Black Bean, Corn, & Pineapple Pasta Salad

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I’m in serious clean out the pantry mode right now.  The same way that I’m sure I’m going to challenge myself to a serious closet sifting process once I do end up moving (which may not be in the too distant future — I made an offer on a house yesterday!), just the thought of packing up my house and transporting it is making me want to completely evacuate my freezer and pantry.  Which, if you’ll recall, is no small feat.

So I’m challenging myself with this weird game of taking one item each week out of both the freezer and pantry, and playing my own little version of Iron Chef with it.

This week yielded a yogurt container full of corn that I froze from last summer, and a can of pineapple.

What could possibly marry these two items?  Black beans, FTW.

Luckily this thought occurred to me early enough in the day to get these puppies soaking for a few hours, so that all I had to do when I got home from a crazy day of errands and appointments and house-hunting was boil them up and toss them around with a few other ingredients.

Understandably, the eight-month-old corn was looking a little sad, so I sauteed it in my new skillet until it was a little caramelized, and then supplemented it with some fresh kernels off of an early summer ear of corn that I incidentally had drifting around in my veggie drawer.

This salad really can’t get much simpler.  I cooked up a cup of elbow macaroni, opened the can of pineapple, and tossed this all together with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and the last little bit of jalapeno that I saved from some chili vodka I’ve been infusing this week for a fancy-pants cocktail party my friend Kate is throwing on Saturday.

Oh, and then threw in a handful of soy Bacos at the end for a little bit of a smokey flavor.

A quick dinner before biking back down to the Southeast for an evening campfire at a friend’s house, plus lunches for the rest of the week!

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 5/28 (on June’s grocery bill)

  • Jalapeno kettle chips: $2.00
  • Mango juice: $3.99
  • 2 dozen eggs: $5.78 — I’m in charge of the breakfast casseroles for Kate’s cocktail/sleepover party this weekend
  • Hazelnut half & half: $2.99
  • Cottage cheese: $2.69
  • Kale: $2.49
  • Carrots: $2.06
  • Red cabbage: $4.87
  • Green cabbage: $1.96
  • Red onion: $1.04
  • Free range roaster chicken: $15.33
  • Yellow onions: $1.99
  • Jalapenos: $2.50 — All of the following were destined infusing chili vodka for spicy mango-cucumber martinis on Saturday!
  • Red chiles: $1.90
  • Habanero chiles: $0.90
  • Horseradish root: $0.45

TOTAL: $52.94






Asian Green Bean Salad & Arugula Brown Rice Pasta Salad w/Adzuki Beans

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Okay, whew that was a busy month.  Back on the wagon (thanks, Amy!).  Well, the summer of crazy is not nearly over, but I did finally get my Monday/Tuesday off this week, so I decided to get a jump on lunches.  

I only have two days at work since I’m heading up to the Gorge on Thursday night for a weekend of Phish, but woefully all that is in my work fridge is an obscene amount of cheese and salami, left over from the less-than-expected turnout at the Sock Summit After Hours party last Thursday night.  I’m talkin’ like two full cases of beer here.  Although, I’m sure none of the 12 people I’m caravaning out there with this weekend will complain.

So, a quick little stop at New Seasons on my bike ride home yesterday yielded this:

coffee: $11.29 — My current fave is Portland Roasting Company’s Organic Tanager’s Song.  New Seasons sample table, you done good!
: $2.99 — I have been craving this all week.
: $1.29 — Serious restraint here.  I could eat 2+ cucumbers a day in the summer if I let myself.  Actually, I don’t know why I don’t let myself.  More cucumbers to come in the future.
: $4.47
yellow onion
: $1.71
green beans
: $3.65 — Just wait.
: $0.99 — Yum.
yellow bell pepper
: $1.32
butter lettuce
: $1.99 
stew meat: $5.29 — Stew in the summer? Hey, when you live in a basement, anything goes

TOTAL: $34.99

Unfortunately I have zero pictures to account for this, but am proud to discover that July came in fantastically under-budget, even accounting for all our groceries at String Summit last weekend, wherein Jesse and I prepped a whole bunch of superdelicious food so we wouldn’t even have to think about it when it came time to eat a hearty meal in between the music — including bell pepper & chicken masala, and some intense smoked gouda-ham-broccoli-mushroom mac & cheese.  I’m pretty confident that after another month or two my grocery costs will have averaged back out to my goal!

In any case, looking ahead to this week, I know it’s going to be a busy one, and I was clearly craving green, green, green, so here’s what I came up with:

For starters, an Asian green bean salad.  Simple, simple, simple.  I saw that the green beans were finally from California so I scooped up a whole bunch, and trimmed the ends off with scissors.  

That there is a handful of Trader Joe’s Thai Lime & Chili Cashews.

I heated up some olive oil over medium-high heat, and threw in the green beans, whole.  I like them charred, like they just came off the grill, so I let them cook for about ten minutes or so until they’re just barely still crunchy, seasoning them with salt and nutritional yeast as they cook.  

These beans are so delicious they could totally just be eaten as-is, but for some extra oomph, I tossed them in a bowl with the chopped up cashews, and a dressing made from the Asian triumvirate of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.  

These are delicious both hot or chilled, so I munched on some while I cooked, and then saved the rest to refrigerate and bring to work — leaving a hefty enough portion to last me at least two lunches this week!

Especially in the summer, my favorite super quick and easy go-to dish for multiple lunches is pasta salad.

As noted, I’ve been craving arugula like crazy lately, so I started with a bunch of that.  There are few veggies in this world that I have the patience to de-stem and wash (hence all the bulk spinach you see in my grocery lists; the fact that New Seasons has pre-washed-and-trimmed spinach that you can buy by the handful makes it my favorite grocery store, hands down), but in this moment, arugula was one of them.

I chopped this up first and started with it in the big bowl before the pasta, because I wanted the heat from the cooked pasta to wilt it just perfectly.

Mission accomplished.

Super simple dressing here — some Classico pesto right out of the jar, and a few spoonfuls of TJ’s olive tapenade.

And then just a dash of apple cider vinegar and some salt!

I also noticed these adzuki beans in the bulk aisle the other day.  I have no idea what they are, but now that I’ve eaten about a third of this salad already, I think I’ll soak and boil them up, add them in, and see what happens.

Thai Steak Salad

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This is one of my favorite make-ahead dishes for the week, a huge Thai noodle salad with some yummy protein and a crunchy vegetable — so easy to make ahead of time, en masse, and the dressing for it just makes the meal even tangier and sweeter the longer you let it marinate.

I rarely actually use steak as I think you traditionally find when you order this at a restaurant, but every once in awhile a nice looking cut of meat goes on sale at New Seasons and I like to snatch it up even if I don’t have immediate plans for it (let’s be honest, I totally don’t know how to cook meat, other than in stew) and freeze it until inspiration strikes.

Which it did last week during an intense craving for this salad.  After letting the meat defrost, I marinated it for about an hour in the following:

  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced

In the meantime, I made the dressing for the salad.  First I chopped two cloves of garlic, and mashed that together with about 1/3 of a chopped fresh jalapeno, with my mortar and pestle.  To this, I added 2 tablespoons each of fish sauce and lime juice (sometimes I have fresh limes on hand, but if not, bottled Nellie & Joe’s always does the trick), and stirred in 1 tablespoon of sugar.

The only crunchy veggie I had on hand was some green cabbage (an extra carrot would have been ideal, to grate in for some color, but no luck), so I shredded that and added it to a big bowl with some cooked thin Chinese egg noodles.

I cooked the steak in a frying pan until it was cooked all the way through, then poured the rest of the marinade in and let that reduce until it had caramelized nicely all over the surface of the meat.  Then I chopped it up in little strips so it looked authentic, and tossed it in!

Broccoli Soup and Pasta Salad

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Tonight I had the wonderful company of my good friend Kate over for dinner for some much-needed girl time.  This is probably one of my favorite evening activities of all time — having friends descend upon my kitchen, sit on the counter, and keep me company while I slowly and distractedly assemble a meal for the two of us.  
Sometimes we eat out at my big dining room table, but usually we end up sidling up to the long counter on padded chairs, where the stove is still warm and last-minute condiments are handy.  

I’m thrilled to do this any night of the week, but when it so happens to fall on a Monday or Tuesday — my two official days off — there’s the added bonus of a fresh loaf of bread to nosh on while dinner unfolds.

The main event tonight, in celebration of wintry, cruciferous vegetables being in season and on sale, was a tangy broccoli soup, suggested to me by this recipe.  It started with the usual suspects — yellow onion, leeks, and garlic.

These were sauteed straight in the soup pot with some olive oil and homemade butter, before adding a gargantuan head of chopped broccoli.

I filled the pot with broth (normally I’d use my homemade chicken stock but Kate is veg, so I went with Better Than Bullion veggie base), and let that all simmer together for awhile (about half an hour) before pureeing it in batches, in the blender.  

The recipe I was working from suggests a delicious creamy garnish to use with this soup.  I opted for yogurt as the base rather than sour cream, because I always happen to have yogurt on hand and hate to have to buy a whole tub of sour cream just for one recipe.

To a hefty scoop of yogurt, I added a few chopped scallions, the zest and juice of one lemon, a pinch of sugar, and the last few inches of a chunk of Parmesan that remained in my fridge.

The soup was a little too watery tonight to hold up to the garnish, but I have no doubt that for its revival tomorrow at lunchtime, it will be up to the test.

Meanwhile, I cooked a package of tricolor radiatore and tossed it together in a big salad bowl with some chopped celery, scallions, canned black olives, and parsley. 

I whipped up a quick dressing of chopped shallots, olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and my favorite condiment of all time — Trader Joe’s red pepper and eggplant spread.  Give this all a little shake in a jar and use it to coat the salad; crack some black pepper on top, and call it done.