Sunday, March 30, 2014

Butternut Squash and Pea Curry

I'm a little hesitant to make any recipe with the word winter in name right now, but just because I've grown tired of winter weather doesn't mean I've lost love for everything bearing that moniker. Be it November or March, the sweet creaminess of butternut squash is a perfect mate for curry, and I won't deny myself one of my favorite veggies just because of its seasonal name. A squash by any other name would taste as sweet...

Mark Bittman specializes in bringing good food, in terms of flavor and nutrition, to the masses. I've been lucky enough to see him speak, and his palpable passion for sustainable, healthy, flavorful food combined with pragmatism is what I think has made his approach resonate with so many people. This recipe is a prime example of that enthusiastic, yet practical approach, tons of flavor and nutrition packed into an inexpensive meal that is prepared quickly and freezes well. There's no special twist or magic to this recipe, just a classic combination of ingredients with an undeniable affinity for each other, that I've made even more flexible. The hearty base squash or sweet potato base eagerly soaks up aromatic curry spices and rich coconut milk, happily punctuated with verdant peas or beans for a well-rounded collection of vegetal flavors.

Even in its simplest form, this is a flavorful vegan dinner, but I encourage you to dress it up to your heart's content. Plain yogurt, hot sauce, and fresh cilantro are my finishes of choice, but particularly ravenous diners may also want to include grilled chicken or tofu. Whether mixed into a bowl of rice, or messily scooped with naan or pita, you'll leave this meal feeling healthy and satisfied.

Butternut Squash and Pea Curry
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash, peeled and roughly chopped (or sweet potatoes, or a combination)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (or green beans)
1 to 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
Rice, naan, or pita, for serving (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving (optional)
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

1. Put the oil in a pot or deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry, ginger, and garlic and cook until the onion just starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the squash and coconut milk and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring periodically, until the squash is just tender, about 20 minutes, checking periodically to make sure there is adequate liquid; if the squash is done and there is still a lot of liquid, remove the lid and turn the heat to medium-high until it’s thicker than stew. Add frozen peas and cook until warmed through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve hot or warm over rice or naan with choice of garnishes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fall Vegetable Soup with White Beans

While I can't say I'm enjoying these unseasonably cold temperatures, at least this enduring grip of winter means a prolonging of soup weather. I'm working hard to clear the freezer of all the soups and stews and other stick-to-your-bones fare, and these rescued meals are keeping me cozy and fed. The final portion of Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes was part of my end-of-winter purge, appropriately transforming into this belly-filling bowl of soup.

The time invested prepping and slowly cooking those hearty vegetables is again clearly returned in this recipe with many elements of intense flavor come together quickly. The stewed vegetables bring a perfect balance of deep flavor and vinegary pop and the hearty helping of beans making it a satisfying meal. A sprinkling of croutons across the top start as a toasty, crispy bits, slowly disintegrating as they soak up the broth and meld into each thick, rich bite. A scant sprinkling of good Parmesan across the top creates a deep savoriness, gingerly bringing the perfect amount of umami to this vegetarian meal. (For the carnivores and hedonists out there, a bit of crumbled bacon would not be unwelcome as well.)

I've almost at the end of my rope when it comes to cold weather eating, but with such a meager time investment, I was absolutely delighted to chow down on this collection of diverse flavors - the perfect antidote to end-of-winter dinner fatigue.

Fall Vegetable Soup with White Beans
adapted from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
serves 1

1 slice sourdough or rustic whole grain bread or roll, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water, plus more if needed
1/2 cup cooked white beans, preferably homemade, drained and rinsed
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Put the bread cubes on a small baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and toast in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until very crisp and golden brown, watching closely to avoid burning them. Use tongs to turn over the bread cubes and toast for another 5 to 6 minutes to create evenly browned croutons. Remove from the oven.

3. Combine the stewed vegetables and stock in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until hot, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the white beans and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add more water if you want a thinner texture. Stir in the thyme. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.

5. Pour the soup into a bowl, add the croutons, sprinkle with the cheese, and eat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


It's a well-established fact that once I've acquired a beloved new cookbook, I can rarely restrain myself from getting a little obsessed. After pouring through each and every page, bookmarking as I go, how can I restrain myself? In continuing the Mollie Katzen recipe theme started earlier this week, I have another ready to go.

Ribollita is one of most delicious culinary creations of Tuscany, and like so many beloved dishes, originated as peasant fare. Literally meaning "reboiled", this dish began as a repurposing of the previous day's minestrone or vegetable soup, fortified with leftover bread. I'm fortunate enough to be deliberately preparing this meal rather than cobbling it together from leftovers, but I have no less appreciation of this affordable collection of humble vegetables melded into a hearty stew.

This meal is a labor of love and leisure, the kind of weekend project to let to lazily simmer on a Sunday afternoon while you mill about the house or relax with a good book. It might be tempting to short cut the process with some canned cannellinis, but much of flavor comes from the herb-infused beans and bean broth used later to cook the vegetables, so look to a different recipe for a quick ribollita. This can be streamlined a bit into a weeknight meal by preparing the beans the night before you'd like to serve the soup, making sure to reserve some of the bean broth as well. Each bite is herby and earthy and delicious down to the core in the vegan rendition, but the savory Parmesan takes it one more scrumptious step that my Dairyland origins wouldn't let me dream of omitting. Finally, a slice of rustic bread is absolutely imperative for staying honest to the peasant origins and more importantly, mopping up every last bit of beans, veggies, and broth.

adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen
serves 6

For the beans:
1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight)
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 fresh sage leaves
1 3-inch spring fresh rosemary
Several sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium Parmsan rind (up to 4 ounces; optional)

1. Drain the soaked beans and place them in a large pot along with enough fresh water to cover by at least 2 inches (3 inches is even better). Add the garlic and herbs and bring to a boil.

2. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are as soft as they can get while still keeping their shape. (Make sure they are truly soft. No undercooked beans!) If you like, you can add the Parmesan ring about 45 minutes into the simmering.

3. Remove from the heat and drain in a strainer set over a large heatproof bowl, saving the cooking water. (Fish out the herbs and Parmesan rind, if using; it's okay to leave in the garlic.)

For the stew:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, cut into half circles about 1/8-inch thick or into bite-sized chunks
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic
1/2 pound green cabbage, cut into bite-size pieces (2 heaping cups)
1 large or 2 small bunches lacinato kale (1/2 pound total), stemmed and chopped fairly small (4 packed cups) or spinach or other hearty greens
Black pepper
About 6 slices artisan bread (day-old is fine), sch as ciabatta or Pugliese, toasted
Grated aged Parmesan, Pecorino, or Asiago (optional)

1. Place a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat for about a minute, then add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Stir in the celery, carrot, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Stir in the cabbage, kale, and remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, sprinkling them with another 1/2 teaspoon salt as you go. The pot will be crowded at first, but the vegetables will cook down. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add small amounts of the bean cooking water (1/2 cup at a time) if needed to prevent sticking, but otherwise try to force-cook the vegetables in their own moisture, adding as little water as possible.

3. When the vegetables are done to your liking, add the beans, stirring them in gently so they don't break. Add a little more bean-cooking water, if you wish. Cover again and cook for just a few more minutes. Taste to adjust the salt and add a good amount of black pepper.

4. Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and topped with the toasted bread. If you want to enjoy a cheese-crusted experience, spoon the stew into ovenproof ceramic bowls (as you would with French onion soup), top with the bread sliced, sprinkle some cheese over the bread, and broil briefly.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hearty Greens and Grains Soup with Yogurt

I am never without some sort of fresh greens in my fridge. I long ago abandoned lettuce for spinach or arugula in my salads and sandwiches, usually toss a handful in my smoothies, and it seems like I scarcely scrambled an egg or make an omelet without tossing in some hearty greens. As much as I love all those things, sometimes winter calls for something a little more warm and comforting, and that's when I start sneaking mass amounts of greens into my soups.

The internet abounds with reliable websites full of delicious recipes, but sometimes there's nothing better than flipping through a brand new cookbook, bookmarking recipes along the way. With all of those free resources I've become a lot more selective about what books I'll actually purchase, but when I saw Mollie Katzen's newest book on clearance (at TJ Maxx, of all places), I didn't hesitate for a second. I've long been a fan of the books of Moosewood Collective, and the ones I own are the source of several of my most-treasured recipes (e.g. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Hash). Mollie Katzen's recipes are the kind that make carnivores love vegetables and vegetarians celebrate their choice, ranging from the elegantly simple to elaborate afternoon-worthy projects. This recipe is the former, a simple combination of whole grains and hearty greens, simply seasoned, and enriched just enough with olive oil and yogurt. Be sure to add the yogurt gently at the end after it has cooled a bit, so it doesn't separate or curdle.

I made this with Earthbound Farms Power Deep Greens Blend and brown rice, but there's plenty of room for experimentation with other combinations of greens and grains. This soup is shockingly filling for the low calorie count and short list of healthy ingredients, so feel free fill up a giant bowl without any guilt.

Hearty Greens and Grains Soup with Yogurt
adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen
makes 5 or 6 servings (as a side) or 2 to 3 as a main course

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced onion (1 large)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
1/2 pound (or more) fresh spinach or other hearty greens, washed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
3 cups water or vegetable stock or low-sodium store-bought broth
1 cup cooked brown rice (or other whole grain like quinoa, barley, etc.)
1 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
Fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Black pepper

1. Place a soup or Dutch oven over medium heat for about a minute, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, cumin, turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the onion becomes soft. Add the garlic and another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Toss in the spinach plus the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir, then cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes longer.

2. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat, let cool slightly, and stir in the rice and yogurt. Add lemon juice, a splash a time, to taste. Taste again to adjust the salt and add black pepper to your liking. It's now ready to serve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baked Egg in Fall Vegetables

I'm glad that eggs have mostly lost their dubious repuation, because I absolutely adore them. A runny egg can be relied upon to be the crowning jewel of a burger, rice bowl, or pasta dish, but here it is the golden soul of a rich pile of vegetables. All the prep and cooking time might have seemed a bit onerous when preparing a big batch of Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes, but once you start to delve into its myriad applications, it becomes clear it was more than worth the effort.

If you enjoy shakshuka or eggs in purgatory, this recipe is also made for you. It steers away from the bold spice used in those recipes, instead punctuating the rich vegetables with a pickled pop of capers. That tender cocoon of vegetables perfectly encases the egg as it gently cooks, the two substances blending together at the edges while transforming into a warm and comforting meal. The Parmesan and herb-kissed bread crumbs are a nice finishing touch, the salty, toasty garnish providing a crispy contrast and last infusion of flavor. It is quite the filling breakfast with just a slice of toast for soaking up each and every last bit, but add a salad on the side and you've got a well-rounded brunch, lunch, or dinner as well.

Baked Egg in Fall Vegetables
adapted from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
serves 1

1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes, cold
1 egg
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon dried whole wheat bread crumbs, preferably whole wheat panko
1/2 to 1 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, etc.) or 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a large (8-ounce) ramekin with the butter.

2. Add 1/3 cup of the vegetables to the ramekin and make a well in the center of the vegetables with a teaspoon. Carefully break the egg into the well, season with salt, and top with the remaining 1/3 cup stewed vegetables.

3. Mix the bread crumbs with the herbs and sprinkle evenly on top of the vegetables; sprinkle the cheese on top.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is browned and crisp, and when you use a spoon to gently lift some of the vegetables from the top to uncover the egg, you can see that the white is cooked through but the yolk is still runny.

5. Let cool for a few minutes, then eat with a spoon.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quick Tomato, White Bean, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup

When you live in Wisconsin, the first day of the year in the fifties is a major victory. We air out the house even when there's a heavy covering of snow on the ground, drive around with the windows rolled down, and a few brave souls will don shorts for the occasion. Unfortunately, that lasted but one fleeting day this week, but it has definitely given me a metaphorical taste for spring. I'm more than ready to begin to transition to my literal tastes to more spring-like fare, as the days where I'll be craving a massive, piping hot, bowl of soup are happily numbered.

But while I'm still looking out on a yard full of snow, I'm happy to keep indulging that craving. There are plenty of white bean and kale soup recipes available, but my riff on a New York Times recipe is the first I've seen with sweet potatoes, confirming my theory those orange-fleshed beauties are nearly always a great substitution. Creamy white beans and tender kale go just as well with that delicious tuber as its blander and less nutritious cousin, perfectly finished with a sprinkling of salty, nutty Parmesan cheese. Fresh off the stove, there's no doubt it's a wonderful meal, but flavors meld and deepen over a day or two in the fridge, and fare pretty well when you pluck a serving from the freezer days or weeks later.

Quick Tomato, White Bean, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup
adapted from the New York Times
serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
6 cups water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 medium sweet potato (about 6 to 8 ounces), scrubbed and diced
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a couple of sprigs each parsley and thyme, and a Parmesan rind (optional – but it does add flavor; use what you have for this)
1/2 pound kale, stemmed, washed thoroughly, and chopped or cut in slivers (4 cups chopped)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
Grated Parmesan for serving (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the onion, carrot, and celery and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and juice from the can, add another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly.

2. Add the water, tomato paste, oregano, sweet potato, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, add the bouquet garni, cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just about tender.

3. Add the kale and simmer another 10 minutes, until the kale and sweet potatoes are tender and the soup is fragrant. Taste, adjust salt, and add pepper and lemon juice to taste. Stir in the beans and heat through for 5 minutes. Serve, sprinkling some Parmesan over each bowl.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes

Behold the latest in the Joe Yonan make-a-big-batch-and-freeze-the-leftovers recipes! Unlike with the sweet potato and black bean soups, I'm sharing the base recipe straight away. While those soup bases are delicious on their own, they were ultimately designed to be as a canvas for other ingredients. This glorious pot of veggies, however, is a composed dish all on its own. The textures progress from melted tomatoes to soft squash to tender cauliflower, painted with a diverse palate of vinegary capers, spicy red pepper flakes, and umami-packed fish sauce. Fish sauce may set off a few alarm bells for some people, but it only serves to make this dish savory, not fishy, deepening the flavor rather than changing it.

This is a delicious vegetarian main or side dish, both options which I personally enjoyed in short order. For dinner, I layered a hearty scoop over a plate of greens, topping with a grilled salmon fillet. At lunch the following day, I combined the veggies with more greens and quinoa for an equally satisfying vegetarian meal. In addition to a few Joe Yonan recipes in the hopper, I also see a future for these stewed veggies as a pasta sauce, topping for other grains like couscous, rice, and bulgur, and partner for grilled chicken. Perhaps they'll even make their way into a grilled cheese? I wouldn't be a good Wisconsin girl if I didn't find a way for these vegetables to make their acquaintance with the delicious dairy this state has to offer.

Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes
adapted from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
makes 6 to 7 cups

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 plump cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 (1-pound) cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch florets
1/4 cup small capers, drained
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes and their juice, preferably San Marzano, crushed by  hand
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce, or more to taste (or vegan fish sauce or tamari or soy for a vegetarian/vegan version)

1. Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, scatter in the sliced garlic and let it start sizzling. Stir in the onion slices and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the squash and cauliflower pieces, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and the red pepper flakes and use tongs to toss it all together.

2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Slosh the water into the can and add; stir well and cover. When the tomato juices are boiling, decrease the heat to medium-low or low so that the mixture is gently bubbling. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium high, and continue coking until the stew is reduced and thickened to a good pasta-sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce, taste, and add more fish sauce and salt if desired.

3. Eat a cup or two as a vegetarian main course and refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze it in cup-size portions for several months.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cabbage With Tomatoes, Bulgur and Chickpeas

There's no denying it's a glorious today when you find the ideal recipe for a classic meal. Perfect lasagna, the creamiest mac and cheese, the best beef stew - these all bring me great joy. But, being a constant culinary adventurer, finding a novel (to me) ingredient and/or spice combination might be the best of all.

Although I'm a fan of cabbage, it isn't a vegetable I buy all that often. But if you're trying to be a locavore during a Wisconsin winter, eventually you'll have to pick up a head. Okonomiyaki, made with green or red cabbage, is one of my favorite ways to dine on this crunchy crucifer, but that preparation does not lend itself to freezing leftovers for ready-made meals. Hunting for cabbage recipes led me to a lot of the usual suspects (sauteed, stuffed, etc.), but my desire to get out of my whole wheat pasta/brown rice/quinoa pattern happily lead me to this recipe. Cabbage and tomatoes are not two veggies I automatically think to pair, but they blend beautifully in this gently-cooked pot of heartiness. Perfectly seasoned with balanced smokiness, sweetness, acidity, and freshness, the veggies, bulgur and beans eagerly soak up all the flavor, but their unique textures keep the meal from becoming a homogeneous experience.

Surprisingly filling, this meal can be a vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a great companion to grilled chicken or fish. I'm anticipating the days where the days are long, warm, and sunny and I'll be eating fresh and light, but until Mother Nature releases her icy hold, I'll happily chow down on this warm, comforting meal.

Cabbage With Tomatoes, Bulgur and Chickpeas
adapted from The New York Times
serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 medium head green or red cabbage, finely shredded
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, cider vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 cups water
1 cup coarse bulgur
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy lidded skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt and the paprika. Cook, stirring, until the onion is thoroughly tender and infused with paprika, three to four minutes.

2. Add the cabbage, and cook, stirring, for three minutes or until it begins to wilt. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, and add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes until the cabbage is thoroughly tender.

3. Stir in the dill and the water, and bring a to a boil. Add the bulgur and chickpeas. Stir to combine. When the water comes back to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer 10 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Black Bean Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pepitas

It seems I've finally come to the end of my concentrated soup base experiment. There's been sweet potato soups and black bean soups galore, concluding with my personal spin on Joe Yonan's black bean soup base. I'll admit that I plagarized from myself a bit, again using rich and crunchy toasted coconut that worked so well with the sweet potato variety, this time swapping out the almonds for a smattering of pumpkin seeds. The creamy, spicy base really pops in contrast to the rich and toasty coconut and pepitas, the flavors and textures contrasting and complementing simultaneously. Although I didn't have any in the fridge to add this time, spinach or other hearty greens would be a nice nutritional boost, as with sweet potato soup. If you can't imagine eating a bowl of soup crusty bread, a roll, or crackers for dunking, I recommend a hearty handful of tortilla chips to get you through this bowl.

Now that I've made my way through all of Joe Yonan's recipes with concentrated soup base, I'm on to tackle his pasta sauce-based recipes, which extend far beyond dressing up some penne. While I'll look back fondly on this last culinary adventure, I'm excited to move on to the next one.

Black Bean Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pumpkin Seeds
serves 1

1 to 1 1/2 cups Spicy Black Bean Soup Base (see below)
Up to 1/2 cup water, or chicken, shrimp, or vegetable stock
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon unsweetened flaked coconut

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the soup base. Whisk in enough stockor water to reach desired consistency. Cook for a few minutes to heat the soup through. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and keep it hot while you make the topping.

2. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pepitas and coconut and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are fragrant and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Pour the soup into a serving bowl, top with the pepitas and coconut, and serve warm.
Spicy Black Bean Soup Base
from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
makes 4 to 5 cups

2 dried ancho, guajillo, or New Mexico chiles, or more to taste
1/2 pound dried black beans (1 heaping cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 shallot loves or 1/2 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, plus more as needed

1. Tear, break, or use scissors to cut the anchos into small strips or pieces. Combine them with the bean in a large bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Pour the oil into a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the carrot, celery shallots, garlic, cinnamon, and allspice. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the vegetables slowly until they start to become tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans, chiles, their soaking liquid, and enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Increase the heat to high to bring the contents to a boil. Then decrease the heat to low so that the liquid is at a bare simmer.

4. Cover and gently cook until the beans are very tender, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans. Add the salt, cook for a few more minutes, then let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Use a handheld immersion blender to puree the soup, then taste and adjust the salt if needed. (Alternatively, you can puree it in a blender or food processor. If you are using a blender, be sure to remove the center cap on the lid and cover with a dish towel to let steam escape, and work in small batches to avoid splattering the soup.

6. Divide it into 4 portions and use immediately, refrigerate up to 1 week, or freeze in small containers or heavy-duty freezer-safe resealable plastic bags, pressing as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. It will keep frozen for several months.