Monday, December 27, 2010

Beans 'n Greens, Caribbean Style

The black bean stands so well on its own -- bold and earthy. I don't use black beans enough and tend to forget just how much I love them. This is evidenced by the 6 cans I have in my pantry! I'm always reminded of my favorite Cuban restaurant back in Florida where they served up black beans thick and creamy, devilishly rich. Rich? A bean can be rich?

Ever since this summer I've been hooked on this recipe for kale with bacon and coconut milk. It is fabulous just as it is but thought I'd make a vegetarian alternative to add to the beans 'n greens saga. Crisp kale, creamy beans are made rich with coconut milk and just a hint of chile powder that makes for a lovely sauce. I'm sure this recipe would be great with the bacon (because what isn't improved with bacon?) but is quite tasty without it.

Kale with Black Beans and Coconut Milk
adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch kale, stems removed
a small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1-2 tsp chile powder (or to taste)

Cook the onions and garlic in a large pot until just tender. Toss in the kale and stir around for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the chile powder, beans, and season with salt. Cover and let simmer until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice, with some sweet bread, or warm tortillas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Beans 'n Greens

After all this time I'd say my diet has changed a little bit. After reading a lot of Mark Bittman, mulling the pros and cons in my head, and considering my own health, I have decided to become a pseudo-vegetarian. Now I say 'pseudo' because I'm not cutting out meat entirely but I am limiting it in my diet to only a couple times per week or only when I'm out to dinner and vegetarian options are limited. It's a win-win -- good for me and good for the environment as Bittman would argue in his book Food Matters.

I understand the vegetarian diet isn't for everyone, and the raw food or vegan diet is for even less. There is a huge commitment to make to live this way, and for foodies it can be even more difficult. If you are the type of person who can do it, then good for you. I cannot live entirely without meat however, but have felt better since limiting it in my diet. It has also been fun to get creative with a whole different way of cooking. Jazzin' up those veggies and whole grains has not been as challenging as I thought. In reality, I don't really miss meat or crave it throughout the week. A meat-free diet can be just as filling and satisfying.

The biggest addition to my diet has been various beans and various greens. I've been honing in on my favorite combinations of beans and greens but excited to try more as certain greens start in season and as I start to incorporate unfamiliar beans into my pantry. A weeknight standby has become great northern beans, escarole, and tomato sauce -- a dish I first had at our neighborhood Italian joint that was so luscious and creamy I had to try to make it at home.

What's your favorite beans 'n greens preparation?

Beans and Escarole with Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 head of escarole, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained well
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
28 oz can of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade)
red pepper flake, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan, adding red pepper flake and any other seasoning to taste. In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, then add the escarole. After 2 or 3 minutes, when the escarole starts too cook down, gently stir in the beans so not to break them. Cook another minute or 2 adding more oil if it gets too dry. Finally ladle in the tomato sauce and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for a couple more minutes to let the flavors come together. Season with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

best weekend ever

Imagine the best weekend of your life. Now imagine Michelin star dining with top notch wines. A 2+ hour meal of fun and playful dishes. Elusive bars with hidden entrances. Supersized macarons to put in your pocket. Finished with a heaping helping of sizzling meat. This was my weekend. The weekend of your dreams.

It started at Esca -- the Mario Batalli joint. Here I admitted that I don't like oysters but I love halibut belly. I was amazed by every wine we tried from the bubbling champagne to the crisp basil-tinged white and luscious reds.

Then we were off to Jean-Georges for a lunch of incredible value. I was wowed with watermelon and refreshed with their homemade sodas. A quick snack of macarons at Bouchon bakery was only across the street.

A late night reservation at wd50 was a true highlight. A casual atmosphere, wd50 is no Alinea but Chef Wylie Dufresne is all business when it comes to what's on the plate. The dishes were fun and quirky. Mostly tasty but nothing too, too memorable. wd50 is more about experimenting with food and textures than big flavors and challenging the senses like Grant Achatz does at Alinea. Not sure I would eat there again, but this was a meal I will remember for a long time.

Striped bass wrapped in pineapple with chorizo and popcorn

Everything bagel (ice cream) with smoked salmon and crispy cream cheese

Foie gras with passion fruit center and chinese celery and avocado dust

Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, kampachi and fried potatoes

Cold-fried chicken with buttermlk-ricotta, caviar, and honey tobasco

Sweet shrimp with red pepper strands, black sesame and shiso

Beef consommé with bernaise gnocchi and haricot verts

Lamb loin, pickled ramps, black garlic romesco and soybean

Chewy lychee sorbet with pistachios and celery puree

Hazelnut tart filled with coconut, chocolate, and chicory foam

Rainbow sherbet of tarragon, orange, and tarragon over olive oil sponge cake

A few rendezvous at various speakeasies around the East Village rounded out the weekend. Angel's Share was very well hidden behind a nondescript door in a busy sushi restaurant. The Bourgeois Pig was super hip with snazzy decor. And Please Don't Tell, found on the other side of a phone booth inside a hot dog joint where you pick up the phone to gain entrance, was full but will have to be explored next time.

We ended the weekend with Peter Luger's monstrous meat (a 40 oz porterhouse!) while World Cup blared from the next room. Chocolate coins dipped in a bowl of "schlag" finished the perfect weekend. I've never been so happy and so full.