Weeknight Pork & Bean Soup with Cornbread Croutons

This rustic soup was described as a “delicious cross between baked beans and tomato soup.” It was quick to prepare and very flavorful. We ate it over rice, like a chili.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. I increased the onions and garlic and used freshly made cornbread instead of a corn muffin for the croutons. We ate it with green salad and warm cornbread on the side. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 7 slices (9-10 ounces) thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 15-ounce cans pink beans with their liquid
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade Turkey Stock)
  • coarse salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • chopped scallions, for garnish, optional
  • rice for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon strips over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer the crispy bacon to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the saucepan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the fat in the saucepan and cook, stirring, until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and maple syrup and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the beans and their liquid and cook until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and bacon strips, season lightly with salt and cayenne pepper and simmer the soup over moderate heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, spread the cornbread cubes on a small baking sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Let the croutons cool slightly.
  8. Ladle the soup into deep bowls, garnish with the cornbread croutons and chopped scallions, as desired, and serve. (Serve over rice, if desired.)

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Vegetarian Chili with Winter Vegetables

Without knowing that I was repeating myself, I found myself saving this recipe in multiple places… a clipping from the paper, on my phone, on the computer… It was so (repeatedly) appealing to me! 🙂 I moved it to the top of my list.

This healthy chili has wonderful texture from dried pinto beans and contrasting sweet and creamy butternut squash. The use of dried beans requires extra planning but is completely worth the textural benefit in the final dish. It was mildly spicy (perfect for all palates in my house!) and tasty. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. We ate it garnished with a blend of grated Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar cheeses… mmmm…. with green salad and Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread on the side. Great!

For the Simmered Pintos:

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) pinto beans, washed and picked over for stones, soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight in 2 quarts water
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves (to taste), minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • coarse salt, to taste (at least 1 teaspoon per quart of water used)
  1. Place pre-soaked beans and (2 quarts) of soaking water in a large, heavy pot. Add halved onion and bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Skim off any foam that rises, then add garlic and bay leaf, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt and continue to simmer another 1 1/2 hours, until beans are quite soft and broth is thick and fragrant. Taste and adjust salt. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove and discard onion and bay leaf.
  4. For the best flavor refrigerate overnight.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and freeze well.

For the Chili:

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 recipe simmered pintos (recipe above)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in small dice
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons mild ground chili (or to taste: use hot, or use more) (I used standard chili powder)
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 2 cups diced winter squash (about 3/4 pound) (I used butternut)
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • grated cheddar or Monterey Jack, or crumbled queso fresco for garnish, optional (I used a blend of cheddar & Monterey Jack)
  1. Heat the beans (simmered pintos) on top of the stove in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy nonstick skillet and add the onion, carrot and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to color, about 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, stir together until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the ground chili and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes and oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste dissolved in water and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and fragrant.
  6. Stir the tomato mixture into the beans. Add the winter squash and bring to a simmer.
  7. Simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 45 minutes. It is important to stir often so that the chili doesn’t settle and stick to the bottom of the pot. It should be thick; if you desire you can thin out with water. Taste and adjust salt.
  8. Shortly before serving stir in the cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls. If you wish, top with grated cheeses.

Advance preparation: The simmered beans can be made 3 or 4 days ahead and the chili will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. You will probably want to thin it out with water is it will continue to thicken. It freezes well.

IMG_2831

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Pressure Cooker Mushroom Chili

Yum! Using dried beans makes such a textural difference in this tasty chili. Using a pressure cooker to expedite the cooking of the dried beans is genius! They were cooked perfectly and added a wonderful contrast to the softer “meaty” mushrooms in the finished dish.

The spiciness of the red pepper flakes is magnified in the pressure cooker- I reduced the amount suggested in the original recipe and the spice level (medium?) was just right for our crowd. This recipe was adapted from Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh, and Flavorful by Laura D.A. Pazzaglia, founder of hippressurecooking.com. The recipe can easily be made without the bacon to be vegetarian by using more vegetable oil in lieu of bacon fat. We ate it with cornbread and green salad on the side. A perfect cold weather meal- or for the Superbowl!

I am bringing this tasty bowl to share with my friends at the Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday #51! Enjoy!!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours, plus soaking beans overnight

IMG_2123

  • 2 T canola oil (4 T if using instead of bacon fat)
  • 7 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped, optional
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 24 oz cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 2 T ground coriander
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (I used New Castle)
  • 28 oz canned chopped tomatoes with juices
  • 2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked overnight (up to 24 hours), rinsed, and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 tsp coarse salt, or to taste
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro, stems removed, minced, for serving
  • sour cream, for serving, optional
  1. Cover the dried beans with several inches of water in a large bowl. Soak overnight. (or up to 24 hours)
  2. Heat the pressure cooker on medium heat; add the oil and heat briefly. Add the bacon and sauté until almost crispy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and celery; sauté until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms; sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned and about half of the juices have evaporated, 5 minutes or longer.
  5. Sprinkle the cumin, coriander, cocoa powder, and red pepper flakes over the mixture and stir to combine. Saute for 1 minute more to lightly toast the spices.
  6. Stir in the beer to deglaze the pan.
  7. Add the tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf and mix well.
  8. Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and release the pressure by “Natural Release” (letting it sit off the heat) as it continues to cook. (It took my pressure cooker 20 minutes to release the pressure.)
  10. Open the lid and remove and discard the bay leaf. Add the salt; taste and adjust the seasonings.
  11. Ladle the chili into individual bowls and garnish with sour cream and/or cilantro, as desired.

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Rick Bayless’ Classic Mexican Fried Beans with Onions & Garlic

Refried beans are an essential side dish to every Mexican meal. I am a fan of Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Salsa Style Refried Pinto Beans- I am not sure if I should be embarrassed to admit it. 🙂 They are smooth-textured and tasty.

This dish, Frijoles Refritos, is very different- and delicious as well! The beans are coarsely mashed and thick-textured. I used pinto beans (my preference) but any type of bean could be used and each would have a unique flavor. I also used avocado oil, but I am sure that they would be even tastier with bacon drippings!

This recipe is from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine. We ate them with Tacos of Creamy Braised Chard, Potatoes, & Poblanos. It would be pretty easy to just eat them as a dip with tortilla chips too.

Yield: Makes about 3 1/2 cups, 6 generous servings

  • 2 T vegetable oil, rich-tasting lard, bacon or chorizo drippings
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 4 cups undrained, seasoned cooked beans, preferably slightly warm for easy mashing (I empty the canned beans into a measuring cup and microwave them, in their liquid, for 2 minutes.)
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • about 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled queso fresco, or pressed, salted farmer’s cheese, dry feta or Parmesan, for garnish
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  • tortilla chips for garnish, optional
  1. In a large (10- to 12-inch), well-seasoned or nonstick skillet, heat the oil or pork fat over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute or so.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to scoop in about 1/4 of the warm beans, leaving most of the liquid behind. With a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, mash the beans into a coarse puree. Add another portion of the beans, mash them in, and continue until all of the beans have been added and coarsely mashed.
  4. Add about a cup of the bean liquid (or water if you have no liquid) and stir frequently over the heat until the beans are still a little soupier than you’d like to serve them (they’ll thicken as they sit). They should have the consistency of warm mashed potatoes. The total cooking time will take 10 to 15 minutes. IMG_7474
  5. Taste and season with salt, if necessary.
  6. Serve sprinkled with crumbled cheese, cilantro, and tortilla chips, as desired.

Notes:

  • It is easier to mash warm beans than cold ones. (I microwaved the beans to warm them before adding to the pan.)
  • Cook the beans softer than you want them because the dish thickens as it cools.
  • If the dish is made in advance, keep the beans warm in a double boiler rather than over direct heat. Check consistency and stir in a little water, if necessary, before serving.

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