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Frijoles Mexicanas.

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A burrito is a delicious food item that breaks down all social barriers and leads to temporary spiritual enlightenment.” 

~Lisi Harrison 

I’m not sure when it happened but somewhere along the way it did. I did not grow up eating beans, legumes, or pulses but have really grown fond of them. All kinds of them. Their flavors mingle with whatever they are cooked in and the result is nothing short of delicious in my humble opinion. Beans themselves are also a super food, two of the many healthful attributes of them in your diet is that they can keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. And when combined with rice they create a complete protein. When it comes to finances, the cost of beans and the amount of food they prepare for their cost cannot be beat. Thus said, while I post a lot of meatless recipes on this blog I am not  vegetarian (I eat meat on my job), though I haven’t purchased meat for home consumption in some time. Anyhow, I’m getting off topic. This is a really simple recipe which can be altered to suit your personal tastes. I ate these (two days in a row) over brown rice and topped with avocado, diced tomato and raw onion. Not only was it a complete protein it was a complete meal, and a filling and delicious one at that. Some of the remainder of the beans will be frozen in increments, and another portion will be turned into refried beans. The simple recipes are below.

Frijoles Mexicanas

Makes about 8 cups

1 pound dried pinto beans

¼ cup olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 jalapeño peppers, minced

2 chipotle in adobo (with sauce), minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons salt

Place the beans in a large bowl and pour cold water over them, covering the beans by at least two inches. Cover the bowl and allow the beans to soak overnight. The next day drain the beans and discard the water.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, then add the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño peppers. Cook the onion and pepper for a few minutes, until they just begin to brown, then add the chipotle with the sauce, the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Stir while cooking for a couple minutes. Add the diced tomatoes then bring them to a boil. Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes to concentrate some of their juices and flavors. Add the soaked and drained beans to the pot, along with the broth and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Simmer the beans for about two hours, or until very tender. Stir the pot often and skim as needed.

Refried Beans

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Carefully add a quantity of prepared Frijoles Mexicanas to the skillet. Bring to a simmer. Toss and stir the beans until the liquid evaporates and the beans begin to fry in the oil. Remove the beans form the heat and allow them to cool for a couple minutes for safety. Then transfer them to a food processor and process until smooth.

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Journal Entree 1.12.17, or how to make potato pancakes, or a day in a life.

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In the same way that an auto mechanic may repair other people’s cars all day yet he himself drives a jalopy, I being a lifelong professional cook often have a refrigerator and cupboard that are spartan to say the least. Such was the case today when deciding on dinner.

When surveying possible options I noted an odd assortment of ingredients…a couple potatoes, a half-head of cauliflower, a spaghetti squash, a bell pepper, an onion, an avocado, and a few other things. Potato pancakes is first that came to mind, and I’d also add cauliflower for added flavor and nutrition. So I peeled a potato and hand grated it. The sound of the grating brought the dogs running, hoping to catch scraps. I put the grated potato in a bowl and mixed it with a couple eggs to keep it from tarnishing while I prepared the remainder of ingredients.

While removing the core of the cauliflower I noticed that some of the plant was a bit soft and gray, so I cut that away as well. A metaphor of life, I suppose; not everything is perfect but you simply deal with it, focusing on the good parts and letting things unnecessary fall away. I then chopped the florets small—the size of grains of rice—and added them to the bowl with the potato and egg. Mixing it with my bare hand it felt cold from the fridge, and the contrast of textures felt odd.

After julienning a small bell pepper and half an onion I added them to the bowl as well, along with some crushed hot peppers, sea salt, shredded cheddar, and about ½ cup whole wheat flour. I then mixed everything together, put a plate over the bowl and set it in the fridge. It was late afternoon and I was planning ahead. Before heading to the local JCC for a steam and swim I texted my son, “Making potato pancakes for dinner. They’ll be ready around 6:30.” Home cooked food is always bait to a young broke college student.

On my bike ride to the JCC it was drizzling a little, more of a mist than rain. What an odd winter, I thought; it should be snowing now. But I’m not complaining. And on the way home the rain had stopped and the temperature dropped. It was dark now and the streets seemed oddly deserted. I was still sweating from the steam room as I pedaled home and the cold air felt good; refreshing. My phone buzzed in my pocket and when I stopped at a traffic light I checked it. It was a text from my son, “I’m here.” I looked at my watch and it was 6:30.

Arriving home, and after parking my bike off to the side of the living room with the others, I put another log in the wood stove, which was down to embers, then went to the tiny kitchen to feed the dogs.  While the dogs ate I retrieved the pancake batter from the fridge and mixed it. Then while my son minced garlic I began frying the pancakes, dropping them in the hot oil by the spoonful and shaping them as they spat and sputtered. Some of the oil jumped onto my fingernail and I exclaimed, dammit!, startling the dogs.

While the pancakes cooked in batches, we cooked spaghetti squash in olive oil with garlic and hot peppers. When the first batch of pancakes came out of the pan I cut one and we ate it with our hands. It was delicious and also tempting to eat the rest that way, but we refrained.

When everything was complete—the pancakes, spaghetti squash, sliced avocado drizzled with olive oil and hot sauce, and a couple small peeled sweet oranges—we ate together at the kitchen counter and talked. I learned some things that have happened in my son’s life recently and he in mine.

When we were finished, I wrapped the remaining pancakes, first in paper then in plastic, for my son to take with him. After he had left I put another log on the fire to keep the chill at bay while I headed out for an evening beer. The cold air felt good as I walked the few blocks to a local cafe. And as I sat sipping my beer I thought of the dinner we had together, and how delicious it was—literally and figuratively—and it was made with just a few simple things. It was a dinner, yes, but also it was another day in a life.

Potato-Cauliflower Pancakes with Cheddar

Makes about 8 pancakes

1 cup grated potatoes

1 cup minced cauliflower

2 eggs

½ onion, julienned

½ bell pepper, julienned

½ cup shredded cheddar

½ cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon baking powder

vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil and mix well. Cover and let stand for a few minutes. Mix again, then pan-fry I about ½ inch of hot oil until golden and crisp on both sides ad the potatoes are cooked. Transfer to absorbent paper.

Aloo Gobi…

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Aloo gobi…the classic Indian dish consisting of mostly potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi). Peas are often included. Spices vary and can be interchanged to your liking. In the version I made for dinner last night (pictured) I also added whole coriander seed. I used dry chilies but fresh can be used as well. Interchange ingredients and seasonings. Eat this as a side or main course with basmati rice. It’s simple to make, super delicious, and healthy. Make it and you won’t be sorry.

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 small onion, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 slices ginger, minced

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon whole cumin seed

½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

¼ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

1 cup frozen peas

1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the onion and potato. Cook these for a couple minutes, until they just begin to change color. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in the black mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cumin seed, and crushed hot pepper; cook for a minute to release it’s flavor and aroma, then stir in the cauliflower, coating it with oil and spices. Add the water, then cover the skillet and cook the potatoes and cauliflower for a couple minutes. Stir in the peas and lemon juice; cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Urban Simplicity

Sweet Potato Latke with Cheddar and Jalapeño

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After scrounging around my fridge and kitchen counter the other evening I came up with the ingredients for the following recipe. So I made these. I ate half of them, then my son stopped over and ate the other half. Super easy to make. Super delicious. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy. Try to eat just one. I dare you.

Sweet Potato Latke with Cheddar and Jalapeño

Makes about 12

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ medium onion, sliced thin
2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
canola oil for pan frying

Combine all of the ingredients except the canola oil and mix well. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a large spoon, drop dollops of the latke batter into the skillet and flatten them with the back of the spoon. Cook them on both sides until golden brown and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper.  

Urban Simplicity.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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I made these at my job today, mostly because I really like peanut butter and chocolate. But whenever I smell–and then taste–peanut butter cookies it brings me back to my childhood with Rockwellian memories; my mom used to make these (sans chocolate). They were one of my favorite then and still are. These are exceedingly simple to make. The recipe is below.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup butter

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1¾ cups mini chocolate chips

granulated sugar for garnish

 

Preheat an oven to 350F.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Run the mixer on low for a few seconds, then turn on high. Cream the ingredients for a few minutes until light in both texture and appearance. Then add the egg and mix on medium for another minute. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Spoon or scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper (but not oiled). Dip a fork in the remaining sugar and make an ‘X’ pattern in the cookies, pressing them down gently. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the centers are still soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Urban Simplicity.

Rice and beans and sausage and greens (and other good things)

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This is a simple variation of any rice-and-beans dish but with other ingredients and spices added. I was going to make a very basic paella with fish and shellfish added, but at the last minute I felt like down-scaling and this was the end result. Anyhow, as usual, this recipe is just a suggestion, not a blueprint. Use whatever ingredients and flavors you like. And by the way…this is super-delicious. Anyhow, here’s the recipe.

Rice and Beans with Chorizo and Kale

Serves 6

¼ cup olive oil

12 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup brown rice

3 cups chicken broth, simmering

1 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained

6 ounces baby kale

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook it for a few minutes, until it browns. Remove the sausage to a plate, leaving rendered fat, oil, and crispy pieces in the pot. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper; saute for a few minutes. Then add the garlic, then the chili, cumin, turmeric, and salt; for a few minutes to bring out their flavors. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. Lower the heat and simmer the tomatoes, vegetables, and spices for 5 or ten minutes until some of the tomato liquid evaporates and forms a sort of sofrito.

 Add the rice, stirring it to coat it with all the flavors. Then stir in the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil then lower it to a low simmer. Cover the pot and simmer it for about 40 minutes.

 Then—without stirring—add the beans and kale, and re-cover the pot and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for another 5 or 10 minutes. The carefully fold in the beans and kale while fluffing the rice.

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad (Yum!)

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This recipe is a variation (my interpretation) of a recipe from the book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. I was recently offered the book to review and am pretty excited about it (and it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new cookbook these days). I am not really that familiar with the cuisines of Persia, or modern day Iran (which is one of the oldest cuisines in the world), but I am familiar with the flavors in these recipes…very fresh and bright flavors. And while the recipes may be simple the flavors are complex and multi-layered. At any rate, this recipe is really easy to make and also really delicious…it is definitely one I will make again (and likely again and again). Plus it is a lot of fun cooking the eggplant over an open flame.

 

Persian Smokey Eggplant Salad

Serves 8

4 large eggplant

½ red bell pepper, diced small

½ green bell pepper, diced small

¼ red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Cook the eggplant by placing them directly over an open flame of a gas stove. Turn the eggplant as needed. The skin will blister and blacken; it will look burnt. Continue to cook and turn the eggplant until it is very soft and heated throughout. Transfer the eggplant to a clean surface and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel away the blackened skin while placing the flesh of the eggplant in a colander over a sink to drain any excess moisture. Coarse-chop the flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to a bowl with the remainder of the ingredients. Gently stir and fold the salad to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Serve warm or chilled with toasted garlic bread or wedges of pita.

Urban Simplicity.

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