Tag Archives: vegetarian

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.

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.

Vegetable Biryani, or What to Make When Your Kid Decides to Become a Vegetarian

4 Jun

Remember when I said that I was done with my frenzy of Indian food posts?  That Indian Food Week-Plus had drawn to a close?  Well, it turns out that I wasn’t being entirely truthful.  My duplicitousness was not purposeful, I promise.  I was all set to close the door on this cooking run of mine until my friend Mike, one of the most dedicated dads I know, who also happens to be one of the most dedicated carnivores I know, happened to mention that his daughter had decided to become a vegetarian.

Upon hearing that this young lady was weighing a switch to vegetarianism, the vegetarian-centric cooking node in my mind went into overdrive.  I was a vegetarian for most of my life, and many of those years were spent in the company of people who weren’t familiar with, and didn’t care to be familiar with, a balanced vegetarian diet.  As a result, I became what one might call a little bit slack in my own eating habits, and spent the better part of five or six years constructing my meals around a basic principle of cheese + carbs = not hungry anymore.  Obviously, it was not the healthiest thing I could have done, but since I never became lethargic from hunger or developed scurvy, I assumed, at the time, that whatever I was doing was fine.

Maybe it was, for a time, but, in the long term, that’s just no way to live.  Food, no matter if it contains meat or not, should be an experience that provides you with something more than just nourishment.  Food can be an adventure, a chance to learn, an opportunity for discovery, and when you’ve decided to make a huge change in the structure of your diet, there is no better time to start seeking out new frontiers in food and cooking.  And when you’re going vegetarian, there is no better place to focus than India.  I’ve written about this before, but one of the most notable things about Indian vegetarian cuisine is the fact that when food is made to focus on things other than meat, there is never a sense of something being missing.  There is no effort to make up for a lack of meat, and thus your experience eating a truly fine vegetarian meal is one of satisfaction and comfort rather than of substitution.

Thus, it is rather ironic that when I wanted to develop a great Indian dish for Mike’s daughter to try out, it ended up being based on a favorite chicken dish.  However, personal contradictions aside, this really is a phenomenal meal for anyone looking to develop a nice repertoire of vegetarian meals.  The perfect blend of spices adapts well to any vegetables you choose to include, and if you throw in a cup of cooked chickpeas to accompany the toasted cashews, you’ve got a one pot rice dish that also happens to be a source of complete protein.  Not that you have to utilize the old battering ram of healthfulness in order to get people to eat this.  I made this biryani last night, and, at the evening’s end, three people (two adults, one kindergartener) had eaten nearly every last grain.  With its mix of savory Indian flavors and perfectly roasted vegetables, I think your greatest challenge with this dish is making sure there is enough to go around.

Last Year: Six Threes Ice Cream

Dozens more vegetarian recipes can be found right here in the archives.

Vegetable Biryani Recipe

Heavily adapted from a non-vegetarian recipe in Mangoes and Curry Leaves

3 large cloves of garlic, grated finely (you want to end up with about 2 teaspoons total)

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 large Yukon gold potato, or 1 medium russet potato, diced into ¼-inch cubes

about 12 fresh green beans, chopped into 1-inch pieces (you should end up with ½ cup pieces)

½ cup frozen peas

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon garam masala

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups basmati rice

3 medium-large onions (about 1 pound)

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup lightly toasted, unsalted cashews

1 large tomato, diced into ½-inch pieces

1 cup minced cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons of water

About 1 hour before you want to serve the dish, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the grated garlic and ginger, then mash together using the back of a spoon.  Add the diced potatoes, sliced green beans, and peas to the bowl with the garlic and ginger.  Add the coriander, cayenne, turmeric, garam masala, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Stir to mix until everything is combined, then cover with plastic wrap and allow vegetables to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

While the vegetables are marinating, rinse the rice in several changes of cold water.  Place in a bowl, cover with water, and allow to soak for about half an hour.

Slice the onions as fine as possible.  You will want about 3 cups of sliced onions.  Place a large heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and, when it is hot, add the onions.  Lower the heat to medium.  Cook until the onions are very soft, wilted, and just touched with golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Lift the onions out of the hot oil and set aside.  There should be a little over ¼ cup of oil left in the pot.  Remove 2 tablespoons of oil from the pot and set aside for later.

When the onions are cooking, precook the soaked rice.  Place about 8 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and allow the water to come back up to a boil.  Sprinkle in the rice.  Allow rice to boil for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the rice is no longer brittle but still firm to the bite.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

Place the heavy pot containing the oil over medium-high heat.  Distribute half of the marinated vegetables over the bottom of the pot, then sprinkle on half the precooked rice.  Scatter half the cooked onions over the top, then sprinkle on half of the diced tomato, half of the cashews, and half of the cilantro leaves.  Repeat with the remaining marinated vegetables, rice, onion, tomato, cashews, and cilantro.  Sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons of water, and drizzle on the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil.  Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pot to cover it completely, then top with the lid.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Carefully remove the lid and the aluminum foil (the pot will emit a great deal of steam, so stand back and be careful to steer clear of the hot cloud).  Remove the biryani to a platter.  Scrape out the crusty layer of vegetables and rice from the bottom of the pot, and lay it on top of the biryani.  Serve hot or warm.

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