“Mexican” Bean Soup

Adapted from 30-minute meals (California Culinary Academy series).  San Francisco, CA: Chevron Chemical Company, 1986. This thin paperback cookbook was a great resource for me when I was first married. It provided all the steps to produce an interesting meal in 30 minutes, complete with sides.

In those days we ate meat every day for dinner, except during lent! So this soup was always made with chicken. Now, I consider the chicken to be optional.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion (red or yellow), diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups cooked pinto beans or 1 15-oz. can, rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 chicken breast, diced (or cooked chicken)
1 green chili or Italian frying pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
dash of cinnamon
minced cilantro

Optional toppings:
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped avocado
diced tomato
shredded radish
sour cream

In a large pot, saute the onions, carrots and peppers until tender.

Add the raw chicken and spices (except the cilantro) and saute until just cooked through. If using cooked chicken just cook the spices a minute, until fragrant and add the chicken with the beans & broth.

Mash the beans a little. Add the beans and broth. Simmer 10 minutes.

I like to stir in about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream before serving.

Serve with toppings on the side.

Add a nice salad and some warmed tortillas.

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Risotto with Ham and Peas

I am glad that everyone in my house loves to eat risotto. It seems such a silly dish, rice for dinner. But even Morgan, who in general does not like rice, loves risotto.  I am not adverse to serving a vegetable risotto for dinner but ham, mmmm.

1 onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
2-4 Tbsp. white wine (every risotto recipe calls for wine, which I never have so I use mirin, which I always have because you would never drink it)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup diced ham
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Heat the stock in a 2 quart saucepan. Keep at a simmer.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter and oil. Gently cook the onion until translucent. Add the ham and heat through. Add the rice and fry for a couple minutes.

Add the wine, turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the rice absorbs the wine.

Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until absorbed. I like to stand around and drink a glass a wine and stir the risotto. But the rice does not need to be stirred constantly.

It will take about 30 minutes to cook the rice. If you run out of stock, add water. The dish will be a little soupy and the rice should be tender.

When you have about a cup of stock left, add the peas.

When done, turn off the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

Aloo Baingan (Eggplant & Potato Curry)

I had Aloo Baingan for the first time at The Palace of Asia in Lawrenceville, NJ a couple of years ago. It became one of my favorite foods that night. The chef at The Palace that night worked magic. I am sure the ghee is what made the dish dance on my taste buds. If you have ghee or are willing to make it, use that instead of the canola oil for a more authentic and rich taste. Because well, butter always makes everything taste better.

Serve this with a dal and Indian bread. Recipes coming soon.

Adapted from The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood by Raghavan Iyer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 dried Thai chilies
3 medium potatoes (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 eggplant (about 1 pound) cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes or 1 fresh tomato diced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Add the first 4 spices and stir-fry until the seeds darken and become fragrant (10-15 seconds).

Reduce the heat and add the potatoes, coriander, salt, cayenne and turmeric. Cook, covered until potatoes cook partially (about 15 minutes). Stir occasionally.

Stir in eggplant and water. Simmer, covered, until eggplant and potatoes are cooked (about 15 minutes).

Add tomatoes and cilantro, cover and cook about 5 minutes until warmed through.

Phat Thai (Pad Thai)

I just spent 2 weeks in England with my husband visiting his sick mother. Although I love to English sausage, cheese and fish and chips, 2 weeks of bland food had me looking forward to the spices and hot peppers in my kitchen. This is one of the first things I made upon my return.

Adapted from True Thai, The Modern Art of Thai Cooking by Victor Sodsook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995.

I think this cookbook provides authentic Thai recipes.  My version is heavily modified.  I have easy access to the ingredients listed in this book, but I try to limit the special purchases to what I will use up.  I have given up on buying fish sauce because I hate to waste it but it does make a huge difference in the taste.

8 ounces dried rice-stick noodles, about 1/8-inch wide
1/4 pound medium shrimp
1/4 pound boneless pork loin or chicken breast (optional)
2 Tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
6 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon ketchup
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, pounded to a mash
2 Tablespoons shredded salted radish (optional)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed or finely chopped

For garnish:
2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup peanuts, finely chopped
lime or lemon wedges
Finely sliced Thai chilies

Soak the rice stick noodles in warm water until they are soft, about 15 minutes.

Clean the shrimp. Slice the meat if using.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and ketchup. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Drain the noodles and set them aside in the colander.

Place all the stir-fry ingredients within easy reach. Arrange the garnishes so that everything will be ready when the noodles are done.

Heat wok over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot add the garlic and stir-fry a few seconds. Add the shrimp and meat, stir-fry until the shrimp and the meat lose their raw color, about 1 minute.

Stir in the sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and gently toss in the sauce. Stir-fry until the noodles absorb the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Mix in the salted radish.

Break the eggs into the wok. Break up the yolks a bit, then mix the egg into the noodles. Cook without stirring about 15 seconds, then stir-fry until well blended.

Add the chili powder and scallions. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes. Stir in the bean sprouts and peanuts, mix well.

Serve immediately. Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a one-dish meal.

Pork & Vegetable Buns

Adapted from Chinese Cookery by Rose Cheng & Michele Morris. Los Angeles, CA: Price Stern Sloan, Inc., 1981.

Mandarin Dough (recipe follows)
1/3 lb. Chinese cabbage
1 lb. ground pork
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup chopped green onions
boiling water

Prepare the dough:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 cups flour
1 tsp. shortening

Mix sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Stir in yeast. Place flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center. Slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Add the shortening. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

In the meantime combine the filling for the dumplings:

Finely dice the cabbage, place in a large bowl with salt. Let stand 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the cabbage and mix well.

Divide the prepared dough in half. Roll each half into a thick log, about 2 inches in diameter. Divide each log into 9-10 equal sized pieces. Form each piece into a small ball.

Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 4-inch circle. To make buns, cup a circle in the palm of your hand. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center. Pleat the edges of the circle, lift the sides over the filling and twist and pinch at the top to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line a steamer with cabbage leaves. Arrange as many buns on the steamer as will fit, leaving 1 inch between the buns. Let stand 30 minutes to rise.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or wok. Cover the steamer and place over the boiling water. Steam over high heat 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Remove the cover slowly so the buns do not collapse.  Repeat with remaining buns.

Serve hot.