Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Squares

Oh. My. Goodness. I saw these on Epicurious a couple of weeks before Valentine's Day and just knew I had to make them. I mean, chocolate, carmel, and shortbread? Can you think of anything more divine? Plus it had 4 forks, and you know it's gotta be good if it has 4 forks on Epicurious. As it turned out, I couldn't even wait until Valentine's Day and I made them almost immediately. And they were gone just as fast. I brought them to a party and they were devoured. In fact, there is a distinct possibility that the plate may have been licked clean. =) Smooth as silk and so good.

They were gone so fast, in fact, that I have no pictures of them. ("Aha!", you are thinking, "I knew that top picture was much prettier than her normal ones!" Yes, you are correct, that is not mine. =)I do have pictures of my pretty chopped chocolate and my creamy dulce de leche while cooking, but nothing else. So, I've taken a picture from the website. I made mine into small bite-sized squares because I thought they were pretty rich, that's really the only difference.I do think that if I make them again I will use a 50% or even 40% Cacao chocolate. I mean, I love my bittersweet chocolate, but in this particular dish I thought the bitter overpowered the caramel flavor of the dulce de leche flavor a little bit.I also finally broke down and bought a candy thermometer. They are really very inexpensive and easy to use. Just make sure you have which side is Fahrenheit and which side is Celsius straight before you start or it might cause a moment of panic while you are cooking (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything... ;)

I made my Dulce de Leche the cheater way. Have you ever heard of this? I mean, you can slave away at making everything perfectly, or you can just stick a can of sweetened condensed milk in a boiling pot of water for about 3 hours and then take it out with tongs and let it cool for awhile and then when you open your can it will have magically changed to the perfect thickness of dulce de leche! Of course, you need to watch the pot to ensure that the can of milk is always completely submerged: or it may explode. Other than that, just let it boil away and work its magic and you will get a no-fail, delicious, perfect textured dulce de leche. And you might as well boil 2 or 3 cans while you're at it and use it to dip apples in when you have company unexpectedly! Here's a tutorial if you want more information. I don't ever poke holes in my cans like they say to, but it might be a good idea.

So, with that in mind, here is the recipe. So, so very good.
Oh, and do let them sit at room temperature for a bit before you serve them, maybe 20 minutes, I found the texture and flavors were just perfection at that point.
They also say they can be stored for up to one day, but I found them still delicious 2 days later.

Recipe here and below.

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Squares

Yield: Makes 24 bars

Active Time: 30 min

Total Time: 3 1/4 hr


For shortbread crust:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
For chocolate dulce de leche:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 ounces 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (preferably in a food processor) (I did 6 oz. and, again, would probably do 40-50% cacao)
Make shortbread crust:

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a shallow 9- to 9 1/2-inch square baking pan (1 to 1 1/2 inches deep). Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment.

Blend together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a fork. Sift in flour and blend with fork until a soft dough forms.

Spread dough evenly in baking pan using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, then prick all over with fork.

Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.

Make chocolate dulce de leche:

Bring cream and dulce de leche to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until dulce de leche has dissolved.

Whisk together yolks in a bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is visible in tracks of spoon and mixture registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.

Make bars:
Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours.

Run a small knife around edges to loosen, then transfer to a cutting board using parchment. Cut with a hot clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe clean between cuts) into 24 bars. Chill until ready to serve.

Cooks' note: Chocolate dulce de leche bars can be chilled in an airtight container up to 1 day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Taco Salad: Day 2 of Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Menu

So, the day after you have a slow cooker whole chicken what do you do with...well...all that chicken?Well, my friend (who, incidentally, also told me about the whole slow cooker chicken deal) recommended a taco salad. I thought that was brilliant. Here you go: Day 2 on the Slow-Cooker-Whole-Chicken-Budget-Friendly-and-Delicious Menu. =)

Taco Salad:
All ingredients to taste:
Tortilla Chips
Romaine lettuce (or any lettuce)
Guacamole (recipe below if you're feeling domestic that day)
Sour cream
Black Beans (might I recommend Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans? My personal favorite)
Tomatoes and onions, if you haven't already put them in the guacamole
Chicken (left over from the night before
Salt, pepper, taco seasoning, whatever you like to add to the sour cream, guacamole, or chicken

Stack together and devour. Mmmmmm...

Recipe for absolutely delicious homemade guacamole found here and below.


3 avocados - peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

I give this guac a 4 star rating. It's really just so good.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken: Day 1 Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Menu

This post could also be appropriately titled: "Slow Cooker Whole Chicken: I'm the Last to Know", because apparently I am the last person on earth to discover that you can cook a whole chicken in a slow cooker. However, although I'm late to jump on this bandwagon, I certainly am not going to withhold a post about it because maybe - just maybe - there's one other person out there who is unaware, as I was, and I want to change that person's life the way mine was changed the other day.

I mean, let's talk a little about simplicity, elegance, and budget here. It doesn't get easier than rubbing some salt on a bird and walking away. It doesn't get more classic than a whole bird on a platter at the dinner table. And it doesn't get more budget friendly than a whole chicken (mine were 2 for $7.50) that will feed a family of 4 for 3 meals.
Just how easy is this whole thing? Let me tell you - I don't think I own one single easier recipe. Since I did this so early in the day, I chopped up some veggies, covered their roasting dish with foil (because just the other day I broke the very sad) to go with the chicken and then popped them in the oven to roast at 400 degrees just an hour before dinner. I also made a salad that morning (more on that salad later) and I felt like I was cheating because for the rest of the day I had nothing culinary to think about, all the work was done. I walked in the door for an outing with my kids at 5:55pm to the smell of roasted vegetables and slow cooker chicken, threw the salad, chicken, and veggies on the table and my husband walked in the door and thought I slaved away all day! Amazing.

Here is the recipe:
1 Whole Chicken (one that will fit in whatever size slow cooker you have)
Kosher Salt (or normal salt)
Herbs (dried or fresh, optional)

Remove giblets from chicken. Rinse chicken, pat dry. Rub salt all over outside and inside of chicken. Sprinkle with herbs. Place in slow cooker on low heat for 4-6 hours or until juices run clear and the middle of the thigh is registering 180 degrees (Fahrenheit).

It tends to fall apart easily, so carefully remove it from the slow cooker and enjoy! I actually found this part nice because since it would literally fall off the bone, I didn't have to figure out where to cut things, I just pulled a little and this or that part would fall off, so I figured we could eat it!

Told you.
That easy. That cheap. That elegant! Stay tuned for what to do with the juices and the left overs!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Veggie Stuffed Pancakes

Ok, obviously, with a name like that I couldn't pass up trying these! Especially because they involve mascarpone cheese...and who can resist mascarpone cheese in anything? They sounded so different, and yet, they were getting 5 stars on the I absolutely had to try them. I had made up my mind to write a post about these before I had even tried them - whether they were delicious or not because they were to me. I must admit, the main reason I made them was sheer curiosity.

And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised! As I was making them I was just shaking my head thinking, "What on earth have I gotten myself into? These are just so strange!" But then it all started to come together and they turned out to be pretty darn good.Now, the first night, I planned on giving them 3 stars. Because I really liked them, and they were definitely worth making once, but they were a little rich and I didn't know that I wanted to eat them again. But then...I had so many left over, I just couldn't stomach throwing them away (literally, as evidenced by me putting them in my stomach rather than throwing them away!). So, the next 2 days I was eating these puppies for lunch. Imagine my surprise when my husband and I both said to each other, "Hey! These taste even better the next day!" Who would have thought? Pancakes? But really, they were. I am not prepared to bump them to a 3.5 star rating, which will make them really a 4. Totally worth a try. They were different and fun. They had lots of vegetables. They had pancakes and mascarpone cheese. You gotta try them once!
Instead of regular pancakes, I used a recipe I have that makes pancake-y crepes, so I'm including that here as well. Oh, and these did takes a little bit of time up front with making the crepes and all, so I did a lot of the chopping/cooking in the morning and then just popped them in the oven that evening and they were done lickity split.
I served this with freshly homemade yogurt, granola, fruit and honey, which were a nice compliment to the richness of the dish.

Recipe below and here.

Recipe for pancake-y crepes below.

Veggie Stuffed Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups pancake mix (recommended: Krusteaz) or 1 recipe pancake-y crepes, found below
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups whole milk


In a medium bowl combine the pancake mix and water. Whisk the batter until smooth. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Make 12 pancakes about 5 1/2-inches in diameter. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic and saute until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large bowl. Add the basil, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and mascarpone cheese. Stir the mixture until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 by 12-inch baking dish (or individual baking dishes). Using about half the vegetable mixture fill the pancakes. Lay pancake down on a work surface, top with 2 spoonfuls of vegetable mixture, sprinkle with some mozzarella cheese. Roll up the pancake around the vegetable mixture and place in the baking dish. Continue with the remaining pancakes, placing in the baking dish in 2 rows, and using up all the shredded mozzarella cheese.

Place the remaining vegetable mixture in a blender with 1/2 cup whole milk. Blend until smooth adding up to 1/4 cup more milk if necessary to make a sauce. Pour the sauce over the center of the vegetable-stuffed pancakes in two rows. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake until the cheese is melted and the vegetables are hot, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pancake-y Crepes

Makes approximately 12 crepes


2 ¼ C flour

1 ½ Tbsp sugar

3 ¼ tsp baking powder

3 C milk

3 eggs

¾ tsp salt

¾ tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp margarine/butter


Place all ingredients in blender and tentatively whip until blended, then blend steadily for 1 minutes. Will be moderately thick, for crepes. Grease a frying pan with cooking oil, cooking spray, or butter. Cook in frying pan over medium heat till just cooked.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feta Spinach Quiche

Ok, let's talk Quiche. They're all delicious, right? I mean, you really can't go wrong with eggs, cheese, and a flaky, bready crust, right?
But what about a quiche that can stand alone even without a crust... now that is a quiche worth talking about! And let me tell you, the one I am about to introduce you to is every bit worthy of that.I was first introduced to this quiche when my first son was born. A sweet friend of mine stopped by and brought it to me for dinner. As most quiches do, it had a crust. It was delicious and it was gone in seconds flat.

Let's move forward a few years. I was still making this quiche (which says a lot) when another friend of mine brought the same quiche to a party...but without a crust. She had simply not had time to make/buy one. I loved it even more - which works out nicely because aside from flavor, the crust isn't adding much but inches on my hips.

And so a tradition was born. I now bake this in a pie dish as usual, but just leave the crust out. This last time I made it, I threw a few Panko bread crumbs on the top during the last 20 minutes of baking along with some cheese for good measure and I thought they added a fun crunch!

Lastly - it gets even better - I have made this quiche a hundred times and it is extremely forgiving as far as cheese type and vegetable combinations go. I usually have feta on hand, but many times I've swapped in swiss, mozzerella, cheddar, asiago, or whatever is around to go along with it. As long as it uses at least 2 different types of cheeses and a portion of one of those is feta, it should come out great. I also have used fresh spinach, asparagus, etc. The base is really great, if you wander a little bit with some of the other ingredients you really can't go wrong!
...As evidenced by the fact that my under-one-year-old son devoured 1/4 of the quiche by himself!

One final tip - quiches are nice because while you are making one, you might as well make two and cook them together and then freeze one of them for in a few weeks when you're in a pinch! Then, just cook as usual straight from the freezer. I just love easy meals!

Find the recipe below or here (although the recipe I am displaying below is just slightly different as I don't use a crust and I use less butter. I also lower the amount of cheese used at well)

Feta Spinach Quiche:


2 Tbs-1/2 C butter depending on how rich you want it (or you can use a combination of butter and olive oil)

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

About 10 button mushrooms or regular mushrooms, chopped medium small

1 (6 oz) feta (any kind), crumbled

6 oz shredded Cheddar cheese or any cheese on hand

salt and pepper to taste

1 (9”) unbaked deep dish pie crust (optional)

4 eggs, beaten

1 C milk

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375°F (190 degrees C). In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion in butter until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in spinach, mushrooms, feta and 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into pie crust.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pastry shell, allowing egg mixture to thoroughly combine with spinach mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining Cheddar cheese, and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Ultimate Beef Wellington

I'm not a red meat person. Never have been. I was picking hamburger off of the bun when I was 10 and out of my spaghetti sauce when I was 5. It's just not my thing.
Until now.
Prepare yourself for the most amazing dish I think I have ever experienced: Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington. Many people know that I have a culinary crush on Tyler Florence, as in, I could marry his recipes. This one was no exception. Truly, this will be the dish that I serve for company, for Christmas, basically whenever I need a show-stopper. I can't get over the layer upon delicious layer of flavor. I couldn't believe how it just melted in my mouth. And I can't believe that I was able to pull it off! If this recipe makes it look like I know what I'm doing with red meat, then this recipe really is the "Ultimate".
My favorite part is that you can stop at the refrigeration portion and let it sit for the afternoon. That way, if you have company coming, you can get everything ready in the morning and go about your business until the evening when you just complete the last 2 steps or so and throw it in the oven only to be fresh-faced and calm as guests arrive.(making the duxelles or mushroom mixture)
My husband and I made this for ourselves for Valentine's Day (awww), so we did modify it a little in that we just used 2 filet mignons instead of an entire beefsteak and scaled down everything else a little. I also used a different recipe for peppercorn sauce (recipe below) and used apricot nectar mixed with a little balsamic vinegar instead of cognac.(using the prosciutto shingling method as described in the recipe)
Really, you'll never have another piece of meat melt in your mouth the way this one does. I feel like my entire culinary experience up until has been lacking after trying this dish. Simply amazing.

Lastly, you'll want to adjust your cooking time accordingly if you are scaling it down.
Bon apetit!

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Beef Wellington


For the Duxelles:

  • 3 pints (1 1/2 pounds) white button mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Beef:

  • 1 (3-pound) center cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Minced chives, for garnish
  • Green Peppercorn Sauce, recipe follows
  • Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
  • Warm Wilted Winter Greens, recipe follows


To make the Duxelles: Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

To prepare the beef: Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil - about 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board. Shingle the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with a thin layer of duxelles. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef - saving ends to use as a decoration on top if desired. Top with coarse sea salt. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife - this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting into thick slices. Garnish with minced chives, and serve with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Warm Wilted Winter Greens.

Peppercorn Sauce


  • Pan juices from steak
  • 4 steaks 1-1 1/2 inches
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 2 cups brown stock or canned beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorn, coarsely crushed
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard


Cook steaks and keep them in one layer in skillet. Remove steaks from skillet and skim all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan juices in the skillet. To skillet add, shallots and minced garlic and cook them for 1 to 2 minutes until softened. Deglaze with Cognac, scraping up bits which cling to skillet. Add stock or canned beef broth and peppercorns. In a small bowl combine cup heavy cream and cornstarch. Whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce and simmer until lightly thickened. Whisk in mustard and pour juices from plate into pan.

5 stars? Absolutely.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best Granola Ever

I just recently began making my own granola. It turns out we eat a lot of granola at our house and that it can get expensive. And it turns out that I apparently like homemade granola a lot more than store bought - who would have ever thought? It also turns out that my toddler loves to make it with me - it's a perfect afternoon project together of dumping this and that into a bowl and then pressing it into a cookie sheet together.I really love the recipe I've been making - it's sweet, salty, crunchy, and it actually bakes into little clumps like the store bought granola that I love. If anyone has another recipe out there that you love to make, I'd love to try it! My kids have been eating it by the hand-full and I love that it has all sorts of goodness they don't even know they're getting while they gobble down their breakfast!
5 stars!
Recipe below and also here.Best Granola Ever.


1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. oil, vegetable or canola
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbs. molasses
4 Tbs. maple syrup
(Or you can just use 1/2 cup of maple syrup and omit the molasses)

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup wheat germ
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. ground flaxseed
2/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds can be substituted, especially if you can't find unshelled pumpkin seeds))
2/3 cup almonds (chopped or whole) - I left these out so my baby can eat it as well

Adjust oven racks to middle positions. Preheat to 275 degrees. Coat two metal cookie sheets with cooking spray or oil and set aside.

Bring oil, syrup, molasses, cinnamon, water to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat.

Mix oats through almonds in a large bowl. Pour oil/maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine.

Pour mixture onto two prepared cookie sheets. Working a handful at a time, squeeze granola to form small clumps.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

Let cool. Granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Makes (roughly) 2 quarts.

Creamy Enchiladas

Now, these can't really be classified as true enchiladas - a more appropriate name would be "tortilla-wrapped deliciousness". These are one of those guilty pleasures - and we all have them every now and again - that we have around out house once in a while. Actually, we only have them once in a very great while - maybe 2 times a year at the let's just scratch the "guilty" and call them "pleasures"!
I'm going to give them 4 stars with a caveat - while they are delicious and you will want to keep eating and eating and eating them...they really aren't super healthy, so I guess the taste factor would be a 5, but I couldn't actually live off of them (the criteria for a 5 star dish) because I would probably have a heart attack at age 35. So, they get a 4. Still, well worth it every now and again - they are just scrumptious!

Recipe below:


1 lbs chicken

2 C grated cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)

2 cans of cream of chicken soup (or 1 lg family can)

1 small can of diced green chilis

8 oz sour cream

5-8 flour tortillas.

Any veggies you want to add (tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, olives)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cube, cut into smaller pieces, or shred the chicken and either boil or cook in olive oil till done. Meanwhile, mix the soup, sour cream, green chilis, and two handfuls of cheese into a 2 qt. together. Once the chicken is done, mix it into the soup mixture. Take 1 tortilla and place a pinch or two of cheese, and 1-2 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture on the tortilla and roll or fold in the four sides make small squares out of the tortilla. Place each one in a 9x13 pan. Once through with the 5-8 tortillas, gently smear the rest of the soup mixture on top of the enchiladas in a 9x13 pan until all are covered. Lastly, cover with remaining cheese. Finally, place pan of deliciousness into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling softly.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black Bean Soup + Toasted Cumin Seed Crema

I finally found it. I finally found a black bean soup that I LOVE! I don't know how many black bean disasters we've gone through in this house. They are just always so bland...over-cooked, under-spiced. But this, this was absolutely delicious!Just look at all that vegetable goodness, you know you want some! And who knew you could cook beans in your crock pot so quickly and easily?
As she mentions in the recipe, this really is made by the toasted cumin seed crema. I did go out and buy cumin seeds and ground them in my pepper grinder myself (are you kidding me? I certainly don't have a mortar and pestle!), which I thought gave a delicious taste. However, I don't think you need to necessarily do so if you are in a pinch. Just use ground cumin and salt for a decently good taste. I also used sour cream. I'm on a student budget, so I have to stick to basic ingredients most days, especially since I splurged on those heavenly cumin seeds!
My beans were done in 3 1/2 hours, she mentions that there is some variability with cooking times, so that's where mine felt.
I definitely think this recipe depends on good toppings - I even added a little cheese, but it's to date my favorite black bean soup. It's healthy. It's delicious. It's easy. We at it for left-overs for days on end without any complaints. What more can you ask for?
4 stars.

Black Bean Soup with Chipotle and Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Bon Appetit

We finished this soup, by the way. Every last serving. We never do that. It’s magic, I tell you.

A big note about cooking times: The original recipe says 6 hours. Mine were done at 2 hours 45 minutes. Do black beans vary wildly in cooking time? Do slow cookers vary wildly in cooking time? These are all pressing questions. Check your beans at 3 hours, and holler at me in the comments if your cooking time ends up being much longer.

Yields 6 main course servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, chopped
1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles from a can (this gives it a solid kick, dial back if you are wary)
7 cups hot water (I just used very hot tap water)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 3 hours. [See note up top.]

Transfer two cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth. Return puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste; we found we needed more salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of toasted cumin seed cream (below) over each bowl and serve.

Do ahead: This soup keeps great in the fridge, and even thickens a bit. In a good way!

Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Hacked from Bobby Flay

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup crema or crème fraîche (or make your own crema, make your own crème fraîche, or swap sour cream or yogurt, for a close-enough taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until coarse. Stir it into the creme and season with salt and pepper, to taste.