Friday, July 12, 2013

Bean Obsessed

My mother is obsessed with beans.  That’s probably where I caught the bug!  When I was a kid she prided herself making soups with beans.  And when I say beans, she liked to use as many kinds as possible.  The more the variety the better, and if she could get up to 5 or 6 different types, she was in bean heaven.  This is no joke!  Our kitchen cabinets were filled with chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, black eye, Great Northern and kidney beans.

My Mom’s name is Jean and one Christmas I found the perfect gift for her.  It was a cookbook called “Jean’s Beans.”  Imagine the joy in my heart as I handed her a tome dedicated to the food closest to her heart.  She cooked from that book for months- from the front cover to the back- using all of the beans that crowded her cabinets. 

As you can imagine, beans were an early fixture on our kitchen table growing up.  When all the other kids grumbled at the thought of eating a lima bean, I thought beans were the way to go!  In the summer, Mom was making succotash with freshly shucked Butter Beans and Sugar Corn from her garden.  

Needless to say, I too love beans, especially during the summer when we get fresh shelling beans.  At the farmer’s market in the last week or so, I’ve been seeing lots of cranberry beans (a.k.a. Barlotti beans in Italy), limas and French butter beans.  

Fresh shelling beans are much easier to cook than dry beans.  There’s no soaking!  All you have to do is put the shelled beans in a saucepan with plenty of water and simmer until tender.  In most cases, they’re done in about 20 minutes. 

One of my favorite ways to eat them is simply warmed with your best virgin olive oil and kosher salt.  Or if you’re feeling ambitious, you might also want to pay tribute to my Mom and make this delicious Summer Succotash Salad...


Erin Kunkel Photography


3 ears fresh sweet corn on the cob, halved
1 cup fesh shelling beans 
Kosher salt
1 pound green string and/or yellow wax beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 medium red bell pepper, ½-inch dice
1 medium zucchini, ½-inch dice
½ red onion, ½-inch dice
2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons torn basil leaves

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the corn and simmer, until the kernels turn slightly darker yellow, 5 to 6 minutes.  With tongs, remove the corn from the water and let cool.  Cut the kernels of corn off the cob.  Discard the cobs and reserve the kernels.  

Bring the saucepan of water to a boil again.  Add the fresh shelling beans and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and cool.  

Bring the same saucepan of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer the string or wax beans and simmer until almost tender but still very crisp, about 4 minutes.  Add the zucchini and simmer 2 additional minutes.  Drain and cool.   

Place the shelling beans, string beans, corn, peppers, zucchini and red onion in a large bowl. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and canola oil.   Season with salt and pepper.  Add the dressing and basil to the bean and corn mixture and stir together.  Place the salad in a large serving bowl and serve.

Serves 6

Recipe from:  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Family at Copita

It’s been a year since opening my first restaurant, Copita Tequileria y Comida.  We opened the doors May 1st 2012, and can I tell you that since the first minute, our tables have been full from lunch through dinner!  Having a restaurant is incredible - seriously beyond what I could have ever imagined.  Initially, I lived at Copita working 12 and 14 hour days.  The team and I worked feverishly to make sure every dish was what we had envisioned and that service was smooth.  Now, we truly have the “dream team”  but believe me, it’s taken time.   

Meet Chef Gonzalo Rivera
Copita is humming along with General Manager Brian Basmajian (have you met him yet?  He’s very funny) making guests feel at home,  and the fabulous Executive Chef, Gonzalo Rivera, who recently brought his wonderfully creative talent to the kitchen.  I still go to the restaurant every day I’m in town, to dream up dishes with Gonzalo and, of course, to taste everything!   It’s a true collaboration. 

And our margaritas?  Many people say they are the best in the Bay Area.  Have you met our bartender Juan Carlos?  You can’t miss him.  He’s the tall bald guy that mixes a mean margarita.  If you haven’t tried the Prado, I recommend that as well. It’s from my tequila book.  If you don’t see it on the menu, just ask, the bartenders will make it for you in a heartbeat.

As for the trials and tribulations of opening a restaurant, I can tell you one thing:  everything you’ve heard about how difficult it is, it’s true!   But the rewards are beyond description.  If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you’ll understand how quickly your co-workers become your new family.   Let’s just say that every minute, it’s something new and something that has to be dealt with...immediately.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.   But every day we get closer and closer to that well-oiled machine.   

Like most families, we’ve collected more than our share of stories to tell.  My favorite is the time one of the cooks added limeade to the ceviche instead of lime juice.  It was served to a chef friend of mine.  I went out to the table to say hi and saw the ceviche bubbling up?  When I tasted it, I knew exactly what had happened.  Yes, it was still edible.  Did it taste good?  Let’s put it this way, you won’t ever find it on the menu at Copita. 

Want more inside scoop?  Read about us here:

Brentwood Corn Elote with Chipotle Crema

Pork Belly Taco

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