Perfect Black Bean Goodness

Perfect Black Bean Goodness, the ultimate comfort food.  Did I mention that it’s vegetarian?  Most black beans are made with some combination of pork: fat, sausage, bacon drippings, etc.  On top of the rich meaty taste of the beans, the pork flavors them during cooking.

And cook they will.  For an hour plus.  Making beans requires forethought, something I’ve generally lacked, and patience, something we are all improving upon.  In any case, making beans is an essential kitchen skill.

Beans are probably the most economical of meals.  But their cheapness is only one of their many fine qualities.  Make a large pot of beans and you have dinner for the next few days.  Moreover, leftover beans only get more and more flavorful, something not every dish can flaunt.

This recipe is a combination of cooking knowledge from 2 amazing women.  My mom who’s sofrito method I use, and Ms. Dragonwagon who has an ingenuity at making healthy and richly flavorful vegetarian recipes.  (See my note at the end of the post for specifics on what changed and what stayed the same)

OK, OK, gimme the recipe: Perfect Black Bean Goodness recipe

Start with a little forethought.  Cover the beans with water and soak overnight or all day while you work.

Drain the beans and place them in a large dutch oven.  Add water until they are covered about a 1/2 inch, about 8 cups.

Here’s what we’ll need for our first round of flavor.  1 entire onion, 6 cloves, 1 head of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and some fresh oregano (It’s from my herb garden).

Take the 6 whole cloves and stud the onion.  Push them into the onion like nails- that is what cloves look like.

Add all of this to the pot.  Yes, the skins is on for the onion and the garlic head.  Trust me on this.

Bring to a boil, then lower to medium-low and cook 1 hour.

After an hour, add chopped sweet potatoes and rough chopped carrots.  Lots of orange color=lots of beta carotene.

After an hour an a half of cooking, fish out the whole head of garlic and clove-studded onion.  Set aside the garlic and discard the onion.  Here’s what they should look like, a mess.

Make the sofrito.  We’ll need another diced onion, 6 cloves minced garlic (not shown), about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and 2 diced bell peppers.

Cook these ingredients in large saute pan with a little olive oil.

Add in 1 diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce.  Oh…I love this stuff.

Saute these aromatics 4-5 minutes.

Add in half a can of tomato paste.  (Use a 6-ounce can)

And coat all of the sauteed vegetables.  Cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add the sofrito to the beans.  Also add more flavor in the form of 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cumin smoky goodness, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, zest of one orange, and salt to taste (1-2 teaspoons).

Remember that cooked head of garlic.  This is the true secret to giving these beans a depth of flavor.  Squeeze out all the garlic pulp onto a plate and stir into the beans.  It will be very messy, and you will be utterly tempted to lick off pieces of garlic pulp on your fingers; go ahead, my full support is behind you, just don’t “taste” it all.

Cook another few minutes for all the flavors to get friendly with each other.  Serve with rice.  Trust me this stuff only gets better with time.

Recipe Notes: This recipe was inspired by my mentor-vegetarian, Crescent Dragonwagon, from her Black Bean Feijoada recipe.  I followed her process for the preliminary cooking of the beans, using a clove-studded onion and entire head of garlic with its cooked puree added in afterwards.  This method has completely transformed how I cook beans.  I also kept the orange zest and chipotle, a classic combination.  I changed her process based on how my mom taught me to make beans which is to combine the aromatics (onions, garlic, bell pepper holy trinity) in a separate saute with tomato paste.  I also didn’t add any of the soy-meats to make it a feijoada.

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White Chicken Chili with Beer

I ask myself, it’s the middle of summer, why on earth am I making a soup?  You may doubt my thought processes (I sure do sometimes), but this White Chicken Chili with Beer recipe will make you want to forget the heat and just go and make a batch.

Printable Recipe:White Chicken Chili with Beer

It all started with an idea to use cashews in chili to try to thicken it and make it creamy delicious.  Since cashews are a light taupe color, the chili had to be a white chili, not your classic red one.  This required some chicken and white beans.  I wish I found some white navy beans, but all my store had was white kidney beans, no matter.

Like any good chili, it all starts with the pot.  Stainless steel in my case.  Warm it up over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Swish it around to coat the bottom.

Now add 1 small diced onion,and 4 minced garlic cloves.We used to have this nifty plastic device that would poke through all the holes of the mincer and get the strangled remains.  Then it got mangled in the garbage disposal, and we decided to just use our fingernails.  Make sure you get all the garlic pieces.  Don’t get grossed out that your hands will smell.  If someone doesn’t like the smell of garlic, I think you need to reevaluate your relationship.

Shake it around so the onion begins to change color, some edges will be browned and beginning to caramelize and look like this: a little bit of brown, a little bit of translucent.Now add the diced chicken breast and your spices.1 heaping (and I mean heaping, abounding, overflowing) teaspoon EACH of chili powderand 1 of ground cumin.Dice up 1 jalapeno.  Can your house handle all the heat?  One person, who shall remain nameless, in my house isn’t a fan of spicy, so I have to cut out the seeds and membranes where all the heat is stored, like so.Also dice up the canned roasted chilies.  The seeds are fine from these chilies because they’ve been roasted and canned, so their taste is much more subtle.  Check out the charred parts.  That’s where the goodness is hidden.A little extra sauce is fine to add to the chili, but not all of it.  Or heck, why not, add all the sauce in.Use your trusty spoon to coat the chicken with spices and aromatics (AKA onions ‘n garlic ‘n chilies).  Start to cook the chicken for about 4 minutes until it’s white in parts, but other parts are still pink.  Now come the liquids.

Find yourself a great beer.  If you pick Bud Lite or Coors, well,  I suppose I can still appreciate you if you like those beers.  Just get some beer.

Add half the bottle to the chicken.  It’s up to your own discretion what you do with the other half of the beer. While the chicken starts to cook, go out to the garden and clip some fresh oregano.  Dried oregano is fine too though.

This was my fist time using herbs from my garden, so I got a little giddy.  He…he.

Chop the oregano and add it to the cooking chicken.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth. Drain the 2 cans of beans in a colander.  While you’re there, make sure to rinse them well with water; you’ll remove a lot of the excess salt. Place about 1 cup of beans in a blender, but dump the rest of the beans into the pot.

To the blender add ½ cup of cashews (about one left handful)and ½ cup of low-fat milk.  Liquefy until you get a creamy paste.  Then add to your chili.  It will change everything, color-wise.  It’ll also change the thickness of your chili.Here’s what it’ll do…make your chili beautiful and delicious.  Heck, it’ll make you beautiful and delicious.Last thing, stir in 2 tablespoons of cornmeal to help thicken it even more.  Make sure to break up any clumps that form from the cornmeal with your spoon.  This is a good place to end, but if you can handle another level of heat, mix in some good hot sauce, like Tapatio (preferably not Tabasco which is a little too vinagary).  3 splashes per serving.  That’s 6 servings.  You can do the math.

It’s inevitable.  All chili must be served with fresh, chopped cilantro.  I wish I added cheese.  I was desperately hungry.  Make sure you add cheese.  Mmmmm…a good pepper jack or monterey jack would be divine.P.S. Don’t forget about the rest of your beer.  Enjoy!

Forbidden Rice with Spicy Sausage and Collards

Forbidden Rice with Spicy Sausage and Collards

What’s not tempting about a name like forbidden rice?  If you’ve never tried it before, it is a special treat.  I like to eat it because it makes me feel subversive.  Originally in China, only the emperor could eat black rice, so it was called forbidden.

It’s a deep, beautiful black rice that will tint your wooden spoon purple while you mix and cook it.  The flavor is much richer and more nutty than brown rice.  Hardcore white-rice-only-please people will become converts. Its price, which for rice, a world staple, is high, is still doable for special occasions or small meals for two.

I paired the fancy forbidden rice with some cheap meat and greens.  Just kidding, well, not totally.  Here’s how that previous sentence could be rewritten: I wanted to highlight the black rice’s nuttiness by contrasting it with spicy sausage.  To add some color and vitamins, I also included some forest-green collards.  On a whim, I also added sweet potatoes to steam with the rice.  They turned a little purple on the edges, but generally maintained their color.

The end plate was a riot of color: deep purple-black of the rice, bright orange of the sweet potatoes, earthy green of the collards, and tan bits of sausage.  Sausage and collards was plain, but the black rice and sweet potatoes transformed the dinner like Cinderella going to the ball.

Forbidden Rice with Spicy Sausage and Collards

Ingredients:
-12-ounce bag prepped collards
-8 ounce bag spicy Italian sausage
-2 shallots
-5 cloves garlic, minced
(not pictured black rice, sweet potatoes)

1.  In a medium saucepan, cook the rice according to directions.  It’s usually about 1:1 ration rice to water.  USE WATER; the rice has such a strong flavor, I’ve found that sometimes using broth clashes with the rice’s natural nuttiness.  Bring water/rice to a boil; cover and cook for 20 minutes.  After about ten minutes, add small pieces of sweet potato to steam cook with the rice.

2.  In a large saute pan, cook the sausage, breaking it up into small bits.  Set aside in a bowl.  Don’t throw away the excess grease in the pan, it’ll give the collards a flavor-kick.

Cooked sausage bits

3.  Wile those juices release more, add minced shallot to the pan.  Saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Add minced garlic and cook for about 1-2 more minutes.  Add the entire bag of pre-washed, pre-chopped collards.  I told you this was easy.  If you feel inclined, wash the collards before you put them to cook.

Saute the collards

4.  Cook the collards for about 7-10 minutes, until they begin to wilt and turn a brilliant green.  It’s nature’s way of saying, “I’m perfectly done, just a little crispy, just a little wilted.”

5.  Add the sausage and ALL accumulated juices back to the pan, mix together.

6.  Scoop out rice with some sweet potato pieces, then ladle on the side some spicy sausage and collards.

Bon Appetit Usurpers!

Vegetarian Grandma-style Tamale Pie

Vegetarian Grandma-style Tamale Pie

My grandmother makes tamale pie, and when I go out to visit for lunch, I always request it.  She still asks what I’d like her to make though, and I think secretly she’s waiting for me to say some other dish.  The only problem is that I’ve asked for tamale pie so long that I’ve forgotten what else she cooks.

This is not my grandmother’s recipe.  Like most grandmothers I know, she has no recipe.  Her tamale pie depends both on what is on sale at the grocery store that day and what she has in her cupboard.  The only consistent ingredient is ground sirloin and cheddar cheese.  Once I wrote down a recipe for Grandma’s Tamale Pie, but since she never makes it the same twice, I figure, why bother, just start to wing it like she does.

Then, I discovered Crescent Dragonwagon’s book The Passionate Vegetarian which has a fabulous recipe for Tamale Pie using spiced, ground tofu.  I have yet to make it for my grandma, but so far, no one can tell it’s vegetarian.  Even my sister, who would never eat tofu, likes it, and we’ll see if she eats it again now that my secret is public.  It’s incredibly hearty and just like my grandma’s recipe very flexible and forgiving depending on what you have on hand or what’s on sale at the grocery that week.

Printable PDF: Vegetarian Grandma Style Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie Ingredients

Ingredients:
-1 can corn, drained
-1 package spicy-style ground tofu
-1 cup marinara sauce
-1 can olive, sliced
-1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
– 1 cup store bought salsa
-2 small onions diced
-7 garlic cloves, minced
-1 cup of vegetable broth
-1 cup instant polenta
NOT PICTURED: 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons white flour, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 quart water, grated cheese (optional)

Begin by creating your polenta crust.  If you’re feeling lazy, just buy ready-made polenta, cut it into pieces, then place it on top of the pie right before you bake it.  OR…  Boil 1 quart of water, slowly mix in 1 cup of instant polenta.  Mix it to remove chunks.  Trust me, it will chunk.  After about 5 minutes, the polenta will be thick and ready to form a crust.  Using a wooden spoon spread the polenta around a 9-inch iron skillet (why iron, you may ask?  because that’s how Grandma does it)

Polenta crust for Vegetarian Grandma-style Tamale Pie

Here’s what you do for the filling.

1.  Start by dicing your onions and mincing garlic to prep for sauteing.

Onion prepping...I love my borrowed SLR camera

2.  In a saute pan, over medium-high heat, warm up 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Add minced garlic, cook for another minute or so.  Sprinkle the tablespoon of ground cumin on top.

Saute Aromatics and add cumin

3.  Mix in 2 tablespoons of flour until it coats the onions.  Add 1 cup of marinara sauce and 1 cup of vegetable broth.

Add liquids to onions

4.  Add the package of spicy ground tofu and mix.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon dried oregano on top.

Ground Tofu and Oregano

5.  Add drained can of corn and sliced olives.

Add olives and corn

6.  Mix everything together, then finally add 1 cup of store bought salsa and the diced jalapeno.  Carefully place tamale pie mixture in the already prepared polenta crust.

Tamale Pie

7.  You can place the pie in the fridge at this point until you are ready for dinner.  When ready, bake the pie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Optional, grate a small amount of cheddar cheese on each serving.

Vegetarian Grandma-style Tamale Pie

Manchego Quesadillas with Sweet Potato and Kale

I am not a kale fan.  I grew up seeing this curly leaf brassica as filler on the salad bar at the pizza restaurant I worked at.  I didn’t know humans could eat it until a college roommate one night added it to her vegetarian stir fry.

“Wait,” I hollered at her, sometimes she was on the ditzy side, so I thought this ingredient addition was just another fluke.  I mean she once burned one of my pots boiling water, really!?

However, she began to teach me about kale’s amazing vitamins and dietary benefits.  I tried it, hated it because of its bitterness, and vowed never to trust her stir-fries again.

Fast forward 8 years, Kris and I are walking on a beautiful November day at our local farmer’s market, and I see a brilliant, beautiful purple leafy vegetable lounging on the table, next to kale and other salad greens.  Curious, entranced by its stunning purple color, I ask the stand worker what this jewel of a vegetable is.

“Kale,” he says, smiling.  He must have been amused by my look of disbelief since he added an explanation of the 3 types of kale he had.  “Dinosaur kale, curly kale,” and noticing my affinity for the colorful purple one, “Russian kale.”  Without hesitation, so hypnotized by its color, we buy two bunches.  I am convinced that nothing this beautiful in hue could be bitter, and so far, the two recipes I’ve made with it, have confirmed my color/lack of bitterness hypothesis.

Such a stunning color

This recipe is to use up all those Winter vegetables.  Two words best describe it: nutty and gorgeous.  It’s a combination of whole wheat tortillas, the manchego cheese, sweet potatoes, and hint of ground cumin.  The blast of orange from the sweet potato and the contrasting purple of the Russian kale make this easy dinner an aesthetic and gustatory pleasure.

Manchego Quesadillas with Sweet Potato and Kale (2 servings)
Ingredients:
-whole wheat tortillas
-roughly chopped Purple/Russian kale, 2 springs per serving
-2 small sweet potatoes
-2 cloves garlic
-2/3 cup shredded Manchego cheese (Fontina would be good too, or smoked gouda)

1.  In a small saute pan, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Heat over a medium low setting.  Mince garlic with a press over the pan, and cook garlic for 1 minute, being careful not to burn it.  Add in roughly chopped kale.  Saute for about 4 minutes.

Maintain purple kale color at all costs

2.  Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes, and chop into 1/4 inch disks.  Place in a small sauce pan, add a touch of water to coat the bottom, then cover and cook over high heat until soft, about 6-7 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces you cut.

3.  When sweet potatoes look cooked through, they turn bright orange, drain excess water, and mash up the potatoes in the pot with a touch of butter for flavor (optional).

Gorgeous Color, and I'm not talking about the butter

4.  When kale is cooked, set aside in a bowl, then clean out your pan with a paper towel.  This way you have less dishes to clean.  You want to get any leftover bits of garlic so they don’t burn with further cooking.

5.  Grab a tortilla, place in the pan, then add about 1/3 cup Manchego cheese.  Also add a pinch of ground cumin on top of the cheese for extra flavor.  If you’ve never had Manchego cheese, you will die and go to heaven the second you do; it is that awe-inspiring.

6.  Top cheese with half the potato mash and half the sauteed garlic kale.  When the tortilla is warm, fold the other half over.  After a couple minutes, when the bottom side is lightly golden brown, flip quesadilla to the other side, and cook until golden delicious brown on that side too.

Cooking with color is so beautiful

Enjoy!!

Absolutely sinful, creamy, decadent alfredo sauce

This recipe is for once a year purposes only.  It’s one of those recipes that makes you feel guilty just looking at it, so I have no photos.  OK, really I have no photos because I made the sauce 15 minutes before our guests arrived, so I was just a little frantic.

It’s part of our recent dinner party honoring friends who were preparing to head to Germany.  The menu, Make-Your-Own-Spaghetti with 3 different sauces, Arugula Pesto, Marinara with Meatballs, or Creamy Alfredo.

Like most good alfredo sauces, it’s pure fat which comes in 3 forms: butter, cream, and cheese.  Oh, did I mention that that is also the list of ingredients too?

WARNING: Make this recipe sparingly, and only when you have LOTS of company to help eat it, this way you have no leftovers acting as temptation.

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), cut into chunks for faster cooking
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmasean cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter and cream over medium heat until the butter has fully melted, about 3-5 minutes.

2.  When simmering, add in the grated Parmesan and mix with a small whisk until all of the cheese has melted.  Add salt and pepper to your taste.

I know it goes against everything that this classic recipe stands for, but I am determined to create a lower-fat version of this sauce that is just as tasty.

Arugula Pesto

Two wonderful friends we’ve met in the journey of graduate school are now leaving the US to go to Germany for career opportunities.  This past Saturday, Kris and I hosted several lab mates in a going away dinner party.  We’re living on a grad student and teacher salary, so of course it was a pot luck.

As hosts, we were responsible for the main entree, and I chose my favorite go-to for a large dinner party, Make-Your-Own-Spaghetti.  No, not making homemade pasta (though that would be fun), but having one large bowl of pasta with 3 different sauces.  The sauces this past dinner: arugula pesto, creamy alfredo, and marinara sauce with homemade meatballs.

It’s so much fun to have dinner parties where the guests help create their plate and food experience, and I don’t just mean bringing something for the pot luck.

This pesto was invented from my base pesto recipe, with a couple of small but absolutely delicious changes.  The first comes from the cooking blog Simply Recipes.  Elise, the author, has an amazing secret for getting a subtle garlic flavor without the sometimes overpowering shock of raw garlic: roasting the garlic quickly on the stovetop before adding it to the food processor.  Genius!!

Of course, next comes my mistake of sometimes not reading recipes fully (I know, and then ironically I post recipes on my blog).  Technically you’re not supposed to use oil, you just cook the garlic in a pan, but I added a little olive oil, then added my pine nuts in to toast up while things were heating up.

Ooophs at first, but by the end, my mistake became delicious!  The nuts brown up FAST, almost burning in my case.  You really have to watch them and get them OFF AND OUT of the heat as soon as you see brown color and smell its nutty perfume.

One guest, who’d lived for half a year in the Andalucia region of Spain on a WWOOF experience, told me it reminded him of salads he’d had while in Southern Spain.  He was working with a botanist who’d go out around dinner time and gather wild greens, including rocket (another name for arugula) for salads.  He said the pesto reminded him of those salads, “Some of the best I’ve ever eaten.”

The pesto has a spicy kick; it’s spunky, full-flavored and downright demands the full attention of your taste buds.

Use a food processor if you can, or a blender if you have to, and if you really must, because you live in the stone age or are some kind of pesto purist, a mortar and pestle.

Ingredients:

Arugula Pesto

2 cups baby arugula (if using wild, be sure to trim the woody stems, baby arugula doesn’t need this extra step though)

5 garlic cloves (4 with skin on, 1 peeled and chopped)

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

1.  In a medium saute pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add 4 cloves of garlic with skin still on.  Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.

2.  Add 1/2 cup pine nuts to the pan and toast for 3 minutes or so.  BE SO VERY CAREFUL, the pine nuts burn very easily, but their aroma will permeate your entire house with nuttiness.  (As if my house needed anymore nuttiness:-)

A beautiful golden brown tint on the garlic

3.  While these brown up, place the following ingredients in a food processor: the arugula (put this down first to create a bed for everything else), Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice.

4.  Once the nuts are gently browned, QUICKLY take them out of the pan and add to the food processor.  Yes, I mean quick, don’t let them stay in that hot pan where they might burn on you and ruin everything.

5.  Take the skins off the roasted garlic and add them to the food processor.  Also chop up the 1 clove of raw garlic and add to the processor.

Roasted Garlic in 10 Minutes

6.   Pulse everything in the processor until it combines into a gorgeous green paste.  Scrape sides if necessary, usually it is.

7.  Place processor on “on” and stream in olive oil until it makes a smooth texture, not too thick, not too thin.  You want a texture that can be spread on bread or can coat spaghetti.

Smooth and Luxurious Pesto

A Brilliant Snack

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Winter Squash

I’ve just returned from the 5 day Southern California field trip.

I haven’t been grocery shopping in 2 weeks given our busy traveling schedule.

And yet, I’m still able to pull something out of the staples that we have.  This recipe is a variation off of a Black Bean Soup my mother-in-law gave me.  The only problem was I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I had to improvise and substitute.

Hints: use canned chipotle peppers, then freeze the remaining leftovers which will keep for a couple of months.  Feel free to substitute the squash and beans with whatever you have as this is a recipe for times when you haven’t gone grocery shopping.  Also, always get low sodium canned goods; if you read the labels you’d be pretty astounded at how much sodium is in beans and tomatoes.  Also, always drain canned beans because it gets rid of about 70% of the sodium content.

The ingredients:

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Winter Squash

From top left: 1/2 butternut squash, 1 medium sweet potato, 1-15 ounce can white beans, 1 15-ounce can black beans, 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 chipotle pepper with 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (or 1 jalapeno; I know in the picture it looks like liver), 5 cloves garlic, minced, 1 medium yellow onion, 1 heaping tablespoon cumin.

Step 1:Cut the squash and sweet potato into 1 inch pieces.  Also chop up the onion.

Step 2: Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a dutch oven pot and saute HALF the onions and HALF the garlic.  Saute until translucent.

Step 3:Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly to remove excess salt.  Place in the dutch oven pot, then add 2 cans worth of water.  Also add the squash, sweet potato.  Bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes while the squash and sweet potato cooks.

Step 4: While the first half of the soup simmers, combine the remaining onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, chipotle and sauce, and remaining garlic in a food processor or blender.  Drain the tomatoes to remove excess salt, then add these to the food processor as well.  Process until smooth.Step 4: In a medium saute pan , over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add in your tomato mixture.  It’s like a sofrito, a sauteed mixture of onions, tomato and garlic commonly used in Latin cooking.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The Sofrito

Step 5: Combine the sofrito tomato mixture into the soup pot.  Stir to combine.   You can be done here, or if you want extra creaminess, like me, take 2-3 ladle-fuls of the soup mixture, and puree it in your food processor, then add it back to the soup.

The soup makes great leftovers.  It’s quite pungent.  I had 2 high schoolers curiously ask “What’s that smell?” when I opened my tupperware for lunch.  In other words, be prepared to explain your recipe.

Fabulousness in under 30 minutes

Lemon Garbanzo Pasta with Butternut Squash (aka Pasta Eclipse)

This is another one of those the-gym-has-made-my-body-sore recipes.  Click here for the first one in case you missed it.  It is loosely based off of Crescent Dragonwagon’s recipe for “Pasta Sol” in her book The Passionate Vegetarian.  By loose, I mean I took the idea of combining pasta, butternut squash, kalamatas, garbanzos, and lemon zest, everything else comes from my imagination, oh and our current veggie leftovers.  Kris dubbed the recipe “Pasta Eclipse,” since the sun is partially represented in it, but for clarity purposes, I call it “Lemon Garbanzo Pasta with Butternut Squash.”

Here are the ingredients you’ll need.

Ingredients (the little squash is from my 1st garden)

Clockwise from the top left:
2 cups wild argula,
1 1/2 cups 1″ diced butternut squash,
12-15 kalamata olives, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of brine/juice
zest and juice of 1 lemon,
2-4 ounces of creamy goat cheese
5 medium large garlic cloves pressed (less if you’re not so garlic   inclined, it will be raw in the recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil (not pictured)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (not pictured)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (not pictured)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (also MIA, not pictured)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 medium yellow onion diced,
1/4 cup canned corn (optional, our leftovers from this recipe)
7 Cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta

1.  Boil 1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta according to your taste.  Go with whole wheat, not just for the healthiness factor, but it gives the dish a nutty heartiness.  Drain when ready.

Aim for al dente

2.  While the pasta cooks, wash and drain out the garbanzos.  It gets rid of excess salt; trust me there is a lot in canned beans.  Place the beans in a medium sized bowl.

Marinated Garbanzos

3.  To the garbanzos add the lemon zest, lemon juice, pressed garlic, thyme, cayenne, oregano, chopped kalamatas, 1 tablespoon (or 2) of the kalamata juice/brine, and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Let marinate until you’re ready to eat.  Canned garbanzos are so plain tasting; they need strong flavors to soak up.

(3.5 not officially part of the recipe, my peeling and dicing awkwardly shaped butternut squash.  All I can say is use your potato peeler to get the skin off once you’ve chopped the edges away.  My garden butternut, the baby one in the picture above, perfumed the entire kitchen with its sweet scent, so exciting)

4.  In a large saute pan, over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and saute the onion until translucent.

Saute the onions

5.  Add the diced squash.  Drizzle in a teeny bit of water, maybe 3 tablespoons, in order to steam the squash.  Cover and let cook over medium heat for 6-9 minutes.  (Note to self…maybe try white wine here…)

Isn't that orange color spectacular?

5.  Add to the squash 2 cups of arugula, chopped mushrooms, and only because I needed to use it, the corn.  Cover and steam for another 3-5 minutes until arugula turns a beautiful bright green color.

6.  To serve, place a bed of pasta down on the plate, add a little marinated garbanzos, spoon on some squash, and crumble in chucks of the goat cheese.  Delicious!

So fast and easy

Don’t have goat cheese? Go for feta or Parmesan.  I loved the goat cheese’s creaminess; it really balances well with the pasta and vegetables, and the saltiness of the cheese was perfect.

Need meat?  Maybe try some grilled or pan seared chicken.