My cooking career in college encapsulated some highs and lows. On a few golden occasions, I was able to improvise and throw ingredients together into dishes that were both magical and impossible to ever replicate (“Break Up Macaroni and Cheese” and “Everything But the Upstairs Kitchen Sink Chili” come to mind). At other times, I undercooked potatoes in Potato Soup, failed to cook off the vodka in vodka sauce, and blew up one of my saucepans by forgetting about it on the stove on high heat. High and lows, like I said.
But one of the most enduring dishes from that period is Cajun Skillet Beans, a gem of a recipe from the cookbook Moosewood Cooks at Home. Naomi and I made this during our sophomore year for a dinner party (N, you remember this?). Four or five of us crowded around the tiny coffee table in our shoebox apartment on Summer Street to chow down on these spiced beans and veggies. That was our first real apartment, our first real kitchen, and just the beginning of a long tradition of gathering our friends to eat food (in apartments of varying quality).
I’ve held onto the cookbook, and this recipe in particular, in the ten years since. I like it because it can be made out of pantry ingredients, it comes together quickly, and it has some interesting flavors. Back in 2002 we paired it with Saffron Orzo, which was great, but saffron is pretty expensive so our more fiscally and nutritionally responsible 2012 selves can make it with BARLEY.
Cajun Skillet Beans
from the Moosewood Cooks at Home Cookbook
- 1 medium size onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 peppers (red or green)
- 1 tsp dried oregano, thyme, and basil
- pinch of cayenne and salt
- 1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes
- 1 tb dijon mustard
- 1 tb honey mustard
- 2 cans of black eyed peas
Like all so many great recipes, it starts with dicing the onion, mincing the garlic, and sauteeing them in oil over medium heat. Chop the peppers and celery and add to the onion and garlic after about 5 minutes.
After another 5 min, add the spices and stir. Cover the skillet or pot for a few more minutes so the onions get slightly golden.
Add the tomatoes, honey, and mustard. Let simmer another 3-5 minutes.
Rinse the beans and add to the pot. Stir and let cook an additional 10 minutes before serving.
I cooked a cup of barley to go with and served with roasted Brussels sprouts. Also, we’re on a perennial mission to find the best cheap red wines out there, and recently we’ve been trying a lot of blended wines because we’ve learned they can be a good bargain. We tried this one last night with our skillet beans -it was about 10 bucks- and pronounced it delicious.