Monthly Archives: February 2012

Red Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Ginger

Red Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Ginger

Red Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Ginger, served with skillet cornbread

Apologies once again for the long hiatus. One of the more annoying things about grad school is that your brain is tired ALL THE TIME, which sometimes makes it hard to sit down and blog, even about something as wonderful as food. Also, most of what I’ve made over the past couple of weeks that have been underwhelming at best, and I don’t want to post underwhelming recipes.

This recipe is definitely not underwhelming, though, so we’re back on track. I was a little skeptical of this recipe the first time I tried it, just because beans and mushrooms don’t strike me as being well-matched partners in culinary crime, but this recipe changed my mind. (I have since discovered that Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian includes several variations on bean and mushroom dishes, so apparently this is a thing.) The combination of flavors in this soup is absolutely fantastic.

Dried shiitake mushrooms

Dried shiitakes are much more affordable than fresh ones

Cool tip for buying mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms are EXPENSIVE – $10/lb. at my co-op, and probably a similar price elsewhere. They’re MUCH cheaper if you buy them dried and rehydrate them, plus they keep for ages, so you can always have them on hand. Dried shiitakes are available at Asian markets, generally pre-sliced. Most of the time these packages only include the mushroom tops and not the stems (which are tough and inedible), saving you even more money over buying them fresh. The pack of shiitake mushrooms pictured here cost me $3.99 at an Asian market, and I used approximately 1/5 of it for this recipe – a huge improvement over fresh mushrooms!

Dried shiitake mushrooms

Dried shiitakes

To rehydrate dried mushrooms, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. Don’t throw away the soaking water once they’re hydrated, though – it contains a lot of flavor, and most recipes will have you add this water to the dish.

The recipe below is lightly adapted from the older version of The Cafe Brenda Cookbook, written by the owner of a fantastic little vegetarian restaurant in Minneapolis (now closed, sadly – the owner now operates a much pricier place). I highly recommend this cookbook – nearly everything I’ve made from it has been phenomenal (and the newer version is probably even better).

I recommend serving this soup with cornbread, if you’re a cornbread kind of person. If not, a regular hearty bread or even rice will round this out nicely.


Red Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Ginger (adapted from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook)

1 lb. dried red beans – kidney, adzuki, small red (most boring bean name ever), etc.
1/2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms (or about 1/3 lb. fresh)
3 Tbsp. coconut, palm, or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large leek, washed well, halved or quartered lengthwise, and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional – red bell peppers are expensive, so feel free to omit this)
7 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 two-inch long piece of ginger, minced (peel if conventional; if organic, it’s okay not to peel)
6 cups veggie stock or water + bullion, Better Than Bullion, etc.
4 Tbsp. soy sauce/tamari
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Get the beans cooking: Cover beans in enough water to cover by about two inches, bring to a boil, and simmer until close to being done (how long this takes will depend on the variety). Add more water if the beans get too dry; however, it’s best if most of the water has boiled off by the time the beans are mostly done so that they don’t add too much liquid to the soup.

Shiitake mushroom soaking water

Shiitake soaking water

Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of water for at least half an hour. Once they’ve fully hydrated, remove from the water and chop roughly. Save the soaking water for use later.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery for five minutes or so, until softened. Add the leek, red bell pepper (if using), garlic, and ginger, and sauté for a further five minutes.

When the beans are nearly done (still a little bit hard), add them and their cooking liquid, plus the veggie stock, mushrooms, and mushroom soaking water, to the sautéed veggies. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the beans are fully cooked, whichever is longer. Remove from heat, and add the soy sauce/tamari and cayenne pepper. Add additional salt if necessary, and serve.


Cost of core ingredients: I’m not including the red bell pepper here because I didn’t buy one (I stock up  at farmers markets during the summer and freeze them – I wouldn’t have used one in this recipe if I didn’t have any in the freezer because they are way too expensive in the winter). Ingredients here are primarily organic and were all purchased at my food co-op.

~1 lb. dried small red beans @ $1.89/lb = ~$1.89
1/2 oz. dried shiitakes @ $3.99 for 2.5 oz =  $0.80
1 medium onion: ~$1
2 carrots: ~$1.15
1 large leek: $2.49
1 two-inch piece of ginger: $0.54

Total cost for at least 6 servings: $7.87 + the cost of small amounts of oil, celery, garlic, veggie bullion stuff, tamari, and cayenne pepper.

Bon Appétit!


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Filed under Beans, Cheap Eating Strategies, Fusion, Gluten-free, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian

Obligatory “Follow us on Facebook!!!” post

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that there’s been somewhat of an “out of sight, out of mind” element to my awareness of things out there in Internet Land and the actual, three-dimensional world beyond, by which I mean that if it’s not on Facebook and popping up on my news feed occasionally, I completely forget that it exists. This applies to movies, books, bands, restaurants, local businesses, public figures, my friends, and, yes, blogs.

So, just in case you’re the same way, I’ve set up a Facebook page for this blog, so you can follow it there. I’ll post updates there whenever I post here, along with cool links, and most likely the occasional random story about a cheap recipe gone horribly, horribly wrong. So mosey on over to the Culinary Cheapskate’s Facebook page, or click “Like” over there on the right, if you prefer to get your updates this way. 🙂

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Meatless/Almost Meatless Split Pea Soup with Herbs

Almost Meatless Split Pea Soup

Almost Meatless Split Pea Soup

I know a lot of people, myself included, who grew up hating split pea soup. It was definitely the only lentil- or pea-based dish that my family ate, so I was never quite sure what to make of it. Plus, it’s pretty much the most unappealing color possible for a food. I would have never guessed that I’d actually be cooking and eating it on purpose someday. 🙂

But I’m glad that I’ve given it a second chance as an adult, because it’s a really hearty, filling soup that, when done right, tastes great. It’s especially great for those freezing cold nights when all you want to do is hide out at home (and eat soup). Plus, it’s cheap. So how can you go wrong?

I made a vegetarian version of split pea soup for years, using a veggie broth to give it body, and sometimes finishing it off with a couple tablespoons of soy sauce (as recommended by Deborah Madison). Now that I’m eating meat again, I’ve ditched the veggie broth and soy sauce in favor of a couple of ham hocks or shanks to give it a ham flavor and a bit of meat. Both taste great, though, so I’m providing both recipes below.

Serve this soup with a hearty bread or some biscuits for a balanced and filling meal.


Meatless/Almost Meatless Split Pea Soup with Herbs 

1 1/2 lbs., or about 3 cups, green split peas
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips (they look like white carrots), chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped/minced
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

For the vegetarian version:
4 cups veggie broth (or water + bullion, Better than Bullion, etc.)
4 additional cups water, plus more if soup becomes too dry
Soy sauce

For the non-veg version:
2 ham hocks or shanks (shanks will give you more meat)
8 cups water, plus more if soup becomes too dry
2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Wash the split peas well, to reduce foaming. Combine the peas, ham hocks/shanks (non-veg version), all herbs, and water + veggie stock (veg version) in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, mostly covered, until the peas have broken down into a fine puree. If you are using new split peas, this should take about 60-90 minutes. If your peas are older, this can take quite a bit longer. Add more water if the soup becomes too dry, or if you want a thinner soup.

Non-veg version: When the ham hocks/shanks begin to fall apart, remove the pieces from the soup with a pair of tongs. Cut off the meat, roughly chop it, and return it to the pot, discarding the rest.

At least half an hour before the peas will be done, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the veggies and garlic until soft, about five minutes. Add this to the soup (scrape the sides of the pan with a spatula to make sure all of the olive oil gets in the soup, as that is where much of the flavor resides) and continue to cook until the peas are completely broken down.

Add soy sauce (veg version – 1-3 Tbsp. should do it) or salt (non-veg version) and freshly-ground black pepper to taste. Serve with a hearty bread or biscuits.


Cost of core ingredients: I made the non-vegetarian version of this soup, so the price of ham shanks are included here. This soup would be substantially cheaper without the ham shanks (though it is still quite cheap). The ingredients listed here are primarily organic and were purchased at my food co-op. The ham shanks are from naturally-raised pigs.

1 1/2 lbs. green split peas @ 1.29/lb. = $1.94
2 ham shanks: ~$3.83
1 medium onion: ~$1
2 carrots: ~$1.15
2 parsnips: $1.21

Total cost for at least 6 servings: $9.13 + the cost of small amounts of all herbs, olive oil, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under European, Gluten-free, Lentils, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian

Javanese Lentils

Javanese Lentils

Javanese Lentils with a fried onion garnish

This dish is another great take on a simple lentil stew, this time with an Indonesian spin. It’s amazing how many ways you can cook lentils and come out with totally different and delicious results every time.

I’ve adapted the recipe from a much more complicated one for Mee Java (or Javanese noodles), from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook. The original recipe calls for this stew to be served as a kind of sauce over seasoned noodles, with about five separate garnishes (each of which has to be prepared separately). I’ve made this dish according to the original instructions several times, but I eventually decided to dispense with most of the minor details of the recipe, because the lentil sauce/stew part is most of what makes it good. However, I decided to keep one garnish – caramelized onions, fried until crispy – because it adds a wonderful sweetness to the dish, but this part is entirely optional.

The original recipe calls for split pigeon peas (sold as toor or toovar dal in Indian markets), but basically any skin-less lentil will do. I usually make this dish with red lentils or yellow split peas. I’ve also substituted onions for shallots here, just because of the huge price difference between the two. Ground asafoetida is common in Indian and Southeast Asian dishes, but might be hard to find outside of Indian and Asian markets, food co-ops, and specialty stores.

I like to serve this stew over brown rice, but it can also be served over basically any type of noodle as well.


Javanese Lentils (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook)

1 lb. or about 2 1/4 cups red lentils, pigeon peas, or yellow split peas
6 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil (coconut oil adds a LOT here – buy on Amazon to avoid paying through the nose at a health foods store)
3/4 tsp. ground asafoetida
2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
1 large onion, cut in half and finely sliced (for optional fried onion garnish)
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 green serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
4 tsp. curry powder of your choice
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes OR 2 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, if in season, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro (leaves and stems), minced
~2 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
Rice or noodles for serving

First, get the lentils cooking: Wash well to reduce foaming, and cover with six cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam that floats to the top, and cook until mushy and beginning to break down – about 20- 25 minutes for red lentils, longer for pigeon peas and split peas. Continue to cook if you would like the stew to have a smoother texture.

Then, get the fried onion garnish going (optional): Heat 4 Tbsp. of the oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add the finely sliced onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion pieces are reddish-brown. Turn off the heat just as they are starting to become crispy, or they may burn. (It’s important that onions be sliced with a consistent thickness for this step, or the thinner ones will burn before the thicker ones have caramelized.) Set aside when done.

While the lentils and onions are cooking, prepare the rest of the lentil dish: Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat (but not too high, or the mustard seeds will burn). When hot, put in asafoetida and mustard seeds, stir, and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the medium chopped onion and chopped chiles, stir, and cook for about five minutes. Add the curry powder, stir, and cook for anonther minute. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, salt, and 1 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 8 minutes. Add this whole mixture to the lentils (whether they are done cooking or not), along with the cilantro and lemon juice, and cook uncovered for at least 15 minutes, or until the lentils have reached the desired consistency. Add more water if the lentils become too dry and start to stick.

Adjust lentils for salt. Serve over rice or noodles, with fried onions as a garnish.


Cost of core ingredients: All primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

1 lb. red lentils @ $2.29/lb. = $2.29
1 large onion: ~$1.20
1 medium onion: ~$0.90
3 serrano chiles: $0.48
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes: $2.49
1/2 bunch cilantro: $1
1 lemon: $1.06
1 lb. brown rice for serving @ $2.29/lb. = ~$2.29

Total for six servings: $11.71, plus the cost of small amounts of oil, asafoetida, mustard seeds, curry powder, and salt.

Bon Appétit!

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4 February 2012 · 4:35 pm