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"Beans"

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Black Bean, Zucchini and Roasted Garlic Cakes

We've all had them before.  Just about anybody who has ever eaten more than a few vegetarian meals has probably eaten a black bean burger.  I've always been quite fond of the protein-packed patties, but most of the store-bought versions really fail to satisfy.  Even the all-natural black bean burgers usually have an ingredient list that is far too long for me to feel good about (and often has a lot of unnecessary soy or corn-based fillers), not to mention the texture is usually dry and over-firm.



These black bean, zucchini and roasted garlic cakes, on the other hand, might become your new favorite meat alternative!  They are perfectly moist, thanks to the addition of shredded zucchini and the roasted garlic gives them a wonderfully savory aroma and flavor.  They have a nice, soft texture on the inside but get a crispy coating of panko to give them some crunch.  I served mine with Romaine and Radish Slaw and Cilantro-Lime dressing to make for a really fresh, crunchy and tasty meal.  The recipe can easily be doubled and the leftovers frozen, which makes for a super-quick and easy meal later on in the week. 

Black Bean, Zucchini and Roasted Garlic Cakes
makes 8 cakes

1 garlic bulb
2 T olive oil
4 cups black beans, soft-cooked
1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded and blotted dry with a towel (about 1 medium zucchini)
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Slice about 1/4 inch from the top of the garlic bulb so that a little bit of each bulb is exposed.  Add olive oil to a small ramekin and place the garlic bulb, cut side-down, in the ramekin.  Roast garlic until it becomes fragrant and soft, about 30-40 minutes.  Leave oven on and allow bulb to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Once cooled, squeeze garlic bulb from the bottom so the garlic cloves pop out of their skins.  Mash garlic with a fork to make a paste.

Next, assemble your cakes.  Add beans, garlic paste, zucchini, 1/2 a cup of the bread crumbs and spices to a large bowl.  Using your hands or a potato masher, mash the ingredients together until combined.  Season with salt and pepper and taste.  Adjust seasoning, if desired.  Lightly beat the egg with a fork then add to your bean mixture.  Mix well and set aside.
Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil and heat in the oven for at least 5 minutes.  Place remaining 1 cup of bread crumbs on a medium-sized plate.  Divide bean mixture into 8 balls.  Taking one ball at a time, flatten into a patty and coat each side with bread crumbs.  Place each patty on the heated baking sheet and place in the 450-degree oven.  Bake until the bottom of the cake becomes golden and crispy, about 12-15 minutes.  Flip the cakes and bake another 10-13 minutes.  Allow to cool, slightly, then serve atop the slaw (recipe below) with an extra drizzle of dressing, if desired.


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Refried Bean Pizza and Romaine Salad, part deux

The fabulous thing about home-made pizza dough is that once you have all the elements (cheese, beans, salad fix-ins) it becomes the quickest dinner ever!  Heat your oven up nice and hot, roll out the dough, spread out the toppings and dinner is done in twenty minutes.  Boom.


This version has some extra elements of awesomeness with the addition of Haystack Mt. chile jack cheese (a tangy, spicy goat jack that's well worth the high cost!) and some fresh chorizo sausage from Marczyk's.  The only difference between this salad and last night's is that it's heavier on the lettuce and gains an extra depth of flavor from grilled garlic scapes and grilled corn.  It's a little more refined and quite delicious!

Refried Bean Pizza and Romaine Salad, part deux
serves 4

Pizza:
1/2 batch fresh pizza dough (or one large store-bought pizza crust)
2 fresh chorizo sausages
2 cups refried beans (homemade is preferable)
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 cup Haystack Mt. Chile Jack cheese, shredded

Salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 bunch breakfast radishes (about 8-10 very small radishes), thinly sliced
1 red pepper, grilled and chopped
1 green pepper, grilled and chopped
2 ears of corn, shucked and grilled
1 garlic scape, grilled and sliced
1 avocado
juice of 4-6 limes
2-3 T champagne vinegar (or other white vinegar)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large pan over medium-high.  Remove chorizo from casings and add in small pieces to the hot pan.  Fry until lightly browned and cooked through, about ten minutes.  Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon and reserve fat.

Place a baking stone into the oven and heat to 500 degrees.  Meanwhile, roll out your fresh pizza dough on a lightly floured surface until crust is about 1/4-inch thick.  Slide dough onto a large, lightly-floured cutting board.  Brush the crust with chorizo fat and spread on the beans in an even layer.  Top with queso fresco and chile jack and finish with chorizo pieces.  Slide pizza from the cutting board onto the baking stone in the oven and cook until crust is crisp and lightly browned, about 8-11 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then slice.

Meanwhile, assemble your salad.  Slice corn kernals off the cob.  In a large bowl, combine romaine, radishes, corn, garlic scape, and peppers.  In a blender, combine the avocado with lime juice and blend.  Add just enough vinegar to loosen the dressing (it will be very thick).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss salad with about 5 T of the dressing.  Serve salad alongside the pizza.

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Refried Bean Pizza with Romaine, Radish and Pepper Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette

When I have a day off and nothing planned I almost always seize the opportunity to make something tasty that takes just a little extra time.  Making things from scratch isn't always realistic in our busy, day-to-day lives but it's always well worth the effort.  So today I made fresh, whole-wheat pizza dough and slow-cooked and refried beans. 


You don't have to take the time to make pizza dough from scratch (although if you have a standing mixer it's a snap to put together) but I would highly recommend making your own refried beans as opposed to using the canned ones.  Not only is the flavor and texture infinitely better but most of the time that it takes to make them is inactive, anyway.  I like to freshen up homemade pizza by topping it with a light, chopped salad.  In this case, using the bright cilantro, crisp and flavorful romaine lettuce and the spicy, crunchy radishes we received from our Grant Family Farms CSA as well as some grilled peppers.  The dressing is as simple as can be - just an avocado blended with lime juice and vinegar. 



If you are serving a crowd, this recipe can easily be doubled so you can make two pizzas.  You are already making enough beans and pizza dough (most pizza dough recipes yield enough for two pizzas) and even dressing.  Just double the amount of lettuce, radishes and peppers you use and you've got enough food for about 6-8 people.  If you want to make this vegetarian, simply replace the bacon fat with more canola oil.  I, however, couldn't resist using the bacon fat!  It adds a rich and homey flavor to the beans and provides a hearty base for this wholesome and tasty dish.

Refried Bean Pizza with Romaine, Radish and Pepper Salad 
with Avocado Vinaigrette
serves 4

Refried Beans:
1 lb. dried pintos or black beans
vegetable bouillion
1 T bacon fat
1 T canola oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp mexican oregano
pinch of cayenne
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper, to taste

Pizza:
1/2 batch fresh pizza dough (or one large store-bought pizza crust)
olive oil, for brushing
2 cups refried beans
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled

Salad:
1/2 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 bunch breakfast radishes (about 8-10 very small radishes), thinly sliced
1 red pepper, grilled and chopped
1 green pepper, grilled and chopped
1 avocado
juice of 4-6 limes
2-3 T champagne vinegar (or other white vinegar)
salt and pepper, to taste

Cover beans with several inches of water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Add enough bouillion to flavor the water and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, cover and allow beans to simmer until very tender and water is thickened, about 2 hours.

Once beans are tender, heat oils in a large pan over medium-high.  Add diced onions and cook until slightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Using a large slotted spoon, add about 1 cup of beans.  Fry until a light film coats the bottom of the pan, then add another cup of beans.  Continue to fry in batches until all the beans have been added (adding a little more canola oil, if necessary), then add enough of the bean broth to barely cover the beans.  Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to medium-low and mash and stir the beans with a flat-ended wooden spoon until they reach a creamier consistency, about 10 more minutes (if beans get too dry, just add more bean broth until it reaches desired consistency.

Place a baking stone, if using, into the oven and heat to 500 degrees.  Meanwhile, roll out your fresh pizza dough on a lightly floured surface until crust is about 1/4-inch thick.  Slide dough onto a large, lightly-floured cutting board.  Brush lightly with olive oil then spread on the beans in an even layer.  Top with queso fresco.  Slide pizza from the cutting board onto the baking stone in the oven and cook until crust is crisp and lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then slice.

Meanwhile, assemble your salad.  In a large bowl, combine romaine, radishes and peppers.  In a blender, combine the avocado with lime juice and blend.  Add just enough vinegar to loosen the dressing (it will be very thick).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss salad with about 3 T of the dressing.  Top pizza slices with a handful of salad and serve immediately. 



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Classic Chili

Every home cook needs at least one great chili recipe in their arsenal.  It's the ultimate comfort food - hearty and wholesome with tons of flavor and universally crowd-pleasing.

This chili was inspired by all the beautiful organic beans that we have been getting from our Grant Family Farms CSA share.  I used the mixed black and pinto beans we got this week and some of the kidney beans from last week, which is a pretty classic trio of legumes for chili.  I like the color and texture that results from this combination, but just about any bean you have laying around in your pantry will do!



I used 100% grass-fed beef and Niman Ranch pork to make the meal a little more special (we don't eat a lot of meat in this house, after all!) but this chili is quite flavorful and delicious without the meat, too.  I love topping each serving with lots of fresh cilantro and queso fresco.  Use whatever toppings you like best - some might prefer a good aged cheddar and red onions or a heaping spoonful of sour cream and green onions.  The best thing about chili is, it's easy to make it your own!

Classic Chili
serves 6
 
3 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups mixed beans (I used pinto, black, and kidney), rinsed and picked through
1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes
6 cups vegetable or beef stock
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 T tomato paste
salt & pepper
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 pound ground pork

Optional garnishes:
Cilantro and queso fresco
Aged cheddar and diced red onions
Sour cream and sliced green onions

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onions and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add beans, the liquid from the can of tomatoes, and increase heat to high.  Crush the whole tomatoes by hand in large, rustic chunks and add to the pot along with the herbs, spices and tomato paste.  Stir well and allow mixture to come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and allow to simmer until beans start to become tender, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Meanwhile, heat a large shallow pan over medium-high.  Add ground beef and pork and break apart with a flat-ended wooden spoon.  Cook meat until lightly browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Once cooked, drain the fat from the meat in a colander.  Add to chili.

Continue to simmer the chili with the meat until beans reach desired level of tenderness - for slightly al dente, cook another 30 minutes.  Season well with salt and pepper and serve with garnishes.




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Christmas Beans

It's here!  My favorite time of year has finally arrived... CSA season!  For anybody who has never participated in Community Supported Agriculture, let me just give my enthusiastic recommendation - DO IT!!!  Not only does it help you pack more fresh, organic, local produce into your diet but it also really gets the creative juices flowing since you have no say in what kind of vegetables you are getting. 

One of the things we got in abundance this week was spinach.  The thing I love about spinach is that it goes well with so many different things.  You can chop it up and throw it in pasta sauce, minestrone or other soups, pesto, or a pot of beans like these simple and tasty Christmas Beans (y'know... 'cause they're green and red!).  The spinach adds lots of good nutrients and beautiful color to the dish, but is also rather unassuming when incorporated into beans, which makes it perfect for people who think they don't like the stuff (heaven forbid!).


I used the absolutely beautiful Red Mexican Heirloom beans that came with our CSA share, but any 'ol red bean will do.  I never pre-soak my beans because I've never found it necessary (and also because Rick Bayless told me not to and if there's any Cabacho I'm going to trust with my beans, it's him!).  Try these beans over cooked brown rice, or just about any other cooked grain you have on hand, and you've got yourself a protein-rich, wholesome, delicious meal that's also nice and filling.  What's not to love?


Christmas Beans
serves about 6

2 cups dried red beans, rinsed well
12 cups water
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 T cumin
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 cups chopped spinach (stems removed and washed well)
sliced green onions

In a large pot, cover dried beans with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender but not mushy - about an hour.  Drain beans, reserving 2 cups of liquid, and set aside.

In another large pot, add olive oil and cook on medium-high.  Add onions and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds.  Add beans, reserved bean liquid, and spices and turn the heat up to high.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Just before serving, add chopped spinach and mix well so that the leaves get a chance to gently wilt.  Serve with cooked brown rice, if desired, and top with plenty of sliced green onions.

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