There's a reason I haven't been posting.

And this.
And this. Boston has been bursting into bloom, and it's beautiful outside and while I am cooking as much as ever, I spend so much time at the computer while at work that I would rather spend my free time outdoors!

But I'll be better now. Probably once a week again! Thanks for sticking with me ^_^

I think all of us have our busy meals - the ones we make when we get home an hour later than we thought we would and are hungry (and therefore cranky) and want a real meal. For a while I was in a stir-fry phase: I'd make lightning-fast veggie stir fries and be done. I had a curry phase - one of my college roommates took advantage of this whenever possible. I had a mexican phase - beans and rice or guacamole and burritos whenever possible. So what's the newest phase?

pictured here spiced with dill, over asparagus and pickled garlic.

Some of you don't know what hoe cakes are. This is because either you have no education in Native American lore, or you know nothing of rural white-trash foods. But I am here to educate you! Hoe cakes are simply cornmeal patties, similar to fried bread (a variant on hoecakes uses mostly wheat flour and is called Fry Bread). They have the texture of a slightly grainier polenta, and make a great base for savory meals or a tasty breakfast - they're basically cornmeal pancakes.

The recipe supposedly came from Native Americans, who made them by mixing cornmeal and water, forming patties, then cooking them on rocks at the edge of a fire. (I don't actually know if that's true, but then, didn't the Ingalls Wilder girls bake potatoes by sticking them in a fire?) White settlers took this idea and adapted it: farmers would mix the ingredients, then put it on the blade of their hoe (hence the name) and cook it over the fire - dinner without leaving the field!

Somewhere along the line some genius said, "Wait, what happens if we fry these in oil?" And someone answered him/her: "BRILLIANT!"
Hoe Cakes
(makes 10-12 hoe cakes, enough for 3-4 people)
2 C cornmeal
2 C boiling water
1 tsp salt
oil for frying

Combine salt and cornmeal; add boiling water. Stir well; it should be a stiff dough. Let it cool only enough that you can touch it without burning yourself and suing me.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Use your hands (put a little oil on them to prevent sticking) to form patties, a little smaller around than your palm and about the thickness of your pinkie finger. (If you have fat fingers, make the patties a bit thinner than your pinkie.) Fry each hoe cake until lightly browned on each side, 3-5 minutes for the first side and 1-3 for the second. Transfer hoe cakes to a plate with a paper towel on it to absorb any extra oil; serve right away or cover with a cloth to keep warm while the others cook. They should be golden but not too dark or they will dry out and get stiff. Fry in batches, adding more oil as needed, until all of the dough is used.

And you're done!

Sweet Beans (pictured above, recipe to follow) are my favorite topping for hoe cakes, but you can use hoe cakes in any number of ways. If you're feeling creative, you can toss in herbs and spices - I've made garam masala hoe cakes, curry cakes, fishcakes (dill, garlic, onion powder, and lots of seaweed flakes). Hoe Cakes also make great breakfast or desserts: a pinch of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, topped with ice cream, yogurt, maple syrup, jam or fruit:
Breakfast hoe cakes! Extra hoe cakes will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days, or in the freezer indefinitely, but you MUST reheat them (ie, in a toaster) before you eat them or they will be so chalky you will need to spit them out. Trust me.

As I said, my topping of choice is Sweet Beans. Sweet beans are actually only sweet in the way that barbeque sauce is sweet. I LOVE barbeque sauce but it usually has tomato in it, so this is my way of making up for it. This recipe goes well with Hoe Cakes, rice, toast, or on a bed of greens. It's super high in iron, and almost all of the ingredients save the molasses and vinegar can be substituted for other things with equally delicious results.
I love black beans, but feel free to substitute one of the cans with one of kidney beans, or both with black eyed peas.

Sweet Beans, serves 4
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 celery stalks, chopped small
1 thinly sliced carrot and/or red pepper (optional)
1/3 C molasses
1/3 C water
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
3 1/2 C (or two cans) black beans (drain and rinse first, if using canned)
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar

In a cast-iron skillet, saute the onion in the oil on medium heat until soft. Add garlic, saute 2-3 minutes more. Add the celery and optional carrot/pepper. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Stir in the molasses, water, cumin, salt and pepper. When the water starts to boil/bubble (about 2 minutes), add the beans and cook another 5 minutes, until heated through. Stir in vinegar It is ready to serve when all of the liquid is gone.
oh black beans. In order: Dried, soaked, cooked!