I had another positive experience with the slow cooker today - Mexican Bean Soup from The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker. In the past year or two I would say there has been an absolute explosion in slow cooker cook books, and I am attempting to be a proud consumer of them. But, as my friend Shelley reminded me today, I haven't found that many great recipes. I love the idea of loading up the slow cooker in the morning, going out and about to attend to things during the day and returning home to the illusion that someone has cooked me a fabulous meal. But, really, most of those meals have not been so fabulous.
I do have one favorite, the short ribs I've made a couple times this year. Those turn out great and can be eaten with rice and sauteed kale. Its a happy day when I can use one of our produce box ingredients with it, in this case the kale. So I still hold out hope for the slow cooker, but my dream of using it at least twice a week has us eating either too many beans, or way to much meat. Both are bad, and there seems to be a very fine line separating one from the other.
But today's bean soup was nice - very, very simple. The ingredients are beans, water, an onion and salt. I don't really see whats Mexican about that - maybe a little Mexican oregano would have spiced things up? Nonetheless, it was fine. Another of those foods that gets by on the perfect amount of salt. We ate it with chips (home fried - which is much more exciting than a bag) and guacamole. I think cornbread and a salad are really better table mates, but I needed to get rid of a glut of avocado. Sadly, I seem to be the only one who loves avocado in my house, and when we end up with ten of them after three weeks of avocado heavy produce boxes, I get kind of stuck. An avocado just isn't one of those things I can eat in mass quantity and not feel guilty about, as I can strawberries or blood oranges.
The kids loved the chips, the bean eaters enjoyed the soup and the avocado eaters enjoyed the guacamole. We also put out bread with soft cheese, which is always a hit with everyone.
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
This is probably the simplest guacamole recipe you will ever find - but it works like a charm. Its easy to double, and pretty forgiving if you happen to have an extra avocado. One thing that you need to know about avocados is that they get a bit rancid sometimes when they are overripe. Maybe someone out there likes this flavor, but I don't. So, before you use your avocados, slice them open and make sure they smell good to you. If they don't, don't use them.
Slice the avocados and remove the pit. To remove the pit, hold the avocado half with the pit in it in your left hand (right if you're left handed). Take up a chef's knife in the other, and with the blade straight down, smack the center of the pit. Your knife should stick into the pit, allowing you to twist it a bit and pull it out (the pit, not the knife). If it doesn't stick enough, try again until you get it. To get the knife out of the pit, just scrape it along the side of your compost bucket as you drop the pit in, bumping the pit off the knife. Use a spoon to scrape out the avocado flesh into a bowl. Then peel the garlic clove. This is best done by smashing the clove with the flat side of your knife blade, then taking the clove out of the papery skin. Put it through a garlic press and into the avocado bowl.
Next squeeze a lemon into the bowl, then throw in some salt and grate in some pepper. Next, mix it together with a hand blender or a fork. Adjust spices to taste if necessary.---
Crockpot Mexican Black Bean Soup: (adapted from The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
2 cups dried black beans
8 cups water
1 onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper
Yogurt and cilantro (for garnish)
Cut the onion into very small bits.
Sort the beans to make sure there are no rocks in with them, and put them into the pot, along with the water and diced onion. Set them on to cook at low heat for at least eight hours, in the crock pot. When you are ready for dinner, use an immersion blender to blend the soup just a little bit, you want to leave some beans whole for texture. Spoon into bowls and add a teaspoon or so of yogurt, then sprinkle on some cilantro leaves.
12 pack of 6" corn tortillas
canola oil (olive will work in a pinch)
In a medium frying pan, pour 1/4 to 1/2" of oil into the bottom, and heat it up. While the oil is heating, cut the stack of tortillas into four pieces each. When the oil is shimmering (you don't want it to smoke, turn it down if it does) put in as many of the tortilla pieces as you can, probably four. Let them fry for a few minutes, then flip them over and do the same for the other side. You want to make sure the chips are crispy enough. Remove the chips to a plate lined with paper towels and let them drain for a few minutes.