Monday, September 10, 2007

Homeward Bound

It’s always a tough week for a tried-and-true home cook like myself when an extended out-of-town stay is looming. There’s all the chaos of packing, tying up loose ends at work, and watering the plants. Most importantly, though, is the decision about WHAT TO COOK in the days before departure! To plan properly, I have to account for the current leftovers in the fridge, the number of meals to be eaten before I abandon my kitchen, and a dinner for the night I return. Perhaps all this planning sounds tedious and droll, and perhaps it is, but in a way it is a glimpse into the essential me: thrifty (it’s my father’s influence), thoughtful, practical, and just a little bit foodie. Oh, and hungry!

So what’s on the menu for this week?

In the current leftover category, we have approximately two servings of White Bean Provencal Soup from last weekend’s cooking binge. I’m sure this soup is still safe to eat; I’ve found vegetarian soups keep pretty well in the fridge for several days.

In the new cooking category, we now have a container of Faux Tuna Sandwich Spread, a mixture of mashed chickpeas, mayonnaise, celery, onions, pickles, salt, and pepper. To those of you who are not vegetarians or are new to the ways of vegetarian cookery, it might sound odd, but I’m telling you, this stuff is GOOD! So good, in fact, that I am going to give you a recipe below in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to try it yourself.

Also in the new cooking category, we have Black Bean Soup whose recipe said it serves four but looks like it will serve six or more. This realization totally throws off my math for the week! I’m saved, though, by the presumed freeze-ability of this soup, which will make for a good lunch or dinner next week when I return to my regularly scheduled life. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m giving the recipe below. It’s a fairly basic black bean soup with the usual suspects: black beans, diced tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, jalapeno pepper, cumin, and thyme. It’s decent, it’s filling, but it might not make it into my regular rotation. My eagerness to try new recipes actually makes it quite difficult for a new recipe, once tried, to make it into the regular rotation. Poor recipes!

Faux Tuna Sandwich Spread
Adapted from the “Too-No Fish Sandwich” in Passionate Vegetarian, p. 870
Makes enough for ~4 sandwiches

I’m actually going to give you two versions of this sandwich spread because I just tried a new riff on the old version and liked it quite a bit. I was inspired by a recent post over at a vegan blog which shall remain nameless in case my mother is reading this. But you know what to do with your mouse if you want to check it out…

The Classic:
1 14.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 stalk of celery, halved lengthwise and chopped into very small pieces
~1/4 white onion, minced (you can use more or less onion, depending on how you feel about raw onion)
Several spoonfuls of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (to taste)
Salt and pepper
Several leaves of fresh tarragon, snipped into small pieces
Fresh lemon juice to taste

Place the chickpeas in a mixing bowl and mash them coarsely with a potato masher. Stir in the celery and onion, then add enough mayonnaise to make a nice spread. I usually add 3-4 spoonfuls to moisten everything nicely. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, tarragon, and fresh lemon juice. Taste the spread and adjust the seasonings to your liking. I recommend eating this sandwich spread on a good multigrain bread with juicy slices of fresh tomato. You can slip a slice of smoked provolone into that sandwich if you are feeling indulgent.

The Newbie:
Follow the recipe for The Classic, swapping out the fresh tarragon and lemon juice for 1 or more dill pickles, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Stir the pickles into the spread and proceed with the sandwich-making. Who doesn’t love pickles?

Black Bean Soup
Adapted slightly from Shape magazine, September 2004, p. 208
Makes half of a soup pot of soup (6 servings?)

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 jalapeno chili pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 tsp. cumin
2 14.5-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
4 c. vegetable stock, homemade or storebought
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and jalapeno for several minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and cumin, stirring the spices into the vegetables. Sauté for another minute or so to release the flavor of the seasonings.
2) Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large soup pot. Add the black beans, diced tomatoes (juice and all—don’t drain the tomatoes), vegetable stock, and bay leaves. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 8-10 minutes.
3) Add the apple cider vinegar to the soup, taste the broth, and adjust the seasonings with salt and/or pepper. If you can find them, fish out the bay leaves and discard them.
4) Serve soup with freshly baked cornbread, baked corn tortillas, corn chips, or some other delicious grainy side dish. I think this soup would be tasty over rice as well.


dfinn said...

So you did make the tuna dish after all! Will have to try it. Thanks for the recipe. I made the Lunar Gazpacho last night and it was sooo good! I was a little nervous because the honeydew didn't seem to be ripe enough (after I had already sliced it), but the flavors are just delicious together--very refreshing. Yum!

Unknown said...

Hi dfinn!

After our conversation, I just HAD to make some faux tuna. I had been craving it for over a week. Yum.

I'm glad you liked the Lunar Gazpacho! I love it too. I know what you mean about honeydew; it's so hard to tell before you slice into it whether it will be ripe enough. I like honeydew and cantelope a lot, but I feel like I don't buy them nearly enough. But melon is so refreshing!