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Too Late for the Holidays

Green death tostadas getting made up Green death tostadas ready to eat

OK, when I am alone for the Christmas as happened this year, I make Mexican food. Lima bean tacos and tostadas, which by the way are very good, have become a challenge since I left Utica New York and my supply of Frontier Herb Vegetable Powder has dried up. I have tried a variety of recipes for making the bean filling. This one was good, spicey, and very green. This is an ideal make-ahead dish. As far as I know it has no exotic ingredients. As for the lima beans, the New York Times recognized that a lot of us really like them, and they make superb refried beans. If you don't like lima beans, this really is not your recipe.

Green Death Tostadas

You will need...

1/2 pound of dried limas
Water for soaking and cooking
1 bunch of curly parsley
2 anaheim chilis (Ask if you don't recognize them or the bin isn't labeled.)
1 Tblsp of oil
6 good size carrots
20 red radishes
1 can of Lindsey Natural Black Olives (or other black olives if Lindsey Naturals aren't available in your area).
1 package of tostada shells
Salt to taste (more than you think)

Two days before you want to have tostadas, soak the lima beans over night. The night before you want this dish cook the lima beans. Mine were old and took nearly two hours. This happens sometimes. The good news is I caught them before they boiled over. Lima beans throw a lot of starch.

Chop up and wash the parsley. Parsley tends to be scuzzy. Wash, decapitate, seed, devein and depith the hot peppers. Wash your hands and all plates and utensils after you cut these beauties up into small pieces and throw them in the collander with the washed parsley. Capsicum burns are no fun.

Heat the oil in a big pan. When a piece of vegetable inserted sizzles, dump in the parsley and chilis. Leave on medium to low heat to cook, about ten minutes. Then set aside to cool. Hot oil burns are no fun and not at all neccessary.

Peel and grate the carrots. Wash the radishes and cut into thin slices. Open and drain the olive. Mix these all together and put in a small storage bowl. Hey, lettuce and tomato are summer vegetables. This is a much better seasonal, fresh mix.

Now take the cooked limas and either drain them or remove them from the fridge if you made them in advance. Put half of them in the blender with the cooked parsley and chilis. Add some salt. Liquify. Mix back with the whole limas and put away.

When you want to eat this dish, heat two tostada shells per person and add a good sized glob of the green death refried lima beans and some of the fresh mix and some salt (It needed more salt than I thought) and enjoy. The refried beans were spicey enough that this dish did not need additional sauce, and flavorful enough that it did not need cheese. Yes, this is pareve and if you buy the right olive and tostada shells, it is clearly kosher.

Eileen H. Kramer -- December 27, 2011

What's This: A Picture?

Winter Green Pigeon Pea Pasta Salad Yes it is, and this is Winter Green and Pigeon Pea Pasta Salad. You can say this is a continuation of the Festival of Weird Foods, but it is really a recession buster. Now I can hear you say: "What???" But wait, the only expensive ingredient in this dish is the can of Libby Natural black olives. Everything else was a bargain, even the spinach pasta.

If you are curious, I got the spinach penne from Whole Foods. Now you are really confused. I'll let you in on a secret. Whole Foods own brand of pasta is a bargain. They have whole wheat, spinach, plain, and tricolor varieties in sixteen ounce bags for the same price as Kroger's Private Label or DaVinci at Publix, about $1.69. I routinely buy herbal tea, pasta, sardines, and canned herring at Whole Foods. I also sometimes buy spices or chocolate soynut butter there as well. You can get ripped off anywhere, and you can find bargains anywhere.

OK, let's get on with the recipe. If you can't find a Whole Foods, you can use regular white pasta. The same is true if you don't like spinach pasta. I do think it has a slight spinach flavor, and the color is beautiful.

Winter Green Pigeon Pea Pasta Salad

You will need...

8-10oz pigeon peas (You can buy these at the DeKalb Farmer's Market or any supermarket that serves Latino customers. If they are unavailable where you live, use black eyed peas, kidney beans, or other beans with strong skins to prevent splitting. Dried soybeans will work too.)
Water for soaking, boiling, and blanching
6 goodly size carrots
3 goodly size turnips
1/2 a goodly bunch of fresh dill or an entire supermarket size bunch of dill
1 can of Libby Natural Black Olives.
8 oz of spinach penne.
Salt to taste (Remember most of the ingredients are unsalted!) Frontier Herb Lemon Pepper to taste
McCormick Perfect Pinch Lemon Pepper to taste (I never met a spice mix I did not like.)
5-6 oz lemon juice
2 Tblsp oil

Two days before you make this recipe, put the dried beans to soak in a big container of water and forget about them. The more you work with dried beans, the more you will develop a "bean brain" and realize you have to plan ahead. This feels very weird the first, few times you do it. Right before you go to sleep is a good time to put beans in to soak. They need to soak a minimum of twelve hours.

The next evening, drain the beans and put them to cook. Let them come to a good, crazy boil and then drop the heat down to medium to low. Cover up the beans and let them cook forty minutes to two hours. My pigeon peas have been taking me an hour and a half to cook through. You can do lots of other things while the beans cook. At around 45 minutes check them to see if they are cooked through. Then check every twenty to thirty minutes after that. You check by tasting a couple.

While the beans are cooking, cut up the dill on a plate. Fresh dill can be scuzzy. Put the cut pieces in a colander. You're going to be living in your colander and washing it out repeatedly. That is just the way a salad like this works. Wash the dill with a sink hose or under cold water. Toss it around. Squeeze it out. Put a bowl under the colander and let it drain for five minutes or more.

While the dill drains, peel the turnips and the carrots. Cut the up into reasonably bite size pieces. Put them in a big bowl. Get a big pot This is a second pot. Your beans are all ready in one big pot. You are going to need two if you are doing all this at the same time. Composed salads with purpose-made ingredients like this mean a lot of pot washing, and no everything can not go in one pot. You'll see why.

Fill the big pot half way up with water and set it on high heat. Let it come to a fierce and crazy boil. Dump in the carrots and turnips. Put on the cover and wait three to eight minutes. That is all. Cooks call this blanching, and a lot of fancy ones will dump the vegetables into an ice bath when they are done. You don't have to do this.

If you leave the vegetables in a bit too long (and we are talking a minute or two or even half a minute), your vegetables will become lightly cooked. That is fine. Some people even prefer them that way. If you dump them too soon, they are a bit closer to raw. That is also fine, and what some people prefer. As long as you don't leave a blanche kettle unattended and vanish, blanching is easy and gives you a whole new world of salad vegetables.

The frozen vegetables you have been eating for years are all blanched. Freshly blanched vegetables though taste a lot better. Blanching also tames sharp vegetables such as radishes and turnips. I had one turnip I was sure I could not use because it stung when I nibbled some. As a blanched vegetable, it tasted just fine. Just remember not to start blanching unless you can give it your undivided attention and be there to drain it.

When your blanche kettle is ready (I let mine go six minutes due to a very, bitter turnip in my mix. It is good to taste raw turnips to know what you have.), make sure there is a colander in the sink. Don't do that wonderful, acrobatic pot and lid drain, your mother or grandmother did. A blanche kettle is too heavy, and the water in it is scalding! While the vegetables blanche, move the dill out of the colander into the salad bowl and wash the colander to get it ready.

When the blanched vegetables are ready, pour them into the colander. If you have a sink hose, hose the veggies down with cold water. Then put the colander on top of a small bowl to catch the drips and put the whole business in the refridgerator if you have the space or on the table top if you don't. I don't believe using hot vegetables makes the salad taste worse, but very hot things are uncomfortable to work with, so letting your vegetables cool a bit, makes the salad easier to handle.

Wash out your blanche kettle. Your beans may still be going. Mine were. Fill it about a quarter to a third of the way up with water. Heat the water to a furious boil and add the pasta. You can salt it. I did. Put the burner under the pasta pan down to medium-ish heat when you are sure it's still boiling. You don't have to cover pasta. It gets done in about ten minutes. You want it al dente because the dressing will work on it in the salad bowl and also, you are going to probably not get it all cooled off so easily.

While the pasta cooks, add the blanched vegetables to the salad bowl and wash out the colander. Have it ready in the sink. I don't think you want to do an acrobatic drain on the pasta either. Dump the pasta into the colander when it is done. Hose it down a bit in the sink. Put a small bowl under the colander and take the whole set up to the fridge or table top. Yes, this is repetitive but that is fine.

Open the olives, drain them, and add them to the salad bowl. When the beans taste like they are done, put the pasta in the salad bowl. Wash out the colander if necessary and drain the beans into the salad bow. You probably have a few pans to wash, so you can put the colander on a small bowl and...Yes, it's off to the fridge to cool.

If you've been keeping score, you've washed out one large pot and are about to wash out two more. You also have washed out the colander three times and it is due for one more wash. I actually had to wash out four pots when I made this recipe because I had cooked greens in my blanche kettle and had to free it up so I could blanche the vegetables. There is not much you can do to fix this. The three purpose-cooked ingredients for this salad all have very different cooking times so have to be cooked separately. The upside to all this is that you are cooking in advance and when you go to eat your salad, you just remove it from the fridge and serve. All the clean up is behind you and so is the prep. This is a very make ahead dish. It also lends itself to being staged.

After your pans are cleaned, add the beans to the salad bowl. Wash out the colander. By now you should only have a bowl and your cutting board/work board to wash. Line the bottom of a graduated measuring cup with salt. Add the other spices. Add five to six ounces of lemon juice. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Add the oil. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Rinse. Repeat.

Dress and toss your salad. Put it in a large container and put it in the fridge. It is better if it sits over night.

Notes -- Time and MOney

OK, if you do this dish in one gulp not counting the soaking night, it takes around two and a half hours to make. If you want to make it over two nights, you can stage it out. The first night, cook the beans and blanche the vegetables. The second night, cut up the dill and cook the pasta, and put the salad together. The whole planning and thinking ahead part is very strange to a lot of people. This is also the kind of dish traditionally made with leftovers. I don't usually have those kinds of leftovers, so I have to make all the components. As I said before, the upside is thaere is no preparation before actually eating this dish. You've done all the work the night before or over two nights before, and the more you do this kind of purpose made, composed salad or casserole, the easier the whole idea of a long prep way in advance gets.

Second, this dish is extremely economical. Turnips and carrots are both year around and in season. They were .79 and .69 a pound respectively. The pasta is a hidden bargain from Whole Foods. The dill was $1.29 and I still have some left. The pigeon peas were not expensive. Only the olives were pricey, and Wal-Mart has a good deal on Libby's Natural Olives, so I know where I will be stocking up next time. The reason this dish is cheaper than it looks, besides the fact that it involves a lot of time, mostly washing pots, is what is missing. There are no premade croutons. The dressing is home made, and one ingredient I usually put in salads is missing. I got sick of spending .59 a bunch for scallions. Oh well, I won't miss the dragon's breath.

Eileen H. Kramer -- December 1, 2011