Tag Archives: dinner

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

This recipe is the neglected guy friend of the female lead in a romantic comedy. You know the one. The best buddy who secretly pines for the girl while supporting her pursuit of another man who is clearly wrong for her. Then suddenly, after the other man has broken her heart, she sees the best friend in a new light (and probably in a rainstorm). The love of her life was there all along, just waiting patiently by her side for her to figure it out.

So, Beer-Glazed Black Beans, forgive me for taking so long to pay attention to you.  I have flipped past you time after time in search of more exciting recipes – maybe something indulgent with cheese and pasta , or something exotic with coconut milk and fish sauce.  Sometimes maybe I entertained the idea, giving you a glimmer of hope as I paused on your page for a moment until my eyes landed on “chorizo” and I moved on.  Then we lost touch completely, as I loaned my copy of The Food Matters Cookbook to a friend for several months. But then I got you back, and this time, something was different.  Maybe it was my need to spend a Saturday night doing nothing but cooking for myself.  Maybe it was my need to redeem myself for last night’s mac and cheese binge by making a dinner full of fiber and protein. Suddenly, “beer-glazed” didn’t seem weird; it seemed intriguing.  I realized you had citrus and cilantro- a couple of my favorite things. How did I not notice that before? And you yield enough food for a couple dinners this week while stashing the rest away in the freezer for another time.  I have a feeling you’re gonna be in heavy rotation for a while.

I was about to put this in the category of “Vegetarian Dishes That My Husband Actually Likes” but then I realized the chorizo makes this most certainly not vegetarian. (That being said, I think you could come up with a decent veggie-friendly version.)  But that’s what makes this a classic Mark Bittman recipe: the meat adds flavor and depth, but the bulk of the meal is plant-based.

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Bittman notes that you should use a beer that you like, because the flavor comes through.  I actually used a beer that I wasn’t crazy about drinking: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.   It was a little sweet for me, but I figured that the spices would blend well with the chili powder and beans.  Since it was a sweet beer, I cut back the amount of honey from the original recipe. The only dilemma is that I’m not sure what beer I will use next time, since this was a limited release!

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

(from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook)

Makes 4 generous servings, and can be frozen and reheated

1 orange

8 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I used pre-crumbled chorizo)

1 red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

One 12-ounce bottle beer

3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon honey (or cut back to 1 teaspoon if using a sweeter beer)

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (or more, if you’re a cilantro fan like I am)

Halve the orange and seed it if necessary. Peel one half, divide the segments and save the rind; squeeze the juice from the other half.

Put the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring and turning to brown the slices, for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the orange rind and juice, beer, beans, chili powder, honey, and salt and pepper.

Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed. Remove orange rind before serving, and garnish with orange slices and cilantro.

Serve hot over brown rice.  Keeps in the fridge for three days, or in the freezers for several months.blackbeans

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Eggplant and Zucchini Stir-Fry

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible habit of buying produce without any idea of how I intend to use it?

Actually, there are a lot of times that I purchase something knowing exactly what I want to do with it, but it never happens. I throw away a lot of potatoes. Two autumns in a row I have purchased a pumpkin, planning to try to make kaddo borawni (aka, pumpkin with a garlic yogurt sauce, aka, the most delicious thing ever). And two Januarys in a row, I have realized there is still a pumpkin sitting in our dining room. On at least one occurrence, there were little cat tooth marks in it, too.

I know I have mentioned that I hate wasting produce, so sometimes buying an unfamiliar vegetable forces me to find a way to use it.  That’s how I discovered Swiss chard, fennel, and broccolini, for instance.

It might sound odd, but eggplant is actually a fairly unfamiliar vegetable to me.  I never liked it as a kid (I still do not understand the appeal of eggplant Parmesan), and while I’ve had some dishes with it recently that I liked, I have not cooked it much myself.

The little Japanese or Chinese eggplants are less intimidating to me.  I added some to a curry last summer with relative success.  Trying to replicate baked slices of eggplant that I had at a friend’s house… not so successful.

When I saw some little eggplants at the farmer’s market last week, I had to take advantage of them, especially since Nick was going to be out, allowing for a low-pressure, experimental dinner for one.

I semi-followed a recipe, but didn’t keep track of precisely what I did.  So I suggest you use this as inspiration, and check the Bon Appetit recipe for Stir-Fried Eggplant and Green Beans more structured guidance.

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Instead of chili-garlic sauce, I had Thai roasted red chili paste* on hand, so to make it a little more garlic-y, I sauteed some sliced garlic in the olive oil first.  I used zucchini instead of green beans because that’s what I had around.  I didn’t use tofu, because I just cannot bring myself to like tofu, unless it is in soup (of the miso or hot and sour variety).  But I tried this with sliced mushrooms another time (not pictured) and that was excellent, if you want to add a bit more meatiness to the dish. If you choose to add mushrooms,  saute them in the garlic-infused oil for a minute or two before you add the other vegetables.  Also, I use the term “stir-fry” very loosely, as I don’t think my technique necessarily adheres to stir-fry tenets.

Eggplant and Zucchini Stir-Fry

(This made a very generous serving for one person. Don’t judge me. It’s all vegetables, so it’s okay. If you add mushrooms, or a second zucchini or eggplant, you’d have plenty for two people.)

Thinly slice 1 garlic clove.

Quarter 1 zucchini, lengthwise, then halve each quarter lengthwise so that you end up with 8 spears. Cut each spear into 2- to 2-1/2-inch pieces.

Halve 1 large or 2 small Japanese or Chinese eggplants**, then cut into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.

Mince a handful of scallions (dark green parts only) or chives.

Heat some olive oil (1 tablespoon or 2) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic slices in the oil, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, discard garlic slices and reserve oil in skillet.

Add eggplant and zucchini to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, about 2-3 minutes.  You can add some red pepper flakes at this point if you like a little more heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1-2 tablespoons chili paste and 2-3 tablespoons water with a splash of soy sauce if you like.

Pour sauce into skillet with vegetables and simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about one minute.

Serve over rice with scallions or chives sprinkled on top.

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*I just realized this has fish sauce, anchovies, and shrimp as ingredients so it’s not actually vegetarian. But for my purposes I still see this as a meatless dinner.

**I have a vague understanding of Japanese eggplants being shorter than Chinese eggplants, but I have no idea which ones I was working with.  When it comes to how many eggplants to use, go with your gut.

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The Summer Preview Spinach Salad

Having high expectations is overrated.  At least in the kitchen.

Every so often, I’ll finally get around to trying a recipe that I’ve been looking at for months.  I make a special trip to the store, spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, and the final result is… meh.

And every so often, you don’t start thinking about dinner until 7pm, decide to throw together whatever is in the fridge, and end up with a dinner you are excited to repeat the following week.

I have a new favorite way of cooking chicken for everyday eating.  This method does not yield the prettiest or fanciest chicken, but I have tried it twice and ended up with moist chicken breasts to have on hand for quick meals during the week.  Even if you don’t think to make the chicken ahead of time, it’s hands-off enough that you can get a head start on tonight’s dinner while you’re cleaning up the kitchen from last night’s dinner. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who ever ends up in that situation.)

Easy Make-Ahead Chicken Breasts (from Dinner: A Love Story): Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts on a rimmed baking sheet and add 1/4 cup water to the pan. Tent with foil, and roast for 40 minutes.  Once cooked, let the chicken sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing it. *According to DALS, you can use this method with split bone-in chicken breasts as well. I have yet to try it, but it’s on my to-do list.

One night last week, I identified chicken and spinach as the starting point for a dinner salad, and then the rest came together pretty easily, based on what we had around. Cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado, feta, and in a moment of inspiration, I remembered that we had a couple strips of bacon in the fridge.

I even added some Greek yogurt to my typical cider-Dijon salad dressing to give it just a little creaminess. I never measure ingredients for salad dressings, so these proportions are very loose. Just mess around with it until it works for you.

Creamy Cider Dijon Salad Dressing: In a small bowl, add the following: 1 part Dijon mustard, 3 parts apple cider vinegar, and just a tiny bit of maple syrup. Whisk until blended. Then add about 3 parts olive oil and 1 part plain Greek yogurt. Whisk together, and season with salt and pepper.

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Oh right- are you wondering why I called this the Summer Preview Spinach Salad?  Because occasionally I would get a bite of a sweet cherry tomato with a crispy chunk of bacon, and I immediately felt like I was eating a BLT in late July.

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And the longing for summer tomatoes begins.

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Nick and Sarah’s (Almost) Conflict-Free Lasagna

(Or, A Very Belated Christmas Recap, Part 2)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Nick and I both like to cook, but we don’t cook together. Generally our worldviews on food (foodviews?) are pretty different. Remember the Chicken Maryland argument of 2009?

Sure, sometimes we’ve divvied up a meal and each worked independently on separate dishes. And we have collaborated on pizzas but that usually involves a lot of compromise and more inner turmoil on my part than you would ever imagine. I just go to my happy place and smile and nod while Nick applies the cheese in a way that goes against all my culinary and aesthetic sensibilities. (And to be fair, it turns out great.)

Somehow, however, we can make a great lasagna together. And by together I mean absolute 50/50 effort, putting things into the same pan, and having to coordinate with each other.

We did this for Christmas dinner to take over to my parents. There was a moment when Nick got impatient with my meticulous layering on the spinach, one leaf at a time. But instead of making an issue of it, he just suggested that he work on the spinach and redirected me to preparing the next noodle layer. His impatience did get the best of him later on when he grabbed a spoon from me and dumped out the rest of the sauce that I was carefully pouring out. I resisted throwing a handful of shredded mozzarella at him and simply explained I had been trying to reserve some sauce for another layer, but no problem, we’ll improvise!

So we rode out those momentary glitches. In the end we still liked each other and we produced a beautiful lasagna for dinner.

It was a Christmas miracle.

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I was too excited about the lasagna to remember to take pictures until we had devoured the majority of it. For those of you who feel cheated and are terribly disappointed to not see the lasagna in its entirety, this is a different, but similar-looking and equally delicious, Nick and Sarah lasagna:

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Back when I started writing this right after Christmas, I had planned on including the recipe. Now… I don’t remember the recipe, since we kinda made it up.  I did not eat a lot of lasagna growing up, but I know a lot of people who are very picky about lasagna. Typically, the criterion for these individuals seems to be whether the lasagna was prepared by their mother, and if it was not, it’s no good.  I’d love to hear what others think makes or breaks a lasagna, but in my limited experience, it seems like if you have decent, fresh ingredients, it’s pretty hard to mess up.  We used Giada’s recipe in Everyday Italian as a guide, if you happen to be looking for a recipe.

Oh, I made an antipasti* platter for Christmas, too.  And since it looked pretty, I had to share it. Best appetizer ever- no cooking and the prep is limited to finding some yummy things at Wegman’s olive bar (which you might remember that I love), cutting up some cheeses and veggies, rolling up some meats, and making it look all fancy.

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*Okay, it is antipasti, antipasto, or antipasta? I came across all three when I was looking for ideas. Can someone who is familiar with the Italian language and/or cuisine explain this to me?

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