Category Archives: Gluten-free

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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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

Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Curry

Rajma - Indian Kidney Bean Stew

Rajma served with brown rice

So, I have somewhat of a backlog of recipes to post here, for the kind of stupid reason that I prefer to take pictures of my food in natural light – which is to say, daylight – but I’m often not home during the day. EVERYTHING – you dog, your grandma, your significant other, and the curry you just made – looks better in natural light. But I usually cook in the evening, so I have to wait until the next day, or, more often, several days later, to take pictures of my dishes. I currently have a backlog of leftovers in my fridge, waiting to be photographed. Oh, the trials of food blogging. (#firstworldproblems, I know.)

Anyway, I made this stew last week and, as usual, its extreme tastiness did not fail to boggle my mind. This recipe is actually what inspired me to start thinking about dishes in terms of their tastiness-to-simplicity ratio. I never make a recipe twice if it’s not tasty the first time around, but some things that I cook on a regular basis are tastier than others, and this recipe is near the top. Yet it lacks the long, long lists of ingredients and steps that a lot of supremely tasty dishes have. And it’s cheap to boot. Basically, it wins at everything good.

I reeaallllly recommend using home-cooked kidney beans here rather than canned – their cooking broth adds a lot of flavor and texture to the stew. This stew comes out best when you can overcook your beans a bit so that they’re starting to break down, so pressure-cooked beans are ideal. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, mash some of your beans against the side of the pot after they have cooked.) Serve this stew over rice.

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook, with very few modifications.

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Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Curry (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook)

1 lb. or around 2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked (or two large cans, if you must)
3 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil*
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece ginger, minced (tip: if organic, leave the skin on – it does no harm)
2 serranos or other hot green chiles, chopped with seeds removed
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, if in season, diced, OR 1 15.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on how much heat you want
2 Tbsp. dried mango powder (available in Indian markets) OR 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (I actually like the lemon juice better)
1 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

Cook the kidney beans: Place in a large pot, cover by a couple inches of water, and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until done, OR cook in a pressure cooker for 12-15 minutes.

When the kidney beans are nearing done-ness, start the rest of the dish: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until it turns a reddish-brown color, about 15-20 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the chile, tomatoes, and all spices (not including salt), and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Stir in the cooked kidney beans and enough of their cooking liquid to cover everything, plus the mango powder or lemon juice, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season with salt, and serve over rice, om nom nom.

*A note on oils: I general substitute coconut oil for vegetable, because of its many health benefits. It is definitely not a neutral-tasting oil, but I think it adds a lovely additional flavor to basically any Indian or Asian dish. (I use olive oil or butter for all other dishes.) It’s SUPER expensive at food co-ops, Whole Foods, etc., but can be bought for a relatively reasonable price through Amazon – this option, for example, is $22 for a HUGE tub of it that should last you several months.

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

1 lb. kidney beans @ $2.19/lb.= $2.19
1 large onion: ~$1.20
2 serrano chiles: $0.32
1 15.5 oz. can diced tomatoes: $1.49
1 lemon: $1.06
~3/4 lb. brown rice for serving @ $2.29/lb. = ~$1.72

Total for at least 4 servings: $7.98 + the cost of small amounts of oil, garlic, ginger, all spices, and salt.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Beans, Gluten-free, Indian, Recipes, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ethiopian Lentil (Berberé) Stew

Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Way tastier than baby food

Hokay. Evil research grant application of DOOOOM is all submitted, and I am back to cookin’ up cheap stuff and blogging about it. Yay!

Right, so, Ethiopian lentil stew. Please ignore the fact that this stuff kind of looks like baby food, because it is SUPER tasty, and insanely cheap. It’s also really easy and straightforward, which makes it great for hectic evenings. Like harira (Moroccan vegetable soup), the many spices in this recipe are what really make it sing. Most of these spices are common and widely available, though you might have trouble getting your hands on ground fennugreek seed and ground cardamom – these are both available at Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African markets, but the stew is fine without them too. You can also buy a premade berberé spice mixture, if you’re so inclined, from Northeast African markets and the like.

This recipe is adapted from the Berberé Stew recipe over at fatfreevegan.com. I’ve changed it to not be fat free, because I don’t believe anything should be fat free (low-fat, fine, but research shows that your body needs some fat to properly absorb the nutrients in your food, plus a little bit of fat goes a long way in making you feel full and satisfied).

Serve this stew over rice or with flatbread (for an authentic-ish Ethiopian meal, pick up some injera if you live near a market that sells it).

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Ethiopian Lentil (Berberé) Stew (adapted from fatfreevegan.com)

1 lb. red lentils (about 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
A few cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek seed
1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp.  ground cloves
1/2 tsp.  ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp.  turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne (or more if you like heat)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp.  ground black pepper
1 28 0z. can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

Get the lentils cooking: Wash well (to reduce the amount of foaming when they start boiling, which is harmless but annoying), and cover with 6 cups of water in a large-ish pot. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam on the top, and then add all spices except salt. Let the lentils simmer, partially covered. Add more water if they become too dry.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate pan. Sauté the onion and garlic until the garlic begins to brown. Add this to the simmering lentils. Add the diced or crushed tomatoes, return to a simmer, and continue to cook partially covered.

Once the lentils have been simmering for 20-25 minutes, this dish is ready to eat, though you can keep simmering for longer if you want the lentils to break down completely and become creamy, like in an Indian dhal (you’ll probably need to add more water if you do this). Add salt to taste at the end, and serve over rice or with a flatbread.

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

1 lb. lentils @ $2.29/lb = $2.29
1 large onion = ~$1.20
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes = $2.49
1 lb.  brown rice for serving @ $2.29/lb. = $2.29

Total for at least 6 servings: $8.27 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, garlic, and all spices.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Gluten-free, Lentils, Northeast African, Recipes, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

Harira – Moroccan Vegetable Soup

Harira

Harira - Moroccan Vegetable Soup

You guys, this soup is AMAZING. I discovered harira while traveling through Morocco. After days of paying through the nose for crappy, bland couscous-and-sauteed-veggies kinds of dishes in touristy restaurants, my friend and I happened upon this man in an alleyway who was serving up steaming bowls of this stuff for the equivalent of 25¢ US. And we never ate crappy tourist food again.

Harira is traditionally made with lamb meat, but there are many vegetarian versions as well (like this one, and the one served by the alleyway man). I’ve never tried a version with lamb, and I’ve never felt the need to, because this one is so incredibly tasty and satisfying.

Spices in a Moroccan Souk

Spices at a market in Fes, Morocco

The spices are what really make this dish. It calls for a lot (eight), but all of them are common and widely-available. Harira is also traditionally served with a Moroccan chile and garlic paste called harissa, which does add a nice additional kick to it, but it’s expensive and entirely optional. If you do go for harissa, I recommend this one. You can also make your own, though I personally find this way more trouble than it’s worth.

Served with a filling bread, this soup makes a lovely and hearty meal, and it’s great in the winter. The recipe below was adapted from this recipe on eCurry, which I’ve changed a bit to make it simpler to follow and a bit cheaper. I’ve also upped the spices because this soup needs LOTS of spices.

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Harira – Moroccan Vegetarian Soup (adapted from eCurry)

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ground ginger OR a 1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger, grated/minced
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 to 2 tsp. paprika (smoked, if you have it, but regular is fine)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 cup red lentils, well-rinsed
1 medium potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooked chickpeas (about 1/3 cup dried), OR 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas
8 cups water, stock, or water + bullion
1/2 bunch cilantro (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 bunch parsley (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 cup orzo, white rice, or other small grain item
1 Tbsp. flour + 1/2 cup water (as a thickener – omit to make gluten-free)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Harissa paste for serving (totally optional)

First, measure out all spices (including the cinnamon stick) into a bowl and keep it by the stove, to make things a bit simpler later.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, celery, and carrot until the juices evaporate and they begin to brown or stick a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop the rest of the veggies and wash the lentils while this is happening.

Add the lentils and the spices, stir, and let fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the chopped zucchini and potato, and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato puree, water/stock, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and let simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

Whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of water, and pour it into the soup. Stir to incorporate. Add the parsley, cilantro, and orzo/rice, and simmer, partially covered for another 20 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of harissa in the middle of each bowl (expensive and optional), if you like heat, and a nice, hearty bread. Brace yourself for mouth-gasms.

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Cost of core ingredients: This recipe is a bit pricier than others posted here, due to all the veggies and herbs, but overall it’s still pretty cheap – if you omit the harissa paste or use homemade. Ingredients listed are primarily organic and were all purchased at my food co-op.

1 onion: ~$1.20
2 carrots: ~$1.15
1 potato: $0.96
1 zucchini: $1.83
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes: $2.49
1/2 bunch parsley: $1.00
1/2 bunch cilantro: $1.00
~1/4 lb. red lentils @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. chickpeas @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. orzo @ $3.19/lb. = ~$0.80

Total for at least 6 servings: $11.57 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, celery, all spices, flour, and bullion.

Harira

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Gluten-free, Moroccan, Recipes, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggies

Moros y Cristianos with Brown Rice

Moros y Cristianos

Moros y Cristianos - Black beans with rice

If you’re looking for food that’s tasty, filling, and cheap, it’s hard to beat rice and beans. Rice and bean dishes come in all sorts of varieties and flavors. Moros y Cristianos is a Cuban recipe, and is one of the best-known rice and bean recipes. The name is Spanish for “Moors and Christians”, and refers to the black beans (Moors) and white rice (Christians) that comprise the bulk of the dish.

I prefer to make this dish with brown rice. In addition to the health benefits of whole grains, I’ve found that brown rice is more filling and satisfying than white, and I rarely go back for seconds when I eat brown rice dishes (even thought they’re tasty!), which is better for my budget as well as my health.

This dish is usually made by cooking the rice in with the other ingredients, but I’ve had trouble getting brown rice to come out well this way, so I prefer to cook the rice separately and then add it to the dish at the end. (I use my roommate’s rice cooker, but you can cook it on the stovetop if you don’t have a rice cooker.)

The recipe below was adapted from this recipe on About.com. I’ve changed/increased some of the quantities, as well as changed the cooking process in order to allow for the rice to be added at the end. If you’d prefer to use white rice, I’d recommend consulting the original recipe.

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Moros y Cristianos – Cuban Black Beans and White Brown Rice (adapted from About.com)

1 1/2 cups dried black beans (about 3/4 lb.) OR two large cans of black beans
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
A few cloves garlic, chopped/minced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 to 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, more if you really like kick
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cook the beans, if using dried: Sort and rinse the beans. Soak for at least five hours, or quick-soak for an hour. (Quick-soaking instructions: Place the beans in a saucepan and cover with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, let boil for one minute, then shut off the heat, cover, and leave for an hour. The beans will absorb water faster this way.) Cook the soaked beans until they are soft. Relatively new beans should cook up in under an hour. (Older beans take longer to cook.)

While the beans are cooking, get the rice cooking as well: Rinse rice. Brown rice varieties vary in how much water they require, so add water as per package instructions. Bring rice and water to a simmer, cover tightly, and cook on a very low simmer for 45 minutes.

While the rice and beans are both cooking, get everything else going: Chop/prepare veggies, and then saute onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, thyme, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf in olive oil until the onion is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and pepper. When you’re at this point, add the beans, even if they aren’t done, and simmer – they can finish cooking along with the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer the bean mixture for ten minutes or longer, until the beans are fully cooked and the rice is done cooking as well. Add the rice to the mixture, stir, and let sit for an additional ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Remove bay leaves and season with additional salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar to taste.

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

3/4 lb. black beans @ $1.99/lb. = $1.49
3/4 lb. brown rice @ $2.29/lb. = $1.72
1 green bell pepper = $1.28
1 onion = ~$1.20
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes = $2.49

Total for 6 servings (3 if you’re my roommate Jack): $8.18 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, garlic, cumin, thyme, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.

This dish gets better as it sits and the flavors meld, so it makes for great leftovers!

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Beans, Gluten-free, Latin American, Recipes, Rice, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian