It's James Beards birthday. (1903-1985) He was a cookbook author. He developed the first cooking show on TV. He believed in cooking with local ingredients. He did not support any one food technique or trend, but continually searched for flavor and color and goodness. He has a foundation (I've added it to my favorites, great recipes), with a beautiful philosophy. When someone asked John Beard what his philosophy was, he said: "Feel free and take a fresh look. My emphasis is on options. My motto: 'Why not?'"
In his honor on the Fifth of May, I am cooking vegan Mexican with as many local ingredients as I can muster. I will not hold back. In honor of James Beard, I will have a little fun today. Viva la fiesta. Yes. Margaritas are on the menu.
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence day. Read all about what it IS here.
The Menu is simple. Beans and rice. Blue corn chips. Salsa. Guacamole. Salad. Margaritas. For the non vegans at my table I will offer a bowl of shredded cheese.
There will be music. Probably Los Lobos, Papa's Dream. Miss M's favorite. We'll smash a few Cascarones on the back step for fun, hand made by Miss M's Abuela.
California Beans with Cognac
thank you James Beard
1 # pinto beans (Pinto means spotted in Spanish)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, stuck with 2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
6 tbls olive oil (James says butter, not today)
1 small onion finely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce or canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup cognac or brandy
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup parsley
Soak pinto beans overnight, or at least 8 hours, in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Drain.
Put the beans in a saucepan with the garlic, the onion stuck with whole cloves, bay leaf, thyme and boiling water to cover. Cover and simmer gently until tender, about one hour. Taste for doneness. The beans should be soft, but not mushy. Drain reserving 1 cup liquid.
Pour olive oil in a cast iron casserole and add the small onion. Saute until golden, but not brown. Add the tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes, cognac, salt, parsley and the cup of reserved bean liquid. Bring this mixture to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the beans, stir gently, bake until just bubbly.
It's as good as it looks.