Monday, September 28, 2009
Soup Beans and Cornbread
With all the rain we’ve had this week, I searched my brain (and recipe file) for a pot of something I could make that would last for 2-3 days and have a warming effect. Around this area, a favorite and easy simple dish is “Soup Beans and Cornbread”. It’s basically just a pot of pinto beans served with cornbread on the side (although some folks put cornbread in their bowl of beans).
Beans are high in protein, but they are not a complete protein by themselves. The addition of a whole grain creates a high-quality, high-fiber, fat-free protein, with equal or better nutritional value than a protein like meat, and with far less cost incurred. As an example, beans and rice would be a complete protein provided you used rice that has only had the husk removed, like brown rice. (White rice doesn’t cut it, not even the ‘enriched’ white rice.)
So adding whole-grain cornbread along with beans could also provide a complete protein, that is, if you can find corn meal that is not de-germed. Most corn meal on the grocery store shelves has been de-germed so it can last almost indefinitely. BTW, the bags of masa harina (used to make tortillas and tamales) is corn meal that has been bleached with lye.
I keep some stone ground whole grain cornmeal in the freezer that I use for my cornbread; the germ will become rancid stored at room temps for very long. Most cornbread recipes call for more corn meal than flour, somewhere close to a 2:1 ratio. I make mine almost the opposite, and I use white whole wheat flour. It still makes a nice crumb but not so much that I make a big mess trying to slice a wedge of cornbread to butter.
Cornbread follows in a separate post.
1 pound dry pinto beans
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic (if desired)
1 or 2 smoked ham hocks
1 or more onion, finely diced for garnish
red pepper flakes, to taste
Freshly ground pepper and any herbs of your choice, to taste.
(Remember, the ham hocks will be salty. I generally don’t need to add any salt; it can be added if necessary when served.)
Sort the beans carefully to remove any small stones and yucky beans. Rinse well, cover with 2” of water, and soak overnight in the refrigerator. If time is a factor, bring the beans to a boil, turn off heat and cover for 2 hours. In either case, discard the water, rinse again, and cover with 1-2” of water. Add the smoked ham hocks and chopped onion, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Cover and cook on low until beans are almost tender. I’m cooking this batch in a crockpot, and it may take 6-8 hours.
When the beans are about 20-30 minutes away from being tender enough to eat, remove the hocks. Chop the meat from the hocks, shred and add the meat back to the pot, along with some red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of black pepper to taste. If you want to add any herbs, now is the time. (This is also the time your cornbread should go in the oven!)
When the soup beans and cornbread are finished cooking, ladle the beans into a bowl, add minced onion on top, butter a wedge of warm cornbread, and enjoy!
Note: I find that this makes a lovely and substantial lunch meal break in the summer when I’m busy in the garden. That leaves plenty of room for a super salad at suppertime when it has cooled down a bit.