Tag Archives: recipe

Aside

Yeah, beans. Imagine putting a simple looking, medium sized off-white fresh bean in your mouth. Imagine it is warm, steeped in a summery mix of chopped corn and basil, maybe dusted with a touch of Parmesan. You barely sweep your tongue over the the delicate seed recently liberated from its pod, and it melts as if on command like country whipped butter. Add in the nutritional kick from this humble vegetable and it’s almost too good to be true. I’ve never had a legume quite so perfect as the Poroto Granado.

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It may be because it’s fresh that it can be so wonderful in texture and a perfect mix with any sort of vegetable or meat.  If you dry them, in Chile they are then called Poroto Viejo, or old bean. Blech. Boring. The standard recipe here calls for a decent stock, homemade is best if you want to avoid the MSG and all manner of extra useless colorings and anti-caking this or that. Essentially, you need a simple stock of bay leaves, onion and garlic [I like to throw shallots in nearly everything] to start. Sauté those babies together, cook the beans once shelled in boiling water, add in ground corn, pumpkin squash and chopped fresh basil, a touch of salt and there you have it, a summer stew. I never measure anything – I suppose if I were a baker I’d be forced to – but if you like to, search for a Porotos Granados recipe and you’ll find plenty of variations in English or Spanish.

I’ve recently seen a post on the crackBook by a Chilean-United Statesian friend saying she’d found them at a market in New York and they were selling them as “Cranberry Beans”, of course this may be due to the red-colored shell they come in.  Granada refers to pomegranate, while granado is the pomegranate tree [Often the feminine version of a word is the fruit, and the masculine is the tree it comes from. Backwards? Maybe], as well as “choice or select”. I tend to think this is the meaning behind the recipe, because they really are that much better than any dried or canned bean I’ve ever had. In my life. I’m not sure if “cranberry bean” came from an incorrect translation of pomegranate, or it’s just because they’re red. Regardless, cranberry bean sounds so much more delightful and festive than “choice beans”. The point is, if you find ’em, try ’em. It’s a fab veg dish, and extra taste-tastical if you add a touch of mild, white cheese and hot sauce. I think I’ll make a piquant batch of minestrone with them, and it shall be wondrous.

Speaking of hot sauce, there is one made in the Mapuche area of Chile that is smoky like aged earth with the perfect blend of heat and flavor that you can’t buy in a store. I don’t even know if it has a name beyond “smoky, hot sauce from the south”. They sell it in little plastic bags for 40 cents a pop. And the red. Such a luscious, full-blooded color it almost looks as if it’s been distilling and perfecting itself for hundreds of years. I have a hot sauce smuggler who works in the region, but lives in Santiago so he brings it here to shut me up. I have committed myself to finding out how it is made and seeing if I can replicate the magic. It will be so worth the hunt.

Porotos Granados – the Best Beans

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How to Make Humitas, or Corn Pastry Goodness

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Mashed up jumbo-sized corn kernels form the basis for humitas, a simple but versatile dish that was in use before the Spaniards arrived. The summer choclo (corn) grown here is not the same as the sweet stuff found in the north. This type has a lower water content perfect for transforming into a dough-like raw material. In Chile humitas are fairly large and typically served with an ensalada chilena – tomato wedges, finely sliced white onion and fresh cilantro or basil with a touch of olive oil. If you live anywhere near a Mexican or Central American restaurant or in one of those countries you’ve probably had tamales, which are similar but smaller, and frequently filled with meat. In Venezuela they are called hallacas and also have a meat filling with black olives and spices and are often served as a Christmas dish.

I recently asked Marcela’s mom Blanca to show me how to make these inexpensive, comforting taste-tastic treats. After giving away half of them I still had so many left I ate them every day for a week with a different type of salad, spicy tomato sauce or balsamic and arugula and never got bored.

It may not be easy to find the right type of corn in every country, but in summertime around these parts this is how it’s done:

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chopped fresh basil. A good handful per dozen corn ears depending on how much you like it. I think it’s hard to add too much basil. These giant bunches at La Vega came to 60 cents! Un-be-fucking-lievable.
  • Chilean style uncooked corn ears. I’d say get at least two dozen to make it worth your time (The humitas can be frozen). Slice the thick ends off and save the husks. Scrape the kernels from the husk.
  • White onion: one small one per dozen ears. Chop and rinse so they keep the flavor without being overpowering.

 

 

 

 

METHOD:

  • Sauté the onion until brown in vegetable oil. If you want them to caramelize a bit more, toss in a teaspoon of white sugar.
  • Add the basil, but don’t cook the hell out of it.
  • Separately, chop the corn in a hand blender or shake maker until smooth. Don’t add milk or water or any liquid, or the dough won’t stay together.
  • Pour the onion/basil mixture into the corn and add a bit of salt. The mixture will have an almost spongy, light feel to it that may make you want to dive into a vat of it.
  • Select two pieces of clean cornhusks that are equivalent in size and on the larger side. Lay one wide end over the other pieces wide end with their respective tips pointing away from each other.
  • Ladle in the corn mixture. Fold the horizontal sides in, followed by the points.
  • Tie both lateral directions with twine and drop into a vat of boiling water.
  • Cook for about half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

Serve with Chilean salad or really any salad or sauce you can come up with. I think of these almost like rice, potatoes or pasta – a great staple food that really are excellent and good on the nutrition front. There are many variations by cook and country, such as adding a touch of condensed milk or cinnamon, or other vegetables. Experiment! If you don’t want to make up a whole batch and you’re in Santiago in the summertime, find nearly any supermarket downtown and you’ll also find a street vendor with homemade humitas standing outside. I recommend them most definitely.