Coconut Mung (“Mungo”) Beans and Quinoa That Would Make My Nana Proud

What I’m about to share with you goes deep.

It’s not just any recipe – it’s a recipe that has me 8 years old with smoke in my eyes and my nana’s voice in my ears. It’s a dish I remember coming home to after school; I’d get off the bus and my old lady would yell from across the yard and over the chickens, “Come on for mungo beans.” It would be close to 90 degrees out and I’d be dying for a cold shower to rinse off the sticky island sweat. But man, when mungo beans were on the table, her smoky outdoor kitchen was the only place I wanted to be.

I’d sit down and she’d hand me a military-issued spoon and metal bowl filled with mungo beans simmered with coconut milk from the yard and ham from the neighbors pig down the street. I’d wash it down with ice cold rain water from one of her rusty can cups – and, as I ate, she wouldn’t say a word. No questions about school. No small talk about homework or friends or chores. She’d just sit and watch me eat while she used a paper plate to fan away the heavy heat and the flies… and that’s how she loved me.

Dried Mung ("Mungo") Beans

Dried Mung (“Mungo”) Beans

Mung beans – aka”mungo” beans. Small and simple, yet full of flavor – just like my sweet nana.

I used to have to buy them at oriental food stores (they originated in India, but are big in Chinese and Asian cuisine), but now can find them in the bulk section at my local grocery – which thrills me. They are GORGEOUS little things – my favorite green – with a very mild flavor.

Now, my nana’s original recipe used something I don’t have: fresh out-of-the-coconut coconut milk. Thankfully, however, there are good canned versions that get me pretty close to the original taste.

On the other hand, I use something my nana never did: quinoa. The quinoa gives another layer of flavor and better texture… and look how beautiful it sits in your bowl:

Coconut Mung Beans and Quinoa topped with Bacon

Coconut Mung Beans and Quinoa topped with Bacon

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 2 cups whole dried mung beans
  • 6 cups broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • Black pepper to taste
  • For garnish: pre-cooked bacon
  1. Heat a soup pot and add enough EVOO to coat the bottom.
  2. With pan on medium high (a 7 out of 10), add onions and garlic and sauté for about a minute or two – just until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add dry mung and broth. Bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes, then turn down heat to medium, cover the pot, and allow to simmer gently for approximately 45 minutes. NOTE: You want the beans tender, but intact.
  4. Once beans are tender, add the coconut milk, soy sauce, and black pepper; and, gently incorporate the ingredients into the beans.
  5. DONE!
  6. Ladle beans into bowls and top with crispy bacon bits… and some chili paste if you like some heat!
  7. NOTE ON BACON: No, you can NOT use bacon bits out of a jar – and, as a matter of fact, you shouldn’t even own bacon bits in a jar! To cook bacon I always do it in the oven – and you can do it while the beans are simmering for this dish. Just preheat the oven to 425, and then cook bacon on a cookie sheet for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until perfectly crisp. No mess, no turning, no babysitting: just perfect bacon to make your bacon bits.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t have any ham in the recipe like my nana did. (You can definitely simmer a hambone in the beans and you will be thrilled with the flavor. I, however, don’t typically do it that way – mainly because I rarely have a ham bone hanging around.) But, while I don’t cook the ham in the soup, I do top the bowl with the bacon bits – an alternative that adds great presentation and crispy bacon texture.

DSC05939 Beautiful, isn’t it?

Rebel on,

 

A Dish With Heart: Rustic Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

Something you might not know about me is this: I was not raised to cook.

My entire life my nana lived with us and she was our nourisher. She made all our meals – from our breakfast toast and coffee, to our after school meal of chicken soup and rice. While she was forced to use a conventional stove while we lived in California, when I was seven we returned to Guam – and she returned to her true comfort zone: her outdoor kitchen.

My sweet nana in the early morning – protecting her hair from the humidity

All the cooking I remember as a child was done over an open fire in a tiny 8×10 tin shack – aka the ‘outdoor kitchen’. Pots black from smoke from the fire. A knife that likely harkened back to WWII days that was so blunt and worn down, and with a blade that curved upwards like the back of a stretching cat. A rusty fridge. A lightbulb hanging by an extension cord that ran out the propped open tin window and into the main house. An old 1960’s rejected office desk with rocks for feet that slanted sideways and made my soup run for one corner of the bowl. Her kitchen smelled of the jungle, and savory meats, and wild chickens – and mosquitos ate me up every time I sat to a meal.

My nana’s kitchen was my heaven.

Growing up with a nana that cooked for me, though, meant that I never was really ‘taught’ anything. I watched. I asked questions about dishes as I got older. But my ‘cooking’ was never more than opening a can of green beans that I’d eat straight with a fork.

Fast forward to today.

I don’t have my nana anymore… but, what I do have is her heart.

My nana’s heart was always to serve and comfort through her food. She cooked to lure you into conversation over a perfectly percolated cup of coffee and inch-thick pancakes or handmade tortillas. She cooked to care for you and to love you – to show you she was thinking of you.  She cooked to wow you with what she could do with a small piece of chicken and some vegetables out of her garden – and to hear you say, “Thanks, nana, that was delicious. I love you.”

So, I cook… and, when I do, I take pleasure in creating things like this:

Mushroom and Black Olive Goat Cheese Galette

Mushroom and Black Olive Goat Cheese Galette

Believe it or not, this amazingly beautiful galette (tart) is sooo easy, so delicious… and soo worth the effort when you see how others respond to this work of art.

Here’s the recipe… but you have to promise: you’ll give it your heart and give it a try whether you were ‘raised to cook’, or not.

For the crust:
The crust is a very basic everyday galette crust and will make TWO galette crusts:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 10-14 TBSP ice water
  1. Using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt several times until mixed well.
  2. Add the cubed butter and pulse 8-10 times. (NOTE: DO NOT OVERPULSE. The key to having a flaky pastry crust is making sure the butter (the fats) remain about pea-sized.)
  3. Slowly add the water about 2 TBSP at a time and pulse once or twice after each addition. The dough should begin to clump, but will still be very dry in the bowl of the processor.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and begin lightly kneading the mixture until it all begins to stick together. (If it is still too dry, drizzle a little more water (about a tsp at a time) into it and toss the mixture with a fork. You want the dough to be sticky enough to adhere together without crumbling, but you don’t want it to be wet. Also, do not over-knead.)
  5. Form two discs out of the mixture, sprinkle flour over the discs, and wrap in plastic. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to using. (If you won’t be using both, you can freeze the extra one for later.)

At this point, preheat your oven to 425 with the rack in the center of the oven, and place a cookie sheet on the rack to heat along with the oven.

For the filling:

  • EVOO for pan
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced and mashed
  • 1 TBSP capers
  • 16-20 small white and brown mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2/3 can black olives, crushed (NOTE: I drain the olive can and then I pour the olives right into my hand over the pan and crush the olives between my fingertips as I drop them in to cook)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Goat cheese
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in quarters
  • Fresh arugula (see blow)
Up close...

Up close…

  1. Sauté all ingredients until mushrooms are tender. Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. On floured surface, roll out one of the disks until the dough is about a 12″ diameter and 1/4″ thick.
  3. Spoon your mushroom mixture into the center of the disc leaving approximately 2-3″ of space around the outside of the filling. (You might have a little filling left over – and it’s delicious right out of the pan.)
  4. Sprinkle your diced cherry tomato pieces and crumble goat cheese over the whole thing.
  5. Fold the outer edges of the dough over the filling in an accordion fashion to slightly cover the edge of the filling. Wash the exposed dough with egg wash (basically an egg with a drizzle of water, whisked until light).
  6. Here is where you might need some help – and you will definitely need patience: Remove the pre-heated cookie sheet from the oven and place it beside your prepared galette. Carefully, using an extra wide spatula and your hands, gently lift the galette onto the hot pan. (NOTE: The key is to support the bottom of the galette as securely as possible so that it doesn’t fall through when you move it. It’s okay if it looses some of it’s shape – just reshape it as best you can when it hits the hot pan.)
  7. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Toss some fresh arugula with a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and spread across the top of the warm galette before serving.

That’s it! When I serve it I cut it in four quarters, and then each quarter into a quarter (like a pizza). It’s a great appetizer – and definitely a perfect ‘wow’ dish to take to a potluck.

Now… go cook with some heart! And, nana: I’m thinking of you today…

My nana - dish towel on her shoulder as she shooed me to the kitchen to eat

My nana – dish towel on her shoulder as she shooed me to the kitchen to eat

Rebel on,
Elisha