Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Versatile. Flavorful. Healthy. Tasty. Spicy. Easy.

These adjectives all describe one of my favorite dishes—chili.

An ancient dish dating back to the 1500's, chili has stuck around for the reasons that I describe above. I also love that it's great as a meaty dish (pork, chicken, ground beef, and turkey all make for great chilis), but also works as a vegan dish (chuck the meat and cheese, add lots of beans, and serve with rice for a complete protein).

This dish is the latter—a delicious vegan dish that combines sweet potatoes with black beans to make a hearty, filling, spicy, fiber-filled meal. Also, dollar for dollar, you won't beat a big vat of vegan chili.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Vegan; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 15.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
for garnishing (optional):
cilantro, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, brown rice or quinoa, tortilla chips

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Then, add the garlic and saute for another minute.  
  2. Next, add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, stirring it into the mixture. Cook for one to two more minutes. The spices should become fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes, stock, beans, and sweet potatoes and bring the chili to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes have softened. 
  4. Uncover and cook over medium heat for about ten more minutes to thicken the chili if desired. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. To serve, ladle a generous helping of chili into a bowl. Garnish as desired (see above for garnish ideas—I love serving chili with brown rice, quinoa, or cornbread).  Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saffron Shrimp Zucchini Risotto

Yup, it's another risotto recipe.

This dish is a staple in my household. I love that it's a base upon which you can demonstrate your kitchen creativity. Many combinations of proteins, vegetables, and spices work.

One of my favorite ingredients to lob into risotto is saffron. While normally reserved for paella, it works great in risotto (they are both rice dishes after all).

In fact, this dish is sort of like a risotto-paella hybrid, now that I think about it.

In addition to saffron, this recipe contains two types of roasted vegetables: zucchini and cherry tomatoes. I love roasting them in the oven to give them that extra oomph and texture for when they hit the rice.

And of course, shrimp, which tastes great with the saffron. I finish this seafood risotto that same way I do all of my seafood risottos—with a fresh squeeze of lemon cheese (no cheese here!).

Saffron Shrimp Zucchini Risotto
Serves 2-3 people
Cooking time: about 40 minutes
Dairy-free; gluten-free
Print Recipe

  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Do the same thing with the zucchini.
  3. Spread the cherry tomatoes evenly over a cookie sheet. Do the same thing with the zucchini on another cookie sheet.
  4. Roast both in the oven until they're tender and gently caramelized (about 15-20 minuts for the tomatoes, and a little bit longer for the zucchini). Remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the risotto by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. 
  6. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and cook for one more minute. Then, stir in the rice, coating it with the oil, and cook for another two minutes. 
  7. Pour in the white wine, stirring until it's absorbed by the rice. 
  8. Once the wine has been absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock and the saffron. Stir until the stock is absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup at a time. Continue adding stock and cooking until the rice is al dente (note: you may not use all of the stock).
  9. Once the rice is almost cooked, add the shrimp and a little more stock. Continue cooking until the rice is tender and the shrimp are cooked through. 
  10. Stir in the roasted tomatoes and the roasted zucchini. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sous Vide Bison with Arugula and Parmesan

Chances are you don't eat enough bison.

This may conjure up images of Native Americans hunting on the plains of pre-colonial America. But they knew something that we seem to have forgotten—bison is a fabulous food source.

It's a favorite in my household. Bison is lean and exceptionally meaty. It's almost always grass-fed and raised on smaller farms. And most importantly, it tastes great. I have two sources for bison—Lindner Bison at my farmers market and my local Whole Foods, which has been carrying beautiful rib eye and NY strip steaks. While it used to be tough to find, bison is becoming more common.

Bison does taste great when cooked traditionally, but it's a prime candidate (pun intended) for sous vide cooking. This is due to its lean nature. Not only does it come out of the water bath at a perfect medium rare (my preference), but it also becomes phenomenally tender and juicy.

I've been cooking up NY strip bison steaks in my Sous Vide Supreme and then serving them over a bed of wild arugula that's been tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. The finishing touch? A light shaving of parmigiano reggiano, which gives the dish a nice nuttiness. This is simple, healthy eating at its best.

Notes on this Recipe: If you can't find bison, then regular beef steaks will work great. Also, if you don't own a Sous Vide Supreme (yet), then the bison steaks may be grilled or cooked traditionally, too.

Sous Vide Bison with Arugula and Parmesan
Serves 4 people
Sous Vide Cooking Time: about 2 hours
Print Recipe

  • 4 bison steaks, fat trimmed (I like New York strips)
  • 4 cups wild arugula
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • parmigiano reggiano for shaving

  1. Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 130 degrees (F). 
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the steaks and pat them dry. Sprinkle with salt (generously), freshly ground pepper, and a little garlic powder. Vacuum seal the steaks into pouches.
  3. Place in the Sous Vide Supreme and cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours (see instructions). Once they've finished cooking, remove from the pouches.
  4. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the arugula and plate either on one big platter or four individual plates (the dish may be served family style or plated individually). 
  5. Quickly sear each steak in the grapeseed oil and then remove it to a plate or cutting board. Slice the steaks horizontally (as pictured) and layer over the top of the arugula mixture. 
  6. Shave the parmigiano over the top and finish with a little freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kale Orzo Chickpea Soup

It's cold and flu season.


This is according to my own very scientific polling, which consists of having just gotten sick myself and knowing a number of people who are also sniffling and hacking away. Like I said, very scientific.

I'm recovering from some kind of death flu situation. My husband now appears to be succumbing to my killer germs (though he tends to handle illness better than me—less complaining and feeling sorry for himself/more sucking it up).

On Saturday, I helped to throw a baby shower for a friend who is pregnant with twin girls (what an adventure that's going to be!). Almost everybody, including two of the other hosts, were sick or getting over something. It's going around people—so wash your hands, sanitize yourself, consider hunkering down in a bomb shelter until the season passes. You get the idea—whatever floats your boat.

Whenever I get sick, I go on a soup only diet. It is my own personal penicillin (and thank god, since I'm deathly allergic to real penicillin). Soup is the best medicine for anything sniffly, fevery, coughy. In my book, the saltier and the heartier, the better. It's warm and comforting.

In short, it makes me feel less hellish.

So in honor of cold and flu season (or just if you're feeling chilled by the januaryness), this recipe for Kale Orzo Chickpea Soup is the perfect antidote. It has a nice seasonal vibe with the addition of kale (not to mention vitamins and nutrients). The chickpeas provide protein and a Mediterranen feel, as does the orzo. I use a whole wheat variety that I found at Whole Foods, but regular works, too. Rounding out the soup and imbuing it with more heartiness are a few baby potatoes that I tossed in.

And frankly, doesn't everything taste better with potatoes?

I prefer a chicken stock for this soup, but vegetable would taste great too (and veganize the recipe). If you're not sniffling, then shave a little Parmesan Reggiano on top at the end. It's fabulous.

Kale Orzo Chickpea Soup
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Print Recipe


  • 2 cups fresh kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup orzo (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 cups baby potatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock may be subbed)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • optional: parmesan reggiano for serving

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute.
  2. Add the kale, chickpeas, potatoes, and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Add the orzo and bring to a simmer. Cook until the orzo is tender (about 10 minutes for my whole wheat variety, but check package instructions).
  4. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. For serving, ladle into bowls and top with a little grated parmesan reggiano if desired. Serve with warm, crusty bread. Enjoy!