19 June 2012

Beans with Kale

This dish, pinto beans with kale, is sort of like lobio.  Except that I've never heard of Georgians or Ossetians throwing greens (aside from copious amounts of herbs) into their beans.  So we'll say that it's lobio with a Mediterranean/Italian twist.  Sort of.

In any case, it's another go-to meal that can be thrown together quickly and everybody in my family loves.  The best way to make it would be with dried beans, of course, but I more often than not just use canned pinto beans.  Doing that shaves off a lot of time, and I can have this on the table in under 30 minutes.

You will need:
  • 6 16oz cans pinto beans
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • about 1 Tbsp dried summer savory or sage (I measured it in my hand, so you might have to eyeball this one and then adjust the spices later)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 bunches of kale
  • salt and pepper, to taste

First things first.  Chop an onion and saute it in some olive oil in a dutch oven or other such large pot.

Then slice your garlic (or mince it, if you don't like to see large pieces of garlic in your food).  Add to the pot when the onions are getting soft.  Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Measure out a palmful of summer savory or sage.  Toss that and the whole cloves in the pot and stir for a few seconds.

 Next, add the undrained beans.  If you are watching your sodium intake, you can drain them first and replace the liquid with water.  Don't cover the beans entirely with water, though, or they will be too soupy.
 Stir well and let that simmer while you work on the kale. 

First, wash well and drain.  I used two varieties of kale just to make it prettier, but if all you can find is green kale, that's perfectly acceptable too.

Then remove the tough stem.  Cut the kale into 1 inch thick strips and set aside.

 It looks like a mountain, but it will cook down in the beans.  I promise.

 Back to the beans!  Now that the kale is ready, it's time to puree some of the beans.  I used an immersion blender, but lacking that, a potato masher works well too.  If you are adventurous, you could try putting half of the beans into a regular blender, but I'm not a fan of transferring hot substances to a blender or food processor.  Especially with Bulldozer and a cat underfoot.

Next, add the kale to the pot.  You could mix it in little by little.  Or you could do like me and impatiently dump the whole bowl in and then mix.  It works either way.

See?  Lovely.
Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with creamy feta crumbled on top and crusty bread on the side for a delicious and quick supper.

18 June 2012

Uzbek Noodle Soup - Lagman

Lagman is an Uzbek dish that is quite similar to Asian noodle soups.  It was possibly brought to Uzbekistan by the Dungans, or Chinese Muslims that settled in the area.  It's popular throughout Central Asia.  When I lived in Moscow, I had a friend that had grown up in Tashkent.  She used to make lagman for us sometimes, and it was one of the tastiest soups I had tried there.  Her recipe was simpler (I don't remember the eggplant in her version), but the basic flavors are about the same.  I would imagine, though, that recipes would vary by region or even family.

This particular recipe is adapted from Anya Von Bremzen's Please to the Table.

You will need:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder or beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick strips or cubed
  • 1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup diced daikon (I didn't have that, so I omitted it)
  • 3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium green chilies
  • 2 medium boiling potatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 to 6 cups lamb or beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • medium handful cilantro, chopped
  • small handful parsley, chopped
  • homemade noodles 1 box fettuccine noodles (who has time to make homemade noodles??) 

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.  Add the meat (in multiple batches, if necessary - the meat will not brown nicely if it's crowded together) and brown well on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and eggplant to the Dutch oven (in the same oil that the meat browned in), and brown, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes.

Isn't that pretty?  The original recipe said to peel the eggplant, but I forgot to.  I think this actually makes it prettier, and the skin was so tender that I can't see any reason to go to the extra lengths of peeling it.

Next step.  Add the tomatoes and peppers (and daikon, if using).  Stir and continue to cook over medium heat until the ingredients soften a bit and are pretty.  That should take about 10-12 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook about 3 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Time to add spices!  Add the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin, paprikas and bay leaves. Cook for a couple more minutes.

Stir in the meat and any juices that are sitting in the bottom of the bowl.

Pour in 5 cups of stock.  When I got started making this soup, I was under the distinct impression that I had a carton of beef stock in the pantry.  I think the monster that lives under the shelf drank it.

So all I had was chicken stock, and it worked decently.  I'm sure a homemade beef stock would be infinitely better, but oh well.

Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer, covered, until the meat is tender.  That should be somewhere around 45 minutes.  Check after 30 minutes to see if you need to add the last cup of stock.  Remove the bay leaves.

Stir in the garlic.  Feel free to add more than two measly cloves, if you like it to be garlicky.  We do!

Add the vinegar, parsley and cilantro, reserving a little for a garnish.

Remove from heat and let stand about 10 minutes before serving.
When I made this, we were so hungry by the time it was done that nobody wanted to wait another 10 minutes for it to stand or for noodles (bad time management on my part, I know).  So this was how we ate it.  It does work quite well as a soup by itself!  Crusty rye bread, or lavash if you have it, makes a good accompaniment. 

The next day (and yes, this soup is equally great or possible better the next day, after the flavors have time to mingle), I did boil some noodles and we had it the (more or less) authentic way.  Honestly, I like it either way.  So try both and let me know what you think!

04 June 2012

Spicy Black Bean Salad

Some days, it's just too hot outside to cook.  Even with the air-conditioner on, there are days when I really don't want to be standing over a stove stirring anything.  Unfortunately, in Texas, that seems to happen for a good three to four months out of the year.  So I'm trying to put together some recipes that can be made with minimal heat and preparation. This is one of them.

You will need:
  • 3 15-oz cans of black beans
  • juice of half a large lemon (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 jalapeƱo pepper
  • 1 green chili pepper
  • small handful of cilantro
  • small handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • walnut oil, to drizzle
  • salt, to taste

 Rinse the beans in a colander and drain well.  Dump them all into a medium mixing or serving bowl.  Next, chop up the herbs and peppers.  Add them to the bowl.  Pour the lemon juice in and mix well.

Add salt to taste, and drizzle some walnut oil over everything.  If you don't have walnut oil, extra-virgin olive oil should work well too.  And if you still want the walnut taste, finely chop a handful of walnuts and mix them in too.

 Serve as a side dish, or with rice and veggies for a meatless main dish.  Or you could do what we did, and just spoon them over baked potatoes with feta and sour cream on top.  And if it's just too hot to use the oven to bake your potatoes, I promise not to tell if you just nuke them in the microwave.