Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Sliding into Spring Succotash

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

I feel like I am jumping the gun today by writing a post and recipe for succotash. It is March, almost April, and without a doubt corn and baby lima beans are summer vegetables. Yet, I have delicious memories enjoying succotash with my Easter dinner. This vegetable dish is one I could eat in any season in a year. Fortunately, good quality frozen vegetables are available making it possible to eat this light but hearty side dish whenever I please. I happen to love succotash, especially paired with ham.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

My first introduction to succotash was after getting married and living in New York. Succotash was a regular vegetable dish at my in-laws Thanksgiving and Easter dinners. I clearly remember how my sister-in-law made it with corn, lima beans, green bell pepper and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Green beans are sneaking into my memory recipe as well but not as clearly as the other ingredients. It was love at first bite. When I went for seconds, I usually came back with another helping of succotash.

There is just something about succotash that sings to me. Maybe because this meal has a simple nature implying ease and comfort. Or, because each vegetable compliments the other for a harmonious vegetable medley. The flavors taste fresh, sweet and light, even when made with frozen vegetables.

Also, what’s not to love about saying “Succotash” with its fun and jazzy rhythm. As it happens, Herbie Hancock believes succotash has a jazzy rhythm as well and wrote a song titled, “Succotash” on his Inventions and Dimensions album.

History of Succotash

Succotash dates back to New England Native Americans from the word, msíckquatash, meaning boiled cut corn kernels. Back in the 17th century succotash mostly consisted of corn and native beans like cranberry beans. The English settlers soon adopted this hearty and nutritious stew and made it throughout the year from dried corn and beans.

Succotash grew in popularity throughout the US during the great depression and other eras of economic hardship. The ingredients were readily available and inexpensive and made a meal with a lot of sustenance. Over time, succotash evolved from a stew into a lighter side dish made with additional vegetables added to the corn and beans. Any succotash variation is acceptable, as long as corn and beans feature prominently in the ingredients.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

With the invention of refrigeration and frozen foods, we can enjoy succotash year-round. However, make this with fresh corn during the summer months when corn is sweet and beans are fresh and just harvested. You will need to soak and cook the beans ahead, but the corn will quickly cook with the other vegetables after the fresh kernels are cut right off the cob.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

Succotash Variations

Serve succotash with a grain like brown rice or farro for a plant-based main entrée meal. When legumes and grains combine they create a complete protein with all the essential amino acids accounted for.

During the winter months, substitute the zucchini with winter squash.

Make succotash with corn, cranberry beans and green beans with a splash of cream and choice of a fresh herb.

Use succotash for the filling of a pot pie, either with grains or other proteins like chicken or turkey.

Make succotash into a vegetable soup just by adding vegetable or chicken stock with some aromatics. Or, turn it into a crab and succotash chowder with fresh crab and cream.

 Healthy recipes with corn: Anything Goes Potato Salad, Fresh Zucchini with Corn, Avocado and Pistachios

Simply Succotash

Succotash is a vegetable dish traditionally made with corn, and cranberry beans. This recipe builds up from the traditional recipe by adding to the corn lima beans, zucchini, sweet bell pepper, onion and fresh herbs. Any fresh herb like sage, thyme, tarragon, chervil or basil will nicely compliment the corn and vegetables.  

For a plant-based main entrée, serve succotash with a grain such as farro or brown rice. 

Course Vegetable Side Dish, Vegetarian Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (16 oz / 454 g) frozen corn 4 ears of fresh corn
  • 10 oz (285 g) frozen baby lima beans
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion about 10 oz (300 g)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper 7-8 oz (219 g)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 zucchini about 1 lb (454 g)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 oz (87 g) grape tomatoes
  • Several rounds Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-6 leaves fresh sage tarragon, basil, chervil, lemon thyme

Instructions

  1. Prep the Vegetables

    Defrost the frozen corn and lima beans. If using fresh corn on the cob, slice the corn kernels off the cob and set aside. Peel and dice the onions. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and white pith. Cut into long 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) strips then dice into 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) pieces. Peel, remove the green germ and mince the garlic. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, then each half into quarters, lengthwise. Cut across each wedge into pieces about a half-inch wide (1.5 cm). Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Set each vegetable aside in separate piles. 

  2. Sauté the Succotash

    Place a large sauté pan or skillet, about 12-inches (30 cm) or larger, over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and heat up. Before the olive oil gets hot and smoky, add the diced onions and bell pepper. Stir to coat the vegetables with olive oil, and add ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt.  Sauté until the onions are translucent but not browned, and the vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes

  3. Add the minced garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic releases its aroma, about a minute. 

  4. Add the zucchini and stir to mix the vegetables together. Add the thyme sprigs, another ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt and several rounds of fresh black pepper, and stir. Continue to sauté the vegetables until the zucchini starts to soften, about 4 minutes, but is not cooked all the way through.

  5. While the zucchini is cooking, slice the fresh sage leaves, chiffonade cut, and set aside. 

  6. Add the corn, lima beans and tomatoes. Stir, taste and correct the seasoning with more salt. Sauté the vegetables until they are cooked through and the corn and lima beans are warm, about 4 minutes. Add the sage and stir. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, sage, or black pepper if necessary. Turn off the heat. 

  7. Serve warm. 

Recipe Notes

For another version of succotash, make it with corn, lima beans, green beans with a splash of cream. Season with herbs like tarragon, chervil or basil. 

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

During the month of March, despite modern farming and trade making fresh produce available 365 days of the year, there is clear evidence that the remnants of winter produce are coming to an end. In the northeast, as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring with its’ young seasonal produce, there is a “I’m tired of winter,” expression on many faces. Unfortunately, our winter blues is made more pronounced with the slim pickings at the farmers market. Fortunately, some winter produce, like cauliflower, is easily dressed up with a vibrant sauce made with available winter greens and seasonings. Seared cauliflower with kale parsley sauce is a spring alarm clock for the winter weary.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

Throughout the winter I particularly enjoyed roasted broccoli and cauliflower. The charred flowerettes and roasted flavor comforted me on many cold winter nights. Yet, I get antsy in March and seek out clues for an awakening spring. The blustery days still have me craving comfort food like slow braises and stews, but something more vibrant and less rich is dawning. As a result, I decided to add a zesty sauce with my usual seared and roasted cauliflower to waken up the senses after a long winters nap.

Kale Parsley Sauce for Cauliflower Steaks

Kale parsley sauce is a hybrid similar to pesto and chimichurri, but not quite a true member of either one. The heft of the sauce comes from blanched lacinato kale and puréed with assertive ingredients to soften the bitterness of this hearty winter green. To counter the bitterness I added anchovies and lots of garlic. The acid from the capers and vinegar give the sauce a bright and semi-sweet flavor to counter the bitterness as well. Even though this sauce resembles a South American chimichurri sauce, it has a distinct Italian personality.

The most important thing to remember when cooking with kale, no matter what variety, is to remove the whole stem running up the middle of the leaf. The stems are very fibrous and unpleasant to eat and as a polite gesture to your dinning companions remove the stem before cooking. If you want your kids to eat kale, get rid of the stem. Kale leaves have a naturally dry and chewy texture that does not appeal to everyone. Served with the sharp and fibrous stem your children will cross their arms and turn up their nose. Harrumph. You won’t win this battle.

To remove the stem from the kale leaf, simply run a sharp paring knife along the length of both sides of the stem and slice it out. Or, fold the leaf in half like a book with the stem as the binder. While holding tight at the base of the seam (where the stem meets the leaf), yank upwards on the stem and tear it away from the leaf.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

How to Slice Cauliflower Steaks

It is easy to slice cauliflower into “steaks” at the center of the cauliflower head. Unfortunately, you may only get two to three intact steaks. First trim off any leaves at the base of the head then trim the stem even to the bottom of the cauliflower head. Then, slice right down the middle of the cauliflower from pole to pole. Beginning at the cut side, slice the cauliflower into half-inch (1.5 cm) wide steaks then repeat with the other half. Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes the farther away from the core so do not despair if they start to come apart.

If it is important for appearance and presentation that you have as many intact cauliflower steaks as you have guests, then buy a couple heads of cauliflower for some insurance. Chop up and roast the remainder flowerettes and add it to toasted farro with mushrooms, or in risotto, or roast in a 400°F (200°C /Gas Mark 6) oven with olive oil and Romano cheese for a side dish for another meal.

 What to pair with Seared Cauliflower with Kale Parsley Sauce

Seared and roasted cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that is perfect as a vegetarian meal or a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. The prominent bite of the kale parsley sauce comes from the vinegar (like chimichurri sauce) and requires a hearty food like grains, pasta or steaks to pair alongside. This recipe will make more kale parsley sauce than you need, so use the remainder as a sauce for pasta with cauliflower, peas, chickpeas and grape tomatoes for an easy weeknight dinner.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce, a recipe.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce

Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes, but in the center through the stem you can slice the cauliflower sections with the stem and flowerettes intact. You will get anywhere from 2-4 intact steaks depending on the size of the cauliflower. Don’t despair if they break apart, it will still taste delicious. Buy a couple of cauliflower heads for backup if the cauliflower steaks break apart or if you want your guest to have similar looking pieces. 

The kale parsley sauce is a vibrant hybrid of a chimichurri sauce and a pesto. The acid brightens the sauce while the anchovies, capers garlic and hot pepper flakes give it depth. It is a delicious sauce to add some pizzazz to roasted vegetables and meats. 

If you have some leftover cauliflower it is delicious stirred into penne or fusilli pasta with some chickpeas and sliced cherry tomatoes, coated with the kale parsley sauce.

See notes for a vegan alternative. 

Course Vegetable Side Dish, Vegetarian Main
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 4 oz (125 g) lacinato kale
  • ¼ cup (34 g) pine nuts, more for garnish
  • Shy ounce (26 g) Italian parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets 1 tsp white miso paste for a vegan substitute, optional
  • 2 TB capers rinsed and dried
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • ¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes (Depending on how hot you want the sauce)
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • A couple of rounds of fresh black pepper
  • ½ cup (125 ml) 125 ml extra virgin olive oil plus more for the cauliflower
  • 1 large head of cauliflower

Instructions

Make the kale parsley sauce

  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
  2. Bring a large stock pot half full of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the pot. While the water is combing to a boil, clean and remove the stems from the lacinato kale. Chop the leaves into thirds. When the water reaches a brisk boil, add the kale and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the kale from the boiling water with a spider or tongs and add to the ice water bath. Once the kale is cool to touch, drain from the water and spread out over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Gently pat dry. Set aside.

  3. Toast the pine nuts. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Add the pine nuts. Keep the pine nuts in constant motion so they do not burn. Shake the pan and move it back and forth on the burner, or stir with a wooden spoon. The pine nuts are toasted when you start to smell a warm nutty scent and the pine nuts are slightly browned in parts, about 1 minute. Quickly pour the pine nuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
  4. Trim off most of the parsley stems and rough chop the parsley leaves.
  5. In a bowl of a food processor or blender, add the blanched kale and give it a few pulses to break it up and start to make a purée. Add the parsley and pulse to blend.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil and pulse to create slightly textured purée. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Pour out the kale sauce into a small bowl and add the olive oil. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside on the counter.

Cauliflower Steaks

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5

  2. Trim away any leaves from the base of the cauliflower head. Rest the cauliflower head on its bottom, stem end down, and cut the cauliflower head in half vertically. Push one half aside and cut ½ inch (1.5 cm) width slices making cauliflower steaks. You might only get two intact cauliflower steaks per side, and the remaining cauliflower may fall into pieces. Repeat with the other half.

  3. Spread the cauliflower steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and gently brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.
  4. Heat a griddle pan or large skillet to medium high heat. I set my griddle to 325°F (160°C). When hot add the cauliflower steaks to the griddle or skillet and sear for about 5-6 minutes a side. Check after 4 minutes to see the progress. You want a nice brown sear along the flat surface of the cauliflower. Carefully turn the cauliflower steaks over and sear the opposite side.

  5. Place the cauliflower steaks on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until the cauliflower is tender in the middle, about 10-12 minutes.

  6. Plate the cauliflower steaks on a serving platter or individual plates, and drizzle with the kale parsley sauce. Garnish with pine nuts and chopped parsley and sliced grape tomatoes.

  7. Serve with grains or grilled or roasted meats and chicken.

Recipe Notes

If you want to make this a vegan meal, omit the anchovies and add white miso paste. Start with a teaspoon of miso paste and taste. It will give the kale parsley sauce some body similar to the anchovies, but you lose some of the Tuscan vibe in the sauce. Another alternative is just omit the anchovies and add more capers to your liking.

Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce. A recipe for seared and roasted cauliflower steaks with a vibrant kale parsley sauce. Made with lucinato kale, Italian parsley, anchovies, capers, garlic and hot pepper flakes. Substitute white miso paste for the anchovies for a vegan version.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce, a recipe.

 A silky and chunky mushroom sauce recipe perfect with fresh or dried, long wide shape pasta. With a pound and a half of mushrooms, it has a deep mushroom flavor seasoned with dry Spanish sherry and fresh rosemary.

My stress level is very high now and I desperately need to chill out. In-between two nor’easters, extended power outages, and no internet, I migrated my website from one hosting service to another. Maybe I should have waited until the storms cleared, but then I would still be waiting. No internet.

For over a week my website fluctuated between it’s old home and new one, appearing with different styling and connections. Just like we went from house to house seeking warmth and shelter after the storm. Fortunately, we had a place to go, not like my website that was floating between two homes.

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce, a recipe.

Mushroom Sauce to Sooth the Soul

Amid cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer and restocking our supplies, I spied a pint of store made fresh cream of mushroom soup. I grabbed it up like it was the last pint of soup in the store. Instinctively, I knew other than my internet service returning, cream of mushroom soup was the medicine I needed to calm my mind.

Back home, with each sweet and earthy slurp my body melted into the serene soup. Selfishly, I wanted more and next to mushroom soup, pasta with mushroom sauce grounds me. Like cream of mushroom soup, mushroom sauces for pasta is at the top of my favorite food list. When two of the most comforting foods combine, it is difficult to hold onto any worries. It is time to make this at home.

How to store mushrooms Once I open a sealed package of fresh mushrooms, I put any remainder mushrooms in paper bag. Mushrooms get slimy in plastic bags and containers.

Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce, a recipe

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Pasta coated with a silky mushroom sauce is for the mushroom lover in your family. I like to use an assortment of cultivated mushrooms with some dried wild mushrooms. The variety add more depth of flavor and cuts down on the cost. If you have a bounty of wild mushrooms, all the better. Please note portabellas and baby bellas (crimini) mushrooms, turn the mushrooms and sauce a darker brown and grayish color during the cooking process. A squirt of lemon juice will prevent the brown-grey color from getting too dark. If you use portabellas, remove the dark gills before you slice them. 

Wide flat noodles are my preferred pasta shape with this smooth mushroom sauce. Often pappardelle or tagliatelle are hard to find so penne is a good substitute. If you can get fresh pasta go for it, but make sure you time the pasta to reach just shy of al dente when the sauce is done cooking. Fresh pasta is best eaten right after it is cooked.

This recipe is adapted from Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, Tagliatelle with Mushroom Sauce. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 5
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • .5 oz (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms*
  • 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
  • 1 lb. (454 g) dried or fresh pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle, or penne
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs 750 g assorted mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 leek cleaned and minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 TB fresh rosemary minced (thyme or sage)
  • 3 TB tomato paste
  • 2 TB dry sherry or Cognac
  • 1 - 1.5 cups (250 - 375 ml) reserved mushroom liquid, or a combination of vegetable or chicken stock and mushroom liquid
  • 2 TB butter
  • Handful of Italian parsley chopped for garnish
  • Fresh finely grated Romano cheese

Instructions

Reconstitute the dried mushrooms

  1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms and poke at them to submerge the mushrooms under the water. Quickly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid my lifting them out with your hands or a slotted spoon and rest them on a cutting board. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a double layer of cheese cloth, into a small bowl. Finely chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set aside. Reserve the mushroom liquid for later.
  2. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Once the pasta water reaches a vigorous boiling point and add about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.

Prepare the mushroom sauce

  1. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet, about 12 inches (30cm) or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil add all the fresh mushrooms to the pan. (If you use a smaller pan, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in a couple of batches.) Sauté stirring occasionally until they are cooked through and all their liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add the minced leeks, garlic, minced reconstituted porcini mushrooms, half the minced rosemary, Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper then stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until the leeks are soft about 5 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to uncover the hot spot of your pan and add the tomato paste to toast it over the hot spot for about a minute. Mix the tomato paste with the vegetables and cook for 4 minutes. Add the liquid, either just the mushroom stock or a combination of mushroom and chicken stock no more than 1. 5 cups (375 ml), and the butter. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the mushroom sauce until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Refer to the directions on the back of the pasta box. Occasionally stir the pasta so the strands do not stick together. Once cooked, remove the pasta from the water using tongs and add it directly into the pan with the mushroom sauce. Toss to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining minced rosemary and serve.
  4. Serve immediately garnished with minced parsley with finely grated fresh Romano cheese.

Recipe Notes

Dried porcini powder is another way to get earthy mushroom flavor when cooking with cultivated mushrooms. Start with 1 teaspoon. Taste, then adjust with more if needed.

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce, a recipe.

More mushroom recipes for the mushroom lover:

Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary  Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Mix up the Mushroom Sauce

Instead of a pasta sauce, spread the mushroom sauce over polenta, grilled steaks, chicken or white fish.

Top bruschetta with the mushroom sauce. Toast slices of crusty French or Italian bread then paint each slice using a garlic clove. Top the garlic toasts with the mushroom sauce and serve as an appetizer.

Add some cream or crème fraîche to the mushroom sauce for a creamy adaptation. Start with a half of cup (125 ml) and taste. If you use cream add it with the stock, but do not let the sauce boil. If you use crème fraîche, add it at the end before you add the pasta.

Switch up the herbs to reflect the season. Mushrooms taste delicious with thyme, rosemary and sage, but in the summer months, try it with basil.

Experiment with the texture. For a slightly smoother sauce, purée half of the sauce until smooth, then add the purée back with the other mushrooms. Adjust the thickness with more stock.

For a heartier mushroom sauce, add roughly chopped tomatoes to the sauce before you add the stock. Proceed as directed.

Thank You

If it wasn’t for free Wi-Fi at various stores in my area I would not have been able to get my website up and running and publish this post. Thanks to Panera and Starbucks for providing the service. It was a real-life saver for many people like myself during the aftermath of two nor’easters within a weeks’ time. This is not an ad or a sponsored post, just a friendly thank you.

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce. A silky and chunky mushroom sauce recipe perfect with fresh or dried, long wide shape pasta. With a pound and a half of mushrooms, it has a deep mushroom flavor seasoned with dry Spanish sherry and fresh rosemary.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.

Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.

While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos

This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.

If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.

To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”

The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Green Tacos, a recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos

The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.

Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Toppings for Black Bean Tacos

As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese.  The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.

If you do not eat dairy, add  pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.

The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

3 ways to heat up corn tortillas.

Final Thoughts

I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.

I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52.  For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black beans cooked with onions and epazote make a flavorful foundation for spicy roasted winter squash in these vegan black bean tacos. Add different toppings like feta or cotija cheese, or pickled onions or jalapenos for some extra brightness. Top each taco with nuts, avocado and salsa verde. To make these tacos really shine buy freshly made tortillas from a local taqueria or Mexican market. Vegetarian, vegan option and gluten free
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Winter Squash

  • 1 1 lb 12 oz / 788 g winter squash like butternut or kabocha
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ Kosher salt
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Black Beans

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz 102 g white onion, minced (about half an onion)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed and minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote crumbled
  • 1 lb 500 g drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
  • Kosher salt to taste

Assemble the Tacos

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Roasted winter squash
  • Black bean spread
  • 1 avocado sliced thin
  • Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
  • Creme fraiche optional
  • Small handful of cilantro minced
  • ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
  • Salsa verde

Instructions

Roast the winter squash

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
  2. Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
  3. Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
  5. Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
  6. Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  7. Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
  8. Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.

Black beans

  1. While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
  2. Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
  5. If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.

Tortillas

  1. Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.

Assemble the tacos

  1. Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Serve immediately

Recipe Notes

You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.

Nutrition Facts
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash
Amount Per Serving (2 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

The first time I saw my husband drowning his rice with soy sauce, I knew I needed to find a way to change this habit. No matter what we were eating if there was white or brown rice, the soy sauce came out of the refrigerator and set at the table. The irony is, he did not pour soy sauce on his rice when we ate Chinese food. For some reason, rice bathed in soy sauce really bothered me, especially when our sons followed his example. To me it was like adding a tablespoon of table salt to the already seasoned rice. All you would taste is the soy sauce and not the rice. Basmati or jasmine rice have such a clean flavor and is a lovely compliment for the main entrée at its side. It is a shame to disguise the clean flavor of this comforting grain.

From that moment, I changed the way I cook rice. Unless I am serving rice with a stew or a saucy entrée, I usually cook rice in vegetable or chicken stock and add some sautéed mushrooms and green peas. The mushrooms add subtle flavor and usually compliments the other parts of the meal. Even those perks can get mundane if it is a regular item with dinner. It is time to switch things up.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe

Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

Recently, I discovered Patricia Wells’ recipe, Crunchy Jasmine Rice from Master Recipes, and I had to try it. Often, I garnish rice with pistachios or almonds and fresh herbs, but it never occurred to me to cook rice with nuts or seeds because I thought they would get soggy. Surprisingly, the peanuts kept their crunch after cooking with the rice. This recipe is brilliant in its’ simplicity and has an addictive nutty flavor. Besides the great taste, one of the best features of this jasmine rice is once the water boils, the rice cooks in 10 minutes. At first, I did not believe it, but it is true the rice cooks in 10 minutes. The rice wasn’t hard, mushy or chalky, just sweet grains of jasmine rice with the peanuts and seeds cooked to perfection.

The only change I made was to add fresh minced herbs like parsley and celery leaves. The fresh herb flavor gives an extra punch of sunshine to the nutty rice. The next time I make it I want to add some golden raisins soaked in red wine vinegar. The sweetness from the raisins and a touch of acid will really liven up this side dish.

Crunchy jasmine rice is a wonderful side dish with just about anything like grilled meats, roasts, chicken and fish. If you are allergic to peanuts substitute them with cashews, walnuts or hulled pumpkin seeds. Serve crunchy rice immediately or turn it into a rice salad with raisins, chopped vegetables and a light vinaigrette. Dress the rice salad right before you want to serve it.

Serve Crunchy Jasmine Rice With:

Oven Poached Sole Wrapped in Fresh Herbs

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

How to Make a Vegan Entrée with Crunchy Jasmine Rice

Most plant foods do not have all twelve of the essential amino acids, commonly known as the proteins. Vegetarian and vegan diets benefit from food combining. Honestly, all diets benefit from food combining. When eaten separately, legumes and grains come up short providing all 12 of the essential amino acids. When combined in one meal they compliment each other nutritiously and as well as flavor. What grains lack in essential proteins, legumes have. Jasmine rice mixed with peanuts and seeds become a foundation for a complete vegetarian meal.

I like to mix additional legumes like lentils with crunchy jasmine rice for a vegetarian or vegan main entrée. I add about 1 – 2 cups (250 – 500 ml) of cooked Du Puy, or Pardina lentils, to the bowl of crunchy jasmine rice. Then, I make a rice bowl with the rice and lentil mix and add some fresh and roasted vegetables.  Top it off with some tahini dressing. Tahini dressing happens to be one of my favorite dressing and accentuates the nutty flavor of the rice.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice, a recipe.

Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice

For those moments when plain rice just isn't enough. This is a great rice side dish with a nutty flavor. If you can't eat peanuts, walnuts or cashews would taste great. Or, make it nut free and substitute the peanuts with hulled pumpkin seeds. Serve this as a side dish with just about anything like chicken, fish, beef or lamb. Or as the foundation for a delicious vegan or vegetarian entree with lentils, roasted vegetables and tahini dressing. This recipe is from Patricia Wells, Master Recipes .
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • ½ cup 125 ml / 60 g roasted and salted peanuts
  • 1 ½ cups 375 ml / 250 g jasmine rice
  • ½ cup 125 ml / 70 g mixed sesame seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups 500 ml water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • ½ cup chopped parsley and celery leaves

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop the peanuts and place them in a 3-quart sauce pan.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the heat on the stove to high. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Simmer until the rice is cooked al dente, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and add the cooked rice to a large mixing bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork and add the parsley and celery leaves.
  4. Serve warm.
Nutrition Facts
Quick and Crunchy Jasmine Rice
Amount Per Serving (3 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Crunchy Jasmine Rice, recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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