Friends! What a week. It started off okay? Bruno returned to a few hours of Kita on Monday and things should have been looking up. But on Wednesday he had the sniffles and by yesterday morning both boys were feeling sick and we were running around town trying to get them both tested for the coronavirus. To add insult to injury, my phone bit the dust! Thankfully I had backed up most of it to the motherflipping cloud, so it's not quite as catastrophic as the loss of my laptop's files was a few weeks ago, but I definitely feel somewhat, shall we say, PERSECUTED by big tech these days.
I mentioned feeling full of constant rage on Instagram the other day, and it's true. Between the disastrous vaccine rollout in Germany, the fact that we didn't qualify for childcare for Bruno until this week, the insane schedule of driving Hugo back and forth to school for 150 minutes of school each day, everything described in that first paragraph and middle-aged PMS, which in my case has gone from me feeling blue for a few days a month to me feeling homicidal a few days a month, I was practically incandescent all week.
Today, the mood has lifted, for which I am very grateful. The sun came out and I got to stand in it for a few minutes at the playground. My children, who do not have the coronavirus, are safe to visit my mother this afternoon again so that I can think straight. And I am the proud owner of a new phone. (I also definitely have a few more strands of gray, but that's okay because going gray is A POWER MOVE.) Last night at the kitchen sink, as I felt the mood lift, I realized that my heart was aching like it does after a break-up. I told Max how I felt and his response was a very kind well, duh.
All the more reason we need comfort food right now. Our meals this week were an absolute mess, as I'm sure you can imagine. I was nearly throwing things on the table most nights. No rhyme or reason and nothing that gave me any pleasure while I cooked. Except for these beans, these lovely, cozy, long-cooking beans, which were so delicious and worth every single minute they spent on the flame.
The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's last column for the New York Times before she moves on to her new television show Waffles & Mochi (!!!!) and although the point of that column was to explain Samin's dislike for the Instant Pot and although I love my Instant Pot so much that I sometimes wish I could have more Instant Pots, I made her beans the old-fashioned soak-and-simmer-in-a-heavy-pot-for-hours way and they were very, very, very, very good.
We ate them just as Samin instructs, on toasted bread, with a good drizzle of olive oil, with a little tangle of pungent veg alongside. They were rich and velvety and creamy and rib-sticking. (The leftovers I turned into pasta e fagioli, which the children mostly liked.) The bay leaf, chile and garlic were all just right in terms of flavoring and mashing the beans in the frying pan was fun. From start to finish, these beans were the most calming meal of this week from hell and sometimes that is precisely what a recipe needs to be, nothing more, nothing less. Just in case you too might be in need some calm.
Now it's the weekend ("weekend") and there were skinless, boneless chicken thighs (!) at the organic grocery store today and in a little while we're going to make popcorn in the Whirlypop and pile on the couch and watch a movie together and after that my husband is seeing his friends on Zoom so I have the rest of the evening to myself and while I probably should be meditating all that toxic energy out of my poor tired body, I will instead fritter away the evening in front of the television and I have at least progressed this far in my journey through life that I can wholeheartedly say that I deserve it.
Samin Nosrat's Olive Oil Refried Beans
For the beans:
2 cups dried beans of any variety
Fine sea salt
A generous pinch of baking soda
4 fresh or dried bay leaves
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small dried chile of any variety
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 thick slices country-style bread, grilled or toasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
Calabrian chile paste, for garnish
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
1. The night before cooking, remove any debris from beans. Rinse them, then place them in a 4-quart Dutch oven or pot of similar size. Add 6 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and the baking soda. Cover and set aside in a cool place for 8 to 12 hours.
2. To cook, add bay leaves, garlic and chile to the beans and bring the pot, uncovered, to a boil. Taste the cooking water and adjust seasoning as needed; it should taste pleasantly salty. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, partly cover with a lid and cook until beans are completely tender and just beginning to fall apart. Depending on the variety and age of your beans, this can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Throughout the cooking time, monitor the pot to ensure the beans are always submerged, adding more water as needed. When you suspect the beans might be done, taste five of them. If they are not all creamy through to the center, keep on simmering.
3. To fry the beans, remove the bay leaves and chile from the bean pot. Discard the bay leaves, and mince the chile. Set a large cast-iron or similar frying pan over high heat, and add about half the oil. Add the minced chile. Use a slotted spoon or sieve to add beans and garlic — but not their cooking liquid — to the pan. Reduce heat to medium, and, with a potato masher or wooden spoon, stir and mash the beans into a silky paste, constantly stirring and scraping to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add about 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid to loosen the mixture, then gradually add remaining oil. If the bean paste is too thick, continue adding cooking liquid as needed, being mindful that it is seasoned with salt. When the mixture is rich and velvety, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt.
4. To serve, lightly rub warm toasts with raw garlic, then slather with a generous amount of bean paste. Garnish with chile paste and, if desired, torn basil and a heap of grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.