Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Yes my friends, it is the dead of summer and I’m talking soup. I know it’s hard to believe right now, but in just a few short months we will be welcoming fall.  Windows that have been shut against the summer’s brutal heat will be thrown open to let in a bit of autumnal cool.  Shorts, tank tops, and flip flops will be traded for turtlenecks, wool trousers, and boots. I even know people who change their home decor accessories…curtains, pillows, blankets, and linens…from summer to fall.  I know them, but I’m not one of them.

Just as you need to trade your summer gear for your fall wardrobe, you also need to dust off the fall recipes that have been relegated to the back of the recipe box over the summer.  Personally, I like this soup anytime of year but it’s definitely got a fall vibe to it.  If you’re reading this in Australia, then now is the perfect time to make this.  And if you’re not, you could make this now and pretend that the leaves have begun to change color and that your thoughts will soon turn to shoveling snow or you could wait until the calendar has flipped a few more pages into the year.  Either way, I highly recommend you make this soup.  It’s from the folks at Fine Cooking and it is indeed some fine cooking…regardless of whether the air conditioner is running at full steam or the fireplace is lit.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Adapted from Fine Cooking

BAH Note: This recipe assumes that you don’t have a stash of those braised onions in your fridge or freezer.  Because if you did, I’m sure you would substitute a half cup or so of those for the sliced onion called for.  You would, wouldn’t you?

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or stock pot set over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook about 5 to 10 minutes until the onions begin to soften.  Add the coriander, cumin, and a pinch of kosher salt and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth, black beans, and sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft.  Skim any foam that may accumulate.

Set aside 1 to 2 cups of the cooked black beans and sweet potatoes and then carefully puree the rest of the soup in a blender.  Add the reserved beans and potatoes back to the pot with the soup, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

{printable recipe}

Tomato Fennel and Crab Soup

In my post cookbook breakup period, I’ve been looking for new inspiration.  So in addition to trolling the blogs for new recipe ideas, I’ve casually started buying cooking magazines again.  I figure if I can spend $29.99 on a cookbook that I only grab a few recipes from and then neglect on the bookshelf, why not spend $2.99 on a magazine that I can tear the pages from and then recycle?  The math might not add up but the space reclaimed on my bookshelf is priceless.

Tomato Fennel and Crab Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman, Bon Appetit January 2011

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces crab meat

BAH Note: You’ll want to be sure to pick through the crab meat for any small bits of shell or cartilage.  Even in the dead of winter, I was able to find crab at the grocery store.  I think I used Phillip’s lump and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven set over medium high heat.  Add onion and fennel and cook until softened.  Add tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer the soup for 10 to 15 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as desired.

Add crab to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes to warm through.  Serve immediately.

{printable recipe}

 

 

Flashback Friday – FANtastic

Flashback Friday

 

The following originally appeared on 9/2/08 at Exit 51.

FANtastic

Unofficially, summer is over.  Labor Day has come and gone and kids are back in school.  Soon enough, the leaves will start changing color and carpet our lawn as they fall from the trees.  We will shut off our A/C, open the windows wide, and enjoy crisp cool evenings.  Until then though, that A/C is running. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – FANtastic”

Flashback Friday – Oven Roasted

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 8/27/08 at Exit 51.

Oven Roasted

It would seem illogical to crank up the oven in the middle of summer.  But the application of intense heat can transform simple summer staples into oven roasted nirvana.  Got a bumper crop of tomatoes? Tired of gazapcho?  Break out the sheet pan and turn the oven on.  In one afternoon, you can work some magic of your own.  The oven does all the hard work, leaving you free to spend a few hours doing something you REALLY enjoy, not standing in front of a hot box.  And really, isn’t that delicious?

Roasting

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup

Adapted from The South Beach Diet

  • 2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 roasted red peppers (jarred is ok)
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • sweet paprika (or smoked, if that’s your thing)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Place onions and tomatoes (cut side up) on baking sheet.  Be sure not to crowd them on.  You want them to roast not steam.  Use a second pan if needed.  Drizzle cut tomatoes and onion with olive oil and season with kosher salt.

Roast until the tomatoes sink into themselves.  Start checking after 40 minutes. If they start to sink but also start to scorch, turn the heat off and let them sit in the oven with the door closed for about an hour.  Remove from oven and place in food processor.  Add one half cup vegetable broth and process until smooth.  Transfer mixture to medium sauce pan set over medium heat.  Meanwhile, place two roasted red peppers (discard liquid if using jarred peppers) in food processor and pulse till smooth.  Add red peppers to saucepan and stir to combine.  Add additional vegetable broth to reach a consistency you like.  Season to taste with paprika and balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy for lunch, dinner, or a quick snack.

Alice’s Chicken Coconut Curry Soup

You’ve survived Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s is just around the corner.  If food had a triathalon, it would be these three holidays.  I feel like I do more eating in these five weeks than I do all year.  Or maybe it’s just that I indulge in more of the things that I try and moderate the rest of the year like butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.  But even I get to the point where I’m cupcaked out and looking for some balance.

This bowl of balance comes courtesy of Alice at Savory Sweet Life.  It had been up on her blog all year without me knowing it.  I only discovered it when she posted it over at the PBS Kitchen Explorers blog.  Yes y’all, I get some of my recipes from a site targeting cooking with your kids.  Here’s why, if it’s easy enough to make with a child, it has to be a pretty foolproof recipe.  At the end of the day, I want to get dinner on the table before I run out of steam.  Hence, recipes that are easy enough to make with a child are perfect for my weeknight dinners.  Can you argue with that logic?

Even if you choose to argue the validity of my logic, once you taste Chicken Coconut Curry Soup, you won’t want to.  Curry paste + coconut milk + veg + leftover chicken is a recipe for creamy, spicy success.  Add some fish sauce for a bit of salty balance.  Or not.  It’s completely up to you.

I can’t promise that Chicken Coconut Curry Soup will undo all the cake, cookie, and eggnog damage.  But maybe if you enjoy a nice big bowl of this before heading out to the last Holiday Triathalon event of 2010, you won’t be as inclined to reach for those extra cookies at the New Year’s Eve party.

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup

Adapted from Alice of Savory Sweet Life and PBS Kitchen Explorers

BAH Note: I used light coconut milk but I would bet good money that using regular coconut milk would result in a luscious, rich soup.  Alice adds cooked rice to her soup.  If you happen to have some handy, why not.  I think I used one cooked chicken breast which may or may not have yielded exactly one cup of meat.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion,  finely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chicken meat, shredded or cubed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat and cook the onions and carrots for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the curry paste, brown sugar, and fish sauce and cook another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the curry paste is completely incorporated.  Add the chicken, chicken broth, and coconut milk to the pan stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.

{printable recipe}

Food Memories – Grandma’s Wontons

This summer the Universe brought Lan from Angry Asian Creations into my world.  I forget the exact circumstances but it didn’t take me long to get AAC loaded into my Google Reader and start chatting with Lan via email about getting together in real life.  Having spent time with her, I would like to thank the Universe for using her influence to ever so slyly push me back towards my Bread Bible Studies.  Had we been in school together, I have a feeling that Lan and I would have been thick as thieves.  She tells it like it is and knows how to have a good time.  Check out her Live It List…inspiring.  And for the record Lan, I can totally help you out with #18.

I have a special place in my heart for Grandma’s and stories about how they love on us so when Lan offered me this story for her Food Memory, I jumped on it.  This originally appeared on Angry Asian Creations on 14 September 2009 and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share it with you here.

Comfort In A Bowl – Grandma’s Wonton Soup

did i ever tell you the story of when, at the age of 8, i ate 24 of my grandmother’s wonton dumplings? no? well allow me. 24 may not seem like a lot, or maybe it does, but at the time, i was a scrawny little shit, shorter than most of my classmates and while i never went to bed hungry, i can’t imagine it was cheap keeping me fed. i wasn’t aware of all the details, but i do recall grandmother counting pennies for my lunch money everyday and that is why she holds such prime real estate in my heart.

what i recall of that day is that grandma put a bowl of hot soup in front of me, heaping with wonton dumplings, the wrappers slick but at the same time wrinkly, clinging to the meat filling. and every time i emptied my bowl with a declaration that i wanted more, she would smile and make me more. for awhile, rather than extolling my grades (because back then, i really was a good student) or pimping my dance moves (Michael Jackson had nothing on me), she would tell anybody and everybody that i ate 24 of her wonton dumplings in one sitting. a pat on my head would follow. rather than be embarrassed, i would be comforted. yet another thing grandma was proud of me for, eating an assload of her food, something so easy and so damn good.

so when last weekend i felt like ass warmed over, i wanted comfort food. something to warm my very being, something that could possibly put more spring in my step. i spent all day saturday not only working on my DB challenge and a homemade chili concoction, i made grandma’s wonton dumplings. it is unbelievable and magical to me that despite how much my head and stomach hurt, i was able to stand in my kitchen all day and prepare this comfort food. because let me tell you, wrapping dumplings takes a hot minute! i meant it when i said on twitter that cooking/baking is such a balm for anything, especially when the end result brought such comfort to my sick body.

Grandma’s Wonton Soup
adapted from memory

*again, i don’t have exact measurements, i dumped a lot of stuff in a bowl

  • Wonton wrappers
  • about 1 lb ground pork
  • wood ear fungus, rehydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • some vermicelli noodles, hydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 4oz pate
  • homemade chicken stock (really, you can use any kind of stock you want)

mix ground pork, fungus, onions, garlic, vermicelli, and pate together. add a dollop in the middle of wonton wrapper and make sure that you seal the meat in. i went simple and just folded the wrappers diagonally and sealed with a water/cornstarch mix. store in container covered with damp paper towel until ready to cook.

to cook, add to simmering pot of water (or stock) until wrappers are translucent. it doesn’t take long for the meat to cook thru. to serve, put in bowls and pour hot stock over dumplings. consume as is, or dipped in hoisin/chili sauce.

{printable recipe}

Food Memories – Butternut Pear Curry Bisque

So the other week when I introduced you to Debra from SmithBites, I didn’t know at the time that she was going to become the very first Food Memory contributor with multiple entries in the project. Here’s how it happened. I badgered her until she agreed to let me use The Professor’s Black Beans and Rice in the hopes that I would move on to harassing someone else. And I did. And then I made an abrupt U turn and headed back to her inbox.

Because when I read her post about Butternut Pear Curry Bisque, it was as though the Universe had taken all the good things about Food Memories and tied them up with a pretty bow. Greedy like I am, I had to have it. Ever gracious, Debra said yes.

I would like to thank her for not changing her email address or running away screaming every time she sees my name in her inbox.  I’d also like to thank her for capturing the very essence of why I believe Food Memories are important and sharing a big bowl of it with us.

Butternut Pear Curry Bisque & Food Memories

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I’m here to tell you that a recipe or a meal is also worth a thousand words.  For some, that dish might be a special birthday cake, cinnamon rolls or bread; to others it might be a meatloaf, pot roast or onions and garlic sauteing in a skillet.  A particular scene in Ratatouille captures this point so well – the hardened, stoic, food critic Anton Ego, takes a bite of Remy’s simple Ratatouille and the audience is immediately transported back to Ego’s childhood home where the boy Anton is served ratatouille while being comforted by his mother.

And for me, this bisque is one of those dishes.  I know it’s officially fall when The Professor breaks out the dutch oven, grabs a butternut squash from our garden and picks an armful of pears from our tree.  The first time he made this bisque, I was in Washington staying with my parents – my dad had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of months prior and I was helping them pack for a move.  I remember The Professor calling very early in the morning to tell me he had found a delicious recipe for a bisque that had pears and butternut squash in it . . . I also remember thinking that the recipe didn’t sound very appealing.  Notice I said I thought – I didn’t say I voiced my opinion – which is shocking I know, but he was cooking for me again, so don’t rock the boat, right?  (Plus, he was making his case for vegetarianism.) But I also remember coming home to this fabulous fall bisque – and The Professor has made it every single year since 2000.

In writing this post, we discovered something new about our relationship – he’s all about the tried and true familiar recipes while I’m all about flipping through my mountain of food magazines and/or cookbooks discovering unique and exciting ones.  He’s always the one to make Black Beans and Rice, grilled cheese sammies with tomato soup, scrambled eggs, grilled pizza, the Thanksgiving smoked turkey breast and this butternut pear curry bisque; he follows the recipe to. a. tee; always measuring exact amounts, never eyeballing an ingredient – meticulous and precise.  I, on the other hand, am racing through the directions, capturing the essence of a recipe and then I’m off doing my own ‘loose’ interpretation; and I have only a handful of recipes I’ve made more than once.

We’re all connected through food in one way or another; and while it would appear that The Professor and I would clash in the kitchen, we actually compliment one another.  There are times when I’m in charge and he’s the sous chef; then he’s in charge and I’m the support.  That is the dance.  That is the magic.  And that is how all of us create our own individual memories and stories.

What favorite food takes you back to a particular memory?

BUTTERNUT PEAR CURRY BISQUE
Cooking Light Magazine, October 2000

BAH Note: I made a few modifications to the recipe that Debra was kind enough to supply.  Since this is Debra’s memory, I’m showing the recipe she used.  But lean in and I’ll tell you what I did different.  First, I used all of pulp I got from a 3 pound squash.  I didn’t measure out exactly how many cups this was but I was happy with the results.  Next, you’ll want to remember to roast your squash cut side down.  I didn’t and had to double the oven time for my butternut.  Also, I changed up the amount of liquids.  I used a 12 ounce can of pear nectar, one can of vegetable broth, and 2 cups water.  Lastly, I didn’t have another pear to use for garnish so I improvised by crisping up some prosciutto and sprinkled it on the top like confetti.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 3/4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups chopped peeled Bartlett pear (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 small Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until tender. Cool. Peel squash; mash pulp. Set aside 3 1/2 cups pulp, reserving remaining squash for another use.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped pear and onion; sauté 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Add squash pulp, water, and next 5 ingredients (water through pepper). Bring to a boil; partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes. Place one-third of squash mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour puréed mixture into a large bowl; repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Return squash mixture to pan; stir in half-and-half. Cook over low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Ladle soup into bowls, and garnish with pear slices.

{printable recipe}