Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bacon Makes Life Worth Living


Bacon is trendy and better than ever! Woo-hoo! Pork lovers everywhere can get a bacon fix just about anywhere you turn these days. In the past year, I have seen maple frosted donuts topped with bacon bits, bacon infused dark chocolate, bacon potato chips and bacon candy, which seems to be crispy bacon strips glazed with a hardened sugary syrup. Yes, I said bacon candy. I know, that one seems weird even to a die-hard bacon fanatic like myself. It is oddly intriguing though...

Don't worry. I'm not about to spring some weird recipe like bacon ice cream on you. This recipe doesn't even feature bacon as the main ingredient. Rather, the bacon enhances the earthy flavors of this delicious, soul warming black bean soup.


1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces bacon, chopped (do not use maple flavored bacon)
2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained
1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
32 ounces low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 dried, smoked chilies, stems removed

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.

Add bacon and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the onion and fry for 5 more minutes.

Add the garlic and fry for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the beans, the tomatoes (including the juice) and the broth. Mix well.

Add the spices and the chilies.

Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a low boil.

Once the low boil is reached, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.

Remove the chilies unless you want a really spicy flavor.

Take the soup off the heat and puree with a hand blender or in a regular blender. If using a regular blender, puree in small batches of about 2 cups each and then remix the soup in the pot after you're finished pureeing.

Serve this soup steaming hot, with slices of crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Cooking Tips:

1. If you can't find canned tomatoes with green chilies, use regular canned tomatoes and half of a 4 ounce can of green chilies. Canned chilis can be found in the Mexican aisle of the supermarket, usually near the taco mixes. Make sure that the regular canned tomatoes are not the Italian flavored kind with basil.
2. If you don't have smoked chilies, try substituting cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Start with 1/4 of a teaspoon and then give the soup a taste test about 5 minutes later. You need to wait a little while to allow the flavor to develop. If you want more spice, you can add more, 1/4 of a teaspoon at a time, until the desired spiciness is achieved. If you make a mistake and the soup is now too spicy, add an extra cup of broth to dilute the heat.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Popeye Goes to Italy


Today I will share with you a simple pasta dish that uses traditional Italian flavors, like tomatoes and spinach, but with a little twist that might be new to you. I imagine that Popeye would order this pasta dish if he went to Italy with Olive Oyl and Swee'Pea on a family vacation. I picture him strolling around a Roman piazza, puffing away on his corncob pipe and scoping out the nearest supply of spinach to bulk up his strength in case Bluto shows up.

Fortunately, we don't need to travel to Italy to get real Italian flavor in our American kitchens. I have never been to Italy but I really enjoy that country's tradition of combining dark, leafy greens with pasta. You've probably eaten sauteed spinach but have you ever tried cooking arugula? It's delicious and pairs extremely well with garlic. Cooking arugula intensifies its peppery bite, which is beautifully tempered by the sweetness of tomatoes. Although I can't promise that eating this dish will result in superhuman strength like Popeye, I can promise that it tastes great.


1 pound penne

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly slice
1 28 ounce can Italian style diced tomatoes
3 cups chopped spinach
1 cup chopped arugula
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano or your favorite Italian cheese

Cook the penne according to package directions.

The sauce takes about the same amount to prepare as the penne takes to cook so begin the sauce while you wait for the pasta water to boil.

Heat the olive oil to medium in a large saute pan with high sides.

Add the garlic and saute until the garlic begins to turns golden brown on the edges, about three minutes. Stir the garlic frequently to avoid burning. (Tip: If the garlic begins to burn, lower the heat and add a tablespoon of the tomato juice from the canned tomatoes to stop the burning. Slowly bring the pan back up to medium heat once the burning stops.)

Add the spinach, arugula and salt. Cook the greens until just wilted, about 2 minutes.

Add the entire can of tomatoes, including the juice.

Stir in the oregano.

Let the sauce simmer gently until the pasta is done cooking.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly but do not rinse. Pour into a large serving bowl and ladle the sauce over the pasta.

Sprinkle the cheese on top or pass the cheese at the table.

Serves 4 very generously.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

"Infused with entrepreneurial spirit and the excitement of a worthy challenge."--Publishers Weekly

Read more . . .


What do GE, Pepsi, and Toyota know that Exxon, Wal-Mart, and Hershey don't?  It's sustainability . . . the business secret of the twenty-first century.

Read more . . .