Category Archives: Vegetarian

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

The Farmers Market Files: Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

Here’s another great way to preserve the farmers market bounty for the sad, dark, monochrome days of winter when there is nary a brightly-colored food item to be found that isn’t from Florida or Mexico. This spread is great on sandwiches, crackers, and pasta, and can be used to dress up soups and stews as well, kind of like a sweet harissa. You might be surprised by how sweet it is, given that it only calls for five ingredients and none of them is a sweetener. Cooking down the red peppers concentrates their flavor, and the combination of this sweetness with the tart tomatoes and pungent garlic produces a perfect end-of-summer flavor medley.

A little bit goes a long way, so I always set aside some to use fresh and put the rest in the freezer for later. The recipe below yields about 2 cups of spread, though this recipe is easily doubled/tripled/etc., if you’d like to freeze it in larger quantities.

(Keep in mind that this recipe really only qualifies for cheapskate status when made at this time of year, when tomatoes and red bell peppers are fresh and abundant, and can often be bought in bulk quantities at farmers markets. Otherwise, you’re looking at a $20+ spread!)

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Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Spread

  • About five large ripe red bell peppers, or the equivalent*
  • About 10 large or 15 medium picked-ripe roma tomatoes, or the equivalent*
  • 1 head garlic, separated and peeled
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste

*Note on quantities: Don’t worry too much about precision here. The beauty of ingredients that are this delicious is that your end result is going to taste good, no matter what.

Preparing the veggies: Roughly chop the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, and process finely in the food-chopping appliance of your choice. This spread is best with a bit of texture, so try to avoid processing the vegetables into a puree – very small pieces are ideal.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When hot, add the vegetable mixture. The vegetables will begin to release their liquid and simmer. Cook at a low simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to 1/2 to 1/3 of its original volume. (It will thicken to a paste-like consistency once it cools.) Remove from heat, stir in salt, and let cool.

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One of my favorite ways to serve this is on a sandwich with avacado, cheese, and a fried egg:

Sandwich with sweet red pepper spread

It is surprisingly hard to take an attractive picture of a sandwich.

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Cost of core ingredients:

  • 5 farmers market red peppers, bought bulk: $3?
  • 15 medium farmers market tomatoes, bought bulk: $3?
  • 1 head garlic: ~$1

Total cost: ~$7, plus the cost of small amounts of olive oil and salt.

Bon Appétit!

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Filed under Dip, Gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian, 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

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

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