THE GOCHISO GOURMET: When the livin’ is easy

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALI don’t think George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward envisioned a summer like this, though the tension in “Porgy and Bess” does mirror some of the social discord in the country.

Between proliferating viruses and ongoing racial tension, you almost forget that it’s summer when we’re usually carefree and full of merriment. But even with social distancing requirements, you can still have a nice summer picnic with household members, either simply in the backyard or at a quiet local park. Despite the doom and gloom outside of the home, we don’t have to live like we’re in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.

Chilled is Better
I love chilled dishes, and not just during the summer months, but year round. They can be prepared in advance for potluck parties, are easier to transport and, especially during the oppressive heat of summer, are a delight to consume (compared to heavier dishes). Of course, those of you in the city may not experience summers like we do in the 50th.

(Does the statement falsely attributed to Mark Twain that the coldest summer one ever experienced was the summer they spent in San Francisco come to mind?). While we normally “hibernate” at air conditioned malls between June through September, the current COVID-19 crisis doesn’t make it that appealing as recirculating air conditioning allows COVID-laden vapor particles to travel a lot farther than six feet, so even social distancing doesn’t provide adequate protection.

Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart
I love all types of legumes! From the humble lentil, which requires no pre-soaking and cooks in 20 minutes, to the lupini, which requires at least a week of soaking, changing the water twice daily and everything in between. For starters, beans are a good source of low glycemic index carbohydrates, so they won’t spike your blood sugar after meals and won’t have you hittin’ the wall due to a low blood sugar several hours after eating. Additionally, they are good sources of protein, especially when combined with other vegetable proteins like wheat and sesame seeds and are a good source of dietary fiber. And from a culinary standpoint, dishes with beans as the focal point often are great hot, warm or cold, making them the perfect picnic food.

I used to wonder if my Kumamoto ancestry had anything to do with my penchant for legumes, since Mom always said those from Kumamoto-ken loved their beans. Of course, 23andMe burst that rationale, as their DNA analysis indicated that Mom’s Kumamoto heritage actually had roots farther south in the Ryukyu Kingdom. But in any case, beans of all forms make great eatin’!

I recently made this dish when COVID first made its appearance in the 50th. At that time, customers rushed out to buy rice and pasta, leaving most supermarket shelves empty. Therefore, I simply purchased dried legumes as our long-lasting staple, since they’re easily prepared with a pressure cooker, whether dried or pre-soaked. And I purchased beans of all types; lentils, kidney, white Northern, black, cannellini, navy and red before the legions of hoarders discovered that they were as simple to prepare as rice or pasta. I also recently purchased quite a bit of fresh rosemary, intending to make a porchetta or slow cooked, rolled pork belly, but aborted that attempt when I discovered that my piece of pork was long and thin and porchetta requires a square or rectangle piece of belly. So, an abundance of beans, fresh rosemary and cans of chopped tomatoes, calls for a Tuscan bean dish.

Tuscan Beans
1 lb. package dried white Northern beans or cannellini (small white kidney beans) soaked overnight
Dried rosemary, garlic and onion powder (optional)
3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
Olive oil
1 cup medium chopped carrots
1 cup medium chopped celery with leaves
1 cup medium chopped fennel
1 cup medium chopped onion
3 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 cans diced tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Drain the water from the soaked beans then add to a pressure cooker with fresh water and add the dried rosemary, garlic and onion powder (I add these to flavor the beans as they pressure cook) and cook on high pressure for 15 to 20 minutes. After the pressure is released, drain and rinse with cold water.

In a Dutch oven, saute the sliced garlic in the olive oil, then add the vegetables just as the garlic starts to brown. Saute until the vegetables are softened (five to 10 minutes). Add the canned tomatoes, liquid and all and the fresh rosemary. Cook until it reaches a light boil, then add the drained beans and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes until the beans are re-heated. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold as a side or main vegan dish.

Protein Plus
I previously kept boxes of Barilla Protein Plus pasta in our pantry until several years ago, when one of the fourth generation family members made disparaging remarks about the gay community on Italian radio.

After those comments, we stopped purchasing the Barilla products and shifted to alternate pasta labels. OK, part of our shift in purchases was also because the original Barilla Plus pasta contained flax seed, and while those added omega-3 fatty acids pumped up the nutritional value, those highly unsaturated fatty acids also reduced the product’s shelf life, and we found ourselves discarding many unopened box of pasta that were several months past the expiration date. Since then, the Barilla family has softened their tone on the gay community, including adding civil rights and LGBTQ activist David Mixner to their advisory board to improve inclusivity and diversity within the company. And during this time, Barilla also changed the recipe for their Protein Plus pasta, removing the flax seed (increasing shelf life) and changing the egg white to plant proteins so that the pasta is now vegan. So, Barilla pasta is once again in our pantry. And in this dish, I simply substitute Barilla Protein Plus angel’s hair pasta for somen for an updated somen salad, which adds more protein and fiber to the salad. And a chilled Barilla salad is perfect for those dog days of summer.

Barilla Salad
1 lb. Barilla Protein Plus angel hair pasta
Uzumaki (kamaboko with a swirled pattern), thinly sliced
Japanese or English cucumber, thinly sliced
Scrambled eggs then thinly sliced
Head lettuce shredded
Deli ham or char siu, thinly sliced
Green onion, thinly sliced

1 ounce vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 ounce rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 ounce shoyu
1 ounce sugar
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Boil the Barilla pasta according to the box instructions, then drain and rinse with cold water. Mix the six ingredients for the dressing and keep chilled until serving. The garnishes I listed include no quantities, as you can add what you like. I’ve listed garnishes that I grew up with whenever somen salad was served at a family get-together. You can either place the pasta in a large flat serving dish or place in individual serving bowls topped with the garnishes, but in either case, add the dressing right before serving.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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