Category Archives: Cuisines

Tanzanian Black-Eyed Pea and Coconut Soup with (optional) Zanzibar-Style Curry Powder

Tanzanian Black-Eyed Pea and Coconut Soup

Tanzanian Black-Eyed Pea and Coconut Soup (with Brown Rice)

I got a cookbook for Christmas that is quickly becoming my primary go-to for delicious, healthy, inexpensive recipes: Bean by Bean, by a woman named (❤) Crescent Dragonwagon. (I am firmly against ever changing my last name upon marriage, but I would make an exception for this woman’s son, if she has one.)  As previously discussed in a post way back when, I really, REALLY like beans. They are nutritious yet extremely affordable, and come in about a zillion shapes and colors, which makes them kind of exciting. They can also be incorporated into just about any type of cuisine, as this cookbook makes clear. I thought I had a pretty sizable repertoire of bean recipes up my sleeve, but this cookbook has proven otherwise, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying out all kinds of new bean recipes. Pass the Beano, ha.

My favorite thus far has been this Tanzanian black-eyed pea soup with coconut milk. It’s FANTASTIC. Assuming you stick with coconut oil or some other kind vegetable-derived oil, it’s vegan, but it’s one of those dishes that’s so rich and delicious, a devoted carnivore would never miss the meat. It calls for a particular Zanzibar-style curry powder blend, which isn’t widely available, so I’ve included a recipe to make it from scratch; however, you likely won’t notice much of a difference with a standard Indian curry powder.

Tip on buying coconut oil: Coconut oil is pretty much the Next Big Thing in cooking oils – it has all the health benefits of olive oil, with a much higher smoke point and a richer, warmer flavor. As a result, it’s SUPER expensive at grocery stores and natural foods markets – $12+ for a 15 oz. jar. It’s much more economical to buy a large tub it on Amazon, such as this one, which is currently $26.59 for 54 oz. Coconut oil is extremely shelf-stable – an unrefined one will keep for upwards of two years – so if you have space for a huge tub in your cupboard, definitely go this route. (And then use it with reckless abandon! It’s friggin’ delicious.)

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Zanzibar-Style Curry Powder (adapted for this soup from the recipe here)
Zanzibar curry powder has less turmeric and a slightly different spice mixture than Indian curry powder. Making this spice mixture from scratch is entirely optional; your results will be just as good (though slightly – slightly – different) with a regular Indian curry powder.

  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds, if you can find them
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Dry-roast the coriander, cumin, mustard, fennel, and fenugreek seeds in a small frying pan over medium-low heat for several minutes, until they become fragrant. Be careful not to overdo it – mustard seeds in particular go from pleasantly toasted to burned very quickly.

Immediately transfer the roasted seeds to a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle, and grind into a fine powder. Add the remaining ingredients, and set aside to add to the soup when indicated.

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Tanzanian Black-Eyed Pea and Coconut Soup (adapted from Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon)

  • 1-2 c. dry black-eyed peas (depending on how thick and hearty you want your soup to be), rinsed and soaked for at least four hours
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, ghee, or a neutral oil such as vegetable
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, seeds removed (unless you like things pretty spicy) and chopped
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (if not organic) and minced or grated
  • 1 recipe Zanzibar curry powder (above), or 1 Tbsp. store-bought curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 15 oz. can unsweetend coconut milk
  • 4-6 c. vegetable broth/water/water + bullion cubes, depending on how much water boiled off when cooking your beans
  • 1 banana and/or banana chips, for garnish (optional – I omitted this, as I have trouble mixing sweet and savory foods)
  • 1 lb. white or brown rice, for serving (optional – serve with something else if you’d prefer)
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Cook the beans: Drain the soaking water. Place the beans in a pot with 2-3″ of water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 45-75 minutes, or until the beans are tender.

Prepare the Zanzibar curry powder, if using.

Get the rice cooking, if you’ll serve the soup with rice, using to the instructions it came with.

When the beans are nearing done-ness, heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the bell pepper, serrano, and ginger, and cook for another 4 minutes. Lower the heat, add the curry powder and cloves, and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.

Add the cooked or mostly-cooked black eyed peas to the onion mixture, along with the canned tomatoes, honey, coconut milk, and veggie broth. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes. Crank in some black pepper, taste, and adjust for salt and pepper levels.

Serve with a scoop of rice in each bowl (again, optional), and sliced banana and/or banana chips on the top (also optional).

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

  • ~1.5 lbs. black-eyed peas @ $1.99/lb.:~$1.50
  • 1 large onion: ~$1.20
  • 1 red bell pepper: FREE (well, effectively so) from my freezer
  • 1 serrano chile: $0.30
  • 1 piece of ginger: $0.30
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes: $1.59
  • 1 15 oz. can unsweetend coconut milk: $3.19 (oof, pricey…but SO delicious)
  • ~1 lb. brown basmati rice @ $2.59/lb: ~$2.59

Total cost for six servings: $10.67 plus the cost of small amounts of oil, spices, honey, bullion, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Beans, Cuisines, Gluten-free, Main Ingredient(s), Recipes, Soups, Special Diets, Sub-Saharan African, Vegan, Vegetarian

Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil (Mexican Slow-Roasted Pork)

Cochinita Pibil with Brown Rice

Cochinita Pibil with Brown Rice

Though my seven year stint as a vegetarian ended over a year ago now, I still feel inexperienced and unwise in the ways of cooking meat. So much of cooking is learned through experience (and a fair amount of trial and error), and I just haven’t had enough opportunities to  try different cooking methods for meat to really feel like I have any idea what I’m talking about. It’s a strange feeling, for someone who cooks as often as I do.

However, as I discovered when making this recipe, throwing a hunk of meat in the slow cooker is about as simple as it gets, and at the end, you are richly rewarded for your non-effort with the most tender, delicious stuff imaginable. It kind of feels like cheating. This recipe is extra-great as far as slow cooker recipes go (though my experience up until now has been limited to veg dishes) because the long cooking time gives the dish’s many spices and flavorings a chance to fuse into one seamless, incredible taste. Plus, it will make your house smell amazing! The first time I cooked this, I left it in the slow cooker while I went out to run some errands, and when I came home, I could smell the stuff from my apartment building’s front lobby.

This recipe is adapted from this crazy old Mexican cookbook from 1989 that a friend gave me – Mexican Cookery by Barbara Hansen. The book is full of hilarious, 80s-style, grandiosely-staged photos of Mexican dishes set on a table alongside elaborate candle holders bigger than a human head, and things like that, but everything I’ve cooked from it has been FANTASTIC. It’s out of print, but I highly recommend picking up a used copy on Amazon, if you’re into Mexican food.

This slow-cooker version of cochinita pibil yields a falling-apart tender meat that’s ideal for shredded pork tacos, though you can also serve it over rice, as shown in the photo. Either way, it’s ridiculously delicious, especially considering how little effort goes into making it!

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Slow-Cooker Cochinita Pibil (adapted from Mexican Cookery by Barbara Hansen)

  • 2 lbs. pork shoulder or leg (pork shoulder is also known, for some bizarre reason, as “Boston Butt”)
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced into thin strips
  • 2  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 good-sized, juicy orange, juiced, or 1/2 c. OJ from a carton (look for an orange that’s pliable when you squeeze it – it will likely be juicier and have less skin)
  • 1 lime, juiced, or 2 Tbsp. bottled lime juice (same)
  • 2 tsp. ground annatto (also known as “achiote” – look for this spice in Mexican grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. water
  • Tortillas, taco shells, or rice, plus taco garnishes, for serving

Remove any bones from the pork, along with any large pieces of fat. Plop it in the slow cooker, followed by the onion slices and garlic. Mix the OJ, lime juice, all spices, vinegar, and water, and pour this mixture over the pork.

Slow cook on high for about 4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. I recommend checking on it after about 3 hours (6 on low) to make sure that the liquid hasn’t all burned off, but if you’re not going to be home, add 1/4 c. water so that the pork doesn’t dry out.

It’s done when you poke the pork with a spoon and it falls apart. Lightly mash the pork to break it up into small pieces, and serve with tortillas or over rice, along with whatever typical taco garnishes you feel like.

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Cost of core ingredients: Naturally-raised pork is quite a bit cheaper at my co-op than grass-fed beef and the pricier chicken parts, so this does not make for an especially expensive meat dish.

  • 2 lbs. pork shoulder @ $3.49/lb.: $6.98
  • 1 onion: ~$1
  • 1 large orange: $1.72 (for a single orange, seriously? Yeow)
  • 1 lime: $0.40
  • ~1 lb. brown basmati rice, for serving, @ $2.59/lb.: ~$2.59

Total cost for four servings: $12.69, plus the cost of all spices, vinegar, and garnishes, if you have them. Not too shabby.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Cuisines, Gluten-free, Latin American, Meat, Paleo, Recipes

The Farmers Market Files: Italian Sausage and Kale Stew (or Soup)

Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

This is a great fall stew that I threw together after going a little crazy at the farmers market one weekend (did I mention I got a job?) and ending up with more stuff than I could fit in my (albeit small) refrigerator. I bought one bunch of kale that was so large, it took up almost an entire shelf in my fridge all by itself. I needed to act, and fast. So I made up a recipe that used a little bit of everything I had on hand, plus ALL of my kale, and the results were so fabulous that I did it all 0ver again the next week, enormous bunch of kale and all.

I was tempted to call this “Kale Stew, With Some Other Stuff” when I first tried it, because it does contain quite a bit of kale. However, the other ingredients ultimately hold their own, making this a great recipe for really packing away (or getting rid of, depending on your perspective) the veggies without feeling like you’re eating rabbit food. Plus, did I mention that it’s delicious? My significant other, who isn’t nearly as enthralled with veggies as I am, ate second helpings both times I made this, and insisted on taking leftovers for lunch the next day as well. (However, if eating enormous helpings of kale doesn’t sound like your thing, you can easily turn this stew into a less kale-centric soup by doubling the broth and halving the kale.)

Serve this with a hearty loaf of bread, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal for a cool fall evening!

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Italian Sausage and Kale Stew

  • 1 1/2 lbs. hot Italian sausage (I thought chicken sausage worked especially well in this dish)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, if you can find them, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-sized leek, white/light green and dark parts separated, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized waxy potatoes, eyes removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie broth (or 8, if you’d rather make soup)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel, or 1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 supermarket-sized bunches kale (or only 1 for the soup version), tough inner rib removed, cut into ~1-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Remove the Italian sausages from their casings by slicing each lengthwise and removing the inner meat. Discard the casings. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large soup pot, and sauté the sausage meat, using a spoon or spatula to break it up into smaller pieces. Once the meat has browned, after about 5 minutes, add the onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, leek bottoms, and potatoes, and sauté for another 10 minutes.

Add the broth, along with the dark green leek tops, nutmeg, and fennel. Turn up the heat and bring the soup to a simmer. Once it is simmering, add the sliced kale. If you’re using two full bunches of kale, it will probably be pretty hard to stir the kale in at this point, so cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes; this will steam the kale, which will start to reduce its volume somewhat. After 5 minutes, take a stab at stirring the kale into the rest of the stew. Cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.

The stew is done once the kale is cooked and the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Add salt (if your broth contained salt, you might not need much) and pepper to taste, and serve.

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Cost of core ingredients: Since I only buy organic, naturally-raised, hormone-free, etc. etc. etc. meats, the 1 1/2 lbs. of Italian sausage in this recipe cost a pretty penny, making this dish the most expensive per serving of all the recipes I’ve blogged about to date. Still, at less than $3/serving, this slight indulgence definitely didn’t throw off my food budget for the week.

  • 1 large onion: ~$1
  • 2 farmers market carrots: $0.50?
  • 2 farmers market parsnips: $0.50?
  • 1 farmers market leek: $0.50?
  • 2 farmers market potatoes: $0.75?
  • 1 ENORMOUS bunch farmers market kale: $2 (this would be far more expensive if I bought it at my food co-op)
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken Italian sausage a@ $5.99/lb. = $8.99

Total cost for five servings: $14.24, plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil, celery, Better than Bullion (LOVE that stuff), spices, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under European, Gluten-free, Meat, Recipes, Soups, Stews, Veggies

The Farmers Market Files: Salsa Fresca

ALL the tomatoes

ALL the tomatoes

August is a great month for food. All of the peak-of-summer veggies are at their absolute prime, and if you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a thriving farmers market scene, you’ll have access to the freshest, most delicious produce you’ll ever be able to get your hands on (unless you grow it yourself). Most supermarket vegetables, particularly the ones that are shipped in from hundreds or thousands of miles away, hit the shelves a minimum of several days after being harvested. This means that in order for them to reach your local produce section in anything resembling sellable condition, they need to be picked slightly before they’re entirely ripe, and finish ripening along the way. This isn’t such a big deal for some veggies (green peppers, for example, which aren’t actually ripe to begin with), but many are significantly less flavorful if they’re picked before they’ve ripened entirely.

Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of tomatoes. A fresh-picked, field-ripened tomato is miles – no, probably light years – away from the lackluster, reddish-orange tomatoes you’ll get in the supermarket. The taste difference is so remarkable that I don’t even bother with fresh supermarket/co-op tomatoes at all anymore – I usually just use canned, which are picked ripe and canned fresh. But for two wonderful, glorious months of the year, fresh, ripe, delicious, mouth-watering tomatoes are mine for the taking at my local farmers market – and I do my best to take full advantage of this fortunate fact by putting them in EVERYTHING. The more tomatoes a recipe calls for, the better.

And even more amazing (if you can believe it) is the fact that in my neck of the woods, said tomatoes are actually cheap to boot. “Fresh” supermarket tomatoes are something like $2 per pound on the low end, and fancy organic/heirloom varieties can cost $6/lb. or more. But not at a Twin Cities farmers market. Here, you can buy ’em by the bucket – and man, do I ever – and the more you buy, the cheaper they are per pound. I usually buy a smallish bucket of tomatoes per week (prompting me to designate a tomato drawer in my kitchen) – probably 10 lbs. or so, for around $6-8 – but people who are canning or making large batches of tomato sauce will often buy them by the box. Once my friend Jenny bought an entire garbage bag of roma tomatoes – seriously, a whole bag – for $20, and cooked them down into pasta sauce to freeze.

I LOVE that you can do this here, because this isn’t the case everywhere. In Denver, where I grew up, farmers market vendors tend to charge by the pound, just like the grocery store, and you definitely don’t get much of a discount for going straight to the source. It’s impossible to make any of the great end-of-summer dishes this way – a simple ratatouille would put you back $20, and a fresh tomato soup would be even more expensive. It’s not that I don’t think farmers are entitled to a fair price for their produce – they absolutely are – but buying (and selling) produce in bulk this way results in efficiencies for both sides. The buckets of tomatoes that I buy are not full of flawless, shiny, grocery-store-worthy tomatoes – those tomatoes probably actually get sold to the grocery store. Instead, I get a bucketful of tomatoes with flaws – a bruise here, some superficial spottiness there, which I am more than happy to trim out – and the vendor gets rid of a bunch of tomatoes that she wouldn’t have been able to sell otherwise. If this isn’t what’s supposed to happen at a farmers market, then I really don’t understand what they’re good for. (I’m looking at you, Denver.)

Salsa Fresca

Salsa Fresca

Anyhoo. I’ve been in tomato heaven, eating my weekly bucket of tomatoes. And this week I’ve been kind of obsessed with this salsa fresca recipe, so of course I had to share it. The recipe I’m giving below (based on a friend’s family recipe) is huge – it yields 10 cups of salsa, give or take depending on the size of your tomatoes – but it’s so good that you’ll want it all, I promise. Eat it with chips, put it on tacos or refried beans, take it to parties to impress your friends with your cooking (by which I mean blending) skills, or do what I did – devour it in two sittings with your significant other. But beware: this salsa is not for the faint of heart – people who want their garlic, their raw onions, or their cilantro in moderation. You may reek of garlic for several days afterwards. But hey, to many people, that’s just a sign of good taste.

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Salsa Fresca

  • 8 good-sized, fresh, picked-ripe farmers market or homegrown tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic (Twin Cities folks – the Gardens of Eagan garlic that the Wedge is currently selling is the most phenomenal garlic I have ever tasted; well worth the trip)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves only
  • Green chilies – 1 jalapeño for mild, 2-3  jalapeños for a medium salsa, or multiple hotter chilies (such as serranos) if you want to go all out
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

Roughly chop all vegetables. Combine in a blender or food processor. (You may have to do two batches if using a blender or a smaller food processor.) Blend, taste for salt and adjust if necessary, and devour!

(Alternately, if you would like an attractive, delicate-looking salsa fresca, then you can carefully chop all vegetables into uniform pieces. But keep in mind that it’ll taste the same regardless. :))

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Cost of core ingredients: I’m not sure that I could really call this a “cheap” dish, considering it a) isn’t actually a meal, even though it’s been functioning as one in my house the past couple of days, and b) is so delicious that it gets devoured pretty much immediately. But my significant other and I did eat this for “dinner” two days in a row (hey, it’s only August once a year), so here we go:

  • 8 farmers market tomatoes: $2?
  • 1 farmers market onion: $0.50?
  • 1 head of UTTERLY AMAZING garlic: ~$1
  • 1 bunch cilantro: $1.79
  • 2 jalapeños: $0.68
  • 1 lime: $0.72
  • Corn chips for eating: $3.49

Total cost for….well, what should have been more than four servings: $6.69 (plus salt) for the salsa only, or  $10.18 total.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Dip, Gluten-free, Latin American, Raw, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggies

Bean and Chorizo Jambalaya

*Note: This recipe is easily made vegetarian/vegan by substituting seitan, tempeh, or even just more beans, for the chorizo, and sautéing the veggies in olive oil at the beginning.

Bean and Chorizo Jambalaya

Bean and Chorizo Jambalaya with brown rice

I know I said I wasn’t going to post until after the end of the semester, but this recipe is too good not to share. I am devouring a bowl of it as I write this.

Since abandoning vegetarianism back in October, I’ve had a hard time finding recipes that call for small amounts of meat, rather than recipes that feature meat as the main focus of the dish, which seems to be mostly what’s out there. Meat is expensive – especially naturally-raised meats (which are healthier and much better for the environment, but cost about three times as much as “conventional” meats) – so I figured that recipes using meat as an accent would be a great way to eat some meat without breaking the bank. But you definitely have to hunt for recipes like these, and a number of the ones I’ve tried have been disappointing to boot.

There’s a cookbook, Mostly Meatless by Joy Manning, that is supposed to provide exactly the types of recipes I’m looking for, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet. Plus, I tend to be skeptical of cookbooks that target a foodie audience, as they’re frequently filled with finicky, time-consuming recipes that, frankly, I have no patience for. So my most recent experiment has been to take really yummy, really solid vegetarian or vegan recipes and add some meat, either as a substitute for another ingredient, or as a flat-out addition.

This recipe for Jambalaya is adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I’m sure these two ladies would be appalled that I’ve taken their vegan masterpiece and added pork, but…well, pork is tasty. The original recipe calls for seitan – generally considered a meat substitute – which made it way too easy to just use pork instead and call it amazing. (And incidentally, naturally-raised pork chorizo comes in at $2 less per lb. than seitan at my food co-op – meat substitutes are the most expensive food of all.) However, the recipe also contains a big, hearty amount of beans, which makes it a good way to get a lot of protein without relying exclusively on meat.

This recipe is totally a meal in itself- a big bowl of this and you’re good to go.

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Bean and Chorizo Jambalaya (adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

  • 1 1/2 c. or 3/4 lb. kidney beans, washed and soaked, OR 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 lb. chorizo
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped/minced
  • 3 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. cooking sherry or vegetable/chicken broth, water + bullion stuff, etc.
  • 1 1/2 c. or 3/4 lb. rice (brown or white), washed
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 3 more c. vegetable/chicken broth, water + bullion, etc.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If you are cooking your beans from scratch, get those cooking: Cook soaked beans in a regular pot for an hour or so, or in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes.

Remove the chorizo from its casings by slicing each lengthwise and removing the inner meat. Discard the casings. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the chorizo, and use a wooden spoon or whatever you’ve got to break it up into chunks, similar to ground beef. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chorizo has browned on the outside, about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic, and continue to cook over medium until the vegetables are very soft, about 12-14 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Use the cooking sherry or 1/2 cup broth to deglaze the bottom of the pan, and use a wooden spoon to scrape stuck bits off the bottom and sides. Add the rice, stir, and let cook for a further 4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, beans (drained of their cooking liquid, though you can reserve this if you want), bay leaf, and all the herbs/spices. Add the 3 cups of broth, bullion stuff, etc. (if you are using bullion, I recommend adding 3 cups of kidney bean cooking water instead of plain water), and bring to a simmer.

If you are using white rice, you will need to cook this for about 30 minutes; brown rice will take 55-60. Give it a stir every 10-15 minutes or so. When the rice is done, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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Cost of core ingredients: Meat is pricey, and adds to the cost of this dish considerably. However, when all is said and done, this really isn’t bad for 6 servings of food. Ingredients are primarily organic and were all purchased at my food co-op.

  • 1 lb. naturally-raised pork chorizo @ $5.99/lb. = $5.99
  • 3/4 lbs. kidney beans @ $2.19/lb. = $1.64
  • 1 green bell pepper: $1.09
  • 1 large onion: ~$1.20
  • 3/4 lbs. brown basmati rice @ $2.29/lb. = $1.72
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes: $2.50

Total for at least 6 servings: $14.14 + the cost of small amounts of celery, garlic, tomato paste, cooking sherry, broth/bullion, and all herbs/spices.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Beans, Fusion, Gluten-free, Meat, Recipes, Rice, Stews, Vegan-adaptable, Vegetarian-adaptable

Greek-style Lentils and Rice, plus excuses for why I haven’t been posting lately

Ohai culinary blogsphere and lovers of Inexpensive Real Food everywhere. Long time no see.

All kinds of stuff has been going down in my life lately. This stuff has prevented me from posting by effectively turning my brain into a quivering pile of goo. It has included:

  • Near mental and emotional breakdowns due to the stress of Ph.D. work
  • Dramatic questioning of What I Want To Be Doing With My Life and Whether Getting a Ph.D. is Actually Going to Get Me There
  • Very, very serious contemplation of dropping out of grad school or, at the very least, taking a break
  • Crippling anxiety over my perceived lack of marketable skills for doing anything other than getting a Ph.D.
  • Daily flip-flopping over whether I need to cancel or postpone my last major qualifying exam (which is less than three weeks away, ahhhhh)
  • Etc.

Grad students and former grad students will know exactly what I mean. To everyone else, I will just say this: Ph.D.s are evil and you should not get them. (That, and: If you want to give me a job if I quit my Ph.D. program, shoot me a comment.)

Anyway. I’ve finally managed to get some mental R&R lately, which has put me in a much better frame of mind and made me want to blog about cheap food again. Yay! I can’t promise that this will happen again before the semester is finished, but I do intend to keep at this once my metaphorical plate is a little less full.

Moukentra (Greek Lentils and Rice)

Greek-style lentils and brown rice

So. Carrying on. This dish, called Moukentra in my Greek cookbook, is another one of my favorites. It’s a good fallback option when you need a quick-ish meal and you don’t have much food in the house – the only ingredient it calls for that I don’t always have on hand is fresh cilantro, and it can be made without it in a pinch. I’ve made this dish with both white and brown rice, and it’s fantastic both ways.

This recipe is adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi. Though it’s low on veggies, I usually eat it on its own, though it would be even tastier paired with a small salad or the like.

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Moukentra (Greek-style Lentils and Rice, adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi)

  • 1 c. or 1/2 lb. green or brown lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cups lentil cooking water, chicken/veggie stock, water + bullion stuff, plain water, or a combination thereof
  • 1 c. brown or white rice, rinsed (the recipe calls for white Arborio, but I have substituted brown basmati with similarly tasty results)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, depending on your spice tolerance
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the lentils: Wash them, then put them in a pot with the bay leaf and water to cover by about two inches. Bring this to a boil, and let it simmer until the lentils are done, about 20-25 minutes. Chop your veggies in the meantime. Once the lentils are cooked, drain them, reserving the cooking water if you want to use it later in the dish (this is optional, but flavorful and efficient).

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until it has softened, about five minutes. Add two cups of the lentil cooking water or stock or whatever you are using, plus the rice, cooked lentils, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer.

The cooking time will depend on whether you are using white or brown rice – white rice should cook in about 20 minutes, brown in 50. Regardless of which you use, open the lid to stir the dish periodically, and add a bit more lentil water/stock/whatever if it’s drying out or sticking. This dish is supposed to be creamy like a risotto rather than fluffy like a pilaf, so a bit of extra liquid won’t hurt anything. Cook until the rice is done.

Remove from heat and add the cilantro, along with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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

  • ~1/2 lb. brown lentils @ $1.79/lb. = $0.90
  • 1 medium red onion: ~$1
  • ~1/2 lb. brown basmati rice @ $2.19/lb. = $1.10
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro = $1

Total for at least four servings: $4.00 plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil, stock/bullion, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Gluten-free, Greek, Lentils, Recipes, Rice, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

Greek Lentil Salad

Greek Lentil Salad

Greek Lentil Salad

It’s been bizarrely warm lately for this time of year in Minneapolis – I think we may have even hit 80 sometime last week, which is literally 40 degrees above average. The lawns are green, the trees are blooming, and I’ve been spending my evenings sitting on the porch, rather than huddled up under a blanket in my cold, cold house that my roommates and I can’t afford to heat above 60 degrees. It’s been FANTASTIC.

But it’s given me a hankering for summer foods – fresh tomatoes and eggplant and ripe, red peppers and all the other wonderful peak-of-summer farmers market veggies that, sadly, won’t be showing up in my kitchen in any degree of abundance for several more months. These are things I tend to buy and eat sparingly during the winter months, due to the expense as well as to the lack of quality compared to the vine-ripened, fresh-picked stuff you can get at farmers markets in July and August. A midwinter ratatouille made with imported eggplant and tomatoes just doesn’t compare to the same dish made with veggies that were picked that morning in the summer – and the winter version will cost you about three times as much to boot. It’s better to stick with winter staples to get your requisite veggies, in my opinion – squashes, cabbages, kale, and root veggies – with some canned tomatoes, picked ripe and canned fresh, to add some much-needed variety.

But last week was definitely too hot for a soup or stew, so I opted to try out this middle-of-the-road dish – a cold salad, with some fresh veggies, but comprised primarily of lentils, which are cheap year-round. It did not disappoint – it was crunchy and tangy and just summery enough to satisfy my need for a bit of warm weather food. This salad is very similar to a tabbouleh, but has the advantage of packing more protein (thanks to the lentils), and is gluten-free.

This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook. I’ve changed some of the vegetable quantities to make things simpler (so you don’t end up with a third of a green pepper and half a cucumber sitting around rotting in your fridge – I hate recipes like that). I recommend serving it with a side of hearty bread and a spoonful of plain yogurt mixed in.

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Greek Lentil Salad (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook)

  • 1 lb. or 2 c. green or brown lentils
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, or 1 regular (round) tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 small- to medium-sized green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small- to medium-sized cucumber, cut into a 1/4 inch (or so) dice
  • 1/2 bunch parsley (stems and leaves), minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is always more flavorful – 1 very large, juicy lemon or 2 smaller lemons should do it)
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the lentils (and allow enough time for them to cool in the fridge, if you want to serve this cold): Rinse, and cover in 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook partially covered until the lentils are tender but not falling apart.This should take about 25 minutes, though it could take longer if your lentils are old, so try a few at 25 minutes to see where they’re at. Add more water if they get too dry.

Once the lentils are cooked, drain the cooking water (or save it for later use in a soup or stew). Refrigerate the lentils for a couple hours or longer, if you want to serve this cold (though this dish is great served warm as well, so it’s okay if you don’t have time to let the lentils cool).

Immediately prior to serving, chop all the veggies and combine them in a bowl. Add the lentils plus the oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix, taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with yogurt and/or bread, if you wish.

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

~1 lb. brown lentils @ $1.79/lb. = ~$1.79
1/2 medium onion: $0.50
2 roma tomatoes: $1.21
1 green pepper: $1.03
1 cucumber: $1.47
1/2 bunch parsley: $0.80
1 ridiculously juicy lemon: ~$1.00

Total for at least five servings: $7.80 plus the cost of small amounts of oregano, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Gluten-free, Greek, Lentils, Recipes, Salad, Vegan, Vegetarian