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Bean by Bean with Crescent Dragonwoman

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Crescent Dragonwagon is a well-known author of 50 published books -- half of which have won awards.

The :30 celebrates her national best seller, Bean by Bean, by cooking up a couple of the recipes featured in the book.





Given the deliciousness and popularity of layered bean dips like the 7-Layer Tex-Mex Mountain on page 41, why not riff on the idea using Mediterranean/Middle Eastern ingredients? This take is a wonderful creation; as a friend tasting it remarked, "This totally puts the ‘Bop' in Bosporus." Well, yes, kind of. Another testing-and-tasting companero called it "Mount Olive."

1 very crisp cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped

6 to 8 fresh red radishes, tops and tails removed, well washed, and chopped

1 fresh green chile, stemmed, seeds removed for mildness or left in for heat, finely minced

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon salt

2 bunches of scallions, derooted, whites and about 3 inches of green chopped

1 bunch of fresh mint or parsley or ½ bunch of fresh dill (or a combination of all three), well rinsed, stemmed, and finely chopped

2½ cups hummus, either homemadeor from the market

6 ounces (½ cup) good-quality creamy, tender feta (I like the kind made from sheep's milk)

3 large tomatoes, stemmed and finely chopped

1½ cups sour cream or thick, full-fat unsweetened plain yogurt (Greek-style is great here)

1 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, minced

A few large red-leaf lettuce leaves or a handful of pretty, well-washed spinach leaves (optional)

Pita chips, such as Stacy's brand, or toasted wedges of pita bread, for serving

  1. In a medium-size bowl, toss together the chopped cuke and radishes. Add the

chile, lemon juice, and salt and toss to combine. Set aside.

  1. In a separate bowl, combine the scallions and mint, parsley, and/or dill.

Set aside.

  1. Spread the hummus on the bottom of a glass pie pan. Sprinkle the cucumber mixture over it, then the scallion mixture, the feta, and lastly, the tomatoes. "Ice" the mountain you've made with the sour cream or yogurt, and sprinkle with the minced olives. If you like, poke a few lettuce or spinach leaves around the mountain's base to frame it decoratively.
  2. Serve with a bowl of pita crisps alongside.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer




These bar cookies of Julie Reimer's are irresistibly chewy, gooey, chocolaty, peanut buttery; impossible to stop eating (as I discovered to my chagrin when she brought them to a potluck). This is her modification, years in the making, of a recipe from The 55 Best Brownies in the World by Honey and Larry Zisman (St. Martin's Griffin, 1991). Julie makes it so often that she was able to recite it to me by memory at the aforementioned Vermont potluck, though her own kitchen is in Minnesota. There, Julie puts something even more nourishing into young hands: books. She's the kind of librarian you wish you'd had when you were a kid. No, I don't use peanut butter chips or cook with Reese's peanut butter cups. Yes, they do contain hydrogenated fats,  which I don't eat. Ever.  Except here. (Okay, and until recently, in my Thanksgiving pie crusts.) These brownies freeze well, if you should have leftovers—unlikely.

Vegetable oil cooking spray

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

¾ cup creamy, natural, unhydrogenated peanut butter (see box, page 323)

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 eggs

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 package (10 ounces) peanut butter chips

24 Reese's peanut butter cup miniatures, unwrapped

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch pan with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer cream together the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Beat in the vanilla and eggs. Blend in the melted chocolate, mixing until the batter is uniformly chocolaty. By hand, stir in the flour and peanut butter chips.
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Top with the peanut butter cups in a 4-row-by-6-row pattern.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out more clean than not, 30 to 35 minutes. Don't overbake these; their gooeyness is part of their wonder. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. These keep well at room temp, tightly covered (or in a tin), for 5 to 6 days. Which means they're also good for mailing to homesick kids at camp or college.

Makes 12 brownies.



This rich, delectable cake has the texture and grain of pound cake. Moist and tender of crumb, it has the hauntingly floral aroma and flavor only rose water gives. The cake's buttery density is emphasized by the chickpea flour. The recipe combines traditional Iranian ingredients (cherries, pistachios, chickpea flour; that lovely rose water) with a lemon cake recipe that is a family favorite around here. Sift both of the flours before measuring, and then again after.


½ cup dried cherries (preferably Bing)

½ cup unsweetened sour cherry juice

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1½ cups sifted unbleached white flour,

plus 1

tablespoon for the pan

12/3 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan

1 cup (2

sticks) butter, at room temperature

3 eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups sifted chickpea flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup buttermilk (preferably cultured),

or ½ cup plain yogurt whisked with

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons rose water (see Note and box)

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest


2 teaspoons rose water

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

½ cup sugar


1/4 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped (optional)

  1. A few hours before you plan to assemble the cake batter; or even the night before, place the dried cherries in a small bowl, add the cherry juice, and soak to rehydrate the cherries.
  2. When you're ready to mix up the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F.
  3. Spray a 10-inch tube pan or 12-cup Bundt pan, or even a few small loaf pans, with oil. Combine the 1 tablespoon flour and the 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl, and shake this all over the oiled pan to coat. Invert the pan and tap out the excess.
  4. In a medium-large bowl, using an electric beater set on high, cream the butter until it's light and fluffy then gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is well combined and even lighter and fluffier. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Set aside.
  5. In a separate large bowl, sift together the remaining white flour with the chickpea flour; baking soda, and salt.
  6. Drain the soaked cherries, reserving the cherries and the juice in separate bowls.
  7. Combine the buttermilk, rose water and ¼ cup of the reserved cherry juice (you'll have a small amount of juice left over; reserve it) in a small bowl.
  8. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating it with the buttermilk mixture, beating together on low speed after each addition just to combine everything; don't overbeat. Stir in the lemon zest and soaked cherries (by hand!) and transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
  9. Bake until the top is deeply golden brown, the kitchen is intoxicatingly fragrant, and the cake tests clean, 45 minutes for loaf pans, 1 hour and 10 minutes for a 10-inch tube pan, and somewhere in the middle for a 12-inch Bundt. Let the cake cool in its pan(s) on a rack for 10 minutes while you make the glaze.
  10. Combine all of the glaze ingredients plus the reserved cherry soaking liquid in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat and let simmer until slightly thickened, keeping a close eye on it; this should take 4 to 5 minutes. You want the glaze quite liquidy, the better to soak into the cake.
  11.  Turn the cake out of its, pan(s) and onto a serving plate. While it's still warm, slowly pour/spread spoon about a third of the glaze over the cake, allowing the cake to absorb as much as possible. Poke a few holes in the cake with a toothpick, then pour any remaining glaze over the top. While the cake is still warm and sticky, sprinkle it with the finely chopped pistachios, if using. Since this cake is so moist, it keeps well, covered, for 3 to 4 days, though the odds are good it'll never last that long. Given its stickiness, a cake dish with its own domed lid is ideal for storing, but plastic wrap will also do.

Note: Rose water can be purchased at wwwtheindianfoodstore.com


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