Chickpea Quinoa Burgers

Chickpea Quinoa Burger

Chickpea Quinoa Burgers are a delicious, satisfying and healthy riff on falafel. No frying necessary. For those of you who are meat-eaters, this will not replace a beef burger. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. But here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to. It’s wonderful in its own right.

This is an amazingly delicious veggie burger that is easy to prepare and jam-packed with flavor. And while I made it with more or less falafel seasonings, you can endlessly riff on that. The quinoa not only acts as a binder, making an egg unnecessary, but it makes for a complete protein with the chickpeas.

I like to buy organic dried chickpeas in bulk and cook them as needed. Along with grinding many of my own spices, I’ve been cooking up my own beans over the past year or so. The flavors and textures are so within my control and they are just so much more intense. However, do feel free to use canned chickpeas here if you want. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, where legumes are such an essential part of your diet, make sure that the beans you buy are organic.

Okay, thus ends my preaching for the day!

So with all of the veggie burgers out there, why should you make this Chickpea Quinoa Burger? Well let me count the ways: 1) it’s really delicious; 2) it’s easy to make; 3) the mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated for as much as a couple of days before cooking; 4) it’s healthy; 5) it’s inexpensive; 6) there are almost endless riffs on the spices that you could do to tailor it to your tastes and 7) did I say that it’s REALLY delicious?

My husband and I are not vegetarian, but I have never been a huge meat eater. Now while Andrew was, he has learned to love and appreciate a more veg-forward diet. Growing up, we were more limited on fresh vegetable options and only those which were in season. While there is something to be said for eating fruits and veg in season, in this global economy and with modern farming methods, we are able to have an incredibly varied diet all year.

One of the many things I love about this recipe is that no special equipment or techniques are necessary for making successful Chickpea Quinoa Burgers. It is helpful to have a food processor which makes putting the mixture together a snap. But you could mash the chickpeas by hand and finely chop everything else if you didn’t have one. More tedious and time-consuming for sure, but doable.

These burgers can be pan-fried or baked in the oven. Unlike some veggie burgers I have tried, these hold together well when cooking. How you garnish your burgers is entirely up to you and your imagination. If you want to keep things vegan, I would suggest a simple tahini sauce to go on your buns or directly on the burger if you are foregoing the bread. If you are willing to use dairy, I would suggest a yogurt sauce with fresh coriander (cilantro) and mint, some ground cumin, garlic and lemon or lime juice. A sriracha mayo would also be delicious.

Crown the burgers with slices of onion, pickles and lettuce. Sides could be as simple as chips or for more variety, try some oven-roasted sweet potato tossed with a little maple syrup, salt, hot pepper flakes and a little cinnamon, nutmeg, hawaij or baharat. I served mine with oven-roasted kabocha squash tonight. You can keep things really simple and basic or get your crazy on. But whatever you do, makes these burgers soon.

Recipe

Yield: 4 large burgers or 6 medium burgers

Ingredients

Chickpeas and Quinoa

1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them)

1/2 cup of dried quinoa, rinsed and cooked in 1 cup of water

1/2 cup of sundried-tomatoes

Sun-dried Tomatoes

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon black or white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Scant 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cracked black pepper

1.25 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried mint or 1 teaspoon fresh mint

1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot or smoked)

1 clove crushed garlic

Juice of one lemon or lime

2 to 3 Tablespoons finely chopped red or yellow onion (if using a food processor, let it do the work!)

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander) or parsley

Garnishes

Quickly pickled onion or slices of onion

Lettuce of choice

Tahini sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise or Herbed Yogurt

Sliced tomato (I didn’t have any large tomatoes)

Fresh Coriander and Spices

Directions

Place the quinoa and water in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until all of the water is just absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until just combined. You do not want a paste.

Chickpea Quinoa Burger Mix

The mixture can be refrigerated at this point until you are ready to cook the burgers. I like to refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld and for everything to firm up a bit, but these can also be made right away.

When you are ready to cook, use moistened hands (with cold water or a tiny bit of a neutral oil like Canola) to form the patties.

If you are pan-frying the patties, heat a skillet with about 2 Tablespoons of oil. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side. Do not press down on the patties while cooking. Cook until they are evenly brown and crisp on both sides. Depending on the size of your patty, you may need to adjust your time. Since these are vegan, there is no health risk if they are under-cooked. You do want to develop a bit of a crust. Remove from the pan and serve.

If you are making these in the oven, line a baking pan with parchment or foil and lightly grease the pan. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 15 to 20 minutes per side, depending on the size of your patty. You want the burgers to develop a crust on the outside and to turn a darkish brown. Because my oven is really awful, I ended up turning on the broil for a few minutes just to develop a nice crust.

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup

Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup is a hearty one-pot meal perfect for damp, chilly fall or winter days. This will warm your hearts and your stomachs and needs nothing more than some good bread. Add a salad and you have a veritable feast.

The texture of the soup is creamy but it comes from pureeing the veggies with an immersion blender. So the rich flavor and texture is actually healthy. And while the soup can be a bit spicy, the level of heat is all within your control. And did I mention that there is also kale?

The most difficult part of this recipe is remembering to soak your chickpeas the night before. In the winter, my husband and I love to spend Sundays snuggled at home with our beautiful, sweet cat. It’s the perfect day for making a big pot of soup or stew that will last all week for lazy lunches or dinners. While the soup slowly simmers, we will work on a crossword puzzle or two or just listen to some good music while we read. Somehow it’s even better if we can have some snow or rain while we are toasty and comfy with each other inside. And, of course, a fire crackling completes the picture.

The Magic of Sundays

The Smokey Chickpea Chorizo Soup only requires a minimum of prep and then you are pretty free to spend those 2.5 hours while it gently bubbles away in any pursuit that you choose. If you are feeling particularly virtuous maybe a workout is in order. Then again, Sundays are great days for watching a game. Buy a crusty country bread or make Socca.

This recipe makes a large quantity. And while I am happy to have it for lunch all week, you can also freeze the soup if it is more than you want. Better yet, invite some friends over to share this. You can thank me later.

The original recipe stemmed from a Bon Appetit October 2019 post by Carla Lalli Music. After reading the reviews and the recipe, I decided to make a number of changes.

Recipe

Yield: About 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked to cover for 8 hours or overnight

4 quarts of water

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon chicken or vegetable)

2 very large carrots, coarsely sliced

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 head of garlic, with cloves separated and peeled

1 smoked turkey leg or wings or a smoked ham hock (I prefer turkey)

1/4 cup EVOO

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

Freshly cracked black pepper

A good chunk of Parmesan rind (Optional)

1 large bunch of curly kale, leaves torn from the stems

7 to 8 ounces of Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I prefer “original” style, but you can also buy “picante” which is spicier. I did not need to go any further than my local grocery store to find this.)

Directions

Drain your chickpeas after they have soaked. Place them in a large stockpot (9 quarts, if possible) with the 4 quarts of tap water. Season with 1 Tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, skimming any foam that rises to the surface for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your veggies. Once the liquid has been skimmed of foam, add in all of the veggies EXCEPT for the kale. Add in the seasonings, bouillon, Parmesan rind, if using and smoked turkey. When the liquid has returned to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2.5 hours.

Turn off the heat and using tongs, remove the turkey or ham hock to a cutting board. Fish out the Parmesan rind, if using. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out about two+ cups of the chickpeas and set aside. Don’t worry if a few veggies fall in. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture left in the pot until smooth. (If you don’t own an immersion blender, BUY ONE! Mine was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law and it is now a cherished and essential piece of kitchen equipment. I don’t know how I managed without one. Fortunately, they are easy to come by and inexpensive. They also don’t take up much room, which is good because I have a small kitchen.)

By now the turkey should be cool enough to handle. Using your clean hands, strip the meat from the bones, cartilage and skin. If you use a turkey leg, there will be a fair amount of meat, but there will only be a small amount with the wings or ham hock. Add the meat back to the pot along with the whole chickpeas that you had set aside. You can make the soup ahead up to this point.

When you are ready to serve the soup, add the chorizo (which is fully cooked and only requires heating) and the kale. Return the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes more. Honestly, it’s difficult to over-cook this as long as it is on a low heat. The soup just gets better each day.

Ribollita Soup

Ribollita Soup is the ultimate comfort food

Soup is comfort food. And Ribollita Soup may just be the ultimate winter comfort soup. This savory Tuscan bean porridge checks all of the right boxes. And it is easy to tailor it to your own tastes. In deciding which recipe to follow, I looked at no fewer than 8 versions before settling on this one that appeared in Food and Wine. I made a couple of tweaks. But this humble and cost-saving soup that makes use of simple ingredients and stale bread is one of the most satisfying wintery soups I have made. And I make a LOT of soup.

This version of Ribollita Soup does take some time to cook properly, but there is nothing difficult or fussy about it. And on these cold wintery days when you are snuggled up at home with a good book and some music in the background, put up a pot of Ribollita for ultimate comfort. You won’t be disappointed. Add a glass of wine, and you raise this peasant soup to fine dining.

I used canned beans here but if you like to cook your own (as I often do) the best can be found at Rancho Gordo. I was first introduced to Rancho Gordo beans at the Culinary Institute several years ago on a trip with our son and daughter-in-law. Their heirloom beans are well-worth exploring.

My ribollita was made using chicken stock and Parmesan rinds, but you can easily veganize the soup using a vegetable stock and leaving out the cheese. Do use a simple rustic bread for this soup. It doesn’t actually have to be stale. The origins of Ribollita were to make use of everything and to waste nothing.

Recipe

Yield: About 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

28 ounce can OR 24 ounce box crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

1 1/2 cups unoaked white wine

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (You could also use a mixture of water and the liquid from your cooked beans if you cooked your own)

3 stale Tuscan-style bread (rustic country loaf or boule) slices, crusts removed and bread torn into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 ounces)

2 large bunches of kale (preferable lacinato kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (This may seem like a lot of kale but it cooks down)

Parmesan cheese rind (optional)

About 4 cups of peeled, diced Yukon Gold potatoes

4 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other thin-skinned white beans from 2 15-ounce cans or homemade).

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-low. When oil shimmers, add onion, carrot, and celery; stir to coat with oil. Stir in salt to help draw out liquid from onions and season the foundation of the soup. Cook, stirring often and scraping bottom of pot with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle sizzle, until mixture is very soft and translucent, about 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium; cook, stirring often, until sofrito is caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Sofrito

Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper, if using; cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes and wine, and stir, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot, until mixture is well combined. Increase heat to maintain a vigorous simmer (be careful of splattering tomato). Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to a jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes.

Add 8 cups water or stock, bread, kale, and Parmesan rind, if using; stir, scraping bottom of pan to fully incorporate sofrito into liquid. Simmer until kale is tender and bread is dissolved, about 20 minutes. Stir in potatoes, and simmer until partially tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree 1 cup beans with 1 cup tap water or bean cooking liquid (if not using canned). Add bean puree and remaining 3 cups beans, and simmer until beans and potatoes are completely tender but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon more salt, or to taste, and a generous amount of black pepper.

Let soup cool to room temperature if not eating immediately; cover and refrigerate. Reheat soup gently before serving, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Divide among bowls, and top each with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve hot. (I found the soup did not need any additional olive oil)

Yemenite Beef and Bean Soup

Nothing is better on a cold wet day than this Yemenite Beef and Bean Soup. The days now are shorter, the winds are sharper and the damp is already beginning to seep into my bones. This may not cure all that ails you, but it sure comes close.

We eat a LOT of soup in our house – especially as a main meal with some homemade bread and maybe a salad. In the summer, the soups are usually served cold. However, as soon as the weather starts to turn, I am looking to hearty, warming soups that satisfy my soul. This Yemenite Beef and Bean soup is easy to make. I put it up in the morning and allowed it to cook over a low flame all day. When I left my apartment, the lovely, rich aroma greeted me before I even opened the door. I’m actually surprised that my neighbors didn’t come knocking to ask for a bowl.

The original recipe by Einat Admony and Janna Gur was truly a poor man’s soup. Mine is a slightly more middle class version, with a richer stock, more meat and the addition of carrots. Either way, it’s still a bargain. My instructions are also simplified because who wants to make more work? And when I make soup, it usually just sits on my stove, getting reheated each day until it’s gone. The depth of flavors are only enriched and I’m always ready when we need to drive away the blues or that chill.

The primary spice mixture is Hawaij – one of my absolute favorites. Hawaij means “mixture” in Arabic. I also use it in my Yemenite Chicken Soup and in my Cauliflower Tabbouleh. While you likely can purchase it in a Middle Eastern grocery or online, I make my own. It only takes minutes to grind your own spices and the difference in flavor is huge. Once you try making your own freshly ground spices, you will never go back. The recipe for Hawaij that I use can be found with my Yemenite Chicken Soup, but I will repeat it below.

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound dried navy beans (Other white beans can be used such as cannellini or Great Northern)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pounds of beef short ribs or beef shank

8 cups beef broth plus 4 cups of water (Use only 8 to 10 cups liquid total if you want a thicker soup. Depending on the bean you used, you may need then to add more liquid when reheating since generally beans expand and thicken the broth as it sits.)

6 ounces tomato paste

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, cleaned and tied in a bundle with kitchen twine

1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 to 3 carrots, sliced in thick rounds

1 whole head of garlic, with just the papery outer skin removed

2 to 3 teaspoons of Hawaij (See recipe below)

2.5 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Directions

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with 3 to 4 inches of cold water. Soak for at least 8 hours or over night. Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place your short ribs, meat side up on a foil covered pan and sprinkle with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. If you are using kosher meat, you do not need to add salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Then turn the ribs over and roast for 12 minutes. Turn them on their side and roast for about 8 to 10 more minutes or until well-browned. Set aside.

You can brown the meat in the pot instead of in the oven. I find this a tedious process and one that invariably spatters grease all over my stove. I also find that when I brown the meat in the oven, I really don’t have to skim the soup liquid – another tedious process. And almost all of the excess fat remains on the foil which I simply discard, instead of either having to clean the pot in between or later skim off.

In a large, heavy-duty pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the carrots and onions. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook the vegetables until the carrots just begin to soften and the onion to brown – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the meat to the pot, allowing the fat to remain on the foil, which you will discard. Add the beans, garlic head and parsley or cilantro bundle.

Mix the tomato paste with about 1/2 cup of the broth or water to thin out the paste. Add all of your liquid to the pot, including the tomato paste mixture. Add the Hawaij (Start with 2 teaspoons and add more later if you wish.) and mix through.

Bring the soup to a boil and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to very low so the soup is just barely simmering. Allow it to cook for 4 to 5 hours. Remove the bundle of parsley/cilantro. Don’t worry if some pieces fall back into the soup or get loose. It’s fine. Remove the head of garlic and allow it to cool enough to handle. Then squeeze the softened, unctuous garlic cloves out of their skin, mash them slightly and add back to the pot. Taste and adjust your seasonings.

Hawaij

Yield: About 5 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons black peppercorn

1 Tablespoon black caraway seed (Kalonji or Nigella)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon of the seeds from green cardamom

2 teaspoons turmeric

pinch of saffron (optional)

Either pound the spices with a mortar and pestle or use a coffee/spice grinder. This can also be purchased online. I made mine.

Apricot Almond Cake

My husband is 6’3″ and weighs 170 pounds. So let’s just say he is quite thin. His idea of watching his weight is to eat 2 desserts instead of three in the course of a day. I’d hate him, except for the fact that I love him so much. On the other hand, I never feel guilty for baking because I know that I’m not leading him astray. His weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are all textbook wonderful.

He truly enjoys having a piece of cake or some cookies with his morning coffee and after dinner. We are just about finished with my most recent cake so I was looking for something to make that didn’t require me going to the store. I looked through my well-worn copy of Beard on Bread for inspiration and came across his Apricot Bread. However, when I read the recipe it just seemed lacking somehow to me and so I made a few tweaks. This lovely coffee (or tea) cake is easy to make and stores well. In fact, the flavors improve and intensify each day, so if you want it at its peak for serving to guests, I would recommend making it a couple of days ahead. It is not uber-rich or sweet and you will notice that the only fat comes from the 2 eggs and the almonds. My husband likes it best slathered with butter and toasted under the broiler! I enjoy it straight.

Apricot Almond Cake from the Beard on Bread cookbook and tweaked by me

Apricot Almond Cake3

Yield: 1 bundt cake – 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water

1.5 cups of dried apricots

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Zest of one orange

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2.75 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour OR 2.5 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of stone ground corn meal

3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (I used mostly blanched almonds but threw in a few raw almonds since I didn’t have quite enough)

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the apricots and allow them to stand until just tender. Since my dried apricots were very moist already, I only let them stand for 10 minutes. Drain off the water, reserving it. If the reserved isn’t quite a cup, add enough cold tap water to make one cup.
  3. Roughly chop the apricots. Toss the apricots with 1/4 cup of flour and set aside.
  4. Pour the liquid into a large mixing bowl and add the baking soda, salt, sugar and eggs and mix well. Then add the orange zest, vanilla and almond extract and mix through.
  5. Add the apricots, remaining flour, baking powder and nuts and mix until everything is well mixed.
  6. Butter and flour (or use the baking spray which has flour in it and works amazingly well) a large 10 cup bundt pan, preferably non-stick. Pour the batter, which is fairly thick, into the pan and even it out. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is a lovely golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack and then turn out the cake to continue cooling completely. Apricot Almond Cake4Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Wrap tightly or store in a covered cake plate.

Apricot Almond Cake2

Lamb and White Bean Chili

Lamb and white bean chili

Frances and Matthew arrived Sunday for the  Thanksgiving holiday. The weather was chilly and damp and I wanted to serve some comfort food that wouldn’t take me forever to make and also would not suffer if their flight were delayed. I came across this recipe on the New York Times website and it sounded perfect. Initially I was going to use a good canned cannellini bean, but I remembered I had some wonderful Rancho Gordo Heirloom dried beans that I could use instead. They were the giant Royal Corona Beans, an enormous, thick-skinned runner bean that cooks up to a creamy center. I had to soak them overnight and then cook them in my slow cooker for several hours, but frankly, it was worth it. However, if you are in a hurry, this recipe would still give you a good result using a quality canned bean. It might not be the prettiest dish you will ever come across, but it is the ultimate in comfort food.

Lamb and White Bean Chili by Melissa Clark and slightly modified by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 pounds ground lamb

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 large Poblano peppers, seeded and diced

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped

1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped, including the stems

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (If you want this to have more heat, do not remove the seeds.)

4 Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 Tablespoons double-strength tomato paste

1 pound of dried beans, soaked and cooked or 4 cans of cannellini beans (If you are using homemade cooked beans, reserve the liquid to use in the recipe. If you are using canned beans, rinse the beans.)

For Serving

Plain whole milk yogurt, preferably sheep’s milk

Chopped cilantro

Sev (An Indian snack made from chickpea flour. It is a very, very fine cooked noodle-like food that adds protein and also can be used as a thickener. It can be found in Indian markets or online.) Optional

Directions

  1. If you are cooking your own beans, then soak them overnight and cook them until tender.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the EVOO in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the lamb and brown it, breaking up the pieces with a fork. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Transfer the cooked meat, using a slotted spoon, to a colander. Wipe out the pan.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon of EVOO and add the onions and Poblano peppers. Cook until the vegetables have softened – about 5-7 minutes. Add 4 Tablespoons of the chopped cilantro stems and stir. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeno peppers and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cumin and coriander an cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until everything is very fragrant.
  4. Return the lamb to the pot. Add 5 cups of water (or reserved bean liquid, if you cooked the beans yourself) and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add more water if the chili becomes too thick. You want this to have an almost soup-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. (I did not need to make any adjustments.) Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and the Sev, if using. I served this with a crusty bread, my Sunshine Kale Salad and a rich Zinfandel.

Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

IMG_3687

I came up with this recipe about 20+ years ago when my son went through a period of not eating any meat. I was looking for something that screamed “autumn” to me so I could serve it for the holiday of Sukkot, which we recently celebrated. If you do a lot of North African/Mediterranean and Indian cooking, as I do, then you will always have these seasonings on hand. The main ingredients can be varied to taste, substituting cauliflower for the eggplant for example. Just keep in mind textures, colors and cooking times for the different vegetables that you may use. And, of course, this can be doubled or tripled if desired. Left-overs are delicious but keep in mind that after a time some of the vegetables will get mushy with aggressive reheating. I usually serve this over cooked millet, couscous or rice but you can use any grain or bread that you prefer. My husband is not a big fan of very hot/spicy foods and neither was my son when he was little; however, if you do wish to add some heat to this otherwise well-seasoned dish, you have a few options. You can serve harissa on the side for diners to add their own level of heat individually or if you know that your crowd likes it hot, you can add some hot peppers along with the sweet bell pepper and/or add some cayenne pepper to the spice mix. There are no strict rules here.

Lisa’s Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

Yield: 4-6 servings     IMG_3683

Ingredients

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice

1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1 long Japanese eggplant, cut into large dice

15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (save the liquid for aquafaba!)

1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple, cut into large dice (no need to peel it)

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with liquid

1/2 cup of raisins

15 ounce can of pumpkin puree

About 1.25 cups of vegetable broth

About 3 Tablespoons apple juice or cider

1 teaspoon each of turmeric and cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of curry powder, ground cumin, salt and either freshly cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and ground sumac

2 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Optional Garnishes

Chopped cilantro

Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, pine nuts or almonds

Greek Yogurt

Harissa (red or green)

Directions

  1. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Stir in the spices and add enough of the apple juice to keep the spices from sticking and burning. Stir for about 3 minutes or until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Add all of the vegetables except for the eggplant. Add the tomatoes, tamarind paste, apple, pumpkin puree, broth and raisins and stir through. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, add the eggplant, re-cover the pan and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over a cooked grain of your choice and with one or more of the optional garnishes.

IMG_3685IMG_3691

 

Creole Black Bean Soup

Creole Black Bean1

Autumn is truly a transitional season in Chicago. One day it is summer temperatures and humid and the next may be crisp and bright or chilly and damp. I enjoy soup at any time of the year, but this season requires a little more thought when deciding just what soup to make. I clearly don’t want a cold soup if the next time I go to serve left-overs it is now in the 50’s and raining and I don’t want a super hearty soup if the temperatures are climbing into the upper 70’s. This black bean soup seems the perfect compromise. It is rich and satisfying yet not overly heavy. I found the recipe in an older cookbook of mine and with a few adjustments, it was a delicious make-ahead Sunday meal accompanied by a salad and crisp bread. After a long walk along our beautiful lakefront, it was good to come home to this simple and homey meal.

Creole Black Bean Soup from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers

Yield: 6-8 servings  Creole Black Bean2

Ingredients

1 pound of dried black beans (2 cups)

1 pound of thick-cut or slab bacon (you can use any kind – turkey, duck, lamb, beef or pork; it is the smoked flavor that you want) cut into 2-inch pieces

About 1 pound of smoked meat (I like smoked turkey legs but ham hocks or any other good smoked meat will work)

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 large onions, peeled and chopped in small dice

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 large leeks, well-washed, trimmed and thinly sliced (include some of the lighter green)

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dark rum OR 1 cup of Madeira (I used the rum) (This is NOT optional!)

2-3 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain them the next day.
  2. In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold everything, add your bacon and brown the pieces until almost crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon to a strainer or plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Wipe out the pot leaving just a shimmer of fat. Add the EVOO and heat on medium high heat. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook the mixture until it has softened and just begun to brown. Add the herbs, beans and smoked meats. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any of the scum that may rise to the top. Once you have removed most of the scum (a little bit left won’t matter), reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Simmer at a very low heat for 4 hours.
  4. At the end of the four hours and after the soup has cooled enough to easily handle it, remove the turkey leg or other smoked meat and pick out the meat, discarding the skin, bones and any other detritus. Using an immersion blender, coarsely blend the soup in the pot. You don’t want a perfectly smooth end product; you just want to puree some of the soup, leaving chunky bits of bacon, vegetables and beans. Add the meat back to the mixture and taste. Add your salt, pepper, rum and lemon juice.
  5. To serve, gently reheat the soup. DO NOT allow it to come to a full boil! It can be served with cooked rice, but I preferred a fresh, warm country-style bread with a good crust.  IMG_3667

 

Another Brisket

IMG_3353

Brisket is my go-to dish when I am feeding a crowd, especially for the holidays. I usually buy a whole brisket weighing in at between 8 and 9 pounds since left-overs are always welcome. The beauty is that it can (and actually should) be made ahead, freezes and reheats wonderfully. It makes great sandwiches and I even grind up the bits and pieces to stuff into dumplings or mix with eggs. I’ve even used the meat mixed in with ground meat for burgers or meatloaf and half placed some meat on top of pizza. My favorite recipe uses onion soup mix, Bennett’s Chili Sauce and Coca Cola. I know that sounds awful but it is actually incredibly delicious. You do have to buy the real Coca Cola – preferably made with sugar instead of corn syrup – none of this diet stuff. It is the sugar that caramelizes the meat as it cooks and no one would ever guess the ingredient. But as much of a crowd-pleaser as that version is, I get bored making it. I can do it in my sleep. So this past weekend I bought a first-cut piece of brisket weighing a little over 4 pounds and decided to experiment since it is only my husband and me at home right now. Here’s what I came up with. It might not replace my holiday brisket, but sometimes it’s nice for a change.

Another Brisket

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

4-5 pound first-cut brisket

1 Tablespoon unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa

1 packet Onion Soup mix (8 Tablespoons)

15 ounce can, dark, sweet pitted cherries in syrup

6 ounces dark porter (I used a chocolate porter. Drink the remainder – you probably deserve it! A nice stout should work as well.)

1/2 cup strong, black coffee

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/2 Tablespoon chili powder

2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a baking dish that is large enough to hold the brisket laid out flat with room for the other ingredients, place the brisket fat-side up. Add all of the other ingredients and smush them over and under the brisket. Cover the pan with parchment and a tight-fitting lid or foil.
  3. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 3.25 hours. No peaking.
  4. At the end of the baking time, allow the brisket to cool enough until it is easy to handle. Remove the brisket (I use my hands!) allowing the liquid to drip into the pan and place on a large cutting board. Pour the liquid into a large saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil the sauce until it is reduced by about half. It should nicely coat a spoon at this point. Remove the sauce from the heat and using an immersion blender, puree the sauce.
  5. Meanwhile, using a long, sharp knife, slice the brisket against the grain into slices that are about 3/8 inch thick. At this point, either place the slices in containers to use later or in a baking dish if you plan on serving it that day. Cover the meat with sauce. You will have plenty!
  6. When you are ready to eat the brisket, it can be re-warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 30 minutes or can even be microwaved. Serve it with a favorite starch – polenta, noodles or potatoes for example – and a salad or veg.

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

IMG_3051

I really love meals that I can prep a day ahead – especially when everything is cooked on one pan that I cover with foil, making clean-up a breeze. Sheet pan meals are all the rage now and I have been trying a few of them out, including a Honey-Sesame Tofu with Green Beans that I now have my husband making. I came across this chicken recipe in the Parade Magazine that accompanies my Sunday newspaper. Its provenance is from a new cookbook by New York Times Columnist Melissa Clark called Dinner: Changing the Game. I made a couple of small changes but the biggest change came because my husband ended up having to work late last night so everything was prepped yesterday and marinated in the fridge for a day. I can only believe that it improved the wonderful flavors and made tonight’s dinner a snap.

Harissa is a North African-style chili paste that is now available in many supermarkets and online. There is both red harissa and green harissa. Either would work here, but I used the red. How much you use will be a matter of personal taste as well as the heat of the particular brand of harissa that you are using. I like a lot of flavor, but I don’t like my food so hot that all I am tasting is heat and nothing else. The 2 Tablespoons of harissa that I used produced an intensely flavorful dish with just a little heat. You could easily increase the amounts to make this for a crowd. You must use fresh herbs here and a good Greek yogurt. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that will appear on our rotation many times. I only added a simple salad to complete the meal.  IMG_3047

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt IMG_3044

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (depending on size – about 2 pounds) on the bone and with the skin

1.5 pounds of fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (You can use cracked black but I really encourage you to buy the flavorful, citrusy Aleppo pepper)

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons harissa or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (Grind your own if you can!)

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed, trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

Grated zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1.5 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional but really good)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup chopped fresh herbs, divided in 2 (I used a combination of dill, mint and parsley)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

  1. Place the first seven (7) ingredients in a one gallon freezer bag along. Seal the bag well and gently smush everything around to distribute the seasonings. If you are anxious (I was) place the bag inside of a second freezer bag and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours and as much as one day.
  2.  Place the next 4 ingredients in a one quart freezer bag and seal it well. Gently smush the leeks around to distribute the zest, salt and EVOO. Refrigerate along side the chicken.
  3. When you are ready to cook, cover a sheet pan with 2-inch sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Place the chicken and potatoes on the pan in a single layer along with any liquid. Roast for about 20 minutes. Then scatter the leeks over the chicken and potatoes and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until everything is golden and slightly crispy.
  5. In a small bowl combine the yogurt and all ingredients (Only half of the fresh herbs) keeping the final 1/2 lemon and the other half of the herbs for garnish. Stir with a small whisk or fork.