Something like mujadara, only French, kind of.

Oh, Meatless Monday. If you fell on any other day, I would have a much easier time. Around 2:00 this afternoon, I was pretty sure we were pretty much going to have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. But the thing about having a food blog is that at least a couple of times each week one must make an effort to eat something interesting, or, at the very least, to pretend that she hasn’t been eating an inordinate number of sandwiches, because eating only sandwiches won’t help anyone out of any rut.

And I am in a rut.

This happens every so often, usually during the longest-feeling part of a season when I really just don’t feel like eating whatever’s in season any longer. At the start of winter I cannot get enough root vegetables; by the end of February, the rose in my cheeks isn’t the brisk arctic air but too goddamn many beets. There will be radishes soon, and asparagus, and pea shoots, and peppery little leaves of watercress. I have never been particularly patient.Also I don’t like the cold, and I am bored with my puffy jacket, and all my boots need to be resoled. Whine, whine, whine. It’s possible that I am laying blame for my rut on the weather and the root vegetables when the problem is me. Nick has indicated that’s likely the case, and that I am a malcontent at my worst, and contrary much of the time. I maintain that I’m charming and delightful, but he did not nod in agreement.

So because we cannot live off of grilled cheese alone, winter vegetables will have to do for now. And why not coax the best out of them?

I first heard about mujadara from Orangette. For the uninitiated, mujadara is a simple dish of rice and lentils bound by the rich sweetness of deeply caramelized onions. Made from pantry staples, it’s comfort food for a dark grey day, and the constant sizzle of onions for close to an hour is soothing, and you can eat it with a side of greens dressed in a squish of lemon and it’s really very nice.

But why stop there? Why not pull out that celery and those carrots that have been languishing in the crisper? Why not add a touch of smoke, a pinch of vigour? Yes. Pinçage. Let’s do that. Here’s a variation on the mujadara theme, a twist that will placate those dull feelings until the first tips of asparagus finally grace your plate.

Rice and lentils with pinçage

(Serves four, or six as a side dish.)

  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup French green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium pot, combine rice, lentils, bay leaf, one tablespoon of olive oil, and one teaspoon of salt with four cups cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered.

Meanwhile, heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and apple, and cook until onions turn translucent. Turn heat down to medium, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes to an hour, however long it takes your ingredients to turn golden and soft. Add salt once veggies begin to brown. I let mine go until they’re barely recognizable as their former selves, until they are dark and black in bits and they smell sweet and faintly smokey.

Add the garlic and the tomato paste, allowing it to dry to the bottom of the pan but not to burn. Keep it moving, tossing the veggies to coat in the sauce. When you’ve reached this point, you’ve got a pinçage (although technically a real pinçage wouldn’t have apples in it … technically, shmechnically).

When the bottom of the pan looks pretty dry, add rice and lentil mixture (removing bay leaf). Pour about a cup of water into the pan to deglaze. Doing this will release the flavour of your pinçage into the rice, coating it saucily.

Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

Butternut squash and chickpea curry.

At 8:15 every morning when I walk down Granville Street to Broadway to take the bus to work, the ladies in the kitchen at Vij’s have already been at work for awhile, and the neighbourhood smells like onions frying in butter, and garlic and ginger, and slow-simmering curries warmed with cumin and cinnamon and pepper that make me want to quit my job and my apartment to spend my days hovering over their shoulders, taking deep breaths and sneaking tastes right from the pan. The aroma hangs in the air over three blocks, and is only stopped by the grease stink from the McDonalds on Broadway; if no one there was frying fries (or, at that hour, Egg McMuffins), I think the smell from Vij’s would go on forever.

But this is not a love letter to Vij’s, because Vij does not need that sort of thing, especially not from me. And besides, I can’t afford to eat there all that often, and I have reached the age where don’t care how good something is, I’d mostly prefer to not have to wait in lines. And for Indian food the way (and price) I think it should be, there are very few places in the city that meet my expectations; I know to go to the suburbs for the good stuff.

More often than not, though, it’s not a special dish I’m after. The thing about those spices and that smell in the air is that they are suggestive of a whole range of flavours. The smell of garam masala is not specific to a dish, at least to me, but is suggestive more of a feeling, which is perhaps why I crave it so strongly during these long dark months. I like the warmth a warm bowl of curry brings; I like the smell of it in my apartment, the way the aroma assembles itself in layers, beginning with garlic and ginger and finishing with coconut, cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lime. I like the way that turmeric turns a pot of onions golden, the way that tomato colours it orange, and the way herbs at the very end brighten as they touch the heat of the dish.

Curry makes me happy. And so, after crossing 11th Avenue this morning and smelling Vij’s ginger and onions and garlic and feeling so very tired for a Thursday, I resolved to come home and throw together something equal parts nourishing and delicious. That I spent the day teetering and clomping around in too-high heels and encased in control-top pantyhose and a dress with no stretch fibres made the satisfaction of sitting down to a hot, saucy dinner all the greater.

What follows is a recipe for a curry that makes the most of your pantry staples and any butternut squash you might have been hording for however long. It’s spicy but also sweet, and a glorious colour that’s sure to liven up a dull grey day.

Butternut squash and chickpea curry

(Serves four.)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 lb. butternut squash, diced
  • 1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 lime, zested plus 1 tbsp. juice
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus additional for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm oil and add onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until onions are translucent and jalapeño pepper has brightened in colour. Add garam masala, red pepper flakes, fenugreek, turmeric, and pepper. Stir to coat onion mixture thoroughly, and cook for two minutes.

Add diced squash and chickpeas, stir, then add coconut milk, tomatoes, and lime zest and juice. Stir to coat squash in curry mixture, then reduce to medium heat, cover, and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash has softenened. Stir occasionally.

Once squash has softened, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add scallions and cilantro, and serve over rice with an additional sprinkling of cilantro for colour.

I apologize again for the unusually poor photos; Mom and Dad have come to the rescue with a belated Christmas present in camera form, but it doesn’t arrive until tomorrow. After then, prepare to be amazed. Also, don’t forget to vote for Well fed, flat broke in the Canadian Food Blog Awards!

Vegetarian borscht with beets and red cabbage.

This is our eleventh day off in a row since we both got time off for the holidays, and right about now I am feeling as though I need a vacation from my vacation, perhaps to sit on a beach and eat lentils and dark leafy greens and drink, I don’t know, like, water or something and do yoga or whatever it is people do to relax without alcohol for another eleven days.

I know “I have just had eleven days off in a row” sounds less like a complaint and more like bragging, especially to those who haven’t had eleven days off in a row, but with all the to-dos we checked off our lists over the past week-and-a-half, I am mentally and socially exhausted – I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow. On a related note, I am so very grateful for this Meatless Monday, which we are celebrating with dark-coloured vegetables and tea and a marathon of Arrested Development.

For dinner this evening, we ate borscht. It’s vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly if you don’t serve it with sour cream, and makes the most of the ingredients because the stock comes from the beets. Simmering whole beets for 90 minutes with garlic, bay leaves, caraway seeds, peppercorns, and fresh parsley not only cooks the beets, but creates a beautiful garnet-coloured stock which you will use as the base for your soup – no beef or chicken bones needed, and no nutrients wasted. This soup is a delicious restorative – tart and earthy – and will certainly do you some good.

My camera died, so the photos here were taken with a borrowed point-and-shoot that does not intend to cooperate with me. I apologize – everything will be all better soon, if bluish and grainy in the meantime.

Vegetarian borscht with beets and red cabbage

(Serves six.)


  • 2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 lb. beets, scrubbed clean but not trimmed or peeled (three to four, about the size of baseballs)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 tbsp. Kosher salt


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (start with 1/4 cup and adjust to taste)
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a stock pot or other large pot, heat peppercorns and caraway seeds over medium-high heat for two to three minutes, or until spices are fragrant and caraway seeds start to pop. Add water, beets, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, and salt, and cook for 90 minutes.

Remove beets to an ice bath, and strain liquid through a mesh strainer into a container you can pour easily from. Discard solids. Peel, trim, and then dice beets. Set aside.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil and add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until glistening, then add beets, cabbage, and reserved stock. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/4 cup lemon juice, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until cabbage is soft. Taste, adding sugar and additional lemon juice as desired. Adjust seasonings, and serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkling of caraway seeds.

Oh! One more thing. This blog has been nominated for a few awards, which is exciting! There’s a “People’s Choice” category (Best Canadian Food Blog) that you can vote for Well fed, flat broke in – here’s the voting form. And while you’re there, check out the other nominees in a wide range of categories – I’ve discovered a few great Canadian blogs I had never heard of, some that I think you’ll really like too.

And don’t forget to pay a visit to Midnight Maniac for another Meatless Monday blog carnival!

Moon Chai.

Ugh December. I have a bijillion things to do and am way too easily distracted. On the one hand, my holiday shopping is just about done; on the other, my apartment looks like a crime scene.

Last night I had macaroni and cheese for dinner. From a box. Which I ate on the floor while watching the cartoon channel and wrapping presents while simultaneously attempting to defeat the cat. It’s her first Christmas and she doesn’t mean to be annoying, I’m sure, but to a tiny wild-eyed beast nothing is more thrilling than scissors cutting Iron Man-themed wrapping paper.

It’s easy for me to think that my life is real life, but I can’t imagine how overwhelming this would all be for someone with more people than I have to buy for (I’m shopping for 14) and a family who cares about folded laundry to impress. I had a temper tantrum the morning after laundry day and there’s still a pile of socks beside my front door and that’s embarrassing and it’s been that way since Tuesday. And then there are all the events, and I noticed as I was getting dressed for this evening’s party that these tights aren’t controlling a goddamn thing up top anymore.

But the party was fun, and filled with the kind of geeky people I love so much, book people, and we talked about reading and writing while sitting on my friend Tracy’s kitchen floor while her pug Penelope snorted all over us, bounding from lap to lap like the excited little monster she is. Evenings like these are why I am so excited about December.

When we came home, I made Nick and I mugs of moon Chai. Moon Chai is a tea we used to get at this place on Broadway. It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant that’s filled with chaises and awkward tables with tiny little stools, and for awhile I really liked it but now it annoys me to have my knees bump the table I’m eating from, and I don’t particularly enjoy their prices these days. These must be signs of aging. It’s just that I feel a buffet should be reasonable, and that the price should reflect the quality of the food, you know? But anyway. The thing I took from there was their Moon Chai, which is really just hot hot hot Chai tea spiked with brandy.

I don’t know Chai’s recipe, but I’ve adapted and interpreted and made up my own, and this stuff is a sedative if you use decaffeinated tea. I’ve never had it before 8:00 p.m. So you can see how it would be perfect for the holiday season.

Moon Chai

(Serves two.)

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1  tsp. fennel seeds
  • 10 green cardamom pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or real milk, if that’s what you have/prefer)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 bag black tea, such as orange pekoe (bonus points for decaf)
  • 1/4 cup French brandy (not the stuff that tastes like paint thinner)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, toast cinnamon, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and cloves until fragrant, stirring frequently, about five minutes.

Pour almond milk into the pot. Add vanilla bean (seeds scraped plus pod), and honey, and tea bag, and reduce to medium heat. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Add brandy, cover, and allow to steep for five minutes.

Strain into mugs and serve hot. I guarantee instant relaxation. And possibly a slight buzz.

Pumpkin and red lentil dahl.

This morning blew in with ferocity, and I discovered too late that today was not a day for stockings.

And as I walked to the bus, everything from the knees down caught the spray on the wind and was freezing. But I was smug, because I knew this was coming and planned accordingly. Maybe not my outfits, but I planned our meal and it was perfect. Take that, nature – I had plans to warm my bones before you even thought to try and chill them.

So, here we are again! Another Meatless Monday, another blog carnival, and another delicious meat-free dish. For bonus points, it’s also vegan!

Pumpkin and red lentil dahl

(Serves four to six, generously)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. (heaping) minced fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeño or other hot peppers, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 lbs. pumpkin (or other winter squash), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • Water
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and peppers, and sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in cumin, chili powder, mustard powder, turmeric, coriander, and cinnamon.

Add pumpkin and lentils, and stir to coat in spices. Pour in coconut milk, then enough water to just cover pumpkin and lentils (three to four cups). Add salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils have swelled and broken, and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Taste, adjust seasonings as needed.

Let rest, uncovered, five minutes before serving.

Serve with rice, garnished with sliced lime, cilantro, dried chilies, and yogurt. Sop up the warm, slightly sweet and spicy stew with warm, naan bread, either store-bought or homemade, and if you’re going to make homemade, this recipe is pretty excellent.

Feel smug. And enjoy, preferably with a cup of tea or a glass of chilled off-dry white wine. Fail to miss summer, perhaps for the first time this season.

Broccoli with tofu and peanuts.

To be honest, I only started eating broccoli recently. There are only a few things I have decided there’s no getting over, and I really thought broccoli would be one of them. But when you compare it to actually gross things like green peppers (why not just choose red?), raw bananas (potassium mush phallus), or even – ick! – raisins (most of which are probably dead flies, and there’s no arguing with me on this one), it’s not so bad. It’s actually kind of okay. And you don’t even have to drown it in cheese sauce, though if you did it certainly wouldn’t ruin anything.

So how did broccoli, with its tendency to taste like damp socks that’ve been festering inside rubber boots all day, manage to make the cut?

Well. Let me tell you: It doesn’t have to taste like damp socks festering in rubber galoshes. The secret is to not cook it to death. It must not lose its texture or brilliant green colour; it must not turn to putrid swamp mush. Kept tender-crisp and bright, it’s actually (and I never thought I’d say this) DELICIOUS. And with peanuts? Well, well. It’s (and I never thought I’d say this) DINNER.

And so we have another Meatless Monday recipe. Check out the blog carnival over at Midnight Maniac for other meatless recipes!

Broccoli with tofu and peanuts

(Serves four.)

  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 lbs. broccoli
  • 2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 350 g/12 oz. package firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. sriracha (or your favourite hot sauce, to taste)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar (if you’re using conventional peanut butter, you may not need this; taste before adding the second tablespoon)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Fresh ground pepper

First, toast your peanuts in a pan over medium heat. Watch them. Diligently. When they start to smell like roasted peanuts, turn golden, and sweat, remove them from heat and set them aside. Divide into two piles, and chop one pile.

Blanch chopped broccoli by plunging it into boiling water, boiling for two minutes, and removing immediately to ice water, where it should sit for a minute. Save 1/2 cup of the blanching water. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until just golden.

Meanwhile, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, one tablespoon of sugar, and lime juice. Taste. If it needs more sugar, add more. Add pepper. Taste again. If it needs to be spicier, add more sriracha.

Add red peppers to the pan, and tofu. Stir one third of the peanut sauce into the pan, and add a quarter cup of the blanching water to thin. Cook until peppers have softened, about two minutes. Add broccoli, and then remaining peanut sauce. Stir to coat, then toss in whole peanuts.

Serve over rice, sprinkled with remaining peanuts. Taste. See? It’s good. Broccoli is good. Amazing.


Garlic scapes and chickpeas and tomatoes. Hooray!

Do you know about garlic scapes*? Everyone at work does now, because I snuck out and bought some and brought them back and the stench they created had people on the other side of the place, a wall and forty square feet away, come in asking if it was me who smelled like feet or stale kimchi or dying. It was, and it usually is because there’s a little produce market on campus where I buy cool things that sometimes turn out to, um, pong, but to be fair? Garlic scapes have a very limited season and I can’t be faulted for celebrating their arrival.

Weird how things that smell bad are always my fault, but I refuse to accept responsibility. Someone could use some therapy.

I hope I didn’t scare you off about the smell. Garlic scapes don’t stink. They have a real garlicky smell, and something else – chlorophyll or something – something green. Anything garlic or onion that you leave on the floor of your over-heating office for four hours is bound to fuss about it, you know? But they’re really quite lovely. A quick blanch or sauté is all they really need. There’s a place we go to on Main Street where you can order skewers of them wrapped in bacon and then grilled.

Last night for company they found their way into a salad. Apparently we’re into salads these days, though it’s not hot and currently outside I can see at least three shades of grey not counting the apartment buildings and alley out my window. And salad is what you have when you need a side dish for roast chicken and potatoes. Since Mark, married to Nick’s sister Jess, lives gluten-free, salad was doubly perfect.

I’m sure there will be much more garlic scapery yet – I bought four bunches in a burst of enthusiasm, and they’re living in a vase of water on my counter awaiting their garlicky destiny. But for now – a recipe for salad. Not boring salad. Garlic salad. I promise, you’ll totally love this.

Chickpea, tomato, and garlic scape salad

  • 1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed (sliced if they’re larger, whole if they’re bite-size and fantastic)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped garlic scapes
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, combine chickpeas, tomatoes, and lemon zest and juice.

In a pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add garlic scapes and red pepper flakes, and sauté until scapes turn bright green – about a minute. Pour the whole thing, oil included, over the other ingredients, tossing to coat. Chill for an hour.

Before serving, add basil, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings as needed.

It’s so pretty, and very bright-tasting. The oil picks up the garlicky taste of the garlic scapes, and as it chills with the lemon zest it develops a delightfully clean taste. This is a great picnic salad, and if there are leftovers you don’t have to worry about lettuce wilting or sucking the next day.


That is all. Happy Canada Day!

*These may be garlic chives. I have been operating under some confusion forever. Oh well? Garlic scapes should work the same.

Green soup.

I haven’t been around very much, and I haven’t been cooking. I’ve been busy, which after having been very not busy for over a month has proven exhausting, and even my weekends have been full of things. The past week has blown by and in its aftermath the weather? I am being pulled under it. By tonight I was an antisocial, horizontal mess and my main objective was to eat something restorative, something soothing that would put me back in my right place.


Vegetables are greener and brighter these days, and green things are all kinds of restorative. For soothing, an avocado. And if you’re feeling flat and beige, like I am, this is the kind of thing you can make with whatever you’ve got in your fridge – if your green things are chard or kale or even lettuce, it will be more than okay. My favourite leaf is spinach, but you can use what you like. Watercress, arugula, and dandelion greens are in season at the moment. It’s vegan and easily adapted to include other ingredients – the components are only part of the experience and are easily modified, subbed out, or dropped all together.

And it’s smooth, so there’s none of that complicated chewing to be worked out. You can eat it as close to horizontal as is comfortable.

Green soup

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water (plus one or two cups additional water, as needed)
  • Juice of one large lemon, about 2 tbsp.
  • 2 to 3 cups leafy greens, packed
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped basil or cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 or 2 large jalapeño peppers, diced (if you prefer less heat, remove seeds and membrane before dicing)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Sweat onions and the white and light green parts of the scallions in olive oil, then add garlic. Sauté for a minute or two, until you can smell the garlic, then add four cups of stock, water, or a combination. Bring to a boil.

Stir in green things, allowing them a minute or two to wilt. Add lemon juice, and blend until smooth with a blender (in batches) or a hand blender. At this point, add liquid to reach desired consistency.

Stir in oregano, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed – I used more water than stock, and found I needed about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Garnish with yogurt, if desired, and serve hot or chilled.

Red bean soup.

We’re going on a little vacation this weekend, so it’s nice to not have to buy groceries and also use up the stuff in the fridge. Also, periodically, I like to make a ton of soup, which can be frozen in containers for lunches. The timing was perfect for this soup, which is equal parts cheap to make and tasty to eat – the sweet potato gives the soup great texture and a touch of sweetness, and the combination of chipotle and lime makes it seriously flavourful.

It’s super good for you – low in fat, high in fibre, and filled with healthy stuff. Also, it goes very well with cold beer. So, no one loses!

Even if you don’t have this stuff in your fridge, I recommend a trip to the market to make this one on a weeknight. It’ll take you about an hour, not including the time to soak the beans – just plan ahead a bit, setting the beans to soak before you leave for work. And the leftovers are even better the next day.

Red bean soup

(Serves four to six.)

  • 1/2 lb. dried red kidney beans, soaked for eight hours
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced (about one cup, but if you end up with a bit more, just use it)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 5.5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 to 4 chipotles (or to taste), chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Water

Drain and thoroughly rinse beans. Don’t use the liquid you soaked the beans in, because that liquid contains something like 80% of the farty compounds that make beans so unpleasant sometimes. If you drain and rinse, you’ll wash that away. Set aside.

In a large pot, sweat onions, sweet potato, and celery in olive oil. Add garlic, and pour beans into the pot. Fill pot with four cups of water.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Maintain a boil for about five minutes, before reducing to medium-high heat, and stir in tomato paste. Let cook, uncovered, for thirty to forty minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft and beans are easily cut in half. Add chipotles. (Note: You can buy chipotles in cans in the Latin section of the supermarket, or in smaller Latin markets. They’re cheaper there. Or just get them for free from your friends who go to Mexico.)

Remove pot from heat, and blend until smooth with an additional two to three cups of water, adding extra water for thinner consistency, if desired.

Return to heat, and stir in cumin, coriander, and the juice of the lime. Add salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, topped with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro. A side of tortilla chips is a nice touch. And don’t forget the beer.

Burdock pickles.

Right now, at this very moment, I am making the brightest-tasting tart ever to be enjoyed in February, but there’s a lull in the process as my crust and my custard are cooling. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

I say that a lot. I said it about the burdock. So, lest you think I am being evasive and not sharing the magnificent joys of burdock root, I pickled it. All eight feet, which amounts to three little jars of spicy, garlicky pickles, all cooling on my windowsill.

They’re a lot like carrot pickles, which is exciting. Actually, they’re a lot like David Liebovitz’s carrot pickles, because I adapted the recipe from his site. Except that instead of two cloves of garlic smashed, I used four whole cloves of garlic per jar, and instead of cider vinegar, I used rice vinegar and a tasty drop or ten of mirin. ALSO, they’re spiced with one minced hot red pepper, and not fennel. Pretty good, at least based on the initial round of tasting – once they’ve stewed in their juices for three to six weeks, I am sure they will be awesome.

So there you have it. Follow through, late as usual, but enthusiastic nonetheless.