Curried Ginger Carrot Soup, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, and Tangy Citrus Cabbage Salad

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 This is what a fantastic Monday looks like:
  • Waking up as the little spoon
  • Having someone else make you a supremely rich and flavorful cup of coffee, out of hand-ground, French-pressed beans
  • Catching up on the weekend’s email and blogosphere news
  • Getting a looming dentist appointment out of the way
  • Scoring a new pair of cute Mary Janes for $10
  • Figuring out how to hook your iPod up to your car stereo so you can catch up on phone calls while you drive around town doing errands
  • Finding a cool shelf for the super exciting new pattern station(!) you’re installing at work this week
  • Buying like 100 pounds of vegetables for the next week for only $35
  • Getting all your laundry, dishes, and cleaning out of the way in the early afternoon
  • Cranking out an hour of transcription in 90 minutes
  • The thrill of watching UCU applications come pouring in at the speed of about one every five minutes during the last 24 hour rush of summer apps before tomorrow’s deadline
  • Spending the evening listening to Democracy Now and WTF while you cook up a storm.

Let me elaborate.  I cooked a lot tonight.  I was kind of on a roll with being productive and didn’t want to stop.  And, this way, all I have to do tomorrow during my (faux) day off is some morning transcription, go for a run, and then my favorite: parking it at a cafe on a (hopefully sunny) Tuesday afternoon with some iced coffee, cranking out 4+ hours of UCU and Yarnia work so the rest of my week is a little more manageable.  Especially because this week holds a lot of fun things in store, including one of my favorite bluegrass shows, dinner with friends, and a trip up to Seattle.

So.  I did the obvious.  You know, roasted a chicken, baked some bread.

Sundried tomato / fresh dill / half whole wheat bread

But then I also made curried ginger carrot soup, tangy shredded cabbage salad, and black eyed pea salad.  Oh, and soaked and boiled chickpeas for some hummus that I’ll be making tomorrow, and homemade chicken stock is boiling on the stove as I write this (in the same pot I used to make the soup, after transferring the latter to tupperwares for the week.  Genius!)

So first, the soup.  Not sure where I stumbled upon this recipe from, but as soon as I saw it, I couldn’t get it out of my head and even though I really shouldn’t be this excited about soups in April, it’s still like 40 degrees and raining in Portland, so even though I try to defy the weather by incorporating sockless shoes and vests into my wardrobe, it’s still a welcome warming meal.

This soup began by melting 3/4 of a stick of butter in my big soup pot, and sauteeing half a yellow onion (chopped), and a good sized chunk of ginger (minced).  
I accidentally stumbled upon a great trick for the ginger, BTW.  I have this part of my fridge that is supposed to “chill” things, but it’s so close to the icebox it really just half-freezes them.  I’ve started putting things like ginger and jalapenos and lemons in there — little flavor punches that I like to buy without clear intention, and that sadly go bad when left in the regular part of the fridge.  And apparently ginger, in this half-frozen state, flakes off like crystal, beautifully and effortlessly, when you pretend to try to slice it really thin.   

Then I chopped this gargantuan bundle of carrots that I bought today.  I love how cheap carrots are.  Seriously, this entire pile of carrots cost $1.90 and they are sooo bright and crisp and sweet.
After cooking the onions and ginger in the butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes, I added in the carrots and stirred so they were coated in the butter.  Five minutes later, I added three cups of my homemade chicken stock, 
and 2 tablespoons of my favorite curry powder (“Muchi” curry powder, in the bulk section at New Seasons).

I let this boil together for 30 minutes, and then pureed it in the blender in batches, leaving a cup or two un-pureed so that there are still some carrot slices in there for texture.  Not a fan of the 100% pureed soups.  I returned all the soup to the pot and added a cup of milk and salt to taste.  

Okay, while this was all happening I’d been cooking some black eyed peas that I started soaking this morning.  Bean salads are one of my favorite make-ahead meals for the workweek.  They just get better the longer they sit in their marinade, they’re super easy to transport, proteinalicious, and can be made with whatever leftover crunchy vegetables you have lying around.

For instance, celery that never got used from last week.  I chopped up the rest of that bunch and added it to the big salad bowl with the cooked beans (I had started with 1/2 cup of dried beans this morning, if you’re concerned about quantity).
I also added half a red onion, 1/3 of a jalapeno pepper, and half a bunch of parsley, all finely chopped.  I also had some leftover mint that was left at my house left weekend when I hosted a ladies’ afternoon clothing swap.  There were Mojitos aplenty, but not enough to eat up two packages of fresh mint, so that got chopped up and added to this salad, too.  
Then, a super simple dressing:
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar (about half as much as the oil)
  • smoked paprika
  • fresh oregano, chopped
  • salt & pepper

And then, still on the salad kick, I whipped up this salad, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

I know this is weird, but cabbage is pretty much my favorite vegetable (nudged out only by kale.  But come on…you can’t compete with kale!), so rather than the 2 cups she recommends I just went ahead and chopped up the whole head.  I have no patience for grating cabbage with a cheese grater, nor do I have a Cuisinart, so I took a chef’s knife to it instead.
I actually did buy a serrano chile just for this purpose, in a rare fit of recipe adherence, but I have to say, that and the toasted mustard seeds totally give this salad the perfect flavor, and just different enough from my go-to cole slaw recipe to make me feel like maybe a new season is finally in the air.  

So in addition to the minced chile, I added to the mix:
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons sugar

And then I toasted 1.5 teaspons of whole mustard seeds in some canola oil and, once the seeds started giving their satisfying pop, poured the fragrant topping straight into the bowl.  I can’t wait to see what this tastes like tomorrow after it’s had a night to mellow out in the fridge.

Oh, and since I was roasting that chicken for future lunches, and never know what to do with the wings within my grand scheme of roast-and-freeze-in-meal-size-portions-for-work-night-dinners, they seemed like the perfect way to round out tonight’s dinner.

Okay, now I get to reward myself with some pajamas and serious veg-out knitting.

White Bean Cassoulet & Cornbread

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I’m gearing up this week to fly out to Chicago, and then D.C., for a super fun weekend with two of my best, oldest friends.  So I haven’t had much time the past week or two for writing…although that’s not to say I haven’t been cooking!  In fact, a new special friend and I have just started cooking together recently, and last night he happened to come over on one of my days off, which means I got to consciously do my grocery shopping with a meal half-in-mind.

It also means I got to pick up this little gem of an artichoke, which was on sale and from California!  I’ve never cooked an artichoke before, but Alice Waters made it sound pretty easy, so we ate it as the after-dinner course, dipped in butter melted with garlic and thyme, and a few toasted slices of this week’s bread: jalapeno cheese.

It’s been awhile since I’ve made cornbread, and I had the perfect little end nub of a jalapeno left to add just the right amount of zing to it.  Alice Waters is my guide for anything simple-bakey, like cornbread or pancakes.

This is a super quick one to whip up, simply stirring together all of the following in a mixing bowl: 

  • 3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Once that’s mixed, stir in 1 egg, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 of a fresh jalepeno (diced), and 4 tablespoons melted butter.  Pour the batter into a loaf pan or pyrex, and bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes.

I actually like to bake the cornbread until it’s almost done, and then ten minutes before taking it out, melt a little pot of butter, honey, and salt together (use my single-serving Turkish coffee pot, perfect for melting stovetop and then pouring), and drizzle it over the top and let it caramelize during the last ten minutes of baking.

And for the evening’s main event, I made a white bean cassoulet.  Maybe it’s not totally fair to call it a cassoulet, because I think the crowning feature of that dish is the baked breadcrumb topping, which this was conspicuously lacking, but all the other elements were there.  

I started some white beans soaking this morning, and cooked them for about half an hour while I chopped all my veggies, to soften them up.  I had bought an Italian sausage at New Seasons for the occasion, which I froze for an hour or two before I started cooking so that I could slice it into perfect little thin discs more easily.
I started by cooking the sausage in the big pan I was planning on using, then setting them aside but leaving the grease in the pan to use in sauteeing the following: 1 diced shallot, 2 carrots and 4 stalks of celery, both cut in pretty big chunks, a bay leaf, and some chopped fresh thyme.

After about 15 minutes I added the sausage, the cooked white beans (which initially began as 1/2 cup of dried beans), and about 3/4 of a large can of plum tomatoes, which I broke apart with my hands and added with the sauce they came in.  
Then I added a few inches of water, and about a tablespoon of vegetarian Better Than Bullion (I think the real-deal chicken stock here would have been a little too rich, with the sausage and all), kept it on medium-high heat, and let it all reduce down for about half an hour.

Super delicious, and enough left over for both our lunches!

Black Bean Soup

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I don’t usually end up getting to write about my lunches, but this was just too enjoyable of a perfect fall lunch to resist — warm and hearty before heading out to my favorite cafe for a long afternoon of work.
I made this soup last night, quickly and distractedly while getting ready to go out, and it turned out fantastic.  I wasn’t expecting anything mind-blowing, since I had forgotten to pick up soup veggies of any kind while at the grocery (I usually like to throw in at least carrots or celery), but you know, when you have nothing on hand but some onions and garlic, this really does the trick.
I’m a bean soaker (of course you could use canned black beans for this as well, I just don’t like the aluminum taste so I always have plenty of dried legumes on hand).
So I tossed 1 cup of dried black beans into a pot of water yesterday afternoon, and since black beans only take but a few hours to soak, they were ready by dinnertime.
This soup starts with half a yellow onion and 3 huge cloves of garlic, chopped and minced, respectively, sauteeing in your soup pot, in a few tablespoons of olive oil, on medium-high heat.  

Stir in a tablespoon or two of fresh ground cumin and coriander, and a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes.  Minced fresh jalapeno works well too, but mine had gone bad 🙁

After the onions have turned translucent, dump in the beans (soaked, but not yet cooked), a handful of sun dried tomatoes, and 4 cups of homemade chicken stock.  

If you’re using commercial stock or bullion you probably don’t need to salt it too much more, but as the beans cook, taste the broth and salt as you see fit.

Bring all this to a boil, and keep simmering at medium-high until the beans have finished cooking. 

Although half an hour of this should be enough, the longer you let it simmer, the more the beans will break down and give you a wonderfully thick broth.  I even took a potato masher and helped it along at the very end, not wanting to get my blender dirty.  A puree is definitely not necessary here.  For an October soup, chunks are a great thing.

 Top it with some shredded sharp cheddar!
And to balance it out, a piece of toast (rosemary basil whole wheat bread, baked yesterday!) with a thick layer of avocado, salt, pepper, and sliced red pepper, and a Fuji apple on the side.