Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Wash and peel 1 pound of fresh, raw carrots. Cut into approximately 2 inch long pieces. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and some kosher salt. Roast about 30 minutes, turning once so they brown a bit on both sides.

About 15 minutes before the carrots are done, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a soup kettle. Add 1 cup of chopped yellow onions, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper and sauté until transparent, about five minutes.

Crush two garlic cloves and toss in to the onions and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add one can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and  4 cups of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Remove the carrots from the oven and add to the soup. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Cool and puree in a blender, Magic Bullet, or with an immersion blender until smooth.

Drain 2 cans of cooked black beans. Strain and rinse the beans with water. Add to the soup and stir in gently. Cook on low heat about five minutes, until beans are done.

Serve. You could top with parsley, if you have it. Cilantro or pumpkin seeds would be delicious, too. Some red pepper flakes would heat it up if you dare. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, but then it would not be vegan. Makes 10 cups of soup.

This is a delicious blend of heat from the tomatoes and chiles and the rich, deep sweetness of the carrots with a bit of smokiness from the roasting. It’s delicious.

Pear & Delicata Squash Soup

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I have an abundance of pears so I decided on making a pear soup. One of my favorite soups is Pear & Parsnip Soup but I didn’t have any parsnips. I had a delicata squash though and thought it looked promising.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Delicata squash
  • 3 small pears or 2 large pears
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 32 oz. or 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  • kosher salt

I put my soup kettle on a low medium with the olive oil. I added the diced onions and dried thyme, letting them slowly cook until transparent.

Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped up the squash, reserving the seeds. It made about 2 cups of chopped up squash, perhaps a little bit over.  Adding the squash to the pot, I stirred and let cook for 3 to 5 minutes. While they cooked, I peeled and chopped up the pears and added them to the pot and let it cook a couple more minutes before tossing in the wine and the broth. I turned up the heat so it began to simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes.

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While the soup was cooking, I rinsed the seeds in water and cleaned away the stringy pulp. Pushing the pulp against the strainer mesh helped in cleaning it away. I then heated a cast iron skillet in a dry pan with no oil to a notch above medium. I tossed the seeds in and toasted them with some kosher salt until toasty brown, stirring frequently so they did not burn. These I set aside for garnish.

I let the soup cook until the squash was tender and puréed with an immersion blender. Serving with a few squash seeds on top, it was a delicious soup. The flavor of the wine comes through without overpowering the soup. The sweetness of the pears and the squash make it lush and slightly sweet. It is a light and refreshing soup. This makes six servings.

 

Carnitas and Rocket

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I heated my cast iron skillet to medium, adding

  • 1/2 TBSP of olive oil,
  • 1/4 tsp of dried ginger,
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder,
  • salt,
  • pepper, and
  • 1 tsp of Jamaica Jerk seasoning.

The spices will bloom in the hot oil. I added

  • 2 TBSP of thinly sliced onions.

While they cooked. I cut up a piece of boneless pork “carnitas” that was on sale for $1.58/pound at WinCo. I cut up about

  • 1 cup of thinly sliced pork pieces

I let the pork cook until done. When it was fully cooked, I added 2 handfuls of rocket (arugula) and stirred in with

  • 2 tsp of seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp of soy sauce

Mixing everything together, as soon as the rocket was tender, I served it up in a bowl. It made a tangy and spicy delicious dinner.

Sausage, Rocket & Tomato Pasta

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I heated a cast iron pan on medium low (3 of 10) and on another burner put a pot of salted water on to boil.

In the cast iron pan, I tossed in a pinch of fennel seeds, about 1/4 tsp or so and let them heat while I removed the casings from 3 breakfast sausage links. I added the sausage and, using a fork, smashed it up to little bits of pork. There was not much fat, but it was enough to cook this without any additional oil. I added 2 TBSP of diced yellow onion. Then I diced a small Roma tomato and added it. I let them cook.

I added 3 handfuls or 3/4 cup of dried egg noodles. I ended up with about 1 cup of noodles when it was done cooking.

I added 1/4 cup of sour cream to the cast iron pan, strained the pasta and stirred it into the sauce and then added a big handful, a cup or more, of fresh rocket. I stirred and removed from the heat so it just warmed but did not cook the rocket.

Grate just a bit of asiago or parmesan cheese on top.

This made one serving. It has a peppery flavor from the rocket, a bit of heat from the sausage and this wonder deep flavor coming from the fennel. The sour cream gave it a nice creaminess and added some fat that it really needed to soften the acidity of the tomatoes and the peppery rocket.

 

Plum Tostada

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I got about 5 pounds of fresh plums from Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share a few weeks back. I have been waiting for them to ripen, but decided to just try cooking one to see what happened. I was really not sure what I wanted to make. Well, I wanted to make a cake but I don’t have a mixer or blender and it’s hot and I didn’t want to turn on the oven, so I stood in front of the fridge hoping something would leap out at me. I saw some fresh rosemary a friend gave me from her garden and wondered how plums would taste sautéed in a bit of butter with some onions and rosemary. I have some tostadas from WinCo, so decided to try something crazy.

So, I melted

  • 1 tsp of butter in a small sauce pan and added about
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped onions. I tossed in about
  • 1 inch long piece of fresh rosemary. I cut up
  • 1 large plum into about 8 segments and then chopped them in half. I added them when the onions were tender. I sautéed for about 8 minutes on a low heat. I added about
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (I have a vanilla bean in my tea sugar and used it instead of my cooking sugar.) I added about
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Stirring everything, I thought about adding lemon, but thought the unripe plum was so tart on its own, I didn’t really need the lemon.

I spread it on the tostada, added some sour cream and lightly toasted pecans.

This was so good, I washed out the pan and made myself a second one. Who knew rosemary and plums were divine? That is a flavor combination I am going to try again. Perhaps in a cake when it’s not so dang hot.

Makes one serving, darn it.

 

Mushrooms and Red Chard with Barley

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I cooked up some barley for breakfast and decided to make some extra to cook up something for lunch. Of course, barley and mushrooms go together perfectly and were my first thought. I had some red chard that really needed to get used and soon, so I decided to go for it. My favorite spice with mushrooms is paprika, so I thought I would give it a whirl. This made four servings. I figure that if I am going to cook something for 45 minutes (the barley) I am going to make more than one meal out of it. When I cooked the barley, I strained it and saved all the barley water to use in this dish.

I started with eight mushrooms that I cleaned and sliced. I patted them dry with a clean towel. I heated up a sauté pan and tossed them in and let them cook on medium high for about 8 minutes. This dry sauté evaporates out a lot of the fluid and enriches the mushroom flavor. Now when I cook them with the other ingredients, they will not get mushy.

While it was sautéing, I would shake the pan every once in a while to keep them from sticking. Meanwhile I thoroughly cleaned a bunch of red chard, separating the leaves from the stems. Red chard requires several rinses and careful attention to be sure you get all the dirt off it. I hold it under the water and run my finger up and down the stem a few times to make sure all the dirt is gone. No one wants to bite down on some sand or dirt in their lunch.

I chopped the stems into 1 inch long pieces. I also chopped 1/4 of white onions. Chopping up the leaves, I kept two cups and saved the rest for a salad. I set the red chard leaves aside for later.

I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and swirled it around the pan. I added the red chard stems and onions. I added 2 tsp of paprika and salt and pepper. I sautéed everything until the onions were transparent. I then added the barley water I had saved from this morning. I added the red chard leaves and the 2 cups of cooked barley I had reserved. I let this simmer until the chard was done (3 to 5 minutes) and tasted tested it. It was good, but a bit one-dimensional – very umami, but the brightness of the chard stems was missing. So I squeezed the juice of one lemon at the end and that lifted up the chard flavor – giving a multi-layered flavor profile that begins with the heart umami of the mushrooms and barley and ending with a bright, fresh chard tartness. It was delicious.

 

 

Ed & Zelda’s Pork Chop Express

Kale and Pork Chops

I play a war game called GoodGame Empire and have made some great friends there. Two of the best of the best of GGE are Ed and Zelda from the Dragon Rampant alliance. I recently changed alliances, leaving them behind when I moved. I will miss them a lot, they are good people and we will just have to IM each oner and stay in touch. Anyway, Ed loves nothing so much as a pork chop and talks about them the way poets talk about clouds. If there ever is an Ode to the Pork Chop, it’s author must be Ed. Zelda loves kale, something we bonded over . So my last night in the alliance I cooked up a meal in their honor.

I fried the pork chop in a bit of olive oil, turning it once. My mom always said repeated flipping of your chops or steaks will dry them out and so my main focus in cooking a chop is getting a good sear, flipping it over to sear the other side and then turning the heat down a bit to let it cook through enough.  I like them medium rare which reminds me to suggest you read The Complex Origins of Food Safety Rules — Yes, You Are Overcooking Your Food from Scientific American.

The kale was easy. I took two slices of bacon and cut into small pieces and friend them with 1/2 of a small yellow onion. I cleaned three pieces of kale, cutting them off the stem and chopping them up. I added 2 TBSP of the Wild Plum Sauce I made (the recipe just before this one) when the kale was nearly done, covered for about a minute and served with the chop. I added a bit of Wild Plum Sauce on top of the pork chop, too. Delish.

The wild plum sauce is sour enough – like a vinaigrette that it complemented the kale beautifully. As to the pork chop, I could never do it the justice in words that Ed can.

 

Figs & Caramelized Onions with Pork Loin Chop

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This was a revelation. Certainly pork loves fruit, but I think it’s soul mate might be figs. This was a super simple recipe. I made some rice separately to serve with the pork and sauce. To make the rest, I heated a skillet to medium, adding some olive oil and put the loin chop on to fry. Meanwhile I cut up 1/2 of a yellow onion, sliced up 6 green figs and cut a lemon in half.

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Even the mise en place looks delicious.

 

After the loin chop was cooked on one side, I flipped it over and added the onions in the other half of the skillet. I let them cook until caramelized. Then I added the figs and 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg. Nutmeg is a delicious spice with fish, pork and beef. You need to use enough so it adds a bit of heat. I also added some salt and pepper. I let the figs and onions cook until the pork was done. I removed the pork and let it rest while I squeezed the lemon juice into the sauce and let it simmer a bit.

This was delicious, sweet, tangy and a bit spicy thanks to the nutmeg. This makes enough sauce for two servings. This was delicious with the rice, and could be made with just olive oil, no meat drippings for a vegan alternative.

 

 

Chickpea Chop Salad

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So this makes a big salad, closer to a dozen servings than a single one, but it needs to marinate and gets better with time, so that’s okay.

Chop one yellow onion. Mince three cloves of garlic and salt the minced garlic to bring out a mellower, sweeter flavor. Let it sit for 10 minutes with the salt before mixing with the onion in a large storage bowl. It will get nice and juicy and blend in better. Chop 3 carrots and 4 celery into small pieces about the size of a chickpea. Add 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (2 cans rinsed and strained). Add 1 cup of chopped parsley. Mix well.

For the dressing, mix 2 TBSP of olive oil, 1 TBSP of tahini, 1/2 tsp of thyme, 1/4 tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp of oregano. Stir well so tahini breaks down completely into the olive oil. Squeeze the juice of 1 fresh lemon and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. You want it to be intense because it will dress the entire salad. You might need to add 1 TBSP or so of cold water, depending on how thick your tahini is. Mix the dressing well, pour into the bowl of veggies and stir. Cover and shake and marinate overnight.

This is a delicious mix of mellow and bright flavors, some heat from the garlic, sweetness from the carrots, tang from the onions and lemon, earthiness from the celery and cumin and all held together by the chickpeas. There’s lots of crunch and chewy toothsomeness.  It’s better every time you serve it.

Dragon’s Breath Sweet & Sour Pork

S&S Pork

 

This is significantly tastier than dragon’s breath, but it will add a touch of fire to your day. I was hankering for some sweet and sour pork, but I also had some parboiled rutabaga left over from salad fixings and some pitted cherries left from a chutney I had made and it occurred to me that they could work in a sweet and sour pork. They would add compatible flavors, at least. However, there was nothing at least about this dish. It was by far the most delicious sweet and sour pork I have ever made.

So, to start it off. I chopped half an onion and minced an inch of ginger and 1 serrano chile. I sautéed them in olive oil on a medium low heat with some salt and pepper. Meanwhile I chopped up 1/2 a red pepper. I had cleaned and cut up the pineapple yesterday, so it was in a container in the fridge. I parboiled rutabagas for salad 2 days ago and they were also in the fridge in a container. I added a pork loin chop (about 6 ounces) and let it cook with the onions, ginger and chile and added some salt and pepper. When it was browned on one side, I added the red pepper. I let cook for about 5 minutes and added 1/4 cup cherries and 1/4 cup of pineapple chunks and 1/4 cup of rutabaga and season with salt and pepper. I let them cook until warm. Then I added 2 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of white vinegar and stirred. Added salt and pepper to taste.

Please note that when you add salt and pepper at ever step of cooking, you are adding much less at one time. Seasoning step by step means you will avoid over or under seasoning.

I served over plain rice. This had all that sweet and sour pungency of the traditional dish, but the rutabaga and cherries added an earthiness and umami that made it simply out of this world. Frankly, it would taste delicious without the pork for a vegetarian entree.