Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spicy Black Bean Soup

So remember when, in a slightly less than stellar state, I told you guys about fabulous tandoori chicken? What I didn’t tell you about that night is that I also spent some not-so-quality time in the kitchen, bumbling around making soup.

My coworker often has canned beans for lunch. She drains them and microwaves them and then douses them with hot sauce and the occasional garlic powder packet in what might be the weirdest variation of black bean soup I’ve ever seen.

Inspired by her um, innovation, I decided I needed to make real black bean soup one day. It’s one of my faves, especially when spiked with cumin and a heavy hit of jalapeños. This recipe, from Epicurious, has plenty of both. After buying all of the ingredients in an excited frenzy the same day I made this, I promptly forgot all about it.

So um, two weeks later, when I noticed a not-so-hot-looking jalapeño in the fridge, I finally made soup. Thankfully the recipe was literally foolproof, as I could barely cut an onion on Sunday night. The only problem was that it called for using the cans undrained, which I refused to do. (Bean sludge in my soup? No thank you.) Also our kitchen light was out, so I was cooking in relative darkness. And I had to use a stick blender. As you can imagine, it was quite an adventure.*

The soup was well worth the (considerable, given my state) effort. Hearty and spicy and full of flavor, it definitely hit the spot. It’s definitely my favorite way to consume canned beans.

*Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the process, since there was no light and also, I was just barely a functional human. Continue reading

Tandoori Chicken

For the past year, I’ve been talking about creating a recipe for tandoori chicken. Our family makes it often, but always using a pre-mixed spice blend. While it’s always delicious, the recipe wasn’t quite ready for this blog, as I don’t believe in using ready-made mixes in these recipes. Also, I really wanted to see if I could replicate the spice mix on my own. Challenge accepted.

Based off the ingredients on the box, my mom and I created a spice blend that approximated the pre-made mix quite closely. We decided to grind the spices since we didn’t have anything better to do because they’re much more fragrant and potent than pre-ground. But obviously, ground spices work equally fine (I’ve given the ingredient amounts for ground spices here).

The end result was pretty perfect, if I do say so myself. Tangy and spicy, charred in all the right places — it was everything I want out of my tandoori chicken. And the best part is, I no longer have to rely on a box mix for my food. Well no, the real best part is: challenge defeated.

Note: I apologize for the incoherence/brevity of this post, but I’m running on 3 hours of sleep and the after effects of a very long Saturday night. And of course, I’m simultaneously watching my new favorite show. Continue reading

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Confession time: I kind of don’t really like muffins. Like, at all. While they’re meant to be wholesome, they’re often much too sweet and much too dense for my taste. Also, if it looks like a cupcake and is sweet like a cupcake, it better be a friggin’ cupcake.

It’s a shame, because if done correctly, a muffin can be a great breakfast. Packed with nuts and grains, fresh fruit and oats in a naturally transportable shape, they could easily best the grab-and-go granola bar in terms of convenience and healthfulness.

So when I unintentially woke up at 7:30 this morning, I decided to use the extra hours to make a better breakfast muffin, something I could eat with a dollop of yogurt, and more importantly, without a twinge of “I’m eating cake for breakfast” guilt.

After searching for a few minutes on my phone while lying in bed long and hard for a recipe that included only ingredients we already had, I landed upon one from Eating Well magazine. I had to adapt it to since I only had fresh blueberries and chopped walnuts, and I rejected the loaf pan for a Texas-sized muffin tin.

It’s a quick recipe involving just two mixing bowls and a fork, packed with fresh berries that go soft and slumpy in the oven and an inherent nuttiness that comes from the whole wheat flour and, obviously, the walnuts.

These whole wheat blueberry muffins were just barely sweet (my parents thought they could use a little more sugar), light and pillowy — far from the dense, saccharine offerings I’m used to. While they may not have made me a muffin convert just yet, a few more and I may be singing a different tune. Continue reading

Hearty Beef and Mushroom Ragu

What is comfort food?

In theory, it should be something that is traditional, dishes that have meaning or sentimentality attached to them — something you ate while growing up. Comfort food is the culinary equivalent of a bear hug, a pick-me-up for those really trying days.

I say this because, based on the above definition, comfort food is a very personal thing. My comfort foods are mainly Indian staples like kitchuree, a one-pot mixture of rice and dal, and aloo paratha, flatbreads stuffed with potatoes and onions. I’m sure my sister considers different foods her comfort food staples, even though we grew up eating the same things.

This dish, a rib-sticking beef and mushroom ragu that made the apartment smell like heaven, technically isn’t comfort food for me, since I’d never once eaten it before this weekend. BUT. If bear hug is what you’re looking for, then look no further. It’s heavy and hearty and warming and oh so filling (I dare you to eat more than one bowl) — perfect for the long nights of winter.

It was a little surprising to see that something I had never tried before could evoke similar feelings of nourishment to something I had eaten for years on end. Perhaps some foods are more comforting because they can provide a sense of comfort to anyone, regardless of their background. It’s another reminder that food can be so much more than just “fuel.”

What’s your favorite comfort food? And have you ever had food that isn’t technically your comfort food but evokes a similar feeling? Continue reading

Stovetop Braised Short Ribs

First off, happy new year — hope that your 2012 is filled with laughter!

Now, let’s talk about the weather. It currently feels like 20 degrees in New York City, and I’ve been forced to bring out both the puffy jacket and fur hat. (Let me tell you, it is not a good look.) In case you couldn’t tell already, I’m co-o-o-old, at least everywhere that isn’t my apartment, which has been blasting so much heat into my little bedroom that I’m forced to turn on the fan every night.

In need of a hearty dish that would keep me warm while bracing frigid winds, I of course turned to short ribs. Lord knows how much I love them, especially when braised slowly until they fall to shreds. I’ve already found the perfect recipe, what with its wine and root vegetables and thyme. But I was intrigued by the idea of cooking short ribs entirely on the stove, in almost a stew of sorts.*

The recipe, from Food & Wine, is easy and requires only a few minutes of effort. The payoff? Pillow-soft pieces of meat entrenched in a broth fragrant with thyme, carrots, celery and wine. Don’t make these on an empty stomach — the aroma may literally drive you to madness. But best of all, these stovetop braised short ribs fill you with enough warmth to brave the coldest of nights, much needed in the frosty days to come.

*I shredded the short ribs in the leftovers so that it would become more of a stew, since there were such copious amounts of sauce. Continue reading