Week Night Dinner Series: Shrimp and Bean Salad

DSCN0419This is one of those delicious dinners that doesn’t take a lot of time to make and is what my nutritionist would call a “balanced” meal: a good protein, good fat, and good carbs.

I had been thinking for some time of creating a salad including the shrimp I had in the freezer and a can of beans I had in the cupboard. So one lazy Friday night when I didn’t feel like cooking, this came together nicely and actually fits into the “Speedy Gonzales” category of last week’s blog and the Work Night Dinner series I began in the spring!

Don’t worry if you have frozen shrimp; when I got home from work, I pulled some out and put them in a bowl of cold water and went about doing stuff around the house. When it was time to make dinner, they were defrosted. Of course, you can buy fresh or frozen cooked shrimp, and that would make it even easier and quicker! This recipe is a cut, chop, throw everything into a bowl, and stir. Dishes like these are the best because they’re so easy!

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I always buy my frozen shrimp raw, because I think the frozen, cooked shrimp can sometimes be tough, even though for convenience sake they’re great. But if you have raw shrimp, they are super simple to cook. Warm a little bit of olive oil in a skillet, add the shrimp, and any seasonings you’d like (wine, garlic, onion) or nothing at all, and let it simmer for about three minutes. When they turn pink, they are done!

This is a perfect summertime dish to share with friends, so make it soon before the coolness of fall is upon us!

Shrimp and Bean Salad
A lot of this recipe is based on how you would like the dish; if you want more beans, more shrimp, more lime juice, let your own creative dishes flow with this! My recipe is just a baseline, go crazy and add other veggies or spices to this!

2-3 cups cooked shrimp
1 can Great Northern or cannellini beans (or another white bean), drained and rinsed
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
About one cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
About ½ avocado, diced
Some scallions, to taste
½ jalapeno pepper chopped, if desired
A little bit of cilantro, if desired
The juice of about ½ lime, or to taste

In a large mixing bowl, add the shrimp, beans, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, scallions, pepper and cilantro, if using, and stir gently. Add the lime juice. Serve!

Cooking from the Larder

Looking at the calendar and finding myself on three trips in the next six weeks has made me a bit more careful about money these days. In times like these, I start creating and making meals with what I have in the cupboard and freezer. I don’t know about you, but I tend to have the same dried beans and grains in my cupboard for months, only using them when I need them for a recipe, instead of using them in every day cooking.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark of the New York Times, had a recipe and a tutorial video for braised beans in red wine. I call these soup beans; long-cooked beans that still stand up after a long braise with a faint bacon and deep, red wine flavor. It was perfect, a few ingredients made a huge pot, enough for several meals and lunches. And best part it is incredibly inexpensive, because most of the ingredients you already have on hand.

The original recipe calls for pinto beans, but I still had in the cupboard some Jacob’s Cattle Beans I picked up last fall, so I used those instead. You can soak the beans overnight, or in my case, for the day, but make sure it’s for at least 8 hours. Some diced bacon, carrots, onions, and celery, some reduced red wine in the end (you can, of course, leave this out if you prefer), and you’re done.

Here is a tip from me: Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink yourself. Whenever I need cooking wine, I go to the wine section of the supermarket and pick out a less than expensive bottle for cooking. Don’t ever use what is called “cooking wine,” it is filled with lots of salt and preservatives.

I served this over baked polenta, but I think cooked polenta would be even better; the creamy corn mixed with the beans and red wine would be comfort in a bowl. You could also serve this over noodles, mashed potatoes, or just by itself. It’s still cold outside, so a bowl of this will make you warm and fill you right up.

Clark cooks like I do, throwing stuff in a pot, with no real measurements. I watched the video and just took notes. Below is how I made it. Of course, you can always add more veggies if you like; the dish won’t suffer because of it.

DSCN0116

Braised Beans with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark of The New York Times

1 1/2 cups pinto beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
2 slices of bacon, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small rosemary stalk
2 cups of red wine, reduced to about  ⅔ of a cup

1. In a warmed Dutch oven, add the chopped bacon and cook until done. Remove from the pan, and place the bacon on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the grease.

2. You shouldn’t have a lot of bacon grease left in the pan, but if you do, drain and leave about a tablespoon or so. To the pan, add the carrots, onions, and celery, cook until just soft.

3. Meanwhile, drain the soaking beans over a colander and rinse. Add them to the pot of veggies, add the bacon and rosemary, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the beans are soft, but not mushy.

4. While the beans are cooking, take another saucepan and add 2 cups of red wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until it is reduced to about ⅔ of a cup, about 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove.

5.  When the wine is finished reducing, pour it into the beans, and bring the beans back to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Cook’s Note:
This is totally self-serving, but I just wanted to note that this week marks two years of “My Vermont Kitchen!” Through more than 100 recipes, you’ve been cooking with me through the seasons, seeing me through successes and failures, and (hopefully) been enjoying the journey. This little experiment of bringing my cooking and recipes into your kitchen has been wonderful, and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have. So, cheers! Here’s to another year of cooking!

Get Well Chili

After illness at 1193 Bristol Road extended for more than week, I decided I needed to bring out the big guns: garlic, beef, beans, and spices. Chili! I’ve felt yucky for a week, and I think the cold that was passed to me, has since been passed back! So what better way to rid the beast than garlic, beef, beans, and spices? I discovered as I was making this I didn’t have nearly as much chili powder as I normally use, but felt like I doctored the dish enough to make it tasty. Definitely use more if desired. The real ingredients are the garlic, beef, and beans, protein and garlic can make anyone well, yes? I hope so! I served this atop homemade corn bread, but served with any grain, sauteed or roasted vegetables, or on its own will be delicious.

You may find when you get started it’s a bit on the soupy side, but cooking for about 30 minutes or so allows the chili to absorb some of the water and make it more flavorful.

Get Well Chili
1 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
5-7 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 pound beef
1 28 ounce diced tomatoes
1 15.5 ounce can beans, rinsed (I used pintos, but any bean will taste delicious)
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons chili powder
A couple dashes of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Chopped scallions  and low-fat sour cream (if desired)

1. In a dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil. When warm, add the peppers, garlic, and onion. Add a dash of salt, cook until wilted. When finished cooking, set aside in a separate bowl.
2. Add beef to the dutch oven, cook until done. Place into a colander to drain any excess juices. Place back in the pan and add the vegetables. Stir. Add tomatoes, chili powder, and cayenne and stir at low heat. Add beans, tomato paste and mix through.
3. Cook until heated through, about 30 minutes or so. Place in serving bowl and add scallions and sour cream, if desired.