Monday, April 18, 2011

Beans, beans, they're good for...

Everything!  I was never much of a bean person growing up but I've learned to love them of late.  Very versatile and full of stuff that's good for you.  Fiber and protein all in one little package!  I like to buy bulk dry beans, soak them for 4-6 hours (or up to overnight) and then cook them up.  I use some of them in recipes and some I'll freeze to use when I don't have time to cook from scratch.  I think beans made from dry have much better flavor than beans from cans.  But feel free to substitute if you're short on time (just make sure to rinse them in cold water since the canned kind usually have added salt).

First I'll give you my basic recipe to cook up black beans and then I'll give you one of my recipes that uses them.  I'll post other recipes for black beans in the future.  As usual, go ahead and make substitutions or additions as you see fit! 

Basic Black Beans

2 cups dried black beans, picked over and rinsed thoroughly under cold water
1/4-1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/4-1/2 serrano pepper, minced

After the beans have been picked over and rinsed, put them in a bowl and cover them by about 2-3 inches with cold water.  Let them soak on the counter.  I've soaked them for as short as 4 hours and for as long as overnight.  I've seen short soak methods where you boil the beans briefly and then let them soak for just a few hours.  I've also heard some people say presoaking isn't necessary at all.  This is the way I choose to do it.  I actually like them better when they soak for just 4 hours, as opposed to overnight.

After the beans have soaked, I drain them and put them in a heavy pot (I use a Dutch oven) and again cover them by 2-3 inches of water.  Then I add the diced onion and minced serrano and bring it all to a boil over high heat, uncovered.  Reduce the heat to medium low to low and simmer the beans (still uncovered) until desired tenderness.  It usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Hoorah, you have beans!  You can eat them straight up but I like to make things with them, like enchiladas.  This is a completely made up recipe and in no way is meant to be authentic Mexican food.  But we think they're super tasty!

Black Bean, Corn, and Mushroom Enchiladas

Enchilada Ingredients

grapeseed oil
garlic, minced
yellow onion, finely diced
serrano pepper, finely diced (jalapeno would work too)
mushrooms, diced (I used button, but creminis would be fine)
frozen sweet corn
cooked black beans
shredded cheese (we eat 100% grass fed cheddar that we find at Whole Foods and shred on a box grater)
corn or flour tortillas

Note that I don't list amounts because I always wing it.  You should too!  Saute the onions over medium high heat in a small amount of oil, until translucent.  Add in the garlic and serrano and saute for another minute, until fragrant.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they begin to release their juices and reduce.  Add the frozen corn and black beans and saute until warmed through.  Add cumin to taste. 

The mushrooms add a meatiness while keeping the dish vegetarian. 


Sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheese in the center of a flour or corn torilla and top that with the bean/corn/mushroom mixture. 

Enchilada Sauce

1 tsp grapeseed oil
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/4-1/2 serrano pepper, finely diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
14 oz. crushed tomatoes
ground cumin to taste
sea salt to taste (optional)

Prepare the onion, garlic and serrano as you did for the enchilada filling.  Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer over low heat until slightly reduced.  Add cumin and sea salt to taste (salt is optional). 

Once the sauce has reduced to your liking, spread a small amount in the bottom of an oven proof dish.  Roll up your enchiladas and place them seam side down in the baking dish.  Cover the enchiladas with the rest of your sauce.  Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with lime wedges and fresh cilantro for garnish.

The cheese makes this recipe a bit of a guilty indulgence for us but it is oh so good!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Massaman Curry Redux

The Massaman Curry Paste in my post earlier today was made a couple of weeks ago.  Yesterday I was in the Argyle neighborhood in Chicago (Hai Yen - YUM!  Again, I must thank my friend Suzanne for introducing me) and picked up some prepared Massaman Curry Paste (then saw the same stuff today in the suburbs at Brookhaven Marketplace in Mokena, go figure).  So I am revisiting the dish today with the prepared paste. 

I dissolved a whole can of paste in a can of regular coconut milk over medium high heat.

I added red potatoes, yellow onion, and carrots and simmered everything for about 10-15 minutes.  Then I added a can of light coconut milk, cauliflower, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and green beans and simmered until the potatoes and carrots were fork tender. 

I garnished it with chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, lime, and basil.

Quite different than homemade but very good too!

I had bought white fish at Whole Foods yesterday so I baked it in the oven and served it with the Massaman Curry on top too.  Delish!

Massaman Curry, sort of...

Recently, my friend Suzanne suggested I try making Massaman Curry, a Thai dish made with a curry paste and coconut milk. I had never had Massaman Curry, but I love Thai food and am game for a challenge. I searched the internet for recipes. Many of them just used a prepared Massaman Curry paste that you can buy at most Asian markets. I wasn't going to be near any Asian markets for awhile so I decided to try to make my own Massaman Curry paste. I finally found a recipe online, but of course I was missing an ingredient, shrimp paste (also something available at Asian markets). I'm sure it adds a lot to the dish, but I decided to forge ahead without it.

This wasn't a hard dish to make, but it was time consuming due to the long list of ingredients for the paste. To be completely honest, between the paste and my adventures in tofu frying (see below), I was cooking all afternoon. The results were very tasty though.  If I made it again I'd do a double or triple batch of paste and freeze the extra paste for future use when time is limited.

My recipe is adapted from here

Massaman Curry Paste

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
2 shallots, sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp dried crushed chili (red pepper flakes)
1 thumb size piece of ginger, thinly sliced
1-3 tbsp bottled lemongrass (I used 3 tbsp; available at Whole Foods or Asian markets)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (I ground 3 whole cloves and the seeds from several cardamom pods in my spice grinder)
2 tbsp fish sauce (I have found this at any supermarket)
1 tsp shrimp paste (I did not have this so I omitted it; available at Asian markets)
1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar (I used brown sugar; palm sugar is also called jaggery and is available at Whole Foods or Asian markets)
1/4 tsp tamarind paste (optional, this is my addition to the recipe; available at Whole Foods or Asian markets)
1-3 tbsp coconut milk from a 14 oz. can (omit if freezing paste for later use, you'll need the can for the rest of the dish)

I processed all of the ingredients in my mini-chop food processor.

You can put just about anything you want in Massaman Curry. Chicken, beef, tofu, vegetables. We wanted a vegetarian dish that day, so I decided to get adventurous and (gasp!) fry some tofu. I used grapeseed oil for frying.  I used extra firm tofu that I sliced approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thickness and used lots of paper towels to press on the slices and get as much moisture out of the tofu as possible. If you've never experienced it yourself, be advised that hot oil and moisture create for a dangerous (and messy) situation because the moisture causes the oil to spatter. Get zinged on your arms a few times and you'll never again forget to remove the moisture before frying! Even after pressing my tofu, frying was still a semi-spattery, messy endeavor. It turned out great, but I don't know that I'd go through the trouble again.

To make the dish I fried the curry paste in a small amount of grapeseed oil over medium high heat until fragrant and then added the remainder of my can of coconut milk and stirred to mix the paste into the coconut milk. I reduced the heat to medium and added two dried bay leaves. Then I added an array of sliced/diced/broken into florets veggies: carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash and zucchini. I think peas, winter squashes, and green beans would also be great additions.  I cooked the mixture until the veggies started to get tender and then sliced my fried tofu into strips and added those in.

Once the veggies reach desired tenderness, remove the bay leaves and spoon the curry over jasmine or basmati rice.

Since making this dish a few weeks ago I bought some prepared Massaman Curry Paste at an Asian market. I am actually planning on making it for dinner tonight so I will report back on the difference soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Like (No) Buttah Chicken

Indian food tonight.  For an appetizer I made Tiger Tiger Plain Puppodums which I purchased at Whole Foods.  You can make them two ways: deep fried in oil or in the microwave.  I am not a fan of putting more than a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet at one time (I can be a klutz) so I opted for the microwave option. 

Just brush a puppodum lightly with oil (I used grapeseed)...

Then microwave for 45 seconds and POOF!

They taste like giant potato chips.  I served them with Sharwoods Major Grey Mango Chutney.  I think they would be super fun to make with kids.

For our main meal I made Spice Goddess Bal Arneson's No Butter Chicken:  This is my first time making it and we love it.  Definitely going into the rotation.  As usual, I made a few changes and so I dub this:

Like (No) Buttah Chicken


2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp red chile flakes (I made it with 1 full tsp like Bal's recipe and it was a tad too hot)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1-2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into cubes (I used 2 lbs and there was plenty of sauce)
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt (this is a 1/4 cup more than Bal's recipe, I like the added creaminess)
1/4 - 1/2 cup water (I used a 1/2 cup and I would have liked it to a be a little thicker so I would use less)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onion is golden. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, cumin seeds, garam masala, red chile flakes, turmeric, and salt and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chicken cubes and stir well to coat. Add the yogurt and water and cook, stirring until the chicken is done. You can tell the chicken is cooked through if you can easily break one of the larger pieces in half with a spoon. 

We ate ours over basmati rice.  Yum!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Girl, I'll house (dressing) you.

So, I have a little confession to make. I like to listen to music when I cook... mostly dance/electronica/house.  Some might even call it techno.  I always leaned toward the term "progressive house." But if you asked me the definition of that term, you'd have me stumped.  But anyways, it lifts my mood and occasionally you might find me dancing around the kitchen, my 7" chef's knife in hand.  Best not get in my way.  :)

Tonight I made a big batch of a dish I posted on Facebook the other night before I started this blog. That was the first time I made the dish and we liked it so much (and I had lentils leftover), that I made a bigger batch tonight.  As I said then, the dish is inspired by this  I follow the dressing recipe fairly closely, I just use regular balsamic and skip the pine nuts and nutritional yeast, which I do not have on hand.  I LOVE this dressing.  In fact, it might become our house dressing.

Lemon Dill Lentil Rice

Ingredients for Salad

2 cups cooked green lentils
1 cup cooked basmati rice
As much as you like of diced veggies such as:
Green Pepper
(but use whatever you want)
Sliced Greek Olives
(I think some diced feta would be great too, but we're eating vegan tonight)

Ingredients for Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice + zest of one lemon
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

I mix the dressing first and then pour it over all the other ingredients in a big bowl.  Toss.  Yum!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cooking, not baking. Mostly.

Time off from work has allowed me to rediscover something that brings me much joy, cooking.  Please note that I said cooking, and not baking.  See the problem with baking, for me, is that you really do need to follow the recipe exactly.  Otherwise you end up with curdled buttercream frosting.  I need there to be room for mistakes.  While there are disasters to be had in cooking, I have found you can really deviate from most non-baking recipes and still end up with something tasty.  That said, don't be surprised if I occasionally attempt to bake.  But do be surprised if it's successful.

My #1 reason for deviating from recipes is missing ingredients.  I don't let lack of an ingredient stop me from making something.  I just take the recipe in a slightly different direction without the ingredient that I'm missing and with something I have on hand.  I make it up as I go along. 

I've done this so much that sometimes I just look at recipes online for inspiration and then create something different, but related to, the original.  Tonight, for instance, I knew I had mangos and at least once a week I make Hoisin Honey Salmon.  I googled hoisin and mango and found this recipe:  The recipe for the salsa portion of this dish gave me the inspiration to come up with my Strawberry Mango Salsa to go on the Hoisin Honey Salmon. 

(Since I don't follow recipes myself, I don't expect you to either, all amounts are rough approximates.)

Mango Strawberry Salsa on Hoisin Honey Salmon

1 mango, diced
2-3 strawberries, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/4 serrano pepper, seeded and deveined, minced
2 thin slices of red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp freshly grated ginger
3/4 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp mirin
Squeeze of lime
Squirt of Sriracha

Just mix all ingredients in a bowl!

And as for the Honey Hoisin Salmon.  It's roughly 1 tbsp of hoisin sauce to 1 tsp of honey.  Make as much as you need to cover your piece of salmon and bake in the oven to your liking.  Oh, and I always start by seasoning my salmon first with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.