Monthly Archives: April 2012

Black Bean Cakes with Cilantro Crème

These black bean cakes are dredged in rice flour, which give them a thin, crisp crust.  I use leftover Game Night Black Beans, but you could use any well-spiced beans.  The recipe is a lot easier than it looks– make them once and you’ll do it by memory.  I often serve black bean cakes over watercress or arugula dressed in olive oil.  With a piece of cornbread or a side of rice, you have a full meal.  Don’t skip the Cilantro Crème.  It makes the dish.  This recipe makes 4 servings.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Cakes
2 medium sweet potatoes, about 10 oz. total
3 cups well-drained, well-seasoned, cooked black beans
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
2 T. finely diced onion
Scant 1 tsp. sea salt
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
¼ c. brown rice flour
3-5 T. olive or canola oil, for frying

Cilantro Crème
1 c. chopped cilantro
2/3 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Serrano chiles, de-stemmed
Zest and juice of 1 medium lime

Prick sweet potatoes several times with a fork and cook in the microwave until soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Place black beans in a large, shallow bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic, hot pepper and onion and cook one minute. Add salt, chili powder and ground cumin and cook another 30-60 seconds, until fragrant. Scrape spice mixture into the beans. Cut warm sweet potatoes in half and add the flesh to the bowl. Use a potato masher to smash and combine the ingredients together. Stop mashing when mixture is creamy and just holds together, but still has visible bits of beans. Do not mash to a uniform consistency.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place rice flour on a small plate. Scoop up a scant quarter-cup of bean mixture and gently form it into a ½-inch-thick bean cake. Dredge it in the rice flour and set it on the cookie sheet. Repeat until all the mixture is used. You should have about 12 bean cakes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (Bean cakes may be made up to 8 hours ahead.)

Move cakes from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Pour an eighth-of-an-inch of oil into the bottom of a large, flat-bottomed skillet (cast iron is ideal). Heat oil over medium high heat. Add 6 bean cakes in a single layer and fry until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.  Carefully flip. Continue cooking until the second side is golden brown and cakes are heated through. Remove from the skillet and keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and bean cakes.  Place 3 warm bean cakes on each plate and drizzle with Cilantro Crème.  Serve, passing additional crème on the side.

Cilantro Crème
Place cilantro, yogurt, peppers, lime zest and juice into a blender and process until smooth. May be made 4 hours ahead.

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Honey- Spiced Pecans

There’s no denying…. I’ve become obsessed with the taste of honey and hot pepper.  It all started with the Red Pepper & Acacia Honey (from Tuscany!) that I found at beekind in San Francisco.  For this recipe, I use local wildflower honey and cayenne pepper.  The spicy-sweet combination on the crunchy pecans is reeee-aaallly good.  You might try adding a little less salt if you’re using salted butter.  Enjoy!

2 T. butter, melted
4 T. unfiltered honey
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
½ tsp. salt
2 c. pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine melted butter, honey, cayenne and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in pecans and gently toss to combine. Spread nuts out in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes, stirring once, until toasted. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Beet Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

At the farmers’ market the other day, I heard a man ask the farmer how to prepare beets, “You boil them, right?”  Please don’t boil beets!  It is SO much easier to pop them in the oven, wrapped in foil, then simply slip them out of their skins after they’ve roasted.  They taste better, too! This recipe calls for both red and golden beets, though you could, of course, use either color.  Red beets STAIN, so you might opt for golden beets if you are feeding children.  I wish I could come up with a fancier name for this salad.  There is nothing particularly novel about combining beets, goat cheese and nuts.  What makes this dish special is the use of toasted sesame oil in the dressing.  It amps up the nuttiness of the dressing, which goes so well with the other ingredients.  This makes four servings.  Enjoy!

3-4 golden beets, preferably with their tops
3-4 red beets, preferably with their tops
¼ cup hazelnuts
2 T. plus 1 tsp. hazelnut or walnut oil
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 T. good quality balsamic vinegar
2 oz. goat cheese

Arrange oven shelves so that one is one-third of the way off the oven floor (the usual place to bake) and another is at the half-way point. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut off the tops of each beat, leaving about an inch of the foliage attached. Rinse the beets of any loose dirt, then wrap each one completely in foil. (It’s OK to trim off any protruding roots.) Spread hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and place on the lower shelf of the oven. Place beets on the higher shelf, taking care that each beet is resting above the cookie sheet.

Toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the nuts from the oven and pour onto a clean kitchen towel. Return cookie sheet to the oven (so to catch any drips from the beets). Roast the beets 50 minutes longer.

Skin the hazelnuts. (You do this by folding the towel over the warm nuts and rubbing them briskly. Most of the skin will come right off. It is OK to leave on any that sticks.) Coarsely chop them and set them aside.

Measure the hazelnut oil, the sesame oil and the balsamic vinegar into a small glass jar.  Shake to combine.  Set aside.

Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool. Unfold each beet from the foil and skin it (over the sink!) by squeezing gently with your fingers. The beet will slide right out. Take care to keep the golden beets separate from the red beets, as the red beets will exude stain.

Starting with the yellow beets, cut each beat into ½-inch rounds, then each round into quarters. Place the yellow beets into a small mixing bowl. Do the same with the red beets, placing them in a separate bowl. In total, you should have about 3 cups of beets.

Crumble half of the goat cheese over each bowl. Divide the dressing between the two bowls and toss to combine. Pile the red beets into one side of a rimmed serving dish, then add the golden beets to the other side. Sprinkle the chopped toasted hazelnuts on top.  Serve at room temperature.

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Butterscotch Pudding

This has become my go-to recipe when I have extra milk on hand.  It comes together quickly, and the kids like to help.  I found it years ago in Cooking Light magazine, though I omit the non-dairy topping (yuck!) and add a little almond extract.  The flavor is deep and the texture creamy.  This makes 5-6 servings.  Enjoy!

¼ c. cornstarch
1 c. dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 cups 1% milk, divided
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract

Whisk together cornstarch, brown sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Once well-combined, whisk in 2 cups of milk. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until little bubbles form along the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, and remaining one cup milk.

Pour a cup or so of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the egg, then pour contents of the bowl back into the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium-to-medium-high heat. Boil one minute and remove from heat.  Stir in butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Divide among six dessert cups. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of each pudding (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill at least 4 hours. Serve cold.

Note: For special occasions, you could garnish each pudding with a tablespoon or so of whipped cream and a little ground nutmeg.

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Red Lentil Dal with Greens

This recipe was inspired by an interview I heard with with Madhur Jaffrey.  Apparently, collard greens are a staple food in Kashmir province, often served  as a main course with rice and dal.  I couldn’t find collard greens at the market, so I used curly kale instead.  I also combined the greens with the dal.  The creamy lentils and chewy kale are almost addictive in their appeal.  The spicing is subtle, the dish is all about texture.  Be sure to taste for salt before serving, though.  Chances are, you’ll need to add quite a bit.  This makes 2-3 servings. Enjoy!

1 c. red lentils
4 c. water
¼ tsp. turmeric, divided
3 T. canola oil
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
½ tsp. whole cumin seeds, crushed or ground
½ tsp. coriander seeds, crushed or ground
1 red hot pepper, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch curly kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. tamarind paste
1 T. hot water
Sea salt

Lime wedges
Cooked Rice

Rinse and sort lentils and place in a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam and stir in 1/8 tsp. of the turmeric. Partially cover pan. Turn down heat and simmer lentils until they begin to fall apart, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop, about 1 minute. Add the remaining turmeric, cumin, coriander, and hot pepper and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add garlic and onion and cook over medium-low heat until soft, stirring frequently.

Add half the chopped greens to the skillet. Use tongs to press and toss greens into the oil and spice mixture, adding a little more oil to the pan if necessary. Turn heat up to medium. Cover and steam greens a little to wilt them down. Add remaining greens to the pan and toss mixture again. Add a tablespoon or so of water to the pan and cover. Cook covered greens until soft and wilted, about five minutes, taking care to stir them once or twice to promote even cooking. Remove cover and cook off any excess liquid.

Stir tamarind paste into 1 T. of hot water. Mix into the lentils. Add the lentil mixture into the kale and stir to combine. Add salt to taste. Bring back to a simmer.  Serve with hot cooked rice and lime wedges on the side.

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Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Hot Pepper Honey

I found the most wonderful hot pepper-infused honey at beekind in San Francisco.   I used it Sunday night on roasted baby rainbow carrots.  It was absolutely delicious.  Enjoy!

1-2 bunches baby carrots, rainbow-colored if possible
Olive oil
Coarsely ground sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tsp. hot pepper honey
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

Peel baby carrots but leave whole (you can leave some of the tops on, if you want). Toss carrots with enough olive oil to coat, and spread single-layer in a 9x13x2-inch glass or enameled baking dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Place carrots in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes, shaking pan 2-3 times to turn different sides of the carrots down on the pan. The carrots are done when they are soft with crispy, caramelized edges.  Dribble with honey and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Haitian Lamb

In honor of Spring, here is my mother’s recipe for Haitian Lamb. It is spectacular. Enjoy!

Leg of lamb, 8-9 lbs
Salt and pepper
1 T. olive oil
1½ c. finely chopped onions
1½ c. finely chopped carrots
6 c. chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim fat from lamb. Rub with oil and season with salt & pepper.  Brown over medium-high heat, about 8 minutes.  Remove lamb and pour off any fat. Lightly saute onion and carrot. Place lamb on top of vegetables, add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Cover loosely and put in the preheated oven. Bake 3 hours.

Reduce heat to 275 and bake for 2 more hours. Remove lamb and strain pan juice into bowl. Discard veggies. Skim off surface fat. Reheat liquid. Serve falling-off-the-bone lamb with pan juices.

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Black Bean Soup

This black bean soup has old-world, slow food flavor.  The bacon is optional, but be sure to use a good quality sherry.  You end up with about 9 cups of soup. Enjoy!

16 oz. dried black beans
Olive oil
3 slices flavorful bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red hot pepper, finely diced
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ T. dry mustard
2-4 pinches cayenne (to taste)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. tomato paste
4-8 c. beef or mushroom broth, plus enough water to make 10 c. liquid
½ c. dry sherry
Feta cheese (for garnish)

Soak beans overnight.

Lightly coat the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add bacon and slowly fry, rendering as much fat as possible. When bacon is crispy, remove about two-thirds of it and set aside. Add onions, carrots and celery to pan and cook, gently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, red pepper and bay leaf to the pan cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add black pepper, dry mustard and cayenne and cook 30 seconds or so.

Drain beans and rinse them under cold water. Add beans, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, broth and water. Bring ingredients to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer, gently, until beans are tender (2-2 ½ hours). Let soup cool slightly.

Puree 5 cups of soup in a blender and return to the pot. Add salt to taste. Add sherry and reserved bacon to the pan and bring it up to a simmer again. Simmer for 10 minutes, then check seasoning. You may need to add cayenne or salt. (Note: Do not oversalt soup as the feta cheese will be salty.)

Serve hot, garnished with feta cheese.

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