Recently, by economic necessity as well as changing food and health preferences, I have really been cutting down on my meat consumption. So as soon as I got settled in my new digs, I hauled out the pressure cooker and started making with the bean cookery again.
Up until recently I have had mixed feelings about beans in general and my beans in particular. I would make batches of nice healthy beans with all sorts of veggie aromatics and seasonings, and they would taste really great to me. But I would always wind up throwing out the last third uneaten, because I got too bored with them to finish them ... or to even want to save them in the freezer. Finally though, I started getting a lot more inventive about adding small amounts of flavorful meat to the beans, and I think I have finally put an end to boring myself with my beans.
Of course I had known about the classic US Southeastern soul food practice of cooking beans with a ham hock, which I have done and do love ... but alas, even blanched, a ham hock makes beans too salty for my damn finicky ankles. Plus in recent years ham hocks, like so many other traditional poor people's foods, have crept up in price until now they're pretty ridiculous. Ditto the most popular choice for alternative meaty addition to beans, smoked turkey parts. But then I started expanding my imagination regarding meat-aromatics to add to beans, and things started getting fun.
Like this week's success: garbanzo beans first cooked to tenderness via pressure cooker, then simmered with Mexican chorizo, dried shiitake mushrooms, and a whole bulb's worth of garlic cloves. The chorizo, which is skinless, pretty much dissolved into the broth and permeated everything, as did the garlic. I am going to have no trouble at all whipping through this batch to the last drop. In fact I still don't have a photo of this dish to post because every time I serve myself a bowlful, I discover I have eaten half of it before I remember "oh wait, I was going to photograph this stuff ... "
I've had fun pairing beans with other sausages too -- though again, sausages have gotten a bit pricey unless you can find them on sale. The Mexican sausages have the advantages of being super-cheap, and super-spicy, so a little goes a long way. And using just a little meat is not only good sense economically and health-wise, but even cookery-wise as well, I am discovering. It has to be just enough meat so that its flavor accents the beans, but not so much that it completely blots them out. I'm finally learning how to recognize where that "just enough" is. And the results are working for me.