Batter Licker

March 31, 2011

smoky black bean and spinach soup

A few weeks ago, Jay and I enjoyed a weekend in Bodega Bay with his five other former roommates from college and their significant others. After a late morning and early afternoon of local wine tasting, we ventured upon a cute little cafe (whose name now escapes me) for lunch. It was in that cafe that I made a fatal error: I did not order the black bean soup. But luckily, our good friend Matt was up for swapping bites, and that one spoonful inspired this post.

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Subtly smoky from cumin and smoked paprika and very creamy thanks to pureed black beans, the soup was also lightened by the fresh, raw flavors of lime, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that clearly contributed more than just a colorful garnish to the bowl. (more…)

February 23, 2011

chard-wrapped lentil sloppy joe’s

Many people have fond memories of eating sloppy joe’s for dinner as a kid. I am not one of those people. Yes, my mom occasionally made sloppy joe’s. And yes, I generally enjoyed eating them – until my family went to Knott’s Berry Farm. During that trip, my sister Kate ate a ton of barbecue beans. And then we went on some swirly rides. Eventually, we were driven home and got into bed. Totally uneventful. Several hours into the middle of the night, I woke up to the kind of surprise that ruins barbecue anything for a very long time: projectile barbecue beans. Kate had sat straight up in bed and spewed all over the room, spattering my bed in the process.

That memory scarred me so deeply that, to this day, I still can’t stomach barbecue beans. But lentils are a different story altogether.

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Lentils I love in any form, especially with Indian spices but also flavored only with a spoonful of sambal oelek Asian chili paste and a dollop of Greek yogurt. They’re healthy, easy to make, cook fairly quickly, pair nicely with a variety of vegetables and herbs (which is especially convenient when I have ones that need to be used quite badly), and hold up well enough in the refrigerator to provide an entire week’s worth of lunches. So I always keep some in my pantry.

When I found myself with some extra bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes laying around, not to mention a craving for meat on a vegan weeknight, I turned to lentils. They hold their shape and have just enough substance to make you forget these sloppy joe’s are meatless. And besides, the veggie-laden barbecue sauce is delicious, even if you choose to use ground meat instead. (more…)

January 19, 2011

one-pot chili

I have been eating meatless meals all week, so it’s only appropriate that I can’t get chili out of my mind. My brain has an obnoxiously playful sense of humor when it comes to teasing my stomach and testing my willpower. And frankly, the chilly weather seems to be conspiring with my brain this time around because there’s nothing quite like a warm bowl of chili full of warming spices to combat a cold evening or refrigerated day at the office.


For me, there’s also no Christmas Eve dinner quite as satisfying as chili not just because of the usual late-December chill in the air, but also because serving chili on that particular night has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.

However, chili isn’t just great for cold evenings and holiday eves. Chili is also the quintessential Super Bowl dish. (more…)

December 7, 2010

thai pumpkin curry

A pumpkin recipe on a self-proclaimed pumpkin hater‘s site? Don’t be alarmed. It may look like I’m going back on my word, but I haven’t turned a new leaf and become a lover of all things pumpkin.

However, I have continued to try earnestly to find something (anything!) pumpkin that I might love, besides the seeds, which really don’t count. And after a bite of my friend Justin’s pumpkin curry order at Koh Samui quite a few months back and a recent re-order to confirm that it wasn’t just the cocktails before that first bite that made me enjoy the spicy dish, I can say with certainty that, for me, Thai pumpkin curry is to pumpkins what banana bread is to bananas: the savior of an otherwise icky, squishy texturally questionable food.

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After trying to find festive but practical decorations for my Thanksgiving table, I settled on a large sugar pie pumpkin, two pears, two candles, and some fall leaves. After one pear was sacrificed in the name of pear chips and the other enjoyed as a snack, I was left with a massive amount of pumpkin. (more…)

November 16, 2010

mexican rice and fajita-spiced steak, poblano peppers, and onions

I grew up eating Mexican rice of the Rice-a-Roni quality. In other words, boxed rice and unknown spices + canned tomatoes + butter + water. It was delicious. But it was not Mexican. And I clearly didn’t know any better. But even if I had known better, I have forgiven the follies of my foodie-less youth.

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Fast forward a few years, and I’ve figured out that this Mexican rice wonder of my childhood can not only be made at home, but (not surprisingly) tastes way better than the romanticized Rice-a-Roni of yore. Plus, this rice can be made without any canned vegetables and with discernible spices that I always have on hand anyway, making it fresher and cheaper than the boxed stuff.

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Because rice was always the highlight of Mexican feasts growing up, whether in my super plain bean-cheese-rice burrito or as a side dish to any number of restaurant main courses, I like to say that I “know” Mexican rice. That may or may not be true, but I have been exposed to a wide variety served everywhere from fancy Mexican joints to chintzy taco shops. (more…)

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