Category Archives: Legumes

Clams with White Beans and Wine

interestingly, the best spot in my apartment for taking pictures of food after dark is on top of a bookshelf.

Look.  Shellfish are ugly.  Sometimes they have weird things hanging off their shells, and more often than not, they look like genitalia or snot.  But here’s the thing I didn’t know until this year:  THEY ARE DELICIOUS AND ARE ALMOST ALWAYS SERVED IN A SAUCE MADE OUT OF MELTED BUTTER.

In October, Sue and I went to Seattle to eat.  During the trip, I learned the following:

1.  Clams, even though they’re so ugly and weird looking with ridiculous valves and things that they really require that you not look directly at them as you lift them to your lips, are sweet little morsels of delight.

2.  Oysters, which are most often advertised by aggressive seafood eaters as being “briny”, (Really, everyone I’ve ever met?  Briny?  Think up a selling point that doesn’t remind me of all the worst parts of going to the beach) are actually quite lovely, and I even chewed mine, which apparently is not best practice for eating oysters.

3.  Mussels, despite looking quite obviously like tiny vaginas, are tender and sweet and are served with french fries a lot.

Last week, I saw a recipe in Food & Wine for mussels in white wine, and figured “forget my lifelong promise to myself not to cook seafood at home thanks to that time I was a kid and my mom made salmon and it made the whole house smell like fish for 17 days,  I’m gonna cook mussels at home!”  Except then, when I went to the store, I realized that mussels have to be de-bearded and that felt too scary so I bought clams instead.

Clams with White Beans and Wine

2 lb fresh Manila clams

6 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tbsp butter, divided

1 tsp bacon fat, from the jar I sincerely hope you keep in your fridge

4 tbsp olive oil

1 cup or so white wine, I used a white Bordeaux, because Sue taught me that I like “non-traditional grape varietals”

2 cans white Northern beans, drained and rinsed well

red pepper flakes

a lot of chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

crusty bread

Method:  Clams are sandy.  To clean clams, you put them in a big bowl of salted cool water for 20 minutes to an hour before cooking, which makes them spit out all the sand.  Apparently, you can also put black pepper, flour or corn meal in the water to help them expel the sand.  I put in salt and pepper only.  When they’re done soaking, fish them out with a spoon and put them in a colander, scrubbing them thoroughly to remove the sand from the outside of the shells.

they weren't so sandy, i guess, because not a ton of sand came out and i didn't chew any sand.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter, the bacon fat and the olive oil in a large, shallow pan with sides and a fitted lid, on medium-low heat.  Toss in the garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and let it cook for maybe 4 or 5 minutes, moving it around frequently so it doesn’t burn.  Burnt garlic is almost as gross as that feeling when you realize the cute boy you’re talking to is a Republican.

After the 4-5 minutes, put in the beans and cook everything together for 5 minutes or so.

if you don't have a pan like this, clearly you don't go to homegoods as often as i do.

Then, pour in the wine and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.  Put in the clams and the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, stir it around a bit and put the lid on the pan for 5 minutes, shaking the pan a couple times to move things around.

i feel fancy that i did this.

Take the lid off, stir everything around, remove any clams that haven’t opened (because they were dead already, I think, is the reason that you don’t want to eat them, but that fact reminds me that I just cooked alive creatures in butter and wine and that’s jarring), put in the chopped parsley and serve with the bread.

all mine opened except 4. i assume "not open" meant not open at all, and that open only a little bit was still ok. i ate those, so if i die, they should really be more specific about how open clams are supposed to be.

This was so easy and so delicious I feel like a chump for every time I’ve been impressed by a dish like this in a restaurant.  Clams are fantastic, and butter, wine and garlic make for a no-lose situation.  Also, this entire process took less than 30 minutes.  I’ve always felt that shellfish are very high maintenance, which I suppose they are in terms of cleaning and de-bearding and de-icing or whatever else, but cooking them was fast and almost foolproof.  I think next time I make this, which based on how good this was might be tomorrow, I’ll put chorizo in it.

– Cat


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Filed under Legumes, Meat, Seafood, Soup

Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach

they are cold in this picture, and they still look that good.

My birthday was Sunday.  I’m 28.  I went out to dinner and drinks with some friends on Saturday, I wore a dress that didn’t look anything like a peppermint stick and I didn’t make an ass out of myself, which was a nice change from my 27th birthday.  I guess I’m growing up.  Sunday, my actual birthday, my good buddy Linda made me dinner and one of the things she made was Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach, a recipe she got from Mark Bittman.  She also made me my Traditional Birthday Dessert Request: dirt pudding.  Dirt pudding, if you don’t know what that is because you forgot about being 7 years old, is kind of like a trifle, except it’s chocolate pudding, crushed Oreos and whipped cream, with gummy worms in it.  I love it, and I ask for it every year.

The chickpeas and chorizo was the best thing I’ve had in ages, which is why I made it myself today (Tuesday) even though I just ate it (Sunday).  I will tell you that it was a serious pain in the ass to find Spanish chorizo (a dry, pimento/paprika heavy sausage that’s like a spicier version of summer sausage).  You’ll want to check in the cured meats section, which is probably near the cheese.  But it’ll all be worth it when you smell that paprika-y oil start to seep out of the chorizo as it crisps in the pan.  You’ll forget you even looked at the sodium content of the chorizo on the back of the package.  You’ll forget that promise you made to yourself about eating less cured meat and more coconut water-fiber supplement-sea bream extract-b1423 vitamin-antioxidant super food crap that makes you live longer, because that long life would have no Spanish chorizo in it.

This is so good, I ate it on Sunday and had to make it on Tuesday because I couldn’t bear the thought of not having any in my fridge.  This recipe also has sherry in it.  Oh my god it’s delicious.  Just make it.

Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach, from Mark Bittman‘s column, the Minimalist, recipe here

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and as dry as possible

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 oz of Spanish chorizo, diced (I used about twice that, because more sausage is always better.)

1 bag of baby spinach

1/4 cup sherry

1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I toasted French bread and put it through the food processor, I like the bigger chunks)

salt and pepper


In a large, oven-safe pan on medium heat (I used a big metal skillet), heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil on medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas and garlic in an even layer.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, shaking the pan every so often, until the chickpeas start to brown, 10-13 minutes.  Then, add the chorizo, and cook another 10 minutes, stirring every so often.  When the chickpeas and chorizo are crisp, remove them to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Pour the sherry into the pan and let it de-glaze and reduce for a minute or two, then dump in the bag of spinach.  Cook the spinach until it’s soft and the liquid has mostly evaporated.  Pour the chickpeas and chorizo back into the pan, toss with the spinach and top with the breadcrumbs.  Put the pan under your broiler for a minute or two to toast the top, if you like.

A note- my mom loves sherry.  She and I once got into a heated argument over whether I was going to put sherry into the risotto I was making.  I dedicate this post to her, and would like to state publicly: you were right, I should have put sherry in it.

– Cat

this is what it looked like when i took it out from under the broiler.


Filed under Legumes, Meat, Recipes, Sides


this is the most beautiful picture of food EVER.

I have said a lot of questionable things about vegans and vegetarians, on this blog and also to anyone who will listen.  Sue and I were just having a conversation, in fact, wherein I expressed my fear that my kids will grow up and become vegans, because kids rebel.  I’ll raise them to love pate and understand why it’s perfectly acceptable to keep bacon fat in a jar, and they’ll grow up and only eat raw kale.  It’s the way of the world.

The truth, though, is that I like food with no meat in it.  I eat it all the time.  Just now I had a brownie.  No meat.  Yesterday I had some Doritos.  No meat.  (I don’t think.  Erg.)  I’m about to eat some bread and butter pickles.  No meat!

My mild acceptance of food with no meat intersects with something I LOVE: Middle Eastern food.  Babaghanouj is so delicious, it makes hummus look like its uglier, less charming cousin who just won’t give up on “your mom” jokes.  The smoke of babaghanouj pairs so wonderfully with the fresh tang of tabbouleh.  Tabbouleh is fantastic also because it’s a snack that’s good for you.  You think you’re having a nice bar snack with your beer, but you’re not.  You’re having a salad.  It’s so good you don’t even consider throwing it on the floor and demanding jalapeno poppers with ranch.

Sidenote: Dom and I were going out to dinner this past weekend, and I wanted to go to this Middle Eastern place I’ve been eyeing.  It took some convincing to make it happen, because they don’t have beer, but we got there in the end.  We get there, the kid says 35 minutes (lie), so we go stand out in the cold for an hour playing the celebrity name game, during which Dom said that not only was O.Henry not a celebrity, but didn’t count because O. is not a first name.  Untrue.  Anyway, the meal was good and the portions were enormous, but the restaurant itself sucked, terrible ambience, harried and sour looking servers, seated too far away from each other to have a private conversation, etc.  We both complained for some time, before Dom goes:  “But all that aside, I know you’re so happy to be taking this home to keep in the fridge right now.  I also would like to make a wager that you break back into this babaghanouj before the night is over.”  I did not take that bet.

All that is why falafel is on the good vegetarian food list.  It’s wonderful, and also gives me a chance to demonstrate one of my Central Tenets of Home Cooking.  To wit, deep frying at home is never necessary.  I bake my falafel.  I do douse it a bit with olive oil so the patties get nice and brown, and I bake them on high heat so they don’t dry out.  It’s taken some doing to get my falafel right.  I like them a little on the wet side, that ensures them staying moist and tender.  Also, there’s a secret to making perfect falafel: refrigerate it overnight and bake it the next day.  It lets all the flavors meld together, and firms it up for easy patty-making.  Falafel was one of the things I made for my food shoot with Kelly Goode of Capture Photography.  She is amazing, which you already know, because you see the pictures.


2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 onion, chopped roughly

1 cup parsley leaves

1 cup cilantro leaves

juice of 2 lemons

5-6 cloves of garlic

4 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp chipotle powder (or a combination of smoked paprika and cayenne or red pepper flakes)

copious salt and pepper

2 eggs

2 cups panko

Method:  In a food processor, combine all ingredients but the eggs and panko and pulse until smooth and well-combined.  If your food processor is WAY too small to accommodate this much stuff, like mine is, you can do it in stages, like I did, and dump it all into a big bowl and mix it together there.  As long as the ingredients are all in really small pieces, you’re good.  With everything in a big mixing bowl, mix in the eggs and panko.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle some olive oil onto a cookie sheet and spread it around.  Using a spoon or your hands, ball up the falafel into 1 inch or so balls, flattening each slightly so they form little patties.  (This is a judgement call, lots of falafel is round, I just like the way patties sit more nicely in a pita.)  Lay them onto the cookie sheet and drizzle the tops with a little more olive oil.  Bake for 10 minutes or so and then flip and bake for another 10 minutes or so.  The falafel should be deep brown and crunchy when you touch it.

Serve in sandwich form like I did, with greens, cherry tomatoes, pickled beets, pepperocinis and tzaziki, or in any form you like.


1/2 cucumber, grated, taking care to save the juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

copious salt and pepper

Method: Grate the cucumber into a bowl.  Mix in all other ingredients and serve.

mmm garlicky. thanks Kelly for the beautiful picture!

– Cat


Filed under Appetizers, Dressings, Legumes, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Channa Masala

Channa Masala is my favorite Indian dish.  I love saag paneer, and aloo gobi, and lamb rogan josh, and tandoori chicken, and dal of all kinds, and lamb vindaloo.  I love samosas, and parathas, and butter chicken, and mint chutney, and raita, and I love lemon pickle. But I love channa masala the most.  The tomato-y sauce, the chickpeas…good.  I’ve made it myself many times, and I’ve come to believe that channa masala works the best when I don’t mess with the recipe too much.  One addition to traditional channa masala recipes that I’ve used with some success is tamarind paste.  If you’ve never cooked with tamarind, try it.  It’s sort of a mix of lime and molasses flavors.  Delicious.  The other thing I’d say about channa masala, or any curry really, is to let the flavors sit as long as you can.  Take your time cooking it, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make it a day or two before you serve it, let it sit in the fridge for awhile, and reheat it when you want to eat it.  Like a lot of my cooking, this recipe is a mashup of 5 or so recipes.

Channa Masala

3 16 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 16 oz cans of diced tomatoes, WITH juice

2 big sweet onions, diced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave in some of the ribs- the whitish part inside the pepper- and the seeds to make it hotter)

2 tbsp ground coriander

4 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp turmeric

2 tbsp garam masala

2 tsp paprika, any kind will do

2 tbsp of something sweet and tart- amchoor powder is traditional, that’s dried mango powder, but tamarind paste would be perfect if you had it (or you can approximate it by mixing equal parts lime juice and molasses) lemon juice would be fine as well

1/2 tsp cayenne or chipotle powder

2/3 cup or so of liquid – water, coconut milk, chicken stock if you don’t care if it’s vegetarian

salt and pepper

2-3 tbsp of fat- olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, clarified butter, whatever

handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

* A note on spices- Indian food is transformed when you use fresh, whole spices, toast them in a dry pan for a minute, and then grind them as you use them.  I even have a coffee grinder I use specifically for this purpose, but I’m also lazy.  Feel free to use the whole spice-toasting-grinding method if you have them, otherwise you can use powdered.  You do want to make sure the spices get some direct heat before they’re mixed into liquid, this helps them release flavor.

To start, put a big saucepan on medium heat (I use my nonstick skillet, because I love it), and put whatever fat you’re using in the pan.  Let that heat up for a minute or so, then put in the onion, garlic,ginger and jalapeno.  They should cook down awhile, until the onions are translucent at the least, and lightly browned at the most- maybe 10 or so minutes.  Stir frequently, burned garlic is irreparable.  When the onions are at that point, put in all the spices.  Move them around with the onions for a minute or two, letting them toast a bit.  When a sort of ugly paste forms, put in the tomatoes, lemon/tamarind/something tart and water/coconut milk/whatever liquid you’re using.

nice and soupy, would probably make a good dip.

Let that cook down awhile on medium-low heat, really as long as you need it to, but not less than 15 or 20 minutes.  When you’re almost ready to eat it, put in the chickpeas and cook it a few minutes longer on medium-high heat, you really just want the chickpeas to heat through.  When that’s done, take it off the heat, stir in the cilantro, and serve with jasmine rice and naan or roti.

please ignore the aloo gobi, i made them the same day.

*A note on Indian breads- they are delicious.  I would love to learn to make naan at home, but until I do, I’d like you to know that they sell it pre-made in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s.  It comes in plain and garlic.  Get the garlic.  You can also substitute pita bread, which is fine, but not as good as naan.

Channa masala is tomatoey, curry goodness.  It’s tart and lightly sweet, but the smoke from the spices tempers that nicely.  Plus- the ingredients in this dish bring it to like 4 calories per serving, or something.  This dish is easy, homey, comforting and perhaps best of all- reheats REALLY well for when you bring it to work for lunch the next day.

– Cat

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Filed under Legumes, Recipes, Sides, Vegetarian

BBQ week: Sue’s Mom’s Baked Beans

Baked beans are a barbecue staple. But do you want to be the one who brings the can of baked beans?  No, which is exactly why I am giving you this recipe. Also because I REALLY love these baked beans. Recently, I made these for a BBQ and my friend Heidi informed me that her mom used to make the exact same ones. All these years I was sure this was a secret family recipe. But I’m 100% sure my mom’s are the best (sorry Heidi).  What I love about them is that they’re pretty easy because they include a few kinds of canned beans but they also include a little good old fashioned Midwest love.


½ lb of bacon (I use thick cut, but any kind will do)

2 medium yellow onions, diced

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 can butter beans

2 cans pork and beans, aprox 21 oz total (I use the good old fashioned cheap kind)

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ dry ground mustard

¼ tsp ginger (the original recipe calls for ½ tsp, but I actually hate ginger, so I use less)

¼ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut bacon into one inch pieces. Cat swears by scissors for this, I just stack it up and use a big ol’ chef’s knife, so use whatever method you prefer.  I also make this in a 3 ½ qt. Dutch oven because it can go from stove to oven, but if you don’t have something like this you can start it in a large pot on the stove and move it to an ovenproof casserole dish for the baking. Brown the bacon until it is starting to crisp up, then add the onions and cook on medium low until tender. Drain the fat. Add brown sugar, vinegar, and spices. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain kidney beans and butter beans and add to the pot. Do not drain the pork and beans, add both cans. Bake for 1 hour at 350.

Simple, delicious, classic BBQ food.

And one more thing- these are delicious cold from the fridge the next day.


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Filed under BBQ, Legumes, Recipes, Sides

BBQ Week: Cat’s Mom’s Baked Beans

My mom makes REALLY good baked beans.  Granted, I think everyone’s favorite baked beans recipe comes from their mother, but mine is true.  My mom’s baked beans are REALLY good.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I will serve baked beans at my wedding, alongside tuna mac and hotdogs.  My mom’s beans are pretty simple, I guess, and when I make them for myself I tend to make them spicier than my mom does, (because to my parents, black pepper is spicy) and I can be a bit more heavy handed with the bacon than my mom is.  All in all though, these are really good beans.

My Mom’s Baked Beans, my way:

4 cans white Northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 big sweet onion, chopped

5 slices of bacon

4 sizable cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp molasses

3 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp chipotle powder (cayenne if you don’t have chipotle, but I like the smokiness of chipotle)

1 tsp dry mustard

salt and pepper

First, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Then, crisp your bacon slices in a big nonstick saute pan, on medium heat.  When they’re crispy, remove them from the pan and set them on a paper towel lined plate to cool.  Now you face an interesting dilemma.  You can either leave all the bacon fat in the pan, thus increasing deliciousness quotient, or you can drain all but a tbsp or so of bacon fat, thus decreasing fatass quotient.  Your call.

Next, dump the onion and garlic into whatever amount of bacon fat you’ve decided is appropriate, also on medium heat.  Let those brown a bit, maybe 5 minutes.  Then put in all the rest of the ingredients except the beans.  Cook everything down for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want it to look like a lot of thinnish BBQ sauce.  I’d let it cook down for maybe 15 minutes.

Next, chop up the crispy bacon, and dump it, along with the sauce and the beans, into a dutch oven (if you don’t have a dutch oven, that’s okay,  you can use any oven safe container and use tinfoil instead of a top.  But really, there are a huge variety of reasonably priced, enameled cast iron dutch ovens on Amazon and at HomeGoods.  If you cook more than a little, I would invest in one.).  Put the top on and stick it in the oven for 45 minutes.

If, after 45 minutes, you think the beans look too soupy, no problem.  Take the top off, turn the heat up to 400 degrees, and cook them for 10 or 15 more minutes, they’ll thicken right up.

please note that these are excellent cold on crackers.

– Cat

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Lentil Soup in a hurry

I love lentils.  We should do a whole week on lentils.  Lentils are good for you, versatile and best of all, cost like $1.50 per pound.  There are lots of types of lentil, the most common and available being green lentils, but there’s pretty black lentils that look like little shiny rocks, and pink lentils, which always sign their name with a heart over the i.

So anyway, I made lentil soup yesterday.  The smartest thing I did, and the real reason for this post is to tell you the following:  SOAK YOUR LENTILS.  Lentil packages, those smarmy jerks, tell you there’s no need to soak lentils in advance, and most recipes say the same thing.  I’m here to tell you though, unless you want whatever you’re making to take 3 hours, soak your lentils.  I soak mine starting in the morning, or the night before, even.  Put as many lentils as you’re using in a bowl, with enough warm water to cover them, and that’s it.  By the time you’re ready to use them, they’ll have absorbed nearly all of it, and your recipe will be ready in a half an hour instead of 4.  One thing I haven’t experimented with yet is adding flavor to the water, but it strikes me as a good idea.  Might be good to mix up chicken bouillon into the water (and keep it in the fridge), or some lemon juice, or tomato paste, or something.  I sometimes add garlic or wine to pasta water, and it works, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work with lentils.  So anyway, here’s my lentil soup recipe, bearing in mind that I soaked the lentils in advance, so they absorbed a lot less stock than they would have if I hadn’t.

Lentil Soup

1 lb green lentils (I think it was a pound, it was a whole bag)

1 qt chicken stock

6 pieces of bacon, chopped

a big onion, diced

4-5 garlic cloves, diced

5 big carrots, peeled and diced

2 cans diced tomatoes, don’t you dare drain them

2 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp coriander

salt and pepper

balsamic vinegar

Get a nice big dutch oven hot on the stove, and drop your chopped bacon in.  Let it render some fat for awhile (6-8 minutes), then put in the onions and garlic, and stir it around.  A few notes: I leave the bacon in the soup as I cook it, but you could certainly crisp the bacon completely, remove it from the pot and reserve it to sprinkle on top later.  I also put a fair bit of cracked pepper on the bacon while it cooks, because I think it tempers the sweetness, but that’s me.

When the onions are translucent-ish, throw in the carrots and stir them around until they soften a bit, maybe 5-8 minutes.  Put both cans of diced tomatoes, with their juices, in the pot, and stir everything together.  This is when I do the first round of spices, a pretty fair amount of cumin and coriander, and salt and pepper.  Let all that come together for a minute, then put in the lentils and the whole quart of stock.

Let everything simmer on medium low heat, partially covered, for 15 min or so, after which I add more cumin, coriander and salt and pepper.  Partially cover and let simmer for really as long as you want, but not less than 20-25 minutes.  The soup really only takes maybe 40 minutes of cooking time, if you’ve soaked your lentils in advance.  To test, fish a few lentils out with a spoon and eat them.  I qualify lentils as being cooked when I can explode them on the top of my mouth with my tongue, and their little skins slide right off.

The last thing I do is blend some of it with my immersion blender, (the one I have is a base with multiple attachments, an immersion blender, a hand mixer and a little food processor, it’s awesome, and proof that Susan’s love for gadgets rubbed off on me) not completely, I like chunky soup, but you can do as you like.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can blend it in the blender, a little at a time, reserving the blended soup in a bowl until you figure you’re done, then put it all back in the pot.

it isn't baby poop, i swear

Now you can serve it up.  I’m going to tell you something now which will sound bizarre, but is seriously delicious, I learned it from some Italian lentil recipe.  Dribble some balsamic vinegar (a tablespoon or so) on top of your soup.  Seriously.  The sweet tartness of the vinegar complements the buttery lentils and the smoke from the cumin and bacon SO well.  You could also put a dollop of sour cream on it.  I mean, if you want.  Your call.

But I think any time you eat a food that you CAN put sour cream on and you DON’T, an angel loses its wings.


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Filed under Legumes, Recipes, Soup