Beef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

As you all may or may not know, I live in the blustery city of Rochester, NY, which is located on the shivery shore of Lake Ontario, just a few hours’ drive from Toronto, ON. Honestly, it is considerably more like southern Canada than it is like NYC (though the city is what many of my friends back in the Hoosier state inevitably think of when they hear I live in New York). Even when the bi-polar effects of global climate change are accounted for, we basically get a good 7 or 8 months of soup-and-stew weather each year.

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes nothing seems quite as warming a nourishing as a big bowl of hearty stew.

And so it was that yesterday, when I was contemplating what I wanted to make a big batch of for the night’s dinner and several of my lunches throughout the week, I decided that stew was definitely the way to go.

At first, I was pretty convinced that I wanted to make venison stew. In fact, I’m still pretty sure that that’s something I want soon. However, on short notice, all the venison that I was able to locate was tenderloin meat. Now, if I’m having a steak, tenderloins just about rock my world. However, they are not optimal for a stew: the best stew meats are cuts which are higher in fat and collagen, which enable the meat to become even more tender when it is cooked for a long time over a low heat, rather than less tender the way a tenderloin would (it would just dry out and basically be a waste of money, effort, and a delicious steak).

And so it was that I went with a lovely, well-marbled grass-fed sirloin steak. Grass-fed meats tend to be gamier in flavor than those from grain-fed animals, so not only is it healthier, it also is closer to the flavor that I was hoping for. Still not venison, but damn, this stew turned out good regardless!!!

Regarding broth: homemade broth is always, always superior, and it is so easy to make. However, I don’t always have some on hand, and I didn’t have time to make any yesterday: I confess, I ended up buying some. So, here’s the thing: I was absolutely appalled by how many of the broth options in the store were made with variations of sugar!! I was eventually able to find one that didn’t have any scary or sugary ingredients, but the whole process simply reaffirmed to me that I have to make up a big batch of stock soon to have readily available in my freezer. Be careful of what you buy, and read the labels!

This stew turned out absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have been any happier with how tender the meat was or how balanced the flavors were. Of course, soups and stews can be infinitely variable, so feel free to substitute the vegetables and herbs that you have on hand for those called for in the recipe: in my opinion, it’s always better to be flexible than to waste food!

Beef and Bacon StewBeef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

  • 2 lbs. grass-fed organic sirloin steak, tenderized by pounding and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. uncured, nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon
  • 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch-long pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 t coconut flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into ¾” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch green kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • One 14 ½ can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • 12-16 oz. fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of portobella and shiitake), cut into thin bite-sized slices
  1. Season the sirloin with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until it is crisp over medium-high heat. Allow the bacon to drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Crumble it when it is cool, and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Add the olive oil to the bacon drippings. Brown the sirloin steak in batches: place browned meat in a large slow cooker.
  4. When you are done browning the meat, sauté the onion in the skillet until it is fully translucent. Add the carrots and garlic and continue sautéing for a few more minutes. Then, sprinkle on the coconut flour and sauté for one more minute before transferring to the slow cooker.
  5. Add the bay leaves, sweet potato, thyme, parsley, kale, tomatoes, and broth to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 4 or 5 hours.
  7. Add the mushrooms and bacon: stir to combine. Continue to cook on low until the steak is tender and fully cooked, about 2 more hours.
  8. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Enjoy!

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

So, I was sick through most of the weekend. While I am no longer sick, I am still feeling the need for extra rest and some extra TLC.

As a result, I decided to cancel my usual Wednesday night plans, stay home, have a healthy, simple dinner, and go to bed early.

As has been true for several of my recent posts, this is a recipe that goes without much explaining: the direcctions are clear and free from confusing elements. Feel free to adapt the recipe somewhat, using whatever dried fruit suits your fancy, or substitute chopped nuts for the sesame seeds (following the proportions listed in the recipe).

I made this a complete meal by serving it along with some cooked wild rice blend mixed with some peas.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds and strings removed
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and diced
  • 1/2 c dried fruit of your choice (raisins, cranberries, cherries, or currents can be used whole: dates, prunes, apricots, etc. should be chopped)
  • 2 T sesame seeds and 2 T ground flax seed OR 1/4 c chopped nuts
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (optional)
  • grated zest of 2 clementines
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T apple cider
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the squash cut side down in a baking pan, and add 1/4″ hot water to the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the pear, apple, dried fruit, seeds or nuts, coconut (if using), zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and honey and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider. Simmer, stirring often, until the fruit is tender, 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour the water from the pan, and turn the squash cut side up. Fill with the fruit mixture. Bake until the squash is tender, 10-15 minutes more.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans, and Walnuts

I’ve been busy because life is full and rich.

The downside: I haven’t posted in, like, forever. The upside: now that I’m posting again, you can be sure to get healthy and seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to make. Huzzah!

So, in the interest of making a post efficiently, I’m going to jump right to the recipe. I promise: future posts will include anecdotes. But this one won’t.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans and Walnuts 

1 T olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. pasta of your choice (I used wild mushroom fettuccine from Flour City Pasta. It was delicious.)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts

  1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes: saute 10 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. When water boils, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain. 
  5. Gently fold the leek and beans mixture and the walnuts into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

(Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)

Vegan Black Bean Soup

There is a thin layer of snow on the tarp that covers the wood for our stove. The cats are sleeping, curled up in a shameless display of relaxation.  It is definitely a good night for a hot and hearty soup.

After a fairly lengthy debate with myself regarding what soup to make, I decided upon black bean soup.

Black beans have a rich, satisfying flavor that is simply perfect on a cold evening. They are an incredible source of folate (a B vitamin), dietary fiber, tryptophan (an amino acid), protein, magnesium, thiamin (another B vitamin), and phosphorus: they are also a very good source of iron. The fiber level in black beans is high enough that it has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Black beans also contain molybdenum, which has been shown to help detoxify sulfites. If you combine them with brown rice (and yes, this recipe is great served over rice), they supply you with complete protein amino acids. A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology concluded that regular consumption of black beans results in “a clear reduction in pre-cancerous cells.” Regular consumption of legumes such as black beans has also been correlated with a significant (up to 82%) reduction in the risk of heart disease. And, as if that wasn’t enough, black beans have been proven to contain 10 times the number of antioxidants in a comparable amount of oranges. Pretty nifty, eh?

(I now have visions in my head of all the healthy, not-taking-any-shit, 90+ year-old trannies that will be running around the world in the years to come, changing the world for the better, thanks to recipes like this one!)

And yet… you may be aware that beans are well-known for making a certain bodily orifice considerably more vocal and, ummmmm, fragrant. However, there is an easy way to minimize the gaseous potential of these nutritionally heroic legumes. When you cook them yourself (as you will do when you follow this recipe) instead of using canned beans, you will notice that a white foam collects on the surface of the soup. Whenever you notice a good amount of this foam, simply skim it off and discard it. It’s just that simple: now you can enjoy all of the nutritional benefits while minimizing the odorous aftermath. Huzzah!

To soak the beans, either cover them in warm water and allow them to soak overnight, or else add them to boiling water, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 1-2 hours. Either way, make sure you use enough water to cover the beans with about 3 inches of water above the surface of the beans. In addition to shortening their cooking time, this will also help reduce the amount of gas that the beans will produce.

One more thing about the beans: do not– I repeat, do not— add the salt or the lime zest and juice until after the beans are fully cooked. If you add salt or acid to the broth before the beans are cooked, they will take longer to cook and the beans themselves will be tougher. One more time: the beans will never soften properly if you add salt or acid to the broth before they are fully cooked. Got it? Good.

Regarding the lime that is used in the soup (as opposed to the one that is used for garnish): zest it before you juice it. It’s just easier that way.

This recipe also uses roasted garlic and a roasted bell pepper. For a refresher on how to roast these two ingredients, please refer to my earlier post “Spinach, Mushroom, Kalamata and Roasted Pepper White Pizza,” http://transgustatory.blogspot.com/2010/10/spinach-mushroom-kalamata-and-roasted.html.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Here’s the recipe:

Vegan Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried black beans, soaked
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, diced
  • 2 Serrano chilies, minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced at least 1/4″ thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 4 quarts (1 gallon) vegetable stock
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1/2-1 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 heaping t cumin
  • 1 heaping t ground coriander
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime (the same lime)
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lime wedges (for serving)
  • fresh cilantro, chopped (for serving)
  • sour cream (or vegan substitute), optional
Skim this foam off of your soup, or you’ll be sorry!
  1.  While the beans are soaking, saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the chilies and the carrots and saute 3-5 minutes longer, until the chilies are softened and the carrots are bright orange. Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes longer, until fragrant. Stir in the bell pepper and remove from heat. 
  2. Combine the beans and stock in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add the onion/chili/carrot mixture. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and oregano. 
  3. Simmer the soup, uncovered, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, skimming the surface as necessary and discarding the foam (see above). The beans should be very soft, just beginning to fall apart. Add additional water if necessary. 
  4. Puree about half of the soup with the lime zest, lime juice, and roasted garlic cloves, then stir back into the remaining soup:  make sure that there are no bay leaves in the soup that you are pureeing!! Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Serve in bowls and garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream (optional).

Saag Paneer

-please feel free to enter your own clever anecdote here: I am busy doing mundane tasks such as laundry, which has left me satisfied, but not particularly inspired.-

This recipe is yummy. It is healthy. It elevates spinach to a whole different plane of delicious. Try it sometime.

Saag Paneer

  • 20 oz. baby spinach leave, washed and rinsed well
  • 4 t butter or ghee, divided
  • 4 t coconut oil or grapeseed oil, divided
  • 24 oz. paneer (you can make your own or purchase it from good grocery stores and/or Indian grocery stores: in Rochester, I recommend India House Food & Imports Store: http://www.indiahouse.com/StoreProducts/Store_Menu.htm)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1″ piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 small green chilies
  • 1 t curry  powder
  • 2-3 t garam masala (like the paneer, this can be found at India House Food and Imports)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1-2 c plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk yogurt: again, go to India House), as needed
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c golden raisins, soaked in HOT water about 10 minutes to soften (optional)
  • Cooked basmati or jasmine rice
  • Naan bread (optional)
  1. Steam the spinach quickly, just until soft and bright green. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon each of butter (or ghee) and oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick pan.Add half the paneer, frying until each square is browned on two or more sides, turning the paneer and shaking the pan occasionally: this will take about 10 minutes . Remove from pan, set aside, and repeat with the remaining paneer.
  3. Wipe out the pan. Heat the remaining butter (or ghee). Add the onion and saute until nearly translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies and saute until onions are completely soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes more.
  4. Add the curry, garam masala, and cumin. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the cooked spinach to the pan, stirring until well-blended. Transfer mixture to a food processor and add enough yogurt to render the mixture creamy. Pulse until smooth, but not pureed.
  6. Return to pan. Stir in paneer, cilantro, and parsley. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. Heat gently until the paneer softens somewhat.
  7. Serve over rice with naan bread. Sprinkle with softened golden raisins, if desired.

Minestrone, with infinite optional variations (including vegan options)

I have been sick the last several days. It has been sad. I have been unable to cook for days, which pretty much breaks my heart. 😦

There are only two up-sides to this experience, as far as I can tell. The first is that the prescription cough syrup my doctor prescribed to me makes it feel as though the world is covered in a very fine fuzz: it also basically ascertains that this post will be shorter and less articulate than it normally would be. Please forgive any typos you  find…

The second is that I could feel the sickness coming on, and so I decided on Friday to make a big pot of soup. Sick or not, autumn is a great time of year for soups.

So, here’s the thing: this is a very forgiving soup. As long as you use the same volume of veggies and herbs that the recipe calls for, feel free to experiment. Some people like it with cabbage instead of squash, or eggplant instead of potatoes, marjoram instead of thyme, etc.etc. You can leave out the mushrooms and double the potatoes. Just be sure to make the chunks of veggies big enough that they don’t just fall apart.

Feel free to make this without either the bacon or pancetta, with an extra can of beans, and with vegetable broth for a sublime vegan dish. Or to double the amount of bacon or pancetta for a meatier soup experience. Or to go all fancy-schmancy and use uncured duck bacon, available at your friendly neighborhood Wegmans. Whatever you want. Have fun.

Also, stir the soup gently and lovingly, especially as it gets closer to being done. My dear friend Dana, who was head cook at the Zen Center when I lived there, used to warn me about my tendency to create a perfect dish, delicious and beautiful… until the last few minutes before serving time: if I felt hurried, or if I was adjusting the seasoning levels and getting frustrated if they weren’t coming together just how I wanted, then I would start stirring less and less gently, breaking the hearty chunks into pieces. This can happen especially easily when you are making a dish with a high water content, such as a soup or a stew. On one memorable occasion, I was supposed to be making a thick, chunky groundnut stew, but I ended up with a monochromatic vat of texture-less puree.

Dana would look at me when this happens and say, “When you learn how to be gentler with your food, you will know how to be gentler on yourself. Be patient. It will come together.”

Minestrone

  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 4 oz. bacon or pancetta (OPTIONAL)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced (check out my post on Chicken Divan for info on preparing leeks)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped in thick slices
  • 2 celery ribs,chopped coarsely
  • 6 oz. wild mushrooms, very coarsely chopped
  • 2 potatoes, washed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 squash or 1 eggplant
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2    14-oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 8-10 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, heated to a simmer
  • 1-2 t fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 t fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c (packed) Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3 T pesto sauce 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1    15.5 oz. can cannellini beans
  • 4 oz. orzo, gemelli, or other small-sized pasta
  1. Heat the oil in a large stock pot (the capacity should be at least 6.5L) over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and the leek: reduce heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion is completely translucent.
  2. Add the carrots and celery: cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes, squash and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender (but not quite fully cooked), about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir gently to combine: heat until bubbly.
  3. Pour in the hot broth and stir well (start off with only 8 c of the broth: you can add more later if it’s needed). Add the herbs and pesto:  season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer (partly covered) 30 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Add the pasta: continue simmering 10-20 minutes until the pasta is al dente.
  5. If desired, sprinkle each serving with grated asiago, romano, or parmesan and serve with hot buttered bread.

Sweet Potato Burgers

So, many of Transgustatory’s fans on its Facebook page have requested recipes that use sweet potatoes. This makes perfect sense to me: they are colorful, chock-full of flavor, incredibly healthy, and available year-round (though their peak growing season is during fall and winter). They are unbelievably rich in vitamin A (over 700% of the RDA per serving!), and also good sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin and fiber. Given the fact that so many fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A and C go out of season this time of year, it makes perfect sense to have them frequently through the colder months.

There really is no need to give hints and suggestions for this recipe, as it is simple to make and impossible to mess up. All of the seasonings can be adjusted to taste: feel free to start off with less than the recipe calls for, and then increase until the flavor makes you smile and sigh a little.

For instance, this recipe was passed on to me by my friend and fellow activist Anne. Anne does not like cilantro, and doesn’t like the flavor of ginger (and other spices) to be too intense. I however, could probably dine on salads made solely from cilantro and ginger quite happily for some time. So, while she substitutes parsley for the cilantro and uses closer to 1 tablespoon minced ginger, I was more than a little generous with both of these ingredients. I also have a rare reading complication that causes me to read “cloves garlic” as if it were “heads garlic.” Don’t ask me how much I put in. It was a lot.

So, play it by ear (or tongue), and make them so they are as mild or spunky as you prefer.

One thing: if you do decide to substitute parsley for the cilantro, make sure you use the flat-leaf Italian parsley and NOT the curly parsley. Curly parsley has an evil, magical ability to take away the flavor of anything it touches. Avoid it as if it was your most evil ex. Using it will basically turn anything you make into a boring dish only suitable for consumption by fundamentalist Republicans. Don’t do it.

Sweet Potato Burgers

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 c quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 c minced red onion
  • 3/4 c chopped peanuts, soy nuts or cashews
  • 3/4 c chopped cilantro OR 1 c chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-3 T minced fresh ginger, to taste
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • Peanut oil (for frying)
  • Sesame seed rolls (VEGANS: be sure to make sure to check with the bakery regarding the ingredients!)

Garnishes

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Thinly sliced red onion 
  • Tamarind chutney (VEGANS: be mindful of the ingredients in the chutney!)
  1.  Put the prepared sweet potato cubes in 1/2 galon boiling vegetable broth. Boil until soft, 10-20 minutes. Drain and mash until smooth.
  2. Mix all the ingredients (except for the oil, rolls and garnishes) together and form into 1/2-inch thick patties the size and shape of the rolls you are using. 
  3. Preheat oven to 200-250 degrees F. Wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and allow to warm while the burgers are cooking.
  4. Preheat a skillet over medium/medium-high heat, or preheat an electric skillet to 325 degrees F. Add 1-2 T peanut oil and heat until the oil is to temperature.
  5. Fry until crisp and deep golden brown, turning once: be gentle with the patties, so they don’t break apart!
  6. Serve on warmed rolls, garnished with cucumber, tomato, avocado, red onion and chutney.