Friday, October 31, 2008

A True Friend and Dim Sum

I am having A WEEK. Our office is going virtual and we are moving out this week to everyones' homes and a small satellite office and storage place. We have known about it for awhile but then it came down getting the lease signed and moving out at the end of November, however language in the lease was missed and it turns out we actually had to be out at the end of October which at that point was about a week and a half away. Being the head of Human Resources and therefore responsible for countless files and records (and also having spent the past 8 years preaching "document, document, document!") as you can imagine it is no easy task. All of us have spent the week, sorting, filing, packing, purging, lifting, carrying and cleaning. Cooking this week? No way--lucky I made soup on Sunday. Lunches have been whatever we could order in for the group--today was pizza. I am grubby, grumpy and have a paper cut on most every finger--oh yes I am a pleasure. Coupled with other work related anxieties that I won't go into now I am not fit company for man or beast. But that is where true friendship comes in. A true friend knows you are having a sucky week and calls you to check in. A true friend calls you and and says they will pick you up in 20 minutes to go to Chinatown and get Dim Sum for lunch. A true friend says it doesn't matter that you are in shorts and a slightly grubby Mickey Mouse tee-shirt (even if they are all cute and dressed nicely for their job). A true friend doesn't bat an eye when you put your grubby, wheezy (did I mention the asthma flair up?) butt in their car. A true friend helps you over-order all of your mutual favorites because it all looks so good and even pays for lunch. Most of all, a true friend makes you laugh, cheers you up, tells you you are making the right decisions and tells you that you are smart and creative and will figure your life out. And they drop you back at work an hour(ish) later feeling refreshed, full and in a much better mood than when you left. Thanks Nat for being that friend and helping get me through this week! Since Dim Sum literally translated means "from the heart," it was the perfect choice for lunch.

Mei Sum Dim Sum Restaurant is not the very best Dim Sum in Hawaii but they do serve it all day, the dishes are good (some are even really good). and it is pretty inexpensive with dishes ranging from $2-$3. You pick what you want from the little carts making their rounds or you can order dishes of the menu too. The service can be a bit dicey at times with the staff being a bit temperamental (For example: even though the cart with the turnip cakes has been unattended for several minutes now and I, a server, am standing right by it, you the customer will have to wait until the person who handles that cart decides to come back). A good lunch for two with plenty of food and hot tea is in the $20-$22 range and even less if you don't over order like we tend to do.
Chicken & Mushroom Dumplings

Spinach Dumplings

Steamed Bean Curd Roll (my personal favorite)

Turnip Cakes

Choi Sum (ordered off the menu--we needed something green on our plates)

Shrimp Dumplings

And did I mention a true friend thinks it is cool you have a food blog and cheerfully hands over each steamer basket and lets you take a picture before digging in!


Mei Sum Dim Sum: 65 North Pauahi Street Suite A, Honolulu, HI 96813


Happy Halloween & Happy Aloha Friday Everyone! I for one am glad this week is done!

BTW--If you are in a "souper" mood this weekend, join me in Souper Sundays by making a soup, stew or chili and posting about it. Send me a comment with a link to your soup and I'll post your souper creation in a round up on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kalua Pork Quesadillas

I blame this one on Prudence Pennywise since she had to post her Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Chicken which looked pretty tasty and then she made it worse by using the leftovers to make Sweet and Spicy Chicken Quesadillas which were downright crave-worthy. Desperately wanting quesadillas, I didn't have a chicken in my freezer but I did have some leftover Slow Cooker Kalua Pork in there from making Swedish Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls last month so I decided to make some island-style quesadillas.

Kalua pork quesadillas are pretty ubiquitous here in Hawaii, appearing on most pupu menus in restaurants across the state. There is a reason for that, they are darn good!

I like mine a bit "overstuffed" with some cabbage and red onion, a bit of cheese, a touch of cumin and cayenne and the extra special ingredient; some gingery plum sauce (check the Asian foods section at your grocery store--mine is made by Kikkoman), which really complements the smokey taste of the pork. I served these on whole wheat tortillas, grilled to crispy perfection on each side.

Kalua Pork Quesadillas

For each quesadilla:
1/3 cup Kalua pork
1/3 cup chopped green cabbage
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
cayenne pepper taste
black pepper to taste
cumin to taste
2 Tbsp shredded jack cheese
1 Tbsp plum sauce
1 whole wheat tortilla

In a medium pan, saute cabbage and red onion in olive oil, over medium heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add Kalua pork, cayenne, black pepper and cumin and heat through. Place mixture on 1/2 of tortilla, sprinkle cheese on top. On opposite side spread 1 Tbsp plum sauce and fold over filling. Heat a pan with a bit of olive oil and place folded tortilla on it. Grill over medium heat until tortilla is brown and crispy, then carefully flip and repeat on other side. Serve with lime wedges and sour cream or plain yogurt.

Perfectly crunchy and chewy at the same time. The plum sauce is so ono! (good or delicious in Hawaiian). No Kalua pork in your freezer? Its very easy to make, just pork butt, liquid smoke and salt cooked for hours in a slow cooker.

Easy Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
4-5 pounds Pork Butt Roast
1 Tbsp Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt (or substitute regular sea salt)
2 Tbsp liquid smoke flavoring

Trim any excess fat from pork butt. Using a fork, pierce the pork butt all over. Rub pork butt with liquid smoke and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low for 12-16 hours depending on size of roast (Two 2.5 lb roasts took about 10-12 hours--you'll know its done when it is tender and falling apart). Turn roast once during cooking time. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving the cooking liquid. Shred pork, adding some of the drippings/cooking liquid if needed to add moisture to the meat. Allow the surplus dripping/ cooking liquid to cool; skim fat from the top and use if needed for sauce or gravy.

Although I am still craving Prudy's ooey-gooey sweet and spicy chicken quesadillas and will probably make them someday; these were mighty good too!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pecorino Crackers

OK, I have just started cooking out of my newest cookbook, Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites but these tasty little cheese crackers alone might just be worth the price of the book. I made them to go with yesterday's soup and Giada says she "adds them to a bread basket, crumbles them over salads and floats them in soups." I think they would be excellent paired with wine (maybe a nice Chianti?).

Pecorino Crackers
Giada's Kitchen, Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 24 crackers
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the cheese, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter. Using a hand mixer, beat the cheese mixture and butter until combined. Add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, mixing only until incorporated and the mixture holds together.
Place tablespoon-size balls of the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheets, tapping the dough down gently with your fingertips.
Bake until just beginning to brown at the edges, about 15 minutes. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a serving plate.

Notes/Results: I added a little extra pepper to these because I love black pepper. I also mounded them when I should have flattened them a bit more; making them more cookie-like than cracker-like but in the end they were still delicious. Perfectly cheesy, flaky and melt in your mouth tender, these are one excellent little cracker. They are quick and simple to make and I have a feeling I will be pulling out this recipe a lot for parties. I think you could also make them using Parmesan if you don't have Pecorino-Romano handy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup for "Souper Sundays"

It is Sunday and time for Souper Sundays, where I will be making a batch of soup and posting it, maybe joined by a fellow Blogger or two. Today is a perfect soup day as its been raining pretty hard on and off all day. Although I have gotten used to making and eating soup in any weather living here, there is something about a rainy day that makes soup seem even better. This week I decided to break open my newest cookbook purchase; Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites by Giada De Laurentiis of course. Her Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup looked creamy and sounded delicious.

Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup
Giada's Kitchen, Giada De Laurentiis
4-6 servings
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 sage leaves, stems removed
2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 slices ciabatta bread
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a medium, heavy stock pot over medium heat. Add the butter, olive oil, and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cannellini and garlic and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook gently until the garlic is softened, about 15 minutes.

Pour half the soup into a large bowl. Carefully ladle a third to half of the soup from the bowl into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (be careful to hold the top of the blender tightly, as hot liquids expand when they are blended). Pour the blended soup back into the pot and repeat with the remaining soup from the bowl. Once all the soup is returned to the soup pot, stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.

For the bread: Place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the slices of ciabatta bread with the extra-virgin olive oil. Grill the bread until it is warm and golden grill marks appear, about 3 minutes per side. Serve the soup in bowls with the grilled bread alongside.

Notes/Results: I realized I had no shallots so used part of a small/sweet onion instead. I also upped the garlic it called for. I used my immersion blender to blend about half the soup to get the creamy texture but because I also like a really chunky soup I ended up putting another can of beans in it and felt that it made the texture perfect. The soup was fine but I felt it lacked a bit of something, so I added a bit more salt and black pepper and also added 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper and that helped a lot. Giada suggests that you serve the soup with grilled ciabatta bread which would be good but I wanted to make the Pecorino Crackers recipe she had in the book and I am glad I did. The soup is good, a potential make again but the crackers are incredible, cheesy and delicious and I have a feeling they will be made often. They are so good, they deserve their own post tomorrow.

A perfect soup day is even better shared with friends so check out:
Andrea at Nummy Kitchen who has joined me for Souper Sundays and made a beautiful Jamaican Carrot Soup with Coco Bread. If this soup tastes even half as good as it looks, it must be utterly delicious.

My good friend Natashya at Living In the Kitchen With Puppies also dropped by with a hearty and delicious looking Potato Soup with Roasted Squash and Garlic Croutons. Ladle me up a big bowl of this one! If you want to join us on Sundays in making and enjoying some comforting meals in a bowl (soups, stews, chili, etc.) just post a comment here. Happy Souper Sunday!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Healthier Pear, Mango & Cranberry Crisp

It is very gray and rainy here today. Its also somewhat warm and humid, this is Hawaii remember--but it is still the kind of bordering on gloomy sort of day when a bit of comfort food, particularly comfort dessert is needed. On the other hand, too much indulging lately has made me a bit cautious about TOO much comfort. Finding a lightened, healthier version of a fruit crisp in the Fall 2008 Nutrition Magazine, combined with getting a large ripe mango in my CSA box and today's weather made this a perfect opportunity to try this recipe. This Pear, Mango & Cranberry Crisp, found in an article entitled "12 Desserts That Won't Make You Fat", uses fruit, oats, whole wheat flour, agave syrup and applesauce.

Pear, Mango & Cranberry Crisp
Jennifer Danter, Nutrition Magazine, Fall 2008
Ready in 1 hour / Makes 8 servings

4 ripe pears, such as Bosc or Packham
2 ripe mangos
1 lemon
3 Tbsp blue agave nectar
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, divided
3/4 cup organic, rolled oats
1 Tbsp sweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
1/4 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and core pears, then coarsely chop. Peel mangos. Cut fruit from stone in thick strips, then coarsely chop. Place in a large bowl and grate in 1 tsp lemon peel. then squeeze in juice. Add agave nectar, cranberries, ginger and salt. Stir to mix. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp flour and stir in. Turn into 10-inch, deep-dish pie plate. Pan will be very full but will deflate as it bakes. Place on baking sheet.

For the topping, in a bowl stir oats with remaining 1/2 cup flour and coconut, if using. Spoon applesauce over top. Using your fingers, gently rub in to form coarse lumps. Dollop over fruit--it won't completely cover. Bake until pears are soft and juices bubble, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If topping gets too dark before fruit is cooked, loosely cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Spoon into bowls and top with vanilla frozen yogurt.
Calories 190, Total Fat 3 g, Fiber 7g

Results: Yum! The taste is sweet, fruity, nicely spiced from the ginger and a little tang from the cranberries. The topping is crumbly and chewy and the coconut (which I did add but is optional), adds another dimension of sweet chewiness. A really good crisp and you don't pick up the additions of the whole wheat and agave or notice the lack of butter that is often in crisp toppings. I wasn't sure I would like the ginger but it really adds a nice warmth and spice to the crisp and you could easily swap the pears and mango out for other fruit. (You could probably also use honey if you can't find agave to sweeten). With less calories, more health benefits (agave doesn't spike your blood sugar the way regular sugar does for one thing) but great taste, this one is a keeper. (Bonus--it makes your house smell incredible too!)

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lets Escape to Italy! Cook The Books, Foodie Book Club Update

Longing to get away for a romantic trip to Italy, full of glorious food, quirky locals and steamy passion but you just don't have the time or funds? Come join Cook the Books, our new Foodie Book Club and visit sensuous Sicily and passionate Palermo as together we read Lily Prior's; La Cucina, A Story of Rapture.

Hosted by three passionate cooks, readers and foodies; Rachel from The Crispy Cook, Johanna from Food Junkie Not Junk Food and yours truly, Cook The Books has a brand new blog page designed by the talented Johanna. Here you will able to get all the details of the bi-monthly book being read, share your thoughts, join in on discussions, ask questions and in general explore the books we will be reading. Rachel has even been in contact with the author of our first selection, Lily Prior, to tell her about the club and she has offered to stop by the blog and answer our questions.

There is still plenty of time to get the book and start reading as you have until December 15th to consume this delicious tale, cook something inspired by it and then blog about it. A round up will be posted, a winning dish chosen and a soon to be coveted Cook The Books Winner Badge will be given to the winner for their Blog.

Stop by the new Cook The Books site, check it out and leave a comment, question or suggestion for upcoming reading selections. If you haven't already, start reading and dreaming of pasta, bread and delicious Italian recipes.

Buon appetito! (and Happy Aloha Friday too!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Vegetable Pot Pie for Barefoot Bloggers. (Guess What? It's My Pick!)

Although I was excited that it was my turn to pick the second Barefoot Bloggers recipe for October, I gotta tell you, there was a lot of stress and pressure in picking the right recipe. First off we have had great choices so far in the recipes that have been selected by my fellow Barefoot Bloggers and who wants to be the one that screws that up by picking a bad recipe?! (Not me!) Secondly I wanted a recipe that was veggie friendly, for my vegetarian BB friends and one that would allow everyone to substitute ingredients a bit to get what they liked. Then there was the fact that I wanted something I might not normally do, that would challenge me but still be doable. Finally I wanted something that made it feel like Fall has arrived (its a little harder to get that feeling here in Hawaii). Going through and putting tabs in my Ina books, her recipe for Vegetable Pot Pie from Barefoot Contessa Parties! (pg 255) was my first pick but being the bundle of insecurities I am, I need some reinforcement so I called on my buddy Natashya from Living In The Kitchen With Puppies. I sent her a list of my top choices and Vegetable Pot Pie came back as the one on the list she most wanted to make too (I knew I liked this girl!) and so my recipe pick was selected. (BTW, I told her if the recipe was good and people liked it, I would give her advisor credit and if the recipe sucked or people hated it I would not mention her role in choosing it; so if for some odd reason you hated this recipe, forget what I said, Natashya had nothing to do with it!)

I had never made pie crust before because I find it so intimidating, so the fear factor was high. In order to make it a bit easier, I bought a canvass pastry mat that hooks on my counter for about $20--so much much better than the flexible cutting board I used with the puff pastry. I also bought some little cookie cutters to decorate the crust with cutouts--a bare foot for Ina, a maple leaf for Natashya and a fall leaf to get into the spirit of the season.

I wanted to stick to the basic premise of the recipe but I also wanted a little less fat so I cut the butter and cream in the sauce down by half. I debated back and forth on the Pernod but priced it at $26.99 at the grocery store and $34.99 for the same jumbo bottle at the liquor store. Sorry Ina, but no Pernod--I used a bit of white wine instead. The only butternut squash I saw was huge so I omitted that and added a bit more potato, the oyster mushrooms from my CSA box and some frozen peas. Everything else stayed the same.

The recipe is also on Food here.
Vegetable Pot Pie
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Parties
Serves 4
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Notes/Results: I made crust and it turned out! Yippee! The pastry mat really made rolling the crust much easier than I thought it would be. I made the dough first and put in the refrigerator before starting the filling and that was helpful in the timing. Although this recipe looks involved, it actually is not bad at all. It does take a bit of time to get everything together but the results are worth it. Even removing 1/2 the butter and cream, it was delicious and tasted rich and decadent. The flavor was good and the color from the saffron was beautiful. I made one large pie and two minis and took the minis to some friends at work who loved it. Although it is involved enough that I wouldn't make it very frequently, I would make this recipe again and I would also attempt crust again so mission accomplished!
You can check out the other Barefoot Bloggers Pot Pies here and if you love Ina like we do and want to make and post her recipes the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month join us here. Thanks again Natashya for your friendship and advice--this pie is for you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rock Cornish Game Hen in Adobo Sauce: Recipe #3 from Nueva Cocina Cooking Class

Here is the 3rd and final recipe from the Saturday morning Nueva Cocina cooking class, Michelle and I took a couple of weeks ago (the other recipes are posted here and here): Rock Cornish Hen in Adobo Sauce.

I had never cooked a Cornish Hen before and was under the naive impression that Cornish game hens were actually a game hen, basically the smaller, distant wild cousin of a chicken or something. I was a bit surprised (and a bit sad) to learn from our instructor that they are a really young chicken (they can't be more than 2 lbs and older than 5-6 weeks old at slaughter--OK now I am really sad!). None the less, we were there, the little chicken was there so covering it in adobo seemed inevitable. The recipe is pretty easy (I can say that because Michelle did all of the chili prep and cooking on this one and I just had to do a little onion & garlic chopping, a bit of basting and an occasional checking on cooking hens).

Rock Cornish Hen in Adobo Sauce
Chef Adriana Torres
4 servings

2 Rock Cornish Game Hens
2 ancho chilies seeded, deveined
1 pasilla chili seeded, deveined
1 guajillo chile, seeded, deveined
1 Tbsp corn oil
1/3 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cinnamon stick
pinch of oregano
1 Tbsp vinegar
sugar to taste
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice

Adobo: Fry the chilies in corn oil until soft (about 30 seconds per side), drain on paper towels and reserve. Using the same oil, saute onion and garlic, add cinnamon and oregano. Bring fried chilies back in the pan. Add chicken broth, orange juice, sugar and vinegar. Stir well. Simmer until chilies are soft (about 25 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

Let mixture cool down and process in blender. Add water if needed. Brush game hens with the adobo sauce. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place basted hen on a sheet pan. Cook for 15 minutes, then reduce to 375 degrees F, and cook for about 25 more minutes, occasionally basting with the adobo sauce (Cook until meat thermometer placed between thigh and breast of hen registers 170 degrees). Let hens rest for 10 minutes before serving. Buen Provecho!

Notes/Results: The photo above is how we carted our little friends home. I wasn't crazy about the adobo sauce when I tasted it before we basted the hens but it really made the meat deliciously spiced, moist and tender. If you are not familiar with the chilies used, Cooks Thesaurus has some good info on chilies here, including substitutes if you can't find the all the chilies in the recipe. I don't know how often I would make Rock Cornish Game Hens but if I did, I would consider making this again--it was tasty.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup For My New Initiative: "Souper Sundays"

It occurred to me as I was about to make a slow cooker full of black bean soup that a good percentage of the recipes I have marked in cook books or put in my magazine cut out pile lately are for soup. I love soup--the different flavors, textures and how it is comfort in a bowl. Since fall is here (which just means a slight temperature drop and a tad more cloudy skies here--but I can still think about Fall!), my cravings for soup increase. Because of this I have decided to start "Souper Sundays" where for the next few months at least, I will make a weekly batch of soup and post it on Sundays. (It makes great lunches for the week). The recipes will be from cookbooks, magazines and my own "throw it together" creations. Anyone is welcome to join me in making soup for fall (or spring if you are reading this from the other side of the world). Soups, stews, chili (even "stroups" for you Rachel Ray fans) all count as soup in my book. You don't have to actually make it on Sunday but that's the day I am going to post. Very informal and casual--pop in whenever you want and if you send me a link to your soup post, I'll link to it from mine.

For my first Souper Sunday post, I am starting with Black Bean Soup from Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. (I posted a few of the recipes from her Carb Conscious Vegetarian cookbook here, here and here). I have made this soup recipe before (pre-blog) and like the ease of throwing it all into the slow cooker as well as the combo of flavors in it. It also is pretty healthy and economical to make.

Black Bean Soup
Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson
Serves 4-6
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 medium size carrot, chopped
1/2 small green pepper, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked black beans or two 15.5-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
one 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, left undrained
4 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic, cover, and cook until softened , about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 4-6 quart slow cooker, add the beans, tomatoes and their juice, stock, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf and taste to adjust the seasonings.
To thicken, puree at least two cups or up to one half of the soup solids with an immersion blender used right in the cooker, or ladled into a regular blender or food processor and returned to the cooker. Serve hot. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice, if using.

Notes/Results: I made just a couple of changes--I used a red pepper as I prefer them to green peppers, fire roasted diced tomatoes and a 1/2 tsp of chipotle chili powder in place of the cayenne pepper. I also squeeze in a bit of lime juice before serving rather than the lemon juice in the recipe. (BTW--the giant bay leaves you see are the ones from the Farmer's Market). You can leave the soup as is but pureeing half of it really enhances the texture. And if you don't have an immersion blender put it on your Birthday or Christmas list, mine is one of my favorite kitchen and soup making tools. I like to serve this soup with some cheese, avocado chunks, a bit of cilantro and one of my favorite chips.
These are a gluten-free rice chip made by Lundberg Family Farms and they come in assorted flavors but my favorite is the Fiesta Lime. They are great crumbled in the soup. This soup is excellent as is or if you wanted to add some protein, you could put in some shredded chicken, turkey or some turkey sausage.

Next Souper Sunday, I'll be cooking the Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup from the newly published Giada's Kitchen. Come join me with a soup you love or having been wanting to try.