black bean squash burritos

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One of my (many) goals for this year was to cook less. And boy have I. My cooking and baking was getting out of hand there for a while and getting in the way of other things I needed to be doing. Like working. But I swung too far in the other direction, because do you realize that I haven’t posted a non-baked recipe in a month? In fact, I almost ran out of anything I could post about. Now I’m getting back on track with trying new, easy, healthy dinner recipes.

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Black bean and squash burritos have been on my radar for a while, but then when I finally decided to make them, I couldn’t find a recipe. I ended up just writing my own. For the squash, I knew I wanted to avoid peeling and dicing it while it was raw, as that whole process always ends up pissing me off. So I sliced the squash, seasoned it, rubbed it in just a little olive oil, and roasted it until it was soft and browned.

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While the squash was in the oven, I sautéed some onions, then added garlic and spices before stirring in green chiles and black beans. When the squash was done, I pulled the peels off and roughly chopped the flesh, which I threw into the pot with the beans. That simple mixture was my main filling, and I served it with salsa and cheese.

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I thought they were really good. And they’re so easy, and they’re healthy, and cheap. An overall success in my book. Dave…um, he thought they were fine. His exact words were, “I like regular burritos better.” I told them he should judge these based on their own merits instead of comparing them to something else, and he said, “Too squashy.” Pbbth. Whatever. I thought they were seriously tasty.

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One year ago: Gooey Chocolate Cake – my first recipe with Tuesdays with Dorie

Squash and Black Bean Burritos

Note: The burritos are also good when they’re made with chipotle chiles instead of green chiles.  If you go that direction, I’d use four, and more if you like a lot of spice.

Serves 4-6

2 small acorn squash
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
8 ounces green chiles, diced
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
10 (7-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
salsa
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled, or shredded cheddar (about 1 cup)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into ¾-inch slices. Spread 2 teaspoons of olive oil on a baking sheet and lay the squash slices on the oil, turning each slice over to thinly coat each side. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast until the squash is browned on the edges and tender throughout, about 20 minutes.

2. Heat 4 teaspoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and coriander. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the chiles, beans and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to low, cover, and heat just to warm.

3. When the squash has cooled enough to handle, peel the skin off of each slice. Roughly chop the squash into ¼- to ½-inch pieces and stir into the black beans.

4. Layer the squash-black bean mixture, salsa, and cheese in center of each tortilla. Fold and serve.

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vegetarian chili

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When my sister plans meals for once-a-month freezer cooking, she usually tests a small batch of a recipe before making a larger batch to freeze. This is good practice, I recently learned. A few months ago, I made vegetarian chili to bring on a camping trip, and even though I was experimenting with the recipe, I was confident enough that it would turn out great that I made a huge batch and froze half. Mistake!

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There are a lot of recipes where I think ground meat is just extraneous, and chili is a great example. There are so many other flavorings in chili that it doesn’t usually taste beefy, and the beans provide plenty of protein, so the meat isn’t nutritionally required either. It’s just filler, and expensive, sort of unhealthy filler at that.

When I noticed that my favorite vegetarian chili recipe was very similar to my favorite beef chili recipe, except for the beef, I decided to combine parts of each that I liked. Where I screwed up the first time was in not taking into account that with less filler, I’d need less tomatoes as well. The result was (a huge pot of) chili-flavored spaghetti sauce (that I had to share with friends on the camping trip – sorry guys!).

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And before I could give it another try, I had to finish all of the frozen way-too-tomatoey stuff in the freezer. When I did finally make vegetarian chili again, I knew exactly what changes I wanted to make. I made a smaller batch this time, just in case, but wouldn’t you know it that I totally nailed it this time with a rich, spicy, meaty-even-without-meat bowl of chili that gets even better when topped with an assortment of garnishes.

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One year ago: Salmon Cakes, Flaky Biscuits, Hashed Brussels Sprouts – I made almost this exact same meal again recently (different biscuits though), and it’s just so good.  Restaurant quality food for sure.

Vegetarian Chili (adapted substantially from Jeanne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Classics and Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe)

I like to chop up the tomatoes a bit before adding them to the chili. I usually just stick a pair of kitchen shears into the can of tomatoes and start snipping.

I’ve never actually added the butter, in an effort to reduce the fat in the recipe. However, I’m guessing it helps mimic the richness that beef would provide.

2 tablespoons olive (or vegetable) oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
Garnishes: lime wedges, sour cream, cheddar cheese, scallions, red onion, cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onions, bell pepper, garlic, and spices and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, beans, salt, and soy sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered, at a low simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. If the chili is too thin, cook uncovered until it’s your preferred consistency. Stir in the butter and serve with the garnishes.

chickpea and butternut squash salad

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Do you like squash? It seems like as soon as we were past Labor Day, everyone went squash crazy. I have reservations about squash that I think can be traced back to childhood.

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I remember one Halloween, my mom roasted acorn squash for me and my brother, with brown sugar in the middle. We were less than pleased. I can’t remember any other squash experiences until I was cooking on my own, and I’m not the only one in my family who is inexperienced in squash. A year or two ago, my older sister called me to ask what she was supposed to do with the butternut squash she had bought.

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I do like squash these days, but every time I eat it, I’m surprised I like it. “Wow! This is actually good!” That’s exactly how I felt about this recipe, which I heard about from Deb, but is actually from Molly. Both tend to recommend recipes that are right up my alley, so that made this recipe worth trying even with the less than familiar squash.  (This is only the third recipe I’ve ever used winter squash in.)

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My doubts did go beyond just the squash issue. I wasn’t so sure about combining sweet squash with hummus ingredients – chickpeas and tahini, lemon juice and cilantro. And then I was worried that the sauce wouldn’t come together and be smooth (somehow it did) and that there would be too much sauce (I ended up adding it all).

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The recipe was easy, aside from my snail-like squash peeling and cutting pace. And I was, yes, surprised by how much I liked it. The sweet squash was balanced so well by the bitter tahini and sour citrus. What a great combination.

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Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini (reworded slightly from Orangette, who adapted it from Casa Moro)

Thoughts: I’m anti raw garlic lately, so I threw the garlic in the oven with the squash for a few minutes, just to tame its sharpness a little before adding it to the sauce.

For salad:
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2½ pounds, seeded, and cut into 1½-inch pieces)
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ medium red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

For tahini sauce:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt (or shredded on a Microplane)
3½ tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a good pinch or two of salt. Using a large spoon or your hands, toss until the squash pieces are evenly coated. Turn them out onto a baking sheet, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add tahini sauce to taste, and toss carefully. (Alternatively, you can also serve the salad undressed, with the tahini sauce on the side. That way, each person can use as much or as little as they want, and the individual ingredients taste a little brighter, too.) Serve, with additional salt for sprinkling.

Note: This salad, lightly dressed, keeps beautifully in the fridge. (Hold a little of the tahini sauce on the side, for dressing at the table.) Before serving, warm slightly with quick jolt in the microwave.

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tuscan-style couscous salad


Food generally tastes better outside. Even more so after you’ve hiked eight miles while carrying a 25-pound pack. Since Dave and I almost always eat this couscous salad while we’re backpacking, it’s no wonder we like it so much. But last time we went camping, we got driven home early by, um, we’ll just say fear of Lyme disease and spare you the creepy details. We ate this salad when we got home that night, and it tasted just as good while sitting on the couch watching a movie as it does when we’re eating it out of zip-top bags in the woods.

What’s so great about this salad is that it’s a perfectly balanced complete meal – a couscous base, both beans and nuts, and plenty of tomatoes, onions, and basil. There’s no real cooking involved and not much chopping.

I have tweaked the original recipe slightly – while it’s basically the same list of ingredients, I’ve doubled the amount of pine nuts, tomatoes, basil, and onion. I’ve also reduced to the olive oil in the dressing, which I do with most vinaigrettes recipes.

One final change I make to the original recipe is to toast the unpeeled garlic cloves before adding them to the dressing. Lately I’ve been unhappy with the sharpness of raw garlic, and toasting it mellows its flavor a bit. It’s still garlicky and good, but it won’t burn your tongue. And since the pine nuts are already being toasted, it’s no problem to add the garlic cloves to the skillet as well.

Between the vivid colors of this dish, its healthfulness, the ease with which it comes together, and of course, its flavorful mix of ingredients, this salad is well worth eating at home and in the woods.

Tuscan-Style Couscous Salad (adapted from Vegetarian Classics, by Jeanne Lemlin)

Serves 4 as a main course

1½ cups couscous
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 cups boiling water
½ cup pine nuts
1 (15-ounce) can small white beans such as navy or Great Northern, rinsed well and drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ cup shredded fresh basil
1 small red onion, slivered

The dressing:
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
⅓ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Place the couscous and turmeric in a large bowl and mix. Pour on the boiling water, stir, and immediately cover the bowl with a large plate. Let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Let cool.

2. Place the pine nuts and unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, tossing often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully because they can easily burn. Let the pine nuts cool, then mix them into the couscous along with the beans, tomatoes, basil, and red onion.

3. Mince the garlic. Place the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Pour over the couscous mixture and toss well. Let marinate at least 30 minutes before serving. Cover and chill if longer than 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

baba ghanoush, falafel, hummus

Oh my gosh, this was such a great meal. I had something similar at a restaurant a while ago when Dave and I stopped for lunch in Syracuse’s university area. I got the vegetarian combination plate, which included hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, pita, and I think tabbouleh. I was trying to recreate that fantastic meal at home. I forgot to make tabbouleh this time, which was fine because this was plenty of cooking as it was.

I took the easy way out and made all Cooks Illustrated recipes. The hummus is their recently published Restaurant-Style Hummus recipe, which has gotten some great reviews. I thought it was really good, although I don’t know if it was that much better than any other hummus I’ve made. But – then I made it again a few weeks later with beans I cooked myself and Oh.My.God, that was so good. I had no idea it would make that much of a difference.

Other than that lunch in Syracuse, this is the only baba ghanoush I’ve ever had. You’re supposed to grill the eggplant until it’s completely soft and smoky, but grilling isn’t an option for me, so I had to use the oven. I still thought it was really good. It reminds me a lighter, more vegetal hummus.

The falafel was my favorite part of the meal. Shocking, I know, that Dave and I both liked the deep-fried food the best. Also, this was my first experience with dried chickpeas, and I loved them. The same funky shape as canned chickpeas but absolutely hard as rocks.

There’s some overlap between these three items – tahini or chickpeas showed up in everything – but they still have very distinct personalities. Tabbouleh would have been a nice light contrast, so I’ll have to remember that next time. And I can’t wait until next time!

(I’ll talk about the pita in my next post.)

Baba Ghanoush, Oven Method (from Cooks Illustrated July 2001)

CI note: When buying eggplant, select those with shiny, taut, and unbruised skins and an even shape (eggplant with a bulbous shape won’t cook evenly). We prefer to serve baba ghanoush only lightly chilled. If yours is cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. Baba ghanoush does not keep well, so plan to make it the day you want to serve it. Pita bread, black olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices are nice accompaniments.

Bridget note: Cooks Illustrated has grilling methods for this recipe as well, but I don’t have a grill, so the oven it was.

Makes 2 cups

2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large globe, 5 medium Italian, or 12 medium Japanese), each poked uniformly over surface with fork to prevent bursting
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic , minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil, set eggplants on baking sheet and roast, turning every 15 minutes, until eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs, about 60 minutes for large globe eggplants, 50 minutes for Italian eggplants, and 40 minutes for Japanese eggplants. Cool eggplants on baking sheet 5 minutes.

2. Set small colander over bowl or in sink. Trim top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit eggplants lengthwise and use spoon to scoop hot pulp from skins and place pulp in colander (you should have about 2 cups packed pulp); discard skins. Let pulp drain 3 minutes.

3. Transfer pulp to workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; process until mixture has coarse, choppy texture, about eight 1-second pulses. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush with surface of dip, and refrigerate 45 to 60 minutes. To serve, use spoon to make trough in center of dip and spoon olive oil into it; sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Chickpea Fritters-Falafel (from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best International Recipe)

The chickpeas in this recipe must be soaked overnight; you can not substitute canned beans or quick-soaked chickpeas because their texture will result in soggy falafel. A wire spider comes in handy here when cooking the falafel. Serve the falafel in lavash or pita bread with lettuce, pickled vegetables, and chopped tomatoes or cucumbers, or as an hors d’oeuvres with tahini sauce as a dip.

Makes 20 falafel

6 ounces dried chickpeas (1 cup), rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover by an inch
5 scallions, chopped coarse
½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
3 medium garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon), minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
1.Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Drain the chickpeas, discarding the soaking liquid. Process all of the ingredients except for the oil in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed. Form the mixture into 1 tablespoon-sized disks, about ½ inch thick and 1 inch wide, and arrange on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (The falafel can be refrigerated at this point for up to 2 hours.)

3. Heat the oil in a 5-quart large Dutch over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. (Use an instant-read thermometer that registers high temperatures or clip a candy/deep-fat thermometer onto the side of the pan.) Fry half of the falafel, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 375 degrees, until deep brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet using a slotted spoon or wire spider and keep warm in the oven. Return the oil to 375 degrees and repeat with the remaining falafel. Serve immediately with the sauce.

I’m out of town right now, eating truffles and drinking wine. I’ll be back next week to catch up on comments and other blogs!

franks and beans

I can’t remember how I got it in my head to make franks and beans. I thought I had mentioned it in a blog post, but I can’t find it. Was it a comment on someone else’s blog? I thought I just idly mentioned it somewhere, and then I started thinking “yum…pork and beans…”  (Ah, Elizabeth found it for me – in my post about red beans and rice.)

Of course, god forbid I take the easy way out and buy some baked beans, add hot dogs and brown sugar and bake them for a while, like I used to do when I was a kid. (Of course, we used the cheese-filled hot dogs then. Ew!) No, I have to go all out and make beans from scratch. Glutton for punishment.

But I couldn’t find any recipes for hot dogs and beans with the beans made from scratch, so I made a Boston baked beans recipe and added cut up hot dogs to the onions while they sautéed.

I figured that if I cut the hot dogs on a diagonal, they were more elegant and I could pretend that I wasn’t eating incredibly low-class food.

But if I cut them straight across, they were more bite-sized. Ah well.

I messed up the recipe just a bit. I was cutting it in half, but I used a saucepan less than half the area of the pan called for for a full recipe, so the sauce didn’t thicken as much as I would have liked. You can see in the picture how liquidy the beans are. Also, when adding hot dogs, I might skip the salt pork next time and maybe increase the bacon by an ounce or two. Other than those minor glitches, though, this was a fun way to revisit childhood!

Boston Baked Beans (from Cooks Illustrated January 2003)

Serves 4 to 6

CI note: The beans can be made ahead. After cooking, cool them to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Bridget note: I added 2 hot dogs, cut into bite-sized pieces, to the sautéing onions.

4 ounces salt pork, trimmed of rind and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 ounces bacon (2 slices), cut into ¼ -inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped fine
½ cup mild molasses
1 tablespoon mild molasses
1½ tablespoons brown mustard
1 pound dried small white beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
Table salt
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Ground black pepper

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Add salt pork and bacon to 8-quart Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and most fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add ½ cup molasses, mustard, beans, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and 9 cups water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pot and set in oven. Bake until beans are tender, about 4 hours, stirring once after 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to bake until liquid has thickened to syrupy consistency, 1 to 1½ hours longer. Remove beans from oven; stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

asparagus and arugula salad with cannellini beans and balsamic vinegar

The combination of my upcoming beach trip and Tuesdays With Dorie has prompted a series of main dish salads for dinner. I’m surprising myself by how much I’m enjoying it. I was especially surprised by this salad, which I expected to be edible but not special. I’m so glad I chose the recipe even though I wasn’t excited about it, because it was so good that now I’m waiting for an opportunity to make it again.

The salad is composed of two rather distinct parts. The base is a bed of arugula, dressed with a very simple balsamic vinaigrette. This is topped with a mixture of red onions that have been browned, asparagus that is sautéed just until tender, and cannellini beans, all of which is dressed with the same vinaigrette. It’s an unusual but delicious combination.

I did drastically reduce the arugula. The recipe calls for 14 ounces (although I’m unsure if this is before or after it’s stemmed), but even one whole 5-ounce bag of pre-washed arugula seemed like a lot. Five ounces ended up being the perfect amount. That’s the only change I made, and I even used a cheapo balsamic vinegar, with no noticeable adverse affects on the salad.

Last time I made salad, I flaked out on the meal-planning and made bread to go with it, even though croutons are a primary feature of Caesar salads. This time, I didn’t serve anything else with the salad and realized half-way through eating it that there was no carbs involved anywhere. Next time I swear I’ll get it right.

Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Balsamic Vinegar (from Cooks Illustrated May 2003)

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course or 2 to 3 as a main dish

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 1 cup)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (about 1½ cups)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus 2 teaspoons
14 ounces arugula (1 large bunch), washed, dried, and stemmed (about 6 cups lightly packed)

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to smoke; stir in onion and cook until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add asparagus, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook until asparagus is browned and tender-crisp, about 4 minutes, stirring once every minute. Off heat, stir in beans; transfer to large plate and cool 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl until combined. In large bowl, toss arugula with 2 tablespoons dressing and divide among salad plates. Toss asparagus mixture with remaining dressing, place a portion over arugula, and serve.

rice and beans

I love beans. This is a recent revelation, as the only beans I remember eating as a kid were refried or mixed with hot dogs. (And just like that, pork and beans has been added to my “To Cook” list.) I’m not sure if it’s the beans that are so good, or the type of recipes that beans tend to be in – mishmashes of various flavors and textures blended together so each bite is just a little bit different from the last, but equally delicious.

Rice and beans is beans at their simplest. I have a Puerto Rican friend who makes fantastic rice and beans, and I’m kicking myself for not getting the recipe from him before I moved away. However, I’m finding that rice and beans is completely adaptable to personal tastes and availability of ingredients. The first time I made it, I used a recipe, but I don’t find myself following it very closely these days.

The original recipe uses sausage, onions, garlic, beans, chicken broth, and some seasoning. It’s a great recipe, but the beauty of rice and beans is that you can ignore the recipe and still get something fantastic. This time I used a bit of celery, a chipotle chile, and as many tomatoes as beans. Last time I used red pepper and less tomatoes. Any number of additions would be great – green pepper, squash, maybe even sweet potatoes. The only requirement is beans, although I admit that I wouldn’t make it without onions, and now I’m loving the tomatoes. I also love the sausage, even though I prefer not to use meat in my staple weeknight meals. If you can think of a great substitute, let me know!

I’ve linked to the original recipe above, and I’ll provide a recipe for what the pictures show, but keep in mind that this is a fun meal to adapt to your own preferences.

Rice and Beans

Serves 4

8 ounces cooked sausage, such as kielbasa (I used salami this time)
1 medium onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, minced (red pepper would be great too)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin (I’ve also used Old Bay)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used 2 cans, but it was admittedly very tomatoey)
1 cup chicken broth (I didn’t use this, but I should have)

6 cups cooked long-grain white rice (from 1 cup uncooked rice)

In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, cook the sausage until it begins to brown and fat begins to render. Add the onions and celery/pepper/whatever and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and spice(s) and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the flavors have blended, about 45 minutes (or as long as you want actually – I’m not sure I’ve ever cooked it for the full 45 minutes). Serve over rice.

whole wheat pasta with greens, beans, tomatoes, and garlic chips

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Dave recently told me that he’d prefer to eat less meat. Because I do all of the meal planning and cooking, we generally have an understanding that I get control over what we eat. On the other hand, Dave is so open-minded about what we eat that it’s fair for him to offer up some opinions.

And our meat intake has increased in the last few months. We used to eat meat around 1-3 times per week, and lately we’ve been eating vegetarian around 1-3 times per week. Because I have more free time lately, I’ve been more adventurous with my cooking, and because I don’t have as much experience cooking with meat, it’s more challenging for me. (In other words, I’m not very good at it.)

But Dave’s right, we should eat less meat. For our health, for our budget, for the environment.

This recipe for whole wheat pasta with greens, beans, tomatoes, and garlic chips is definitely Dave’s type of meal.

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This is only a quarter of the kale the recipe calls for, or just under one serving. (I cut the recipe in half, and accidentally only bought half as much kale as I needed.) Hey, he asked for more vegetables…

The pasta, wholesome though it is, is surprisingly flavorful. A dish like this lends itself well to personalization. I left out the olives, because they’re one of Dave’s few food hang-ups. Because I only made half the recipe for the two of us, I’m left with half a can of beans and half a can of tomatoes leftover. I plan on doubling those ingredients in the future so I can use the whole can. I only used half the amount of kale the recipe calls for, which was convenient because it was one bunch. I could see how more would be good, although I don’t know if I’d want twice as much.

The recipe did take longer to prepare than I prefer for a weeknight pasta dish. Using bags of pre-washed spinach would cut down on prep time and cooking time. The garlic chips are a nice addition, but could also be skipped to save time.

All in all, this was a great tasting dish with lots of vegetables and no meat, as per Dave’s request.

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Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips (from Cooks Illustrated November 2005)

Serves 4 to 6

CI note: If you can’t find a 13.25-ounce package of Ronzoni, the winner of our tasting, use ¾ pound of a whole wheat pasta of your choice. If you like, pass extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling over the finished pasta. For a vegetarian dish, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

Variation: Spinach can be substituted for the greens. Replace kale or collards with two 10-ounce bags of crinkly-leaf spinach, trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves (about 16 cups), and reducing chicken broth to ¾ cup. After adding second half of spinach to pan, cook for 2 minutes, until spinach is completely wilted. Continue with recipe as directed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced or pressed through garlic press (1 tablespoon)
Table salt
1 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
14 cups kale (loosely packed) or collard greens (1 to 1½ pounds), thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
13¼ ounces whole wheat spaghetti
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2. Add onion to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add half of greens to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes (mixture will be somewhat soupy). Stir in beans and olives.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing garlic chips, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan separately.

four soups

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I have backlog of soups to be blogged, so I’m going to throw them all into one soupfest entry.

First up is lentil soup, which I was excited about because I found the fancy French lentils, but it seems like I’m cursed to never quite have all the right ingredients for this soup. The first time I made it, I was entrenched in step 3, after the vegetables are softened and the lentils are darkened, adding the wine, and running out of wine. Eh. I played around with some other acidic ingredients, and ended up with a delicious but teensy bit vinegary soup. This time it was chicken broth that I ran out of. Chicken broth! I never run out of chicken broth! I carefully monitor my Better Than Bouillon supply because I loooove Better Than Bouillon. Bummer. I substituted some vegetable (not better than) bouillon. Still a damn good soup. And healthy! The only non-healthy item in the whole thing is a few slices of bacon. That’s nothing.

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Next up is white chicken chili. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, and I seem to remember liking it more the first time. It was far from bad this time – look at all that flavory goodness, how could it be bad?

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I just didn’t feel excited about it. Maybe it would have been as simple as adding salt. Another possibility is that adding 50% more beans than the recipe called for made the soup a little bland. I will make it again, but it’s on trial.

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Poor cream of mushroom soup. It’s been relegated to nothing more than an ingredient in bad casseroles, so when I saw a recipe for the real deal, I did a double take. People actually eat mushroom soup? Unheard of! Dave and I are both big mushroom fans, so I was excited about this soup. Unfortunately, it just didn’t deliver. It wasn’t bad, it was just so dominated by pureed mushrooms. It was a little intense, even for mushroom lovers like us. Maybe because I used all cremini mushrooms instead of the button mushrooms that the recipe calls for? Whatever, next time I’ll be trying this highly recommended recipe.

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And finally, we have my favorite of these four soups. I served this hot and sour soup with the potstickers, which we’re a little crazy about, so this soup had a tough job standing up to that. But it holds it’s own, oh yes. I loved the moo shu I made a few weeks ago, and this has most of the same ingredients, but in soup form. I also really like when tofu is used in recipes where it’s actually the original ingredient, instead of covering for some maligned but more flavorful meat. Mmm, and black vinegar. This is good stuff. And I’m all about the texture that the cornstarch gives the soup. It doesn’t thicken it to a paste, it just provides a little body. The soup has so many strong and contrasting flavors, I just love it. And, it’s healthy! In fact, it’s so light, that I don’t know if I can recommend serving it as a meal on its own. I made the full recipe, we ate it with potstickers for two meals, and then we snacked on it throughout the week. I wasn’t complaining about having hot and sour soup around all week!

So there you have it – a January’s worth of soups. Yum!

Hearty Lentil Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

Lentils du Puy, sometimes called French green lentils, are our first choice for this recipe, but brown, black, or regular green lentils are fine, too. Note that cooking times will vary depending on the type of lentils used. Lentils lose flavor with age, and because most packaged lentils do not have expiration dates, try to buy them from a store that specializes in natural foods and grains. Before use, rinse and then carefully sort through the lentils to remove small stones and pebbles. The soup can be made in advance. After adding the vinegar in step 2, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 2 days. To serve, heat it over medium-low until hot, then stir in the parsley.

Makes about 2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (7 ounces), rinsed and picked over
1 teaspoon table salt
ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
4½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ cups water
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Fry bacon in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer. Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30 to 35 minutes; discard bay leaf.

2. Puree 3 cups soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in vinegar and heat soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with some of remaining parsley.

White Chicken Chili (from Cooks Illustrated)

Adjust the heat in this dish by adding the minced ribs and seeds from the jalapeño as directed in step 6. If Anaheim chiles cannot be found, add an additional poblano and jalapeño to the chili. This dish can also be successfully made by substituting chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. If using thighs, increase the cooking time in step 4 to about 40 minutes. Serve chili with sour cream, tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and skin
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin
1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Per Serving:
Cal 370; Fat 6 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 115 mg; Carb 25 g; Protein 52 g; Fiber 7 g; Sodium 710 mg

Creamy Mushroom Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make sure that the soup has a fine, velvety texture, puree it hot off the stove, but do not fill the blender jar more than halfway, as the hot liquid may cause the lid to pop off the jar.

Makes 8 cups, serving 6 to 8

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large shallots, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
2 pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3½ cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups hot water
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well
1/3 cup dry sherry or Madeira
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper

Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms or chanterelle, oyster, or cremini mushrooms, stems
trimmed and discarded, mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat; when foaming subsides, add shallots and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and nutmeg; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Increase heat to medium; add sliced mushrooms and stir to coat with butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release liquid, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and mushrooms have released all liquid, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, and porcini mushrooms; cover and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer until mushrooms are fully tender, about 20 minutes longer.

2. Pour soup into a large bowl. Rinse and dry Dutch oven. Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth, filling blender jar only halfway for each batch. Return soup to Dutch oven; stir in Madeira and cream and bring to simmer over low heat. Add lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with sauteed mushroom garnish, if desired. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated up to 4 days.) If making ahead, add cream at serving time.

3. For the Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional): Heat butter in medium skillet over low heat; when foam subsides, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 10 minutes for shiitakes and chanterelles, about 5 minutes for oysters, and about 9 minutes for cremini. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 2 minutes for shiitakes, about 3 minutes for chanterelles, and about 2 minutes for oysters and cremini. Sprinkle a portion of mushrooms over individual bowls of soup and serve.

Hot and Sour Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make slicing the pork chop easier, freeze it for 15 minutes. We prefer the distinctive flavor of Chinese black vinegar; look for it in Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find it, a combination of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar approximates its flavor. This soup is very spicy. For a less spicy soup, omit the chili oil altogether or add only 1 teaspoon.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch, plus an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 boneless, center-cut, pork loin chop (1/2 inch thick, about 6 ounces), trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch by 1/8-inch matchsticks
3 tablespoons cold water, plus 1 additional teaspoon
1 large egg
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup bamboo shoots (from one 5-ounce can), sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick strips
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (see note above)
2 teaspoons chili oil (see note above)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 medium scallions, sliced thin

1. Place tofu in pie plate and set heavy plate on top. Weight with 2 heavy cans; let stand at least 15 minutes (tofu should release about ½ cup liquid). Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl; toss pork with marinade and set aside for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 30 minutes).

2. Combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water in small bowl and mix thoroughly; set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. Mix remaining ½ teaspoon cornstarch with remaining 1 teaspoon water in small bowl; add egg and beat with fork until combined. Set aside.

3. Bring broth to boil in large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bamboo shoots and mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. While broth simmers, dice tofu into ½-inch cubes. Add tofu and pork, including marinade, to soup, stirring to separate any pieces of pork that stick together. Continue to simmer until pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir cornstarch mixture to recombine. Add to soup and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, chili oil, pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce; turn off heat.

5. Without stirring soup, use soupspoon to slowly drizzle very thin streams of egg mixture into pot in circular motion. Let soup sit 1 minute, then return saucepan to medium-high heat. Bring soup to gentle boil, then immediately remove from heat. Gently stir soup once to evenly distribute egg; ladle into bowls and top with scallions.

Per Serving:
Cal 120; Fat 5 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 12 mg; Carb 12 g; Protein 8 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 1110 mg