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

 

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Koli Soup

My niece and nephew and I divide all of the Jewish holiday celebration dinners and since most holidays are over multiple days, this makes hosting more manageable, especially since we all live in apartments with limited space. For Rosh HaShana I agreed to host the first night and my niece and nephew did the second night. They wanted to make brisket (which was wonderful) and so I happily decided on lamb for my dinner. In keeping with my love of most things Indian, I decided to make lamb biryani as a main course along with a delicious lentil dal. Jews were living in India since at least the 12th century as reported by a Spanish traveler, Benjamin Tudela. The Jews he came across were in Cochin, and were one of three Jewish groups living in that southwest city on the Arabian Sea. Known as “Black” Jews, they lived in a joint family system, much like conservative Hindu families, that was seen as a way to protect the very young and very old. For more on Cochin Jews check out this article in Wikipedia or on My Jewish Learning.

Koli Soup was often made for Shabbat and while not spicy hot or particularly exotic looking, it is quite aromatic and seasoned in a way that is surprising to Western tastes. My sister, who professes to not like Indian or spicy food, nevertheless loved this soup.

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli) from Sephardic Cooking by Copeland Marks and tweaked by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 cups of water

1 whole chicken with extra fat discarded

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick “coins”

1 medium potato (I used a Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into large dice

1 large, ripe tomato, coarsely chopped (do not bother peeling it)

About 1 cup of cauliflower florets

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced (with leaves if you have them)

a handful of chopped, Italian flat-leaf parsley

a handful of chopped fresh cilantro

5 whole cardamom pods (Green or Black)

1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)

6 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

2 bay leaves

4 whole allspice

6 whole black peppercorns

10 curry leaves (If you have them. They can be bought online fresh through Amazon and then frozen. DO NOT substitute curry powder!)

Directions

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a pot that is large enough to hold everything. Add the chicken and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Skim off the scum that rises to the top before covering.
  2. After 30 minutes, add all of the other ingredients and cook, covered on low heat for 45 minutes. Allow the soup to cool. The soup can be made ahead up to this point and gently reheated when you are ready to serve.
  3. When the soup is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken and take the meat off of the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Return the meat to the pot.
  4. When ready to serve, reheat the soup and either add the parsley and cilantro to the pot or garnish each bowl with the fresh herbs as you ladle it out. IMG_3647

 

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet and Orange Salad

I find that North African food and Indian food mix and match beautifully. So when I was serving an Indian-themed dinner for the first night of Rosh HaShana, I didn’t hesitate to use this Moroccan beet salad as a side dish. Aside from being healthy and delicious, beets add such vibrant color to any table and when paired with bright oranges there are few foods that are more visually stunning. I saw this recipe in the Chicago Tribune and immediately decided to include it in my holiday dinner. Since now you can easily purchase pre-roasted and peeled organic beets in your grocery store, this dish only takes minutes to prepare. I prepped all of the elements ahead of dinner and then combined them just as my guests were arriving. If you add the oranges too soon, they will pick up the color from the beets and while the salad will still taste wonderful, the effect of the contrasting colors will not be as pronounced. And here for a perfect pairing of Moroccan and Indian….

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad by Joan Nathan from “King Solomon’s Table”

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

6 to 8 medium beets

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 to 3 navel oranges

Juice of 1 small lemon

2 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. ground cumin, or to

taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped

2 tbsp. chopped green

pistachios

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse the beets, rub them with the olive oil, and then wrap them in foil and put them on a baking sheet. Roast them for about one hour until tender when poked with a fork. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into bite-size wedges. (Or buy pre-roasted and peeled beets, simply drain and cut them.)
  3. With a sharp knife, cut off the tops and bottoms of the oranges. Slice off the peel and the white pith and cut in between the white membranes to extract individual segments.
  4. Mix the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl or jar. Whisk in the olive oil, then toss with the beets. Let sit for a few hours at room temperature.
  5. Just before serving, add the orange segments and sprinkle with the parsley and pistachio nuts for color.

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato

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I saw this recipe in the weekend Wall Street Journal and immediately decided I had to make it. It either can be made with shredded chicken or cubed tofu for a vegan version. This time I went for the chicken, but I’m sure that I will also make the vegan version in future. The spices are what make this dish, so while I freely admit that I am not always such a purist and will use bought spice mixes and pre-ground spices, there are times when I will go all out and grind my own and this is one of those times. Relatively recently I have been seeing fresh turmeric in my grocery store, but had never bought it until now. Since I do both Mediterranean and Indian cooking, I knew that the turmeric would not be wasted and decided to give it a try. I understand that it also can be used as an herbal infusion, which is supposed to have many health benefits as an anti-inflammatory.

Obviously this dish is not something you are going to make after you arrive home late from work, but it is fun to try for a lazy Sunday. I did cheat by using a store-made roasted organic chicken since I am all for short-cuts when they don’t compromise the end product. I followed the recipe pretty strictly (unusual for me) except I did not bother to strain the curry or put it into a new clean pot before adding the chicken and final ingredients. That just seemed like needless extra work to me and I can live happily with a bit of texture in my final dish.

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato by Mary-Frances Heck from her new cookbook Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie’ (Clarkson Potter)

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

15-ounce can coconut milk (full-fat, please)

For curry paste

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon  cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

3 dried small, hot chilies such as Arbol

3/4 cup chopped shallots

1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled

Chopped stems from one bunch of cilantro

1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced (or 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric, if you must)

For curry

1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 cups water

About 12 ounces shredded cooked chicken or firm tofu, cut into cubes (I ended up using an entire small rotisserie chicken)

1 Tablespoon fish sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 pound Chinese-style egg noodle (See Note at the bottom.)

Garnish

Thinly sliced shallots

Cilantro leaves

Lime juice

Chile oil

Directions

  1. Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the layer of cream at the top.
  2. In a dry skillet set over medium heat, toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently until fragrant and a few of the mustard sees pop, about 1 minute.
  3. Pour the seeds into a dish to cool. Place the hot chilies into the dry pan and toast, turning them as they puff and turn bright red, about 30 seconds. Allow the chilies to cool.
  4. Once the spices have cooled, place them between waxed or parchment paper and using a heavy pan, crack the spices.
  5. Add the cracked spices, shallots, garlic, cilantro stems, turmeric and ginger to the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse to form a paste.
  6. Open the can of coconut milk and spoon the solid cream into a heavy medium pot. Set over medium heat and melt the coconut cream. Add the curry paste and stir through, frying the paste for about 1 minute or until smooth and everything is combined. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered, stirring frequently until the paste darkens a shade and orange oil begins to seep from the paste – about 8 minutes.
  7. Stir in the remaining coconut milk, the cubed sweet potato and 3 cups of water. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Cook, stirring often until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  8. Using a standing blender, puree the mixture in batches until smooth. Please be sure that the liquid has cooled first and do in batches. Otherwise, you will be cleaning up a mess! I tried using an immersion blender but I just couldn’t get the mixture smooth enough. (The directions then say to strain the curry through a fine-mesh sieve, but after trying to do this, I thought it was a total waste of time, although it will make for a thinner curry. If like me you are okay with a slightly thicker end product then simply puree it well in the blender and skip the sieve. It also said to transfer to a clean pot. REALLY?! No way.)
  9. Stir in the shredded chicken or cubed tofu, the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and salt. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more fish sauce or brown sugar. Warm through. The curry is only moderately spicy. I found the flavors delicious and very subtle – rounded out by the sweet potato and coconut milk. If you are looking for something with more heat, you will need to use a hotter chili pepper or simply add more hot chili oil.
  10. Cook the noodles according to the package and drain well. Divide the noodles into 4 bowls and ladle the hot curry over the top. Garnish.

NOTE: While the recipe called for noodles, I would use rice the next time I make this. The dish is quite rich tasting and I think the rice provides a better foil.

 

 

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

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We returned this week from a fabulous two weeks of hiking in the Wasatch and High Uintas. Being 11,000 feet up really gives you perspective. And it was great to be together with Frances and Matthew and I’m proud that all of my training over the past six months paid off and I almost held my own with those two “mountain goats.” We hiked all day and then I indulged my love of burgers, fries and beers at night. Since I lost three pounds, I can absolutely recommend this diet! However, after more burgers than I normally eat in a year (and yes, we did eat other things too since Park City, Utah now has some wonderful restaurants) I am ready for some good vegan food. And since the High Holidays begin at sundown on the 20th and I am hosting family dinner, I also want to keep things simple. I came across this recipe on the kitchn a few months back and have made it successfully several times. While I take issue with the suggested “4” servings, it otherwise is a very satisfying and easy weeknight meal. Even my husband has made this and normally he sticks to making the occasional pancake. If you add rice, you will definitely have a more substantial meal that may eke out the suggested 4 servings. And if you substitute agave or date syrup for the honey, the dish will be vegan.

Sheet Pan Honey (Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans by Hali Bey Ramdene on the kitchn

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

Oil or cooking spray
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger (I use the one that is prepared in a jar)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil plus more for drizzling
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 scallions, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds (I used toasted black sesame seeds because I couldn’t locate my regular sesame seeds in my pantry.)

Directions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray. (Line the pan with foil first for easy clean-up.)
  2. Meanwhile, line a large plate with paper towels, and place the tofu on top. Cover with more paper towels and place a heavy item on top, pressing down on the tofu. Let rest for at least 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. Whisk the soy sauce, garlic, honey, ginger, and sesame oil together in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. Cut the tofu into triangles and place in a single layer on one side of the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with soy sauce mixture. Bake until golden-brown on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes.
  5. Flip the tofu. Add the green beans onto the opposite side of the baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Return to the oven and bake until the tofu is golden-brown on the second side, 10 to 12 minutes more. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds, drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil and serve immediately. IMG_3603

Raspberry Chocolate Tart

I first got into cooking because I was bored. Matt once lived in Norwalk, CT, which has very little to do in the wintry months. When I visited I decided that making elaborate dinners and desserts and breads would be a good way to pass the time. Before I got into cooking, however, we would go out to the nice restaurants in town, including one with the irresistible name of Chocopologie. Google informs me it no longer exists, but back in 2009 and 2010 it was a great place to get fondue in southwestern Connecticut.

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Anyhow, many years later, we were visiting Cooperstown, NY and stopped into the gift shop of the farming museum. (Long story.) Among many cookbooks, we noticed one with “Chocopologie” emblazoned on the cover on top of a picture of delicious-looking truffles. A quick flip through the book suggested it had lots of tasty items, so we got it.

For some reason it took a while to find an occasion to use it, but finally we decided to go with this amazing recipe. Serving size suggestions seem silly since the two of us finished the entire thing in two sittings…

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tbsp ground blanched or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg

Filling

  • 14 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli but Guittard or Scharfen-Berger would also be great)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp butter (although I apparently forgot about this and it turned out fantastic anyways)

To make the crust:

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, almonds, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the butter pieces and cut them into the mixture, and then add an egg until the dough comes together.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours (or make it ahead and freeze it).
  4. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8″ thick and at least 12″ in diameter. Life the dough and drape it over a 10″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the tart pan. Trim the overhanging dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.
  6. Line the tart crust with parchment paper or waxed paper and fill it with dried beans to weight it.
  7. Bake the weighted tart crust for about 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking until the crust is light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes more.
  8. Transfer tart pan to a wire rack, remove the parchment paper and pie weights and cool completely (about an hour).

To make the filling:

  1. Put the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream, 1 cup of the raspberries, and the honey and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it’s bubbling, pour the cream mixutre over the chocolate, adding one-third at a time and stirring after each addition.
  3. When the filling is as smooth as possible, add the butter, mixing until the filling is well blended.
  4. Pour the filling into the cooled tart crust. Let set at room temperature, 3 to 4 hours. If not serving right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  5. Decorate the tart with the remaining 1/2 cup raspberries (or use more, if you want) and serve.

From Chocopologie, by Fritz Knipschildt

Bismati Pullao

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This Bismati pilaf would be a delicious accompaniment to many Indian meals or a side for grilled meat or fish. I used it to accompany Kashmiri Spiced Lamb (See previous recipe).

Bismati Pullao from Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine

Yield: 4-6 servings (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1.5 cups Basmati rice

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2-inch piece of cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

1/2 cup raw cashews (or pistachios)

1/2 cup seedless golden raisins

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Soak the rice in cold water to cover for about 30 minutes. Then drain well through a sieve.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onions and saute until the onion becomes translucent and softens. Add the well-drained rice, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, saffron, cashews and raisins and stir for 2 minutes, coating everything with the onions and oil or ghee.  IMG_3567
  3. Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot along with the salt. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender and fluffy and all of the water is absorbed. (The cooking time will depend on the brand of rice and how long it soaked prior to cooking.) Stir through with a fork and serve.