Updated: May 6
An exciting thing happened yesterday… well as exciting as things get when you’re alone in a micro-apartment sheltering in place from the apocalypse. I learned the proper term for what I’ve been affectionately referring to as bean water broth. Bean water broth is just about the least appetizing name possible, so I’m happy to have any kind of swap for it.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, KCRW’s GoodFood. The conversation was basically- ok, we all went out and bought all the dried beans we could carry in response to the shelter in place orders, now what should we be doing with them? The guest was the founder of the very famous bean company, Rancho Gordo, and he explained that the entire point of cooking dried beans is that you get this amazing “potlikker” which you can use as a base for homemade soups and stews. I’ve heard this before - but I hadn’t heard a proper name for it!
So apparently it’s called potlikker. And actually, I’ve heard of potlikker before but relating to greens. I was first introduced to the term referenced in interviews of Southern cooks and food historians like Michael Twitty and Southern Floodways Alliance. My memory of their description of potlikker was the liquid at the bottom of the pot of slow braise of hearty greens and often chunks of meat. They described potlikker as being very nutritious in addition to really delicious. This is because many nutrients in our foods are water-soluble, so when your cooking method is to boil or braise your food, a lot of vitamins and minerals will release into the cooking liquid. The story of potlikker in Southern US food history is really interesting, with themes of resiliency and invention in the face of slavery and oppression; it’s definitely worth further reading. This article in the Atlantic gives a good description and of course there’s the book, The Potlikker Papers that covers many additional topics relating to Southern food and history.
Anyway, this exercise in potlikker research has me feeling even better informed on how to waste less food (and nutrients) when I cook. While I don’t typically do a long braise on my greens, my mind is ticking a bit thinking about what other cooking liquids might be worth saving… So far I’ve got my eye on that sweet sweet water from boiling fresh summer corn…
Winter Squash in Aromatic Soy Broth: Another No Food Waste Recipe (Vegan)
Serving: 1 large bowl
1 cup kabocha squash, 1 inch cubes
½ cup cabbage, shredded
¼ cup tofu, 1 inch cubes
¼ cup cooked chickpeas
½ quart chickpea stock (potlikker) Recipe here
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)
2 cilantro roots or 10 stems, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce, divided in half
In a small stockpot, add 1 tablespoon neutral oil, ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil, minced cilantro roots, garlic, pinch of chili flakes. Turn the burner to medium low and sauté for one minute. Increase to medium heat and add ¼ cup tofu and a pinch of salt and sauté for a bit to get some browning, 1-2 minutes. Be mindful of your heat; try not to burn the garlic.
Reduce the head to low and add ½ teaspoon palm sugar and ½ teaspoon soy sauce to the pan, and let it caramelize for about a minute, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn.
Add the ½ quart of chickpea stock and 1 cup kabocha squash and bring to the boil, stirring to break up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce to a simmer and let it cook until the squash is 50% done, about 3-4 minutes.
When your squash is at 50% cooked, add your ¼ cup chickpeas and ½ cup shredded cabbage and bring back to the boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for another 2 minutes or until the cabbage and squash is cooked to your liking.
Turn off the heat and add the other ½ teaspoon soy sauce and squeeze in a wedge of lime, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Check the seasoning and adjust. Garnish with sliced green onions and cilantro. Enjoy in front of the latest series that you're #quaranbinging.