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Monday, May 19, 2014

Garlicky Black Bean Tostadas with Roasted Eggplant

Because it's contest time again!

I had taken a break from entering recipe contests for a while, for a variety of reasons.  For one, the contest themes either didn't apply to me or didn't appeal to me (I don't own a grill, so Grilling Recipes is right out.  I'm not even going to pretend like I want to create a Chicken Recipe.  I don't have a single Slow-Cooker Recipe in my repertoire.  In fact, I'm not sure where my slow cooker is...)  Also, I haven't really felt very inspired lately.  To be honest, I've been eating an awful lot of veggie wraps and canned soup these past couple of weeks.  However, I could use a little boost in my income, and I have more free time for cooking these days, since homework isn't monopolizing my evening hours anymore.  Thus, I decided to get myself back in the kitchen and back to recipe testing.  This month's contest theme is Mexican.  Oh yeah, I got this.

I actually cheated with this recipe: I used components from other recipes I've made in the past (garlic-lime black beans from just a few weeks ago, and a fire-roasted tomato and chipotle sauce that was never actually posted to the blog but comes from an old contest submission), adding the eggplant just to change it up a bit.  The end result was savory, smokey, spicy, and- hopefully- good enough to win.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I have some recipe "fixing" to do.  I had also experimented with a butternut squash soup, but accidentally made it melt-your-face-off hot.  So I'm gonna try to tweak that this week.  Stay tuned.

1 medium-sized eggplant
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced, 2 Tbsp reserved for garnish
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
4 corn tostadas
Sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Trim the stem end and bottom of the eggplant and then cut in half lengthwise.  Using a sharp knife, score the eggplant with diagonal lines, about an inch apart, to create a diamond pattern.  Drizzle each half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on baking sheet cut-side down.  Bake for 35 min, or until skin is wrinkled and flesh is soft.  Allow to cool just enough to handle.  Cut each half into one inch slices. 
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and green onion (reserving 2 Tbsp) and saute about 3-5 min until garlic is starting to brown but not burn.  Add the black beans and stir to cover with oil, lightly mashing the beans with the back of a spoon or spatula.  Add the lime juice, cumin, and chile powder and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook over medium heat 5 min or so, until beans are heated through.  be careful not to over cook, or the beans will dry out.  In that case, add a little more lime juice as needed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, simmer fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle chilies over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until heated through.
To assemble:  Spread black bean mixture over each tostada.  Top with eggplant slices and spoon tomato sauce over top.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and reserved green onions, if desired.
Serves 4

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sweet Roasted Beets with Creamy Pasta

Because pasta is always the answer!!!

Woah, there has been an awful lot of celebrating going on over here!  I graduated and had a party; my dad (and his twin) turned 60 last week and we had a party; my sister moved out of our old house and into a beautiful new condo and... well, I guess we didn't technically celebrate, but there were several mimosas consumed over the course of the weekend.  Anyhow, my point is that I've been awfully busy and haven't had a chance to do any recipe testing until today.

With the advent of my newly acquired post-graduation freedom, I have made it my mission to teach myself new things.  First things first, I ordered a bunch of history books, in an effort to learn more about, well, history (let's get serious, I haven't studied that stuff since, maybe, middle school?).  OK, so I haven't actually started reading any of them yet, but I'll get there, I promise.  I also realized that I'm at a point in my life that it is no longer acceptable to say "I can't" or "I don't know how" or "I don't like that."  So, obviously, the first place to start was making myself like foods that I have been convinced I completely despise.  Because I like the challenge.

Beets are a remarkable little root vegetable, don't you think?  On the one hand, they possess an exquisite color and are super good for you- full of folate and manganese, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke [this sounds like a pharmaceutical commercial...].  However they also smell and taste like dirt, making them highly unappealing to most sane persons.  Well my friends, today was the day I decided to cook beets in a way that made them both appealing and palatable.  Hence the pasta.  I mean, who doesn't love pasta???  This makes those pesky little beets totally worth trying at least, am I right?  [Just say yes so we can move on...]

Alright, let's get down to business: roasting makes everything better, this is a fact.  I roasted these babies with sweet onions and garlic, and plopped them atop a mountain of creamy pasta goodness and it was fricken' awesome.  Just try it.  Once.  To better yourself as a person.

4 small beets, peeled and cubed
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked
1/3 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
12 oz pasta
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss beets, garlic, and onions in a baking dish with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30-35 min, stirring once, until beets are tender.
In a blender or food processor, combine cashews, wine, veg broth, cornstarch, garlic, and thyme, and blend until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour sauce into a sauce pan and heat on high until bubbling, then turn heat down to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta.  Cook according to directions on the package.  Drain and return to the pan.  Add the sauce and stir until all the pasta is covered.
Serve the pasta hot with a big heaping helping of the beet/onion/garlic goodness. 
Savor the deliciousness of roasted beets on pasta.  So good.