Broccoli Bean Soup

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In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I usually feel a bit deceptive whenever I record one of my own recipes on this blog (so about 95% of the time).  Recipes are ontologically systematic, and if anything, the way I cook is the opposite of systematic.  I rarely use measurements and I am usually taste-testing everything throughout the whole process and adding spices or throwing in onions according to what my taste buds deem necessary.  The only problem with this is that I am now accountable to a blog, and I cannot just give out a nebulous recipe comprised of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of love all thrown together in a pot.”  I am slowly getting better at self-discipline and training myself to pay attention to the amounts I am using, but I am far from perfect in this regard.  I feel I owe it to people to offer this as both a disclaimer and an encouragement to think a little outside the box and adjust your ingredients to match your gustatory preferences.

That said, this wonderful soup was made in a haphazard fashion, and while I think the measurements of the ingredients provided will yield a most satisfactory result, I cannot be too sure.  So exercise your freedom and edit as you see fit should you decide to stir up this delicious soup in your own pots.

Ingredients

1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2/3 cup carrot juice (simply puree 3 large steamed carrots with a bit of water)
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked kidney beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

Use a food processor to blend together the broccoli with the milk, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese. Pulse until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium size pot over low heat. Add the carrot juice, beans, rice, salt and pepper. Cook for an hour and serve hot. Enjoy! Tastes great with a side of tortilla chips.

Serves about 4
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Strawberry Bean Quesadillas

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Yesterday I stopped in at Scotti’s record store where I had not been in ages.  My sister Celine wanted to buy a gift there for a friend.  Coincidentally, I had just finished listening to the All Songs Considered podcast about favorite albums during college.  All day I’d been trying to figure out which artist or song or album had the single greatest impact on me in my college years.  I couldn’t nail it down.  That’s really hard.  I’d love to say that I nursed an obsession with a single band, but there was such a conglomerate of groups that I went to for all different reasons…some to serenade me while I studied, some to blast in the car, some to be my personal soundtrack when I felt invincible, and some to serve as the backdrop when I was feeling low and needed to stew in my own funk juices for awhile.

Recently a friend asked me what music I listen to while I cook.  Also tricky.  If I am preparing something grandiose and need to channel my inner Jacques Cousteau, I will usually have either opera, Charles Aznavour or Edith Piaf playing.  If I am cooking as a means of self-therapy, it could be anything from Paul Simon to the Avett Brothers or Arcade Fire or Jeff Buckley or The Staves or Brand New or Cat Stevens or Talking Heads or Sigur Ros or Fall Out Boy or xxx or or or…..it all depends.  If I am surrounded by my family, Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong will always do the trick.

In any case. my trip to Scotti’s and subsequent purchase (just could not refrain) reminded me of all the times when I’d just brought home a new album or mix and couldn’t wait to get in the car and drive with it and use up half my gas tank just to let the music elevate me and remind me what a good thing it can be to be alive, as myself, in this world.  And then I’d look forward to listening to it again and again and again until every lyric was engrained and every octave switch was anticipated in my bones.

Also, as I drove with my new purchase last night, I remembered that caution is required  to avoid potholes and too-bumpy roads so as not to scratch the disk.  I happened to choose particularly bad roads, but with fingers crossed, we made it out unscathed.  That is one of the downsides about having a cd as opposed to simply downloading new music, but there is just something so much more exciting about holding a new album in your hands and sticking it in the player.  Anyways….

Yesterday I made this refreshing dish while Shakira sang.  Not the new, commercialized Shakira, but the very young old school artist with the awesome lyrics and carefree attitude that exuded from her first album: Pies Descalsos.

I have to say that, delicious as these quesadillas may be, they still fit more into a summer food category than a winter one.  All the same, they are super refreshing and enjoyable any day of the year.

Ingredients

(Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen)

8 corn tortillas
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 avocado
1 lime
1 handful fresh cilantro
8 strawberries
2/3 cup black beans, cooked and blended
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup goat cheese
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Stir together the beans and yogurt. Spread over a tortilla and then layer the spinach, slivers of avocado, two sliced strawberries, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over it, and then give it a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Top with a smattering of crumbled goat cheese and a second tortilla, and heat on a pan over the stovetop on high heat until the outer side of the tortilla is slightly browned. Flip and repeat. Slice into quarters and serve warm. Enjoy!

These make 4 quesadillas, but the recipe can be easily multiplied.
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Quinoa Bean Wraps

While I was living and studying in Lebanon, I didn’t cook much despite the whole new world of dishes and spices and preparation methods I was exposed to.  I was lucky enough to eat my daily share of home-cooked meals, mostly prepared at the skilled hands of the sister of the woman I lived with.  I won’t go into Lebanese cooking or mealtimes right now, because the memories I have are so many and so precious that I won’t be able to stop.  Also, the ache of missing my adopted Lebanese family is still too raw to express.  I will mention a simple little technique if you will, that I picked up during my time.  Salads are part of virtually every Lebanese meal, whether it’s a big bowl of fattoush or tabouleh, or a plate of endives with hearts of palm and mushrooms and asparagus.  And the salad is usually served alongside large leaves of romaine or something of the sort, which you can use as a vehicle for the salad in lieu of a fork.  I don’t know why, but I loved that concept and loved that the salad was extra filling when eaten with more lettuce.  Since the salads are so packed with flavor, the raw lettuce leaves also help offset the punch of the zesty seasonings.  This way of eating is something I also appreciate about Kenyan cooking, where many of the meals are eaten by hand with ugali, a thick cornmeal substance whose mildness complements the rest of the courses.

Anyway, since I’ve been back, I find myself using food as a vehicle for food quite often.  Today, I had a bunch of collard greens that I’ve been eating other meals with for the past week, and I decided to use them as wraps.  They are hearty enough in texture to hold everything together, and really do the trick of counterbalancing their fillings.

Quinoa Bean Wraps

Ingredients

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8 large leaves of collard greens, rinsed with stems removed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked pinto beans or canned refried beans
2 large carrots
1/2 lemon
hot sauce to taste
1 generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (probably 1-2 tbsp)
2 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp ground thyme
course salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425.°  Peel your carrots and julienne or slice them thinly.  Toss them with olive oil, 2 tsp of hot sauce, and the juice of half a lemon. Lay them on a cooking tray and place on a lower rack in the oven for 10 minutes.  Take them out, turn them over, sprinkle them with thyme, and set them back to roast for another 10 minutes.  In the meantime, slice the onion into thin circles and then cut the circles in half.  Saute them with 1 tbsp of the butter (or coconut oil) over medium heat until translucent.  Add the second tbsp of butter along with the cooked quinoa and garlic.  Lightly toast.
After the beans are cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the beans until they are mashed.  Salt them as you are blending, and add hot sauce if you prefer. You’ll want to be liberal with the salt.  I didn’t measure the amount I used, so you’ll have to go by taste.  If you’re using a can of refried beans, hold off on the salt.  Lay out the collard greens and place the beans, then toasted quinoa, and then roasted carrots on top.  Fold as you would a burrito.  Enjoy!

Serves 2 generously

The amount of filling in the wrap below was far too much to fold.  A fourth of that amount was really all I needed to fill one wrap.

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