Friday, August 21, 2009

Bean Jazz #7 Vegan Minestrone Soup

We're excited about the end of Summer and start of Fall in my house. Back to school for 3 of us, the garden is bursting with goodness and it's almost Soup Weather! I've been making this version of vegan minestrone soup since the early 1990's. With a loaf of crusty bread it's a meal in itself. It'll serve a crowd and freezes very well. This is a large recipe but you can divide it if you don't want so much.

1/2 cup (125ml) olive oil
4 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6-7 stalks of celery, diced
6-7 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 head to 1 head of cabbage, chopped (depending on how much you like cabbage--I would recommend starting with about 1/3 head and adding more next time if you really like cabbage).
300g or 10 oz. fresh or frozen sliced green beans
4 large potatoes, diced
2 large cans crushed tomatoes (must be "crushed")
2 large cans water (i.e. the tomato cans after you dump the tomatoes)
3 large or 6 small cans of beans. I usually use one large can each of garbanzo, kidney and black beans but you can substitute other types of beans.
1 cup (dry measure) of pasta, cooked. Alphabet pasta, little tubes, orzo, elbows or other small pasta all work fine.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. I would suggest a heavy bottom 8 quart (8 liter) or larger pot. Add the diced onions to the hot oil and stir for minute or so. Add the garlic and saute the garlic and onions until they're soft, or just until they start to get brown around the edges. Add all the other veggies and stir it up. Add the tomatoes and the water, stir and cover the pot. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 90 minutes. While the pot is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pot. After 90 minutes, add the beans to the big pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the cooked pasta, stir it up and it's ready to serve. Non-vegans like it with grated parmesan cheese on top.

Serve it with some fresh baked crusty bread. I recommend the No Knead Bread from the NYT website. For this bread, I use 1.5 cups white flour and 1.5 cups whole wheat flour and the oven at 510 F degrees, 30 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered. I cook it in a Corningware casserole dish with a lid (because I don't have the kind of covered pot he uses in the video) and it works fine.

The music in the Minestrone video is "Zabuda" by Junior Mance.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bean Jazz #6, Easy Chick Peas w/ Lemon, Parm and Olive Oil

I found this recipe at, a wonderful food/eating/life blog run by Molly who very graciously said I could use it here. If you like to cook or to read or to think about life and how to live it, I highly recommend that you check out Orangette. Most of her recipes are not this easy but they are excellent and her posts are always fun to read.

I first made this a few weeks ago and now I'm hooked. I bought a bag of lemons at Pete's Fresh Market (my favorite place to get fruits and veggies) and I've made it about 8-10 times in three weeks. If you are scoring a recipe on the Tasty:Easy ratio, this one gets a perfect "10". My favorite way (so far) to eat these is next to some warm brown rice that has been sprinkled with soy sauce and olive oil.

Easy Chick Peas with Lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Olive Oil

One 15 oz can chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
Juice of about one lemon
Two tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese
A pinch or a few shakes of salt

(I'll make this as complicated as possible)
1. Rinse the beans and put them in a bowl
2. Squeeze the lemon juice onto the beans
3. Grate the cheese and throw it in the bowl
4. Pour the olive oil in the bowl
5. Add salt to taste


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bean Jazz #5, Black Eyed Peas, Mediterranean Style

For the last 10 years or so I have made a dish with black eyed peas, mustard or collard greens, onions and feta cheese. It was pretty tasty but I recently had a case of Need To Tweak Syndrome (NTTS). Most of the time when I experience the NTTS, the result is odd and maybe not so good. However, this time I thought and thought, dozed off, thought some more and came up with this tweaked version of my old standby black eyed peas recipe. I don’t know if they eat black eyed peas in the Mediterranean region, but if they did, I imagine they would be something like this...


1 lb. dried black eyed peas
2 extra large or 4 medium onions
1.5 lb. fresh spinach or 1 lb frozen spinach (more or less to taste)
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup Vinaigrette or Italian dressing that you like

Step 1. Soak and cook the black eyed peas. I use the quick soak method: In a large pot, cover the beans with about two inches of water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the beans to soak for at least an hour. Drain the beans and cover with an inch of water and return to a simmer. Leave the beans on simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, until they are tender.

Step 2. While the beans are cooking, when you have about 45 minutes to go, coarsely chop the onions and sauté them in a large frying pan over high heat until they start to turn a russet (reddish brown) color, about 7-10 minutes.

Step 3. Add about half the fresh spinach to the onions and cover the pan. (If you’re using frozen spinach, you can add it all at one time.) After a few minutes, stir the shrunken spinach into the onions and add the rest of the spinach, shrink it down again for a few minutes and stir it in.

Step 4. Add the diced tomatoes and stir them in, bring to a low boil and simmer the onion, spinach and tomato mixture for about 10 minutes.

Step 5. While that is simmering, chop the walnuts. Add the walnuts and feta cheese to the mixture. Simmer for about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted.

Step 6. Drain the cooked beans and return them to the pot. (You can also use canned beans if you like, about 3 or 4 cans ought to do it). Pour the onion, tomato, spinach, walnut and feta mixture into the beans. Serve over rice or with bread.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sidebar #2 Congo Squares

I must have dozed off there for a minute... Anyway, when I was a kid, in the 60's, for potluck dinners and bake sales, my mom made a super delicious desert called Congo Squares. I have no idea where that name came from, but the recipe came from Delores Gravenstreter who, to the best of my knowledge, was a 60's suburban Detroit mom, much like my mother. I remember bringing a pan of these to school for a third grade bake sale and being sad that I didn't get to eat them all. Last year I discovered the recipe in my mom's recipe box and started baking them myself. They taste every bit as good as I remember and as good as you would expect 60's-suburban-mom-baked treats to taste. Take me back baby...

Congo Squares from the kitchen of Delores Gravenstreter


2 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup margarine (though I imagine butter would work too)
1 lb. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup nut meats (I use walnuts or pecans)
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate bits (nowadays we call them chocolate chips)


1. Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt
2. Melt shortening & add brown sugar
3. Cool slightly (this is important, be patient, you don't want to cook the eggs in step 4 or melt the chocolate bits in step 7)
4. Add eggs ones at a time beating well after each one
5. Add the dry ingredients, mixing them in well
6. Add the nuts
7. Add the chocolate bits
8. Spread it all in a 10 1/2" x 16 1/2" x 3/4" pan
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes
10. Pull them out of the oven, cut them into squares and go back in time

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bean Jazz #4, Chana Masala

When I moved to Chicago in 1986 my roommate Steve had a buddy from Mumbai named Sandip who was a student at Loyola University. I never met anyone like Sandip, before or since. In the hallway of our apartment, he could put one hand on each wall and climb up to the ceiling, putting his back against the ceiling and he would look down at us and laugh. For fun, early one Sunday morning, Sandip found a vertical nook in a 20-story building and shimmied up the side of the building with one hand on each side of nook, right to the top. He shimmied down without incident but I hear he startled some poor soul on the 16th floor. Sandip had a fabulous handlebar mustache and once won the “Best Mustache” contest at Pump Boys and Dinettes, a long-running musical in Chicago. On top of all that, Sandip was a great cook. This dish was inspired by my friend Sandip. I lost touch with Sandip but I think of him every time I eat chana masala.

This recipe makes a heapin helpin but it freezes very well it’s easy to cut in half. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, I'm sorry for you. But you can find lots of masala information here.

Chana Masala a la Bean Jazz
2 cups (dry) regular brown rice
5 medium onions
1/2 cup canola oil
8 cups cooked garbanzo beans (1 #10 can)
2 jars Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound frozen peas, warmed

1. Start cooking the brown rice your usual way. (Generally 3.5-4 cups water, add the rice, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cook 40-45 minutes).
2. Coarsely chop 5 medium onions.
3. Cook half the onions on high heat 7-8 minutes in 1/2 cup canola oil, set aside the other half of the onions.
4. Add the garbanzo beans, masala sauce, tomatoes, curry powder and suger to the pot and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, reduce to a healthy simmer.
5. Go enjoy a beverage for 15-20 minutes.
6. Saute the other half of the onions in a bit of oil until they are just soft but still have some firmness or pop to them.
7. Warm up the frozen peas but don’t really cook them.
8. When the rice is ready, add the peas and onions to the pot, stir it up.
9. Add rice until the rice/bean ratio is how you like it. I usually add a bit less than the whole two cups of rice.
10. Scoop it out and enjoy.

And a word about the "Jazz" in Bean Jazz. Each movie has as a soundtrack a song that moves me. What you'll hear in #4 is by Stanton Moore, a New Orleans drummer known for his work in the funk band Galactic. The CD "All Kooked Out!" by Stanton Moore is right up my alley, funky, soulful jazz. Great for cooking or eating beans.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bean Jazz #3, Slow Cooker Black Beans

Enough of this cake business, we're back to beans and jazz today. First, I have to confess, last week I made some 16 bean slow cooker soup and it didn't quite hit the high note. I'm going to try it again soon with some revisions, but today I made black beans in the slow cooker. I'm happy with the result. I read a dozen or so black bean recipes and went with the common themes and what made sense to me.

The recipe:
2.5 cups (one pound, 450 g) dried black beans
2 medium onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
Half a jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
1 heaping tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. boullion
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

Pour all the ingredients into the slow cooker and turn the heat to low for 8-10 hours. Serve over rice topped with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes. Salt to taste.

Update 10/9/08-- The video post was pulled from YouTube due to a copyright claim on the music I originally used. My bad. I have replaced the music with "Ahmad's Blues" by the incomparable Ahmad Jamal (freely shared in the YouTube music library) so the video is back up. I suggest you check out "The Awakening" by the Ahmad Jamal Trio, one of my favorite records by a jazz trio.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sidebar #1 Orange Bundt Cake

OK, this has nothing to do with beans or jazz, but is by special request. My awesome nephew, Brian, is having a birthday party this Sunday and I'm bringing the cake. So I tried this Orange Bundt Cake recipe (excellent pan here) to make sure it was okay. My daughter Hannah took some to school and I hear it was well received.

I found the recipe HERE

and tweaked it (below)


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter


  1. Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in 3/4 cup orange juice, oil, eggs and orange extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. As soon as you put the cake in the oven, cook 1/4 cup orange juice, sugar and butter for two minutes in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it cool while the cake bakes.
  5. Drizzle the lukewarm glaze over the cake in several layers so it can soak in.
No beans. No jazz. Just good cake.