OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for creamy white bean stew with andouille sausage and parsley oil.
The rains have arrived, and while some of us are still scrambling to harvest and preserve everything before it all goes to mush, it’s a nice time to reflect on the cooling-down. Gazing out the window while stirring a bubbling pot of applesauce (all while dodging spatters of hot apple lava) offers a moment to notice the small changes happening all around us. We’re settling in a bit more, feeling less of the searing do-do-do/go-go-go of summer and spending more time enjoying a slow simmer. We relent. Fall is the season of cauldrons and spoons, and a gurgling pot of stew always helps us feel tapped into the Baba Yaga of it all. Turning a few humble ingredients into something delicious doesn’t take any real witchcraft, though — just a little time and science. What old myths about cooking beans are we ready to dismiss? Read on to find out!
The musical fruit, mushroom mayhem, 90 cheesy years and good things in gardens and markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
The Beaver State is full of beans
When you think of the foods of Oregon, you probably think of marionberries, craft beer and salmon. Maybe you think of tater tots and corn dogs. Unless you’re a crop scientist or an ag history nerd, you probably wouldn’t think of beans as an especially Oregonian crop, but make no mistake: Some of the best-tasting — and most expensive — heirloom bean varieties have been quietly growing in Oregon for more than a century. Read all about the past, present and future of Oregon’s legume legacy.
Planning a mushroom foray? Two experts weigh in
After airing our psilocybin episode last week, we received correspondence from Peter Spencer, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, whose research focuses on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), which has been linked with consuming false morels (specifically Gyromitra gigas, or giants false morel) — a potentially toxic mushroom that some pickers may confuse for the genuine article. “That plants and mushrooms are universally good for us is far short of the truth,” he warns, noting that even true morels can have some toxicity.
On the other side of the coin, after we published our brief history of Oregon’s first mushroom club last October, we received an email from Eric Jones, an associate professor of forest ecosystems and society at Oregon State University, who wants people to have a more nuanced perspective on mushroom picking — justifiable wariness about unfamiliar mushrooms over outright mycophobia. That said, he, too, advises folks to not trust ID books alone for deciding what’s safe to eat. Jones also directed us to a few films on the culture of mushroom picking by various Pacific Northwest immigrant groups, including Autumn Aroma by Portland filmmaker Tristin Stoch, which chronicles the long tradition of Japanese Oregonians harvesting matsutake in the fall.
Check out this look at NW fungi from our friends at Oregon Field Guide
The world’s biggest total sausage (and cheese and cracker) fest?
KATU reports that the Portland Fruit Tree Project (who you’ll recall is relieving the “Superabundant” garden of a goodly portion of its apple avalanche) is organizing an event to produce a world record-breaking charcuterie (er, char-fruit-tree) board. Find more info and tickets to the event at the Portland Fruit Tree Project.
Rogue celebrates 90 years of cheese excellence
The first American cheesemaker to ever win the World’s Best Cheese award — Rogue Creamery — turned 90 years old last weekend, though its award-winning cheese (Rogue River Blue) has only been made since 1954. We like their blue cheeses best with Medford, Oregon’s other best-known autumn crop (and Oregon’s state fruit): pears.
In the ‘Superabundant’ garden this week
The arrival of cooler, wetter weather always spells a slowdown in the garden, and frankly we’re grateful for the chance to catch up on preservation chores in between the smaller, less-frequent harvests. We still have tons of parsley — many carrot-family plants love cooler weather — prompting us to blitz some up into a bright green oil for this week’s recipe. The tomatillos and peppers are still putting along, and we’re mostly turning the soggy figs into jam. We’re still getting a few cucumbers and zucchini, but will soon pick the green tomatoes to either pickle or ripen indoors. The backyard hens, too, have slowed down their laying to just every other day.
Friend of this newsletter (and co-author of the excellent Substack, Slow Outdoors), Bryna Campbell has generously shared her pawpaws with us again this year, as they don’t sit well with her (it’s fairly common for people to feel slightly ill after eating the fruit). If you like pawpaws, you’ll have to grow your own or befriend someone who does — these odd fruits have a short shelf life, and unlike their custard apple-cousins soursop and cherimoya, aren’t available in stores.
Good things in markets
Dry beans were just harvested a couple weeks ago, so keep an eye out for the first of this year’s crop. Peppers are still in top form this week, in every color of the rainbow, ready for roasting, stewing, stuffing and turning into salsa. We’re seeing other beautiful fall things like apples, pears, Asian pears, grapes, figs, hazelnuts and honey. It’s also time for potatoes, which should ideally be harvested before the fall rains really set in (and even more ideally, mashed and slathered in butter and gravy). There are still a few plums out there, but the other stone fruits are all she wrote for the year.
Recipe: Creamy white bean stew with smoked andouille and parsley oil
As last week’s recipe proved, there’s nothing better as the weather cools off than a one-pot meal of something warm and comforting. We never met a bean stew we didn’t like, and this one draws from classic French cuisine with a simplified, cassoulet-type dish. No need to hunt down fancy flageolets for this, and you can skip the lamb shank and duck leg confit. Purists might scoff at the lack of zhuzh, but at the end of the day, cassoulet is a rustic country dish of white beans bolstered with whatever scraps of meat one has lying around. We used smoked andouille because we had a few local links in the freezer, but you could throw a ham hock, smoked chicken leg or some confited tomatoes in there instead. Similarly, you can use other herbs besides parsley — we just happen to be buried in it at the moment. This dish is best enjoyed with a loaf of crusty bread and a simple green salad dressed in a sharp vinaigrette. Serves 4-6.
Notes: For this dish, look for a medium-sized white bean such as Great Northern, cannellini, Ayocote Blanco or Marcella. If you buy dry beans you’ll have many more choices than you will when buying canned, but any canned white beans are fine.
We pretty much always cook dry beans in the pressure cooker, using salted water, a few bay leaves, half an onion and a couple cloves of garlic — and we cook a pound at a time so we can stash 2-cup tubs in the freezer for easy meal planning. If you don’t have a pressure cooker or just want more discursive cooking instructions, our pals at Rancho Gordo have a handy guide. Don’t be afraid to salt your bean-cooking water — the old rumor that it makes the beans take longer to cook isn’t true (though acidity from tomatoes will make bean skins tough). Oh, and another thing: you don’t actually have to soak beans overnight. Time to put that myth to bed.
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ lb andouille sausage or other smoked sausage, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced shallot or white onion
4 cups cooked white beans (with liquid)
½ cup chicken stock or water
½ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
- Heat 2 of the tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, then sauté the diced sausage until the fat begins to render out, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and onion and continue to cook until they’re fragrant and begin to turn translucent, about 5 more minutes.
- Add the beans and the chicken stock or water, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sausage is fully cooked and the beans are warmed through and soft, stirring occasionally and mashing the beans lightly with the back of your spoon, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- While the beans are warming up, puree the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and parsley with a blender or food processor (or use a mortar and pestle until) the parsley is pulverized and the oil has turned a verdant emerald green.
- Serve the beans topped with a drizzle of the parsley oil.