Sunday, April 30, 2006

Is My Blog Burning?

No, it's on fire with flavor! Flush with success from my first ever blogging event, I decided to participate in this month's Is My Blog Burning, hosted by Derrick Schneider at An Obsession with Food. The theme for this month is stale bread.

We were supposed to use good bread, but this is the best I'm going to use—it's the only bread I had in the house and I wasn't going to go buy some bread just so it can go stale; that kind of defeats the purpose, if you ask me. It's Natural Ovens whole grain so I thought it would add an interesting texture to my dish. I opened up the bag on Thursday to dry it out, though, and this morning it was still a little moist in the middle. I had to put it in the oven to dry it out and almost burned it.

So, what to make with my stale bread? I thought of all the usual things—bread pudding, some kind of stuffing, meatloaf/balls/etc., but I wanted to try something different. My goal is to learn something new, or to make something I've never made before.

I was talking to Jessica at the Knit Shop about it (I think they might be getting a little tired of hearing me talk about food all the time these days), and she said she thought Mole had bread in it. Hmm. I've never made mole before. So we searched out some recipes and found some that had everything from bread to flour to tortillas in them. There were all kinds of different ingredients in all of them, as well. Some of them were pretty daunting for my first attempt.

A new world food, mole is generally credited to the Aztecs, although they would most likely be horrified to find the use of chocolate in some versions. The recipe is said to have been refined by the nuns of the Order of Santa Rosa to impress visiting political and church officials in Mexico in the 17th century. There is (of course) a website devoted to mole, which is where I got this information. It has all kinds of resources, recipes, and information, and you can find it here.

I have only had mole a couple of times until now. I loved some, didn't much care for the rest. That's how different each version can be. For my first attempt, I decided to start light, with relatively few ingredients. That way I can identify what I like, then play with new ingredients as I go.

I'm pleased with the overall result. There's a little too much peanut butter, and probably a little too much sweet in the chocolate for some people, although I like that. I only used pasilla peppers because that's what I had on hand and I really like their dark smoky flavor. Next time I might add sesame seeds and almonds, and maybe another kind of chili. It's a little lighter, and chunkier, than I think it should be. Now that I know what to expect, I'll be able to fine tune it as I go.

I kind of bastardized a couple of recipes for this version. It's delicious, although it could use some refining. Let's see if I can reconstruct what I did:

Pork Chops with Pasilla Mole

4 Pork Chops, 1-1/2" thick
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 pasilla peppers (plus hot water to cover)
1 onion, chopped fine
1 head garlic, minced (yep, 1 head)
4 c. vegetable stock
3 Tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
2-1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tablet Mexican chocolate (or app. 3 oz. semisweet and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon)
1/2 c. peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add peppers and let plump for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove to bowl, cover with hot water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Leave oil in skillet. After 30 minutes, remove stems (and seeds for less heat), break into pieces and chop in blender.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder and bread crumbs and cook, continuing to stir frequently, for 3 more minutes.

Add vegetable stock and blended pasilla peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and chocolate.

Pork Chops:

In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Season chops with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Brown in skillet; turn once. Spoon mole sauce over chops. Lower heat, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until done.

This is delicious with roasted vegetables.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More Bean Evolution

My search for the perfect BBQ baked beans continues.
I was browsing through cookbooks and looking online for general BBQ sauce recipes when I had an incredibly strong sense/smell memory. When I was a child and we would be having some kind of braised meat (or less often, short ribs) for dinner, my mother would have a pan of barbecue sauce simmering on the stove. I always liked the meat all right, but for me the sauce was the star of the meal. There was always rice with those dishes, and I would ladle as much sauce as my mother would let me have onto as much rice as I could grab, and I would gobble it up.

I haven't thought about that sauce for years, but the instant the sense memory hit, I knew it was what I was looking for in my beans. At some point I'm sure I had the recipe, but it's been lost along the way, so I had to try to reconstruct it from memory.

And my first attempt was successful, I'm happy to report. What made this sauce so distinct in my memory is that it has lemon juice in it. It was a special treat to get a super-thin slice of lemon in my portion. I think my mother may have used ketchup as the base, but I'm trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup and processed foods, so I thought I'd try it with tomato sauce instead. I have a memory of Worcestershire sauce too, but I didn't have any on hand. What I did have was a bottle of Pickapeppa sauce I bought years ago with some vague idea of what I was going to do with it. This turned out to be its destiny in my kitchen, I think. The only thing I had to buy especially for the sauce was the lemon. I had everything else on hand.

For this attempt, I decided to use navy beans. I think I was going for something along the lines of Boston Baked Beans in look and texture. They're good, but a little too firm for this dish. I think next time I'm going to try pinto beans, or pink if I can find them dry.

Lynda, you said to let you know when I found a good BBQ bean recipe. This might be a little sweet for your taste, but I think this may be it.

I'm finding my way around Blogger a little more. Look what I can do now:

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Test Kitchen

BBQ Baked Beans (Pass 1)

3 c. cooked navy beans, drained (canned is fine, but rinse them)
2 Tbsp. oil
1 med. onion, finely chopped
8 oz. tomato sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. Pickapeppa sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in saucepan. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add all other
ingredients, mix well and turn into casserole dish.
Bake at 325 degrees F. for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Makes approximately 4 servings.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wellfed Update

I have another post up on Fitfare. I'm even getting some comments.

Go check it out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Next Top Chef

You Are an Excellent Cook

You're a top cook, but you weren't born that way. It's taken a lot of practice, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.
It's likely that you have what it takes to be a top chef, should you have the desire...

I don't know if I have the desire, but I sure do like to learn. Mary tipped me off to this quiz. Howsabout you? What kind of cook are you?

Last night was bittersweet. One of my knitting friends is moving to Hong Kong. She's leaving this weekend. So several of us took her out to a farewell dinner at Wishbone. The food was wonderful, the company was great, but it's going to be hard to let her go.

She had a moving sale over the weekend. Mary and I went over on Sunday morning to see how it was going and to check out what was left. She had lots of cool kitchen things that she gave me. I think I've decided what to do with them--that's the project I was talking about earlier. More on that later.

Right now I have to go teach a knitting class.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mucho Mejor

Mary re-sent the photo (along with another one with me about to stick my fork into it.)

Much better, don't you think?

Who Knew It Was a Neon Fish?

Well, this is the picture that Mary took of my Big Fish on Saturday night. She used her phone camera and then e-mailed it to me and something has gotten a little lost in the translation. My shirt should be denim blue and the fish should be, well, fish colored. Actually, this makes a really pretty picture but it can be a little hard on the eyes. That bright glob of chartreuse to your left (right by the fish's head) is some of the best guacamole in the city of Chicago.

This is the famous fried red snapper that El Barco is known for. I hadn't intended to order it. I ordered the red snapper with ajo and cilantro. I was picturing grilled, even though I know this restaurant is famous for bringing a big ol' fried fish, head, tails and all, to your table on a comal that is the size of one-fourth of the table. About ten minutes after we'd ordered, I realized I was going to get the whole enchilada, so to speak.

Which was ok by me. The fish was delicious, and not at all greasy. You can't tell from the picture, but the body is scored on both sides so it's easy to pull the meat off in manageable chunks. The Spanish rice (the aquaeous substance that's glowing under the fish on the lower right) was so-so, but there was some grilled zucchini and new potatotes that were pretty tasty. My only complaint--the fish doesn't come with the refried beans that are so good because they probably have lard in them and I would not ordinarily eat them but they're so good here I would definitely have eaten them if they'd come with my fish but they didn't but Mary didn't eat hers and was gracious enough to let me stick my fork in her plate every now and then. Mary had the carne asada and snow crab legs and she said it was good. I had a little taste of the crab and it was delicious. Our other two dining companions had chili rellenos and ceviche, both also good.

I'm glad I had the fish; I think it's something everyone should do once (unless, like Mary, you don't care for fish, in which case you're excused). But next time I think I'll go for the steak again.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Signs of the Season

Tomatoes were on sale for .89 cents/lb. at my local grocery store so I bought some. One of them got a little smushed on the way home so I set it out to use first. Seeing it sitting there on the counter inspired me to make the first tomato sandwich of the season.

Granted, the basil is dried and the tomatoes aren't quite the deep red juicy beefsteaks of deep summer, but it was surprisingly satisfying.

I'm ready for the farmer's markets to start up again. Not until mid-May around here, though. :sigh: I was going to link to the city's schedule of Chicago Farmer's Markets, but I can't find it. This is the best I can do.

I'm working on a new project. More on that later, I hope.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Slow Cookin'

I've got another review up over at Foodbound. Check it out.

I also went back to El Barco for dinner tonight. This time I ordered the fish they're so famous for. Pictures, and a review, to come . . .

. . . and the pasilla salsa is just as good as I remembered it being. Damn, I'm going to have to make it soon.

Friday, April 21, 2006


The theme of Barbara's next Spice Is Right event at Tigers & Strawberries sure looks intriguing.

Hmmmm. Got my thinking cap on . . .

It's the Little Things . . .

I overslept this morning and was bummed because that meant I had to buy my coffee at Starbucks instead of brewing and bringing my own, like I've been trying to do.

On those rare occasions when I have had to buy coffee, I've gotten in the habit of bringing my own mug so I can feel at least a little bit better about it.

Today, in honor of Earth Day, if you bring your container your coffee is free.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Evolution of a Bean

I love black beans, and they're really good for me, but sometimes I get tired of them. Most of the black beans I make have the same basic ingredients—cumin, cilantro, lime, and tomatoes. It's time for a change, baby!

So I browsed through some cookbooks and went online. Apparently, I'm not the only one who's black bean challenged. Most recipes I found had pretty much the same ingredients I use. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a gal wants a little variation in her beans, right?

I don't know what made me think of baked beans. Lord knows I've never made them. For the most part, my only experience with them was doctored van Camp's Pork and Beans (dried onion flakes, ketchup, brown sugar, a dash of Worcestershire—YUM!). I didn't even know if black beans could be baked.

So I narrowed my search and found a couple of recipes that looked interesting. I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand for either of them, but I had enough to experiment. And came up with my first ever baked black beans.

And you know what? I love beans baked. They have a completely different taste and consistency to stovetop beans. The sauce is thick and rich; the beans are smooth and creamy. I added the corn to round out the proteins, but it would be just as good without it, I think.

My first attempt was really good, but it could be better. I'm going to play with this until I get it right.

Here's what I used this time: Canola oil, onions, garlic, black beans, corn, sun-dried tomatotes (completely wasted as far as I can tell), tomato sauce, honey, chili powder, tarragon, bay leaves, and smoked paprika. As much as I love garlic, I think I'll leave that out next time, and I want to tweak the spices. It had a mild BBQ flavor that I want to enhance.

I think I'm going to be baking a lot of beans in the future. And I think Boston Baked Beans might just be next over the horizon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Spice Is Right #1 Roundup

Barbara has begun the first of three posts featuring the bloggers who participated in The Spice Is Right challenge. I'm honored to say my entry is included in the first post.

Go check out them out
. It's interesting to see the different spices each person chose to feature. I can't wait to see what the next one is.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Almond and Lamb Loaves

I wanted to make something holiday-ish today, and lamb seems to be what I'm eating lately. I had a recipe for Almond and Lamb Loaves that I got from the internet.

I was a little disappointed in how it came out, but that's mostly my fault. The first problem is that the recipe has European (or British, I'm not sure which) measurements and I know I translated the amount of meat incorrectly. It said 1 kilo, which I thought was 2.5 pounds, but it's 2.2 pounds, and I actually got 2.7 pounds from the butcher (at the time, .2 pounds over didn't seem like such a huge amount, but .5 pounds makes a much bigger difference). The amount of meat should also have clued me in to the possibility of cutting the recipe in half, but I thought I might freeze the second loaf and have it on hand for another time.

Mistake two was that I got sliced almonds instead of the slivered almonds the recipe called for. That wasn't such a big deal for the ones that go into the loaf, but as you can see in the photo the sliced almonds are just kind of laying on top, not really doing anything. Half of them fell off. And the other half fell off when I cut into it.

I also didn't buy any mint at the grocery store yesterday because I thought I had some, but I now have this faint memory of deciding that I'd had it too long and throwing it out. I'm a lot smarter about those kinds of things now; I don't throw out old spices until *after* I've replaced them. But I wasn't about to go out just to get some mint so I decided I'd do without. Not major, but I think it would have tasted better with the mint.

I also couldn't find white malt vinegar, so I used white wine vinegar instead. (Boy am I going to feel stupid if I find out that's just the non-USA word for regular old vinegar.)

It's a pretty cool recipe. You cook down the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices with tomatoes, vinegar and tomato paste. Here's a picture of what that loooks like.

You cook it until it gets thick and let it cool down and mix it in with the meat, some bread crumbs, parsley, eggs (and the mint, which I didn't have). It's kind of like a home-made ketchup, which is in a lot of meatloaf recipes I've seen.

You can see how much there is in that pan, though. I had to use my biggest bowl to mix everything together.

The upshot is that the amount of meat I used made for way too much for two loaves, so I had to make three, which meant that they took longer to cook and got too dry and burned on the outside. It was really hard to get them off the foil, too. Next time I'll just use my loaf pans (duh).

But the insides tasted pretty good, so I think I might try this again (once I've worked my way through the two-plus loaves I have right now). But in the future, I'll cut the recipe in half and just make one loaf. Much easier to manage.

I also made some new potatoes oven-roasted with olive oil, garlic (lots), and summer savory. Those came out perfectly. For my vegetable, I wilted some spinach in olive oil, then tossed it with a little lemon juice and an herb blend called Sunny Paris I got at Penzey's.

I'm not going to post this recipe until I've worked on it. If you want it anyway, leave a comment.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


My friend Mary loves her peeps. I wonder if she's seen this little gem I read about on Accidental Hedonist? Hmmmmmm.

I didn't really do anything for Passover this year, and I don't have any plans for Easter either.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope the celebratin's good.

Friday, April 14, 2006

For All You Cat People Out There

'Cuz you know I'm not one.

There's a new Surprise! link on the sidebar.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Spice is Right #1: Cumin

The first new spice I discovered after leaving home and living on my own was cumin. It's possible my parents had some in the cupboard at home in Dallas, but I don't remember hearing about it until I was living in Austin and my housemate Risa told me that's what they put in pinto beans to make them taste so good.

So I bought some and played with it. It was strong and smoky and tasted a little burnt, and a little went a long way. I hadn't yet mastered the subtle nuances of cooking with spices and tended to use equal amounts of everything without really knowing which spice was contributing which flavor. It made my beans taste too smoky, so I decided I didn't know how to make beans and pretty much stopped making them at home. But I always had cumin on hand for the occasional recipe that called for it.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I was visiting my brother in Austin. He had cooked up a bunch of pinto beans and they were really good. I think it was a combination of they way he cooked them and the fact that, living in Chicago for many years, I hadn't had beans in a long time. They were so good, in fact, that I decided to try making them when I got back home (I recently posted about them here).

What I discovered this time around is that with cumin, less is more. I started using a scant teaspoon that was gradually whittled down to about 1/2 a teaspoon. Having used cumin in some Indian cooking, I also learned to add the cumin to the onion and garlic saute before adding the beans and liquids. It made all the difference in the world.

At about the same time I found a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian for a spicy eggplant stew that called for cumin seeds, so I trekked on down to The Spice House and picked some up. They had a sharper, more pungent, less smoky taste than ground cumin, and imparted a wonderful nutty flavor to the dish. From that time on, cumin (both seeds and ground) has been a staple in my kitchen. And while I now knew cumin had been around a lot longer than I had known, I never thought about how long it had been around, or wondered at the significance of its presence in Indian cuisine.

When Barbara over at Tigers & Strawberries announced that the first Spice is Right challenge is Ancient Spices, the first spice that popped into my head was cinnamon. But I wanted to choose something that had some meaning to me, so I decided to do some research. And one of the first spices I encountered in my search was cumin.

I was surprised to learn that cumin has been around for a long time. According to The World's Healthiest Foods, it has been developed in the Middle East, India, China and Metiterranean countries for milennia, and was used in ancient Egypt for embalming. It was used in both Greek and roman kitchens, partly because its peppery flavor served as an alternative for pepper, which was expensive and scarce. Cumin seeds were used to pay tithes to the priests.

Cumin use flourished during the Middle Ages, and became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity. In some Arab cultures, a paste made of cumin, pepper and honey was thought to have aphrodisiac properties. In Central and South America, ground cumin is commonly used in almost every beef and stew dish.

Cumin has many healthy properties as well. It's high in iron and helps keep the immune system healthy. There is evidence that it has some anti-cancer properties, and it has potent free radical scavenging abilities that may have more far-reaching benefits to overall health. You can find more information on all things cumin here.

While I have several recipes that call for cumin or cumin seeds, I wanted to honor the spirit of the challenge and find a new recipe. It was a challenge to find a recipe by searching for cumin, but I finally found something that looked good. I wanted to focus on the seed rather than ground cumin, so I wanted something Indian rather than Latin American. When I found this recipe for Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Masala), I was happy to find that it called for both cumin seeds *and* ground cumin. It seemed perfect.

There are a lot of other spices in this dish that blend extremely well with the ground cumin, but the cumin seeds, which are toasted in oil at the beginning, stand above the rest and impart their nutty bite to each mouthful. It's delicious with brown rice.

Some notes:

1. Asafoetida is a nasty-smelling spice that is used in Indian cooking. I only have some because the spicy eggplant stew I mentioned above calls for it and I was curious. If you don't have any or don't want to bother with it, you can omit it. Garlic is often used as a substitute and this recipe already has garlic in it.

2. I used a 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh.

3. I wasn't sure what red chili powder is, but I had regular chili powder on hand and used that. I thought about cayenne, then thought about how spicy 2 teaspoons of cayenne would be and decided the chili powder seemed more prudent. It worked for me.

4. I'm not sure what "Fry until the oil separates" means after the tomatoes are added. I just let it go until everything was cooked down, between 7-13 minutes.

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Red Kidney Beans Curry (Rajma Masala)
2 c. red kidney beans soaked overnight
4 c. water
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 bay leaves (optional)
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 big tomatoes finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp coriander
3 Tbsp oil
salt to taste
finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Style: North Indian Vegetarian (Punjabi)

Drain the soaked red kidney beans and wash them well. Place them in a medium saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook half covered, for approximately one hour or until tender.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat and add cumin seeds and cook until the seeds begin to pop and crackle. Add the bay leaves, asafoetida and chopped ginger and garlic. Fry briefly. Add the chopped onions and fry till they are golden brown. Add the rest of the spices except the garam masala. Add the chopped tomatoes. Fry till the oil separates.

Add the cooked red kidney beans along with its stock, sprinkle salt, mix well and cook on medium level for about 15 minutes.

Add the garam masala. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

Recipe courtesy of According to their homepage, they provide "Online Education, Interactive Learning and homework help to over 180 countries." I've never heard of it before, but I plan to explore it some more; it looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Little Bits

Not much time to post. I'm working on a couple of things for, and I have to post the results of my Tigers&Strawberries Ancient Spice event, *and* I have to finish Alan Hollinghurst's Line of Beauty before this Saturday. Where does all the time go?

My post on how to cook brown rice is up on Fitfare. Go read it

Monday, April 10, 2006

Global Etiquette Quiz

How's your global etiquette?

I scored 6 out of 11.

Maybe if I travelled more I'd know more . . .

Friday, April 07, 2006


How's that for a name? Too cutesy? It's a truncation of spinach zucchini and chickpeas. I'm trying to be a little more imaginative in naming my dishes.

But the bottom line is that, no matter what you call it, it tastes fabulous (if I do say so myself). There's room for tweaking, for sure, but so far this is a total winner.

I originally bought the zucchini for some pasta sauce I was going to make with the tomatoes I opened to use with the pinto beans. Then I remembered that I had bought a bag of spinach to do something (can't remember what) with. Then I made the chickpeas and was trying to decide what to do with them. Chickpeas . . . zucchini . . . spinach . . . tomatoes . . . soup just seemed like the thing to do. Some cumin and curry powder and you're on the way.

I did not put garlic in this; for some reason it didn't seem right. I think I'll keep it that way, too. I love garlic, so when I use it I really use it. It's impossible for me to stop at less than six cloves (I usually use at least half a head). So sometimes I think it's good to just omit it altogether. Kind of like when I don't put onion in my quick pasta sauce.

I was determined not to overcook the zucchini. What is it with me and zucchini? I set the timer for ten minutes after I added the zucchini but the dang thing didn't go off so it cooked a little longer than it should have. Luckily it held its shape ok, but next time I *will* get it right . . . ha ha.

This makes a lot. It's somewhat substantial, but not so hearty that it feels like a winter soup. It's actually kind of nice for spring.

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews

2 Tbsp. oil
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
3 zucchini, chopped
3 c. cooked chickpeas, or 2 14.5-oz. cans, drained and rinsed
10 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in stockpot and saute onion until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add curry powder and cumin and stir once. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, water, and zucchini. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until zucchini is just tender.

Add chickpeas and spinach and bring back to a simmer. Cook 5-10 more minutes until spinach has wilted.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Beans and Rice

The cookies are all out of the house and I had lunch with Lynda at Tuscany on Taylor Street so it's time to get back to healthy eating. I had some pinto beans in the freezer so I defrosted them and made one of my standbys. It's really good over brown rice. I'm writing a post on how to cook brown rice for Fitfare. I'll point you to it when it's up. The cookbook site is supposed to be up, too, but I don't know if it has made its official debut yet.

I usually add tomatoes to my beans (as much for the extra vegetable as for the taste), but the beans weren't totally defrosted when I needed to add them so I couldn't drain them. I thought there might be too much liquid if I added the tomatoes. It tastes good either way. I adapted the recipe based on some pinto beans I had at my brother's house over the holidays a couple of years ago.

I've been cooking beans from "scratch" for the past couple of years now and I've gotten pretty good at it. They're tender but hold their shape well. They freeze well, too, so I get two meals out of one pound. I actually bit the bullet and bought a two-pound bag of pinto beans last time I was at the store. I cooked some chickpeas over the weekend: half are going into a chickpea spinach zucchini soup I'm working on and the other half are in the freezer.

The chickpea zucchini soup is starting to smell really good. I'll let you know how it comes out.

Home Cookin 4.2 Chapter: Soups and Stews


1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced*
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
3 cups cooked pinto beans with or without liquid, or 2 15-oz. cans, rinsed and drained
1 28-oz. can tomatoes (optional if you use liquid from the beans)
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
3 c. cooked brown rice

*Fresh or canned, although lately the fresh have had no heat to them so I pretty much always use canned.

Heat oil in saucepan. When oil is hot, add onions and cook for a minute or so, then add garlic and jalapeno. When onions are translucent, after about 5 mins., add the cumin and oregano.

Stir once and add the pinto beans, tomatoes (if there is no bean liquid), cilantro, salt and pepper. Adjust for cumin and oregano.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Get the rice started just before you add the beans to the onions and garlic. The beans simmer while the rice is cooking, and are done at about the same time.

Monday, April 03, 2006


What we have here is the perfect chocolate chip cookie. And why is it perfect? Elementary, my dear Watson. There are no chocolate chips in it. Everyone knows that the perfect chocolate chip cookie is the one that has no chocolate chips.

At least, that's how I feel about chocolate chip cookies. It's the dough I love--that dark sweet caramelly crunch that melts in your mouth. And as much as I love chocolate, the chips kind of get in the way.

But I can't eat more than one. Which is why I always only make just one chipless cookie at the end of a batch.

Here are some with chips:
I don't know why I decided to make cookies tonight, but around ten o'clock I took some butter out of the fridge and put it in a bowl to soften. Around eleven o'clock I started mixing up the batter. I ran into a little bit of trouble after I had mixed all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips--I misread the recipe and only used half a cup of butter instead of a cup. I didn't have time to soften up more butter, so I decided to use oil instead. I figured it would be healthier, and I really didn't have a choice anyway.

The end result is good, but the dough was a little greasier and looser than usual. They also cooked up about four minutes faster than the recipe called for and my oven was at the right temperature so I figure that's on account of the oil, too.

But they taste good. It's been a long time since I've had Toll House cookies. I'm always surprised at how good they are.

It's not pretty when I get the urge to bake late at night at the beginning of the week. I'm already feeling a little sick from eating too many and I still have about five dozen cookies left. Hmmm. Who's feeling lucky?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

G'Day, Mate!

When I was rooting around for a pasilla salsa recipe, I discovered a new recipe source. It's called Food Down Under, and they have over 200,000 recipes. I haven't spent a whole lot of time there yet, but they have a lot of recipes from all over the world.

I don't remember what key words I used to find the above recipe. I don't know if it looks all that appetizing, but I have to tell you it is delicious. It's a Brown Rice, Lentil and Spinach Curry. It has a lot of spices that all blend together in the nicest way and the lentils and brown rice go really well together.

I used the French green lentils I got in Austin over the holidays. Boy, those are good. I didn't realize I could become such a lentil afficionado, but it just goes to show that anything's possible. These are similar in consistency to the black lentils, but have more of the shape and size of brown lentils. I'm glad I got so much--I have enough for at least two more dishes.

I don't believe I showed you what those look like. I must rectify that at once!

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but they're light green with tiny little specks of dark green. They're a little less flat than their brown counterparts. I wish I had some regular lentils so I could show the contrast. Maybe I'll do that in another post.

At any rate, this dish is really good and filling. It makes quite a bit, too--it will last me for the week. I don't know if it would freeze all that well. I might test a portion.

I didn't make many changes to the recipe. I forgot my new rule and bought a fresh jalapeno, which once again didn't have any kick to it whatsoever. But I kind of liked it without heat. Instead of using the pickled, hotter ones next time, I think I'll just omit them. The spices are so subtle here that the heat might drown them out entirely.

A couple of notes:

I wasn't completely sure what they mean by saute liquid, so I used a couple of tablespoons of canola oil.

I used my pasta pot for this recipe, which has a steam hole on the lid. The rice did not cook in the time suggested and I realized this was probably why. I replaced the lid with a solid one and cooked it another 20 minutes and it came out perfectly.

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Pasta and Grains

Brown Rice, Lentil, And Spinach Curry

3/4 c. lentils
1/4 c. saute liquid
1 small Onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 med carrot, shredded
1 small green chile, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. long-grain brown rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-1/4 c. vegetable broth or water
1/2 lb. Spinach leaves, chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Wash lentils and put them in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a
boil. Cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 20 minutes. Remove from heat
until ready to add to the rice.

Heat the saute liquid in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add onion and
celery and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add carrot and
chile. Cook, stirring, 1 or 2 minutes. Add ground spices and cook, stirring,
about 1 minute. Add rice. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, until grains turn
translucent, then opaque, but not scorched. Stir in the lentils and any
unabsorbed water in the lentil pot. Add salt, pepper, and broth or water.
Cook at a low boil for 15 minutes. Add the spinach, pushing it down into the
rice mixture. Cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 30 minutes.

In a small skillet or saucepan, cook the cumin seeds until they begin to
darken and pop. Pour over the lentil-rice mixture, add the lemon juice, and
serve. Serves 3 or 4 as a main dish.

Servings: 4

from Recipe 37348 of 281476
Note: Edited 02/13/11 with actual source: from Pilaf, Risotto, and Other Ways with Rice, by Sada Fretz (Little, Brown 1995).
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