Week Night Dinner Series: Bean Burritos

Sometimes, just sometimes, you are rewarded for waking before dawn.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you are rewarded for waking before dawn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding dinner is coming later and later with the terrific weather we’ve been having these days. So when I get in the house, I want to eat–STAT!

I created this one evening after mowing the lawn and was home alone for dinner. It’s quick and easy to make, and is basically cobbling together ingredients together, putting it in the oven, and eating! Just open up a can of black beans, drain and rinse, and in a large bowl add the beans and a dash or two of dried cumin for flavor. You can also add a little spritz of fresh lime juice if you have it. Take a flour tortilla shell, add a couple of tablespoons of grated sharp cheese (or slice off thin slices instead), add ½ cup of the beans, ¼ cup of frozen corn, roll, and place in a baking pan. Add a little more cheese on the outside, cover with foil, and heat at 350 for roughly 20 minutes or so.

I try to make these work night dinner recipes just five ingredients, but with this recipe there are lots of additions that could make this even more fabulous: avocado, lettuce, green scallions, salsa, and sour cream. If you want to bypass the beans and have leftover meat in the fridge, this would be terrific with leftover chicken, pork, or steak.

My recipe makes one burrito, so you can either whip up a batch for leftovers, or you can add some scallions and grape tomatoes to the remaining beans and have it for a  later meal as a side salad!

This photo doesn't really do the dish justice, but trust me, it's delicious!

This photo doesn’t really do the dish justice, but trust me, it’s delicious!

Bean Burrito for One
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
A dash or two of cumin
Fresh lime juice, optional
5 Tablespoons grated sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup frozen corn
1 flour tortilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Take the drained and rinsed black beans and place in a mixing bowl. Add the cumin and lime juice, if using.

3. Place the tortilla shell on a baking pan. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cheese, ½ cup of black beans, and the corn. Roll and place seam-side down. Top with the remaining cheese.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve atop a bed of lettuce, with avocado, salsa, and sour cream on the side. Add green scallions if desired.

Spring Radishes with Chive Butter

The weather this past Saturday was spectacular, but was I in the flower garden doing the weeding I should have done last fall? Of course not! We took a quick jaunt to the lake for the first time this year to rest and read in the late afternoon. Nevermind the state parks aren’t open yet and it was a bit breezy, a quick walk was all I needed to warm up. But the walk got me thinking of summer, picnics, and what I was going to pack in that basket!

A few nights ago, my favorite local bakery (I’ve written about them here), mentioned they were serving French bread with radishes and chive butter. It sounded delicious, and since I had all four ingredients in the house, I decided to add it to the dinner I was making that night.

I love all alliums of all sorts, but I’m especially fond of chives. I love them snipped into some scrambled eggs with some creamy cheese added or with mashed potatoes. The chive bed is the first to pop up in the spring in my little herb garden and I’m always looking for ways to use them; I hate to think of those gorgeous green wisps being wasted on the wildlife that frequents the backyard!

So for this recipe, no measurement is needed. First off, take some fresh radishes and slice them paper-thin with a paring knife. Next, take a small bowl and add some softened  butter, unsalted or salted, whichever is handy and warm, and add some snipped chives, however much you want, a little or a lot. Spread the butter on a slice of warm French bread. Top with the sliced radishes. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could add some baby arugula or watercress and make a sandwich. And if you’re feeling extremely ambitious, I couldn’t help but think if you had a slice of homemade French bread right out of the oven that it would bring you one step closer to heaven!

This would be perfect to add to your picnic basket this summer as it doesn’t take up a lot of room, is relatively easy to pack, and you can eat it with your fingers. And like I do with my summer herbs and fresh garlic (see here), you can make a big serving, wrap tablespoon dollops in plastic wrap, and freeze for later use!

It’s Not So Much What it Looks Like, it’s How it Tastes

DSCN3809Tis the season for al fresco brunches, or even indoor brunches! The weather is gorgeous, so it’s nice to laze around on a Sunday, take a long walk, and eat a delicious springtime meal mid-day. And a special coffee cake is perfect to round out the dishes and is relatively easy to make.

As you may have figured out by now, I don’t bake that much, too much precision, with measuring cups and spoons. But I found this coffee cake recipe in my copy of The Essential New York Times Cook Book, and being relatively easy, I decided to make this for brunch one weekend. (As an aside, if you ever want to get a comprehensive cook book for someone, this is it. Time-tested recipes and menus for every meal imaginable, I have yet to make something that isn’t five stars, and each recipe is easily and clearly written for even a novice cook.)

This is a case of “do as I guide, not as I do.” The recipe calls for a 9-inch square pan. After measuring my own square pan and realizing it was too small, I went with a 9-inch pie plate. Which I thought would have worked, but space-wise it didn’t. It spilled up the sides and wasn’t the neat and tidy cake it looked like as it went into the oven.

Also, when you are baking anything, don’t decide to cut corners like I did and bake other things at the same time. Since the oven was on, I decided to poach some chicken and roast some sweet potatoes, leading to a longer cooking time for all.

But in the end, the coffee cake really was delicious; moist with a perfect hint of cinnamon, albeit a bit on the homely side. And regardless, it’s spring, the sun has been out for days, and as Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Even in the kitchen.

IMG_0271Dorothy Jewiss’s Coffee Cake

From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, by Amanda Hesser. Originally published November 24, 1968: “To Grandmother’s House,” by Jean Hewitt, recipe adapted from Dorothy Jewiss, a home cook in Winchester Center, Connecticut.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅓ chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Great a 9-inch square baking pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Using a mixer or beating by hand, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into the batter until it is smooth.

3. Spoon half the batter into the pan. Combine the remaining ½ cup sugar, the pecans,  and cinnamon and sprinkle two-thirds of it over the batter. Top with the remaining batter and sprinkle with the remaining pecan mixture.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out almost clean, 40-50 minutes. Serve warm.

Hesser’s Cooking Note:
In Step 3, use a spoon dipped in water to spread the top layer of batter, or it will be impossible to nudge the batter to the edges of the pan.

Chris’s Cooking Note:
I concur! I used a frosting spatula, dipped in water, worked like a charm!

No Time For Cookin’!

It has been absolutely gorgeous for the past two weeks! Nary a cloud in the sky, warm days, cool evenings lend themselves to long walks and late dinners. So needless to say I’ve been out of the kitchen and taking advantage of the beautiful weather! So enjoy these photos and I’ll be back next week with a new recipe, because of course, it’s springtime in Vermont, and the growing season is just beginning!

Off for a walk!

A blood-red trillium along the trail of Mount Abe.

A blood-red trillium along the trail of Mount Abe.



The Canada geese have returned!

The Canada geese have returned!

The light this year is incredible. I wondered what the heck was in the back seat of my car, but it's the reflection of the house in the window.

The light this year is incredible. I wondered what the heck was in the back seat of my car, but it’s the reflection of the house in the window.

Springtime Pasta

Look what's up in the garden! Now it's time to weed!

The happiest of the springtime flowers! Now it’s time to weed!

So I know I said I was going to take a break some time soon, but I couldn’t resist giving you this recipe I made that is picture-perfect for this time of year!

I was driving home from work one late Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, and of course, the question of what’s for dinner came to my mind. At the end of the week, a martini and some cheese and crackers is a sufficient dinner for me, but of course, nutritionally it should be a bit more substantial. One game I like to play with myself is to figure out what I can create for dinner with what I have on hand before I get to the grocery store in case I need to stop. I knew I had some asparagus in the fridge and some pasta in the cupboard. A stop at the grocery store for a shallot,  some frozen peas, and goat cheese and I knew what dinner was going to be, Springtime Pasta!

I always wonder when I see cooking magazines and their “seasons.” Yes, peas are a spring vegetable, but in Vermont, that’s June not April. But frozen peas are great, they are always fresh and you don’t have to shell them! Shallots sautéed in a little bit of butter and olive oil lend just the right amount of flavor, and you can always substitute red onion. Of course, with most of my pasta dishes a little bit of white wine or vermouth is a tasty addition, but you can leave it out if you want. I had pappardelle in the cupboard, but I would recommend perhaps linguine instead; pappardelle is long, very thick egg noodles. A little too long for me, you can’t wind the pasta on your fork. The topping of goat cheese added just a little bit of creaminess to the warm noodles, but you can use whatever you prefer, or leave it out. And per usual, measurements here always are a guideline; you can use more asparagus, peas, leave one out, or use less pasta!

I eat asparagus on a daily basis this time of year, with my eggs in the morning, on my salad for lunch, roasted or in pasta for dinner. It just tastes like spring!


Springtime Pasta

1 small shallot, minced
2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Butter and extra virgin olive oil for sauteing
3 cups chopped asparagus
½ cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
¾ cup chicken broth
Splash of white wine or vermouth (optional)
About 8 ounces dried pasta
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cheese for topping, if desired

  1. Fill a Dutch oven with water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for about three minutes or until tender. With a slotted spoon, take the asparagus out of the water and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt some butter and olive oil together. Add the shallot and garlic and cook at a medium heat until soft. Add the chicken broth and wine, if using, and bring to a boil. When it is reduced a little, add the cooked asparagus and peas. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions (or 7-8 minutes for al dente). Drain, and add the pasta to the sauce. Toss gentle, add a squirt of lemon juice, and serve. Top with cheese if using.