Saturday, March 18, 2006

Charro Beans in the Kitchen

I hope you did something today to make your voice heard. The war won't stop until we demand that the troops be brought home. I went to a rally with my husband, my son Mike, his girlfreind Nina, my youngest daughter, and my oldest daughter Kelly. I hope you're participating and making your voice heard.

I'm listening to RadioNation with Laura Flanders and you can think Ms. Flanders for energizing me enough to write tonight because I am pretty wiped out. Are you?

We'll pick up up on the planned dish for the Mexican meal next week; however, we'll go over a dish that can be served with that meal. It's a simple dish and you may want to make it by itself or use it in combination with other Mexican dishes we've made. I would suggest you purchase tortillas to eat with this dish.

I'm big on cooking for yourself. However, tortillas require a lot of practice. Fortunately, tortillas, freshly baked, are available in most grocery stores these days. If you're buying them in a plastic bag, several hours after they've been cooked, here's a tip: use the microwave.

There are several ways to heat them and, in fact, there's a tortilla warmer you can purchase. However, you don't need to purchase that. You can put them in a deep dish with a dampened hand towel on top or you can put them on plate with a damped paper towel over them.

When my youngest daughter warms tortillas, she likes to dampen each one before stacking them on a plate so you might try that as well.

Charro beans is the dish you can eat them with and there are numerous recipes for charro beans. This one is a very basic, very simple one.

1 bag of dry pinto beans
6 slices of bacon cut into pieces
4 to 5 serrano peppers

2 garlic cloves; more if you're not using bacon
1/2 onion
4 roma tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes

You need to "sort the beans." Connie wondered why that was a few weeks ago when she was attempting to cook some dried black eyed peas? Because sometimes you may have a pebble or something else in the dried beans. So sort them by emptying the package. I use a collander to do that but some people do it on a counter or table top. After you sort them, you need to soak them. The directions for soaking are on the back of every package of dried beans. Quick soak is fine; however, for people who have gas problems especially, you will want to do the overnight soak or purchase some sort of gas relief product.
After they are soaked, you need to drain them. This is a step a lot of people skip. Don't skip it. Drain them. I use the collander for that as well.
After you drain them, you will begin cooking them (with fresh water).
You are following the basic directions on the bag.
However, these are not pinto beans, these are charro beans, so you'll need additional ingredients.
If you're using the bacon, you need to cook it first. I use a skillet. However, my children love bacon and I would not let them fry anything until they were familiar with the oven/stove and I was sure they were responsible enough to handle frying.
Mike grew tired of waiting. At ten, he was allowed to cook cookies in the oven. One summer day, he decided to cook bacon that way. If I'd known he was doing it, I would've stopped him. He did it on his own. And the bacon turned out great.
So I learned something new. And when his youngest sister was able to use the oven, she was allowed to cook bacon in the oven as well. If you're doing that, you'll need a baking sheet. I'd recommend you line it with foil to make clean up easier. Temperature? Anywhere from 350 degrees to 425. It's a matter of how long you want to cook it and how you like your bacon. (I continue to use the skillet, myself.)
After you've cooked the bacon, let it dry on a paper towel. Once dry (and cooled) you can slice it or crumble it. Add that to the beans. (You can being boiling the water before you add the bacon.) You will also add the sliced tomatoes or can of diced tomatoes, the peppers, the garlic and the onion.
If you're not using bacon, double the garlic (or more if you love garlic). If you're not able to get serrano peppers, any pepper will do. In a pinch, you can use jalepeno peppers in a can or jar, but fresh is better.
If using fresh peppers, have vinegar on hand. Depending on the pepper and yourself, dicing them may make your hands burn. Vinegar will stop the burning. (Water will not.) You could also wear gloves. I've never had a problem with any pepper, even fresh jalepeno, however, I do know people who do end up with burning when handling freshly sliced peppers.
One more time, vinegar is the only thing that will stop the burning. You can pour it over your hands or you can soak your hands in it. Water will stop it for a second but as soon as the water dries, the burn comes back.
Now you can put the beans through a food processor or blender after they're cooked to make them smoother. Or you can serve them as they are.
Some people add the ingredients at later stages to the pot of beans simmering in water. That's your call. With fresh tomatoes, I usually do wait until the last ten minutes. But that's your call and the easiest way is to just add the ingredients as you go along.
This is an easy dish and only one way to make it.
You can also add some chopped cilantro to the dish.

They can be eaten as they are or you can wrap them in tortillas.

I hope you are using your voice this week. It appears that the latest air raid was an attempt by Bully Boy to change the news focus. On the radio tonight, that appears to have been the way things worked out. Regardless, we need to bring the troops home now.

There's an effort to push the conversation into the area of "strategy" on what we should have done. Like C.I., I see this as a revisionist tactic that is being pushed to convince Americans that "we just made a few mistakes, now we can win it." We can't win it. We can't win in an illegal war and we can't win an occupation. It's time to stand up and make your voice counted.

Michael Gordon is one of the people pushing the coulda-woulda-shoulda argument. And Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales refused to play along Friday on Democracy Now! The report can be watched, listened or read online if you missed it: "New York Times Chief Military Correspondent Michael Gordon Defends Pre-War Reporting on WMDs."

You should also check out C.I.'s "NYT: Can't own up to mistakes, be it the paper or Michael Gordon" which ties in Gordon's refusal to admit his mistakes with those of the paper he works for (New York Times). Also, read "And the war drags on (Indymedia Roundup)" for C.I.'s commentary. It is powerful and my husband's here, in the kitchen, asking if I mentioned that yet? That was his favorite thing online this week. There were many wonderful things written by the community this weekend. I'll note my son's "Feingold, crimp in the war on Iran, jealousy and more" because Wally's mother and I really enjoyed it. We also laughed and discussed the topics raised in Wally's "THIS JUST IN! WHITE HOUSE LAP DOG FROTHS AT THE MOUTH!" so let me recommend that. Again, there were many wonderful entries, but I'm just trying to finish this post. I don't know how everyone does the all night marathons for
The Third Estate Sunday Review -- I'm ready to crash and Laura Flanders' show is still on.