Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sandwich Nirvana: Easy Heirloom Bean Spread (Cooking with Dried Legumes III)

Humming a different tune, happily

I’ve mentioned before that ideally, I’d avoid eating hummus at home. It’s delicious, easy, and cheap, but you can have too much of a good thing, you know?

Bread, crackers, and crudites beware: a new spread's in town.

So if I avoid hummus, am I just done with bean spreads at home? No way.

Here’s what I ate today.  If I say so myself, it was great. Way better than my initial attempt at making a bean spread.

Refreshing summer yumminess.

In the shadow of Tahini …

Of course I used Rancho Gordo beans. This time, I tried out the Yellow Indian Woman Bean.

Rancho Gordo's Yellow Indian Woman Bean

But what to do about other ingredients? A mix of plain beans and oil doesn’t exactly come out well. Part of the genius of hummus is Tahini. It adds flavor and texture so beautifully. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but are there alternatives?  

Of course there are! Because I’m kind of a health nut, and health nuts do weirdo stuff like put flaxseed in everything, I decided to go with flax. Ground flaxseeds have a beautiful nutty taste. They also function to bind ingredients together. (It’s downright gluey when you blend them with water.) 

Taste, texture, and nutrients. Take that, tahini! You're not the only spreadmaker on earth, after all 🙂

I also put in some almond meal because who doesn’t love almonds?

To finish it off, I used walnut oil, some spices, and … GOLDEN RAISINS.   

The spread just needed a little something extra. I was inspired by my mom’s chicken salad. She always adds raisins and walnuts, and it’s so yummy. I was a little nervous about adding raisins to beans, but I quite love how it turned out!

I enjoy plenty of veggies on my sandwiches and cilantro is one of my addictions, so I piled on the extras.  Here’s the recipe:

Summer Sandwich Nirvana

Serves 2


Dragon Fruit Heirloom Bean Spread (see recipe below) 
Four slices whole grain bread
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Sliced tomatoes
Thinly sliced onion (I used the white part of a scallion)
Handful of chopped cilantro
Handful of mixed salad greens
Sea salt, to taste


Place mixed salad greens on two slices of bread.  Divide the spread evenly on two slices of bread, over the salad greens.  Add sliced tomatoes and onions.

On the other two slices of bread, layer sliced cucumbers and add cilantro.  Add sea salt to taste and assemble sandwiches.

The Dragon Fruit Heirloom Bean Spread

Serves 2


1 c cooked heirloom beans such as Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Beans, drained very well
2 Tb ground flaxseed
1 Tb almond meal (you can just add finely ground almonds if you’d rather not buy a bag of almond meal)
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tb walnut or other oil
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Dash of sea salt 
Dash of ground black pepper
1 heaping Tb golden raisins
Cilantro or parsley and lemon zest for garnish, optional


Drain beans VERY WELL. If there is too much liquid, you’ll end up with a baby food texture like mush.

Grind beans in a food processor until they are a paste.

Add ground flaxseed and pulse in food processor until evenly distributed (for shorthand, I’ll just say “pulse”).  Add remaining ingredients and pulse as follows:

Add almond meal and pulse.

Add lemon juice and oil and pulse.

Add salt, pepper, and coriander and pulse.

Add raisins and pulse.


You can probably just add everything and pulse it all together, but I feel like I want to make sure my purée is consistent. I’ve added the ingredients in a stepwise fashion to avoid getting clumps of any one ingredient in the spread.

Food Processor Magic

Drain the beans well to avoid mushy texture!

Pulsing just the beans in the food processor ends up looking like this. I had to pulse a lot and scrape down the sides often.

Texture after the addition of flaxseed meal, almond meal, and lemon juice. When making this spread for the first time, I added each ingredient one by one, but you don't need to be so painstaking.

And here's the almost-finished product, after adding the oil.

Now this texture was what I was looking for!

And this texture is fading away until it's just a baaad memory. What a sad sandwich!

What a happy sandwich!

Beware the "Pot Liquor"! Good for flavor in more watery dishes, but this opaque beany essence is just plain bad for sandwich spreads.


Ballin’ — Yamuna Devi’s Divine Melon Dessert, Easily Veganized

Recipe Perfection

FOOD OF THE GODS. This was what I thought the first time I tasted Yamuna Devi’s recipe for Carbooj Mithai, “Melon Bowl Supreme with Honey-Lime Dressing,” from her venerable tome The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. It’s divine. Shockingly good. I am glad that my life on this earth has included experiences with this beautiful summer dessert.

One of the greatest summer desserts, period. Thank you, Yamuna Devi!!

It’s not vegan because it contains honey. Close enough, some might say.  

But I just wondered … would it be a sacrilege to tinker with perfection? Just to see? 

Honey, Just Try the Agave

To me, the honey seemed critical in creating the heady, complex sweetness that haunts this dessert. Replacing it worried me.

But needlessly so! Sure, honey makes a difference, but the agave nectar is just as fantastic. And since agave nectar has a lower glycemic index than honey, it might be the more desirable sweetener to use in this recipe if you prefer to keep your GI lower.

Yeah, I’m Ballin’ … But …

So, the recipe instructs you to use a melon baller and also to use the melon rinds as a serving vessel. I actually did not feel so ballin’ when I was balling. It seemed wasteful, too – there’s an awful lot of melon that goes unused because it looks too odd to serve next to the little half orbs of melon that come from the baller.  

Very pretty, but ... see below for the, er, "outtakes."

I really only used the baller because I knew I’d be posting pictures to the blog. In the past, all I’ve done is cube the melon. I guess serving it in the hollowed out rind is fancy, but I’ve never done it. That presentation is a little over the top for me at home, although it would be quite impressive when entertaining.

At any rate, no matter what it looks like – and regardless of your religious beliefs -I think you will agree that this dish is simply, divinely, sublimely …  heavenly. 

Vegan Version of Yamuna Devi’s Carbooj Mithai, “Melon Bowl Supreme with Honey-Lime Dressing”


1 watermelon, 3-4 lbs
1 small canteloupe or Ogden melon
1 small honeydew or charentais melon
1/4 c agave nectar (I used dark agave nectar)
1/4 c fresh lime juice
2 Tb fresh orange juice
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp finely ground ginger or 1/2 Tb scraped, finely chopped fresh ginger root (I forgot to buy ginger and didn’t really miss it, so I’m calling this ingredient optional)
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
2 Tb olive oil or almond oil (I’ve used organic extra virgin olive oil and it’s great)
2 c blueberries (You can use less if you, like me, get sticker shock when buying berries)
a few sprigs of mint for garnishing (I chopped it finely and sprinkled it on the melon)


Use a melon baller to make balls -OR- chop melons into even, medium sized cubes.  Mix in blueberries.

In a separate bowl, combine other ingredients, mix well.  Pour over melon and berry mixture, serve.


Yamuna Devi’s instructions are more precise – she says to cover and refrigerate the melon, set aside the blueberries and mint, then to use a blender to process the other ingredients.

Before serving, she says to drain the melon, mix with the blueberries, then add the sauce and garnish with the mint.

It’s true, the melon will drain and produce more liquid.  If you plan on making this dish in advance and serving it later, you should probably heed this advice, although it will still taste good if you don’t drain the melon.

Ballin’ – It Just Looks Easy …

Here are some pretty ones.

But they all don't turn out so pretty! Maddening!

Oh, those poor melons. This image was too funny not to share.

Then what do you do with this stuff? Frozen daiquiris?

It's like red Swiss cheese or something, oddly unnerving!