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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

19 Oct

It all may end soon. This run of black and orange foods, strangely enough, does not seem to be propelling the San Francisco Giants into unstoppable greatness. It’s like 1987 all over again. In fact, the run of games so far seem to bear a striking resemblance to the St. Louis/San Francisco pennant race of that year, a development that I cannot claim to find in any way pleasing.

But, at least I got some soup out of it. This is a good thing, because, after a long and lovely bout of unseasonably warm fall weather, we have finally been plunged into the cold, rainy days of Portland autumn. Soup weather is definitely here, and I could not be happier (for the soup, that is—not so much for the rain). What is odd, however, is the fact that no one who happened upon this website would ever guess that I hold such a fondness for soup. In the 18 months or so that I have been pouring myself into this lonely little site, there have, thus far, been only two soup appearances (three, if you count a soup recipe I developed for Portland Farmers Market). Suffice it to say, this oversight is definitely not indicative of my usual tastes (the number of cake recipes featured here, however, is).

This soup, number three in this site’s current arsenal, is a great addition to anyone’s repertoire. It’s hearty, but in a meatless, high fiber sort of way, rather than in a heavy, cream-laden way. The black beans, cooked until soft and tender, are nicely paired with brightly sautéed sweet potatoes, and the small hints of spice provide a gentle background to each bite. This is the type of soup that is perfect to eat on a brisk evening, each steamy bite warming you from the inside out. It may not make your favorite baseball team score any (much, much, much needed) runs, but it will definitely make your lunch or dinner a pleasant meal to remember.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

10 ounces dry black beans

3 quarts of water

¼ cup chopped garlic (I got this much garlic from 8 very large cloves)

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into ¼-inch chunks

optional: ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, cover the black beans with water and soak overnight. Alternately, you can quick-soak the beans by covering them with water, bringing them to a rapid boil, allowing the beans to boil for 2 minutes, then covering and allowing to soak for 1 hour.

Drain the beans from their soaking liquid, then place beans in a very large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add 3 quarts of water, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and gently simmer the beans, uncovered, for 1½ hours.

While the beans are simmering, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. Allow the cumin seeds to sizzle for 15-20 seconds, stirring all the while, then add the diced sweet potatoes. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. When the sweet potatoes have become fork-tender, borrow about ½ a cup of the liquid from the cooking beans and pour the liquid over the sweet potatoes to deglaze their cooking pan. Stir the steaming, bubbling liquid with the sweet potatoes, scraping any brown bits up from the pan, then pour the sweet potatoes and their deglazing liquid into the simmering beans. Stir to combine every thing, then bring everything back up to a simmer and allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes. Top each serving with a sprinkling of cilantro, if using.

Serves 6-8 people, not all of whom are required to be San Francisco Giants fans.

Cod and Leek Chowder

9 Jan

Last year, my son took up an interest in soup.  It was a sudden conversion, as previously, the mere mention of soup would instill a look of panic in my son’s eyes as he shook his head and whispered, “I don’t like it.”  Mention to him that he had not yet eaten soup before, ever, in his entire life, and the battle would come to a standstill.  In fact, my son would just leave the room at that point, leaving whoever was trying to foist soup upon him (most likely me) alone and slightly bewildered.

But then, for reasons that remain a mystery, my son requested that we make chicken soup.  Repeated queries followed, designed to make sure that what he thought was soup was, in fact, actually soup (he was four at the time, so one never knows), and then one day, armed with a chicken and a copy of Joy of Cooking, my husband and son made some chicken soup.  And then the doors opened, soup flowing every which way.  My son became obsessed with chicken soup.  When you asked him what he wanted for dinner, he would yell enthusiastically, “CHICKEN SOUP!”  When he got excited about something, he would inexplicably jump up and down and say, “Chicken soup!”  If he made his stuffed animals talk to one another, the conversion would go something like this, “Uh, do you like chicken soup?”  “Chicken soup!”  “Yay!  Chicken soup!”

So, yeah.  It got a little weird.  I don’t know if it was because of the Great Chicken Soup Situation of 2011, but after a few months of hearing about chicken soup all day every day, I sort of started to loathe soup.  Much like the well thought out entries on Lake Superior State University’s List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness the word soup had entered a place far out of my favor.

Leave it to the cold of winter, however, to give a person a change of heart.  Deeply entrenched in the soggy, dark months of the season, it soon became clear that soup was once again going to have to make an appearance on our table.  Steaming hot, slowly simmered, and studded with chunks of flaky fish and soft potatoes, this chowder was a welcome return to the world of soup.  It no doubt helped that I made this soup with cod, my son’s favorite fish, but after my son’s first few bites, he looked at me and said, mouth full of potato, “Mama, this is delicious.”  This is, I suppose, the difference between age four and age five.  Where four gives you a loud and manic parade that pops up without warning at every hour of the day, five gives you a mellow nod of recognition, like Farmer Hoggett praising Babe with perfectly toned affirmation.

Cod and Leek Chowder

I am not a big believer in adding copious amounts of cream and butter to all chowders.  Most of the time, I think the heaviness of the cream masks the taste of everything else in the soup, muddling what should be an otherwise nice experience.  This chowder, while plenty hearty, errs on the side of light when it comes to excessive fat.  Don’t stone me, but I don’t even use real bacon when I make it—I use turkey bacon, and it tastes wonderful, smoky, and delicious.

1 piece of bacon, finely chopped (pork or turkey are both fine)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 large celery sticks, peeled of any tough strings and coarsely chopped

1 large leek, green part removed and white part chopped in a ¼-inch dice

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into ½-inch cubes

2 quarts water

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper

2 cups milk

¼ cup heavy cream

1 pound cod fillets, chopped into 1-inch chunks

In a large stock pot or soup pot, sauté the chopped bacon over medium low heat until it is crisp.  Remove from pot and reserve to the side.  Add the butter to the pot, and allow to melt.  Add carrots, celery, leek, and potato to melted butter, and stir to evenly coat all the vegetables.  Add the crisped bacon back into the pot and stir to combine.  Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer vegetables for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 20 minutes, add water, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.  Increase heat to medium high, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Stir the ingredients, reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

After 1 hour, add milk and cream and stir to combine.  Add the fish and stir to combine. Over very low heat, making sure the mixture does not come to a boil, cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the fish has been gently cooked through.  Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Recipe Roundup

10 Nov

When compiling and sorting these articles and recipes, it took me a moment to realize that, though I will be sharing five links below, those links actually contain a total of nine separate recipes.  I’m crediting Portland Farmers Market for that unexpected burst of recipes, as the very nature of my writing relationship with them dictates that I will attempt to make as much food as possible with the smallest amount of funds required (note: all six of my recipes for them came in at well under $20–that’s for all six recipes combined.  You want frugal?  I can give you frugal.)

As an added bonus, these dishes would all fit in nicely atop your Thanksgiving table, especially if you are looking for recipe ideas that fall well outside the basic realm of turkey and potatoes.

Pear-Stuffed Acorn Squash; Kidney Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Three Sauces (Sage Brown Butter, Caramelized Shallots and Thyme, and Garlic Chips with Sauteed Spinach)

This sage brown butter sauce was so good that I ate it until I felt a profound sense of discomfort.

Indie Fixx continues to provide Savory Salty Sweet with a great place to share more recipes with more people. These three recipes are my most recent contributions, and they happen to be some of my favorites.  That dark chocolate zucchini cake is absolutely magical.  It’s rich, complex-tasting without being complicated to make, and it just so happens to be vegan (and secretly stuffed with a vegetable, which you’d never, ever be able to tell by eating it).

Linguine with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Blueberry, Orange, and Cornmeal Pancakes

On an unrelated note, a couple of months ago I made zucchini muffins with some fantastically fresh zucchini, straight from our garden.  As I was scooping the batter into the muffins tins, I noticed that things were looking a little firmer and more robust than they normally should.  Undaunted, I moved on, baking the muffins anyway.  It was only after the muffins had been removed from their tins and cooled that I realized why the muffins looked rather unusual.  I forgot to add the sugar.

Surprisingly, I actually sort of liked the muffins without sugar.  They were still very moist, but they were definitely sturdier, without the fine crumb usually found in a muffin.  They actually tasted more like a bread, less like a muffin, and closer to what I prefer these days when I gravitate towards a snack.  I am debating whether or not to share the recipe.  I am not sure if these muffins would be anyone else’s cup of tea, since I happened to be the only person in the house who ended up eating them (and I live with a carb-loving child and the Perfect Eating Machine, so that’s saying something).

Still, I am sort of fond of them in all their sugar-free, cinnamon-filled glory.

Jeez, that looks healthful.  Like some sort of nutrition nugget that zoologists develop as a snack for panda bears.

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