Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recipe: Black Bean, Chicken and Mango Stew

There are times when I look in my fridge & cupboards I think to myself, WHY don't I just succumb to the call of Taco Bell's value menu or something equally cheap & bad for me? It truly would be a lot easier than trying to think of what to make out of some canned goods and frozen fruit. However, it's not a very satisfying meal that one gets from fast food places serving tons of empty calories. And with fruit showing up all over the place in savory dishes, as well as the added good fortune of having a perfect blend of savory ingredients and the proper fruit, I knew I could save myself the money and potentially clogged arteries by getting super creative.

I want to apologize once again for the lack of a decent picture to go w/this recipe (not anymore! The picture's finally here!). Once it's finished the colors are truly gorgeous and you can almost taste the explosion of flavors just by looking at a bowl of this stew. This is probably the most exotic & creative I've gotten w/a couple cans of beans, but as I've said before a little imagination and a well-stocked spice pantry go a long way when you're on a limited budget. A couple of things to note: I had frozen mango on hand (I like to use it in smoothies) but if you have an actual fresh mango or two, by all means use it! I also tend to prefer thigh meat over breast meat since it has more flavor, but if you're like most Americans and can only do white meat, it will also work out just fine. (Trader Joe's offers a great deal on fresh frozen boneless, skinless thighs for $6.49 for 2 or 3 lbs worth. I highly recommend them!) This stew is definitely hearty enough to stand alone, but it also goes really well on top of some rice, cous cous, or any other yummy grain you can find. And without further ado, here's the recipe.

Black Bean, Chicken and Mango Stew

2 cans of black beans, lightly drained
2-3 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 c fresh or thawed frozen mango, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 T crushed garlic
1/2 T sea salt
1 T garlic salt
1 heaping T cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
2 T brown sugar
1/3 c chicken broth (water will also do if you don't have broth)
Splash of olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 c cilantro, chopped

Sprinkle part of the garlic salt & cumin onto both of the chicken thighs while heating a healthy glug of olive oil in a skillet. When oil is hot (not burned), add chicken and reduce heat to low; cover chicken. Cook for about 7 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink when you cut its thickest parts. While chicken is cooking, toss mango in brown sugar and set aside.

In the meantime, lightly drain the beans but reserve at least half of the liquid so that there is enough for the actual stew. In a large pot heat 2 T olive oil and brown the garlic and onion, cumin and cayenne pepper, remaining salts and bell pepper until onion is clear, but not burned. Add beans and reduce heat to medium low to let all flavors incorporate. When chicken is completely cooked, set on a plate and allow to cool at least 5 minutes (or until cool enough to handle) and cut into bite sized pieces (I do this after cooking as opposed to before, to ensure the meat has had the chance to cook w/enough juices; otherwise, it will be too dry). Add mango and chicken to bean & spice mixture and let simmer for at least 10-12 minutes. Add green onions, then toss in cilantro at the very end. Serve over cous cous or brown rice, or in a large mug on its own. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Recipe: Farro & Red Beans with Caramelized Onions

So I've been a bit MIA from PGEW lately, largely due to the fact that I've been sick as a dog with this raging flu. I was starting to get sick long before the big performance at the Cathedral a couple weekends ago but was fortunate to fight it off until the day after. Poor Girl wasn't eating much of anything until recently, and this being an extremely lean bare bones week, I really had to get creative w/the few things I had left in my cupboard. I'm glad I did though, because I had been meaning to try something like this for awhile and was pretty pleased with the results.

I borrowed the idea from some traditional Italian farro recipes I've been scoping out. Not having a lot of the ingredients called for some of these farro soups, and wanting to add a bit of smokiness to the dish, I veered away from the Italian, tomato-based ideas with success. Cumin and a tiny bit of chili powder added the depth I was looking for and went very well with the nuttiness of the farro and the sweetness of the caramelized onions. Flavors aside, this is also a great protein and fiber-packed dish that makes a hearty one-dish meal.

PS - Please pardon the lack of photo for now. It seems that I've lost the charger for my camera somewhere in Evil Closet, and it's just not coming out right on the old camera phone! I'd rather wait til I can get a decent shot and I will get one, since I will be making this again. :)  Picture is posted!  Still not perfect, but at least now you can see what this looks like... :)

Farro & Red Beans with Caramelized Onions

4 oz. Umbrian farro (or spelt)
1 can of red kidney beans, drained (not rinsed)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Couple splashes of olive oil
1 t garlic
1 heaping T cumin
1 t chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Couple sprigs of cilantro for garnish (optional)

Cook the farro per package instructions; or if you've bought in bulk, simply add the raw farro to a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 15 minutes. Drain the farro and set aside.

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and a couple of pinches of salt and cook slowly until the onions become translucent and browned (about 15 minutes), making sure to stir frequently so that they don't stick to the pan. Add the garlic, drained kidney beans along with the cumin and chili powder and stir to combine all the flavors. Reduce the heat to medium. At this point your mixture will become a bit soupy or stew-like, which is the goal. Add the cooked farro to the beans & onions and mix together. Heat for about 3 more minutes, or until the farro has absorbed most of the liquid. Serve with a couple sprigs chopped cilantro, and some shredded cheese if desired (I had some pepper jack lying around and it actually went quite well). Enjoy!


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