Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.

Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.

While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos

This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.

If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.

To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”

The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Green Tacos, a recipe.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos

The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.

Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

Toppings for Black Bean Tacos

As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese.  The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.

If you do not eat dairy, add  pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.

The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

3 ways to heat up corn tortillas.

Final Thoughts

I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.

I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52.  For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Entrée

Cuisine: Mexican Inspired

4 servings

Serving Size: 2 tacos

Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash

Black beans cooked with onions and epazote make a flavorful foundation for spicy roasted winter squash in these vegan black bean tacos. Add different toppings like feta or cotija cheese, or pickled onions or jalapenos for some extra brightness. Top each taco with nuts, avocado and salsa verde.

To make these tacos really shine buy freshly made tortillas from a local taqueria or Mexican market.

Vegetarian, vegan option and gluten free

Ingredients

    Winter Squash
  • 1 (1 lb 12 oz / 788 g) winter squash like butternut or kabocha
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ Kosher salt
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
    Black Beans
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz (102 g) white onion, minced (about half an onion)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled, green germ removed and minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote, crumbled
  • 1 lb (500 g) drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
  • Kosher salt to taste
    Assemble the Tacos
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Roasted winter squash
  • Black bean spread
  • 1 avocado, sliced thin
  • Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
  • Creme fraiche (optional)
  • Small handful of cilantro, minced
  • ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
  • Salsa verde

Instructions

    Roast the winter squash
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
  2. Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
  3. Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
  5. Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
  6. Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  7. Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
  8. Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.
    Black beans
  1. While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
  2. Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
  3. Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
  5. If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.
    Tortillas
  1. Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.
    Assemble the tacos
  1. Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
  2. Serve immediately

Notes

You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.

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Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Puree of Vegetable Soup recipe.

My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.

If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Warming winter foods:

Swedish meatballs

Beef stew with Horseradish Sauce

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Soup

Cuisine: Italian American

7 cups

Serving Size: 1.5 cups

Purée of Vegetable Soup

This is a fresh tasting and hearty soup perfect for cold fall and winter days. It is an easy and delicious soup made with canned tomatoes, canned white beans, onion, celery, and carrots. I also added fennel bulb for a brighter flavor. If you prefer, substitute it with roasted red pepper or any leafy green vegetable you wish. Also, any canned or fresh white bean works with this recipe. If you are using canned beans, make sure they are the low or no salt variety. Homemade stock is preferred, but low-salt store bought stock will work just fine. You can also use chicken stock if you are not making this a vegetarian meal.

Fresh herbs like thyme, basil or tarragon are nice additions as well. Add the thyme instead of the Herbs of Provence, and the fresh basil or tarragon after the soup is puréed.

Ingredients

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, (about 9 oz / 254 g), minced
  • 3 celery stalks (about 8 oz /223 g), minced
  • 2 carrots (about 6 oz/ 165 g), minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 fennel bulb (about 7 oz / 219 g), minced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 1- 28 oz can (800 g) whole peeled tomatoes in purée
  • 1- 15 oz can (425 g) cannellini beans
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) vegetable broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper
    Garnish
  • 2 TB raisins
  • 2 TB chopped walnuts
  • 2 TB chopped celery leaves
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • Small pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. While cooking occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't brown or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the fennel and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute.
  4. Add the white wine and cook until almost evaporated.
  5. Cut up the tomatoes into 3-4 irregular size pieces and add them and their juices to the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Taste the soup after 7 minutes and correct the seasoning with more Kosher salt and or fresh ground black pepper.
  6. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  7. Purée the soup with a blender or an immersion blender, until smooth or to your desired consistency.
  8. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  9. Garnish with croutons, your favorite garnish, or the celery raisin walnut garnish.
    Garnish
  1. Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Taste and correct the seasoning. Let the garnish sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve room temperature with the soup.

Notes

You can make this soup any consistency you like. If you do not own a blender or food processor, keep it chunky. Add more stock to thin it out if you think it needs it. To make it smooth with chunks of vegetables, strain out about 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooked vegetables from the soup before you purée it. Once the soup is puréed to your desired consistency, add the mixed vegetables back in.

For more pronounced tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot of cooked vegetables before you add the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. You may need more stock to thin out the consistency.

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Puree of Vegetable Soup, an easy recipe with bright fresh vegetable flavor.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

I love curries and I love vegetables, but when I cook them together, the vegetables just fall apart. Despite my best efforts, the cauliflower and sweet potatoes always break apart in the sauce. Vegetable curry is one of my favorite meals, but I was ready to give up on it. Fortunately, a few years ago I mentioned my frustration to one of my brother’s in law, and he suggested roasting the vegetables instead of boiling them in the sauce. His suggestion was so simple, but was the perfect solution to improve the curry’s texture.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

The original recipe is from Fine Cooking, “South Indian Style Vegetable Curry” by Ellie Krieger, which I’ve made several times. Unfortunately, the vegetables went from perfect to overcooked in a matter of seconds. Roasting the cauliflower flowerettes and sweet potato chunks made a huge difference in appearance and taste. This technique developed vegetables with a firmer texture and a sweeter flavor. As a result, the curry sauce did not overwhelm the vegetables, but created more body to stand up against the complexity of the spices. My beloved vegetable curry recipe was reborn.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

Not that the sauce needed more flavor, but I couldn’t stop myself and added an additional curry spice blend to the roasted vegetables. To compliment the existing spices in the vegetable curry recipe, I sprinkled Massale curry, over the cauliflower and sweet potatoes. It is a sweet curry spice blend, like spices used in the vegetable curry.

The downside to roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is, that the curry is no longer a one pot meal. Now, it is a one pot and one sheet-pan meal. Despite the additional cleanup, this recipe is worth the extra step because the cauliflower and sweet potatoes taste so much better this way. Besides, cleaning the sheet pan is easy if you deglaze it with extra vegetable stock then add the stock to the curry. This extra step is up to you if you want it. The good news is, that the vegetables roast while the onions, carrots, tomatoes and Swiss chard cook in the curry sauce on the stove. If timed right, both sets of vegetables will finish cooking around the same time.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

If you want more vegan meals check out these links: Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille  and Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Apricots and Pistachios. 

Fine Cooking and Ellie Krieger wrote a solid recipe, but I made several changes for extra depth of flavor. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is key for creating a substantial body with the curry. Everything else I changed to enhance the flavor. First, I added wine to brighten the flavors. Then I swapped Swiss chard for the spinach to make it more substantial and added raisins because curries need some fruit to counter the heat. My last change is adding salted cashews for a garnish with some cilantro. The cashews add a crunchy bite against the tender vegetables while also adding more protein.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and instruction scare you away. Making this curry is not as complicated as the lengthy lists implies. Like any vegetarian meal, the biggest hurdle is chopping all the vegetables. Once the chopping is done, the cooking is very straightforward.

Vegetable curry is a great meal for a vegetarian/vegan dinner. I love how the coconut milk compliments this signature blend of sweet and savory spices, especially the cinnamon. During these colder months, vegetable curry is a big soothing bowl full of comfort and joy.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

Indian Style Vegetable Curry

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Entrée

Cuisine: Vegan / Vegetarian

6 servings

Indian Style Vegetable Curry

The warm spices of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne meld together with coconut milk and an array of vegetables making and Indian style curry with just the right amount of heat. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes helps them to retain their shape in the curry and not break down.

A mixture of broccoli and cauliflower also works nicely in the curry, but add more cauliflower than broccoli. Spinach can be substituted for the Swiss Chard, however add the spinach towards the end of cooking when you add the roasted vegetables. The spinach does not need as much time to cook as Swiss chard does.

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking South Indian Style Vegetable Curry.

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, (1 large or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) size pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide wedges
  • 1 tsp curry spice blend (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 TB (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1 2-inch (5 cm) piece ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 2-3 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1-13.6 fl oz (403 ml) can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup (375 ml) vegetable stock
  • 3 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
  • 4 oz (125 g) Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped into bite size pieces, the leaves sliced across the width
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) raisins
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-15 oz (425 g) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Handful of salted cashews rough chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position.
  2. Arrange the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and onion slices on a large sheet pan in an even layer. Drizzle 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, the Kosher salt, and ground curry (if using) over the vegetables and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast until just tender, about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, check for doneness by piercing the cauliflower and sweet potatoes to see if they are tender. Continue to roast the vegetables, checking every 10 minutes as needed. You want the vegetables to be just cooked through and not too soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a 5 qt (4.75 L) Dutch oven over medium high heat then add the remaining 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the minced onions and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. While cooking, stir every now and then so the onions don't stick to the pan.
  4. Add the minced garlic and minced ginger to the cooked onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard stem pieces and stir to coat and cook for a minute.
  5. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir to mix. Gently toast the spices for one minute.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine mostly evaporates.
  7. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir until the coconut cream and water is mixed together.
  8. Add the carrots, Swiss chard, and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir the pot every now and then to keep the coconut milk from separating. Control the heat and keep the sauce at a simmer and not a brisk boil. This will keep the coconut milk from curdling.
  9. Once the roasted vegetables and the vegetables in the curry sauce are done, add the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and raisins to the pot with the carrots, tomatoes, and Swiss Chard. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes to warm up the chickpeas.
  10. Turn off heat, and add the lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.
  11. Garnish with chopped cashews and chopped cilantro. Serve with white or brown rice.
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South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Holiday Greeen Beans with Roasted Onions

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Everyone has their favorite food during the holidays. They are so important, if for some reason this special food was not on the menu, their holiday is not complete. I think it is obvious, Turkey is high on the list. It is however an unspoken agreement. Have you ever heard anyone speaking longingly for the roast Turkey when they reminisce about the holidays? No. Yet, the turkey sandwiches made with the leftover turkey is high on the to die for list.  For me, I have more than one holiday food favorite, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. Not the green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned fried onions, but fresh quickly blanched green beans and layered with caramelized oven roasted onions.

Holiday GreenBeans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions recipe.

With all the rich food piled high on your plate, something fresh and green helps balance everything out. It may even lighten the food load enough to believe you have room for seconds. Or, is that just wishful thinking? A crisp salad will provide a fresh alternative, but it is not high on the priority list. People want room on their plate and stomach for all the Thanksgiving side dishes, and salad usually does not make the cut. By the end of the meal, I always have half of the salad leftover.

On the other hand, there is always room for bright and crisp green beans with roasted onions. It satisfies people’s appetite in two ways. The roasted onions satiate any rich and indulgent cravings because of caramelized onions. Plus, the green beans provide a bright taste to counter all the oven roasted foods. The other bonus, by the end of the meal there are none leftover.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Traditional green bean casserole is not high on my ‘Must Have” list. I did not grow up with green bean casserole as part of my childhood Thanksgiving meal and therefore don’t crave it. I also have a slight aversion to anything made with cream of mushroom soup. During my childhood, canned soup was an ingredient in half of mom’s dinners. At that time, during the 50’s and 60’s, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup was the secret ingredient in most foods. It was the quick and easy answer to making a béchamel sauce. In my opinion, Thanksgiving dinner requires green beans, and blanched green beans with roasted onions is the perfect substitute for this traditional casserole.

Making green beans with roasted onions requires a two-step process. Both are easy to do, plus you can make the onions up to two days in advance. The most involved part is roasting the onions. The onions are cooked in two stages. First, I roast the onions in the oven. Then, I deglaze the pan and add the pan juices to the onions and cook down the liquid. This two-step process develops roasted onions with a deep caramel color and flavor. The other benefit is, in comparison to the traditional roast caramelized onion method, the roasting time is cut in half.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

More Thanksgiving vegetable sides: Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

You can make the green beans at the last minute, then season with butter or olive oil, and herbs. I love tarragon with green beans, but it competes with the traditional Thanksgiving herbs of sage, rosemary and thyme. Fresh parsley is a good substitute because it brings a fresh taste and pairs well with the other foods. A light garnish of lemon zest is a nice touch, but not necessary because red wine vinegar is added in the roasted onions.

This is a throwback recipe I originally got from Bon Appétit Magazine in November of 1995. It was a recipe in a story about Thanksgiving Menu ideas from around the country. I believe green beans with roasted onions comes from a New England Thanksgiving based on the other food items on the menu. I slightly changed the recipe by omitting the sugar, deglazing the pan, and lowering the oven temperature for roasting the onions. It is a timeless recipe and I also appreciate the ease of preparation.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hope over the course of the month I will post additional recipes for my two other “must have” Thanksgiving sides, cranberry sauce and stuffing.  If you were to ask my children what their Thanksgiving favorite food is, they would say “It’s not Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter, without Pineapple Stuffing.”

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Category: Vegetable Side Dish

Cuisine: American

12

Serving Size: 6 oz

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions

Quickly blanched fresh green beans, offer a bright and fresh taste to rich holiday foods. These green beans with roasted onions provide a welcome contrast between the bright green beans and the sweet caramelized onions. I think it is a healthy substitute for green bean casserole during Thanksgiving.

This recipe is easily scaled up or down.

For easy time management, the onions can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Warm up the onions in the microwave before adding them to the green beans.

Serve warm.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sized onions
  • 3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil plus more for the green beans
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (500 ml) of water or vegetable stock
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • 3 lbs (1.5 k) fresh green beans
  • 3 TB of chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • If you prefer, substitute 2 TB of butter instead of the olive oil to coat the green beans.

Instructions

    Prepare the onions
  1. Arrange the oven rack to the upper and lower thirds of your oven
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6
  3. Lightly spray two large sheet pans with cooking spray
  4. Peel and slice each onion into 12 wedges
  5. Spread the onion slices evenly between the two sheet pans and drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt and a couple of rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Toss the onions with your hands to get them evenly coated with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the onions are nicely browned, about 45 minutes or longer. While the onions are roasting check them every 15 minutes and turn them over with a spatula so they evenly brown. Half way through, rotate the pans top to bottom. Watch and make sure the onions do not burn.
  6. Remove the onions from the oven and slide them into a skillet or saucepan. Place one sheet pan over two burners set to medium-high heat and add 1 cup (250 ml) of water or vegetable stock. Deglaze the pan. Use a flat bottom wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits on the sheet pan and bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the liquid to half a cup (125 ml). Pour the liquid into the pan with the onions. Deglaze the second sheet pan.
  7. Add the deglazed liquid to the onions and turn the heat to medium. Simmer the onions until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the red wine vinegar. Stir to mix. If you are making the onions in advance, don't add the vinegar yet. Cool the onions and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Just before serving, heat the onions in a microwave then add the vinegar.
    Prepare the green beans
  1. While the onions are roasting, clean and trim off the stems of the green beans. Set a large stock pot filled part way with water on a burner over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water, then add the green beans. Stir to submerge all the green beans. Cook the green beans for one to two minutes. Drain the green beans from the water and add them back into the pot. Drizzle olive oil, or 2 TB of butter, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt over the green beans. Toss to coat. Taste and correct for seasoning. Add chopped parsley and toss.
  2. Put the blanched green beans in a serving bowl or platter and arrange the warmed onions in the middle of the green beans. Serve immediately.
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Green Beans with Roasted Onions a healthy alternative for Green bean casserole

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Fall, Recent Posts, Soup, Vegan | November 1, 2017 | By

Whenever I try a new food or learn a new trick I like to share it with you on my blog. This week I discovered a winter squash I never had before, kabocha squash. It is a gnarly looking green winter squash like a small pumpkin, and tastes like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Kabocha is sweet and dense like a sweet potato, but with as silkier texture. Compared to a sugar pumpkin, it has a deeper burnt orange color, smoother texture, and a richer sweet squash flavor. It is not a new variety, but one that is gaining in popularity throughout the US. Like most winter squashes, you can substitute Kabocha in most recipes using winter squash.

Kabocha coconut curry soup recipe

My curiosity was piqued after reading a recipe for Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup. In the recipe the author described Kabocha squash as the sweetest of winter squashes available. Of course, I had to test her statement and bought it to make her soup. This soup is made up of some of my favorite flavor combinations, Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I have a weakness for Thai coconut curries and love stews and soups made with them. With that in mind, I knew this soup recipe is a winner.

Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup comes from Meyers and Chang At Home, by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. This is a wonderful cookbook featuring dishes from the restaurant Meyers and Chang in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The book is filled with amazing recipes celebrating Taiwanese food and Joanne Chang’s Taiwanese American heritage. For their ginger curry soup recipe, they recommend using one of three different winter squashes, with Kabocha high on their list. I found soup is a great meal to make when trying an unfamiliar vegetable. In the event you are not totally in love with the flavor, it is easier to doctor-up soup into something preferable. Fortunately, kabocha’s flavor satisfied like I thought it would, and required no doctoring. The rich and sweet flavor, and silky texture of the kabocha was perfect with the fresh ginger and Thai curry paste. This soup is giving my all-time favorite pumpkin soup some competition.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

This is an easy soup to make, but there are a couple of considerations.

How to peel Kabocha squash 2 ways

Like a lot of winter squash, Kabocha has a very tough outer skin. Peeling off the skin is tricky. You need a good cutting board and sturdy surface, and a sharp chef’s knife.

First, cut the kabocha squash in half, then pull the two sides apart. Then scoop out the seeds like you would for a pumpkin. Scrape out as many stringy strands too. Once cleaned, cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges depending on how big your kabocha is. Finally, lay each wedge on its side with the skin facing out, and run your knife down along the outer side, slicing along the curve of the wedge.

Kabocha coconut curry soup reicpe

Kabocha coconut curry soup reicpe

The alternative method is to roast the Kabocha then slice away the peel. First, cut the kabocha in half, scoop out the seeds, then slice in wedges like the method above. Place the wedges on a sheet pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the kabocha wedges and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. Place the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400°F/ 204°C oven. Roast the squash until the flesh is very tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Using a spoon or a knife, scoop or cut out the flesh away from the peel. This method cooks and peels the vegetable at the same time.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup recipe

More delicious Asian Cuisine inspired recipes:

Sugar Snap Peas this Shiitake Mushrooms,

Pork Fried Dumplings

Tips for making Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

The other consideration is keeping the coconut milk from separating or curdling. This happens when the coconut milk reaches a certain temperature and the proteins that link the fat to the water change shape,  denaturing of the protein,  and no longer stay emulsified.  It is a natural process and does not cause coconut milk to go bad. It just looks unappetizing. To prevent the coconut milk from curdling it is important to make sure the coconut milk is at room temperature and the ingredients in the pot are not boiling. I work at controlling the temperature, so the coconut milk stays emulsified and smooth. Stirring the soup helps with this as well.

While making this soup, I lowered the temperature after the kabocha became tender and mushy. Then I let the liquids in the pot cool down to barely a simmer. Once the soup cooled, but remained warm, I added the coconut milk while stirring constantly until the coconut milk incorporated. Once the coconut milk is added, the soup needs to cook for an additional 30 minutes. It is important to control the soup’s temperature, so it does not boil. I slightly turned up the heat to a low simmer and continued to stir the soup at regular intervals.

I have yet to determine if Kabocha is the sweetest of winter squashes around, but I am eager to continue testing that theory. My next kabocha adventure might be adding it in my pumpkin pie recipe, or my sweet potato cake recipe. What is your favorite Kabocha or winter squash recipe? Let me know in the comments section below the recipe.

If you liked this post and recipe, let me know by clicking on the Like button at the bottom of the post. Thank you.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Prep Time: 20 hours

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Category: Soup

Cuisine: Asian American

About 6 cups

Serving Size: 12 oz

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha is a green winter squash with burnt orange flesh. It has a sweet and silky flavor like sweet potatoes. Winter squash combined with Thai red curry paste, and coconut milk creates a delicious soup you will want to make repeatedly. If kabocha squash is not available substitute it with butternut squash or sugar pumpkin.

This recipe is from Meyers and Chang At Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akuowicz with slight adjustments. Meyers and Chang is a Taiwanese - American restaurant in Boston's South End neighborhood.

Ingredients

  • 2 TB olive oil or butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 TB fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 TB Thai Red Curry Paste
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs (750 g - 1 k) Kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • Zest from 2 limes, (or preferable if you have access to Asian markets 2 makrut lime leaves)
  • 1 13.5 oz (403 ml) can of coconut milk
  • 2 TB fresh squeezed lime juice, more to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Kosher salt, more to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables cook, stir frequently to prevent the onions and ginger from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Add the curry paste and stir until incorporated. Cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the kabocha, or butternut squash, and 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the squash is tender and mushy. About 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare the lemongrass. Peel off the outer papery layer and discard. If your lemongrass is not already trimmed, cut off the top 2/3 of the stalk, leaving about 6-7 inches of a pale and pliable piece. Cut off the dense base of the stalk. Slice the stalk down the center lengthwise.
  5. Turn down the heat to low. Add the lemongrass and lime zest, or lime leaf if using.
  6. Once the soup ingredients stop boiling and cooled to a low simmer, add the coconut milk. Constantly stir until the coconut milk is thoroughly mixed in. Be careful not to allow the soup to a boil, or the coconut milk will curdle. Frequent stirring will also prevent the coconut milk from curdling.
  7. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. Make sure the temperature does not get above a gentle simmer. Stir the soup at frequent intervals to prevent curdling.
  8. When done, remove the lime leaves (if using) and lemongrass from the soup. Use a fork to help fish out any loose lemongrass strings.
  9. Purée the soup. In a blender, food processor or immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you are using a blender leave a vent for the heat to escape. Also purée the soup in batches so the soup does not explode. I used my immersion blender with good results and avoided possible explosions with a blender. However, blenders do a better job at getting a smoother purée.
  10. Once puréed, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.
  11. Place your soup back in your stock pot and taste, and turn the temperature to medium low. Add the lime juice and correct the seasoning with the sugar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When adding the sugar and Kosher salt, start with less amounts then taste. You can easily add more. Add more lime juice if needed. Also, add more water if the soup is too thick. The texture should be light and smooth and not too thick.
  12. Serve warm right away.
  13. Can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freeze up to 2 weeks.
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Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup. Just the right amount of heat ans sweet for the perfect soup.

 

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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