Friday, August 28, 2009

black bean soup

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I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things since college. About 90 pounds of pizza weight, my blonde hair, a lot of less-than-adult behavior. I finally tossed a certain green striped rugby shirt that stuck around for about a decade too long. I’ve gotten four different, smaller and better cell phones and I’ve passed my penchant for malt liquor drinking back down to the younger generations, where it belongs. One thing that has stuck around however is this total cheater of a recipe I adapted from an old roommate. I must confess that this recipe is sort of shameful in a very Sandra-Lee-Semi-Homemade kind of way. I like to scoff at her sometimes because it seems like a lot of her recipes include her defrosting something, tossing some chopped onions on top, fixing a cocktail and calling it dinner. However, this particular semi-recipe is win-win-win. “And with win-win-win we all win, even me.”

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By win-win-win I mean this soup is cheap-fast-tasty, my personal favorite trifecta of weeknight meal criteria. The cheating with canned goods parts helps out a lot in all of these categories and for that, I can’t fault this soup for being very Semi Homemade.

This is a chunky, spicy black bean soup so thick you could ladle it into a tortilla and make a lovely, messy burrito. It’s so thick in fact, that Rachel Ray might call it a “stoup” (an adorable combination of soup and stew) but I think that word is stoup-id *Ba dump ba ching! I’ll be here all week!*. The secret weapon to this soup is one word two syllables: Goya. There simply is no substitution.

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I have tried to make this with organic soups and black beans and it’s just not the same. So drink plenty of water, because I’m sure the sodium content is off the charts, but I promise you, if you’re in a location where it’s socially acceptable, you will lick the bowl.



(serves five generously, with leftovers)

2 cans Goya Black Bean Soup

2 cans Goya Black Beans

1 red bell pepped, chopped into a large dice

1 yellow pepper, chopped into a large dice

1 medium sized white or yellow onion, chopped into a large dice

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 generous tablespoon cumin

1 pinch chili powder

Hot sauce

1 teaspoon flour (optional)

Olive oil


Sour cream

Shredded jack, cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Flour or corn tortillas, warmed

Mas hot sauce

Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add onions and garlic to pan to sweat. Add both peppers (also, green works just fine, I just prefer the taste and looks of red and yellow). Lower the heat slightly, add salt, pepper, a generous amount of cumin and a pinch of hot chili powder. Stir to combine. Sauté for a few more minutes. Stir in all four cans of both the soup and black beans. Combine a teaspoon of flour with some warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the flour completely and add this slurry to the soup, along with a generous dose of hot sauce. At this point, I like to crank the heat up, almost to high, to combine all the flavors, stirring frequently for about five minutes or until I’m convinced any flour-y taste will be dead and gone. Adjust seasonings to your taste, I use a truckload of salt, but that may be personal preference. I also almost always add additional cumin and hot sauce as well. Lower heat to a simmer a let cook for a bit longer. It will be ready to eat, but somehow I’m convinced an extra 10-15 minutes on the burner makes it that much better.

Ladle soup into a bowl, add a layer of shredded cheese, another ladle of soup, a bit more cheese, a dollop of sour cream and splash of hot sauce. Serve with warm tortillas, or tortilla chips. This soup is super filling, salty, spicy and delicious. Great the day it’s made but even better the next.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

wednesday night dinner: a photo essay

Chilled avocado soup, chopped Greek salad, pan seared cod.

As a rule, I don’t like cold soups. Gazpacho is the only one I have extensive experience with and eating that always makes me feel like I’m eating a bowl of salsa. And frankly, if I’m going to eat a bowl of salsa, I’ll take the salty tortilla chips, glass of sangria and platter of mole poblano that should rightly accompany it. But still a creamy avocado soup called out to me yesterday. It was beautiful to make and super simple.

Two ripe avocados and one half a large English cuke, diced

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Thrown into the bowl of my trusty cuis’ (pronounced kweeze):

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Add half a container full fat Greek yogurt,

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The juice of half a lemon,

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And puree. My first taste test led me to add a lot more salt and pepper, a teensy splash of half and half, a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of Cholula and puree some more…

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The end result was beautiful to look at…

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I mean I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it, but I ate about six bites and was all set. It was just a little bitter, I guess. My squeeze said it tasted like an under ripe banana, but he cleaned his bowl anyways. Nice work, buddy.

Fortunately some other exciting things happened in my dinner last night. Like a chopped Greek (sans lettuce) the making of which was easy and simple and no stove was required. Tomatoes and cucumbers:

greek relish

Finely diced red onion…

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Coarsely chopped Greek green olives (pitted and marinated and kind of expensive), crumbled feta cheese, salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Peep my action shot!

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I did a victory dance after I captured that one and then chuckled out loud when right at that moment Paul yelled from the living room “you takin’ pictures of this shit or what?” Am I taking pictures? Am I ever. That slick drizzle of olive oil in action just made my night (dork). I tossed my chopped greek together and placed it and my creamy green soup in the fridge to chill for a bit. Watched Gordon Ramsey call a couple a restaurant owners stupid cows and then made some pan seared cod. If you’ve got a nice piece of fish (or scallops) all they need are two things to make them delicious:

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Old Bay before the cooking, lemons immediately after. Oh! And of course plenty of Salt n Pepa.

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I generously salt, peppered and Old Bayed each side of this lovely cod fillet.


Then seared it in olive oil at medium high heat. It tended to fall apart and stick a bit, but once I plated it up and squeezed some lemon, it didn’t look quite so messy. And it was delicious!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

goat cheese is the new black

Hi. My name is Jess and I’m addicted to goat cheese. I seriously have problems. If you asked me to list my favorite foods pizza would come pretty much first, followed in short order by fried chicken, avocados, a variety of salted meats and cheeses and I would not forget the inclusion of the delectable Cups made by our friend, Reese. BUT, if you were to ask me to list my favorite ingredients I guess I would have to come clean on the fact that there is nary a week when I don’t make a dish that involves goat cheese. On Thursday night I bragged to my boyfriend about the gnocchi I made for Erica and me.

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“What was in it?”

“Oh, summer squash, artichokes, roasted tomatoes, lemon zest, crushed red pepper...and goat cheese.” He smirks.

“Lemon and goat cheese. Jess Pithie looooves lemon and goat cheese.”

Good god, I’m so boring. I mean I practically already made this exact same dinner and listed the recipe here in May, not mention the fact that I slapped it on some dough and called it a pizza mere weeks ago. So this here recipe can only be counted as a variation, at best. But whateves. I’m telling you right now make this pasta and you’ll be happy. It takes less than thirty minutes. Did you hear that? That was me karate chopping Rachel’s garbage bowl right off her kitchen counter. Hiiii-YA! So without further ado, another boring goat cheese recipe from my steamy apartment kitchen:

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*mild exaggeration for dramatic effect.

1 package gnocchi
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of half a lemon
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 jar marinated artichokes, drained
½ package baby spinach
¾ to 1 cup (ish) roasted cherry tomatoes
1 summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
salt, pepper, olive oil
fresh chopped parsley

Someday I will be enough of a food nerd to make my very own gnocchi, but until that day comes, Trader Joes has a nice vacuum packed gnocchi that cooks up in no time. Set a pot of water to boil. While the water comes to a boil, slice summer squash, drain oil off of artichokes. I had already roasted the cherry tomatoes, so those were all set.

Cook gnocchi according to package instructions. I started the gnocchi about half way through cooking the veggies, because those suckers take LITrally only about three minutes to cook.

gnocchi 1

Heat a healthy drizzle of olive oil over medium/ med.-high heat. When oil is ready, add garlic and summer squash. Sauté squash and garlic for a few moments, until both are golden and tender, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add lemon zest, crushed pepper and a healthy crank of salt and pepper to the pan. Add artichokes, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add spinach and juice the lemon into the pan.

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Crank the heat for a few moments to cook down the lemon juice. Stir in the roasted cherry tomatoes. Drain gnocchi when ready and add to the pan. Stir together. Crumble goat cheese, more salt, pepper and parsley on top. Serve immediately and then make your roommate do the dishes.

Alright, so since I am essentially only giving you a variation on an already bestowed recipe. I figured I would provide another easy one I ate last week. I paired this simple salad with some store bought fried chicken from a gourmet grocer you may know as Stop n Shop. It was late, I had just done a 90 minute hot yoga class (in August, mind you) and I figured I had earned the right to be disgusting. Would it be revealing too much to tell you that I bought a four piece box and ate the drumstick on the way home? I almost threw the bone out the window while driving down Wollaston Beach but realized in the nick of time that doing something like that might result in the most embarrassing traffic ticket issuance/pedestrian injury known by mankind. Like in my mind I walked through the whole process of me getting sued for flinging a chicken bone out of my moving car and hitting some poor schlub in the eye with it.

So, when I got home I boiled some native corn and then scraped the kernels onto some thick slices of tomato. Salt, pepper, some chopped garlic chives and basil, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice was all I needed to make side dish so good I practically ignored the chicken. And that’s saying a lot.


1 cob corn, boiled, cooled, knifed off the cob
1 ugly ripe tomato, sliced into rounds
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh chopped basil and garlic chives
Salt, pepper, olive oil, juice of ¼ a lemon

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This was a generously portioned side for one. It would be plenty for two people, or you could double the whole thing to serve four.

Tomatoes and corn in August are so good they really don’t need much attention or fuss. Honestly, the dressing didn’t even really need lemon juice. It’s that good. Please forgive the horrendous photo. Once it gets dark in my kitchen I am really at a loss for good lighting. The picture above is the result of my holding my plate up to the light with one hand while blindly snapping a photo with the other hand. Best I could do.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Iced Coffee with Dinner and Bread in Salad

So I have finally found a little time lately to get back into the kitchen. Last night I made a delicious cold lemon pesto pasta salady thing which, paired with a spicy chicken sausage, hit the spot so hard I plum forgot I had bought'n popsicles. Which means it was WAY satisfying, because right now it is Prime Time Popsicle Weather. The hot, sticky days of August don't bother me too much and even though I might be completely certifiable for doing so, I think I'm going to make a pizza tonight. It's 90 degrees and the humidity is high, so I realize cranking the oven in my non-air conditioned apartment to 450 makes me a sick, perverted person, but at the same time, I already defrosted the dough and I have 88 lbs of summer squash to cruise through, so judge me if you will.

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I won't bore you to death with the recipe for my dinner last night, since I essentially made the exact same thing back in May. I will however, show you the prep because pretty!

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While making dinner last night I also brewed a pot of coffee and made some sweetened iced coffee to have on hand in the fridge. It reminded me of my Nana, who always had a jug in her fridge, and it reminded me of summer dinners at my house growing up, because my mom always did the same. We used to get to drink it with dinner as a treat. It tasted like melted coffee ice cream. The fact that my Nana and my mom used to let us drink iced coffee with dinner when we were just children is kind of weird, but I am 5'9" and my feet are sized 10 flesh colored pontoon boats, so I guess it didn't stunt my growth. Mythbusters.

I made the coffee in celebration of our New Fridge. See our old fridge was super crusty and the seal was all but non-existent. This was not a problem during the winter months, when our faulty heating kept the house chilled. But since the hot hot heat of summer has set in, the whole top shelf of our fridge and pretty much anything touching anything has been covered with water. Oh, and our freezer looked like an abominable snowman had it in a headlock. So Erica emailed Beachhouse, our landlord. Who's name is forever Beachhouse not only because it LIT-rally is his email address but because this dude is Living the Dream all day every day. He is a landlord by trade, owning many properties in our neighborhood and it seems like maybe he spends the majority of his time at his Cape house, on his boat or at the Erie Pub. Not much landlording going on, but lots of fun. Last time he "fixed" our bathroom door, I think he power sanded it, shoved it shut. Then he went downstairs to gas beers with our neighbor Richie for the rest of the afternoon. Beachhouse likes himself a quick fix. So when we complained for the trillionth time about our fridge and mentioned in the most dramatic fashion possible that we were throwing away precious foodstuffs, he came through with the new fridge. Go Beachhouse! He said he "got a deal" so I can't fault him for it, but it's teensy. Even smaller then our old one was. That and it doesn't have a cheese/coldcut/whatever drawer, it only has one massive drawer down the bottom. The weird thing too is him and his friend, who for argument's sake we'll call Sully, had to take our food out, remove the drippy old fridge and then install the new one and then put all of our food back in. Which Sully and Beachhouse did, albeit, weirdly and Not At All Like I Would. Seems so creepy to have two dudes who probably did not wash their hands after wrassling out the dirty old fridge fondling my produce and Erica's grapefruit juice. I don't think I like it very much, but IRREGARDLESS, we gots ourselves a new fridge.

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fridge 1

So let me tell you what isn't in this here fridge, any leftovers of the panzanella salad I made on Friday night for the wife and I. There is none to be found because well for one, by now it would be gross, but more importantly because I annihilated it for lunch the next day. It was THAT good. I mean, I never eat leftovers on weekends.



3-4 thick slices ciabatta bread
1 large ripe tomato
1 large cucumber
1/2 purple onion, diced
few leaves basil, chopped

olive oil
sherry vinegar
salt, peps
dash spicy dijon mustard
pinch sugar

Preheat your grill (or grill pan in my case) to med/high heat. Brush olive oil on either side of ciabatta slices. Grill on each side for a few minutes. Til they're nice and crunchy with a bit of char. While bread is grilling. Dice your onion and chop your cuke and tomato into large chunks. In the bottom of a large salad bowl combine one part sherry vinegar (I don't mean to go all Rhulman with the ratios but seriously for any vinaigrette the standard rule of one part vinegar to two parts oil works every time. When I was in college and had no measuring instruments I used a shot glass. Now, I just kinda eye it out), two parts olive oil (whisk to combine as you add this), the mustard, salt, pepper and a generous pinch of sugar. Whisk aggressively to combine. Add onion, tomato and cucumber to the bowl. Once the grilled bread is all set, chop the slices into large hunks and add these to the bowl as well. Throw in some chopped basil and toss well to combine. I let this sit for a few minutes while I finished cooking the rest of dinner and the flavors combined so well. I made this salad in an attempt to mimic the one I had eaten on Thursday night at Saporitos, which was just to die for. I had little faith in my remake but it turned out SO GOOD. This is my new summer salad. Salads with hunks of bread in em during bathing suit season you say? I'm all for it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lucky Dickens

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I don't know how I got so lucky, but today, in the first full day of my 29th year, I feel like I'm ('scuse my French) shitting shamrocks. It's one thing to feel appreciated on one's birthday. To have a simple dinner with the people you hold dear is more then I would ever ask. But to feel like I feel today is just sheer bliss.

"It's days like your birthday, regardless of how significant the age, when people have a good excuse to show how much you mean to them." A quote from Paul's email to me this morning, after I gushed about how great my weekend was and then further gushed about how surreal it feels to sign into your email after a weekend away from the computer and be greeted with over 30 well wishes by way of my Facebook page. I MEAN?! I know that Facebook tells people that otherwise would not know your birthday that it IS your birthday, but it still feels so nice to know that so many friends, near and far, took a few moments to say 'hello.' Facebook greetings aside, having my whole entire family and two very special friends gather together for dinner last night was the (wait for it- cheese alert) icing on the cake of a damn near perfect weekend (it looks like my maturity will not curb my penciant for dropping swears like it's my job. Sorry, Dad). So I just wanted to take a second to reflect on how I feel today, which is this: I just feel so very loved and I can't thank everyone enough. Especially this guy:

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One final note: After a month of nothing-but-rich-restaurant dinners out in honor of Heather's visit home, my mom's birthday, my aunt's birthday, my birthday, etc., I am pledging today for more homecooked meals. Seriously, if I don't cut it out I surely will develop some form of juvenile (29 is still juvenile right? ha) diabetiss or a real deal case of The Gout. For the healthy, homecooked meals that are going to get me back on track, I will be using my new kitchen-centric birthday gifts courtesy of Paul, Erica, Annie and my dad. A real Lodge cast iron skillet! I'm SO excited. Oh, but this also means one of my future homecooked dinners will probably involve fried chicken. So much for staving off that case of The Gout. Life only happens once!
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