Beans and shrimp, North African flavors

Some days dinnertime rolls around and we’re not enthused about a big cooking endeavor but don’t want to fall back into the old familiar. Here’s a simple idea for when beans are around: beans with shrimp and North African spices. And on the table in about 20 mins or less. Would be a good time to cook up some flatbread to go with, along with minted yogurt perhaps.

For the saltiness and acid, olives and preserved lemon are preferred. But if they’re not on hand — remember, this is all about “easy” — improvise with capers and lemon juice.

For two people:

8-10 shrimp, shelled and de-veined
chickpeas, 1 c plus cooking liquid (or stock or water)

onion, 1/2, diced
Garlic, 3 cloves, minced
Hot smoked paprika, 1/4 to 1/2 t
(or use sweet smoked paprika and add red pepper flakes, 1/2 t)
Cumin, 1/2 t

If you have green olives — spiced or not — use 2 handfuls
Preserved lemon, 1, rinsed and sliced into thin strips

optional: mint leaves, torn or chopped, for garnish

Directions:

Heat sauté pan, and add 1 T olive oil and sauté onion for about 4-5 mins until soft, then add garlic and then spices. Then add beans and cooking water, and heat to hot and bubbling, adding black pepper. You want the spices to meld and some of the water to cook off.
Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, submerging in liquid and turning.

Serve in shallow bowls with mint on top.

Inspiration: Food 52

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Pasta with roasted cauliflower

When there’s nothing in the house to cook but there is some cauliflower and perhaps njuda, you can make a quick and easy dinner. Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put up pot of water to boil pasta.
Roast cauliflower with olive oil, S&P 400 degrees about 20 mins.
Cook pasta: Interesting tubes are good. I used bronze-cut pipe rigate (from Aldi’s!).
Make a quick tomato-sauce with a smidgen of canned diced tomatoes (even better: fire-roasted) with 1 oz of njuda, broken up. Sauté in small saucepan for 10+ mins; adding some hot pepper flakes, oil, S&P. Optional: capers.
Chop up some fresh parsley

Remove cauliflower when cooked and set aside to cool a bit. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Cook pasta to al dente and drain, and put into large-ish bowl.
Mix in tomato sauce and stir with cauliflower. Sprinkle on parsley and serve. Yum!

Stir-fry with any vegetables

A surprisingly delicious simple stir-fry with rice.

When you’re going out to an evening meeting and want to eat something when you come home, do what I did and eat contentedly.
Before leaving, put up some brown rice in the rice cooker. I like medium grain. 2/3 dry with 2-1/2 x water and some salt is a good amount for two servings.

Ingredients:
Red onion, large dice, 1/2
Brussels sprouts, cut in half, rinsed and sliced
mushrooms, 4, cut into large slices and cut in half
Leftover chicken

Directions:
Sauté onion for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add in Brussels sprouts, and turn and cook a minute or so. Add good splash of water, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover and let steam and water escape. Add mushrooms, cook a couple minutes, then add chicken in pieces to warm through.

Very delicious served with fresh rice. A dabble of olive oil on top is nice. Or nutritional yeast if it’s around.

Curried coconut milk vegetables & tofu

For winter, when fresh green produce is not on the scene, but you’re craving some veggies.

Put up pot of brown basmati rice (22 mins under pressure timed in instant pot). Ratio rice: water = 1:1   (1:1-3/4 in rice cooker)

Ingredients:
onion, 1 large, diced
cauliflower, scant 1/2 head, separated into large florets, rinsed
potatoes, 2, cut into very small dice
Carrots, 4+, peeled and cut
Tofu, 1 block, pressed to drain, cut into cubes (add at end)
Garlic, 2 cloves, minced
Ginger, peeled and grated
Red curry paste, about 2/3 can
Coconut milk, 1 can
Vegetable stock, 1 pint, approx
Fish sauce
Salt

optional: scallions, cilantro, etc to top when served

Directions:
In large dutch oven, sauté onion in peanut/olive oil mixture for 5+ minutes until softened. Add ginger, then curry paste, stir and add garlic. Then add vegetables:
Cauliflower
Carrots
Potato

Stir and cover with coconut milk and vegetable stock. Cook 20-30 minutes until vegetables are softened. Add salt.
Five or more minutes before done, stir in tofu to heat up.

Adventures in cooking beans in Instant Pot

Factors that have led me to cook beans recently:
1. I purchased an Instant Pot.
2. Instant Pot led me to purchase dried beans at my food coop.
3. Frugality. Reading about it; not actually practicing yet! But it led me to a stockpile of dried beans.

Two successes of late:
Cranberry aka Borlotti beans are the bomb.
Oh the gigante were creamy, smooth, delicious.
Today’s black beans were off the charts. I thought I liked canned black beans well enough, but MAN, these are scrumptious! Delicious, not just as a mix-in for the greater sum.

Note it takes longer than cooking time — It takes 9-14 mins to come to pressure, then there’s the cooking time PLUS to release pressure, either by itself, for 10-15 minutes, or by human power, turning the steam release valve.

Here’s how I prepared today’s rice and beans with black beans:

Prepare brown rice in rice cooker. Medium grain is nice. 1 c rice, rinsed well to 2 1/2 c water, and salt.

Rinse 1 # beans. Measure out 5 c water.

Ingredients:
onion, 1 large, diced
Garlic, 3 cloves, minced
cumin, 1 t
salt, 1 T

Directions:
Rinse beans
Cut up onion. Heat up Instant Pot on sauté function, add 2 T olive oil, and then onions. Sauté for 20 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally.
Mix in garlic and cumin. Stir and cook for less than one minute until fragrant.
Add: beans, salt, water, and stir.
Pressure cook for 45-50 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then release manually. If beans are not cooked through, cook for another 5 minutes, and then manually release pressure.

Serve:
Steamed spinach, sprinkled with za’atar
Rice
Beans
Hot sauce
Dab of sour cream
Pepitas

Other ways to do it: skip za’atar; add 1 t chili powder to beans with cumin; top with cilantro and scallions and Monterey Jack cheese.)
Another option: Purée 1 tomato, cilantro, scallion whites and 1 garlic clove with 3 T olive oil and salt. Mix tomato mixture into beans when cooked and let sit for 5 minutes.

Inspiration: Melissa Clark, Dinner in an Instant, Black Beans, p. 109

Bean cooking times and proportions:

Gigante
1 # beans to 7 c water with aromatics, 32 minutes +

Black turtle beans
1 # beans to 5 c water, with sautéed onion, then 3 garlic cloves, minced and 1 t cumin, 50 mins. (or less)

Cranberry beans
1 # beans to 7 c water, with 3+ garlic cloves, smashed, 4 T olive oil, pinch of red pepper flakes, and some fresh sage leaves if ya got ’em, 24 – 27(?) minutes. (14 mins to come to pressure.)

Garbanzo
1 #, covered with water to halfway mark. Add 1+ T salt

Cook for 42 minutes. Let pressure release naturally (for all beans) for 10-15 minutes, then release pressure manually

***********************

Here are some guidelines

And more on timing beans in Instant Pot

And here is a collection of Instant Pot cooking info:

Miso Mushroom Pasta

What’s great about cooking a lot is that we lazy-ish home cooks can find recipes that are easy-peasy yet delicious. Contra the two-dozen steps over three days recipes that turn out bleh. That’s why I write this blog — to record the recipes, adaptations and techniques I have used with success and would like to repeat.

When there is little in one’s pantry and no desire to shop, it’s very welcome to have a recipe like this one. The only fresh ingredients one needs are mushrooms and heavy cream. Fancy are good; cremini in a pinch will do. Browning the mushrooms I read increases the unami flavor. It’s like a Japanese fettuccine Alfredo — all comfort and deliciousness and okay, indulgence. Perfect for a cold winter eve. Stay home. Cook this. Relax.

Ingredients:

Dried pasta, 4 oz Bucatini is good
mushrooms, 3 oz — cremini, oyster, shiitake, any other exotic/Japanese type especially
Sherry vinegar, 1 t
Miso paste, 2 t White or red
Butter, 2 T, cut up to soften to room temp
Garlic cloves, 3, minced
Heavy cream, 1/2 c
Optional: scallion, finely sliced

Directions:
Take out butter to come to room temp; cut up to hasten process if needed.
Put up pot of water for pasta.
Cut mushrooms into large bite-sized chunks.
Heat large sauté pan over high heat, add 1 T canola oil, and sauté mushrooms until well browned, about 4-5 minutes, adding S&P. Add sherry vinegar to pan, toss and set aside.
Cook pasta until 1 minute underdone. Drain and set aside.
Whisk together butter and miso.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 T oil and minced garlic and cook for less than one minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms, then add miso-butter mixture, then cream, and bring to a boil, stirring.
Add drained pasta to sauce, and stir. Add salt, and cook and stir until pasta is desired doneness.
Place into bowls, top with sliced scallion and pepper.

Source: Miso-Mushroom Pasta, by Yi Jun Loh, Food 52

Coconut Thai-inspired chicken breasts

When you want to change up the preparation of boneless chicken breasts, try this simple marinade and technique. It’s akin to the classic Thai soy-fish sauce-chili-ginger flavor notes, with coconut milk added to mellow the whole thing and no lime for acid. It can be made in less time than it takes to cook rice, if you have not thought ahead to marinate the chicken. The chicken ideally would like 2 to 4 hours of marinade time, but if you’re pressed, less than one hour still works.

Put up a pot of coconut rice in your rice cooker. Easy: 1 c brown jasmine rice, rinsed and salt added to pot. Pour 1 can of coconut milk into 2 c measuring cup, add water to bring to 2-1/4 c (!), and cook in the regular way. (I used the cream on top of the can, and next time I think it would be better to spoon that off and perhaps save for sautéing, rather than use for the rice.)

Make a marinade for chicken breasts:

1 c coconut milk — heat to simmer in small pot. Add:

1 hot pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Ginger, grated, ~ 1 T or less (Will need same amount later for cooking chicken)
2/3 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
Star anise or smallish piece of cinnamon stick
Brown sugar, 1 T
1 T chili garlic sauce

Stir together, transfer to flat bottom bowl, and then let sit together and then cool to room temp.
Cut 1/2 # chicken into strips, and then large bite-size pieces.
Add to marinade. Refrigerate if going to be more than one hour until cooked. Ideally marinate 2-4 hours.

Heat sauté pan over medium high heat and add 1 T canola or coconut oil. Scoop chicken out of marinade and add to pan. Sauté for about 4 mins, turning. Right before removing, add reserved minced garlic, toss a bit for one minute, and then remove onto plate or atop rice on plate.

Nice served with plain steamed fresh local broccoli.
Otherwise add peas to rice, perhaps.
Or roast a sweet potato, in wedges. Or carrots, roasted or boiled/stove-top braised.

Source: Jonathan Rosenberg’s Coconut-Marinated Chicken over Coconut Rice, p. 359 in One Big Table; a portrait of American Cooking by Molly O’Neill