beans and rice

I'm pretty sure everyone has that go-to meal- where you know you need to eat, but don't want/can't afford to go to the grocery store so you suck it up and make whatever you have. For me, it is beans and rice. I always seem to have the ingredients, it's super cheap, and it's a complete protein. Also, I never seem to mind eating it. I don't enjoy it, but I don't mind it either. Add some peas, tomatoes and sour cream and it's almost yummy. Almost.

So what's yours? I'd love some new ideas.


spinach and chickpeas

Yesterday was one of those days where you wake up and just hate everything. Pretty much the only thing accomplished was a lot of pouting.The relaxing weekend I was planning on (and needed) had not happened. Instead it involved very little sleep and a lot of work for no pay, which pretty much equals meltdown in my book. I yelled. I threw a cat. I stormed out on my boyfriend. Meltdown.

A day of sulking was in order. This included a banana pecan muffin from Lovely, getting into pj's right after work, going to sleep at 9:30pm, and (of course) appetizers for dinner. I made spinach and chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen, bought a multigrain baguette from La Farine and the whole meal only cost me around $6. Try being mad after that.

Spinach & Chickpeas
From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook and Lobstersquad

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread, crusts removed and cut inset small cubes (I used 4- 1" slices from my baguette)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.

Transfer to a food processor along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).


wish list

I think  probably need this cookbook. Oh and by the way, my birthday is September 14th. Or whatever.


enchiladas especiales tacuba style

On Friday night I went to the Windy City Soul Club's dance party. It was lots and lots of fun, but also really tiring (when did I get old?). My productive Saturday was pretty shot, leaving me eating poached eggs on the couch and watching a marathon of Rick Bayless' show Mexico- One Plate At A Time on public television.

In my weakened state Rick convinced me I had  to make these enchiladas that night. My brain was pretty mushy, so I agreed without question. I should have known he wouldn't steer me wrong. You see, he and I have a special relationship- I once grabbed his leg at a Time Out Chicago restaurant awards ceremony while he was going up to accept his trophy and my chair was in his path. That was the day I learned celebrity sightings and open bars are a bad combination for me.

His enchiladas had chicken in them, so I made a mix of black beans and chopped mushrooms. Next time I will add onion and some jalapeno to the filling and pulse it all in the food processor first. And I will definitely be making these again. Possibly some time this week.

enchiladas especiales tacuba style
Serves 4 to 6
 This recipe is from Season 7 Mexico - One Plate at a Time
2 fresh poblano chiles
1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter—or you can use vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (about) chopped mushrooms
12 corn tortillas
A little vegetable oil for brushing or spraying
About 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A little chopped cilantro for garnish

 In large skillet, saute the mushroom pieces with a little olive oil until cooked. Mix in medium bowl with the rinsed black beans and set aside.

Make the sauce- Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and, when handleable, rub off the blackened skin, tear open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Roughly chop and put in a blender jar.  Add the spinach.

In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute.  Raise the heat to medium-high.  Pour in the warm broth mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce boils.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Pour half the hot sauce into the blender with the chiles and spinach.  Cover loosely (I remove the center part of the lid, secure the lid, then drape a cloth over the whole thing) and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of each of four to six 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish.  Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the mushroom/black bean mix
Lay half of the tortillas out on a baking sheet and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush or spray those with oil.  Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes.  Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.  

Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the filling up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es).  Douse evenly with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 20 minutes.  Garnish with the cilantro and serve without hesitation.