Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finding redemption after shopping on autopilot

Do you ever find yourself bumbling through a supermarket on autopilot, not really considering what goes into the shopping cart until you’re unloading it at the cash register?

This is what happens when I shop in zombie mode:

Yup, that’s a ridiculously small portion of dry multi-bean mix. I spotted these beans in the bulk bins a while back and thought it would be a good idea to bring some home for a future soup recipe. The problem is that I wasn’t thinking of how many beans should probably go into this soup, and I only bought about a cup of mixed beans. Ridiculous! Luckily I had plenty of dried pintos and lentils to mix in with the aforementioned sad scoop of beans. Throw the hodge podge into a pot with some veggies and spicy sausage and boom, you’ve got a delicious, filling soup for the masses.

You can prepare dry beans for a recipe like this a couple different ways. One option is to soak the beans in water overnight. What I did, because I forgot to soak my beans, is go with a “quick soak” method by putting the bean mix in a large pot, adding enough water to cover the beans with a couple inches of water, and bringing the pot to a boil. After a couple minutes of rolling boil, you can remove the pot from heat and let the beans sit, uncovered, for an hour before draining. Either method will get you beans that are ready to be cooked. And no matter which method you employ, be sure to rinse the beans prior to soaking and pick out any stones or bad beans.

Bean Bonanza Soup 
2 cups mixed dry beans, soaked, drained and rinsed
32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
28 oz can stewed tomatoes with liquid
2 cups andouille sausage links
1 white onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery,oregano and bay leaves. Sauté for a couple minutes before adding sausage to pot and sautéeing for a couple more minutes. Add tomatoes to the pot, using hands to crush tomatoes. Stir in beans and broth and bring to a boil before reducing heat. Allow pot to simmer, covered, for 30-60 minutes, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves before serving soup.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer snapshots

September? Already?

We’ve still got a little bit of summer left here in Sacramento, but the season’s on its way out. I didn’t spend an awful lot of time dreaming up new recipes over the past couple months. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to stay as far away from the hottest room in our house (the kitchen) as possible. But just because I haven’t been cooking too much doesn’t mean I’ve been withering away for lack of a delicious meal.

So, with that, I’d like to share some summertime snapshots.

Hallelujah! sandwich (fried chicken breast, spicy coleslaw and lemon garlic aioli on a French roll) from Cato’s Ale House, Oakland

Kobe beef tartare with dijon mustard, capers, shallots, garlic and toast points at Chez Papa Resto, San Francisco

Chris and I both got some good mileage out of our beach cruisers over the past couple months. One of our more adventurous rides was a 20-plus-mile trek up to Folsom by way of the American River Trail. Our final destination? Samuel Horne’s Tavern for celebratory burgers and beers. Here’s the Tavern Turkey Burger with pepper jack cheese and serrano aioli

Chris had the Johnny Cash burger with bacon, cheddar, onions and a bourbon-espresso red-eye sauce

Mountain Nachos, Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, Tahoe City

Too many good beers at Mellow Fellow Gastropub, Crystal Bay

Bakers Benedict (sausage patties and poached eggs atop a toasted English muffin, topped with Hollandaise sauce) from the Fire Sign Cafe, Tahoe City

Macarons, like these lovelies from Estelle’s Patisserie, always make me think of “Alice in Wonderland.”