Black Bean Summer Squash Taco Filling

Desperation can be a source of inspiration in cooking. When an unexpected guest was also a vegetarian I threw together something I had on hand and suddenly we had a tasty alternative to Turkey Tacos I typically make.

Not planning on having tacos tonight? This works equally as well as a side dish.

Black Bean Summer Squash Taco Filling
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 yellow summer squashes, cut into 1/4″ dice (see notes)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • black pepper to taste, extra salt for cooking

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium for about 1 minute. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirrings once or twice.
  2. Add the jalapeno and garlic, stirring them into the carrot and bell pepper. Cook until fragrant, which should only take 30 second to a minute. Transfer the onions, peppers and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the stove, add the remaining oil and increase the heat to high. When the oil is just beginning to smoke add the summer squash and a generous sprinkle of salt. Spread the squash along the bottom of the skillet and cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Toss the pan to redistribute the squash and cook another minute.
  4. Return the onion mixture to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

Notes:
Your 3 summer squashes should be 6-8″ long and no more than 2-2.5″ in diameter. I prep them removing the ends and cutting them lengthwise into quarters. I then remove the layer of seeds, cut the remaining squash flesh into 1/4″ wide strips and, finally, cutting them into 1/4″ cubes.

Roasted Red Pepper Yogurt sauce

I often wants a bit of a sauce or “dip” to go with grilled chicken. This week I saw a recipe that marinated chicken pieces in a yogurt mixture before grilling them. I decided to use the yogurt as the base for a dip instead. This one came out a fantastic shade of pink.

Roasted Red Pepper Yogurt sauce
Servings: 2 cups
Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. roasted red peppers, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. Za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Process the peppers for 30 seconds in a food processor. Transfer to a sieve and allow to drain for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Return the drain peppers to the food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Process for another 30 seconds until well combined.
  3. Taste for flavor and adjust salt if needed.

Notes:
I used jarred roasted peppers in the original recipe however DIY roasted red peppers are pretty easy if you have the peppers on hand.

Farro with Pesto, Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper

The idea for this recipe came from one of the recipe mailing lists to which I subscribe. I liked the concept of pesto with farro. I changed up the add-ins and served this warm.

Results were mixed. One person felt it didn’t need the pesto, another adored the pesto. Most just gobbled it up. 🙂

Farro with Pesto, Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups uncooked pearled farro
  • 2 zucchinis (see directions for prep)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and 1/2″ dice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 8 oz. prepared basil pesto
  • 4 oz. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 oz. fresh basil, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a 4-quart sauce pan. Add the salt and bay leaves; stir until salt is dissolved. Add the farro and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes.
  2. While the farro cooks prep the zucchini. Remove the stem end and then cut into quarters lengthwise. Remove the seeds from the center of each quarter and then slice into 1/2″ wedges. Combine with peppers and set aside.
  3. When farro is ready drain it and transfer to a large bowl. Mix the zucchini and pepper mixture into the farro. Gently fold the pesto and half of the pine nuts into the mix.
  4. Just before serving garnish with the remaining pine nuts and fresh basil.

Notes:
Pearled farro will cook faster than the semi-pearled variety, which is what I normally use. My regular brand (Bob’s Red Mill) was out of stock at the local megamart where I normally pick it up. Luckily I found another brand close at hand.

The original recipe that sparked my recipe can be found at campbells.com

Skillet Asparagus

Healthy Appetite Food Meal Stalk Green Asparagus

My mom’s favorite vegetable is asparagus. Between mother’s day and her May birthday we have plenty of chances to share it with her. I was a bit tired of the usual roasted asparagus we make though so I went for something quicker.

Skillet Asparagus
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 11-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • zest from a lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. You can either snap the asparagus stalks one at a time or just cut off the bottom 2″ like I do. Rinse the stalks and set aside.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Heat until the butter is melted and add the asparagus. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss the asparagus to coat it in butter and then cover the dish. Cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the cover, toss the asparagus and cook for another 2-3 minutes until tender. Transfer asparagus to a platter.
  4. Turn off the heat under the skillet. Add the lemon juice to the skillet and scrap up any browned bits on the button of the skillet. Swirl the browned bits in the lemon juice and pour it over the plated asparagus. Garnish with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes:
Skinny asparagus will cook faster than the thicker ones. Choose a bunch with all similar thicknesses throughout if possible.

Salt “Crust” Potatoes

Like many things we try we first saw this dish prepared on a cooking show. Best I can recall it was America’s Test Kitchen however their website tells me it was Cook’s Country. They attribute the dish to Syracuse, NY. The idea is you cook small, whole, potatoes in briny water and the result is a perfectly seasoned potato. Despite the name, and the amount of salt used in preparing this dish, these potatoes taste no more salty than my regular boiled potatoes. In part that comes from the “whole potato” nature of the recipe.

I call for “baby” red potatoes here. My local megamart sells 1 1/2 pound bags of these as gourmet potatoes. I just know that they are all similarly sized and that’s a key to this recipe being a success.

Salt “Crust” Potatoes
Servings: 12-15
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 12 cups water
  • 2 1/4 cups kosher salt (see note)
  • 4 1/2 lbs. “baby” red potatoes
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine the water and salt in a Dutch oven and stir until the bulk of the salt is combined. Place over high heat until boiling. While the water comes to a boil give the potatoes a rinse and set them aside.
  2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook them until they are easily pierced with a fork, which for me is 20-25 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow them to rest. Return the unrinsed pot to the cook top and add the butter. Once the butter melts turn off the heat and add the pepper and parsley. Swirl to combine then return the potatoes to the pot.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the pot until the flavored butter has a chance to coat all the spuds. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Notes:
I use Morton’s Kosher Salt (you know, the one with the girl holding the umbrella on the box). I vaguely remember that the original recipe suggested that different brands of kosher salt yield a different amount of salt by volume. 2 1/4 cups of Morton’s kosher salt weighs in at 130 grams, give or take a gram. If you are using a different salt then try 130 grams of it the first go around.

This recipe is based on a couple of sources including an article in The New York Times and the brief access I had to it on Cook’s Country when the episode first aired.

Seared Zucchini with Beans

Despite having hosted our friends for dinner for many of the Saturday nights over the past 20+ years I still find myself stumped fair to regularly on what to make for dinner. As a result I will often add “2 vegetables” to my grocery list with no real plan and hope for inspiration while in the produce section. Here are the results from such a recent inspiration.

Seared Zucchini with Beans
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 3 zucchini, 1/4″ dice
  • 1 28 oz. can kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend
  • 1/2 cup water.
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, stirring it into the onions and cook until fragrant, which should be less than a minute. Push the onions and garlic to the edge of the skillet.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the zucchini and spread it out into a single layer. Allow it to brown on this side, untouched for 3-4 minutes. Now sprinkle the zucchini with salt and stir it to redistribute the pieces. Cook for another minute.
  4. Add the beans, spice blend and water. Stir everything together and cover. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Notes:
You can really use any type of bean here that you like. Hominy probably wouldn’t be my first choice but if you rinsed it then it would work.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Za’atar is a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. In this recipe it lends a slight lemony flavor to, and enhances the earthy scent of, some lovely sweet potatoes.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground sumac

Directions:

  1. Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and dice into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing the potatoes and redistributing into a single layer half way through cooking.