Bean there, wrote that: Food writer’s life offers plenty to relish

For its size, the carton that arrived at my doorstep this week was surprisingly weightless. There isn’t much heft to a carton of snack chips, not even when it contains 24 bags. The chips are Beanitos, a product of Bean Brand Foods, a Texas company that has sent them to me so that I can write about them for you.

The company wants me to inform you that Beanitos are a healthy snack. Corn and gluten-free, they are made in the USA from genetically unmodified crops. Each individual bag proclaims the product’s benefits as a nutritional nosh, which, being made from black beans, offers six grams of complete protein. And they won’t spike your blood sugar.

Among the perks of Maggie Wolff Peterson’s life as a food writer: Getting adelivery of Beanitos, a black bean-based snack perfect for those with healthminded<br />
New Year’s resolutions.<br />
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<p class=Among the perks of Maggie Wolff Peterson’s life as a food writer: Getting a
delivery of Beanitos, a black bean-based snack perfect for those with healthminded New Year’s resolutions.

The company says that Beanitos fill you up faster than other junk foods, due to their high fiber. And it says that its “natural and proprietary way” of making the chips reduces the gassy side effect common with beans.

The company wants me to suggest Beanitos as the snack of choice, once those New Year’s resolutions are made to attempt a healthier diet. 

I have received these snacks and this information as a credentialed food writer who attends the annual International Fancy Food show held each summer in D.C. There, in the enormity of the Walter Washington Convention Center, literally tens of thousands of exhibitors offer hundreds of thousands of tastes of everything from ice cream to wine.

The first time I went, I had no plan. I wandered the aisles, tasting whatever was at hand. That was a bad idea. I was full of Virginia peanuts before I got to the Italian cured meats, Greek olives and wild-caught salmon. The next time, I attempted to pace myself. 

But it’s impossible to sample everything, or even see everything, at the show in one day. The stomach fills, the palate becomes exhausted. Did I just taste proscuitto or was it a chocolate-dipped pretzel? Is that crabmeat pasta you’re handing me or another cup of gelato?

The vendors are happy to send samples before or after the show, to accommodate a food writer who has tasted more than her fill. For weeks leading to the show and for weeks after, the UPS truck made deliveries at my door. It was like Christmas every day.

The challenge became what to do with it all.

The frozen cream cheese, chocolate and sweet-potato biscuits that arrived in a cooler on dry ice went into my freezer, to be saved for a slow Sunday morning. The gorgeous, pink bakery boxes, cushioned with drifts of tissue paper and filled with shortbread were attacked immediately. As were all of the chocolates: the bars studded with bacon, or sea salt, or simply a mix of caramelized almonds and marshmallows.

But the spices, the condiments, the odd ingredients have required ingenuity. Miso concentrate became the base for a tasty chicken dish made easily in the crockpot.

Typically, miso is used for soup. A paste of fermented rice, barley or soybeans, preserved with salt and made funky with fungus, miso has been around since monks developed it in the third century B.C. or earlier. Mixed with broth, it becomes a soup that is a staple of the Japanese diet.

I received miso paste in squeeze packets, from a Japanese company called MisoandEasy. I then took boneless thighs and arranged them in a single layer, meaty-side up, with no more liquid than the water that clung to them from rinsing. I squeezed the miso concentrate over the chicken meat, covered the crockpot and set it on low for two hours.

To finish the dish, in the third hour I uncovered the pot, shook garlic powder over the meat, recovered it and set the pot on high. The result was meat tender enough to cut with a fork, with a savory crust not usually possible with crockpot cooking. The miso had provided enough salinity, so no added salt was necessary. And in cooking it had reduced and crusted.

The next challenge involved a condiment made from crystallized Vermont maple syrup, blended with savory ingredients including garlic, to make a spice mix. I shook it all over pork chops, rubbed it in and let the chops marinate for about an hour. Then I panfried them.

The meat was just OK. But the pan sauce that resulted afterward was divine. To the drippings in the pan, I added a good half-cup of chicken stock, a quarter cup of pure maple syrup and a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, which I whisked and reduced.

You could pour that over an old shoe and it would be good.

I have to wonder what has become of some of the goodies that were sent my way. A kosher food company based in Baltimore has the tracking numbers to prove that a holiday gift box was shipped to me, FedEx, about a month ago. But it never got here. Neither did the frozen Thai food or the fancy nut mixes.

I’m disappointed. But as it is, I’m eating as fast as I can.

— Send comments about Maggie Wolff Peterson’s food column in care of Robert Snyder, the Spirit of Jefferson editor, at Editor@spiritofjefferson.com.

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