Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weekly Lunch: Sweet Potato Salad with Orca Beans

I have been making variations on this salad for a few years now, but the basic components have been constant: sweet potato chunks, beans, greens, and a chili-lime vinaigrette. I usually use black beans, and sometimes I use sauteed swiss chard and eat the salad warm. This time I used orca beans again, raw spinach, both white and orange sweet potatoes, and a mixture of corn kernels cooked with red bell pepper and poblano pepper. It's super colorful and you get a great variety of flavors and textures - sweet, fresh, crunchy, spicy, creamy.

Sweet Potato Salad with Orca Beans
Makes 4 servings

1 cup dried black or orca beans
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (I used a 1 lb white sweet potato and 1/2 lb orange one)
2 ears sweet corn
1 large poblano pepper
1 red bell pepper
Baby spinach or other salad greens
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

  1. Pick through the beans and remove any small stones or detritus. Place in a medium bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight. 
  2. Drain the beans and add to a pot, cover with 1-2 inches of cold water along with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beans are tender but still hold their shape (could take 40-90 minutes depending on your beans).
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 3/4" chunks. Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of simmering water and steam for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. Cut corn kernels from the cobs and chop peppers into 1/4" pieces. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat, and cook corn and peppers for about 5 minutes until tender but still crunchy. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and set aside to cool.
  5. Pack your lunch containers: layer the corn mixture on the bottom, then the beans, then the sweet potatoes. In the morning or the night before, add a few handfuls of your spinach/salad greens.
  6. Make the dressing in a small container: juice of one lime (about 3-4 tablespoons), another 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, the chili powder, and more salt and pepper (amounts depending on whether your chili powder contains salt). Add dressing to salad right at lunchtime.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project Pork: The Brisket

I used to be a vegetarian. For almost eight years, from high school through most of my last year of college. Then, there was a day when I just really (really) wanted a BLT. And I got one. And I ate it. It was so good. And although I still eat a lot of vegetarian meals, bacon will always hold a special place in my heart.

So I have a bit of a fondness for various cured pork products. Not all pork products, but a few. Pork brisket is one I had never heard of, but it turns out to be a cut from the the front of the ribs/chest, rather fatty but with some very nice rib meat as well.

Before this week, I had never cooked such a large piece of meat. I've never roasted a chicken, either. So this was definitely a "project."

Step 1. Make a spice rub (proportions for a 2 lb brisket):
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp regular paprika
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
     Step 2. Massage your brisket (all sides) with the spice rub:

    Step 3. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours (longer is better).
    Step 4. Preheat oven to 275-300F (again, wonky oven here). Place your brisket, still covered with foil, in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours until the meat reaches 165F. I flipped this beast over after 2 hours and ended up cooking it for the full 4, and it was closer to 175F by the time I got it out of the oven.

    Step 5. Peel off the kind of scary layer of fat. Shred the meat with two forks. Enjoy some of the crispy bits that have developed (can you SEE how much liquid pork fat is in the pan above?)

    This was really tender and tasty even plain, but better with your favorite barbecue sauce.

    Conclusion: this was a really fun project!

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Orca Bean and Delicata Squash Soup

    Have you ever tried to take a picture of a bowl of soup? I clearly need some practice. I'm looking at photos from people like Heidi Swanson and trying to learn what I can. Here are some things I've noticed:
    • Pile the soup components above the broth if possible - broth is not photogenic
    • Garnish is your friend (especially for monochrome soups)
    • Don't take pictures in your cubicle with overhead fluorescent lighting (!)
    Despite the picture, I promise that this is really tasty and warming for this very autumnal week we are having.

    I found these cute orca beans and couldn't resist buying a bag. I cook dried beans only sporadically, but I eat beans so often I should really use dried ones more frequently. Please note that these were "fresh" dried beans and did not need to cook for too long, so I just cooked them with the rest of the soup ingredients. If your beans are older, you may want to cook them separately and add the fully cooked beans to your soup.

    Orca Bean and Delicata Squash Soup
    Makes 5 hearty servings


    1 cup dried orca beans
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1" piece of ginger root, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    1 small delicata squash, about 1 pound
    1/4 of a kabocha squash, about 1/2 pound
    1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
    Several handfuls baby spinach, torn
    3/4 cup cooked wheat berries (I had some left over, feel free to use barley or even quinoa)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Rinse the beans and pick out any small stones or misshapen beans. Place in a bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water and let sit at room temperature 8 hours or overnight.

    Drain the beans and set aside. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until the onions are soft and the edges are browned. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds.

    Add the drained beans and the stock. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Check on the beans every 20 minutes or so. Peel, seed and chop the squashes into 3/4" chunks. When the beans are close but not quite tender, add the squash chunks and the tomatoes. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes until the squash is tender. Add the cooked wheat berries and the spinach. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Raspberry Oat Scones

    I should have known better than to buy farmer's market raspberries the day after a rainy night, and in October no less. These were pretty watery and smelled great, but tasted... bland. Here's another way to use up less-than-perfect berries, courtesy of Joy The Baker. I had more raspberries than called for, about 1 cup, and used all of them in the recipe, resulting in a pretty wet dough but the scones still turned out well. And the recipe easily accommodated my love for spelt and whole wheat pastry flours too :)

    Mmmm caramelized raspberry

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Barley with Roasted Summer Vegetables

    I had to make one last summer squash recipe before they're all gone! This week's lunch also features one of my favorite grains for salads, hulled barley. It has a great chewy texture and mild nutty flavor.

    So bright and colorful!
    Awaiting the oven
    Sweet and savory
    The finished product
    I also thought I'd share an actual recipe for my lunch this week. Fun!

    Hulled Barley with Roasted Summer Vegetables
    Makes 5 hearty servings


    1 1/2 cups hulled barley
    Three medium summer squash, any variety (I used 2 yellow squash and 1 zucchini)
    1 large or 2 small sweet bell peppers, any color
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    1 15-ounce can chickpeas, about 1 1/2 cups (apparently I can't go more than a week without eating chickpeas for lunch)
    5 hard boiled eggs (see below)
    5-10 ounces baby spinach (depending on how much you like spinach), washed and dried
    Juice of one lemon
    3-4 tablespoons total olive oil, divided
    salt and pepper

    1. Rinse the barley with cold water (use a fine-mesh sieve so you don't lose them down the sink!)
    2. Combine 3 cups water, 1 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add barley and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook barley for 40-50 minutes until tender but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.
    3. Preheat oven to about 400F (my oven is wonky, you may need to go up to 425F)
    4. Chop the squash and pepper into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme and about 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.Roast your veggies for 20-30 minutes, turning once. 
    5.  For the hard boiled eggs, place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain and place eggs in a bowl of cold water.
    6. Assembly time! I layer the barley on the bottom of my plastic containers, then the chickpeas (open the can, drain and rinse), then the veggies, then one peeled and quartered hard boiled egg. Spinach can be kept separately, so it stays dry, and handfuls can be added to each container in the morning or the night before. 
    7. The dressing this week is equal parts lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon of each. I mix it in a small plastic container and keep it in the break room refrigerator at work, so every day I can just shake it up and pour a little on my salad right at lunchtime. 

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Favorites: Easy Chocolate Cookies

    Sometimes I just really want some warm chocolate cookies. And I don't want to wait too long :) This recipe, from Cooking Light, is perfect for those times. And it uses ingredients I almost always have on hand.  

    Not only are these quick to make, but easy to clean up after as well - you can make the dough in one small saucepan on the stove. I added a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the warm cookie dough and swirled them around a bit before scooping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet. Definitely not necessary, but a nice touch if you have chocolate chips around. 

    Cocoa Fudge Cookies, from Cooking Light
    Makes 20-24 cookies

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1/2 cup spelt flour)
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt

    • 5 tablespoons butter
    • 7 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 350F.
    2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
    3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn off the heat, add the cocoa powder and the sugars and stir to combine.
    4. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract.
    5. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
    6. Add a handful of chocolate chips or dried cherries if desired!
    7. Drop tablespoons of dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly.
    8. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are set (err on the side of underbaking, since there are no eggs in the dough after all)
    9. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
    This is the first in a series of "favorites" that I'll be posting.  Check back for more to come!

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Weekly Lunch: Chickpeas and Quinoa (again) with Delicata Squash

    You may be able to detect a formula with my weekly lunches by now: some kind of whole grain, some kind of legume, a couple of veggies, and one or two "extras" like cheese or nuts. Add in a simple vinaigrette and you have lunch!

    Luckily, it's a formula that allows for a lot of variety, so I don't get bored with it. The star of this week's show was a lovely delicata squash - one of my favorites. Here is what I did with it:
    1. Peel your squash with a vegetable peeler. Unless of course you have a thick-skinned squash, in which case you will need to use a sharp knife. Delicata tend to have a thinner skin so a veg peeler works well, which is one of the reasons I like them so much.
    2. Cut the peeled squash in half, lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. If you are not lazy, you can free the seeds from the squash innards, parboil them in salted water, and roast them! But this was a small squash (with a small number of seeds) so I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
    3. Cut the squash halves into slices, then cut the slices into 1/2" chunks. 
    4. Toss the squash chunks with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I used about 1 tbs. each for my small squash) and a bit of salt and pepper. 
    5. Spread squash chunks on a foil-lined baking sheet (again, laziness requires easy cleaning) and place in a preheated 375F oven for about 20 minutes. I usually check on them halfway through and turn them over to encourage even browning. 
    6. Try not to eat them all in one sitting!

    And here is the finished product: baby greens, quinoa, canned chickpeas, toasted hazelnuts, a sprinkle of feta, the lovely squash chunks, and my favorite balsamic-mustard vinaigrette. Yum!!
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