Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Bean Soup

I haven't been posting lately because I've been making tried-and-true recipes the last few weeks that I've ever already posted here or are so boring, they're really not worth sharing with the world. (Example: roasting broccoli in the oven. Delicious, but do we really need a recipe for that? No.)

This recipe comes from Simply Recipes, but I make it meat-free and it turns out really nice. I've never tried it with the ham hocks called for in the original, but after a traumatic experience using ham hocks in split pea a few years ago, I was pretty turned off from trying to incorporate them into this recipe. When I made this recipe last summer when I was back in California for a few days, I fried up a few pieces of bacon, drained off the oil, and began cooking the vegetables with a mix of the bacon fat and olive oil, then added the bacon back to the soup after it was finished, almost as more of a garnish than anything else. It is a nice addition, but not necessary.

Here's a super fantastic, low fat, healthy and delicious black bean soup. Quite economical, too.

Black Bean Soup

1 lb black beans
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 bay leaves

2 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili powder
1 red bell pepper (you can swap out green if you're really looking to save money, but the red is prettier)
2 cups chicken stock
1 - 2 limes

sour cream

In a large pot, soak black beans overnight. (Or, if you'd like to speed up the cooking process, add about 8 cups of hot water, cover, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.) Rinse the beans and add back into the pot with the salt, baking soda and bay leaves. Cook for 1.5 hours. Remove from heat (and pot, if you only have one to use), reserving their cooking liquid, minus the bay leaves.

Over medium heat, add olive oil to a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and sweet potato. Cook for about 15 minutes, then add the cumin and chili powder. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the cooked beans, sweet potato and chicken stock, and simmer for about 1/2 hour.

Allow soup to cool slightly, and purée half the soup. Add the purée back into the soup and add the juice of a lime (or more, depending on taste preference, about 3 tablespoons should do it).

Garnish with cilantro, sour cream and avocado if desired.

And enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Roasted Vegetable & Kale Soup

This is one of my favourite recipes from Elsa at Simply Recipes. Especially because kale is so healthy for you, not to mention always inexpensive, and yet challenging to find ways to incorporate it into one's diet easily (and tastily). Something with the process of cooking the greens in the squash, tomato, onion, garlic and broth base really helps to extract the bitterness from the kale. And it smells up your apartment something delicious.

Roasted Vegetable & Kale Soup
from and ever-so-slightly adapted

1/2 lb of white beans, soaked overnight
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups water

4 - 6 cloves of garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes (if there are no ripe tomatoes at the supermarket, definitely swap them for a can of whole tomatoes -- add them after roasting the vegetables, before pureeing)
1/2 butternut squash, cut into 1" pieces
3 carrots, chopped
Olive oil

4 - 6 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped into 1" pieces
1 bay leaf
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme

In a large pot, soak beans overnight. Drain and rinse, then cook beans with water and baking soda for about one hour.

Preheat oven to 400. In a bowl, combine garlic, onions, tomatoes (if roasting; if using canned, add before puréeing), and half the chopped squash and carrots. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet. Toss the remaining squash and carrot in a teaspoon or two of olive oil and arrange next to the other vegetables on a baking sheet. (The reason for doing this is you'll purée the onion/garlic mixture but want to reserve some carrots and squash for the soup. It saves picking out pieces with tongs later on. Been there, done that.)

Roast the vegetables for about 45 minutes, checking halfway through to toss if necessary.

When vegetables have roasted, bring vegetable broth to a simmer on the stove (a good time to add canned tomatoes and their liquid, if using). Add the garlic/onion/carrot/squash mixture to the broth and simmer for a minute or two. Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup, or allow to cool for a minute or two and blend in a blender in small batches. Return to the pot and bring back to a simmer.

Add the kale, bay leaf and thyme, and bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

Add the beans and their cooking liquid (there should not be much) and the carrot and squash. Cook for an additional few minutes and adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goulash Soup

It's been a while since I've posted, but that's because a few exciting changes have happened since I blogged last. I was offered a job at an agency in Boston and moved up here last week! But now, my kitchen stuff is unpacked, I'm settled into my new job, and figuring my way around my new kitchen.

So my days of freelancing and idling around my apartment cooking up tasty treats have come to close, but now that I'm adjusting to life entirely on my own (it's the first time I've ever lived in an apartment by myself), I think there will be lots of alone time for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.

Since it's been seriously cold outside (27 degrees today when I checked around 4pm), I've been wanting to christen the stove by cooking up a big pot of soup. So, I put on this Scion sampler I've had lying around for a few years (found it in the trash at my last full time job) and got to work preparing one of my favourite stand-by recipes, Hungarian Goulash soup.

I think this recipe originally came from watching a Food Network episode years and years ago where they'd visit some expert and get her family recipe. Since there are about as many versions of Goulash Soup as there are Hungarians, it should come with the disclaimer that I'm not Hungarian. In fact, I have scrawled in an old journal the goulash soup recipe told to me by our Hungarian family friend, Dodie, but I've actually never tried to prepare her version. Here's mine.

Goulash Soup

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tbsp butter
flour, for dredging beef
1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1" pieces
pinch of caraway seeds
1 carrot, diced (optional, I threw this in tonight because I had some carrots on hand)
1 potato, diced
1 Italian bell pepper, diced
4 - 6 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato paste

Cut beef into 1" pieces and dredge lightly in flour.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, then add paprika. Cook paprika for a few minutes, adding butter, until paprika is well incorporated into onions.

Add beef, followed by caraway seeds, and brown the meat on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Add carrot, potato, and bell pepper, followed by the beef stock, bay leaf and tomato paste.

Simmer for at least an hour, preferably 2, over low heat. The lower the heat and the longer you can cook, the more tender the meat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Goat Cheese, Spinach and Apple Tart

My friend Ellie recently went apple picking somewhere along the Hudson, and since my Saturday Pilates class conflicted with the timing of the day trip, I asked for a few apples and promised a homemade baked goody in return for the fruit. Initially I was going to try my hand at something sweet, but was having visions of something combining apples and goat cheese. A little Googling later, I came across this recipe on a site from the UK that sounded pretty heavenly, although described using the metric system. So, I present to you my version of this savory treat, which is in many ways more a quiche than a tart, due to the eggs and cream. But, it's delicious, and a great warm treat for a cold November day.

Goat Cheese, Spinach and Apple Tart
makes one 10" pie


2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 to 8 tbsp ice water

Before starting this endeavour, make sure you have a bit of time to dedicate to this process. This is a good project when you are multi-tasking other chores around the house, and certainly make dough well ahead of time since it needs at least an hour after combined to hang out in the fridge getting nice and cold.

First, dice the butter into a bowl or tupperware container and stick into the freezer for a minimum of 15 minutes, up to an hour. (A minimum of 15 minutes is fine though.) Then in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, salt, and sugar. Get the ice water ready; a few ice cubes in a bowl of cold tap water is good. Now, add the ice pieces to the flour mixture and using a dough cutter, begin to incorporate the butter into the flour. You should work fairly fast, as the key to success here is allowing the butter to stay as cold as possible.

When you've made small pea-sized pieces of buttery dough, still large enough to see the butter, but fairly well incorporated with the flour, begin to add the water, one tablespoon at a time. I used about 7 tablespoons, maybe 8, to make the most recent dough. (And if you're not making a savory tart, omit the nutmeg.)

Combine the dough into two large balls and flatten into a disc about 4 - 5 inches in diameter. Cover in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least one hour, or overnight.

This makes enough dough for two tarts, or one pie with a crust on top. So now you can make another tart or pie later on! Just keep the second one in the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge a few days before you're going to use it.


1 tsp olive oil
1 lb spinach, thoroughly washed and stems discarded
1 clove garlic
1 dash red pepper flakes
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into thin slices
3 eggs
4 - 6 oz. goat cheese
150 ml (about 2/3 cup) cream (I used light cream, you could use heavy cream)
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh marjoram (I used 1 tsp dried)
4 spring onions, sliced
salt and pepper

If your dough has been in the fridge for more a night, allow it to come to room temperature, about an hour. You only need half of the aforementioned dough recipe to make the crust for this tart. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

On a floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle, about 12" in diameter. Put in a 10" pie pan, cover with parchment paper and 1 lb of beans, and bake for 15 minutes. After cooking, remove parchment and beans and allow to cool for a bit (which will happen as you prepare the rest of the filling).

Once the crust gets into the oven, you can get started on the filling, washing and preparing the spinach for cooking, if you haven't already.

In a medium-sized pan, gently heat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic, as well as a few red pepper flakes. Add the spinach and wilt, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and drain in a sieve. Once spinach has cooled a bit, you'll want to press the spinach through the sieve to remove as much excess water as possible.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together 3 eggs. Crumble in the goat cheese, then add the cream and whisk together. Add the parsley and marjoram.

The crust should be well cooled at this point, so now's a good time to peel and core the apples, slicing them into thin slices and placing on the bottom of the crust (should be about 2 layers of thinly sliced apples).

When the spinach has cooled a fair amount, use your hands to squeeze out any excess liquid before adding to the cream and egg mixture.

Add the spring onions to the spinach-cream-egg mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture over the apples into the crust.

Bake in an oven heated to 350 F for 15 minutes.

Makes one 10" pie, 8 small slices or 6 larger slices.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Turkey Chili with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

I read Real Housewives star Bethenney Frankel's Naturally Thin over the weekend and came across this recipe for a turkey chili which I thought sounded really good. I make an amazing chili in the winter using my mom's ground pork-and-beef tried-and-true recipe, which is hearty and delicious and full of flavor, albeit high in fat and calories. I tried to make a turkey chili a few years ago using a recipe from Shape, but it came out rather bland and unappetizing (waaaaaay too many vegetables for my liking). So I thought I'd give this a go.

I made a lot of changes to this recipe since the ingredients listed in her book made one serving (who wants to go to the trouble to make one serving of anything, besides maybe a sandwich?), and added some of the spices and herbs that go in my mom's recipe. So, here is my variation on hers!

Turkey Chili with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground turkey breast (what I got with the supermarket came with a bit more than a pound, so I used all of it)
28 oz. puréed canned tomato sauce
1 zucchini, diced
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Bring oil to medium heat in a large soup pot. Sautée onion and garlic until onion is translucent, then add celery and carrot. Cook for another minute or so, then add chli powder and cumin. Cook for about a minute to bring out the flavor of the chili powder and cumin, then add 1 red bell pepper, diced, followed by the ground turkey breast, breaking up the pieces of turkey as you go. Allow the turkey to cook for a bit, browning, then add the tomato purée.

Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes and add the diced zucchini. Cook for about 20 minutes, add the pinto beans, allspice and oregano, and cook for at least 20 minutes, longer if you have the time. This is almost as delicious as my mom's super fatty traditional chili!

Spinach, Tomato and Chickpea Stew

I made this the other week to have on hand for lunch and dinner, and I think it's one of my healthiest, cheapest and easiest recipes to prepare. I originally found the recipe in a cookbook I borrowed from a friend, and I can't remember the name of the book! So please, don't sue me. I add chicken to this to bulk it up, and it makes about 3 servings, possibly 4 if you're eating a salad along with it or another side. I like to top if with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese if I have it on hand. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make it at any time of the year, substituting fresh or frozen ingredients depending on the time of year (baby spinach and cherry tomatoes instead of frozen chopped spinach and canned tomatoes, for example). Which means that if you keep the frozen ingredients on hand, this is a quick and easy dish to prepare when you've got nothing else in the house.

Spinach, Tomato and Chickpea Stew

4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion or 1/2 white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 2 tsp sweet paprika
pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach or 4 cups baby spinach
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, cored and diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
sherry or wine wine vinegar to taste

Cook the chicken thighs, about 20 minutes, either on the stove or in the oven. Remove from heat and cool.

In a pot, heat oil to medium and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent, then add paprika, cayenne and coriander. Add spinach and tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, and add chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes. While chickpeas are cooking, remove chicken from bone and shred. Add to the stew and simmer for an additional 5 - 10 minutes. Add a bit of sherry or white wine vinegar (just a dash or two) and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Minestrone Soup

I may not have created a truly perfect Minestrone, but this recipe I'm slurping down on a cool fall day has come pretty darn close.

It's based off a recipe from Simply Recipes, one of my favourite food sites out there, in terms of sheer simplicity and wholesome dishes. But I played with a couple of things, in part because I couldn't be bothered to track down the salted pork it calls for (plus I find sometime too much pork in a soup dish to be rather unappetizing). The only thing I might do differently in the future is to use a bit more white beans; I personally am a big bean lover and would like to have even more floating around in the soup. But that small point aside, this soup is hearty and bold, with just a hint of smokiness coming from the bacon used in the onion-celery-carrot base. Delicious, and yields so many servings, I have lunches for at least 5 days and 2 servings tucked away in the freezer.

Minestrone Soup
(makes about 8 servings)

1 1/4 cup Great Northern beans, soaked over night and rinsed (about 1/2 lb, could use even more if you love beans like I do)
6 cups water or chicken or beef stock (I used 2 cups water and 2 packets of Herb's Ox beef broth seasoning)
1 bay leaf

2 strips bacon, diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, cored and cut into thin strips (about 1/4" thick and 1" long)
1 15 oz. can Italian whole tomatoes, chopped
1 potato, diced
1 zucchini, diced
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 rind from a block of Parmesan cheese (about 2" long and 1" thick)
Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

In a large saucepan or stock pot, combine beans, water or stock, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour.

In a separate stock pot, render bacon over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add celery, carrot, cabbage, tomatoes (and juice), potato and zucchini. (I add these as I'm finished chopping each one in sequence, allowing each to cook a little before adding the next ingredient, putting the lid on to allow the cabbage in particular to begin steaming.)

Add 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used vegetable) and cook about 20 minutes. If you have a chunk of Parmesan cheese on hand, chop off the hard rind and drop it into the broth. It helps the soup to thicken and adds wonderful flavor, plus is a great way to use a typically unused piece of the cheese!

Towards the end of the 20 minutes, transfer about half the beans and liquid into a blender and purée (do this in small batches as hot liquid in a blender expands and can cause quite a hot mess). Add the puréed bean mixture into the soup, along with the remaining unblended beans and liquid. Simmer for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, adding any additional herbs you like (the original Simply Recipes recipe calls for parsley, which I omitted because I didn't have any on hand).

Serve with Parmesan cheese. I had some Italian sausage in the freezer that needed to get used up, so to the unfrozen servings, I cooked the sausages, blotted them with paper towels to get rid of some of the excess grease, and added them to the soup as well for a little additional sustenance.