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Meatless Monday: Black Bean Soup

It’s officially fall.  I think we’re going to have Black Bean Soup tonight.

This is a delicious and easy soup, and like so many soups it can be a very nice template for all kinds of things you’d like to get out of the fridge. But the basic recipe is here:

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Basic Black Bean Soup

In a saucepan, saute 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in a little oil till soft.  If desired, add chopped bell or other peppers and saute. (If it weren’t meatless Monday, a little bit of ham is nice to add here too…but it’s Monday.)

Add 1-2 cups vegetable stock

Add 2 cups cooked black beans, drained or not, as you wish. You can use canned or some you made earlier in quantity.

Season with 1-2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, up to 2 tsp of your favorite chili powder blend, and/or a few drops hot sauce.

If you wish, attack just a little with an immersion blender, or remove a cup or two of soup into a blender or food processor, to thicken. Alternatively, if you use canned beans, use half and half whole beans and “fat free refried” beans (essentially just mashed up). Or completely mashed ones.  It’s your dinner.

Serve with a dollop of plain creamy yogurt and a sprinkle of grated cheese.

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Yummers.  If you like, you can decrease the broth by a lot and serve this over rice; it’s just as good.

Enjoy!

(UPDATE: and after all that, I got home from work to realize I’d used up all my black beans when I made chili last week…so we had pasta instead.  Sigh…)

Side by Side–time to think about Thanksgiving!

Well, it’s November, which means…it’s time to start thinking about that Gastronomic Holiday of Holidays, Thanksgiving!

I have to say, of all my40+ Thanksgivings on this earth, one of the ones I remember most fondly is the one I spent with two Australians when none of us were able to get home to family, and they wanted to experience a Proper American Thanksgiving Dinner.  Part of the fondness, I suspect, came from the fact that Australians–or at least, these two–drink a lot of wine, starting at about noon and continuing till past-pie. A really big part, I also suspect, came from the other fact that I was the only one of the three of us who actually knew how to cook a Proper American Thanksgiving Dinner (or had watched my mom do it for years; I’d never done it myself), so for the first time in my life I actually sort of had sous-chefs!. I didn’t have to peel potatoes or crush pecans or do any of that annoying stuff, I could give instructions and they followed…Mostly, the fondness is because they were just awesome women and it was a lovely lovely afternoon and evening.

Since that year, I’ve done a few Thanksgivings myself, spent a few more with my mom, a couple with my in-laws…I’m sort of getting the hang of this. And it’s just kind of fun.

This is the time of year when bloggers all over the sphere are posting their favorite Thanksgiving recipes, and I figured why not get in on the fun myself? My own spin on the holiday’s cooking is not terribly unique, but it’s still very much in keeping with all the recipes on this blog: I want maximum deliciousness, maximum wholefoodiness, minimum unhealthiness, minimum cost and work.  I want a dinner I can pig out on and eat as much as I want and know that there’s not a whole stick of butter in anything I made, and that the grains are whole and the veggies fresh.  I want one day to not have to think about portion control, with no accompanying guilt. (I don’t do guilt. Guilt causes stress, which is related to weight gain and all kinds of unhealthy things. )

So my plan over the next couple of weeks is to post most of the recipes I plan to make for Thanksgiving.  The turkey recipe I probably won’t, because it comes from a cookbook and it would be sort of a copyright violation to post it–but I use the one from The New Basics Cookbook by the Silver Palate ladies–it involves a lot of port wine used to baste the bird and, especially if you forget and buy ruby instead of tawny port, produces this incredibly gorgeous almost glowy red-orange turkey–I know that sounds weird, but it’s really really pretty and very impressive to see and serve.  (That’s a great cookbook, by the way–a little more chi-chi than I normally cook, but when I’m looking for something impressive to make for an event or whatever, it’s the first place I go.  And it has lots of good basic information about staple cooking, like poultry, beans, a gajillion different squashes, stuff like that…)  Or you could skip the cookbook, use your favorite turkey and stuffing recipe, add some port to it and just baste the bird with the wine along with the normal basting juices.  (Makes a terrific gravy too…)

The other reason I’m not going to talk turkey much for these posts is that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, “What do vegetarians do for Thanksgiving, anyway?” –the thing is, as much as Thanksgiving is theoretically structured around the turkey for many of us, the sides are (for me) what make Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.  The mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the dressing, the antipastos, even the brussels sprouts.  And of course the pies.  Okay, yeah, on some level it wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without turkey…but on the other hand, it wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without any one of those recipes missing. (Okay, I can sort of live without the brussels sprouts.)

In my opinion, a meatless Thanksgiving would be really easy and delicious without even resorting to a Tofurkey (I’m sorry, no offense, but why bother?)–there’s so much good stuff, how can you even miss?

So: the “side by side” series, yummy holiday dishes (holiday, heck! Eat ’em all winter!) that are healthy and easy and make good leftovers…additions in the comments more than welcome!

(Click on the links for the rest of the series: potatoes in general, bourbon sweet potatoes, garlic smashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry relish, and dinner rolls.  And maybe I’ll even post some pie recipes…)

Meatless Mondays: Veggie Fried Rice

Okay, I have absolutely no idea why fried rice is something that’s intimidated me for so long, but now that I’ve tried it I will definitely be making it again. It depends a lot on having leftover rice (which I tend to make in quantity anyway) and veggies and stuff in the fridge. Also on having in one’s fridge that one key ingredient that at least for me sort of makes the difference between “I am pretending I’m cooking something sort of Asian” and cooking something that actually tastes sort of Asian. That ingredient is toasted sesame oil–a must-have. Fortunately, it keeps just about forever.

The rice has to be cold, and the pan has to be very hot, and you have to pretty much pay real attention for the entire 5-7 minutes or so it’s cooking.

Veggie Fried Rice (quick!)

  • Chop up a little onion, celery, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, whatever.
  • Saute on very high heat in as little olive oil as you can manage, in a fairly big pan, till just beginning to brown.  The food needs room to move around, or it gets juicy and steamy.
  • Sprinkle with a little garlic powder and/or ginger powder. Or, much better, add a little real minced or grated fresh garlic or ginger. (I would have just said that, except I promised you “quick.”)
  • Remove veggies from pan. (It should be pretty dry at this point–not much, or any, juice floating around in there.)
  • Into very hot pan, put a little toasted sesame oil
  • Add about a cup of cooked cold brown rice. Stir around and saute until lightly browned.  Put in a tbs. or so of soy sauce. Add veggies to pan, stir around a little more. (This would be the place to add any veggies you don’t want browned, like baby peas or something…
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional–somewhere in the rice-stirring part, add just a little dollop of peanut butter and smoosh around till it’s melted and evenly distributed…or if you want to do it right, mix with the soy sauce and heat a bit so it mixes better.  But the smooshing method works just fine.  Serve with a little fresh lime juice squeezed on it–this gives it that sort of pad thai vibe.

This is SERIOUSLY yummy and ridiculously quick. If you want a little more protein, you could scramble an egg in there somewhere between the veggie step and the rice step, and then put it all together at the end.  And for those of us trying to cut calories without feeling deprived–remember that the higher the veggie-to-rice ratio, the more you can eat for the same number of calories!