Green-Chile Bake, an Update, Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Sorry for the first post this morning! I was too excited about my three-day weekend and the big news below! (Ok, it was my error!)

Here is the final edited version!

First a quick update. Last summer, I told you about the short film I participated in with blueberry pie. Well, it has been accepted as an entry in the Green Mountain Film Festival! To say this whole experience has been wonderful is an understatement and this is the cherry (or blueberry, as it were) on top takes the cake! If you missed it the first time, you can watch it here. It’s less than three minutes and you get to see Vermont in all its glory in July. So lush and green. Sigh. It will be that way again, soon!

Now on to this week’s recipe. It’s an oldie (1999!!), but a goodie, one that I used to make on a regular basis and just got forgotten through the years. It wasn’t until I saw a recipe that resembled it that I was reminded of it. While I couldn’t remember its name, but I knew the ingredients, so after a little bit of Internet digging and searches on the Cooking Light website I finally found it. I made it and it was just as good as I remembered it!

I decided to take this to a potluck dinner. With the recipe in hand, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work. In an effort to save a few pennies, I decided to use a couple cans of chopped chiles as opposed to whole. I regretted this decision as I was making the dish, but to be honest, green chiles are so mild, it wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. Phew! Crisis averted! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Manchego cheese in Vermont, so all Monterey Jack is what I use (and full fat, too). I thought if you wanted more heat, peppered Jack would be good too in place of the Manchego. I’m not that big a fan of egg substitute, but when I did the math, it would be 4-5 eggs for this recipe, but you can certainly use them.

This is an easy vegetarian casserole to make on a weeknight, on the weekend, or to take a potluck. As I’ve said before, cooking for potlucks and guests is on the tricky side these days, as so many people are either on diets or have food intolerances. This is vegetarian and gluten-free, so it at least covers those two bases!

 

greenchile2
Green-Chile Bake

This recipe first appeared in the July 1999 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups egg substitute
1 (14.5-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with jalapeño peppers and spices, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded manchego cheese
3 (4 oz.) cans whole green chiles, drained and cut into strips
Oregano sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in ground cumin and salt. Combine onion mixture, rice, and egg substitute in a bowl. Combine tomatoes and tomato sauce in a bowl. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl. Spread 1 1/4 cups tomato mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and top with 1 1/2 cups rice mixture. Arrange half of green chiles on top of rice mixture, and sprinkle with half of cheese mixture. Repeat the procedure with the remaining tomato mixture, rice mixture, and chiles. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese mixture, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pete Wells Review Per Se

Pete Wells is the lucky writer at the New York Times who writes the dining reviews. I always thought this sounded like a glamourous job until I read memoirs by former writers Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni, who both held that job at one time, and they talked about eating out. Every. Single. Night. While I like eating out, when I’m on vacation, I’ll
admit even I get tired of eating in restaurants. I can’t imagine eating out as my job!

Pete Wells’s reviews of restaurants I’ve always felt are written for someone like me, the average consumer who wants to have a nice meal in a restaurant. His review of Guy Fieri’s Time Square restaurant a few years ago was the talk of the town and Internet for weeks. I remember Fieri had to do some fast PR to counter the review.

The New York dining establishment I’m sure gasped when Thomas Keller’s Per Se went from 4 stars to 2 following his review last week. I’ve always thought going to one of these restaurants would be the pinnacle of fine dining and the best meal I’ve ever eaten, but after reading this review, and the thought of paying $395 (!) for dinner, I’ve decided I’ve had much better (and less expensive) dinners—and I know more special—dinners with The Eater of the House and friends at other restaurants than I would ever have at a place like this. So Wells has saved me several hundreds of dollars on a dinner the next time I’m in New York.

You can read Pete Wells’s review of Per Se here.

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End (or Begin) the Year on a Healthy Note: Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

spoon
I can’t believe we are at the end of the year! Last New Year’s is still so vivid in my mind, but now we’re saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! This year brought challenges and opportunities (making a pie for a movie!), crossing Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store off my bucket list, and learning more and more about food, nutrition, and cooking. I’m ready to see what the new year will bring.

And no doubt it will bring more healthy cooking and eating. After a few days of out of the ordinary food, I really wanted a healthy salad. And I hit the jackpot with this one: kale, white beans, a flavorful vinaigrette. It was perfect!

This salad would be perfect on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but will work equally well as a side dish at dinner. Easy to assemble, you can serve it warm (which I did) or chilled (like I had for leftovers) and both are equally tasty. If you wanted to add a little grated cheese or a few pieces of chicken, the salad will only get better.

The Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale at the coop was flimsy and had about three stalks in each bunch, so I decided to go with plain curly, and chopped, you’ll never know the difference. And instead of cannellini beans, I opted for the nondescript “small white beans,” that were just right.

New Year’s will of course include my Good Luck Peas for lunch, with hopes that it brings good luck for the coming year. And as we close the year, my fourth as the author of this blog, I will raise my glass to my readers from near and far tomorrow evening and bid you a Happy New Year! May you find light and love in the coming year!

Happy Cooking!

salad
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add beans to pan; cook 1 minute.

2. Combine remaining 7 teaspoons oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over kale mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 15 Ways to Shop Smarter

shoppingI am always looking for ways to save money on food for my household, as it is one of the largest bills each month. Thekitchen.com created this list of past articles that is a great start for your new year! You can read the article by clicking here. Happy Savings!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday! Now it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays!

A few weeks ago, I read Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when Gourmet magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked. The book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year.

Her recipes, such as they are, are more a listing of ingredients with a description of what to do. I love this way of cooking, but I know it’s not for everyone. And her writing is so beautiful, she makes everything she cooks sound delicious. Including a butternut squash soup.

I’ve never been one for squash soups; squash in soup, yes, but a pumpkin or butternut squash soup is something I’d tried on occasion but never liked. I’ve always found the flavors odd and would always avoid it in restaurants. This mindset shifted a couple of months ago when my mom ordered a pumpkin soup that was really delicious. Reichl had a recipe for a butternut soup and her description of it made me want to make it immediately. I took a glance at the ingredient list, decided to make my version, and cooked it up as the first snowflakes fell outside the kitchen window. And she was right. It’s good. And comforting. And is the best kind of soup to eat this time of year; it’s easy on the wallet and takes maybe 30 minutes at the most to make.

Dairy-free, wheat free, vegetarian, this is so simple that anyone can make it. For lunch, it’s satisfying and warms you up and fills you up, too. You’d think that just five ingredients would make for a not so exciting soup, so I was skeptical when I put everything together. But something about the melding of the flavors is delicious. And don’t worry about precise chopping, everything is going to be blended; it’s a lot easier to use a hand blender if you have one, but a standing blender will work, too.

You’ll find you’ll need more than the first two cups of water. I always add a little bit to my lunch container to get the consistency I like. If you want a little bit more flavor, I thought some cumin or thyme would be a good addition.

Happy Cooking!

butternutsoup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

One butternut squash, 1 pound

2 peeled carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2+ cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. When ready, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about five minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook the vegetables until everything has completely mushy. With a hand blender (or standing blender) puree until everything is blended, adding additional water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

bs1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbook Store

Number two on my New York City adventures (Part I can be read here). When I went to New York, I had very little on my agenda except for one thing, I had to go to Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in Greenwich Village. I really wanted to check it out and after more than ten years, I finally made it!

My friend, Jen, and I got there Sunday afternoon at 12:56, only to discover the store opened at 1 p.m. and we were famished. So instead of waiting four minutes, we went to another bookstore for lunch and then I made my way back while Jen went shopping.

bs2I walked in and it was like walking into someone’s kitchen. A lovely table with the season’s colors and cookbooks was in the middle of the room. Cookbooks lined the walls, all neatly divided into ethnicity and topic. The lighting was golden with lamps on various bookshelves and the colors were of retro kitchens, light greens, oranges, yellows. Vintage aprons, linens, and cookware sat on wooden kitchen tables, and I immediately spied the recipe box my mother has in her kitchen since I was born! A box in the back had a pile of old menus from long ago New York City restaurants now closed. It was warm enough to have the back door open, which led to a small enclosed garden with a small table and chairs, where you could read your cookbooks.

bs3I thought it was curious she had no Julia Child books in the French section, but I soon discovered she had a reserved spot for the masters right in front of her counter! Child, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, a variety of editions of The Joy of Cooking, she had all of the greats. I was so pleased to find they had such a special space all together!

bs4After everyone left, I was able to have a chat with Bonnie and it was everything I thought it would be. I ended up buying a book, Clementine in the Kitchen, a book Ruth Reichl reissued when she was editor of Gourmet, the recipe box, and a small cooking booklet titled Meals for Two. I found the book prices to be reasonable, especially for New York City and for being vintage. If you are into cookbooks and want a treat, don’t hesitate to check it out. Her hours change weekly, but she always posts them on her website, bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com.

bs5Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks ~ 28 East 2nd Street, New York, New York

Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

All day long it looked like it was dusk. Low gray clouds straddled the mountain tops and the fields virtually disappeared in fog. It had been a long week, I was tired, and I wanted a home-cooked meal, but one that didn’t take a lot of effort. A vegetarian meal with a spicy sauce that uses mostly kitchen pantry staples was the perfect recipe!

I love Thai food and always order red curry sauce as opposed to green curry, but now I’m not sure why. I’m a convert! While comparing the bottles of red and green curry paste I have in the fridge (I buy Thai Kitchen brand), the only difference between the two is red and green chilis, everything else is the same. Though I think the green curry is a bit milder (note to non chili heads!), I found it gave just the right amount of warmth I wanted. Paired with coconut milk, the blend of lemongrass and tangy lime made a flavorful sauce. I don’t know how to cut a baby bok choy into a “wedge,” so I just chopped them. And no need to fry the tofu in advance, put everything in a Dutch oven and stir. That’s all the effort you’ll have to do.

I made a pot of brown rice, and had thought about making it fancier, adding some coconut milk, flaked coconut, and chopped fresh ginger, but decided against the extra effort, but that would be a great addition. And this received a rousing thumb’s up from The Eater of the House; upon his second helping, he declared this the BEST dish I’ve EVER made! “You better write about this!” he said. And so I am.

This warm, bright emerald-green sauce took the day’s gray color away and was the perfect end to the week and start of the weekend!

green curry

Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 3/4 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups curry)

1 1/4 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves, divided
3 tablespoons green curry paste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 (14-ounce) package firm water-packed tofu, drained and cubed
12 ounces baby bok choy, cut into wedges
1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided (use tamari for gluten-free)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (8.8-ounce) packages precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped

1. Combine 1 cup cilantro and next 4 ingredients (through coconut milk) in a blender; process until smooth.

2. Bring curry mixture and tofu to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat; stir gently. Add bok choy, bamboo shoots, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and salt to pan. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 4 minutes.

3. Heat rice according to package directions. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Top evenly with curry mixture; sprinkle evenly with peanuts and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Drizzle servings evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce.

MVK’s Like of the Week: The Doughnut Project, West Village, New York City
doughnuts 2 I had made plans way back in June, and the time had finally come to meet my girlfriends in New York City on Halloween. We didn’t have much on our itinerary, lots of walking, bookstores, and doughnuts were at the top of the list; Jana’s friend, Troy Neal, recently opened The Doughnut Project in the West Village and we were going to check it out!

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that doughnuts and pie are my weaknesses; offered a nice fluffy glazed doughnut I have a hard time saying no. But walking around the city for the day allowed me to feel a little bit better about having a late afternoon indulgence!

I admit I was skeptical having my first test bite of an Olive Oil and Pepper doughnut. Who would have thought it would be delicious, but it was! We decided to sample three: Beet Stuffed with Ricotta, a Maple-Bacon Bar, and Salted Chocolate.

doughnuts 1I love beets and wondered what those who don’t like these ruby reds thought, but they seem to be their most popular doughnut. I can see why; the rich ricotta with a bright red sweet topping was my favorite. The dough itself is very nutmeggy so it actually has flavor as opposed to other bakery sweets. Do you know what a maple bar is? I didn’t, but I do now as I was educated on Seattle’s maple bars, which is a doughnut shaped like a bar. We don’t have anything like that on the East Coast (it’s not a cruller), but The Doughnut Project has them! A thin layer of a maple frosting with a piece of bacon, it was decadent! And the chocolate doughnut was out of this world. And it was real chocolate glaze, not like a cake frosting you find on some other doughnuts. Paired with the nutmeg dough it was SO good.

Coffee is the only hot drink sold, but they have a non-compete clause with the tea shop next door, so I was able to buy a cup to have with my sweet snack. You can find them on online in all the usual places, http://www.thedoughnutproject.com/, on Facebook, Twitter (#TDP_NYC), and on Instagram. I have plans to go back to New York in the spring and I know I’m going to take a long walk so I can stop off for another visit!

The Doughnut Project
10 Morton Street
New York City

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

salsaSalsa
This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  

 

 

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans

Once upon a time, there was an Italian man who loved to cook for me. This was long before I caught the cooking bug, so the idea that someone who wasn’t a family member cooking for me was new and I loved it. One dish we often ate was a peasant stew that didn’t really have a name, we just called it Nana’s Chi-Chi Beans. His grandmother came from Italy and he would sometimes return from a visit with a large Tupperware container. I’d turn on the stove and just melt when I opened up the container and sniffed the melding of the onions and garlic. The creaminess of the beans with the just-right crunch of the carrot, I’d be in heaven at the table.

Alas, the man is long gone and the name has changed, but the dish is still part of my repertoire. When I am feeling poor in the pocket, I reach for this dish. It costs probably $3 at the most to make, and could serve up to four at dinner. For some variety, you could serve this over rice or pasta, and sometimes I sprinkle some cheese on top, feta and parmesan are terrific. For another twist, you could substitute sweet potato for the carrots or add a splash of white wine. Add a little bit of crushed red pepper if you want some spice. Or, just eating it as its written is also good, as I can attest from my lunch the other day! I find it’s a perfect autumn meal.

If you’re interested, there’s a slow food movement online, $5 Challenge, where you pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal that costs less than $5. This one definitely fits the bill!

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans
• 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic (or more if you prefer), minced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
• 1 can chi-chi (garbanzo, chickpeas), rinsed
• 1 can stewed tomatoes

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the can of beans and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook throughly. I’ve never timed making this, once I turn down the heat, I just let it cook until dinner is ready. If you find the liquid is evaporating, you can add a little bit of water or wine.