Friday, March 13, 2009

Black bean stew

Estelle Berger directed me to this quick-and-easy recipe for black bean stew from Cooking Light (August 2003). Today Ginger Cantu joined me for lunch. She brought two kinds of bread from Panera and a green salad, and I made the stew. For dessert we had warm berries 'n' dumplings from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food (March 2009).

Atypically, I followed both recipes as closely as I possibly could without making a trip to the grocery store. The black bean stew recipe calls for Israeli couscous, which I tried unsuccessfully to find at Valli's yesterday, but I substituted a Mexican pasta that is larger than regular couscous but much smaller than rice. It had the world "pearl" on the package, which made me think it would work. It did.

Where the recipe listed fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, I frugally substituted Orrington Farms chicken-flavored soup base and food seasoning, which not only saved a lot of money but also made me feel better about serving the stew on a Friday in Lent. If there is any real chicken in the Orrington yellow paste, it is well hidden, and I didn't look for it.

I served the stew with a dollop of thick Arab whole-milk yogurt rather than sour cream.

Ginger and I both enjoyed the stew--though we couldn't help discussing what we would have done differently. Something wasn't quite right with the tomatoes, we thought. I used diced; would crushed have been better? Or half crushed, half sun-dried? I thought a little more sweetness would have improved the flavor, so this afternoon I peeled, diced, and steamed a sweet potato and stirred it into the leftovers. Next time I serve the stew, I'm going to garnish it with cilantro.

Like Jana Riess's lentil stew recipe, this recipe is good as written, and it is also a fine base for experimentation.

David had a business lunch, so I'm not cooking tonight. We'll have what our friends the Hares call a pig supper. The pigs are the participants, not the ingredients.

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