It started with a cup of beans.

There are times when I’m completely uninspired, when trying to figure out what to do for dinner just leaves me panic stricken, stoned, mute. A bit dramatic, admittedly, however I flutter at hummingbird speed until I hit the wall. And there it was, my wall. It’s times like those where I have to just sit down and not ascribe too much energy to the moment, and simply wait for the inspiration to come. This weekend’s inspiration came in the form of beans. I think it came about after I was musing on the previous weekend’s feast at my friend Dulce’s. She’s always whipping up these fantastic dishes, familial cuisine, that I find so beautiful and delicious. Whether it be tacos with meat, or eggs with salsa burritos, accompanied by a bevvy of condiments that round out and balance the tastes with sweet, sour, salty, astringent, umami; tempered with a bit of heat and cooling energies. I wanted to invite that into my cooking this weekend, and so evolved a humble meal, embellished with flavors that complement the beans; rich with spices and an array of flavors to satisfy the palate.

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

I made this dish over the course of two days, not because of the time involved, though cooking dried beans does involve a bit of extra attention. However, as I sat with the aroma from the pot as the beans bubbled along with bay, allspice and cinnamon, I wondered, why ever bother with canned beans? (On a practical note, I am unafraid of busting out a can of beans, when I need a quick meal on the fly.)

The pickled carrot and radish also take time to cure, however I found it quite easy to tuck the more laborious tasks into an already full weekend.

It looked a bit like this:

Wake up; soak beans and marinate veggies. Go for a run.

Come home; check on veggies. Head out for a pedicure.

Nap.

Get a haircut; grab remaining ingredients for dinner.

Cook beans; prep remaining ingredients.

See? It’s totally doable.

Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients

1 cup black beans

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp chili flakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Sautéed vegetables (recipe follows)

Picked radishes, carrots and scallions (recipe follows)

chopped cilantro

diced avocado

chipotle sauce, or other hot sauce, if desired

fresh, mild cheese (optional)

Soak beans in water for several hours; drain and rinse. Place allspice in a tea strainer or a piece of cheesecloth; combine remaining ingredients, including beans in a 4-quart stockpot; cover beans by at least an inch of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cover. Cook until beans are tender, about 40 minutes, checking for doneness periodically. The beans should be slightly firm, skin partially intact, with a creamy center. If not planning to serve the beans immediately, allow to cool in their own cooking liquid and store for later use.

Sautéed vegetables

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1-2 pasilla peppers, or red peppers, if preferred

4 oz chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

zest and juice of 1/2 orange

Place a large sauté pan over moderate heat. Add onion; cook ~2-3 minutes, until slightly transparent and soft. Add garlic and remaining vegetables; turn up heat to medium-high and give a toss. Allow veggies to sit for a few minutes to develop a bit of char. When nice and soft, add chopped chiles, a pinch of salt, orange juice and zest. Cook for another minute; remove from heat.

saute

Quick Pickles

4-6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chile flakes

Combine sugar, salt, chile and vinegar in a small pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Add sliced vegetables, cover and set aside for several hours. Place in a glass jar in refrigerator. This will keep for ~1-2 weeks.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Enjoy, and much love,

J

The Great Cookie Experiment.

While I love all things food, what really nails it for me is baking. I am always in awe at the evolution of a fanciful treat arising from just a handful of ingredients. Butter, flour, sugar, eggs. These are the beginnings of something wonderful. I recall watching a video clip recently of Dorie Greenspan, famed writer and owner of Buerre and Sel, as she spoke with pure exuberance about the wonder of such simple things as these. If you have two minutes to spare, click here: http://doriegreenspan.com/2013/09/post-11.html.

Dorie is simply adorable. As I was watching her speak to her love of baking, I found myself thinking that this woman and I must be psychically linked. Her passion for baking, for sharing her food is astoundingly similar to mine; her words echoed my own thoughts about baking. I was awestruck.

As I’ve written before, I often find myself in the kitchen wanting a little bit of sweetness, and not wanting one bit to venture out again for ingredients. I’d had a mind for shortbread ever since I’d enjoyed a nibble of a colleague’s vanilla shortbread earlier in the day. I was craving that richness, that simplicity. Of course, I thought I could do something a bit more lustrous. What came through was this: an almond shortbread, rich with flavors of caramel and not a bit too sweet. I added a touch of cinnamon, just to give the flavor a boost, however it might be nice with a bit of orange zest as well. Perhaps I’ll try that with the next batch, as this is sure to be a repeat.

Go on. Put your feet up with a mug of earl grey and a couple of these babies. You won’t regret it.

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Almond and Brown Sugar Shortbread

(Makes almost two dozen cookies)

1 c. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for ~1 hour

1 c. brown sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2 c. all purpose flour

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c thinly sliced almonds

Egg white, for brushing the tops

Sanding sugar (optional)

Tools:

Stand mixer

Rolling pin

Parchment

2-inch round biscuit cutter

Pastry brush

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar 2-3 mins until light and fluffy, scraping down sides once or twice to ensure all sugar is incorporated
  3. Add almond extract
  4. Combine flour, salt and cinnamon. Add to butter/sugar mixture in two parts, mixing well until combined.
  5. Remove from mixer and shape into a disk. Allow to rest for ~20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  6. Remove and roll to ~1/2 inch thickness.
  7. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut disks from dough and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place tray in refrigerator while working on second batch.
  8. Lightly brush tops of dough with egg white; sprinkle on almonds and sanding sugar, if using.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden and the almonds are toasted, rotating about halfway through
  10. Cool on baking sheet.

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Enjoy, and much love,

J

Roasted.

What one can do with a tray of roast vegetables? I recall an article in the NYT reviewing this book titled An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It seduced me with its practicality and how a bit of advance prep and cooking in the kitchie yield several days’ worth of meals. I don’t know about you, but my tastes can change quite dramatically within the course of a day or so. Exactly how many things can one do with roasted squash and cauliflower? In actuality, quite a bit! I was pouring though my food photos and discovered a bevy of dishes I’d created doing just that.

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

salmon:delicata

Salmon with delicata squash and greens

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

I’ll never cook a week at a time; I’m too compulsive. I feel the need to eat it all at once and will perseverate over what to eat first. I found myself doing just that thing last week, with a tray of roasted vegetables, a vat of soup, cooked quinoa and the like.

Melissa Clark’s NYT article on creamy carrot and cauliflower soup was the seedling that tied it all together. I made a simple soup of pureed roast vegetables and coconut milk. Adding curried spices seemed appropriate, as they marry well with the delicate sweetness of squash and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes and top with a dollop of creme fraiche or…Greek yogurt – I won’t judge.

Having the veggies already roasted on hand makes for a quick meal, however I’ve included roasting instructions, if you’re so inspired. This soup would also work well with fresh vegetables, however they won’t have the caramelized flavor and complexity that roasted vegetables provide.

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Curried Delicata Squash and Cauliflower Soup

For the vegetables:
1 medium-sized delicate squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil; about 2 tablespoons
a generous teaspoon of sea salt
freshly grated pepper nutmeg

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss all of the ingredients together; the vegetables should have a light coat of olive oil so that the spices can adhere.
Roast for ~40-50 minutes, giving a toss about half-way through to ensure even caramelization.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp Madras curry powder
3-4 cups of roasted cauliflower and squash
2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, or chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
salt, to taste
chili flakes, for garnish
creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil for ~5 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add curry powder and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add vegetables, 2 cups of the broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree, adding additional water or broth as needed to bring to desired consistency.

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Feed Me, Seymour!

After a weekend being in good company of friends, being nourished in both body and heart, I find myself in the kitchen today. It feels like I’m making up for lost time. The week has been bubbling over with activity, so cooking a meal has been little more than an afterthought.
So, gifted with an extra hour in my day, I found myself laying in bed dreaming up what I wanted to make.
Something hot and stew-y, for sure, something sweet, and something with raw elements.
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
I wanted to create an unctuous, meat-free stew and had been pouring over recipes that paired game-y meats with fruit. I’ve had this thing for Moroccan spices lately and was dying to test out my recent batch of preserved lemon. I use garbanzo beans frequently for hummus and in salads, however I rarely use them in soups, preferring the many varieties of lentils available. Garbanzo beans are firm, nutty and can hold their own in a soup with lots of competing elements. Adding a bit of harissa heightens the flavors and adds extra heat.
This stew is stellar, and can be served with couscous, bread or another grain. I served it over quinoa to give it a bit of a protein boost and keep it a bit lighter, as I always like to keep room for dessert!
Garbanzo Bean Stew with Preserved Lemon
2 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
3 c cooked garbanzo beans
2 32-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 preserved lemon, insides removed, chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, quartered
1 Tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped
Method
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook ~15 minutes, giving a stir every few minutes to evenly caramelize.
3. Turn the heat up to high, and add all remaining ingredients except kale.
4. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for ~40 minutes.
5. Toss in kale, allowing it to steam for ~5 minutes, then fold into the stew.
6. Serve over cooked quinoa or couscous; with cilantro and harissa as garnish.
pomegranate arils

pomegranate arils

I also had this pomegranate I’d been meaning to break into. As I was waiting for my press to steep my coffee, I spotted the pomegranate and popped myself up onto the counter, knife in hand. A colleague taught me a fancy technique for scoring pomegranate so as not to bruise the fruit. I peeled back the flesh to reveal the plump juicy jewels inside. After plucking away for about 10 minutes, I had a nice full bowl of seeds. I could have easily gone with a simple arugula salad with pomegranate and toasted pistachios, however I also wanted to do a bit of roasting and satisfy my squash addiction. What I ended up with was truly gorgeous and flavorful as well; kale marinated in a lovely vinaigrette and tossed with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate seeds.
Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate Arils

Kale Salad with Delicata Squash and Pomegranate Arils

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large head lacinato (flat leaf) kale
Vinaigrette:
4 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tap salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss squash with a bit of olive oil (~2 tbsp), a generous pinch of salt and several grates of pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, giving a toss about halfway through so that the squash caramelizes evenly.
Wash kale and chop into ribbons. Set in a large bowl.
Combine vinaigrette; massage into kale. Add delicata and mix lightly. Fold in pomegranate seeds and garnish with pistachio seeds and chèvre.
Pear and Almond Cake

Pear and Almond Cake

Moving on to dessert. Initially, I’d planned to do something with pear and ginger, and then I recalled having a bit of almond flour in my larder. I discovered a recipe on food 52.com, which you can find the link here:
I made few deviations from the recipe, with exception of increasing the proportion of almond flour to baking flour and substituting olive oil for canola oil. This made for a dense, moist cake, which I served with some vanilla-scented creme fraiche. It was truly divine.
Much Love,
J