Sunday, January 25, 2009

"The Food of Paradise - Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage" - Portuguese Bean Soup

Date I made this recipe: January 24, 2009

The Food of Paradise – Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage by Rachel Laudan (International Association of Culinary Professionals – IACP – The Julia Child Cookbook Awards Winner)
Published by: University of Hawai’i Press Honolulu
ISBN: 0-8248-1778-8 © 1996
Recipe: Portuguese Bean Soup – p. 144

Well folks, this past Tuesday was inauguration day in the U.S. and so I tried to find foods befitting our newest president, Barack Obama (by the way, I had to add Barack’s name to my spell check as it thought I was trying to say barracks—as in military).

Prior to today, I cooked from all my “Presidential” cookbooks as well as cookbooks from Illinois and when last seen, I don’t think I acquired any from Kansas (where Barack’s mother was from) but I am happy to report that I have several Hawaiian cookbooks as well as several African-American tomes. And so on Saturday night I cooked Hawaiian and on Sunday will be cooking from the African-American cookbooks.

Although you wouldn’t think of this at first blush, the foods of Hawaii and African-American recipes have a lot in common: both are influenced by food and traditions from other ethnic groups. African-American recipes, particularly southern recipes, are influenced by African, French, and English settlers and Hawaiian food is an amalgam of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino and Portuguese cooking. It was hard to select one recipe from this book but after careful consideration (and menu-planning), I went with the Portuguese Bean Soup.

My husband and I visited Portugal several years ago and do not recall this type of soup on the menu but that didn’t matter in the least as it provided a hearty meal for a cold winter’s night. Although the recipe itself was easy to make (providing you soak the beans the night before), finding a single ham hock proved to be a challenge. One grocery store had 4-packs, two stores didn’t have any and I finally settled upon ham shanks (not quite the same) from a fourth grocery store (after consulting with a butcher). Sheesh!

I cannot say that I ever contemplated making a Portuguese-Hawaiian dish to honor the first African-American president who spent some of his life growing up in Indonesia, but like his presidency, there’s a first time for everything. Enjoy!

Portuguese Bean Soup – 4 servings
1 ham hock (or ham shank)
Olive oil to coat the pan
1 good-sized onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
2 celery stalks cut into dice
1 carrot cut into dice
1 cup navy beans or kidney beans, soaked overnight
3 tomatoes skinned and chopped (or substitute canned tomatoes)
Dried red chili pepper, deseeded
1 potato cut into dice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish)

Take two pots (the soup can be cooked in one, but using two allows you to control how much of the salty ham stock you use.). In one, place the ham hock, cover with water, and simmer until tender, about 2 hours. Remove the hock, skin and cut the meat into small cubes. Reserve the stock.

Meanwhile, in another pan, sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in olive oil until soft; then add the beans, tomatoes, chili pepper, and sufficient water to cover. Simmer until nearly done (1 hour) then add the potato. After 5 minutes, add the cubed meat and enough of the stock to create a good flavor. (Note: When I made the dish, I added about 4 ladles of the ham stock and that seemed to strike the right balance.). Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for another few minutes until the potato is cooked, add the parsley and serve.

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