Love Letter from the MVC

So after a frazzled day of work, a kid practicing independent decision-making on just about everything from dinner to bath to bed, a shocking shortage of wine in the house, and then (yet another) rejection from an editor for one of my manuscripts, the unthinkable presented itself in my mailbox:  a love letter from the Motor Vehicles Commission.

Skip the Trip, it said! Renew your driver’s license by mail! No day-long trip to Zootopia’s Flash, no clearing work schedules or arranging extra child care. The Garden State MVC dropped a touch of unexpected sweetness into my day, which made me think of iç pilav – a rice pilaf with a hint of sweetness from currants, pine nuts, tomato paste, and cinnamon.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups bald rice (a short-grain rice, similar to arborio), washed, soaked with a tsp of salt, and drained
  • 4 tbspns olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tbspn tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbspns finely chopped fresh dill
  • fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste (Anne uses 1 tbspn of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper when preparing with water…if preparing with chicken broth, which is already salted, go less…)

Instructions

  1. soak currants in warm water for about 15 minutes
  2. in medium-sized saucepan, saute diced onion, pine nuts, and olive oil on medium heat for ~7-10 minutes
  3. add tomato paste
  4. drain currants
  5. add rice, currants, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper, continue to stir
  6. add water or chicken broth and bring to a boil
  7. lower the heat, cover, and simmer for ~15 minutes; all the liquid should be absorbed and rice should be tender, so add additional water if needed
  8. stir in dill
  9. mold and plate using a small glass dish…remember your sand castles? same idea! pack it in, plop it upside down on the plate, tap with a wooden spoon to release
  10. garnish with parsley and enjoy!

img_0501

Bulgur Pilaf for Twelfth Night

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh…not too shabby, but, just for a minute, consider what marvelous food could’ve been made for all the visitors if the three wise men brought onions, chick peas, and bulgur?

Buona Epifania! High in potassium, protein, and dietary fiber, you simply can’t go wrong with bulgur pilaf – nohutlu bulgur pilavi – for dinner tonight. I’ve yet to see anyone who doesn’t enjoy this dish, and it pairs well with meats, fish, tofu, or is fabulous on its own.

Ingredients

  • 8 tbspns olive oil (substitute a couple of those for butter, if you’re not trying to be heart-healthy!)
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions (~2 cups)
  • 2 cups dried bulgur
  • 2 cups chick peas (approximately 1 ~15 oz can)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth, if you’re vegetarian!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mince onions in a food processor and sauté in olive oil on medium-hight heat for ~10 minutes
  2. Add bulgur, and coat-and-toast, as if you were cooking up risotto; coat bulgur and turn for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add chick peas
  4. Slowly add chicken broth
  5. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes
  6. Serve warm

A (carrots) Rainbow of My Very Own

Once upon a time…before baby, when “date nights” were plentiful and leisurely meals were savored without a second thought as to what we’d owe the sitter if we linger another 15 minutes, we regularly frequented our neighborhood Turkuaz on the Upper West Side. With its warmly-lit, tented ceilings and its vast array of hot and cold small plates (and a spouse who could order in Turkish, which worked rather well for me…think Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in A Fish Called Wanda…), Turkuaz always delivered a delicious escape from the bustling city.

When Turkuaz first opened, at the start of the meal, they served a dip of carrots with yogurt – yogurtlu havuc salatasi – with warm pide bread. Loved it so much I had to run home and duplicate. And today I’m duplicating with rainbow carrots to create 3 different colored carrot dips.

Ingredients

yogurt sauce:

  • 4 cups of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3-4 cloves of minced/crushed raw garlic
  • 1 tsp salt (less or more, as desired)

carrots:

  • 3 pounds of rainbow carrots, separated by color
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions

yogurt sauce:

  1. in large mixing bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, and salt
  2. set aside

carrots:

  1. separate carrots by color (e.g., yellows, purples, oranges) – you’ll be making 3 separate dips, so have 3 small mixing bowls on-hand
  2. start with the orange carrots; in a food processor (another example of my culinary laziness – Turks would grate the carrots…but when I grate, I eat skin), finely chop orange carrots
  3. saute finely chopped carrots in 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat to soften
  4. put aside in small mixing bowl to cool
  5. repeat for purple carrots…
  6. repeat for yellow carrots…
  7. after carrots have cooled, blend yogurt mixture to each of the softened carrot bowls, add additional salt to taste as needed
  8. garnish with fresh dill (my dexterity for garnishing was never…well, just see below…but these dips are so pretty, they can withstand even the clumsiest hand!)

IMG_3520

Turkish Coffee (when sleep isn’t on the menu…)

IMG_3278My kid didn’t sleep through the night until she was three…years…old. Sounds somewhat amusing, but, for anyone who has ever experienced similar long-term sleep deprivation, this is far from funny. Losing one’s cell phone because it’s in the fridge next to the cheddar cheese (what, isn’t that where you keep yours?), pouring orange juice into morning coffee, walking into walls, bursting into tears when the local pizzeria is out of fresh garlic topping, because, let’s face it, no one’s putting mercimek in the oven that night anyway (the lens of exhaustion makes one’s mild-mannered husband resemble the antichrist), and, oh, the blunder to end all sleep-deprived blunders: calling your boss, “mom” – all of these require some years and some distance to conjure an appropriate chuckle.  For these, and countless other “finest” moments, a Turkish coffee gets the job done.

This coffee is made of finely-ground, powder-like coffee, water, and sugar, and prepared in a special Turkish coffee pot, called a cezve, usually made of copper and with a long handle. It’s also customary, after drinking the coffee, to turn the cup upside down on the saucer, and then use the settled grounds in the cup to tell the drinker’s fortune.

Ingredients

  • 3 espresso/demitasse cups of water
  • 3 heaping teaspoons of Turkish coffee
  • 2-3 teaspoons of sugar for a “medium-sweet” coffee (remember how James Bond took his Turkish coffee in From Russia with Love?)

Instructions

  1. Simmer the ingredients in a cezve – the idea is to froth the coffee, without boiling it
  2. Serve in espresso cup (or, just take all 3 cups you brewed and put into one big, American-sized coffee mug!)

Really Bad Eggs…

Actually, menemen, the recipe I’m sharing today, is a delicious egg dish. The really bad eggs are my own…

So how do you know when your family is complete? Our “only” is quite an energetic and vivacious handful, and yet there’s a tremendous force from within – something resembling my intense morning coffee thirst…one cup, then another, then another… Thou shalt procreate. Again.

It’s a difficult question. And exceedingly personal. My head’s been going back and forth between two paddles in a game of table tennis. The first to “serve” were the old images of big Italian families, surrounded by bunches of children (all well-behaved, of course)…but then those images were volleyed back by my own need for individual pursuits and meaningful engagement in the world…which then got whacked back by the guilt of not providing my daughter with the sibling I perceive her to want more than the brownie in front of her…which then was blocked by the logistical mobility and financial flexibility that having one child affords…and then smashed by previously-dormant-but-now-fully-panicked inner stereotypes of onlies being selfish, unable to share or play well with others, never learning how to compromise…and finally counter-smashed by my defiance to keep from blindly bending toward any cultural or societal stereotype. No clear winner. Just a headache.

It seemed like a prudent course of action to return to the fertility clinic and see if I’ve still got game. The disappointing, although not surprising, truth: barely. And while that doesn’t render all the aforementioned musings moot, it puts a few extra obstacles in front of me.

It’s hard to let go sometimes. For so long, and with so many in vitro attempts, I weighed myself in eggs. But now it’s time to appreciate that I’m more than a mere carton of really bad eggs. Since it’s the season of Easter and renewal, I’ll just close with an egg hunt metaphor: if I persist in loving more fully those in front of me and in delving more deeply into the relationship I have with myself, I’ll find new life in places I didn’t even expect.

Here’s how to make menemen, eggs with tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 3 peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cubanelle peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

IMG_9971I throw everything to be chopped into a food processor because I’m lazy and a little clumsy when it comes to chopping, but Anne insists it’s better to chop otherwise the juices come out in the food processor instead of the pan.  (NOTE:  my daughter’s knife is a child’s knife…never put a sharp blade into the hand of a tiny person…although one could say the same for me…)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 – 1 ½ teaspoons salt

 

Instructions:

  1. In large skillet, sauté onion in olive oil on high, about 5 minutes
  2. Add peppers, continue to sauté
  3. Add tomatoes and salt and turn to medium heat for about 10 minutes until most of the water is evaporated
  4. Make little pockets within the veggies to rest the eggs and crack open an egg to each pocket
  5. Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the eggs are fully cooked

Friendship and FIstIklI Revani

FIstIklI Revani is a sweet Turkish cake with a lovely gritty texture made from ground pistachios and semolina and served with a syrup that gets absorbed into the cake.  My mother-in-law first showed this to me over 15 years ago…and last night was the first time I flew solo on this recipe, which isn’t inherently difficult but requires some attention to balance. IMG_9631Here’s what I learned:  it’s all about the special relationship between cake and syrup – that which is absorbing needs to be able to take in moisture, and that which is absorbed needs to have the right viscosity to permeate.  If the syrup is too thick, it won’t absorb into the cake, and if it’s too thin, it’ll just run all over the plate.  And the cake needs (borrowing the next phrase from my emergency-ready husband) to be ready for all contingencies – to compensate for any syrup flaws by providing the environmental conditions for ideal moisture absorption.

This absorption balance is how a book repels moisture or how skin remains supple or wood doesn’t warp.  And it occurred to me there’s also a magical absorption element to family and friendship – the right dynamic between people helps to absorb the difficult things in our lives, thereby mitigating the stings, and also helps to soak up our in-the-moment joys, thereby extending our smiles. The devil is in finding the balance between cake consistency and syrup viscosity – the wrong dynamic won’t satisfy the conditions to allow absorption, but the right one makes being connected seamless – and scrumptious.

A special thanks go out to the seamless and scrumptious family and friends who took my sticky-note recipe for a taste-test drive last night – Tolga, Muzzy, Marilywn, Maureen, and Freddie (- who, through his own ingenuity, decided it was also dunk-worthy in his Earl Grey tea).

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, finely ground (food processor works great)
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbspns lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Syrup:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ~2-inch vanilla bean, split open

Instructions

Cake:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. butter and flour 9 x 13 inch pan, put into fridge until ready to use
  3. grind pistachios in food processor – set aside 1/4 cup for garnish at the end!
  4. mix dry ingredients – pistachios, semolina, all-purpose flour – by hand (this is a very specific directive from Anne herself…) in large bowl
  5. in a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, zest, vanilla and orange extracts on a high speed until frothy like egg nog (about 5-7 minutes)
  6. combine wet and dry and pour into pan
  7. bake for 30 minutes

Syrup:

  1. boil syrup ingredients – sugar, water, lemon juice, split vanilla bean
  2. simmer for another 10-15 minutes

Slice and pour syrup over sliced cake in pan – or alternatively slice and serve cake, pouring syrup over each plated square – and garnishing with the extra ground pistachios.

Beach Snacks – Tepsi Boregi

My car always has sand in it.  Regardless of season, it’s obvious to the naked eye where I like to spend my spare moments.  As my three-year-old and I pack up our towels and toys, she is quick to remind me to pack beach snacks.  For her, this can be anything from pretzels to chips to grapes, but because she is not too picky and gives me some latitude, more recently I’ve been substituting boregi into our stash of beach snacks.

Getting knocked over by the foaming surf, hiding “gold doubloons” in the fortresses of a newly-crafted sandcastle, collecting shells and stones scattered on the sands, watching the fishing boats come back through the inlet from a long day – there are layers upon layers of activities in this simple setting.  And that’s kind of like boregi – a simple food with added dimension, created by layers upon layers of yufka and savory filling.  Just like trying to mold sand, it’s beautifully imprecise and incredibly forgiving.  So if your yufka has a jagged edge, don’t fret!  The imperfections all get lost in the layers and come together to make the best savory beach snack imaginable.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 18 oz pack of yufka, or phyllo dough
  • 2-3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 cup spinach or kale
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbspn olive oil

Mix for brushing on yufka:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. finely chop potato and onion in a food processor
  3. sautee potato and onion on medium heat with olive oil, salt, and pepper until slightly golden brown
  4. add chopped spinach or kale, sautee for another 5 minutes
  5. brush/spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with olive oil
  6. layer one piece of yufka, covering the entire bottom of the pan
  7. generously brush the milk/egg/olive oil mixture over the yufka
  8. then do another 2-3 yufka/milk mixture layers, ending with the mixture
  9. next, layer the filling, spreading across the entire pan
  10. then do another 2-3 yufka/milk mixture layers
  11. spread the remaining milk mixture on top
  12. sprinkle with black cumin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and puffed up (it will shrink back down after it cools!)
IMG_9391

before…

IMG_9407

…after

Yayla CorbasI – a comfort food

My first pregnancy was ticking like a time bomb waiting to implode.  Until finally it did.  Here’s what happened…

My husband and I waited to have children – and found ourselves on the brink of having waited too long. I sat in the doctor’s office, anxious for the results of our fertility tests. Dr. Patrizio pronounced prescriptive words and foreign concepts – unfamiliar even before they rolled off his thickly-accented tongue. “IVF…ICK-zeee…COH…CVS…” I scribbled on a piece of paper, hoping I caught enough of the acronyms to look them up later, and tried to keep up as he hurled terms toward me like a spelling bee massacre. The gist was that, while not impossible, it was improbable we could conceive without intervention.

The following week, we met with a nurse assistant who shared with us an entirely different, yet equally strange, set of vocabulary and instructions. She pulled out visual aids, a wad of scripts to fill, and a photocopied diagram of what appeared to be an eight-year-old rendering of a female human body, with dotted-line arrows veering off to various fleshy body parts, ripe for injection. With broad, demonstrative strokes, she went back over the arrows with her ball-point pen, as if the emphasis somehow made everything clear.

Tolga returned later that day with the pharmacy’s version of Bloomingdale’s BIG brown bag, filled with all sorts of individually-wrapped IVF accessories and medications, some needing refrigeration. I cleared out the leftover lasagna to make room for the “new tenants” and stood in front of the bag, unable to fathom how ANYONE would allow non-medical professionals to go home with these implements – to say NOTHING of actually putting them to the prescribed use. I had a slight complicating factor – a childhood cancer that, after etching into me various physical scars, also bequeathed a reactionary fear of injections. I cried for 3 straight days. And Tolga smoked countless sympathetic cigarettes.

Took some getting used to, but eventually, and true to the advertised odds, on our third cycle we were pregnant. We started to think of names. Then, one night after moving a box, a stupid box of trains, the ground on which I stood started to shift. I was desperate to get out of Connecticut, where we’d been living temporarily, and get back to New York City. I had started packing months before the actual move and I lifted a box of old HO-scale model trains, heavier than anticipated. Almost immediately, from deep within I felt an intense, trembling ache. I put myself on the couch, pretended to be listening to my husband talk, and panicked in silence that my relentless inability to sit still may have harmed my pregnancy. It was the first time I hadn’t turned to Tolga for comfort.

The next night at tap dance class, I felt the same ache. And later that night, at a friend’s apartment in the city, I started to bleed. Frantic, I called Tolga, then I called the doctor.

The morning’s ultrasound revealed a pool of blood hovering over our kidney-bean-sized baby. Dr. Patrizio looked over the photos, shook his head, and uttered, porca miseria… – a familiar Italian phrase to me, as I had heard my grandmother use it dozens of times, usually reserved for moments of more-than-mild catastrophe. I was bed-rested at 8 weeks.

The next couple of months were a blur of bleeding, Google-ing, hospital stays, and worry. I understood now the inner workings of torture: break the spirit by providing a constant level of anxiety and uncertainty, while simultaneously depriving of food (during each hospital stay, in case emergency surgery was needed) and sleep. In the winter of my annual February discontent, I went especially stir crazy – on the bed, on the couch, in the hospital. I had long hours of fear, of feeling trapped, and of an acute guilt for the predicament in which we now found ourselves. At 20 weeks, we knew we were having a boy. He seemed perfect in every way, except for the threat – quite literally – looming above him.

I prayed for my son’s life, I prayed for resolution – one way or another, I prayed for forgiveness.

During those months, we moved back to New York. I was home again. And despite the noise and the crowds and the air pollution, I could breathe easier. Then, one afternoon, resolution came. Lying on the couch, reading nothing of consequence, I felt a rush of fluid. I was bleeding again, or so I thought. I called my new doctor – my college friend and maternal fetal medicine specialist – who cradled me in her care at Cornell as soon as we moved back. At the hospital, I learned the blood clots had weakened the gestational sac to the point that, likely, it had been slowly leaking amniotic fluid until it finally ruptured like a water balloon. And at 23.5 weeks, he could not survive, his lungs hadn’t yet fully formed. It was too soon. Just a little too soon for him. Adding searing insult to this egregiously painful injury, I had to physically go through labor and childbirth – but without the tremendous prize at the end.

I was discharged two days later – on Mother’s Day.  From the passenger seat, I mused sardonically about the coincidence as we pulled out of the hospital’s parking garage. The sun shone brightly against a brilliant, blue sky. Weather knows nothing of heartache or sympathy. Finally, in the privacy afforded to me in our own car – privacy otherwise unavailable during the last 48 hours of my hospital stay, I broke down in tears and wept the entire way back to Morningside Heights.

I can’t recall a single moment in my life that left me so bereft, so empty as that sequence of events – being in the delivery room, giving birth to my baby, and then leaving without him. A pregnancy so difficult to achieve, so long in the making, was lost cruelly and unceremoniously.

It’s been six years now. Six years. I wish I could say it no longer saddens me – or that I’ve forgiven myself. Parts of me have healed, other parts not yet reconciled are usually buried in the flurry of current-day activities. Sometimes my idle mind wanders to him, wondering who he would’ve been, what bedtime stories would be his favorites, what his hugs would feel like, how he’d feel about his little sister. And I am reminded of the great harm – albeit unknowingly – I am capable of inflicting.

Good things don’t necessarily come to those who wait. Sometimes you get lucky, despite yourself, and sometimes you don’t. And to ease miserable moments, I make Yayla Corbasi, Eastern Anatolian yogurt soup – my favorite go-to Turkish comfort food. It is yet another wonderful way the Turks use yogurt for savory nourishment. If you’re in need of comfort food, and want something different than mac-n-cheese, this won’t let you down.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 ½ – 2 tsp salt
  • ½ cup Arborio rice (Note: White rice is what Anne uses, and what seems to be generally used in Turkey, but, for my Italian origins, I find Arborio with its creamy texture especially suited to this soup)
  • 3 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbpsn white rice flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 tbspn melted butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tsp dried mint

Instructions:

  1. Bring 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil; add Arborio rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30-35 minutes, until the rice is tender. Then, maintain a low simmer…
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, egg yolks, and white rice flour until smooth. Slowly add 1 cup of cold water to the yogurt mixture.yayla corbasI
  3. Add the yogurt mixture to the soup, passing the yogurt mixture through a sieve. Stir and cover for an additional 10-15 minutes, cooking the egg yet being careful not to boil.
  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it gently sizzles, and add the dried mint, crushing it as it is added to the butter. Stir, and then slowly add to the soup along with additional salt, to taste.

This soup not only stays well in the refrigerator but also freezes well. If it thickens the next day, simply add water, heat, and serve.

BabaAnne’s Kuru Fasulye

Kuru Fasulye

BabaAnne, my husband’s fiery-haired grandmother, had me on the edge of my seat that entire afternoon. She and I were meeting for the first time the summer after he and I were married in 1999.  She knew me only as the reason her grandson didn’t return to Turkey and so had more than one withering glance for me.

After preliminary inspection, she barely acknowledged my presence. Cigarette in one hand, Turkish coffee in the other, she sat in a parlor chair in her Istanbul apartment like royalty in a room of onlookers, nodding her head in approval, sipping her coffee, as Tolga’s father shared family updates. Using just a couple of Turkish words carefully practiced on the airplane, I attempted to show my interest and enthusiasm.  Her dark eyes peered at me from over the horizon of the coffee she sipped.  Yeah, my parents had this great idea, go meet the family…no, I can’t go with you til next year, but I’m telling you, they’ll LOVE you… were my husband’s words, like a sweet-sounding refrain morphing into a minor chord as I sat across from her.

Known for being stubborn, opinionated, and exceedingly judgmental, I didn’t see how this would end well.  But she was also known for her kuru fasulye, a white bean stew that, despite my many formidable attempts, I’ve never been able to duplicate. She was the type for whom you’d forgive any character flaw in exchange for her beans. Using simple ingredients, a large saucepan showing years of wear, and a heavy wooden spoon, she transformed those tiny beans and chopped veggies into a heart-stopping, mouth-watering stew.

I took plates from the kitchen with the intention of setting the table.  Without warning, she turned on her heels, glared at me, waved a boney finger in my face, and only relinquished a lip-pursing after I slowly lowered the plates back down to the counter, never averting my eyes for a second, as if returning a bone to a ferocious dog about to pounce.

The stew was served with tomato rice pilaf and freshly-baked pide, a Turkish bread that resembles a round Sicilian slice of pizza, but without the sauce and cheese, and the aroma of the freshly-baked pide and the simmering beans was like nothing I had ever experienced. As I lifted the first bite toward my mouth, I can’t be sure, but I think there were church bells ringing…and fireworks outside her balcony…and a parade marching down the street.  It was THAT good.  Suddenly I didn’t care if she despised me.  As long as she fed me.

After dinner, we drank Turkish tea.  At one point, I excused myself to take the extra folding chairs from the dining room table back to the balcony where they belonged. A faint call to prayer echoed from the nearest mosque through the open door. It was time to leave, and my father-in-law took his mother’s hand, kissed it, and then touched it to his forehead, as a respectful gesture for the one who cared for and fed him as a child. My mother-in-law kissed her, and when it was my turn, she suddenly beamed at me, taking my hand for a firm handshake, and then clasped my face with her hands to kiss me on both cheeks. I was convinced she was glad to get rid of me. But as we walked back to the car, my father-in-law explained, quite surprised himself at her declaration on our way out, that my unintentional gesture at the end of the visit – returning the folding chairs to the balcony – was the gesture that won her. And I chuckled, as I imagined myself as Luke Skywalker launching my proton torpedo at the almost-impossible Death Star target.

Today, our daughter Ayla resembles this spitfire in both looks and “charm.” So in honor of this feisty lineage, her kuru fasulye, imitated but never equaled:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried white or small lima beans
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green frying or cubanelle pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbspn tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

The beans:

  • Soak the beans overnight in a large pot with 2-3 inches of water above the beans themselves
  • The next day, rinse and change the water, adding more water and boil, with lid covering only partly, cook on high for about 10 minutes
  • After the boil, remove the white foam with a wooden spoon (my mother-in-law believes this keeps the beans’ gasses to a minimum, although I haven’t been able to confirm from my own personal gastrointestinal experience…)
  • Sieve the beans, running water over them

The sauce:

  • Chop onion and pepper, peel and chop tomatoes
  • Sauté veggies in olive oil in a large saucepan, medium-high for about 15 minutes, give or take, enough to “kill” the onions
  • Add tomato paste and continue to stir

Now:

  • Add beans and 1 tea glass of water (special note:  liquids – and sometimes even dried goods – are measured, imprecisely, in tea glasses, which is roughly 4-5 ounces…as I hone the measurement further, I will provide updates!
  • Bring to a boil
  • Salt to taste

Serve with your favorite bread or pilaf.