks into the dough; the dough becomes too heavy and too gluey, instead of crispy. I am also a maniac as regards the preparation of tomatoes. Except for some salads, I always peel them and I remove their seeds. I do not like all those pizzas and tarts, where seeds of freshly slices tomatoes drip into the dough, changing its texture into a chewing gum.  For this reason, I strongly recommend frying tomatoes for a while, before placing them in your tart mould. The excess of juices should evaporate if you want to enjoy the crispness of the bottom of the dough. 

I made this tart using home made pâte brisée, which I prepared a month ago and that I kept in my freezer. I used my husband’s recipe, coming from times when he was working as a pastry chef. Home made pâte brisée is not complicated; the only problematic action is to place the dough in the tart mould. It is just time consuming, but I assure that as long as you have a good recipe, the result has nothing to do with an industrial product.  


For the pâte brisée - makes 2 moulds: (18 cm and 24 cm) if rolled out quite finely. If you do not feel like to make your own dough, you can use ready industrial one, but I am not responsible for the final effect. 

200 g flour plus some more extra for your working table
1 teaspoon salt
125 butter, diced
1 large egg
1 tart mould (24 cm)
Baking beans

For the garnish:
700 g ripe but firm yellow Lima tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded; cut into quarters
5 tablespoons olive oil 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1. Working with a small plastic pastry scraper (if unavailable with the tips of your fingers), combine quickly the flour, salt and butter, until you obtain a “sandy” texture. Add the egg and mix quickly and forms a ball.  If the dough is too dry, add a bit of cold water and mix (if you add too much water, then add a bit more flour). Do not overdo the dough or it will shrink during baking and it will be tougher than necessary.
2. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours (you can freeze the dough and use it later as well). 
3. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on your working table. Make sure to always sprinkle enough flour between the table and the dough, and over the dough, to prevent it from getting stuck to the table or to the rolling pin. Use the rolling pin to place delicately the dough in the tart mould (I know that it is not easy, but even if the dough breaks a bit do not panic; just try to put the pieces together the best you can). Prick the dough with a fork, wrap the tart mould in plastic film and keep it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Prepare a circle of baking paper, about 30 cm in diameter.
4. Take the dough out of the fridge. Remove the plastic film and place the baking paper on top of the dough; place baking beans over the paper (to prevent the dough from rising in the oven). Bake for about 15 minutes or until it gets slightly gold. Remove the dough from the oven. Let it cool down before removing the baking paper with the beans. Save the beans. Do not switch the oven off.
5. In the meantime, prepare the tomato garnish. Pour olive oil into into a hot saucepan. Add shallots, fry them for 5 minutes, then add garlic, fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and fry them over high flame, mixing often, delicately (so they will not go to the pieces), for a maximum of 10 minutes.  And here’s one tricky thing. The frying time depends on your tomatoes. You should use ripe but firm tomatoes (Lima tomatoes are ideal). If they are too soft, they will give too much juices and will go into pieces while frying, and we do not want that to happen; on the other hand, they cannot be too cooked (the purpose of frying tomatoes is to get rid off the excess of water, which otherwise would go into the dough. You simply have to watch your tomatoes but if they gave a lot of juices, get rid of the liquid - do not add it to the tart –only add tomatoes! At the very end of frying, add salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Mix and place the totmatoes in the tart shell.
6. Place the tart in the oven and bake until the dough turns to a nice gold colour, and until tomatoes start to caramelize a bit (it should take about 20 to 25 minutes, but you really have to watch them). Remove the tart from the oven and serve hot. This tart tastes well both warm and at room temperature (this is how I served it to my father last Saturday). 

Fresh Corn Pesto (from Lottie & Doof).

As a main dish, I served Pappardelle with Fresh Corn Pesto. I rarely present on my blog dishes of other bloggers. It does not mean that I do not find ideas in culinary blogs. On the contrary, I find a lot of great ideas, and quite often I cook something from my favourite blogs. I do not present those dishes, as I think that the blog is a place to share your own culinary ideas. However, this Fresh Corn Pesto from Lottie + Doof is worth recommendation. Who would think of making a pesto from sweet corn? With grilled crispy bacon, it is absolutely delicious. Check out the recipe and try it. It is great.

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