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Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup

The other night my roommates and went out to eat at a real, sit-down restaurant , something we don't do very often with the state of our finances. It was a treat. I had the poblano peppers (quite good, if not great), but what I didn't have was more interesting.

The earnest waitperson (all good waitpeople convey earnestness, don't you think?) advised us that the soup of the day was Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Corn and Tomato, with Cilantro. Goodness, I thought, I have all those things at home, including fresh cilantro from the farmers' box that we get. I was curious to taste it, thinking that would guide me later, but didn't order it. Too much food and too little budget, after all.

However, this is what we had for dinner at home the next night:

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup with Cilantro

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced small (perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp (more or less) chili powder

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small (perhaps 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
1 28 oz can petite-cut diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can sweet corn
1 15 oz can black beans
1 cup (maybe a bit more) water or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp (more or less) fresh cilantro, minced

In a large pan over low heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the minced garlic, saute briefly, then add the chili powder. Cook the powder briefly with the vegetables, then add the canned goods, sweet potatoes, salt and cilantro. Add sufficient water or stock to make a good soup consistency. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Check seasonings; add another shake of chili powder if desired. Serve in bowls with a little fresh cilantro on top.

I actually made this in a crock pot, for about two hours on high. Super simple to make and very tasty.

I thought about using Rotel-style tomatoes, but I think the chilies would overwhelm the sweet potatoes and cilantro. Might try it that way, though, with the "mild" version.

Note that if you use water instead of stock, it's vegan. You could also skip the extra liquid and have a stew to be served over rice.

(I really have to start taking pictures for the recipes, but by the time I thought about it, the soup was gone!)

Before the Summer is Gone

Thought I’d better get this uploaded before the summer is officially over:

Late Summer Garden Pasta

Harvest all the ripe tomatoes and bell peppers from the patio pots. Grab a handful or two of basil and oregano while you're out there.

Get some fresh spinach from the organic grocer. Wash well, stem and coarsely chop.

Start a generous pot of water for the pasta. I like quinoa spirals, but that’s because I avoid wheat. Use what you like.

Heat a little olive oil in a large pan over low to medium heat. Grab a good-sized yellow onion from the pantry, dice, and toss in with the olive oil. Give it a good stir, then let it cook slowly for a few minutes. You want to "sweat" it, not brown it. Let the onion cook, stirring occasionally, while you prep the peppers.

Seed and dice the peppers. Toss them in with the onions and stir. Let cook while you dice the tomatoes.

Cut cherry, grape or little yellow pear tomatoes (they are so cute!) in half. Larger tomatoes chop coarsely, maybe one-half to one inch pieces. Set aside.

Take a couple of cloves of garlic from the pantry, place on cutting board and whack with the side of a large knife. Peel away the papery skin and mince. Throw in the pot with the onions and peppers. Stir., and let cook for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes to the pot. Mince the basil and oregano, toss in the pot, and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dump the spinach into the pot, cover, and reduce heat to low. Leave it alone while you cook the pasta.

By now, the water should be boiling. Put in the dried pasta, stir, and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and set aside.

By the time the pasta is done, the spinach will be wilted. Give the the vegetables in the pot a good stir, then dump in the pasta. Toss it all together.

Serve in deep bowls as is, or with a sprinkle of shredded Pecorino Romano.


It Resembles Tabbouleh

Last night’s dinner came out very good; I’ll bring it to work for lunch today.

Quinoa Salad

from the store:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 bunches green onions

from the garden:
  • random number of tomatoes, whatever is ripe
  • a good handful of parsley
  • a basil leaf or two
  • tiny sprig of mint

vinaigrette dressing* of your choice

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Usually, you need to wash it in a few changes of water to get rid of any saponins (responsible for a soapy taste and digestive distress), then cook it like rice, one part quinoa to two parts water for 15-20 minutes. Pop it in a big bowl to cool.

Quarter the cukes lengthwise, then thickly slice. Toss in with the quinoa.

Slice off the root ends of the onions then thinly slice the rest, using all the white and whatever of the green is crisp and bright. Toss in with the quinoa.

Cut tiny tomatoes in halves or quarters (I had grape tomatoes and little yellow pear tomatoes); larger tomatoes should be diced to about the same size as the babies. Toss in with the quinoa.

Mince the herbs. I use a large wooden bowl and a mezzaluna knife; works great. Toss in with the quinoa.

Pour in the vinaigrette and blend everything together. Chill for an hour or two so the flavors "marry." Serve cold or room temperature.

*I am no expert at salad dressings, but I used 1/2 cup olive oil, about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, juice of the 1/2 lime that was lurking in the fridge, two cloves of garlic minced, plus salt and pepper, wisked together. It was just right.