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"One-Pot Meals"


Rustic Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato season isn't over yet, folks!  It may officially be the start of the Fall season, but locally-grown heirloom tomatoes are still filling the produce shelves (and, thankfully, arriving by the bagful in our CSA share!).  We won't have these bright, meaty, wonderful fruits much longer, so now is the time to get your fill while they are still here!
To make the soup, I generously coated the tomatoes with olive oil and roasted them until the skins started to split and the flesh softened.  This not only makes them quick and easy to peel but it also adds an extra depth of flavor to the dish.  I also used plenty of little Colorado-grown butterball potatoes, unpeeled.  I like the extra flavor and texture that the potato skin gives to the soup, but if you want a less "rustic" version you can use peeled potatoes.  I served this alongside an onion bagel with a mixture of shredded, fresh mozzarella and Fruition Farms sheep's milk ricotta (one of my absolute favorite locally-made cheeses and a must-try ingredient available at Marczyk Fine Foods).  The whole thing was melted and toasted under the broiler and then topped with a little extra parsley.  Now that's a "grilled cheese and tomato soup" meal that I can get behind!

Rustic Roasted Tomato Soup
serves 6

2 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 T olive oil, plus more for roasting
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 lbs small potatoes (fingerling, butterball, etc.)
2 jalapenos, minced
2 T tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425.  Generously coat tomatoes and garlic cloves with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet.  Roast until tomatoes soften and skins lightly brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool until they are ready to handle.  Gently peel the skin from each tomato and squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-high and add olive oil.  Add onions and saute until they soften, about 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and jalapenos and cook another minute.  Add tomato paste, stock, peeled tomatoes and garlic cloves and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.  Use a potato masher (or a food processor, if desired) to break apart the potatoes and tomatoes until a thick, chunky mixture results.  Generously season with salt and pepper and serve hot, topping each serving with a little of the fresh parsley.


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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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Curried Spinach and Cilantro Soup

The spinach recipes continue!  

This is a perfect meal for a scorching summer day.  The creamy texture of coconut milk and pureed potato and the mellow sweetness of spinach pair nicely with the cooling, almost stringent taste of cilantro and tangy lime to make a decidedly light and refreshing soup .  Use your favorite Thai-style curry powder or curry paste and make sure to adjust the salt level at the end of the cooking process so as not to over-season.  I like to garnish with a healthy handful of cilantro leaves to really give the soup a bright, vibrant flavor.

Curried Spinach and Cilantro Soup
serves 4-6

2 1/2 T butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 garlic scapes, chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can light coconut milk
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 1/2 T Thai curry powder
5 cups tightly-packed spinach leaves, tough stems removed
1 cup cilantro stems (about 1/2 a bunch)
Juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro leaves

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high until melted.  Lower heat, slightly, and add onions.  Saute until tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic scapes and potatoes and cook until scapes are fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add coconut milk, water, and curry powder and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

When potatoes are fork-tender, add spinach leaves and cilantro stems and stir until leaves are wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.  Using an immersion blender (or a food processor, in two batches) puree soup until smooth and creamy.  Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and remove from heat.  Add lime juice and stir to combine.  Serve soup hot with a handful of cilantro leaves in each bowl, to garnish.



Spring Vegetable and Mint Polenta

I will readily admit that one of my all-time favorite foods is polenta.  I love the stuff!  And frankly, it makes for an incredibly simple and wholesome meal when you cook it using this no-fuss method borrowed from the great Marcella Hazan (all hail the Queen of Italian cuisine!).  While Marcella, unsurprisingly, favors the labor-intensive method of constantly stirring, she offers a wonderful alternative method in her masterpiece, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, one of my most treasured cookbooks (and while we're on the subject - if you don't own a copy, yet, you should immediately run out and purchase one!).

My Spring-time version of polenta is light, colorful and full of flavor.  The sauteed leeks add richness and depth while the peas add a pleasant sweetness to the dish.  The bright, cooling burst of mint adds an unexpected element to the flavor profile and makes the polenta taste decidedly Springy.  As I am incredibly fond of poached eggs, I love serving one on top of this dish, but it would certainly work well as an accompaniment to roasted chicken or lamb. 

As far as the polenta, itself, I am absolutely crazy about Anson Mills' Polenta Integrale.  It is a rustic, coarse polenta milled from an Italian heirloom red tentrino flint and has a lot more texture and flavor, when cooked, than any other polenta I've tried.  If you don't feel like seeking out the fancy stuff, regular ol' polenta grain will work just fine.  But, for heaven's sake, don't buy that instant stuff!  It is pallid and lifeless compared to slow-cooked polenta and since the cooking time is mostly inactive, anyway, why on earth would you cook it any other way?  Marcella would be so proud...

Spring Vegetable and Mint Polenta
serves 6-8

7 1/2 cups water
scant 2 cups polenta
3 T butter
1 large leek
10 oz peas (thawed, if using frozen)
4 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chiffonade of mint leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil.  Pour polenta in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly.  Switch to a wooden spoon and stir for two minutes.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and cover pot.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring for one full minute every 10 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, prepare the vegetables.  Cut off the tough green ends of the leek and slice in half lengthwise.  Thinly slice the leek and rinse very well with cold water.  Allow to drain.  In a large, shallow pan, add butter and melt over medium-high heat.  Add leeks and saute until slightly caramelized and soft, about 10 minutes.  Add peas and cook until warmed through, another minute or so.  Add cooked vegetables, chopped spinach, and mint to the cooked polenta and stir well.  Add plenty of salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve immediately with a poached egg on top, if desired.



Counter Culture Jambalaya

It's Fat Tuesday!  Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!  While Fat Tuesday is usually all about indulgence, I am putting a healthy twist on a Louisiana favorite - enter, Counter Culture Jambalaya.
 This classic Southern one-pot dish is usually heavy and meat-laden, so my translation is a healthful, delicious, and rather Bittman-esque version.  I like my Jambalaya Creole-style (made with tomatoes), heavy on the spice, and just lightly studded with shrimp and andouille (for all you Coloradans - one of my favorite local sausage companies, Continental Sausage, makes a tasty and sustainably raised andouille which is often available at Whole Foods and, of course, Marczyk Fine Foods for the Denverites).  
When you cook it low and slow and use a heavy hand with the seasonings, the flavor of this Jambalaya is so good you don't need all that extra protein!  Using brown rice also yields a more toothsome texture and a nice, toasty flavor and is well worth the extra cooking time.  Tony Chachere's is the quintessential Cajun seasoning, and is pretty widely available, but there are lots of other versions that would work well.  
For those of you who really like to sweat (this recipe yields a medium-spicy Jambalaya) add more hot sauce, rather than spice mix, so you don't make it overly salty.  I used Tapatio, but if you are lucky enough to have any Louisiana hot sauce on hand - that would be even better!  If using a salt-free spice blend, make sure to add salt to the dish.

Counter Culture Jambalaya 

serves 4

2 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can San Marzano diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 T Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning (or other cajun spice mix)
1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
1/2 pound raw shrimp
1 Andouille sausage, sliced
2-4 tsp. red hot sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large dutch oven (or large pot) heat olive oil on medium-high.  Add onion and celery and saute until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and peppers and saute another 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and Cajun seasoning and bring liquid to a boil.

Add rice and stir well.  Allow mixture to return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.  Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost  cooked, about an hour.  Add shrimp and sausage, mix well, and continue to cook until rice has absorbed much of the liquid and is tender, about another 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, add hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce and stir well.  Cover and allow to sit for another 10 minutes.  Serve with plenty of parsley and scallions on top and hot sauce on the side.