Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Black Bean Mocha Soup

Here at the Ariss household, we are major coffee drinkers!  Obe makes it every morning, drinks a cup while he gets ready and then gets one to go.  I usually only have one cup, which leaves us with leftover coffee almost every day.  In the spirit of minimalizing waste, lately I've been pouring the extra coffee into a glass milk bottle and sticking it in the fridge to enjoy later. 

But tonight I decided to put it to a different use - making my pot of beans a LOT more interesting!  Some leftover coffee and a little espresso powder, layered with luscious dark cocoa, and we've got a complex, bittersweet blend of flavors that is sure to cure your black bean boredom. 

Black Bean Mocha Soup
serves 4

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
4 cups cooked black beans
2 cups brewed coffee
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
pinch of cayenne
pinch of cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

In a large pot, add olive oil and heat over medium-high.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add beans and stir to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Using a hand blender, puree soup until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Adjust salt and spices, if necessary.  Serve with rice seasoned with a little lemon juice or a poached egg, if desired.

An Ode to the Tomatoes

There's really nothing like waking up on a Spring morning such as this, when the skies are grey and the weather is cool and crisp and you can almost smell the impending rain.  In the middle of the city, streets are busy with construction noise, the screech of trains stopping short on the tracks, and so many hundreds of cars passing by, but up here on the third floor, surrounded by new life, it feels calm and peaceful. 

I woke up to see that the first blossoms on my Sun Gold tomato plant have opened.  Like the promise of rain on a cloudy day, these little flowers are the promise of a million possibilities of culinary delight!  Each day I wake up to find the tomato vine a little bit taller, or with a few more flower buds than it had before, and I can't stop imagining all the wonderful things I want to make with my tomatoes!  I can't quite express the happiness I feel about it for fear of over-romanticizing or sounding ridiculous, but I must admit that my little container garden project has brought me much joy. 

For now, I continue to excitedly wait for my plants to yield fruit and fantasize about all the ways I can prepare and enjoy them. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Herbed Colcannon Salad

As I was trying to imagine what I wanted to have for dinner this evening, I was suddenly inspired by an odd combination of ingredients:  a few leftover groceries from a Seder that I cooked for last night!  I had a Spring medley of herbs leftover from my Herbed Matzoh Ball Soup (that recipe I'll post a little later...), some Ba'tampte mustard, brussels sprouts from a lovely shaved salad from one of my favorite food websites, Food52 (here's the recipe for that one:, and potatoes from, well, I just always have potatoes!

This recipe is also inspired by the beloved Irish dish, colcannon.  Although it is a major departure from the traditional colcannon, made with buttery mashed potatoes, this version is pleasantly reminiscent of the comforting dish with a much lighter, tangier taste.  The brightness of the vinegar and mustard, sweetness of the honey and crunchiness of the crispy brussels sprouts makes it a flavorful, textural delight.  Serve this alongside any protein you like, or have a bigger helping and call it a meal.  At about 270 calories per serving, you can afford to have seconds!

Herbed Colcannon Salad
serves 4

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
4 cups brussels sprouts leaves
2 tsp olive oil
generous pinch of kosher salt

2 T honey
2 T Ba'Tampte Mustard, or any good deli-style whole grain mustard
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
4 T olive oil
2 T fresh dill, chopped
2 T fresh chives, chopped
2 T fresh mint, chopped
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add diced potatoes and cook until just barely tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, toss brussels sprouts leaves with olive oil and salt.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until browned and crispy, 7 minutes or more. 

Make dressing:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt honey and mustard together.  Add balsamic vinegar and whisk to combine.  While whisking rapidly, slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture to emulsify.  Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.  Add potatoes, brussels sprouts, chopped herbs and salt and toss well to combine.  Serve warm or room temperature. 

Truffled Mushroom and Leek Shepherds Pie

April in Colorado is an ever-surprising time of year.  Tulips are peeking through the soil, the Farmers Market springs to life, the weather is crisp and bright, and suddenly... it's snowing.  You never know quite what to expect!  So, in the spirit of the mercurial month of April, I give you this Shepherds Pie.  It's a little bit winter and a little bit Spring, with a couple surprises along the way! 

This recipe is truly a celebration of the almighty mushroom.  Hazel Del Farms is selling their glorious mixed-bag of mushrooms both at the Farmer's Market and in a number of stores across the state, but you can use any combination of mushrooms you like.  Hazel Del's mix is a beautiful medly of trumpet, oyster, lion's head, and shiitake mushrooms. 

One of the things I like best about a vegan version of shepherds pie is that it tastes like an indulgence without actually being one.  Each warm, cozy serving is rich with exotic, complex and decadent truffle flavor but only has about 550 calories (that's for three servings per recipe - which is a nice, heaping helping!) and, of course, no cholesterol.  If vegan isn't your thing, you can easily substitute regular milk and butter in the mashed potatoes, but do give hazelnut milk a try.  It is a mild, creamy substitute for dairy that does not impart that rather unpleasant "beany" taste that soy milk tends to have.

Truffled Mushroom and Leek Shepherds Pie
serves 3-4 (can easily be doubled)

Potato Topping:
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (about 5 large potatoes)
1 cup hazelnut milk
1 tsp white truffle oil
1 T butter-flavored olive oil or butter substitute
1 generous pinch of onion powder
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 T olive oil
1 large leek, sliced and rinsed
1/2 lb mushrooms, mixed variety
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup frozen peas
2 T flour
1 cup hazelnut milk
1 tsp vegetable broth powder
1 T rosemary, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat.  Peel potatoes and add to water.  Boil until potatoes are fork-tender, about 40 minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid for gravy.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 T olive oil.  When oil is hot, add leeks and cook until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Add mushrooms, carrots and peas and saute for an additional 5 minutes, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.  Remove vegetables from pan and set aside. 

Return pan to medium-high heat and add 2 T of olive oil.  Add flour and whisk until combined.  Switch to a wooden spoon and scrape the caramelized vegetable bits off the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat to medium and carefully drizzle 1 cup of potato cooking liquid into the pan, stirring constantly.  Slowly add 1 cup hazelnut milk and stir well.  Add vegetable broth powder, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until desired thickness is achieved, about 5 minutes.  Add vegetables to gravy and stir well to combine.

Assemble mashed potatoes.  Drain cooked potatoes and press through a ricer into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and lightly fold in with a spatula.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375.  In a small casserole dish (I used a 1 3/4 quart dish that measured 8 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches), add a little olive oil and rub with a paper towel to coat the inside.  Add the vegetables and gravy first, then layer the mashed potatoes on top.  Bake shepherds pie until the potatoes turn lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Creamy Strawberry Farro Porridge

If you haven't yet jumped on the farro bandwagon, here's a great recipe to start with!  Farro is an ancient grain which was, perhaps, among the first cultivated crops in the fertile crescent.  Its relatively low yield (compared with wheat and other grains) caused it to fall out of favor over time, but farro remains popular in Italy and has received a lot of attention lately in food-nerd and health-nut circles across the country.  It has a soft, chewy texture and a richly complex and nutty flavor.

Although farro usually plays a role in savory dishes, I am just crazy about having it for a sweet and tangy breakfast!  This recipe uses a little coconut milk to make the porridge rich and creamy (although whole milk would work well, too).  The strawberries fall apart in the heat to give the dish a gorgeous pink hue and a sweet tanginess.  To round out the flavors, I like to drizzle a little balsamic cream over the top.  It may sound a little weird, but trust me...  strawberries and balsamic vinegar go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  If you don't have balsamic cream you can either make a homemade balsamic reduction (just lightly simmer balsamic vinegar with a little bit of cornstarch until it thickens) or just use some good, thick balsamic all by itself. 

Creamy Strawberry Farro Porridge
serves 4

1 cup farro
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 10 oz package frozen strawberries (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup brown sugar
balsamic cream (optional)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, add farro, water and salt and bring to a boil.  Cook, uncovered, until about 1/2 the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes) then add the coconut milk and strawberries and stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for about 15 to 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and chewy and the porridge reaches a creamy consistency.  Add brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon.  Use the spoon to smash any remaining whole strawberries into smaller pieces.

Remove from heat.  Drizzle each serving with the balsamic cream (or some good balsamic vinegar) and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Curried Red Rice

This Indian-inspired recipe is what I would consider a food-geek's pantry meal.  It consists almost entirely of things that I routinely stock in my kitchen, such as frozen peas, coconut milk, and red rice.  Bhutanese red rice is available at specialty markets and is definitely worth a try if you are feeling bored with your usual whole grains.  It is an heirloom rice grown in the Himalayas with a gorgeous rosy tint and a nutty flavor.  Another advantage to red rice is that it cooks much faster than brown because, let's face it, sometimes you just don't want to spend an hour on dinner! 

If you don't stock red rice in your pantry, any ol' rice will do (you might have to adjust the cooking time).  We turned this side-dish into a meal by toasting some home-made chickpea patties, chopping them into bite-sized pieces and mixing them in just before serving.  This rice will compliment just about any protein, so use what you have or just throw in a can of chickpeas!

Curried Red Rice
Serves 4

3/4 cup red rice
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 T curry powder (salt-free)
2 tsp salt
1 10-oz package frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup raisins
fresh cilantro leaves

In a medium saucepan, add rice, coconut milk and water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add curry powder and salt and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice absorbs most of the liquid, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Some of the coconut milk solids will have risen to the top.

Stir mixture to incorporate milk solids.  Add peas and raisins, mix to combine, and cover pan again.  Heat mixture until raisins plump and peas are heated, about 10 more minutes.  Serve with plenty of fresh cilantro leaves on top.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Brand New Garden!

Today was the first day of the Boulder Farmer's Market!  The weather couldn't possibly have been better, there were lots of new stands to enjoy and best of all... seedlings!   

This is the year we are starting our very first organic container garden and, if you can't tell, I'm super excited about it!  So far, I've got some organic sage, mint, rosemary, and tarragon, and six different varieties of heirloom and organic tomatoes.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to add some more herbs including a variety of basil, cucumbers, and whatever else looks good.