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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 5.0° F  Fair
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Adzukis, shiitakes and miso create an umami powerhouse (recipe)
Changing up rice and beans

Credit:Sid Heezen

Beans and rice. It's such a seemingly simple and universal diet staple, consumed the world over. In Professional Cooking 2, we had a whole lab on beans and rice, and rightfully so. Together, beans and rice provide all essential amino acids. But I really did my last batch wrong - oh so wrong.

Our group took on Hoppin' John - black-eyed peas with bacon - while finessing risotto and pilaf as side projects. I crafted a mean cremini mushroom-and-leek pilaf, but meanwhile, a pot of parboiled white rice desiccated to mush due to my inattention to ratio (one part rice to one and a half - not two - parts liquid) and, well, general neglect of that particular pot.

As for the final dish, not even sweet bacon could save it. The beans were pulverized from too much heat for too long.

I needed to give beans and rice another go. I also wanted to use up some of my beans at home, which I had optimistically bought in bulk, thinking that I'd be more likely to use them if I had them at arm's reach. Despite my best efforts, I do often forget to pre-soak, but there is a save: the quick soak. Bring the beans to a boil, cook for two to three minutes and then remove from heat; cover and let sit for one hour.

I decided to put my adzuki beans to use and incorporate Asian flavors to go with the origin of the adzuki, first cultivated thousands of years ago in Korea and China and, after that, Japan.

Combining the small red beans with miso, shiitake mushrooms, tamari and long-grain brown rice results in a nourishing umami powerhouse. (Umami is often described as a beefy taste - a fifth taste sensation in addition to sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It's what comes through in mushrooms and fermented products such as miso, made from fermented soybeans.)

The earthiness of the mushrooms, whole grains and beans benefits from the shock of color and oozy richness provided by a sunny-side-up fried egg. I did this reflexively and then remembered that I'd seen it before. The runny-egg-on-rice thing is Korean all the way. You might think of bi bim bap. I imagine a scene of Korean ladies from my mom's church slapping fried eggs on rice like smarmy breakfast line cooks. You can't argue with that.

Adzuki Beans and Brown Rice, Miso and Shiitakes
Makes about 7 cups or 6 servings

This meal is gluten-free and vegetarian, or vegan if the egg is omitted. Note: Don't salt your beans while cooking; salt inhibits moisture absorption.

  • 6 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 cup dried adzuki beans, rinsed and soaked
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon yellow miso paste
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, chopped, stems removed and reserved
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced, 1 reserved for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • optional: 6 eggs, fried sunny-side up

Whisk together 1 tablespoon miso and 2 cups water in a small saucepan. Add rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and keep covered for 10-15 minutes. Fluff and combine with beans and mushroom mixture when ready.

Meanwhile, bring beans and 6 cups of vegetable stock or water to a boil in a saucepan (add mushroom stems for extra flavor, if desired). Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 50-55 minutes until beans soften but hold their shape. Drain and reserve 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooking liquid.

As beans simmer, sauté mushrooms in vegetable oil over medium high heat until liquid evaporates and mushrooms soften, about 7-8 minutes. Whisk together tamari, remaining 1 teaspoon miso and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid. Add liquid, water chestnuts and beans to mushrooms, adding additional liquid as needed to reach desired consistency.

Stir until well combined and thick sauce forms. Add hot fluffed rice and scallions. Finish with sesame oil and top with sunny-side-up egg and reserved scallions if desired.

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