Basque Red Beans

Basque Red Beans


This was my sixth and last year cooking for our Basque club picnic in July. The first year I was terrified as I had hardly cooked beans, let alone 4-60 quart pots of beans. I was told I had to start them at 3:30 in the morning and stir, stir, stir. I am short…so to stir the beans I had to stand on a stool and stir with a wooden paddle. Basque men from other clubs would open the kitchen door and ask where the men were to stir the beans. There were no men that first year. Finally a taller woman took pity on me and finished stirring the beans. In those 6 years I learned a lot about cooking beans in such large quantities. (These also apply for smaller quantities)
1. Don’t add a lot of water to those beans. If you do they will disintegrate. You just want to add enough to cover plus a couple of inches. You can always add more if needed.
2. When you have a pot that is bigger than your burner make sure you can see the flame. If you can’t it might be too high and those beans will burn. (Happened more than once.) Nothing makes you cry more than a 60 quart pot of beans that are burnt at the bottom.
3. Make sure your beans are fresh. Two years in a row some of the beans didn’t soak and were hard when I went to cook them. Husband wasn’t too happy when I called him in tears at 4:30 a.m. to come and help me sort the beans.
4. Stir, stir, stir. Stirring produces a creamy texture that you need with these red beans.

After the first year I did have a man to help stir the beans. The 4th year, I along with my helper Jake decided we were never cooking beans again. This was after burning a pot.

It wasn’t until I was at a friends house and he was cooking a massive amount of beans for an FFA function that I changed my mind. Tom had these great Camp Chef cookers for each pot of beans. I immediately asked him to order some for me. What a difference that made! No burned beans and they cooked in a record amount of time. Instead of starting the beans at 3:30 a.m., I started them at 6:30 a.m. and they were done by 11 a.m. and we cooked them outside! I even got Jake back this year to stir!

This recipe is a smaller version of the one I made for the picnic. It’s a tasty dish and I hope you like it.

(All the photos are from the picnic.)

Basque Red Beans
Serves 6

1 pound dry red beans
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ pound chopped ham
¼ – ½ pound ham hock
2 Basque chorizo links, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

rinsing beans before soaking
Rinse beans before soaking.

Sort, rinse and soak the beans overnight in a bowl large enough to cover the beans with water plus a couple of inches.

After soaking and rinsing before adding water.
Covered with water.

Rinse the beans and put in a large pot and cover with water.

Bring to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn down to medium heat. Stir often.

Pots in a row.

As soon as they are soft and creamy they are done. About 2 hours or so.

Cooked and creamy.

Don’t forget to follow my other blog, The Bean Sack, at

In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa

We lost a great Idahoan, American and Basque recently.  Pete was one of a kind.  I wish more politician were like him.  I have chosen to post a blog from A Basque in Boise with her encouragement.  My husband and I met Pete on several occasions and he always would tell the story of how his parents, his father was a sheepherder and his mother a maid, met at my husbands grandmothers boarding house in Shoshone.  Pete was fiercely proud of his Basque heritage and of Idaho.  Idaho PBS did a documentary on Pete years ago where they followed him back to the Basque Country and to his families home.  I remember hearing the photographer said that it was like following a celebrity around.  Everyone knew Pete.

In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)

Super simple Chorizo, Pepper Sandwich

My husband usually makes his own lunch. He says when I leave to go on a girls trip or visit my mom that he doesn’t go grocery shopping and “lives out of the freezer”. He is the kind of guy that when he does go grocery shopping usually brings home cans of SPAM and chili. He says we need them in case of an emergency. I know SPAM is popular in Hawaii, but it would have to be the last thing left on my pantry shelf for me to even consider partaking of this canned meat.



We had a great crop of cubanella peppers this year in our garden. I think we had something like 40 plants and each of those had a great crop of peppers. The way we usually prepare them is to fry them whole in a little olive oil and then sprinkle some salt on them right before you serve them. My husband found a quicker way to cook them for his sandwich. IMG_0609 He just pokes a couple of holes in them with a fork or a knife then puts them on a plate and microwaves or “nukes” them for a minute. He then cooks the Basque chorizo in the microwave for a few minutes then combines them on either a tortilla or some whole wheat bread. Next comes some Monterey pepper jack cheese that goes on top and then back in the microwave for a few seconds til it’s melted.


Chorizo and pepper

IMG_0619I think this cheese got a little too melted. But you get the general idea. It’s not gourmet, but it’s simple and very tasty.



Basque Wine Cake

This cake is so simple, delicious and might I say, addicting.  Make sure you have plenty of people to eat this after you bake it, because if you don’t I can guarantee you will eat almost all of it yourself.  It’s kind of like when you make homemade bread and it’s hot out of the oven and before you know it half the loaf is gone with 1/2 a stick of butter! Not that has ever happened to me!  This cake freezes well and is a wonderful cake to take to a new neighbor or anytime you want to give someone something home baked.

Our Basque club makes this a lot for our food booths at the county fair and two other events.  It’s always a favorite with the customers.

  In the summer I like to serve it with sliced fresh freestone peaches and top the peaches with real whipped cream that has a touch of ground cinnamon.

Ingredients for Wine Cake
Ingredients for Wine Cake

Basque Wine Cake

1 package yellow cake mix with pudding in it
4 eggs
1 cup white wine
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients.  Pour into greased Bundt pan.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven, turn out onto a plate and immediately pour glaze over hot cake.

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup white wine
dash of cinnamon

Mix well, adjusting sugar and wine amounts to get a heavy syrup.

You can use nutmeg instead of cinnamon.
You can also use spice cake mix or chocolate cake mix with red wine.  You can use red wine with the yellow cake mix, but it makes the cake a greenish color.


Finished cake.

IMG_4568Wrapped and unwrapped cakes for my husbands customer appreciation dinner.


Basque Chicken with sauce

I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off getting ready for the Gooding Basque clubs annual picnic this weekend.   There is so much shopping and organizing to do.  Good thing I love to do both of those things!  In fact, I will admit that I am a little OCD when it comes to organizing! I have had this post ready for a while and just got around to finishing it.

This is my go to chicken recipe for our Basque club.  I make it often for catered lunches and our first Friday dinners.  At a recent luncheon a young man was practically licking the plate, he had used bread to get every last drop of sauce! As a cook you know you people enjoy your food when the plates coming back to the kitchen have no food left to scrape off other than bones.  This is one of those recipes.


Brush oil in casserole dish and place chicken in casserole.  Sprinkle granulated garlic and kosher salt over the chicken thighs. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until almost cooked


Place sweet peppers, onions and garlic in saucepan.  Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.

Add paprika and red pepper flakes. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.


Stir in tomatoes, broth, parsley and olives.  Bring to a boil.  Spoon mixture over chicken.  Put casserole, covered, into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.20130717-001412.jpgEnjoy!

Basque Chicken with sauce

1 package Chicken thighs with skin

olive oil

granulated garlic

kosher salt

1 green and 1 red bell pepper cut into bite size pieces

1 onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, add more if needed

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 small can pitted sliced olives

snipped fresh parsley about a handful

Brush oil in casserole dish and place chicken in casserole.  Sprinkle granulated garlic and kosher salt over chicken thighs.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until almost cooked.

Place sweet peppers, onion and garlic in saucepan.  Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.  Add paprika and red pepper flakes.  Cook and stir for 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, parsley and olives.  Bring to boiling.  Spoon mixture over chicken.  Put chicken, covered into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Tasty Pintxos, Pinchos, or Tapas, whatever you want to call them.

 Three years ago our family was in the Basque Country (Euskadi) courtesy of my mother-in-law. We had a great time visiting the villages her parents were from and seeing the beautiful countryside and cities. The food we ate was spectacular!  We stayed at the Hotel Bolina in Gernika. When we left after 10 days it was like leaving family. A simple breakfast of cafe con leche and a croissant was something I looked forward to every morning. Dinner of fresh fish caught that morning cooked perfectly and simply along with ensalada mixta and cheese for dessert. Pintxos lined up on the bar where you get a plate and choose a few pintxos to eat and pay the bartender based on how many toothpicks are on your plate.  The variety of pintxos was mind boggling.

A pintxo (pincho) is a snack, but you can make it into a meal.  It is typically eaten in bars and is especially popular in Euskadi, where they are regarded as a cornerstone of local culture and society. They are related to tapas, the traditional Spanish snack, but the main difference is pintxos are usually “spiked” with a skewer or toothpick, often to a piece of bread. They are served in individual portions and always ordered and paid for independently from the drinks.

photoCafe con leche, croissant and freshly squeezed orange juice at the Hotel Bolina.

IMG_2159Ensalada mixta at Hotel Bolina in Gernika.

photo (6)Pintxos at a bar in San Sebastian (Donostia). Donostia is the Basque name for San Sebastian.

When you travel to Euskadi, pintxos are probably as close as you can come to “fast food.” You can have a fast, relatively cheap meal made with fresh ingredients.

As you can see, the bar is loaded with pintxos … all different and all delicious!

IMG_1848Donostia, Parte Viejo

It has been a month since my daughter and son-in-law had their pintxo party. My daughter and son-in-law love to cook, so a tapas party was right up their alley. The recipes came from different sources: cookbooks and a new app I got for my iPad that shows step-by-step instructions and a picture of the finished dish. The app is The Photo Cookbook-Tapas. I think it costs $3.99, but I think it’s worth the money. There is also a wonderful book, Tapas of San Sebastian by Pedro Martin. The forward was written by Juan Mari Arzak, considered one of the great masters of the New Basque Cuisine.  There are over 500 tapas recipes from 150 chefs from the bars and restaurants in San Sebastian. The instructions don’t give the amount for the ingredients. You have to do some guess work, but the photos of the food are phenomenal and it gives you an idea of what is available at the establishments in San Sebastian.



I’m not including all the recipes for the party. In the photo you will see there is asparagus, and that was served with an aioli sauce. There was also chorizo, shrimp and basil on small skewers, salted almonds, plates with assorted cheese and meats and a bacalao dish. Everything was delicious!

IMG_3853Braised onions with goat cheese

Saute 1 red onion with salt and pepper until translucent.

Add 3/4 cup creme de Cassis and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar to the onions.

.  Cook for about 4 minutes until onions are shiny.

Stir in 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and cook for one minute, then remove from heat. Set aside.

Slice baguette and goat cheese.  Add slice of goat cheese, then top with the braised onions and a little fresh thyme.

IMG_0058Seafood salad

As soon as we ate this seafood salad, we all said that it tasted just like the pintxos we had in Donostia!

Put a heaping 1/2 cup small shrimp and a heaping 1/2 cup white crabmeat into a bowl and stir together.

Add 1 celery stick, finely chopped, 1 small red onion, very finely chopped, 6 Tbsp. mayonnaise, and lemon juice to taste.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley. Slice 16- 20 slices from a baguette. Mound the mixture on the bread slices.

IMG_0057Spanish tortilla

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a 10 inch frying pan over high heat.  Reduce the heat, then add about 1 pound of baking potatoes that have been peeled and thinly sliced and 1 large onion chopped and cook for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and onions through a colander, reserving the oil.  Beat 6 large eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Very gently stir the potatoes and onions into the eggs. Add 4 Tbsp of the reserved oil to the frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and smooth the surface with a spatula, pressing the potatoes and onions into and even layer. Cook until the base is set shaking the pan occasionally. Use a spatula to loosen the side and bottom of the tortilla. Place a plate that is as large as the frying pan over the top and invert the tortilla onto the plate.  (I find that this step is best done over the sink, just in case!) Gently slide the tortilla cooked side up back into the frying pan. Continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes or until the eggs are set and the base is golden.

IMG_3847Prosciutto wraps

Wrap watercress and pecorino Toscano (or any hard cheese) in a slice of prosciutto. Place on serving plate.  Grind fresh cracked pepper on top.  Make a vinaigrette with freshly chopped chives, mustard seed, lemon juice and olive oil. Drizzle on top of the wrapped prosciutto.


First time for Merzula en salsa verde

A couple of weekends ago our Basque club had its annual Mus tournament.

This is the definition from Wikipedia for Mus:

Mus is a Basque card game, widely played in the Basque Country, and also in the rest of Spain and to a lesser extent in France. It is a vying game. The word Mus is believed to come from the French word mouche (“fly”), from Latin mussula.
In Spain it is the most played card game, spawning several Mus clubs or peñas and becoming a staple game among college students. It is not uncommon to hear the Basque terms, such as órdago (from Basque hor dago “there it is” used by Spanish speakers, often without them being aware of the literal meanings of the terms and phrases.
Basque emigrants carried the game to other countries such as the USA and Australia, where it is played in Basque clubs. Nowadays there is an international Mus tournament, in addition to many national and regional competitions.

There were about 8 teams of men competing in our tournament. There is always a lot of shouting, insulting and salty Basque language. It is traditional to serve them tripe and pigs feet for lunch. One of the other women in the club makes this dish and also flan for the men. My husband had 5 bowls of tripe and pigs feet! It’s his favorite dish of all time. I was in charge of making a fish dish, salad and another dessert. I made Merzula en Salsa Verde or Hake in Green Sauce and for dessert Gateau Basque. Surprisingly I had never made salsa verde before. I had found hake at of all places Costco! It was frozen, but in Idaho fresh fish isn’t that easy to come by and definitely not hake.

One side note…always taste the wine before you use it.  I was in a hurry and didn’t and had to make another batch of the sauce.  The wine was really bad!


2 1/4 pounds of hake fillets (if frozen make sure to thaw the fillets)


1/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup clam juice

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


Finely chop 2 cloves garlic.


Add garlic to 1/3 cup olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Cook until garlic just begins to color, about 5 minutes


Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the garlic and mix thoroughly, 1 to 2 minutes.


Add 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of clam juice, 1/2 cup white wine, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and salt to taste. Decrease the heat to medium and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thick, about 5 minutes. Add more cold water if you think the sauce is too thick.


Carefully clean, rinse and pat dry the hake.  Sprinkle the fillets lightly with salt.


Add the hake to the pan, in a single layer.  Cook the fillets in the sauce for 2 minutes, swirling the pan constantly and sliding the pan on and off the fire until the hake gives off some of their gelatin.   Flip the fillets once and cook until the fish is opaque, but not overcooked about 2 or 3 minutes on the other side.  The sauce should be a very light green and slightly thick, but still smooth and light.


Serve immediately.

Pears in wine sauce

Pears cooking in wine sauce.

This is a nice winter dessert.  You can make it ahead of time and actually the longer the pears have to soak in the wine the tastier and darker they become. There are some in my fridge right now that are a week old and they are a lovely burgundy color!  I can’t remember where I found the original recipe, but this is my take on pears in wine sauce.  If you choose to use fresh pears make sure you cook them in the wine until they are tender. I used port for this recipe.  We had a case of homemade port that someone had given us a few years ago.  It makes excellent pears in wine sauce, but any red wine that you have on hand will work.  I have found the the better wines work well…not like kalimotxo’s where you want the cheapest wine possible.

Kalimotxo (cali-moe-cho) is a drink that is popular in Euskadi (the Basque Country) and very popular here in the west with the younger generation.  If you go to any Basque picnic or Basque restaurant and ask for the drink they will be able to pour one for you.  It is made with 1/2 cheap red wine and 1/2 Coca Cola.

Pears in wine sauce

1- 29 oz. can of pears halves in light syrup
Red wine

1/2 cup sugar

2- 6″ cinnamon sticks or 4- 3″ones

Drain pear juice into a measuring cup.  Add equal amounts of red wine to juice.  Put the liquid into a saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon sticks.  Bring just to a boil, add the pears and cook about 10 or 15 minutes longer. Let cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator.  Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.


The easy way out.

I needed to make dessert for our Basque club member dinner and I didn’t have a lot of time to spend making the dessert. I chose to make gateau Basque because I could make part of it the day before and keep it in the frig.  There are as many different versions of gateau as there are paellas.  Gateau is from the French side of the Basque Country.   I was fortunate to have tasted some wonderful gateau when I visited St. Jean de Luc in France a few years ago.   One of my friends told me that this gateau reminded him of his mothers! Best compliment ever.   This gateau Basque is adapted from the cookbook Recipes from Basque Restaurants of the West by Clara Salaverria Perkins printed in 1995.  It isn’t a really traditional Gateau Basque…it’s the easy version.  Instead of making the filling  from scratch this recipe uses Jello Cook and Serve pudding mix.

Gateau Basque


1 cup  butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks

grated rind of 1 large lemon

1/2 teaspoon almond extract


1 1/2  (4.9 oz.) package Jello Cook and Serve vanilla pudding (Do not use Instant pudding!)

3 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 large egg beaten with 2 Tablespoons cold water for egg wash.

Cream butter and gradually add sugar.  Sift flour and baking powder.  Beat egg, egg yolks and almond extract.  Add lemon rind.  Add eggs mixture alternately with the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture.  Mix well.  Place this dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.


Combine the milk and pudding mix in a medium saucepan and still constantly until it comes to a boil.  Cook just a little while longer.  Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.  Put pudding in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.

Roll out 1/2 of dough the same as you would a thick pie crust.  Press it into a 9 inch springform pan.  Pour cooked pudding into the crust.  Roll out the other 1/2 of the dough and put on top of the pudding.  Trim the edges and fold over the edges to seal.  Brush with the egg wash.  (The pudding expands during the baking process and and it will spill over the top if the edges aren’t sealed properly.)

Score the top of the gateau by carefully making diamond designs with the blunt side of a knife.

Bake gateau in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until it becomes a golden brown.

Note: Do not store it in the refrigerator or put plastic wrap on the gateau after baking.  If you do the top will get soggy.

Cream butter.

Gradually add sugar.

Sift flour and baking powder together in separate bowl.

In another bowl beat the egg, egg yolks and almond extract.

Add lemon rind to beaten egg mixture.

Add eggs alternately with the flour to the creamed butter mixture.  Mix well.

Place plastic wrap on counter and put half of dough on plastic.

Flatten and wrap both halves of the dough the same way.  Put in refrigerator to chill overnight.

(This dough can be made ahead and kept in the freezer until you need to use it. You can make a couple of batches to have on hand.)

Combine the pudding and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Cook just a few minutes longer. Stir in the almond extract.

Put the pudding in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill.

Roll out 1/2 of the dough as you would a thick pie crust.

Fold the dough in half and then again in half.

Place the dough in a 9 inch springform pan.  You can use a 9 inch pie plate, but I like the springform pan.

Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.

Put the filling into the crust.

Roll out the other half of the dough and lay it on top of the filling.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  I used to fuss over this part wanting it to be perfect, but I learned that when it is baking if evens out. Trim the excess from the edge and fold over.

Beat 1 large egg with 2 Tablespoons cold water for the egg wash.

Brush the egg wash down the sides of the dough to form a seal.  Brush the top with the egg wash also.

Lightly score the top crust with the back of a knife.  You don’t want to go through the dough.

Gateau Basque before baking.


If you have leftover dough from roll it out and put it either on a cookie sheet or in a pie plate.

Roll out, score and cut the dough as you would a shortbread cookie dough.  Dust lightly with bakers sugar and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.