Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Sizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Peppers Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Isn't this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

Isn’t this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making more and more vegetarian meals. Summer is so easy to fix up some veggies you’ve picked from the garden, the farmer’s market, or tiny farm stands like the one above. August is the month all veggies shine; they are their peak of ripeness and deliciousness, it’s easy to just have a plate filled with some beans, tomatoes, and an ear of corn and be happy. But there are some evenings that I’m dragging, tired, and I know it’s because my iron is low, so I decide to fix a nice steak. When that happens, pull this recipe out! You can let the steak marinate during cocktail hour (or when you run out for an errand, like I did), and with just a few ingredients, it takes hardly any time at all to put dinner on the table!

Remember the Caesar salad and Brussels sprouts recipes I gave you a few months back that called for fish sauce? Still have the bottle? Here is another recipe where you can use it! Fish sauce has something that experts refer to as umami, the “fifth taste”; like sweet, sour, etc., the combined ingredients make foods flavorful. Like MSG without the chemicals. Just a little bit adds a load of flavor–and it’s not fishy at all. The grated onion marinade is perfectly suited for flavoring the meat and the additional sauce with the vegetables adds a nice touch. 

I have never seen skirt steak in Vermont despite many searches, so I’ve substituted both flank steak and sirloin for this recipe. I’ve let the marinade sit longer than 30 minutes with no ill effect, it just made for a more intense onion flavor, which I love. And this would be fabulous if you put it on the grill! And you can substitute some fresh green beans instead of asparagus if you like!

steakSizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Pepper

This recipe originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Serves 4.

1 pound skirt steak, halved crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
2 medium red onions, divided
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine steak and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a shallow dish. Cut 1 onion in half lengthwise. Grate half of the onion. Add onion pulp to steak; toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Cut remaining 1 1/2 onions into 1/4-inch-thick vertical slices. Cut each asparagus spear diagonally into 3 pieces. Combine sliced onion, asparagus, bell pepper, and oil; toss to coat. Heat a large wok or stainless steel skillet over high heat. Add vegetables to pan; stir-fry 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce to pan; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove vegetable mixture from pan; keep warm.

3. Scrape onion pulp off of steak. Return wok to high heat. Add steak to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on a cutting board; let stand at least 5 minutes. Cut steak across the grain into slices. Serve with vegetables.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: “The Kitchen of Ambrosia”

Last week I told you about my small screen debut and now its ready for the big reveal! A little peek at Vermont in August and blueberry season! Click on the movie poster to enjoy “The Kitchen of Ambrosia!”

 

movie poster

Old-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Don't the clouds look like cotton candy?

Don’t the clouds look like cotton candy?

A funny thing happened to me in March. I received an email from a local filmmaker, Josh Hummel, who stumbled across my blog and my recipe for blueberry pie from 2012  and wanted to meet to discuss a film he was planning on making that featured—ta da! A blueberry pie!

The film, titled “The Kitchen of Ambrosia,” is brilliant; six athletes come together with ingredients to make a pie that is then shared. A runner gathers the berries, a kayaker takes the berries into the lake to wash them, a hiker goes into the woods for the maple syrup, a cyclist goes to a farm to gather wheat berries and cream, a rock climber grinds the wheat into flour, and a mountain biker goes over bumps and hills to make the butter. I spent a few hours filming this over the past few weekends and had great fun. And as you can surmise, I was the cook so I had to make two delicious tasting—and more importantly good looking–pies!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

My blueberry pie is normally made with sugar, but I wanted this to be authentic to the film, so I found this pie recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine that uses maple syrup. I had wanted to practice making a lattice crust this summer, but time escaped me, so I had to do it on the fly! And it was super easy! I used these instructions, and had my phone in front of me as I followed the instructions on crisscrossing the crust. Since I was making two pies in the morning of the film shoot, I made the crust ahead of time to save on time and popped it in the fridge. You can do this too, just make sure the crust is room temperature before you start to roll it out. And of course, you don’t have to do a lattice, a “regular” crust will taste just as good!

The pie filling was delicious; I was disappointed in my crust and that the filling bubbled over a little bit, but all the athletes declared it delicious! I haven’t seen the final movie but saw a sneak peek of the rough cut and I can’t wait to be able to share this little bit of Vermont with you in the near future!

bluepieOld-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
This recipe first appeared in the August 1999 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Pie crust is from The Joy of Cooking.

Pie crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon or so of salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Ice water

Filling
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 23 ounces)
1 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup unbleached all purposed flour
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate.

Combine blueberries, syrup, flour, tapioca, and juice in a bowl; toss to blend. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top or cut for lattice. Bake pie until juice bubble thickly and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Cool pie on rack. Serve at room temperature.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tonight’s Dinner

I read about food every single day. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, websites, emails, cookbooks, I am always getting new ideas and inspirations. A few months back, I told you about the email the New York Time’s Food team sends several times a week. It’s great and I get lots of creative suggestions for meals that don’t take a lot of time or money to put on the table. I just loved this message last week from writer Sam Sifton. I’m going to look for some local tomatoes tonight!

fresh-tomato-exporterSummer cooking is different from the cooking we do other times of the year. Here are some beautiful tomatoes. With a drizzle of olive oil, a spray of salt and a garnish of capers, that’s dinner, and if someone happens to have a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella to tear apart on top of it all, so much the better. Honey, could you grab me some basil? Dinner is served. (Try doing that in February.)