Tex-Mex Black Bean, Roasted Pepper and Rice Supper

A great vegetarian skillet supper that was simple, delicious and hearty. I didn’t really have anything much in mind for supper tonight and threw something together from what I had in the pantry and fridge. Maya loved it and I’d definitely make it again.

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp crushed Garlic
1 bag frozen fajita peppers from Trader Joe’s, or 2 fresh peppers cored and sliced into 1/4″ strips
2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix  (I used McCormicks.)
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed
1/4 cup salsa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup Mexican or cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet and saute onions until softened. Add garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add frozen fajita peppers and taco seasoning mix and saute until the liquid from the frozen peppers is mostly gone. Add the black beans, salt and pepper and the salsa. (You can add a little water if anything is sticking to the bottom of the skillet.) Cook for another 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally until the black beans are warmed through. Dump in the rice and fold the bean mixture and rice together, cooking for a few minutes until the rice is warmed. Sprinkle the cheese on top, remove from the heat and cover for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot with a simple arugula salad. Yum!

Leave off the cheese for a vegan version.

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Sauteed Cabbage

I have never really loved cabbage.  It’s okay – but I can’t tell you how much cabbage I’ve thrown away over the years.  You need 2 cups for a salad, and then what?

But I’ve changed my tune after making sauteed cabbage.  Just like roasting brings out the mind-blowing deliciousness of so many vegetables, sauteing turns cabbage into sheer nirvana.  It gets a sweetness yet retains a nice bite.  And it’s ridiculously easy.

Ingredients:

1 cabbage, cut into 1″ squares (They will all fall apart so no need to be precise.)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and as soon as it is mostly melted (happens quick – watch carefully) dump in all the cabbage and start stirring. If it won’t all fit in the pan, that’s okay.  You can add it in stages.

Sautee for several minutes until the cabbage is reduced and edges are starting to brown very slightly. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Taste and check seasonings.

Serve. Devour. Yum.

That’s it. The simplest ingredients and method turn a plain Jane vegetable into a star. Leave out the butter for a vegan version.

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce over Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Rice

Our friend Sharon recently served us this incredibly delicious Vegeterian/Vegan dish and was kind enough to share the original recipe with me, from CookieandKate.com. I made it almost exactly as shown, and then a couple nights later used the leftover peanut sauce as a dipping sauce for oven-roasted sweet potatoes. It is so delicious and uses ingredients you probably have in your pantry already.

INGREDIENTS

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce (Can use Tamari to be gluten-free)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 and 1/2  Tbsp honey (or agave nectar, to taste)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp water

Roasted vegetables

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1 inch long, ½ inch wide chunks
1 red bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and sliced into bite-sized strips
about 2 Tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
1/2 tsp cumin powder (I used more than original recipe.)
1 tsp Sea salt (to taste)

Rice and garnishes

1 1/2 cup jasmine rice (could use any rice, really)
3 green onions sliced into thin rounds (green and white parts)
Handful cilantro, chopped
Handful peanuts, crushed

Sriracha sauce on the side (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix 2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt and cumin. Put the sweet potatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with about 2/3 of the oil. Drop the peppers in the remaining oil and toss them. You’ll add them to the pan a bit later.

Spread the sweet potatoes out, but leave about 1/4 of the pan empty. Bake for 15 minutes and toss. Then add the peppers in the empty space and continue roasting for another 20 minutes.  Check to be sure the potatoes are cooked and the peppers are soft and starting to caramelize.

In the meantime, cook the rice. Add 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice and 1 tsp kosher salt to a pot. Add a bit less than three cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cover and cook for 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Make the sauce: in a bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. If the sauce is too thick whisk in a little more water.

To serve: Spoon rice onto a large serving dish, and top with sweet potatoes, then peppers, a nice heavy drizzle of sauce, and sprinkle chopped green onions, cilantro and peanuts. Serve any extra sauce in a little pitcher.

To serve it as a dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, just gently stir in the onions, cilantro and peanuts. So good!

Thai Green Curry with Eggplant, Peppers and chicken

Made this for Kumy’s birthday last week while we were away from home. We had kind of limited supplies, but I’d brought a couple of Tbsp of Thai Green Curry Paste, which made it crazy easy. We were all starved and this was the perfect dish!

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Eggplant, not peeled – cut into 1″ cubes
1 green pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, cut into fat slivers
1 carrot, julienned
1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into small bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp Mae Ploy Green Curry Paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (optional – I didn’t have any and it was still good)
juice from 1/2 lime
pinch red pepper flakes (totally optional – the paste is already very spicy)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Thai Basil Leaves, julienned (optional – I didn’t have any and still good)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet until it’s quite hot. Add eggplant and cook, flipping the eggplant to sear it. Cook for 5 minutes or so, then add the onion, peppers and carrot and saute for another 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is transparent and the peppers are softened. Add the chicken and continue cooking 3-4 more minutes.

Shift veggies to the edges, and add a little more oil, and the green curry paste. Cook the green curry paste for a couple of minutes and add 1/2 cup water, the juice of 1/2 a lime and the salt and red pepper flakes. Stir everything together well and add the coconut milk. Cook for just another 30 seconds to warm the coconut milk and serve over rice.

Would probably be great with chopped peanuts, too.

Update:  Last night Maya and the gals made amazing vegan egg rolls, which Samir fried.  Since we had a lot of folks home for supper,  I made this dish without chicken, and realized it really doesn’t need the red pepper flakes!  Taylor made Sherry Trifle, so it was fine dining all around.

Rosemary Focaccia

Yesterday, Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) featured a simple Rosemary Focaccia bread.  It was a cold, dreary afternoon and the thought of warm bread baking for supper was just irresistible. Plus, I had everything I needed to make it, since I brought my herb pots into the sunroom for the winter.

I served it with Ina’s Eggplant Gratin and both were easy and delicious.  In fact, I’m munching on leftover Focaccia this morning, warmed in the toaster and smeared with a little butter.

I made the recipe exactly as directed – only pulled it out of the oven after 25 minutes since it was golden brown.  This recipe looks complicated but it’s actually pretty simple.

Dough Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for greasing the bowl and the pan
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cup warm water

Dump all in a mixing bowl. If you have a mixer, use the paddle and switch to the dough hook once it’s mixed. Let the dough hook run for several minutes, watching it as the dough will want to creep up the hook.

Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead gently until it is smooth and not sticky. (I may have used more flour – my dough wasn’t too sticky.) Rinse out the mixing bowl, dry it and spread olive oil all around it. Pop the dough back in, wiggle it around a second and the flip it over so all surfaces are oiled.

Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Prepare topping ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh Rosemary
Fleur de Sel (I used Maldon – but Kosher salt would be fine, too.)
Crushed Red Pepper to taste (couple of pinches)
Cornmeal as needed (a couple of Tbsp?)

After dough has risen, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan, and spread 1/4 cup of olive oil around on the pan. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly. Take dough and gently stretch it into a rectangle shape.

It’s a little easier if slide the parchment out of the pan and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough.  Just be sure to roll from the outside in so you don’t end up with a thick edge, and keep the size so it will fit back in the pan.

Then slide it all back into the backing pan, and cover it with an oiled piece of plastic. (I just flipped another roasting pan over it), and let rise for 20 minutes.

Remove the wrap (or pan), and poke holes every few inches. Pour the 3 Tbsp olive oil over the top, and sprinkle the rosemary, red pepper and Fleur de Sel over it.

Bake it for 25 minutes. It’s done when it’s golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.  (The original recipe called for baking 30-35 minutes.)  Yum.

Chicken Pilau Biryani

Everyone has a dish that is their knock out dish, and Pilau Biryani is mine.  I’ve made it for graduations, parties and most recently for a wedding.  (5 catering trays worth!)  It’s a fairly simple dish, but so ridiculously tasty.  I use a spice mix called Shan Pilau Biryani mix, which is available online or in Indian grocery stores.

This makes a really nice big batch, but leftovers never last at our house.  I do make the recipe a little differently than on the box, but it’s still pretty close.  If you decide to make a half box, try to make sure you get roughly half of the big spices as well. It is also traditional to leave big spices like cardamom, cloves, black peppers , pieces of cinnamon etc. in the dish that you simply pick out while you are eating.

1 box Shan Pilau Biryani Mix
2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp crushed Garlic
1 1/2  Tbsp crushed fresh Ginger
1 – 2 small glasses of water
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred well plus more for serving
3 1/2 cups basmati rice
6 1/2  cups of water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3-4 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil

In  large pot, mix the chicken, spice mix, garlic, ginger and water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer until chicken is cooked and soft.  (Probably about an hour.)  You want to end up with about 2 cups of liquid gravy (in addition to the chicken of course) so if you end up with much more, just cook it a little longer.  If you have less, add more water during cooking.

Remove from heat.  (If you want to pour it into a catering tray and freeze it at this point, you can.)

Stir the yogurt well and pour it over the chicken mixture evenly.

Cook the rice with the 1 Tbsp salt until just about done, and layer it on top of the chicken and gravy. It is important to make sure the rice isn’t overcooked and too soft, since the moisture in the gravy will add moisture to the rice.

If you get a red powder packet in the biryani mix, sprinkle it on top of the rice for nice bits of yellow color. Sometimes it’s not in the box – which is a bummer, but not a fatal flaw.

Fry the thinly sliced onions in olive oil, stirring frequently until they are dark golden brown and caramelized. This does take quite a while. Keep the onions and the oil they were fried in – you will use it all in the dish.  (I often start the onions before I even start the chicken to save time.  You can also cook the onions and then freeze them, and heat them just before you assemble the dish.)  For the wedding this summer, I fried two big bags of onions from Costco.  I think you could smell onions frying from two blocks away!

Ladle the fried onions and the oil on top of the rice, and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  (If you start with a frozen base, you’ll need to either cook it longer or you’ll want to thaw the base for a couple of hours.)

Remove from the oven and gently mix up the chicken and rice portion with a big spoon or saucer , and serve on a big platter. Serve with plain yogurt or a simple raita (spiced yogurt and vegetables.)

For a vegan version, substitute 3 cans of washed garbanzo beans, one cup of shelled pistachios, and 1 cup of frozen peas for the meat.  Add the peas until the very last minute or they get mushy.  (I sometimes just put the peas on top of the mixture in the tray since it all gets mixed up anyway.  That way they stay nice and green, but still absorb plenty of flavor.)

 

Honeydew & Cucumber Juice

On a hot summer day, when honeydew melons are in season, this is a wonderful juice to make.  It’s only slightly sweet with a really delicate flavor.  I used a good-sized melon, and it made about 4 cups of juice.

honeydew melon and cucumber juice

Ingredients:

1 Honeydew melon, cut into chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Buzz the melon and cucumber in a blender. (We don’t have a blender, so I just used a buzzwand in a pitcher.) Add lemon juice and sugar and buzz a little longer.

Pour the juice through a strainer into a pitcher and serve with crushed ice. So easy, and so refreshing!