The Farmers Market Files: Preserving the Red Pepper Bounty

Red Bell Peppers, Bought Bulk

My $7 farmers market score!

I know I just spent my entire last post waxing eloquent about how much I adore the peak-of-summer ripe tomato, but it’s possible that I love red bell peppers just as much. Unlike picked-ripe tomatoes, you can actually get good red bell peppers year-round. However, they’re SUPER expensive – $6.99/lb. at my food co-op for organic ones, imported from Mexico or somewhere, which can work out to be about $3 for a single pepper. Since I generally try to keep my meals to somewhere between $2.00 and $3.50 per serving, a single red bell pepper can eat up a significant chunk of my budget for a meal. For this reason, I used to only use red bell peppers in my cooking in August and September, when they were fresh and abundant locally.

Tiny Red Bell Peppers

Unusual sizes or shapes = a great opportunity to save money!

Then I discovered that, just like tomatoes, you can buy entire buckets of them at farmers markets in the summer. Like tomatoes, these peppers often differ from the ones that get proudly displayed on market tables – they’re either a tiny bit overripe, or damaged, or often just smaller than the big, fat bell peppers that go for a buck each. But they’re just as delicious, and they’re a FANTASTIC deal – if you can figure out what to do with them!

The first time I found one of these buckets for sale, I snapped it up immediately, without having any idea what I was going to do with all those peppers. I probably could have sat down and eaten them all over the course of a week or so, but I wanted to keep some of them to brighten up that sad and entirely-too-monochrome period from late October to early May, when there isn’t a single fresh, locally-grown vegetable to be found. So I trimmed the bad parts, cut them in half, and stuck them in my freezer – and enjoyed ripe, red peppers all winter long! (Because freezing damages the pepper’s cell walls, these peppers are best used in a dish where they will be cooked; sadly, frozen vegetables are a bit too floppy to be used raw.) 

Last year there were almost no red bell peppers to be had at farmers markets, due to awful growing conditions, and man, did I miss having them in my freezer! So this year I’m going to double-up on my pepper freezing. I’d hate to be caught pepperless again!

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To Freeze Red Bell Peppers

Cut each pepper in half from top to bottom. Remove the stems and inner seeds, and trim away all bad parts.

Lay peppers cut-side-down on a baking tray.

Freezing Bell Peppers

Line up half-peppers on a baking tray to freeze them

Stick it in the freezer. After 24 hours, move peppers to a freezer bag to store all winter!

ALL the peppers

Now I have ALL the peppers.

To use: thaw in a bowl of hot water for ~10 minutes, prepare as usual, and enjoy!

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Filed under Cheap Eating Strategies, Uncategorized

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

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

Obligatory “Follow us on Facebook!!!” post

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

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

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