Thursday, December 1, 2011

Italian Sausage and Pinto Bean Stew

The days of class are dwindling, and so is my bank account.  So I have been stewing up some ideas to stay full on empty.  Soups and stews are great values for your money.  Both tend to be “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of recipes, great for exam periods when the only thing you (should be) involved in is studying.   Having a slow cooker or Crockpot makes your dinner just a click away, however, you can still do it old school – with a pot – like me.
Tonight’s dinner was a hearty bean and sausage stew.  It doesn’t require fancy vegetables, or great cuts of meat; it’s a pretty “pantry style” meal.  I loved this stew because it was not only savory the first time, but as a leftover, there were still unique ways to eat it.  In its original stew form, its velvety texture makes it a smooth criminal.  Spooned over rice or a thick slice of cornbread, you stretch it out, making it last for days.  Topped with cheddar cheese and a fried egg can make it protein packed and bursting with flavor.  So don’t be afraid of leftovers when you know you’ll have options.  It can be a good way to use less, and eat more.   
Italian Sausage and Pinto Bean Stew
3 Italian Sausages (mild or hot)
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, with liquid
1 cup diced tomatoes (½ small can, with liquid)
1 T paprika (smoked or sweet)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.       First slice sausages in half, then slice each half into ½ inch pieces.
2.       Over medium heat, heat medium sized frying pan.  Add sausages and cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until well browned.
3.       Reserve about 2 T grease from sausages in frying pan, then add onion, pepper, garlic, and jalapeno.
4.       Over medium heat, cook onion mixture until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Season with paprika, salt, and pepper.
5.       Meanwhile, in a large saucepot, bring pinto beans and diced tomatoes up to a boil. 
6.       Once boiling, add sausage and cook until the liquid has reduced by about half, probably about 5-6 minutes.
7.       Add onion mixture, stir and reduce heat to medium. 
8.       Once sauce has come to desired thickness, remove from heat and serve.   (If you like a thinner stew, add water.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Coconut Rice with Broccoli and Fried Edamame

Plain white rice.  It’s a jumping off point for many who have just entered the kitchen.  It’s easy, it’s versatile, but let’s be honest, it’s also pretty boring.  So, how do you make it tastier?  You could go the down dairy drive, adding butter or cheese.  You could stop into sodium station for some soy sauce, Sriracha, or barbeque sauce.  You might even try to sweet talk it with a little brown sugar.  But what through me off my rice rocker was coconut milk.  
 Now, it won’t make your dinner taste like a plate of Mounds or Almond Joy.  Coconut milk isn’t super-sweet, and has only a faint coconut taste.  All the same, coconut milk gives rice a rich, meaty flavor that does not compete with bolder notes.  Although the flavor of the milk is considered mild, it adds a pleasant silkiness.  Add some aromatics like ginger, green onion, and garlic and you are on your way to a fragrant Thai-style curry.  
 This recipe was simple; it only took about 30 minutes.  It was hardly more involved than plain white rice, but with much more flavor.  The nutty, meatiness of the edamame complimented the tart lime, garlicky Sriracha, and hints of ginger that pecked through the smoothness of the meal.  Plain white rice, no more. 

Coconut Rice with Broccoli and Fried Edamame
1 T olive oil
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
¾ cup water
1 tsp salt
2 T lime juice
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
2 T olive oil
1 cup shelled edamame
1 tsp salt
2-3 cups broccoli, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 T lime zest
¼ cup chopped peanuts (optional)
Sriracha (optional)

1.       In a large saucepan, heat 1 T oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add green onions and ginger.  Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. 
2.       Add coconut milk, water, salt, and lime juice.   Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
3.       Add rice, cover.  Turn heat down to low and simmer until rice is fluffy, about 15-20 minutes.
4.       Meanwhile, in a medium sized frying pan, heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add edamame, toss with salt.  Fry edamame until golden brown and slightly crispy, about 5-6 minutes. 
5.       Add garlic and broccoli to frying pan, cook for about 3 minutes. 
6.       Add edamame and broccoli mixture to rice (mix well) in the last 5 minutes of cooking to steam broccoli. 
7.       Add lime zest to rice before serving.
8.       Garnish with peanuts and Sriracha, if desired. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swiss Chard, Cannellini Beans, and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

They call it a “Valedictorian Vegetable”.  While Swiss chard is not the secret to a stellar GPA, it is a smart vegetable pick.  Though uncommon to most kitchens, especially in college, it should not be overlooked.  Swiss chard is a standout on taste and appearance.  This leafy green should receive kudos for not only being an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, but also coming in a rainbow assortment of colors: red, yellow, green, and purple. 
I met Swiss chard on a blind date at the grocery.  I knew its background, I knew what dishes it was often involved in, and what nutrients it could provide me, so it came down to looks.  I figured it would be just another leafy green on the long produce aisle.  Turns out, it looks like the love child of spinach and celery, with punk-rock flair.  This particular Swiss chard had a brilliant red stem running down the middle and red veins bulging through the wavy, fan-like, dark green leaves.  Quite the “looker”, I must say.    
 Back at home, I had originally planned to discard the stems because they looked tough and fibrous.  However, once boiled, they turned out to be delicate and added a pleasant root taste to the dish.  The leaves appeared sturdier than spinach, but after blanching, they took on the buttery smoothness of wilted greens, with a bold, earthy taste all its own. 
 Adding creamy Cannellini beans and fire-roasted tomatoes made this a hearty dish.  It was stew-like, without the typical time commitment.  It was hearty, warm, and will satisfy your craving for earthy stews all in about 30 minutes, prep included.  A well-deserved meal for a chilly autumn night.  

 Swiss Chard, Cannellini Beans, and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
1 lb Swiss chard (could substitute spinach or kale), stems ¼ inch slices, leaves roughly chopped
2 T olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) canned diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glenn Fire Roasted)
1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, or other white bean, drained
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
3-4 Sprigs of thyme and rosemary (or a pinch of dried)
1.       In a medium sized pot, boil about 3-4 cups water and season with about 2 tsp salt.   Bring water to a boil over high heat.  Once water is boiling, add the Swiss chard stems to the water and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  Then add the leaves and continue boiling for another 3-4 minutes.  Strain the chard in a colander, trying to drain off as much liquid as possible. 
2.       Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add olive oil. 
3.       Then add onion and garlic.  Sautee for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until onions are translucent.  Be careful not to burn garlic.
4.       Add in canned tomatoes (with their liquid) and cannellini beans (drained).
5.       Season with red pepper flake, oregano, salt, thyme, and rosemary.   Let stew for about 8-10 minutes.
6.       Remove any sprigs/stems from the herbs.  Add Swiss chard.  Mix until heated through. 
Serve along with rolls or bread.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"All Red" Rice and Beans

Red Bull, red carpet, red light, redheads: all things we are attracted to because of their vibrant common color, right?  Some believe our eyes are physically drawn to this color.  Just think of all the companies that incorporate red into their marketing schemes.  There’s always a reason…
 During my last grocery shopping trip, I guess was seeing red.  Out of the paper shopping bags, I pulled a can of tomatoes, a red onion, a red pepper, and a can of red beans.  They say you need to strike a color balance on the dinner plate.  I failed that test– you caught me red handed.  So I called malarkey on this rule for the day and created a tasty, but completely red, dish.  It was a hybrid of Spanish rice with beans and goat cheese for a more filling, warm and creamy meal.  I love the familiar flavors of chili powder, cumin, and sautéed garlic and onions, and the red bell pepper adds a varied texture.  And goat cheese…what is it not good in? For those of us looking for a quick, filling, and cheap meal, this fits the bill well.  There is lots of room for experimentation, as well.   Almost nothing is irreplaceable in this recipe, so don’t sweat it if you’re short a couple ingredients or want to substitute in others.  Follow your stomach!   

“All Red” Rice and Beans
1 cup long grain Basmati rice
2 cups tomato juice (like V8)
1 chicken bouillon cube
½ cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
1 cup water (add incrementally as needed while rice cooks)
5 T olive oil, divided (3 T/ 2 T)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ cup red onion, finely diced
½ cup red pepper, chopped
1 (15oz) can red kidney beans
1 t salt
Chili powder
Cayenne Pepper
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
Cilantro, garnish

1.       In a large pot, combine rice, tomato juice, bouillon cube, tomatoes, and 3 T olive oil.  Place over high heat until comes to a boil.
2.       Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, in a small non-stick pan, add 2 T olive oil, and place over medium heat. 
4.       Once oil is hot, add garlic and cook for 1 min.  Add onions and peppers, cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until onions have become translucent and peppers are soft.
5.       Add onion and pepper mixture, beans, and seasoning to rice about 5 minutes before rice is finished cooking. 
6.       Once rice is done, add goat cheese and gently stir to incorporate.  Garnish with cilantro for a pop of color.