Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Basque Red-Bean, Chorizo and Borage Stew

The other day at the open-air market I saw a vegetable monger from another time. Unlike all the other sellers who buy fruits and vegetables from a central wholesale market, this rugged old guy looked like he had actually cultivated the produce himself. He was only selling "borrage" (different from the standard Italian word for the vegetable, "Borragine") "cima" (literally, "tops" as in turnip tops) and "coste" (chard). His rough hands with short, thick fingers had no problem bunching up the kilo of prickly, spiny borage I asked for. I was impressed.

I brought home my loot, excited to try a new vegetable and proceeded to comb and FoodTV to find a way to eat borage. The few recipies I found included borage as one of many raw ingredients in salad. You can also evidently candy the stunningly deep blue leaves to use as a cake decoration. It's true that the gorgeous cucumbery fragrance they have does make you think raw; I was immediately transported back to my last sushi esperience with the cucumber scent. But, if you could feel these leaves (ouch!) the last thing you'd want to do would be to stick them in your mouth raw! Evidently in the Anglophone online world, only the newest leaves relatively free of painful spikes are used.

So then I went Italian and googled "borragine" but no dice. So, I thought, Spanish? I googled "borraja" and came up with a goldmine! Evidently, the Basques of Northern Spain are so enamored of this cooking green, they call it "la reina de las verduras", the queen of vegetables. Who knew.

This recipe for "alubias con borraja" (beans with borage) sounded like a sure-thing, (even though the ingredient amounts weren't clear). It's typical of Spanish stews in that the flavoring comes from chorizo. Most stews and vegetable dishes are flavored with a ham bone, cured jamon serrano (which puts Italian prosciutto to shame!) or one of many Spanish pork sausages like chorizo. Here's how I interpreted the recipe:

1-1/2 cups dried red beans
4 ozs Spanish** chorizo, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound well rinsed borage leaves & flower buds
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp smokey-sweet Spanish paprika
salt to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Soak the beans in water to cover by a couple inches overnight. The next day, drain the water and boil the beans, the chorizo and the onion (again, in water to cover by a couple inches) for about 2 hours or until tender. Add extra boiling water to keep the beans covered by an inch.
Once the beans are tender, boil a pot of water and add the borage. Boil for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Music to boil borraja by: "Spanish Bombs" by the greatest punk band of all time, The Clash! Drain and chop finely. Add to the beans. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium-low add the garlic and sautee for about 30 seconds or until it just barely golden. Add the paprika and optional cayenne stir for 10 seconds and pour everything into the bean pot. Simmer for another couple minutes and stir to combine flavors. Turn off heat and let rest for 10 minutes before serving with crusty country bread.
**Not Mexican chorizo, although the result would probably be great, It'd be a totally different thing.


Blogger Beenzzz said...

Wow! I bet this stew is flavorful. I love chorizo too! So, its turnip leaves then? How interesting.

7:33 PM  
Blogger ML said...

Never had borage, but that look really delicious!

8:22 PM  
Anonymous ann said...

How big are the leaves?
I bought some borage seeds to plant in a pot for my indoor herb garden but now I'm thinking I made a mistake. For some reason I thought they were an herb, but it's beginning to sound like they're a leafy vegetable
Oy vey, what have I gotten myself into?
Either way, that stew sounds lovely.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Beenzzz, Actually it's borage, which is less bitter than cima (tops).

Hi ML, The chorizo makes it really yummy.

Hi Ann, Hmmm... Some leaves are as small as you pinky finger and others are as big as your hand. The bunches they came on were really big. I dunno, I wonder if there are different varieties of borage? Maybe your kind would be the one that goes well raw in salads? Let us know when it grows (if you keep it).

8:31 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've always loved the look and smell of borage, but I've never thought of using it as stewing vegetable. Very interesting . . . you have piqued my curiosity.

4:15 AM  
Blogger rowena said...

Waahhh! You found borage?!! I've been on a lookout for that veg since forever. I tried making ligurian pansotti once but had to cop out with all spinach...bleh. Better head to the open-air market this weekend.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take a half teaspoon of borage oil every day and it is very expensive. Could it be that eating the leaves and flower buds would give me the same resluts, omega 3 or 6?

9:57 AM  

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