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Tag Archives: vegan

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.

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Escarole, Leek, and White Bean Panzanella

5 Oct

This is the type of food that could be considered a kid-repellent. It boasts a combination of punchy bitter greens, smooth leeks, and the kick of red pepper flakes. However, it also contains white beans, crisp, sautéed bread, and parmesan cheese, three things for which, in my experience, children tend to go completely nuts. As you might sense, these discrepancies combine to make one very interesting conundrum.

It’s not really a conundrum, of course. The answer to the question of, How do I make a kid like this? is simple: I don’t feed this to my kid. The bigger question, I think, would be this: Does any kid like this? Does anyone, anywhere, ever somehow get a kid to eat a dish like this? A dish so delicious in its complexity of flavor, so pleasing in its collection of textures, that I could not stop myself from eating almost the entire thing over the span of a single afternoon?

Some friends of mine once had a great Ethiopian lunch with some Ethiopian friends of theirs. Their friends’ children were in attendance, and they were happy to sit down and tuck into plate after plate of spicy lentils, spice-filled stews, and, of course, injera, the fantastic Ethiopian flatbread that is used to scoop up bites of intensely flavorful food. My friends, watching the kids devour the food with aplomb, could not help but wonder how many American kids could be led to eat such food if only they were presented it at the right time, meaning, when they were babies and just discovering the joys of solid food

Sadly, I have no answer to their query. I have tried for years to get my kid to eat all types of foods, to no avail. Indian food? No (which breaks my half-Indian heart with great sorrow). Spicy food of any sort? No. Braised greens? No. Visible strands of onions, whether caramelized or crisp? No and no. I could go on, but I’ll resist. I know that my kid has a slightly more adventurous palate than many other kids (slight—not monumental), so I’ll take whatever vegetable or Thai food consumption I can get out of him. Until he learns to appreciate more foods, I’ll just have to keep doing what I have been doing for the past several years now. This means making foods like this wonderful panzanella for myself, and finding a slight bit of pleasure in knowing that, hey, if I’m the only person who will eat this, at least that means I get to enjoy every last bite of it on my own. It’s a paper-thin silver lining, but I’ll take it.

Last Year: Heirloom Tomato Cobbler with Cheddar and Scallion Biscuit Topping

Escarole, Leek, and White Bean Panzanella Recipe

3 cups torn or cubed crusty bread

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium leek, dark green end removed and light green/white end sliced in half lengthwise and then chopped into thin half-moons

4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 very large head escarole, coarsely chopped

1 cup cooked white beans

salt and pepper to taste

optional: 2 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

In a large skillet set over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is just beginning to shimmer, add bread cubes in a single layer and allow to crisp on one side (this should take anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes). Turn bread cubes over, then allow to crisp some more, shaking the skillet ever now and again to keep the bread moving around in the oil just a tad. Remove bread cubes and set aside.

Wipe any bread crumbs from the skillet, then heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add chopped leeks, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped escarole, stir and toss to combine, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and allow to cook for 5 minutes, until the escarole is wilted and has released some of its juices. Remove the lid from the pan, and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the juices have evaporated a bit, about 3 minutes. Add beans to skillet, stir to combine, and allow beans to cook with greens for about a minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the heat off under the skillet. Add the toasted bread cubes and toss to combine thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.

Divide the panzanella amongst 2 or 4 plates, depending on how hearty to want your servings to be. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese (if using) over the servings, then sprinkle over chopped basil.

Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as a starter.

Multigrain Sandwich Bread

11 Jun

Since September, I’ve been baking bread for my son’s school.  I make two loaves of bread for his class, and the bread gets used throughout the week for work projects (in a Montessori school, activities that involve bread are the basis for learning, which should make obvious the variety of reasons I am a fan of a Montessori education), snacks, and the occasional almond butter sandwich that a kid will receive for lunch when his or her intended lunch ended up on the floor or, occasionally, in another child’s mouth.  It happens.

Before the start of the school year, I spent a lot of time working on a suitable bread recipe for my son’s school.  It was preferable to everyone involved that the bread be whole grain or whole wheat, and, because of the dietary restrictions of some students, the bread had to be vegan.  It also, most importantly, had to be something that a child would want to eat.  Knowing full well about children and their preference for foods that do not contain too many surprises or unexpected textures, the bread had to be on the soft side, with no big chunks of seeds or nuts that might possibly repel an unsuspecting child.  And, of course, it had to be delicious, because who am I to foist healthfulness upon a child without the added promise of tastiness?

This week I made the last two loaves of bread that I will ever bring to his school.  School ends this week and my son will leave kindergarten and enter a new school in the fall, a grade school, where children eat en masse in a cafeteria, sit at assigned desks, and intermingle with other students who are twice their age.  It’s all a bit overwhelming, I would think.  I don’t say this to my son, of course.  Instead, there is a lot of talk of how great the garden is at the new school, how big the playground is, how nice the teachers are.  I want my son to transition as seamlessly as possible when he enters his new school, and it would be preferable that I instill him with a sense of confidence about his new surroundings, rather than a sense of doom concerning the fact that, dude, did you see that fifth grader?  He looked like he was one growth spurt away from needing a shave.

I’ll be making this bread for just us now.  The recipe makes two loaves, which is enough to last a family of three quite some time.  The funny thing is, even though I’ve made this bread so many times that I now have the recipe memorized, there has never been a time when both loaves turned out the same.  No amount of practice or repetition could ever remedy the fact that, no matter what I did, one loaf was always larger than the other.  Or sometimes one loaf rose faster than the other, resulting in some craggy tears along the top.  One time the loaves almost scorched on the sides, even though I baked them at the same temperature I always do, in the same pans I always do, in the same oven I always do.  It’s a mystery, really.  One entire school year, and I still manage to be a little bit surprised by this bread every time I make it.  I imagine I’ll continue to be surprised by it as the years go on, much like I’ll continue to be surprised by my son and the fact that, no matter how many times he tells me that he wants to be a whale-watching bunny farmer when he grows up, he is getting older, wiser, and ever more interesting every single day, right before my eyes.

Last Year: Pizza with Chicken Sausage, Fennel, and Spinach

Multigrain Sandwich Bread Recipe

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

1 ¼ cups Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain cereal mixture

2 ½ cups boiling water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup agave nectar (if you don’t need the bread to be vegan, you can use honey instead)

2 ½ teaspoons instant rapid-rise yeast

3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

1 ½ cups (7.5 ounces) whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cereal mixture and boiling water.  Stir thoroughly, then allow to sit, stirring occasionally, until the cereal has absorbed the water and cooled to a temperature of around 110 degrees Fahrenheit (this should take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour).

In a medium bowl, whisk together all purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

When cereal mixture has cooled, stir in vegetable oil, olive oil, agave nectar, and yeast.  Stir until ingredients are fully incorporated.  If using a stand mixture, attach the dough hook to the mixer.  Slowly, about ½ cup at a time, add the flour mixture to the cereal mixture, mixing all the while.  If using a stand mixer, use only the first speed for this.  If using your hands, stir with a sturdy wooden spoon.  When the flour mixture has been added in its entirety, turn the stand mixer to the second speed and knead the dough for about 1 minute.  If using your hands, stir the mixture with a sturdy wooden spoon until all ingredients are completely combined, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the sea salt to the dough and knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny (5 to 6 minutes on level 2 for a stand mixer, and 7 to 8 minutes if kneading by hand).  The dough will be a bit sticky, but that is normal.

On a well-floured surface, shape the dough into a tight ball.  Lightly oil a large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl, turning the dough to completely coat it in oil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid, then allow dough to rise until doubled in size.  This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to a little over an hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a well-floured surface.  Using your hands, pat the dough into a 9” by 13” rectangle, with the long side facing you.  Cut the dough in half to make two 9” by 6 ½” pieces.  Starting at one 6 ½” end, roll one piece of dough into a tight log, pinching the seam closed at the end.  Place the dough in a lightly-oiled 9” by 5” loaf pan.  Repeat with other piece of dough.  Lightly brush or spray the tops of the loaves with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.  This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 45 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is.

About 20 minutes before it appears as though your loaves might be done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  When loaves are done rising, remove plastic wrap and bake loaves in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating loaves after about 20 minutes.  The loaves are done when the tops are a deep golden brown and the bread has an internal temperature of about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves.

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