Recipe: Quinoa With Black Beans and Tomato

Somewhere between a side dish and a salad, I pulled this dish together last night from the pantry and the garden. It turned out very well for a freehanded dish, so I thought I’d share it. I used standard canned black beans; other beans might work well as well.


1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup chicken stock (or water if you’re a vegetarian)
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 can cooked black beans
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (approximately)
8 leaves fresh basil, chopped
2 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and allow to cool. I used chicken stock instead of water for extra flavor.

Put the oil into a nonstick pan. Sauté the shallot and garlic over medium heat until golden brown – watch carefully to avoid burning, especially if you chopped them very small.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and then put them into a bowl big enough to hold all ingredients.

Add the black beans, basil, parsley, shallots, garlic, and the quinoa.

Mix everything up in the blow and then salt & pepper to taste.

Can be served immediately or held in the fridge until dinner time.

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

For an upcoming dinner party, Scott wanted to start with a dish we really enjoyed when we had it last year at a local restaurant: roasted tomato and fennel soup. Today, we set out to replicate it. February probably isn’t the best time of year to be trying recipes that depend heavily on the freshness and quality of its vegetables, but we’re lucky enough to live three blocks from a fantastic market where you can get top-quality, fresh produce year-round. The results were an unqualified success, and the dish is quite easy to pull off. We’re definitely serving this to our guests next week.

I’m sorry to say that some of the measurements and cooking times given below are my best approximation, not exact. This was a seat of the pants operation done by people who know their way around a kitchen. However, this is a soup, not a soufflé, and as long as you don’t burn anything the end result should turn out just fine. When in doubt, let common sense and your taste buds be your guide.


1 1/4 lbs heirloom tomatoes
1 bulb fennel (about 3/4 lb)
4 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt


First, we cut off the leaves and fronds from the fennel, de-seeded the tomatoes, arranged the cut pieces on foil-covered trays, sprinkled all the pieces with oil and salt, and then roasted the fennel and tomatoes in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. The garlic cloves were left in their skins, wrapped in a separate piece of tin foil, and roasted at the same time.

Roasted Tomato, Fennel, and Garlic

Next, everything (except the garlic skins) went into the blender, along with the chicken stock, and pureed. This puree went through a medium-mesh strainer and heated over low-medium heat for about 45 minutes to reduce. We then put the soup through a second, finer mesh strainer and reduced again for another 45 minutes or so. In went the cream, and simmered again for maybe 30 minutes.

First Strain

Although straining and reducing the broth down multiple times is a trick we borrowed from Thomas Keller, it felt counterintuitive to me and I was unsure how the result would taste. The pulp sitting in the strainer tasted good, after all, and I was hesitant to toss it out. But after tasting the strained liquid in the pot, I realized that I was wrong. Straining really does clarify and intensify the flavor.

We used no additional salt other than what went onto the veggies during the roasting stage. If you feel the need to add more seasoning, I strongly recommend that you wait until you’re at the final stages to make sure you don’t overintensify the flavors as the soup reduces down.

We were unsure what was going to be better to finish off the soup, so we tried two different toppings at the end: we topped one serving with a little grated Parmigianino Reggiano and diced fennel fronds, and a second with a drizzle of black truffle oil and fennel fronds. Both were good, but the truffle oil was definitely better.

The Finished Product: Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

The end product was four small portions of a very intense, flavorful soup. As we’re planning on serving this as an amuse bouche at the beginning of a meal, that’s just fine. However, if you want to make this dish a more central part of the meal, you’re probably going to want to at least double the recipe.

The whole set of photos from today’s kitchen adventure is up on Flickr.

Pre-Holiday Recipe Sharing: My Favorite Stuffing Recipe

Yesterday, while I was up on campus at an all-day class thing (ugh), Scott met with our friend Katie to plan out the menu for Thanksgiving. I won’t be doing much for the festivities other than acting as Scott’s prep cook, but I will be making the stuffing as well as an appetizer.

I originally found this recipe on, of all places, the now-defunct site back in the fall of 2000, when Scott and I were getting ready to cook our first big Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve made it pretty much every year since then. It’s tasty and not at all difficult; the biggest challenge is the prep time, which can take a while what with all the chopping and bread drying.

Anyway, here it is. I’d be happy to e-mail a file with the recipe on request:

Cornbread and Sage Dressing

1 9″ x 9″ cornbread
1 16-ounce loaf sourdough bread
2 cups diced bacon
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
2 tablespoons fresh sage chiffonade
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup chicken stock


Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut the cornbread and the sourdough bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Spread onto baking trays and bake for 15 minutes or until the bread has dried out. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat until it begins to crisp. Add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions soften and start to turn translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the sage, salt and pepper. Turn heat to low and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Add the contents of the pan to the mixing bowl and gently mix with the bread cubes. Add the stock and the half-and-half, continue mixing until the dressing is moist and well blended. I usually use my hands for this but a large wooden spoon is good too.

Put the mixture into a 13″ x 9″ x 2″ greased baking pan. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the top is crispy.


If you want to add more turkey flavor, use turkey stock instead of chicken and/or spoon some turkey pan drippings onto the dressing.

Use 1 teaspoon dried sage instead of fresh sage if you can’t get fresh.

If you can’t get sourdough bread, then nice peasant bread would work too.


This is dressing, not stuffing, and should not be cooked inside the bird.

I use a cornbread mix to make the cornbread, but if you want to save time, buy one from a store.

Prepping the bread can be done the day before and the bread kept, loosely covered, overnight. Use day-old bread for faster drying.

I usually use beef bacon instead of pork due to having been raised in a somewhat kosher home, although given that there’s also half-and-half in the mix, this recipe is in no way kosher. If you used all kosher ingredients and replaced the half-and-half with more stock, it could be easily made so.