Saturday, January 26, 2008

Again With the Beets!

I'm still working my way through the beetroot from my winter CSA. This week I adapted a recipe for cream of beet, potato and leek soup that I found in Harrowsmith magazine.

For a plant that is believed to have originated in Northern Africa, it certainly has adapted well to harsher climates, and it is actually a very nutritious choice for the winter months. It's an excellent source of potassium and vitamin A, and also s source of vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, iron, zinc, and folate. Beetroot is also believed to help keep colds at bay.

Cream of Beetroot, Potato and Leek Soup
Serves 6-8

4 medium beetrot
2 Tbs butter or vegan margarine or oil
2 leeks, white parts only, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 potatoes, coarsely diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup natural apple juice (or stock)
1/2 cup soy or regular milk (not low fat; cream okay)
salt and pepper
4-6 oz crumbled coltswold, blue or stilton cheese

In a medium saucepan, boil the beets for about 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool in cold water. Slice off the tops and bottoms. Slip off the skins and chop the beetroot coarsely.

While the beetroot are boiling, melt the buttter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and leaks. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to a boild. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the apple juice.

By now the beetroot should be ready. Add it to the potato and leek mixture. Using a hand blender, puree the soup. (If using a traditional blender or food processor, then puree in small batches. This soup is thick.) Add the milk or cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow soup to simmer until it is hot again.

Ladle soup in bowls. Top with crumbled cheese and serve. Another serving option is to swirl yogourt ot cream in with the soup. (Or perhaps try both!)

The original recipe called for blue cheese. I used Cotswold, because that's what I had on hand. I also suspect that stilton would be fabulous in this recipe.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Michael's Black Bean and Lemon Salsa Burritos

Hello everyone! I thought I would start off my posting career here at Amanda's Kitchen Blog with one of my favorite and most appreciated recipes.

A few blocks away from me on Sherbrooke in NDG is a shoe-box restaurant called "Burritoville" which has a small but excellent menu of vegetarian, organic Mexican food. Owned and run by the ever-friendly Johno and his wife Ruby, Burritoville is a vegetarian oasis in a neighborhood sadly bereft of healthy food options. I often drop in and order a sweet potato burrito on those occasions when I am not in the mood to cook.

Inspired by Johno’s burritos, I developed my own--very different--recipe about a year ago. Unlike popping in to Burritoville, making the sauce is time consuming but well worth the wait. The intense lemon flavour of the sauce combines well with the brown rice, sharp cheddar and refried black beans. This has been a great hit with guests and because everything can be made ahead, reheated and assembled at the last minute, this recipe makes for an easy dinner party meal with a salad, some pickles, hot sauces (la Costena brand chipotle sauce is excellent with these) and guacamole with tortilla chips.

Also, a word about organics; aside from all the health and environmental benefits of organic and natural products, the truth is that not everyone can afford to eat all organic all the time. If you can, please do so. If not, please note that when I suggest that something be organic, it is usually because I have found that the non-organic equivalent is very markedly inferior in taste or texture and changes the over-all character of the recipe.

Lemon-Cumin Salsa

2- 28 oz cans of Italian tomatoes
2 largish onions, chopped (at least 2 cups worth)
2-4 cloves garlic, pressed- to taste
1 ½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice*
2 medium jalapeno peppers, deveined, and minced with seeds
½ tsp pepper
2-3 tsp cumin seeds or more to taste; pan roasted, and ground finely in a mortar**
1 tsp organic sea salt***
organic sugar preferably sucanat, to taste (to reduce acidity)

Combine all ingredients up to but not including the salt and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil then simmer on a very low heat until extremely thick- a wooden spoon should stand in it. This may take 3-4 hours depending on the size pot you use. Stir every 15 minutes or so to avoid burning. Expect the sauce to be reduced by 1/3 - 1/2 in volume. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and taste. Add sugar by the teaspoon and taste after each addition- you just want to reduce the acidity, not make the sauce sweet so go easy. Add remainder of salt if needed. The flavour of the sauce should be bold to stand out in the finished burrito.This sauce does not freeze well- the lemon flavour dies off, but left-over sauce is great with tortilla chips and melted cheese as a snack.

*Use fresh squeezed lemon juice, not the bottled essence of long dead lemons. It really does make all the difference!

** Pre-ground cumin may be used but cumin is one spice that is easy to dry roast in a pan over low heat for 3-4 minutes and to grind yourself. The flavour is much better than store bought spice that has been sitting around awhile.

*** I strongly urge everyone to use unbleached organic sea-salt exclusively in cooking. It must be gray in colour which indicates that the natural minerals are still present. Aside from being denatured, bleached or white salt has an acrid taste which you will notice in everything made with it once you switch to the good stuff.

Sesame Refried Black Beans

1 can (540ml-19oz) black beans, drained with liquid reserved.*
2 Tbsp organic sesame oil (I use Soleil D’Or brand)
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds or more to taste; pan roasted, and ground finely in a mortar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp organic sea-salt- or to taste

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and fry gently until well softened. Add garlic and fry 1 minute or so. Add cumin and pepper. Stir in 2-3 times then add the drained black beans and 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. Add water if there wasn’t enough. Using a potato masher or the back of a large wooden spoon, mash the beans well. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently until the liquid is mostly absorbed but the beans are still spreadable. Add salt as desired. A good rule of thumb is when you start to see that the beans do not quickly flow back into place after you have stirred them, they are probably about right.

Use the beans right away in your burritos or if made ahead, reheat gently in a frying pan with a little extra water until bubbling and warm.

* Clic Brand is the only non-organic brand I have found that do not use EDTA in their canned black beans; I recommend them. If you prefer to soak and cook your own beans--more power to you! You will need about 2 cups of cooked beans.

To Assemble the Burritos

You will need:
1 recipe Lemon-Cumin Salsa
1 recipe Sesame Refried Black Beans
Cooked, hot brown rice
Grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese
Large wheat tortillas--I use whole wheat/flax ones
wax paper or time foil to wrap-–optional

Using a large, dry frying pan or griddle, warm a tortilla for a few seconds on each side. Place a large dollop of black beans in the center and spread out in a strip about two inches wide that goes from the top of the tortilla to about 2/3 of the way down it. Add about 1/3- 1/2 cup of brown rice and spread out on top of the refried beans. Cover the rice with a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce- be generous but not so much so that it becomes too slurpy- it will make it too difficult to hold and eat. Top sauce with 2-3 Tbsps grated cheddar.

Note: Try not to go overboard loading the tortillas--if you can’t fold them over enough, eating them will be definitely tricky and messy! Fold the empty bottom of the tortilla up over the layered ingredients. Pull one side of the tortilla over snugly and then the other, wrapping it up gently but firmly. If desired, wrap the bottom half of the burrito in wax paper or tin foil to facilitate holding. You may want to tap the bottoms of the burritos on the counter a couple times to tamp down the filling.

Make sure you have plenty of fixings on hand. Hearty as they are, many people want two.

Live, Love and Be Well!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Contributor

I'd like to welcome my long-time friend Michael as a new contributor to this blog.

Michael and I have been friends since we were four years old, and have been cooking together almost as long. Michael shares my love of cooking, eating and creating mouth-watering recipes that are simple to prepare and accessible; and I'm delighted that we can continue to share this life-long passion together on the pages of this blog. Michael's approach to vegetarian cooking is slightly different than mine, so I'm anticipating that this collaboration will also bring a a slightly different perspective on vegetarian cooking than the one I have been offering on my website for almost ten years now (although only recently in blog format).

Welcome Michael!