roasted garlic balsamic white bean dip

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get excited about the Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, stuffing, cranberries – I don’t know, they’re all just fine, but Thanksgiving isn’t the eat-until-you-pop day for me that it is for a lot of people. I do love the idea of a free for all food day though. I also love football, so the Super Bowl tends to be my big overeating event.

But even a day of unapologetic binging requires some vegetables. Besides the ubiquitous salsa and guacamole, that is. Since I was already treating myself, I suppose I could have made a delicious mayonnaise and sour cream based dip, but I wanted to leave plenty of belly space for the brownies, meatball sliders, and that guacamole, so I stuck to a light bean dip for the vegetables.

The problem with bean dip is that it’s always a battle between how healthy it is and how much flavor it has. If you don’t want to add cream cheese or butter or nut butters, it can be difficult to find ingredients to bump up the flavor.

Three strong flavors help make this white bean dip interesting – roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. The result? A bean dip worth filling up on.

One year ago: Vegetarian Chili
Two years ago: Salmon Pesto Pasta

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Roasted Garlic White Bean Balsamic Dip (adapted substantially from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

1 head of garlic, outer papery skin removed
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can white beans (cannellini, navy, great northern), drained and rinsed
pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon oil from jar of sun-dried tomatoes

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Cut ¼-inch off of the top of the bulb of garlic. Place the bulb in an 8-inch square of foil and drizzle with ½ teaspoon of the oil. Wrap the garlic in the foil and roast until soft, about 40 minutes.

2. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves from their peels and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomatoes and salt; process until smooth. Add the beans and pepper and continue processing. With the machine running, pour in the balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomato oil. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, and serve, drizzling with more balsamic vinegar.

brown rice with black beans

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Of all the whole grains, brown rice has been the hardest for me to accept. I realize now that I’d been cooking it wrong for years. I just couldn’t seem to cook it through all the way, and I tried a bunch of different recipes, but it was always crunchy.

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Then sometime last year, Cooks Illustrated sent me a recipe to test for them for brown rice with andouille, and not only does it have andouille, which, come on, andouille, delicious, but at the time I was religiously making every recipe they sent for me to test. (It got to the point where I’d get the magazines and I’d already have made half the recipes. I’ve since slacked off.) So I only made the recipe because I felt like I had to, plus of course the andouille. But it was fantastic, just so, so good. It was a revelation for me, because it was the first brown rice I’d made that was not just edible, but delicious.

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But that isn’t the recipe I’m telling you about today. Ha! When the magazine issue came out, it had a few other variations, and one is just perfect for me. Brown rice, black beans and a bunch of aromatics, how healthy and tasty does that sound?

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The first time I made it, I followed the directions fairly closely, just adding the scraped-off kernels of one cob of corn at the end of cooking. That was a great addition, especially visually. Corn isn’t in season anymore, so I skipped it this next time. I doubled the black beans the second time, because you can never go wrong with more black beans. I also added an avocado and wow! I mean, it goes without saying that avocado improves almost anything, but it was particularly complimentary with this.

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If you’ve ever had doubts about brown rice, this recipe will make a believer out of you. And if you’re already a convert, this dish will be a great addition to your repertoire.

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One year ago: Sushi Bowls

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Brown Rice with Black Beans and Cilantro
(from Cooks Illustrated)

I like to double the black beans. Corn, either cut off of the cob or 1 cup frozen and defrosted, is a good addition stirred in with the black beans. One diced avocado is delicious added with the cilantro. I used red pepper, because I like them better than green.

Serves 4 to 6

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2¼ cups water
1½ cups brown rice, long-grain
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

2. Add broth and water; cover and bring to boil. Remove pot from heat; stir in rice and salt. Cover and bake rice until tender, 65 to 70 minutes.

3. Remove pot from oven, uncover, fluff rice with fork, stir in beans, and replace lid; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and black pepper. Serve, passing lime wedges separately.

white bean avocado sandwich

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I believe that people are what they think they are, which is just a less fancy way of saying that you can do just about anything you think you can do. I remember in high school, I consistently got an 89% in my classes, and I always wondered why I hadn’t worked just a bit harder to get an A. But I knew myself as a B+ student, so I worked just hard enough to get a B+.

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Early on in college, more by luck than design, I got straight A’s one semester. And then I knew I could do it – from then on, I was a pretty solid A student.

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Lately I’ve been thinking of myself as an indulgent eater. I see so many people on strict diets – raw food, clean food, low carb, vegan. I don’t, and never plan to, follow any of these eating philosophies. I eat refined flours and sugars, red meat and full-fat cheeses, butter and alcohol. When I compared myself to these people, I felt lax in my eating habits. And once I started believing I ate poorly, my eating habits did, indeed, decline.

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But the truth is, more of the time, I eat very healthfully. All of those treats above? You’ve heard it before – moderation. Most of my snacks are fresh fruit and vegetables. My tiny daily bagel is 100% whole grain. We rarely eat meat on weekdays, and I don’t drink alcohol on weekdays. I do eat dessert every single day, but we’re talking one, maybe two, small cookies.

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I need to remember that I do follow a good diet regularly, so that making healthy choices is easier. This sandwich, introduced to me by the same friend whose recipes for pumpkin muffins and peanut dip I love, is a perfect example of how I like to eat. Whole grains, beans, and lots of vegetables. It’s easy, filling, portable, and most importantly – delicious.

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One year ago: Green Chile Rellenos

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White Bean Avocado Sandwich

Serves 4

I’ve tried mushing the beans up with a potato masher, but I really do prefer the creamy smooth texture a food processor provides. Also, one thing I’ve learned after making this a few times is to overseason the beans. The seasonings in the beans are flavoring the entire sandwich, so add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper until just past how you’d normally prefer them. Because I’m apparently salt-crazy, I also give the avocado slices a light sprinkling of salt, as well as squeeze some more lemon juice over them.

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon
salt and pepper
8 slices hearty whole-grain sandwich bread
1 avocado, quartered, peeled, and sliced thin
a few leaves of leaf lettuce, torn into sandwich-sized pieces
some alfalfa sprouts
a bit of red onion, sliced thin

1. In a food processor, puree the beans until they’re completely smooth. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste (see note).  I took notes on about how much of everything to add and then lost them, but I think a reasonable place to start is 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.

2. Thickly spread one side of each piece of bread with the bean mixture. Top four of the bread slices with slices of avocado, a bit of onion, and plenty of lettuce. Press some sprouts into the bean mixture on the other four slices of bread. Place the sprout-bread, spout side down (duh) on the other-stuff-bread, slice the sandwich in half if you want, and enjoy.

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green chile huevos rancheros

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Do you have a food you love from your hometown that you can’t get anymore? For New Mexicans, that food will always be Hatch green chile. It’s ubiquitous in New Mexico, and you won’t just find it in enchiladas and chile rellenos and the like, but in more unexpected places, like eggs and burgers and pizza. New Mexicans are addicted.

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So what is a displaced New Mexican to do? Decent green chile simply isn’t available everywhere – the 4-ounce cans of chile that most stores do carry are, sadly, largely devoid of flavor. No, the only way to get good Hatch chile outside of the state it’s grown in is to know someone kind enough to send it to you.

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So every year during chile season (approximately right now), my mom sends me and my brother each a big box of fresh green chiles. She packs the chiles with newspaper to soak up moisture so they don’t rot (learned that the hard way), pokes holes in the boxes, and sends it 2-day mail. And once we have the chiles, they have to be roasted, peeled, and seeded. The whole process isn’t easy or cheap.

This year, Dave and I have decided that to skip the hassle, we’ll move to New Mexico.

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Well, no, that isn’t why we’re moving. Really, it just worked out with our job situation. But green chiles (and easier access to some squeezy nephew cheeks that are also in New Mexico) is definitely icing on the cake.

Green chile huevos rancheros is my favorite way to eat green chiles, as well as probably my favorite breakfast. The way I like it, there’s a flour tortilla base, then beans, eggs (over-medium for me) and home fries on the tortilla, all topped by green chile sauce. Definitely a meal worth moving across the country for.

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One year ago: Dimply Plum Cake

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Green Chile Huevos Rancheros

4 servings

If you already have favorite recipes for home fries, pinto beans, and eggs, by all means, use them.

Green chile sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
4 ounces green chile, diced
pinch sugar
1 tablespoon chopped tomatoes (or tomato juice or sauce)

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s just browned around the edges. Add the garlic and stir constantly for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Mix in the flour, and continue to stir, for about one minute. Slowly add the broth, still stirring, then the chile, tomatoes, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer, then adjust the heat to low, cover, and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If your sauce is thinner than you like, remove the lid while it simmers.) Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Home fries:
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ medium onion, thinly sliced
16 ounces Yukon gold potato, diced into ¼ inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt (kosher)

Heat the oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. (You can use a traditional skillet if you heat it well before adding the oil.) Add the potatoes, onions, and salt, and cover the pan. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and cook until the onions and potatoes are cooked through and nicely browned, another 5-10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Refried beans:
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt

Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium nonstick saucepan or skillet. Add the onions and cook until the edges start to brown. Meanwhile, using a potato masher, mash the beans until they’re mostly broken up. It’s fine if there are still some whole beans. (If you prefer your beans completely smooth, puree them in a food processor.) Stir the chicken broth into the beans. Add the garlic and cumin to the onions in the pan, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bean mixture and salt and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to low to medium-low to maintain a bare simmer, and cook the beans until they’re your desired consistency, stirring often. It should only take a few minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste. If they’re ready before everything else, just cover them.

1 teaspoon oil
4 eggs

Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Crack each egg into a small dish. Carefully transfer the eggs to the skillet, then sprinkle them with salt. Add 2 tablespoons water and raise the heat to medium-high. Once the water simmers, cover the pan and lower the heat back to medium-low. Cook for about 3-6 minutes for over-medium eggs. Remove the lid and let the water evaporate.

Place a warmed 6-inch flour tortilla on each of four plates. Top each tortilla with one egg, a quarter of the beans, and a quarter of the potatoes. Divide the sauce evenly between each plate. (Alternatively, layer a tortilla, then beans, potatoes, an egg, and the sauce.)

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black bean squash burritos


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.


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.


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.


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.


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
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.


vegetarian chili


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!


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!).


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.


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


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.


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.


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.)


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).


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.


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
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.


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.