Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema - Vegetal MattersWhen I first began cooking in earnest, I watched a lot of the Food Network. Recipes cooked and loved were printed out, inserted into plastic sleeves (so cooking splatters were easily removed), and organized in a binder. Within a few years I shifted more heavily and then completely to blog and cookbook content, and started saving most recipes on Pinterest.

Unable to completely let go of that stage in my cooking education, the binder has moved five times with me in the last five years and still holds some recipe gems. This black bean soup was an early addition, but my cooking style has changed enough that the method and ingredients needed an update. This version requires a little more time because it uses dried beans, but is even more economical and tastier because of them. The chipotles make for a smokey undercurrent in this rich tasting but humble soup.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Serves 6. Adapted from David Lieberman and Joy the Baker.

  • 1 lb black beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • ½ lb bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2½ cups)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart of stock, such as vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 28-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 chipotles en adobo, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • juice from ½ a lime
  • ½ cup sour cream

Put your bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Cook 5-10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the bits are starting to crisp. Drain out all but a tablespoon of the fat (save it for cooking!!), and add in the onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add in the beans, bay leaf, stock, and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes check your beans – they should be close to done. If they still have some crunch let them cook for another few minutes. When they are tender add the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chipotles en adobo (1 makes for a nice smoky flavor, 2 for heat), and salt. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

You can serve the soup as is, partially pureed, or entirely pureed (use a potato masher, stick blender, or spoon part/all of the soup into an upright blender). I go in the middle, so the soup is thickened a bit but there are still whole beans and tomato.

Stir the sour cream and lime together until uniformly combined.

Serve with extra chipotle en adobo or hot sauce, crema, and any crumbs from the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips.


Last Week I Cooked….

Last Week I Cooked...- Vegetal MattersGrilled flank steak with chimichurri  (from In My Kitchen by Ted Allen), garlic and herb shrimp (from by Ina Garten, and grilled asparagus with lemon. This was an all-grilled meal for a crowd and it worked out swimmingly.

Mexican tortilla casserole. I needed something easy for dinner that was packed with vegetables, and that I could make in advance and bake when ready. I used this basic recipe, and put roasted sweet potatoes, kale, and black beans in the filling. I love enchiladas, but when I can’t be bothered to put in all the effort these hit the spot.

Last Week I Cooked...- Vegetal MattersRoasted tofu bowls with tahini dressing over rice. This meal is making more and more regular appearances here. The tofu roasting method comes from Thug Kitchenand the citrus tahini sauce from Sprouted Kitchen. I usually roast some vegetables (asparagus and snap peas this time) and have some raw as well (shredded carrots). They are vegan, wholesome, and freakin delicious (most importantly).

Last Week I Cooked...- Vegetal MattersEasy, herb packed falafel. I’ve spent years working my way up to this falafel. The very first time I attempted falafel it disintegrated in the pan as I fried it, so I ended up baking to salvage dinner. Every time since then I’ve baked falafel to avoid this tragedy again. I’ve read recipe after recipe that reports using dried chickpeas to achieve the best fried product, so I finally took the plunge. Unfortunately, baking is still my strong suit. This recipe said that the mix should just barely hold together, and well that’s about all it did. Lots of bits drifted off in the frying process. Maybe my chickpeas were too old, but even after a 24-hour soak they did not fully cook (or maybe I fried them too long, though the color looked right). The final product was ridiculously crunchy, but with a delightful tahini sauce (which saved the dish). I love falafel so much that I desperately want to be able to make it at home…but I’m not there yet.

Last Week I Cooked...- Vegetal MattersSweet potato and black bean tacos. I was wavering over what taco filling to make, and Will reminded me that it is impossible to go wrong with roasted vegetables. I roasted sweet potatoes (half with cayenne for spice, all with cumin), cooked up black beans, made the quick pickled cabbage from The Homemade Kitchenlime crema, and served it all with lime wedges, cilantro. red onion, jalapeno, avocado, and tortillas. It came together in an hour (with some help), served five, and pleased all palates.

I had to be at work early every day this week, so all breakfasts were to go. I made a batch of whole wheat chocolate coffee banana muffins (because they are the best), and had Greek yogurt with strawberries and maple syrup alongside.

Last Week I Cooked….

We just moved the patio furniture out onto the deck. It’s a holiday in MA so there is no work today, I’m wearing shorts and sunscreen, drinking a smoothie, and writing outside. No matter that I can see more of my own reflection in the laptop screen than the words I’m typing….it’s spring!!!!!

Lentil soup with sausage, chard, and garlic. I made this years ago and was disappointed with the outcome. I decided to give it a second go because this soup should be something I absolutely love…and I was right. The key is using really great sausage, because even though there is just a little bit it flavors the whole soup (I used Short Creek red wine and garlic sausage). I added all the chard at once because I couldn’t be bothered to save it on the side for leftovers, but if wilty greens are not your favorite then keep them separate or use a heartier green like kale. I didn’t make the olive oil and garlic at the end because the sausage made an intense enough soup for me, but to each their own.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersChanna masala. The theme for this week is “Dishes that I made once before and didn’t like but really thought I should.” I’d only tried one recipe for channa masala and it was too sour for me. When Kenji posted this I knew I needed to give it another go. I forgot quite how hot Thai chilis are (so small, so much heat!), so definitely only use one or none if you have a low spice tolerance. Even though there are a lot of ingredients this came together quickly and was intensely flavored. For a little greenery on the side I sauteed the rest of the chard leftover from the soup with some ramps.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersNancy’s chopped salad. This is an Italian sub in salad form and impossible not to love (if you love Italian subs). We often go to trivia on Thursday nights and I’ve found big salads are the perfect thing to not cook before we need to head out (plus, salads balances beers). This is a truly big salad though, and for us it was more like 8 full servings.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersSpicy polenta breakfast bowls. I need to frame a sign that says “YOU LOVE POLENTA” so I never forget. I put sweet potatoes, black beans, hot sauce, and cilantro on ours, but I would’ve added avocado and salsa if we had any. These could just as easily be lunch or dinner.

A study of pints

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersWhen traveling it is natural to compare the place you are visiting to your home. Especially since while on vacation you have a little more leisure time to seek out the things you love to do. During our stay in Cork, Will and I did an earnest study of pubs while we were in Ireland, making sure to to get a wide sampling of the local brews. I think that every Irish student has to learn to pour a perfect pint before graduating school. Stouts you expect to be poured with a certain finesse, but no matter what beer or where we were each pint was expertly filled to the brim (and served in appropriately branded glassware).

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersBesides just pouring, the Irish have their pubs down pat. They are full of cozy nooks, friendly bartenders, empty liquor bottles used as candle holders, and just about none of the decor you would find plastered on the wall at an “Irish” pub anywhere else in the world (though there were always a few token beer signs). Often Guinness was on tap, but it’s a Dublin beer so in Cork you’re more likely to see the local stouts, Murphy’s and Beamish, on tap. Murphy’s was originally brewed on the north side of the city and Beamish on the south, so loyalties fell accordingly. Our first beer was a Guinness, but after that we stuck to the other two. To be honest all three beers are very similar. We did a side by side comparison and the main differences were Murphy’s had a slightly richer and creamier head, and Beamish was a hint more sour (and was usually the cheapest of the three).

There would always be a stout on tap, plus a few other big name lagers like Heineken (which has a production facility in Cork), Carlsberg, and Coors Light. There are a few local craft breweries as well, and they are gaining ground. We saw Franciscan Well and Rising Sons on tap pretty regularly. I was indecisive while ordering a beer so the bartender gave me a taste of a few Irish brews, and Rising Sons’ Handsum immediately became my favorite beer of the trip (though it was later dethroned). Then I looked at the beer description and laughed at my utterly predictable taste…it is an American IPA.

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersBoth breweries have their own pubs in the city that are worth visiting. Franciscan Well is a small spot with a beer garden out back three times their inside space (they also had woodfired pizza, which we didn’t get a chance to try). Rising Sons was on a busier street with a few tables out front. Their pub had a huge lofted ceiling and felt more like a sports bar (…probably because there was a rugby match on). They also had pizza, which we did try, and wasn’t especially exciting but 10 Euro for a pint and a pizza is hard to beat. We also listened to a man order an IPA and then complain about paying an exorbitant 5.30 Euro for his 20 ounces of beer. We should have probably warned him to not come to drink in the US.  Elbow Lane is a restaurant which sells their own beer. The beer was good, but the cocktails looked particularly amazing (sadly we never got back to try them…next time). It was a much more upscale place and the small plates we tried were excellent.

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersThe most interesting thing to me was that all of these places that brewed their own beer also had all of the other usual beers on tap as well. We talked to a few bartenders and brewers about the beer scene, and they said people were warming to the more intense, different styles there were brewing, but not necessarily embracing them wholeheartedly. From my observation there was interest in the new little guys, but a long-seated devotion to the big beers. The US has such a saturated brewing scene that a small brewery will often only pour their own beers and focus on very specific styles. There is enough business to go around that no one has to try to please everyone (and the ones who do often make an inferior product).

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersThere was one beer habit in Ireland I can’t even begin to try to explain…ordering Coors or Bud Light and pouring it over ice. Not a good showing of American beer.

Part of the hold-back in adopting more American or Belgian style brewing could be the quantity beer is served in. The imperial pint is 20 ounces, and most stouts hover around 4% ABV. Imperial IPAs, Belgian triples, strong ales, and many other styles are often double that or higher. Making higher alcohol beers and adding extra ingredients adds to the cost, so such beers are often higher prices and smaller quantities. Plus Ireland has incredibly strict drunk driving laws and you are considered impaired after a single beer. In A Pint of Plain Barich guessed that this had a lot to do with the downfall of the true Irish pub, which was often isolated by farmland.

A study of pints - Vegetal MattersWhile in the end the styles of beer were not enough to make me want to relocate, the charm of the pubs could make me reconsider. They were often brightly colored, had fun names (Hi-B, The Huntsman), very often fireplaces, and even sometimes bar dogs. Stouts were a nice change of pace, with the added joy of dating a man with a full beard is that gets a mustache full of head upon every first sip. Observing the dynamic of regulars in a pub is  more than enough entertainment for a pint (or two).

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersMy cooking felt off this week. The meals I made were fine, but not all things I was especially proud of.  But in the end the house got fed with healthy foods, and there is always next week to plan something different.

Classic split green pea soup with smoked ham (from Flour, Too). This was the surprise favorite of the week. Yes, it’s not the prettiest but the long slow simmer with a ham hock made for a nice rich soup. I especially loved the finishing lemon juice and mustards, they nicely brightened what could have been a drab soup.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersLentil meatballs with Indian fenugreek sauce. This dish was…interesting. I don’t know if I ever tried fenugreek before this, and it was definitely the first time I cooked with it. It made for a very strongly flavored sour sauce that I ended up adding more coconut milk to in an attempt to mellow it. The lentil meatballs were fine and mildy flavored (they did stick together nicely). I serve it over quinoa to make it a heftier meal. The recipe said it served 4-6, and I was worried it wouldn’t be enough for lunch and dinner so I made an extra half recipe which was totally unnecessary. It made a baking sheet and a half of balls. So many balls. I’m not particularly excited to make this again, and will probably seek out recipes less dominated by fenugreek.

Pasta with garlic, kale, and mushrooms. I sauteed the mushrooms in batches so they would crisp nicely. When they were done I took them out of the pan and very briefly sauteed some garlic and shallot before adding in the kale. When the kale wilted down I added the mushrooms back to the pan along with a can of white beans (rinsed) and some red pepper flakes. When the pound of pasta was done cooking I drained it (forgetting to reserve some of the water), and tossed the vegetables in. I drizzled some more olive oil and Parmesan cheese on at the end.

Salads with lentil meatballs (pictured at top). I didn’t want to eat the lentil meatballs again in the weird sauce, so Will came up with the idea for these salads. I used a mix of lettuce and shredded cabbage for the base, added some cucumber and red onion, roasted some cherry tomatoes that had been sad and shriveling in the fridge, and spooned on some leftover quinoa. I made a dressing with yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley. If I had any feta, that would have gone on too. While the balls aren’t as good as falafel, I enjoyed them much more this time around.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersBreakfast tacos. We had dinner at my mom’s and she made grilled chicken, onion, and poblano fajitas with cilantro marinade. I made some flour tortillas (because Alex Stupak told me to) and guacamole and it was all delightful. These are the leftovers, re-imagined with some black beans and scrambled eggs.

Yogurt waffles. I replaced all of the white flour with wheat here, because I do that with my yogurt pancakes and figured it wasn’t all the different. The flours didn’t translate exactly though, and I found the waffles a little tougher. They still made for a wholesome breakfast and were a great waffle option for a house that was out of milk.


Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes

Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes - Vegetal MattersI spent years being afraid of potato salad. It wasn’t until my mom came across a recipe that used mustard instead of mayonaise (probably from Gourmet or Bon Appetit) that my tides turned. (I’m not anti-mayo at all, but it always seems to overtake the potatoes.) Since then I’ve added a few standbys to my repertoire, including this potato salad fra diavolo from Rachel Ray and spring salad with new potatoes from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve always followed those recipes pretty closely, but recently have embraced potato salad as something I can just play around with and adapt to the season and my fridge.

This is a basic version, and the only non-pantry item is the herb. I used dill because I had some to use, but chives/scallions, parsley, or basil would all work. This may seem like a lot of dressing, but it gets quickly sucked up by the hot potatoes. What made this version extra special was the pickled garlic scapes my sister made, but any pickle would work (or even olives or capers!). If I was bringing this to a party I would double or triple it, but this amount was perfect for casual weekend lunches.

Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes

Serves 4.

  • 1 lb red skinned potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup chopped savory pickles (not bread and butter pickles)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pickle brine (from those same pickles you’re adding in)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Prep a small bowl with ice and water.

Wash the potatoes and chop them into ½ inch pieces. Cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil. When they have reached a boil, set a timer for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up add the eggs to the water with the potatoes, and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the potatoes for done-ness with a fork (it should easily slide through) and drain the whole pot. Place the eggs in the ice water.

While the potatoes are cooking whisk the mustards, olive oil, pickle brine, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl.  After the potatoes have drained and cooled slightly, add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.

Peel the eggs and dice them. Add the eggs, chopped pickles, and chopped herbs to the potatoes and toss again to combine. Taste and adjust as needed.

Last Week I Cooked….

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersRoasted shoulder of lamb with smashed veg and greens. I’ve made this before, and I love the simplicity of this dish for a holiday meal. It is really as easy as putting the lamb and herbs in a covered dish and sticking them in the oven. Instead of boiling the greens, I just sauteed the cabbage and finished them with a bit of red wine vinegar. I’m terrified of vibrant green mint jelly, and much more partial to a gravy like this with the bite of capers and vinegar accented with fresh mint.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersChicken piccata. This was the first meal I ever made for Will, and remains one of my favorite dishes. There are a few components, but putting the dish together is easy enough and you end up with divinely cooked, piquant chicken. I usually make it with rice alongside, but this time we had it with roasted potatoes that I tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.

Sweet potato burrito bowls with green sauce. Our vacation was sorely lacking in my favorite protein, beans, so our first night home burrito bowls came to the rescue. For veg I used roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.

Veggie bowl with red curry lime sauce. Are we sensing a post vacation theme? So many bowls of vegetables. This sauce is DOPE. It is rich from the bit of peanut butter and curry but with a great balance of sour and salt from the lime and soy. I used some sauteed collards and roasted broccoli instead of the asparagus and bok choy, but I’ve made the bowls with those veg before and they are just as great.

Cider horseradish pork chops (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook). The glaze for these is delightfully simple, though next time I will seek out fresh horseradish or up the prepared amount because it was barely noticeable. Half a cup may seem like a lot of cider vinegar but it is mellowed by the cider (I used hard) for a perfectly balanced concentration of tart apple flavor.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersRoasted potatoes with feta and dill (adapted from Vegetable Literacy). The recipe in the book calls for frying the potatoes…which I’ve done and can’t say is worth the effort. This time I sliced them thin with a mandoline (along with a portion of my thumb…always use the guard!), tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. They cooked for about 20 minutes at 400F and were crispy chewy perfection.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersCarrot, avocado, and orange salad. I usually shy away from carrot dishes with orange because I don’t like the magnified sweetness, but the chili here makes that an non-issue. The carrots are pleasantly spicy, with a bit of sour from the lemon and creamy avocado. I used regular carrots that I cut into sticks instead of baby carrots and everything was just fine.