The lifestyle indulgences I go in for might seem quirky, I admit. In some ways I’m frugal: our cars are old, I usually upgrade my wardrobe only when actual holes in my clothing require it, and we’ll probably never update our very-1980’s kitchen. But other times, I splurge indiscriminately: finding myself in a new grocery bulk section last week, I bought a bag of every unfamiliar dried bean there.
Yellow beans! Pink beans! Speckled beans! Tiny beans! And more, many more. I have only one source to blame for this new obsession: Rancho Gordo. A local shop carries their beans, which have opened my eyes to the wide world beyond black and white beans, familiar pintos and chickpeas. I have fallen down the dried-bean rabbit hole and I like it here.That charmer pictured above is Rancho Gordo’s Ojo de Cabra, a meaty beauty of a bean so succulent that I kept plucking them from the bubbling pot despite the peril to my fingertips. Like all beans, they’re even better the next day, and that’s when I suggest that you make this pasta.
This dish is fine and dandy with drained canned white beans (maybe add a little chopped fresh rosemary in that case), but it is even better as a showcase for an excellent bean if you cook it yourself and use a few scoops of the bean broth to finish cooking your pasta.
Do you have a favorite bean, or an unusual recommendation that I should seek out? Please tell me!Continue reading →
I have a soft spot for those unreasonably large Greek “gigantes” beans. They’re lima beans, maybe? They’re fat and meaty and they make their presence known. Here they nestle into a soft bed of pasta and roasted vegetables. Small white beans could be fun too, though, especially if you use a shell pasta shape and let them get lost in the pasta swirls. Either way, the beans and pasta are elevated one step beyond peasant food by the sweet, flavorful roasted vegetables. Serve with a bracing, crisp, lemony salad for a nice flavor and texture contrast.
I want you to know something. Just now, at 11 pm, I got up off the couch, poured leftover soup into a bowl, and garnished it with parsley to take the photo below. Because the photo I had planned to use was admittedly drab, and because I want you to want to make this soup. I’ve never done that before; I usually just snap a photo as I go. Is that too ridiculous? Is it better or worse if I tell you?
But here’s the thing: I want to you to put this recipe in your mental recipe file. It’s an easy fix when dinner needs to be on the table in 15 minutes, and it’s a bowlful of soup when you need it most. (I, for one, always need soup most when I’m in such a rush that I only have 15 minutes to make dinner.)
This is peasant food, which means it’s all the best things: thrifty, filling, comforting. The name translates to “Pasta and Beans,” and those are the only essential ingredients. I never like to pass up the chance to add vegetables to things, though, so I included my beet greens and a couple of tomatoes. You can certainly select your own vegetables, or skip them all together. If you’ve already got cooked chickpeas or white beans handy, you’ll be glad; otherwise just open a can and you’re ready to go.
I was trying to decide whether to make you black sticky rice pudding with coconut milk or chocolate cookies tonight. But J, scrolling back through my recent posts, said that I haven’t been feeding you enough protein. (That’s a dad talking, there. Fair enough, though, since yesterday’s “recipe” was for ice cubes.)
Thank J, then, for this heartier fare. We’ve been making this dish for more than a decade and it is always satisfying. It’s a quick dinner and our regular answer to the question “how am I going to cook down of some of these greens to make more room in the fridge?”
The core ingredients are, as you may have cleverly deduced, beans (white ones) and greens. The spare supporting cast includes a small onion, garlic, chile flakes, white wine and rosemary. These bit players can be swapped or omitted depending on availability. I most recently made this dish with lacinato kale, but any kind of hearty green will work. I have been known to combine kale, chard, beet greens and radish tops when the fridge is full to bursting.
Speaking of glorifiedscrambled eggs, a frittata is one of my favorite quick dinners. (Although of course it would not be out of place at an elegant brunch. You know, should you have the occasion to host or attend an elegant brunch. Around here on weekends it’s more of a race to see if I can just snag a pancake before the kids eat them all.) A frittata has a significant advantage over scrambled eggs when it comes to dinner, in fact, because it can be made ahead and served at room temperature, or even cold.
Some of my favorite people went tootling around New Mexico recently, and knowing that they were in the land of chiles left me dreaming of the flavors of the Southwest. They hadn’t yet come back to deliver my stash of frozen roasted Alcalde chiles, so I was stuck making this frittata with ingredients available to ordinary mortals.
But now those chiles are in my freezer. What should I do with them?! They’re like gold. Or at least truffles.
Anyway. Back to the I’m-not-in-Santa-Fe frittata. I knew that I wanted to make a thick frittata, packed full of vegetables and a big scoop of drained pico de gallo salsa. I was a little worried about getting my frittata to cook through, so I turned to the experts on nitpicky culinary concerns, Cook’s Illustrated. And, as usual, they had good advice for me: cook the eggs as if you are scrambling them until they are nearly set, then finish them under the broiler. Which I did.Continue Reading Southwestern Frittata with Peppers, Black Beans, and Cheddar (click for recipe)
I ran into a neighbor the other day who was out walking with her three kids. The youngest is a new baby, just about the same age that my new baby was when I decided that something had to give and we’d just have to eat scrambled eggs for the rest of time. (I’d like to be able to say that I gave up on cleaning as well as cooking at that time, but, to be honest, cleaning was never really my thing.)
I offered to bring dinner by, of course. I probably should have offered to come over and do eight loads of laundry instead, but I imagined that my casual acquaintance wouldn’t take me up on that offer. (Or maybe I’m just telling myself that because I’d rather cook than do laundry any day. If someone near and dear to you has a baby, though–especially a third baby–you should TOTALLY offer to do their laundry. They need all the help they can get.)
I’m not necessarily recommending this chili as the ideal food for new parents. It has everything some nursing moms try to avoid: spice, garlic, beans, onions. Some might prefer a soothing lentil soup, or those quinoa cakes, or a tofu enchilada casserole. But this chili is quick to cook and makes plenty to share. And my neighbor was game.
It’s a recipe from the the “red” section of the Ripe cookbook (also the source of that Dal with Curried Red Onion Jam). And when I read the headnote I knew that this recipe and I were meant to be. Because it says that Ripe author Cheryl Sternman Rule adapted the recipe from one that she developed for Eating Well magazine way back when–and you know that she has GOT to be talking about my favorite wheat berry chili. Except that quinoa cooks in 15 minutes instead of an hour and 15 minutes. A brilliant idea for a busy mom on a busy day. I kept my favorite elements of each recipe, of course, cooking the quinoa longer for more chew than crunch, happily piling in the red pepper, replacing red beans with homemade black beans, and squeezing in a few limes at the end.Continue reading Quinoa Chili with Red Peppers (click for recipe)
You know how I feel about my freezer. I love all that good stuff in there that I made in double batches a while back so I could grab it on a busy night. Here’s a way to give new life to that Winter Vegetarian Chili you stashed away (and stretch the frozen quart to feed a whole family).
Of course, a baked potato makes a mighty fine meal even if you don’t have chili handy (although that chili really is worth making). And if you’re in a part of the world where the weather now makes eating chili & baked potatoes seem SO last season…well, feel free to gloat in the comments.
Do you find that sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them for you? I do. If you make your own sandwiches and enjoy them, can you tell me your secrets?
Sure, I like a luscious grilled cheese sandwich made with leftover curried onion jam. And I can always snuggle a cold slice of any of these frittatas between two pieces of whole wheat toast swiped with mayonnaise and harissa. But a real, well-composed, flavorful vegetarian sandwich takes some work. I usually leave it to the professionals. Or, you know, anyone else who’s offering to make me a sandwich.
But a spread? A spread I can do. In fact, I learned, I can make this one with one hand while holding a clingy baby in the other arm. (When I was preparing to welcome my first baby, why didn’t anyone tell me to practice feeding myself with one hand? I’ve got some experience by now, but even if you’re a novice, you too can make this spread with one hand.) It was inspired by this good-looking sandwich from the makes-me-want-to-eat-cookies blog Two Peas and Their Pod. But you know how I feel about making my own sandwiches.
You also know how I feel about making my own beans, but on this occasion I used canned chickpeas. No biggie. They get a bit lost in the smash anyway, adding more texture and protein than flavor to the creamy, salty, mustardy spread. And although this would be a perfectly acceptable dip for veggie spears (or chips, for that matter), I heaped it onto rounds of a seedy baguette. Almost like a sandwich.
Having already discussed the many reasons to cook your own dried beans (they’re tasty, healthy, and inexpensive) and how easy it is, I won’t go into that again here. What I will say is this: although you can further embellish these beans or use them in other recipes, these basic white beans are so good that I also like to just serve them with a spoon. They are gently aromatic, tender, wholesome, and delicious.
I hear that some people get tired of leftovers. I am not really one of those people. To me, leftovers equal free time because the cooking is already done! Nevertheless, your pots of Black Beans with Cilantro and Lime and Quinoa with Corn, Green Onions, and Feta are probably starting to dwindle, now that you made those Black Bean Tacos and snuck a scoop of the beans for your Huevos Rancheros. This week’s leftovers have their last hurrah in this taco salad, which could be dinner on a busy night or could just as easily travel to work for lunch.