Category Archives: dinner

Black Bean Soup

vegetarian black bean soup

Everyone in my family has turned vegetarian. They saw a film called Cowspiracy and immediately decided meat was out. I’m proud of their choice and now cook only vegetarian meals. It’s a healthy, earth-friendly, inexpensive diet. We eat more fiber. We lower our carbon footprint. (Full disclosure: I get my meat fix privately, hunkered over the occasional hamburger in a restaurant. Or I make a few strips of bacon to have with my eggs. The family tolerates me being an omnivore.)

Cooking without meat poses challenges I hadn’t anticipated. It’s not a deprivation kind of challenge. It’s that I sometimes lack ideas. When we’re tired and I need to throw together a fast meal, I can’t just throw a slab of animal protein in a pan. One has to think.

In winter, I often want soup. But I don’t want it to be a production. This is the recipe to turn to for a pantry soup, something you can whip up on a weekend morning to enjoy for lunch. It makes great leftovers.

black bean soup ingredients

When making a soup, stay in categories of flavor. This one is kissed by Mexico, with a little bit of heat and spice, crunch and corn from quick fried tortilla strips, and those earthy black beans. Other soups tend towards Asia, with a complex broth (enhanced by soy sauce, ginger and nutritional yeast – a trick I learned from Deborah Madison whose cookbooks I couldn’t live without), and items from the “ethnic” section of your supermarket (think tofu, bean sprouts, fish sauce). My default is Mediterranean flavors: root vegetables sautéed with garlic, sage and/or rosemary, blended with a simple vegetable broth and topped with crispy fried croutons.

bay leaf mediterranean flavors
Some soups don’t need broth at all. The vegetable flavors are distinct enough to carry their own weight. For example, Jerusalem artichokes are one such ingredient. Bay leaves (above) add flavor but be sure to remove them before you blend the soup.

quick vegetable broth ingredients

When you need a vegetable broth, please don’t buy it packaged. They taste awful. Instead, make a 30-minute homemade stock. In a stock pot with a splash of olive oil, sauté about 6 cups of chopped vegetables (onion, celery, carrots and garlic, at least; leeks, turnips, parsley stems and much more will add complexity). After about 5 minutes, add 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes. Strain. Done.

winter soup from canned beans with flavorful toppings

 

Black Bean Soup
Serves 6-8

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium white onions, trimmed and peeled, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeño pepper, trimmed (seeded if you want less spicy heat)
2 cans black beans (25-ounce cans)
½ cup canned tomatoes
1 small onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
Sour cream, one spoonful to garnish each bowl (skip, if you’re vegan)
Fried tortilla strips, for garnish
½ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
Red chili pepper, minced, for garnish
Lime, squeezed on top before serving, for zing

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over a high heat. Cook onions until blackened in parts, about 10 minutes. Add garlic with jalapeño in the last few minutes of cooking, to char slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender, and purée until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to loosen the mixture for easier blending.

While the vegetables are cooking, put the beans with their liquid, and tomatoes, into a food processor or blender. Purée until very smooth, about 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to help liquefy and blend the beans. Transfer to a bowl.

Cut the small onion into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and sauté until onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pureed beans and the vegetable purée. Add stock – if you want a thicker soup, add less stock – and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide soup among bowls and spoon in sour cream. Scatter tortilla strips, cilantro leaves, and minced chili pepper. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, Lunch, Recipes, soup, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, winter

Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta and Mint

peas pea shoots asparagus mint sugar snap peas Vegetables mark the cadence of a year. The tempo quickens in spring, with ramps, asparagus and baby greens brightening our plates. Things escalate in early summer, with peas, beets, herbs, and more. By September, the markets in New York City are bursting. It’s a screaming match of color and flavor, a fever pitch of produce, a cascade of foods to taste.

spring vegetables peas salad

Because I like to cook seasonally, I get impatient right about now. We had a bitterly cold winter. The growers are saying spring is 2-3 weeks late this year. Each Saturday morning, I go to the farmer’s market in my Fort Greene neighborhood to check the pulse. Still only apples in the first stall? Or has their first crop of raspberries come in?

spring lunch recipe peas asparagus mint ricotta

This recipe gets a jump on spring, in spite of the paltry supplies on offer. Only the pea shoots are local, not counting the ricotta that comes from Narragansett Creamery. But I couldn’t wait.

spring salad  of peas asparagus mint and ricotta

Blanche the peas and asparagus for a minute to brighten their color and soften the bite. You can smear the ricotta mixture on the plate and spoon the salad on top, for a more elegant presentation. Or just toss it all together like a pasta dish without the pasta, using veggies as a stand-in. This is a one-pot spring meal to raise the volume on spring.

spring tangle of pea shoots peas asparagus mint and ricotta

 

Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta & Mint

Serves 4

½ pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
½ pound fresh peas in the shell, (about 1 cup, shelled)
¼ pound sugar snap peas, sliced into 1” pieces on the diagonal (about 1 cup)

1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped mint
Pea shoots, several handfuls
Chives snipped for garnish

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add one tablespoon of salt, and the asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes, skim out the asparagus and place in a bowl with cold water and ice. Do the same with the peas, cooking for just one minute, then adding to the cold bath. Drain the cooled vegetables. Cut the asparagus spears into 1” pieces, sliced on the diagonal.

Mix together the ricotta, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.

Toss the vegetables in a few spoonfuls of dressing. Add the mint and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ of the vegetable mixture. Gently mix the ricotta mixture into the remaining vegetables. Place in the center of wide serving platter. Surround with small bunches of pea shoots. Spoon a little more dressing on the shoots. Scatter reserved vegetables on top. Garnish with snipped chives. Sprinkle a pinch good, coarse sea salt on top.

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, spring, vegetables, vegetarian

Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes from fort greene farmer's market We felt the first snap of cold yesterday in New York. The day before, a walk through the neighborhood farmer’s market under buckets of rain was proof that summer lingers. Minute cherry tomatoes on the vine, bushels of yellow squash and sticky plums. It’s still bountiful around here.

fort greene farmer's market

I use the market as a bellwether. Instinctively, I know it’s time to start cooking winter squash and potatoes and roots. But the farmers have the last word. I asked a few of them, as I planned the menu for the next Supper Club (Oct. 18), what might I find in two weeks time? Can I plan on tomatoes, still?

summer squash at the farmers market

One farmer, Hector, said global warming has changed things in upstate New York. The season runs longer, for sure. The chances of a frost in the next few weeks are very low. Cherry tomatoes will likely be around for a little longer.

blistered cherry tomatoes

Lentils find their way onto my plate about once a week: dressed up with herbs in a salad, braised in aromatics and served alongside a grilled sausage, served with vegetables and rice to make a protein-rich meal sans meat, cooked into soup. Fast-cooking. Cheap. No soaking needed. Hearty, fibrous and nutritious.

french lentils, also called lentilles de puy

A batch of lentils will last in the fridge for days. You can mix and match flavors, working them into lunch and dinner in small quantities. The following recipe isn’t necessary, really. Just make lentils and add what you like. Design the dish around what the farmers bring to market. Or just add chopped bacon and caramelized onions and call it a day.

lentils with blistered tomatoes

 

Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 8

2 cups of lentils (lentilles de puy or French Lentils are best for this recipe)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half, root intact
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:
Juice and zest (thinly sliced) of one lemon
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

A splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (any or all: basil, chives, mint, parsley, tarragon)

Simmer lentils for 20 minutes with carrot, onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and plenty of cold water (at least 3:1 water to lentils), until just tender but with a little bite (al dente). Drain and save liquid for stock.

While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette, mixing together all the ingredients except the oil. Whisk in the oil. Err on the side of a more acidic (=more lemon), as lentils need a flavor boost.

Add dressing to drained, warm lentils. Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in a splash of vinegar (sherry or red wine), 3 tablespoons of herbs, and stir to blend.

Heat a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add cherry tomatoes and cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes, until they begin to pop and collapse. Shake pan. Tomatoes are done when they are a little browned/blackened, after about 5 minutes.

Serve lentils warm or room temperature, with tomatoes and their juices poured on top, and garnished with remaining chopped fresh herbs.

 

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, fall, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, sides, summer, vegetarian

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

ingredients for jerk chicken

Real Jerk Chicken is cooked on an open fire using Pimento wood, from the tree that produces allspice. This adds to the dishes singular, complex flavor. I am not a stickler for authenticity when it comes to food. And I can’t find Pimento wood in my Brooklyn backyard. My theory is: make what you want. Yes, keep it healthy and fresh. But don’t get hung up on having the “right” salt or firewood, or whatever ingredient has stumped you.

This recipe is a perfect weeknight dish because it takes about 30 minutes to cook. Serve it with rice and beans and a veg. Full of flavor from warm spices, hot pepper (dose to your liking) and lime, I love that you just throw everything in the blender, make a paste, and rub it all over the chicken. Marinate overnight. Bake and done.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 stick cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 garlic cloves
2-4 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stems removed
6 scallions, roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece ginger, thickly sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup canola oil
6 large chicken legs, leg and thigh attached

Put all ingredients except for chicken in a blender, with liquid items put in first, and blend to a smooth paste. Coat chicken pieces all over and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 and ideally 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking (about 1 hour on the counter). Grill chicken over hot coals for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the skin begins to char. Place single layer of charred chicken pieces in a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes to finish cooking.

To do entirely in oven, bake for 30 minutes, then broil a few minutes to darken.

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Filed under chicken, dinner, Recipes