Goat Cheese and Jalapeño Polenta with Black Bean Salad


This dish started because I wanted to do something with polenta. I turned to Plate Online, which has recipes from many well-known chefs and restaurants. I saw a recipe for goat cheese polenta fries and another for soft polenta with jalapeños and bleu cheese. I had goat cheese in the fridge, and I don't care for bleu cheese unless it is with something really sweet, so I combined the two ideas.

Then I remembered I had black beans soaking in water already (As my friend Kat noted, of course that would be something I would do, start soaking dried beans one night for no particular reason).

I googled polenta and black beans and saw an idea to put a black bean salad on top of creamy polenta. So that was it, I bought a bell pepper and lime, then made do with everything else I already had.

The result was very satisfying. I loved the flavor of the polenta. The beans and bell pepper offered contrasting texture, and the guacamole was a cool balance to the spice of the jalapeños. I would have liked some fresh cilantro but the store didn't have it. I used a good amount of ground coriander in the salad, though.

All in all, a tasty dish, and a nice alternative to rice and beans.

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Vegetable Soup with Chimichurri

With a big bunch of spinach wilting in the fridge, I went to Gourmet.com and sifted through a few pages of search results before I found this Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The first ingredient was fennel bulb, which is something I’ve been looking for a reason to buy lately since it is normally expensive in the States, but here I got a bulb for the equivalent of 33 cents. The next ingredient was pancetta, which usually indicates a recipe will be delicious, plus, I had some in the fridge. Carrots, cabbage, zuchinni, potatoes, onion? All things I already had. I picked up some fennel and white beans, and decided to skip or substitute anything else.

Instead of basil-garlic pistou, I used a version of chimichurri I had made the night before. Chimichurri is the It-sauce in the States right now, but it’s an Argentine classic made from chopped parsley, garlic, oil and a few other ingredients. Also making my soup a little more Argentine was the reggianito cheese I used in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The addition of garlic-herb sauce is what really takes this soup to incredible heights. The combination of vegetables and beans and pancetta is quite good, but the broth would be a little bland without the shot of adrenaline from the pistou or chimichurri. As a whole, it’s a hearty but not too heavy soup, perfect for these cool days in Buenos Aires before spring arrives. Or for the start of fall, if you’re in the opposite hemisphere.

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Fiesta Quinoa with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette

Quinoa, in case you’re unfamiliar, is that trendy new grain that South Americans have been eating for thousands of years. I had it for the first time a few months ago. It’s is a little bitter on its own so I like it with lots of other flavors.

For whatever reason, I feel the need to be spontaneous every time I make quinoa. I cook up a pot of it, then start sauteeing things. Once it was garlic, onions, zucchini and butternut squash. Another time it was tomato, corn and andouille sausage. This time I wanted something to go with salmon and chimmichurri (South American cilantro sauce).

I originally wanted a cold side dish, but it was just after spring break and my produce wasn’t fresh tasting enough. I salvaged some slightly shriveled red and green peppers by roasting them with salt, pepper and olive oil. I sauteed some garlic with part of a jalapeno and habanero. I also added frozen corn, black beans, lime juice, lots of spices and cilantro to the quinoa, and decided to serve it warm with a dollop of plain yogurt since I didn’t have sour cream. It went nicely with the fish, but wasn’t great.

For the leftovers, I decided to make a dressing that would improve the dish if served cold. I came up with a cumin-lime vinaigrette with cilantro that was just what the quinoa needed, and would be good on some other salads too. Next time I’ll keep the dish cold from the get-go.

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Chili and Cornbread

Most of the recipes we offer on He Cooks She Cooks are more like guidelines. We know we don’t have the authority to tell you how exactly to make something. We barely listen to the great chefs whose recipes we look at. The way we see it, there are infinite ways to make great food. As long as you have an idea how you want something to taste in the end, you can keep adding till you get there — or somewhere close.

This chili, for instance, is unbelievably forgiving. Beans, vegetables, meat (or not) and spices. Throw varying amounts of those in a pot, simmer for a while, then serve.

We had ours with homemade cornbread. I finally made the New York Times recipe I’d been wanting to try all year: Brown Butter Cornbread with Thyme and Farmer Cheese. How could you go wrong with those ingredients, right? Well the result wasn’t bad. It just…wasn’t how I like my cornbread. I guess I, like Deb in the Smitten Kitchen, like my cornbread on the sweeter side, but didn’t know it until I had this much more savory version. If you’re in the camp that would prefer something like this, then by all means, go thyme and brown butter crazy.

In the meantime, here’s a list of what we put in the chili. Add and subtract ingredients as you wish.

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Columbia, Missouri loves its hummus. For good reason, it’s on nearly every menu downtown (the Artisan, Coffee Zone, Main Squeeze, Sycamore, Café Berlin, Forge and Vine, Felini, International Café…)

The stuff is delicious, and nearly anything can be dipped in it. Chips, pita, vegetables, index fingers…

This roasted red pepper version is a little different than others you’ll find around town. And making it is easier than finding parking on Ninth Street or Broadway.

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Garbanzo Bean Salad


This is an incredibly easy but really tasty recipe, as Mark Bittman (author of How to Cook Everything) is known to create. I used red, yellow and green bell pepper, added shredded carrot and red cabbage, and skipped the onion because I didn’t have any. The recipe called for an optional tablespoon of sugar, which I left out.

I think it’s silly when recipes say “optional.” Everything is optional. And anything else can be added. Taste it and change it until you think it’s good. Be free!

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