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Friday, May 15, 2009

vegetarian posole


Chef Dan

One of the things that I’ve been letting go of lately is my self-imposed obligation to make a really fabulous dinner every night. I mean, I always want to make something yummy and healthy, but lately I’ve been doing less browsing in my cookbooks, and resorting more often to old favorites—usually SIMPLE old favorites. As this has happened, Dan has suddenly become more interested in cooking again. Since Meredith was born, and our time got tighter, he’s been more likely to focus on things other than cooking in his less frequent moments of free time. Now, maybe because I’m not menu-planning for every day of the week, there is more space for him to cook? Or maybe it’s because Meredith is almost five years old, and there is more time in his day? At any rate, it’s wonderful.

He’s got this great new theme going on, too. In the past, he would generally choose relatively exotic recipes that would involve a trip to the grocery store (or several grocery stores) to get the ingredients. His latest thing is to find something in the pantry or freezer that has been hanging around for a while, and find something to do with it. Oh joy of joys!

A couple of weeks ago he made a dish of white beans (from the freezer) on garlic-scrubbed toast, topped with sardines (from the pantry) and a drizzle scallions sautéed in olive oil (the scallions had been languishing in the ‘fridge). This week he got the idea to use up a big can of hominy, and ended up making this great vegetarian posole! He used up a tub of cooked kidney beans from the freezer, as well as a bunch of carrots and celery.

I’m not sure what he’ll decide to cook next. Will it be the buckwheat groats I bought several years ago for a reason I don’t remember? Or maybe that box of whole wheat couscous from the Pleistocene Era? (It can’t go bad, can it?) What about that celery root in the vegetable drawer that has held up remarkably well for the last several weeks? Go, Sweetie, GO! Am I well-married, or what? 

vegetarian posole

This recipe is based on one in Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. He tells you to cook the hominy from scratch, but I think the canned stuff works just fine. You can usually find it in the Hispanic section in the grocery store. Same goes for the little cans of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Freeze the leftover chiles in a ziplock bag for later use.

1 28-ounce can cooked hominy
2 cups cooked beans: red, pinto, or anasazi (see directions below, for cooking beans, if you haven’t already cooked them)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small onions, diced
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried sage (you can use 4 leaves of fresh sage if you have it, minced)
3-4 cups mushrooms, preferably baby portabellas, or white mushrooms
freshly-ground black pepper

1. In a heavy soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion. Saute for 5 minutes, until beginning to get transparent. Stir in the carrot, celery, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, chiles, cumin and sage. Add ½ teaspoon salt, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
2. Chop the mushrooms into quarters or sixths. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of salt until the mushrooms have released their liquid, the liquid is cooked off, and they are starting to brown. Set aside.
3. Drain the liquid from the canned hominy and add it to the vegetables. Add the cooked beans and 2 or 3 cups of bean cooking liquid to the vegetables, as well. If you’re using canned beans, don’t use the canning liquid—drain the beans and use water for the liquid, instead.
4. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender and the stew has thickened, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Add the mushrooms to the stew, and salt and pepper to taste.

cooking your beans

This will make twice as many beans as you need for this recipe, unless you make a double batch of posole—but cooked beans are handy! Just freeze the extra beans to use in another recipe later.

2 cups beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Drain the soaked beans, then put them in a pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add the quartered onion, garlic, and bay leaves and make sure the water covers the onions. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender. This could take 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the beans and how old they are. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn the heat off. If you have time, let the beans sit in their liquid with the aromatics until cool. Remove the quartered onions and whole garlic and discard. Add salt to the beans to taste.


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