Friday, February 19, 2010

Southern Comfort

Last week I bought a cookbook- a purchase these days that seems almost unnecessary with the internet now being so handy. Anyway, this was an impulse buy at Marshall's. On sale. In clearance. Six dollars. With over 850 recipes from Southern Living magazine.

I don't know anything about southern living or southern cooking except what I've seen of Paula Deen on TV. I adore Paula and love her recipes. I've taken many of her decadent, over-the-top dishes and brought them down to earth, cut much of the fat and calories, and ended up with recipes that suit my style of cooking and eating. That was my thought when I bought this book. But after checking out the recipes, many of the dishes don't seem to be overly fatty or calorie laden. They just seem like good recipes.

The other evening I wanted a hot meal and didn't want to stop at the market after work (snow again) so I decided to shop at home in my pantry. Usually that means something with beans or rice or pasta. While thumbing through my bargain book, I came across a recipe called White Beans and Rice. It seemed to fit the bill. I had all the ingredients and then some, so I decided I'd give it a try. First my thoughts... then the recipe.

I couldn't figure out if this was a main dish or a side. It could be either. A side if served with a roast, ribs or chicken. A meal if served with a crisp green salad. I made it my meal and at the last minute eliminated the rice since it cooks separately anyway. One of the things I noticed in many of the recipes I viewed, was that the seasonings consisted of simply salt and pepper, unless you were in the Cajun section. I wanted something more so I added 2 bay leaves. The original dish called for smoked, fully cooked ham. I'm not sure what that is, and I certainly didn't have any on hand. But I did have turkey bacon. I also had a bag of baby spinach that I thought would be a welcome addition. Oh!! And my new discovery, which isn't really new at all...frozen, pre-chopped peppers and onions. I used to be a snob about using these kinds of products but I've seen the light. I'm no longer crying while chopping, nor am I tossing out limp onion and pepper halves that have sat too long in my fridge. I think they're a cost effective buy and so very convenient.

White Beans and Turkey Bacon
adapted from Southern Living
I made this to serve 3 or 4 people. Their recipe serves 6 to 8

3 cans great Northern beans

1 1/2 cups frozen chopped onion and green pepper

3 garlic cloves chopped (about 2 tsps)

2 tsp canola oil

8 strips turkey bacon cooked and sliced into 1 inch pieces- I bake mine in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes

1/2 cup chicken broth- I'm re-thinking this for the next time. I might try some bouillon granules and hot water because 1/2 cup of canned broth makes me not even want to open the can

2 dried bay leaves (my contribution)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp lemon pepper (my contribution)

1 1/2 cups baby spinach, chiffonade (my contribution)

2 T hot sauce (my contribution)

Rinse and drain 2 cans of beans. Do not drain remaining can. In large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, peppers and garlic until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in all 3 cans of beans. Add bacon, broth, bay leaves, salt and lemon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The recipe did not say to cover the pan, but I did, because I didn't want to lose the little liquid that I had. After 30 minutes add the spinach if using and the hot sauce. Cook until spinach wilts. If you'd like rice with your beans, they suggest 1 cup uncooked jasmine or long grain rice, cooked according to package directions.

This was a yummy meal. It's creamy and flavorful and the smokey-saltiness of the bacon elevates the dish to what I imagine a southern comfort food is meant to be. I have a fair amount of leftovers which will soon be taking a whirl in my blender and become hummus for tomorrow's lunch.

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