One of the joys of participating in a CSA is exploring new vegetables and foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about or thought to eat. Last year we received husk cherries, red carrots, bok choy, several types of kale, purple potatoes, and at least 4 varieties of beets in addition to many more standard vegetable varieties. I don’t consider myself sheltered in terms of food, but many of these were simply things I never would have thought to look for even if they are available in a grocery store.
For the past two weeks our CSA share from the Gildrien Farm has included several cups of dried black beans, a food I’ve eaten many times but never really cooked with. In their weekly letter Jeremy and Caitlin helpfully included a recipe for Puerto Rican Black Beans, a tasty-sounding launching pad for the evening’s dinner.
Since I didn’t have any bacon grease on hand I figured I would just fry up several large pieces of bacon and use both the meat and the grease. I had planned to make a fritata as the main course for the evening, but after sampling the beans, decided to add some more veggies and put them on bread as our main course. Unfortunately, the result was so delicious that the crostini never made it out of the kitchen for a photo shoot.
Black Bean Crostini
1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight
1 large onion, diced as small as possible
1/2 a red pepper, diced
1/4 lb of bacon (4-5 pieces)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered
Soak the beans overnight to soften, then simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes until tender.
While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is crispy and most of the fat has melted off. Pull the bacon strips out of the pan and let cool, trying to keep as much of the grease in the skillet as possible.
Turn down the heat on the skillet to low. Add the diced onion and some salt to the bacon grease in the skillet and cook for 15 minutes, slowly letting the onion turn clear and caramelize.
Drain the majority of the water from the beans (leaving about a half cup) and add the beans and their water to the skillet with the onion and bacon grease. Stir together with the red pepper. Raise the heat to medium and stew for another 15 minutes or so, until the beans begin to fall apart.
Mash the beans in the skillet with a utensil of some sort until you have chunky bean paste interspersed with red-pepper and bean husks. Crumble the bacon and stir it into the beans. Salt to taste.
Cut the baguette into thin slices. Pile a large dollop of beans on each slice and top with diced cherry tomatoes.
Ever since I first tasted it on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in 1999, I have maintained a special place in my heart for tortilla soup. Since then I’ve had good and no-so-good tortilla soup at restaurants and enjoyed a decent version in the Middlebury College dining halls. Over this past Christmas holiday my mother made a tortilla soup from a New York Times recipe convincing me to give this soup a try myself.
I went into my soup planning to generally follow the New York Times recipe, with the addition of chicken and corn, but ended up deviating quite a bit with good results. As well, Sarah and I usually just use corn tortilla chips rather than frying or baking flour-tortillas. This saves a bit of work and makes for very easy left-over eating.
This recipe should serve 4 as a main course and leftovers are great frozen.
A few tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion – chopped
1 chicken leg or breast, cut into small (less than 1-inch) pieces
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of chili powder
About a quart of frozen tomatoes or a 28oz can of tomatoes
2 quarts of chicken stock
3/4 cup frozen corn
Salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 large bag of tortilla chips
In a large pot…
Sauté the onion and chicken in olive oil until the onion starts to get translucent and the chicken isn’t raw.
Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for another few minutes, but not so much as to brown or scorch the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes reduce a bit.
Add the stock and frozen corn. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Use an immersion blender, pulse the blender a few times to grind up the larger chunks of chicken, tomatoes, and onion, but not so much as to puree all of the corn. A variety textures from purée to small chunks is what I aim for.
Add the chopped cilantro, salt to taste, and stir.
Put soup in bowls, top with broken tortilla chips.
Optionally, add crumbled queso fresco or other cheese.