Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black Bean Soup

This soup is replete with tomato flavor, so if you are looking for a more deeply "beany" soup like the kind at Panera, you'll have to look elsewhere. Like that other soup, this is deeply satisfying on those cold winter months.

The fresh cilantro in this dish makes a pretty bold flavor note, so if you happen to be one of those people who absolutely cannot abide cilantro, don't worry, it's plenty flavorful without it.

Black Bean Soup

  • ½ cup black beans, dried 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch (less than 1/8 teaspoon) baking soda - See Notes
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper chopped
  • ½ hot green pepper, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili seasoning*
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • fresh cilantro, chopped plus additional (to garnish)
  • Greek yogurt

  1. Soak the beans overnight or do a quick soak by placing the dried beans in a medium sauce pan with enough water to cover twice over. Add a pinch of baking soda and bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered for 2 hours.

  2. Drain the beans and rinse very well. Then place beans back in the saucepan.

  3. Add 3 cups water and bay leaf.

  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender. Check the water level occasionally, adding more as necessary.

  5. Remove bay leaf. Drain the beans.

  6. In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, sauté onion, and shallots in olive oil until they become soft and translucent.

  7. Add the celery, hot pepper and bell pepper and saute for another 5 minutes.

  8. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

  9. Add the chipotle chili seasoning, the can of tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a rolling boil.

  10. Add the drained, cooked beans.

  11. Reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes longer.

  12. Remove about half of the mixture to a blender and puree return pureed soup to the pot - or if you have an immersion blender, use it in the pot.

  13. Stir in the salsa and about 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro.

  14. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add the cumin and more chipotle chili seasoning if necessary.

  15. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a healthy dose of Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer) and a few more sprigs of cilantro.

* Chipotle Chili Seasoning

I made this to replace the sodium-laden packet of taco seasoning for that 7-layer Taco dip. It was so good, that I've decided to use it in everything that might be considered remotely Mexican.

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, or pulverized dried chipotle chili
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika - if you can find pimentón, smoked Spanish paprika, use this
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

  2. Store in an airtight container, like an empty spice jar.

  1. Adding baking soda to the soaking phase is supposed to help reduce the gas factor of the beans. I honestly do not know if this is real or just another kitchen myth, but in my experience, it seems to work. Then again, I also take Beano some of the time. I am also used to a diet rich in beans and legumes, so perhaps it doesn't effect me as harshly as it does others.

  2. For a "beanier" taste, you could add the beans' cooking liquid in lieu of some of the vegetable broth.

  3. More fun links dealing with the cilantro issue:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Aloo Gobi

This past weekend, I had an intense craving for Indian food. While there are a few good Indian places near me, I love to fill up the house with the amazing smells as cumin seeds toast in hot oil and then mingle with the other distinctive seasonings in the various curry sauces.

Plus, you have to admit, it's way cheaper to make it yourself.

I had a large menu planned, but I found that I was missing a few key ingredients. I would have had to drag along a sick child to the grocery store for the three missing ingredients, and I finally decided that the risk (child puking all over the produce section) was not worth the reward (green pea and potato samosas). Fear not, I will make those samosas soon.

In the end, I settled for Aloo Gobi, Onion Kulcha and Mango Chutney.

Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower-Potato Curry)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Large bunch of fresh coriander, separated into stalks and leaves and roughly chopped
  • Small green chilies, diced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed and cut evenly into eighths
  • 3 large potatoes, cut into even pieces
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • mirch achaar (optional)
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

  2. Add the chopped onion and one tablespoon of cumin seeds to the oil.

  3. Stir together and cook until onions become soft and translucent.

  4. Add chopped coriander stalks, two teaspoons of turmeric, and one teaspoon of salt.

  5. Add chopped chili peppers - more or less according to taste.

  6. Stir tomatoes into onion mixture, reserving the juice.

  7. Add ginger and garlic; mix thoroughly.

  8. Add potatoes to the sauce plus the reserved tomato juice and a few tablespoons of water. Stir well.

  9. Toss in the green cardamom pods.

  10. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower.

  11. Stir thoroughly so that the cauliflower is coated with the curry sauce.

  12. Cover and allow to simmer for twenty minutes (or until potatoes are cooked). You will want to stir from time to time to make sure that it's not sticking. Add more water as necessary.

  13. Add two teaspoons of garam masala and stir.

  14. Taste to check the seasoning. Now is when I add the chopped mirch achaar (pickled hot chili peppers) for added kick.

  15. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top of the curry.

  16. Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for as long as possible before serving.

  1. If you like spice, you can use 2 14-oz cans of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with green chillies instead of the plain tomatoes.
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