Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip.

After a month hiatus from blogging, I’m back! It’s been a very busy, fun month which included a fantastic ten day vacation in Paris! Hopefully this Europe-trip-in-the-Fall thing is starting to become an annual habit for me – at about the same time last year, I was heading off to Scotland for 10 days of Highland hijinks. Paris was so lovely, and it was wonderful to get to spend a full ten days in the city. We were really able to combine sightseeing with relaxation in the best possible way, while sprinkling in lots of amazing eating! Here are some highlights of the trip, before we get into recipe-land.

One of many, many patisserie visits, we had kick-butt hot chocolate and baba au rhum at Angelina, near the Tuileries:

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A big culinary highlight of the trip was dinner at the art nouveau dreamworld Brasserie Julien. I was lucky enough to discover this place on a previous visit to Paris, and I couldn’t wait to bring my friends back to enjoy it this time. We enjoyed plate after amazing plate of their beautiful food—Julien delivered again. For my main course, I had this shrimp and salmon dish in a light lime cream sauce:

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I love the ubiquity of Paris cafes – they mean instant peace and a full tummy, with a side of people-watching. The intermittent Fall rain was a great excuse to drop in.

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Probably my favorite pastry of all time is the buttery, chocolate-filled croissant-like bun known as pain au chocolat. Pair it with a cup of black tea and you’ve got a breakfast of champions right here. SO GOOD.

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And not pictured: a HEFTY daily dose of macaroons that would rival the excesses of Versailles. Nothing beats a chocolate macaroon. Except 5 chocolate macaroons.

And now, folks, for the recipe: a creamy, spicy, delicious black bean and goat cheese dip.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil or bacon grease
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock (chicken stock or even water would work here, too)
1 (4 oz) can green chiles, chopped
2/3 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream will do)
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz goat cheese
sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
tortilla chips, pita bread, or carrot and cucumber slices for dipping

Just the Recipe link: Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bigger saucepan than the inexplicably small one I chose to use for this, heat olive oil or bacon grease over medium flame. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook another minute, and then pour in the first can of black beans. Mash with a potato masher.

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Stir in the vegetable stock and green chiles. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

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Then add the second can of beans and mash again, a little more coarsely this time. Remove from heat.

Stir in the Greek yogurt, oregano, salt, and pepper. Transfer the bean mixture to a baking dish.

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Break up the goat cheese into small pieces and press them into the dip, speckling the top with the little white gems. Drizzle sriracha or other hot sauce over the top.

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Bake for 20 minutes. As the dip bubbles, it might bubble over, so make sure you have a pan or a sheet of foil to catch any drips. When the 20 minutes are up, remove from the oven.

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This stuff is great both hot and room temperature. Just before you serve it, sprinkle with chopped green onion. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread, or do what I did and cut up some carrots and cucumber for dippin’.

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Refried Beans.

I never ate refried beans as a kid. They just looked so…gross. Ugh. And while I love them now, I have to admit that they’re one of the homeliest side dishes around. Their puree-like texture, the way they just kind of plop, free-form, onto your plate, and that unappetizing pink-beige color, reminiscent of cafeteria lunches on The Simpsons. Sorry, I’m sure you don’t even want to read the rest of this post after that description. But folks, those bean-hating days are long gone, and today I don’t care how ugly refried beans are, because they taste great. So I made them for dinner, and in spite of their homeliness, they were pretty fantastic. Rock on, refried beans, and don’t go changin’!

PS – I made these to go with my Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork, and I cooked my beans in some of the pork cooking juices. If you’re thinking this was a good idea…you are correct. Do it. Of course, they can be made vegan as well – just use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock or pulled pork juices.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil or bacon fat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 cans pinto beans, drained
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup water or stock (or, if you’re making these with my Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork, as I did, skim off 1/4 cup of the pork juices and use water/stock for the other 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper
optional: shredded cheddar cheese

Just the Recipe link: Refried Beans

DIRECTIONS

These are really easy. Heat the oil or bacon fat over medium low and add the garlic. When it’s softened, add the cumin and red pepper flakes and stir. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

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Then add the beans, the oregano, and the water or stock. I HIGHLY recommend making these while a pot of pulled pork is cookin’ in the oven, because if you do, you can replace half (or all) of the water/stock in this recipe with the glorious cooking juices from the pork. It would be a really good decision, but it’s not a mandatory one. Stir and bring to a simmer.

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When the beans are heated through and some of the liquid has cooked away, grab a potato masher (or even a fork) and mash the beans to your heart’s content. I like my beans on the smoother side, so I work the masher quite a bit. But do whatever floats your boat.

If the beans are how you like them, turn off the heat. If you want to cook away a bit more of the liquid, turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring consistently, until the beans reach desired consistency. Stir in some shredded cheddar cheese if you like.

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That’s all, folks. Refried beans from scratch: they’re ugly on the plate, but beautiful in your mouth.

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And may I plug my own recipe again by suggesting that you serve these with Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork? Yes I may.

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Green Taco Burger Wraps.

I love lettuce wraps – I think I even prefer when things are wrapped in lettuce to any tortilla or bun (excluding hot dogs, of course). The cool crunch and the light freshness of the lettuce just seems to pair well with a lot of the foods that we think of as bun-worthy. This recipe for what I’m calling “green taco burger wraps” combines the best of cheeseburgers and tacos and wraps the whole thing in nice crunchy lettuce. The burger meat is spiced with cumin and oregano to give it a bit of Mexican flavor, and the toppings are all my taco favorites (especially avocado….mmmm). They’re easy and healthy and so delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

about 3/4 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
red onion, diced
cheese, sliced (I used cheddar)
cilantro, rough chop
tomato, chopped
red pepper, raw or lightly sauteed
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
avocado, sliced
green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Just the Recipe link: Green Taco Burger Wraps

DIRECTIONS

First, season the burger meat. In a large bowl, add meat, egg, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and red onion to taste. I set the rest of the red onion aside in a little ramekin to top the burgers with later. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

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That’s the only cooking prep you’ll do in this recipe. At this point, I set the meat aside to let the flavors hang out a bit while I chopped up everything else and put all the amazing toppings into their own little bowls.

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When everything else is ready to go, cook the burgers. First, use your hands to form them into small patties (we made two little patties per person). I cooked them on my beautiful new Le Creuset grill pan from Williams-Sonoma, but a regular grill or a pan can do the trick as well. Put your pan over medium high heat and lightly grease before adding the burgers. Cook until browned on each side and medium-rare in the middle (or however you like your burgers cooked!). Set aside for 5 minutes to let the meat rest.

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The next step is just assembly!

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I started with the lettuce wrapper, then laid the burger on top and placed the cheese on top of that, so it would get a little melty. Then it’s only a matter of topping to your heart’s content – cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onion, avocado, and a finishing squeeze of lime make these a perfect fresh and healthy lunch. Before you take a bite, just wrap the lettuce around your taco-topped burger. Then dig right in!

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Loaded Chili.

Garnishes. Goodies. Fixins’. At least half the reason I love chili is the toppings you get to put on it. Oh, my, the toppings. This recipe is about making an amazing chili that will eventually become an Ode to Toppings, and I want you to use them all: avocado, cheese, cilantro, tomato—whatever your heart desires. And you know what? You are a great cook and a wonderful person, and you deserve a beautiful meal. So thank yourself for making this by plating it up like a work of art and garnishing the heck out of it. Heidi at 101 Cookbooks is the master at this. Here are some of her most gorgeously garnished soups: Split Pea, Broccoli Cheddar, Yellow Split Pea, and Posole in broth. Let life imitate art and load up this chili!

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INGREDIENTS

for the chili:
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground meat (I used pork)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups stock (I used beef stock)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 16oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can corn, drained and rinsed

all the fixins’:
avocado, sliced
fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, shredded
fresh tomato, chopped
onion or green onion, thinly sliced or minced
squeeze of lime

Just the Recipe link: Loaded Chili

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a pan and add onion and red pepper. Cook about 8 minutes, until softened.

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Add the garlic and the cayenne pepper, oregano, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and yummy-smelling.

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Add the ground pork and use your spoon to break it up. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally.

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Once the meat is browned, pour in the canned tomatoes and the stock. Toss in a bay leaf for good measure. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes.

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After 45 minutes have gone by, add the cilantro, corn, and beans, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

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Taste for seasoning and your chili is good to go! Now dress it up. And make it look beautiful, for heaven’s sake! You’re worth it.

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Bean and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas.

If I ever had to sit down and make a master list of favorite foods, quesadillas would definitely make the top ten, if not the top 5. I just love how versatile they are – any kind of meat, any and all kinds of veggies, and of course, beautiful wonderful cheese. While a good quesadilla can be made with any number of cheeses, my money is on chihuahua cheese for spot numero uno. It’s perfectly melty, and its flavor isn’t overpowering but instead makes an awesome background flavor to whatever the “meat” of the quesadilla is. I say “meat” with quotes around it because this recipe actually doesn’t have any meat in it! Instead, it has flavor-packed sweet caramelized onions and pinto beans, with just a bit of cilantro. So simple, but so good. And some avocado on the side, to do what it does best: make everything better.

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 white onion, sliced thin
olive oil
butter
salt
tortillas (I use flour, but use corn or other gluten-free tortillas if you like)
chihuahua cheese, grated (this is my favorite, but any good melting cheese will work)
1/2 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
cilantro, chopped
sliced avocado

Just the Recipe link: Bean and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

DIRECTIONS

First, heat a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter over high heat. Add the sliced onions and a bit of salt to help them release some moisture, and stir to coat.

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Once they’ve started to soften, turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes. You can let them caramelize as log as you like – anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.

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Once the onions are done to your liking, start assembling the quesadillas. I like to make my quesadillas with one tortilla folded in half, rather than with two tortillas one on top of the other. So I fill just half – first a layer of cheese, and then the onions.

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Next come the beans, and a sprinkle of cilantro. I only had dried so you can barely see it –  but it’s there!

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Now fold the tortillas over so that they form a little envelope, and cook them in a hot pan or quesadilla maker, if you’re lucky enough to have one of these awesome machines. When one side is browned, turn them over and brown the other side. You want the fillings hot and the cheese good and melty.

When they’re done, that’s it! Enjoy with avocado, sour cream, salsa – whatever you like.

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I wish I hadn’t eaten these earlier, so I could eat them right now.

100th recipe! and, Roasted Garlic Refried Black Beans.

Happy 100th recipe from KellyintheKitchen! And just in time before the new year. These humble yet flexible refried black beans perhaps aren’t high-brow enough to be deserving of posting-milestone glory, but look beyond their simplicity to see the awesome possibilities. They work great as enchilada or taco filling, a topping for rice, a spread on top of toast, omelet filling or a side for scrambled eggs…the list goes on. My recipe includes ham, but these also make great vegan beans, sans ham of course. They are incredibly versatile. I ate them with a scoop of Greek yogurt and scallions on top and it was great. These are smart to have around. Happy 100!

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INGREDIENTS

3 cloves garlic, with peels still on
olive oil
1/2 red pepper, diced
4 scallions
1 cup diced ham (optional)
2 cans of black beans (one can drained and rinsed, the other with the liquid)
dash of seasoning salt (I used Pilsen Latino Seasoning from the Spice House) – optional
salt and pepper

Just the Recipe link: Roasted Garlic Refried Black Beans

DIRECTIONS

First, dry roast the garlic in a pan over medium low heat. Once they’re tender and soft, set the cloves aside until they’re cool enough to peel.

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In another pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add the red pepper. Once it’s softened, add the peeled roasted garlic and scallions and, if you’re not doing vegan beans, the ham. Stir around to crisp it up a bit, cooking for about 3 minutes if you’re using ham, or about 1 minute if not.

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Add the black beans and go at the whole thing with a potato masher. Add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and if you want, a pinch of seasoning salt.

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Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are heated through. Add a splash or two of water if you want a looser texture – I left mine as they were and they were great. Then serve them however you like! I gave ’em a good dollop of Greek yogurt and an extra sprinkle of scallions and was good to go. Enjoy!