Cooking Beans in Paradise

On Kauai papaya, lemons, oranges, avocados, apple bananas, and pineapples join exotic fruits I don’t know so well – rambutan and mangosteen. Even in the islands it’s winter, but at farmer’s markets gorgeous vegetables and kale bunches of all kinds overlap each other. We often bought dinosaur and frilly kale, along with shallots, potatoes, carrots (not so good as Red Dog but local), and tiny eggplants. We discovered that my old friend’s kale salad – while good right away – gets even better after a day or two – unlike any other dressed salad.

Our younger son’s sweet friend, our resident Thai cook, worked her magic on several evenings, and one night presented an all-Thai menu with cooking lessons. She charmed galangal and kaffir lime leaves from the owner of the local Thai restaurant, and taught us about ingredients like lemon grass and peppers. Her soup was fragrant and hotly delicious.

Our older son and his wife prepared vegetable kabobs to grill on the night we celebrated my husband’s birthday, and made tasty oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips to go with ice cream – a festive stand-in for birthday cake.

But black beans carried the day. I made two different big batches from dried beans, and – like the basic little black dress – they appeared in many ensembles.

We served black beans and peppers stuffed with quinoa when our younger son’s college roommate and his wife came for a weekend (they’re newly moved to Honolulu from Saipan with great stories of that life). But the highlight that night – our daughter-in-law’s chocolate-covered, frozen apple bananas!

Deborah came with us – her “Vegetarian Suppers” is a portable size, and a good book to inspire a cooking-in-a-condo trip. Our first night together we ate Deborah’s “Black Beans and Yellow Rice” – the rice made partly with coconut milk and colored yellow with saffron and turmeric.

Deborah says even canned beans work fine in this meal – as long as you “doctor them up” by cooking and adding green peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and chipotle – or as many of those ingredients as you have.

I can make this at home now – and the rice will be properly golden yellow with the spices, and the beans extra flavorful from complete ingredients.

But I’ll be missing our amiable tablemates!

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