Nov 27, 2012

Braised Pinto Beans and Onions

I guess this was really my month to do all those foodie things I never do! I made pasta, two different tomato sauces and dried beans, all from scratch! For those of you thinking, dried beans? But I get really good canned ones; what's the big deal? Until I made a big batch of my own beans, I felt the same way you do. But, really, this was incredibly easy (not to mention cheap!) and these beans are far superior to even the best canned beans. Also, you can control how al dente they are (which is a big plus for me since the last time I used canned beans they were too soft), what seasonings you cook them with and what additives there are -- especially helpful for those of us with dietary restrictions.

And, because you have a "mess of beans" as I've been affectionately calling them, you can use them in anything! I'd recommend our Pinto Bean Picadillo -- they really elevate every dish we've put them in. I cooked these in the slow cooker, which means the hardest part was carrying the groceries home. If possible, soak the beans first (for anywhere from 1-8 hours) with a piece of kombu. This will make them easier to digest (and sneak some sea vegetables into your diet). And when we got in that night, the house smelled amazing (thanks to all those onions). So, really, make these. They freeze beautifully as well. You can use them in hundreds of ways but I must recommend having them over steamed potatoes, as we did the first night. Noodles would make a nice bed as well.

Braised Pinto Beans and Onions
  • 2 pounds pinto beans, picked over
  • 1 4-inch strip kombu
  • 6-8 cups water (plus more if necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons allspice, ground
  • 7 yellow onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
Soak beans and kombu overnight (or as long as possible) with enough water to cover them by 2 inches.

Drain beans and kombu, discarding soaking water. Chop kombu finely. Create a bed in slow cooker with onions. Place beans and kombu on top, followed by garlic. Add water to cover beans by 1/2-inch. Cook on low for 6 hours. Sprinkle with parsley. Bon appetit!


Nov 24, 2012

Cranberry Bean Meatballs with Garlic and Allspice

When I was stuck at the airport in Burbank, trying to get home to the vegetarian after Hurricane Sandy,  I stopped into a 24-hour bar to get some dinner before my red-eye. It was the only place still open at the airport and I figured I could get a salad. But once I looked at the menu, the one thing that kept jumping out at me was spaghetti with meatballs. It wasn't gluten-free and it was overly rich and not very good but it was comforting, warming and perfect.

Since then, I've been thinking about how I can recreate spaghetti and meatballs for our gluten-free and vegetarian kitchen. The spaghetti part is the easiest -- we've become big fans of quinoa spaghetti and I'm (almost) starting to prefer it to some "regular" spaghetti. But meatballs? Neither of us likes using fake meat (although the idea of crumbled veggie burgers is one we still may try) and, anyway, I wanted these to be just as good (or better) than their meat counterparts -- not merely a substitute.

I made these with 2 cans of cranberry beans that I drained well and ground in the food processor. Unfortunately, they were softer than I had hoped and the food processor reduced them to more of a puree than a crumble. So next time I would use a harder bean (perhaps cannellini). So, even though these didn't stay together as well as we would have liked, the flavors were delicious. Serve over pasta with the Nero d'Avola you used in the sauce. Enjoy!

Cranberry Bean Meatballs with Garlic and Allspice
inspired by

In a large bowl, mix together carrots, salt, cornflake crumbs, crushed rice cake, parsley, basil, lemon zest, allspice, chili powder, black pepper, cranberry beans and garlic. Using your hands, mix until very well combined. Shape into ping-pong sized "meatballs", packing them tightly together.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until it moves like water in the pan. Add "meatballs" and cook 1-2 minutes each side, until browned.

Add tomatoes, onions and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, Nero d'Avola, kosher salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 6 minutes. Remove from heat and serve, garnished with basil and Italian parsley. Bon appetit!


Nov 21, 2012

Roasted Allspice Potatoes

Happy almost-Thanksgiving! I'm sure you're all thinking about sweet potatoes. But what about the humble regular potato? I may be alone in this, but I actually prefer white potatoes to sweet. And since switching to a (modified) version of the body ecology diet, I'm happy to get my starches (and carbs) wherever I can. Not to mention that potatoes are very high on the list of the vegetarian's favorite foods.

All that said, I've been debating whether or not to even post this recipe. There are very few ingredients and it's terribly easy. Because I've declared November to be allspice month, that was my main flavor, and I adapted a recipe from The (modern) Busy Girls' CookbookBut there are endless variations -- just toss the potatoes with whatever spices and flavorings you want, then roast them. It's so hard to go wrong with roast potatoes.

But that's exactly why I want you to have this recipe: partly to show you that we don't eat like kings every night and to remind us all that sometimes the simplest foods are the best. This would be a perfect vegetarian side dish for your Thanksgiving feast. How do you season your roast potatoes?

Roasted Allspice Potatoes
(adapted from The (modern) Busy Birls' Cookbook)
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut potatoes into quarters. In a bowl, combine potatoes, olive oil, allspice, caraway seeds and salt. Toss well until potatoes are completely covered in spice mixture. Spread out in 1 layer on aluminum foil-lined sheet pan. Roast 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven and shake well. (You can also flip potatoes with a spatula but I find this is easier.) Return to oven and cook an additional 15 minutes until browned and crispy.

Remove from oven, toss with parsley and serve hot. Enjoy!


Nov 19, 2012

Monthly Cooking Adventure: Stuffed Potatoes

We have too many cookbooks. Which shouldn't be that surprising, considering my mom's a trained librarian (and cookbook author) and the vegetarian's parents are bibliophiles. Some might say that, really, it was inevitable. But when you live in an apartment and have resorted to piling books up next to the bookcase and have completely given up on arranging them in alphabetical order (I told you my mom's a librarian), it's time to admit you have a problem.

So I've made a rule -- I have to use my cookbooks more. And I'm not allowed to buy any more unless I'm planning on using that one within the week. Which brings us to this month's Monthly Cooking Adventure, affectionately titled "We survived Hurricane Sandy."

Now, really, what better way to celebrate surviving a natural disaster than with comfort food? And, to me, comfort food means Jewish food. I wanted something really celebratory but not tied to any particular holiday. So I bought a new cookbook, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, filled with Palestinian and Jewish recipes from that mythical city. Beautiful photography and evocative spices -- this is one of the most taste-inspiring cookbooks I've ever seen.

So for our Monthly Cooking Adventure, we made two dishes: Stuffed Potatoes and Latkes. Ottolenghi and Tammi stuffed their potatoes with beef but I vegetarianized ours with chickpeas (half I still stuffed with beef). We had some stuffing left over which was delicious fried up as mini veggie (and beef) sliders. Serve over couscous, rice or rustic white bread with a spicy Cabernet Sauvignon.

I'm submitting these to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Gluten Free Fridays.

Stuffed Potatoes in Tomato Sauce
adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Tomato Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 chile colorado, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds, ground in a coffee grinder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice, ground
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
  • 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Stuffed Potatoes:

Start with the tomato sauce. Heat olive oil in a large, lidded frying pan (if you're doing two batches, do two pans) over low heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot and chile (if using) and saute 10 minutes. Add caraway seeds, allspice and paprika and cook another 2 minutes, until very fragrant. Add tomatoes, lime juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper and bring to a boil then remove from heat and set aside while you make the potatoes.

In a bowl, combine beef (or chickpeas), cracker crumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix them very well, using your hands to make an even paste. The consistency should resemble meatballs or veggie burgers.

Using a teaspoon, hollow out potatoes (this is best done with a friend as it's mindless work but time-consuming), leaving a sturdy enough shell that the stuffing won't escape -- about 2/3-inch thick. Save potato innards for latkes or soup (they're in small enough pieces that you won't have to grate them). Stuff meat (or chickpea) mixture into potatoes, pushing it down so it's packed well and completely fills potato.

Return tomato sauce pan to a low flame and add potatoes, pushing them snugly into the sauce, filling facing upward. You will probably have to squeeze them very close together (or even use two pans). Just make sure they don't overlap. Add water (pour it gently!) to the sauce so that it just reaches the tops of the potatoes but doesn't cover the stuffing. Cover and let cook, simmering, for 1 hour. Remove lid and reduce 5 more minutes. Serve over rice (if desired), garnished with cilantro. Bon appetit!


Nov 13, 2012

Allspice Pasta

Sometimes I think I should hand in my "foodie" card. I almost always use tomato sauce from a jar, I buy canned beans and lentils rather than making my own and I've never made fresh pasta. Well, while the MTA was still under-performing as a result of Hurricane Sandy and the vegetarian was still home from work because his office was powerless, I decided to change one of those things. So, even with no pasta maker, the vegetarian and I tried our hands at making gluten-free pasta from scratch.

Before beginning, I did some research on pasta-making, both gluten-free and regular. The regular recipes taught me to use my food processor to make the dough and that, if I didn't mind making my pasta malfatti, I could just cut it with a knife. The gluten-free recipes all seemed terribly daunting, talking about using extra egg yolks and various combinations of flours. Yikes! I wasn't interested in a trip to the grocery store, so I just went with gluten-free all-purpose flour and the two eggs we had in the fridge. I also added some allspice (my current obsession) because, really, what's the point of homemade pasta if you don't add your own flavorings?

So ... how did it turn out? Interesting. It wasn't my favorite thing I've ever cooked, though it wasn't terrible either. For some reason, it tasted "meaty" to me (the vegetarian disagreed) -- possibly as a result of the garbanzo flour in my mix? The vegetarian did find it heavy, a common complaint with gluten-free pastas and pizzas. With some (jarred) tomato sauce, it was dinner. And next time? I guess I'll have to start experimenting with different flours (not to mention spices). Suggestions welcome!

Allspice Pasta
In a food processor, combine flour and allspice. Slowly add in eggs (one at a time), olive oil and water. Pulse until just combined. Remove dough to a lightly-floured cutting board and roll out as thinly as possible. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into strips. Cook into boiling water for a few minutes, until it rises to the top. Bon appetit!


Nov 2, 2012

Green Peas with Allspice and Mushrooms

Happy November! Not sure where you are, but, here in NYC, we've just survived a hurricane -- Hurricane Sandy. Now, don't get excited, the vegetarian and I are fine. Actually, I wasn't even in NYC -- I spent the last 2+ weeks in LA and Japan for work (enjoying some wonderful sashimi in Japan!) and was lucky enough to get one of the first flights into the newly-reopened JFK airport.

The vegetarian and our apartment lost cable and internet for a couple of days but it returned shortly after I did. Now we're enjoying a few days off (reduced subways make it quite difficult to get around) and, as I nurse a nasty cold, I'm getting reacquainted with our kitchen!

Tonight's offering is a simple Syrian-Jewish dish, very gently adapted from A Fistful of Lentils. Served over rice (we used a smoked basmati, wild rice and quinoa blend) and lentils, it was a perfect meal. Enjoy!

Green Peas with Allspice and Mushrooms
adapted from A Fistful of Lentils

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil until it moves as easily as water. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add mushrooms and cook 3 minutes. Add water and peas. Cover and cook 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and allspice and mix well. Cook another 2 minutes so flavors meld. Adjust seasonings. Serve warm over rice. Bon appetit!

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