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

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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