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Fast and Simple Black Bean Soup

I haven’t been doing much cooking lately, so it’s about time I got back in the kitchen and whipped up something comforting yet healthy.  And usually when I want something comforting yet healthy, I look to my long list of “soup recipes I’ve been meaning to try.”

Black bean soup has always been a favorite, and I’m so glad I found this recipe.  The soup is lovely, even though it takes less than an hour to make, from prep to table.  I served mine with sliced avocado, low-fat sour cream, and a big pinch of cayenne, but some cojita or shredded cheddar is also great addition.  I would eat this soup all year long, but if you’re in one of the many parts of the country currently suffering from extreme cold and snow storms, you should definitely move this to the top of your To-Do list.

Plus this soup freezes well, which means I’ll have some easy, healthy lunches ready to go in the near future!


Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Dave Lieberman

Serves 6

Total time: 1 hour

When the soup was done, I hit it with my immersion blender for several pulses, until the soup was creamier but still had plenty of whole beans throughout.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can take 1 cup of the finished soup and puree in a blender or food processor, then mix the pureed soup back in with the rest of the soup.


8 slices bacon (optional, or adjusted to your taste!), finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
6 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth (or water to make it vegetarian)
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Sour cream, avocado, chopped tomatoes, and/or grated cheddar for garnish

1. Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook the bacon until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire, and chili powder, and stir to combine. Then stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. While soup is simmering, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro, wash, and then and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup once it has been simmering 10 minutes. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the soup is thickened. If you want to blend or puree a portion of the soup, do so now (see note above).  Stir in the lime juice, then serve with the garnishes.

Spiced Fig and Walnut Biscotti


When I meet new people and they hear that I enjoy baking, I’m often asked, “What’s your favorite thing to bake?”  That’s a tough question to answer.  Whenever I pick up a new baking project, it will depend on the season, the occasion, and my general mood.  After much thought, however, I’ve narrowed it down to biscotti.

In case you’ve forgotten, I make biscotti a lot: Chocolate Cherry, Almond, Almond Cornmeal, Pumpkin, and Maple Walnut varieties of biscotti are already found on this site.  Biscotti are easy, fast, and can be constantly updated with new flavors and ingredients.  They perfectly compliment your coffee or tea, and are even an excellent addition to a cheese plate.  They are a light, not-too-sweet treat, as long as you don’t eat half the batch at once.  Which I may have done in the past.  Don’t judge.

I love these.  Love.  The sweet dried figs, toasted walnuts, and spiced orange flavors make for a warm and comforting cookie, and the figs’ little round seeds give these a lovely crunchy texture.  I first made these in November and have now made them an additional 5 times.  The flavors of orange and spice make them a great holiday cookie, but I plan on working them in to my regular year-round biscotti repertoire.


Spiced Fig and Walnut Biscotti

Adapted from Gina DePalma, The Babbo Cookbook

Makes ~24 biscotti


1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, quartered
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1/2 a large orange
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Allow the walnuts to cool completely.

2. Place the walnuts and dried figs in a food processor and process until they are finely chopped.  Or, if you don’t have a food processor, you can chop both by hand (which is what I did).

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and the orange zest.

4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture to form a somewhat firm dough. Add the walnuts and figs and mix until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill 35 to 40 minutes or until completely firm.

5. When the dough has chilled, on a floured board, use your palms to roll half of the dough (eyeball it) into a log. Repeat with the second half of the dough, and place both log on the baking sheet.

6. In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze the log with some egg white and sprinkle it with granulated sugar. (I was feeling lazy and skipped this step.)  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the log is lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.  This took me around 30 minutes, so start checking around 20 minutes and keep baking until firm and slightly cracked,

7. Allow the log to cool on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch, about 30 minutes. Move each log to a baking sheet, and with a serrated knife, slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias, into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheet in single layer. Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp.  This also took me at least 30 minutes, so again, start checking at 20 minutes and add more time if needed.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They should keep for at least a week.  They also freeze beautifully.

Adventures in PDX Eats: February 2015


My view, every morning, of Mt. Hood.

Since its inception in 2010, Pâte à Chew has been a blog focused  almost exclusively on my own adventures in the kitchen.  Cooking and baking (especially baking!) are two of only a handful of true loves in my life, and I cannot imagine a time when they won’t be be.  Yet one reason I’m not in the kitchen as much as I used to be is that there are so many amazing people, places, and events to explore in this great town of Portland.

So I’d like to take this new opportunity to branch out and write about my adventures in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  Am I still doing some cooking and baking? Yes, but not as much lately.  When you are busy at work and have an endless number of unbelievably good food options in Portland, it’s easy to spend (way) too much time eating out.

And speaking of food, for my first installment of what I’m calling “Adventures in PDX,” I’d like to share some of my favorite restaurant adventures of the past 3 months, in no particular order.

Tea Bar.  Tea bar is just that – a tea bar.  But its sleek atmosphere and 30 varieties of tea make this a lovely spot to sip and relax.  My honey assam latte was lovely.


Roman Candle Bakery.  A bakery that makes, among many other things, Roman-style pizza bianca, served with scissors for sharing.  It isn’t a variety of pizza that is easy to find, but it’s fresh, delicious, and special.  I have not yet been for breakfast or brunch, but a former baker assures me that their Danish pastries particular are winning choice.


Kachka.  I was never a fan of Russian cuisine, but then I went to Kachka.  This restaurant has been getting rave reviews from professional critics, bloggers, and friends, and after a cozy dinner at the bar with Meredith of Martha Chartreuse I found out why.  The tvorog vareniki (farmers cheese dumplings) and golubtsi (sweet and sour cabbage rolls) were my favorites.  The desserts are great too – if you aren’t dumpling-ed out after the tvorog vareniki, pick the sour cherry vareniki to end your meal.

SweeDeeDee.  Decent brunch, amazing baked goods, but out-of-this-world Salted Honey Pie.  Eventually I will find a way to replicate it in my own kitchen!


Oven and Shaker.  Most people consider it way more than just a neighborhood pizza place, but it’s in my ‘hood, so it will always be my neighborhood pizza place.  Their signature pie, the Spicy Salami topped provolone, mozzarella, and honey, is to die for.  They also have great salads; it’s one of the few places in the world where I actually like kale.

Piazza Italia.  The menu is made up almost entirely of pasta dishes.  Start with the bresaola appetizer, then always order the homemade pasta option.  My current favorite: fresh pasta with Bolognese topped with a few heaping scoops of freshly-grated parmesan cheese.


Yama.  Sashimi.  Really fresh, really good sashimi.  Yama has not been a “new adventure,” but rather a constant since I started traveling to Portland almost two years ago.  I visit at a minimum 3 times a month, often with Meredith as my date.  They have some pretty great rolls as well, but again: sashimi.

And if you’ve tried the pizzas, the cheese dumplings, and the salted honey pie, a healthy dinner of sashimi might be just want you need.


Popcorn Toffee Crack Bars

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed a low-key Superbowl.  I hosted a few exceptionally fun ladies-only Superbowl Parties when I lived in NYC (during which I made things like the best brisket ever and a sweet potato black bean chili), but perhaps I’ve welcomed the break from the pressures of entertaining since moving out west.  For this year’s party hosted by my dear friend Meredith of Martha Chartreuse, I committed to bringing simple crudités with a side of baba or hummus from Barbur World Foods (yes I could make my own, but why mess with perfection?).  Then Bon Appetit went and tweeted a recipe involving a whole bunch of delicious ingredients bound together by toffee and chocolate.  I couldn’t resist, I had to make it and share it with my fellow football watchers.

This is a crowd-pleaser not only because it tastes good; it’s just plain fun.  Popcorn + peanuts + toffee + rice krispies + graham crackers + chocolate: it’s like you’re a kid again, eating Cracker Jacks, Rice Krispie Treats, and S’mores all at once.

And a final sprinkling of flaky sea salt adds that little bit of adult back into the mix.  Bravo, Bon Appetit.


Popcorn Toffee Crack Bars

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 30 servings in theory.  Way less once you actually try them.

Total time: 1 hour

The toffee mixture then hardens as these cool, transforming into a snappy, crunchy layer that holds everything together.  I followed the recipe almost exactly, except I added more rice krispies, because (1) I had to buy a large box that contained way more than 3/4 cup so I figured why not, and (2) duh, they are rice krispies, they will make anything better.  :)


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
15-ish graham crackers
4 cups popped popcorn (from 1/4 cup kernels)
1 cup coarsely chopped salted, roasted peanuts
1 1/2 cup puffed rice cereal
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz.)
Flaky sea salt (for serving)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray.  Arrange graham crackers in a single layer on baking sheet, breaking to fit as needed to cover entire surface. Top evenly with popcorn, peanuts, and the puffed rice cereal.

2. Bring butter, sugar, and cayenne pepper (if using) to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once boiling, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, swirling occasionally (try not to stir), until mixture is golden brown and syrupy, 8–10 minutes.  This process took me 10 minutes.

3. Pour the golden brown, syrupy toffee mixture evenly over graham crackers and popcorn mixture.  Bake until toffee is slightly darkened in color (the shade of a brown paper bag) and bubbling, 10–12 minutes.  This took me 12 minutes, and I didn’t see much bubbling going on, so don’t worry if you see it cook to the brown-paper-bag-shade without a lot of bubbling.  Remove the pan from oven, top evenly with the chocolate and sprinkle with a big pinch of sea salt. Let cool in baking sheet before breaking into pieces.

Do Ahead: Bars can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Squash on Toast

Portland – with its very rainy reputation – surprised me this weekend with lovely, mostly sunny weather which just begged to be take advantage of.  So there were long walks, workouts, dinners out, and brunch at Sweedeedee with some absolutely fabulous salted honey pie (seriously, I’m already researching recipes so I can recreate it in my kitchen).  But with warm sun to soak up, I decided to forgo a big baking project this weekend and instead go for a quick and cozy savory meal.  This recipe comes from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via New York Times Cooking, via Smitten Kitchen.  It combines several flavors of fall – sweet squash with hints of maple and apple.  It also comes together in well under an hour.  I was particularly lazy and bought 2 pounds of pre-cut butternut squash chunks – not having to cut up a squash makes preparation a whole lot faster.


I was able to lighten the dish up quite a bit, mainly by cutting back on the olive oil.  I don’t think the oil was missed at all; the onions – caramelized with maple syrup and apple cider vinegar – add heaps of flavor.  Overall, it was a pleasant treat with perfectly melded flavors.  Don’t skip the fresh mint, it provides a refreshing finishing touch that makes this dish extra special.


Squash on Toast

Adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Makes 4 main servings, or 8 appetizer servings

Total time: 45 minutes


1 2.5 to 3-pound kabocha or other yellow-fleshed squash (such as delicata, acorn or butternut; I used butternut)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more or less to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoon maple syrup
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup (4 ounces) ricotta, goat cheese, feta or mascarpone (I used part-skim ricotta)
4 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

1.  Preheat oven to 450F.  Line large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Cut squash into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and chile flakes until evenly coated.  Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and roast until tender and slightly colored, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the density of the squash you use), flipping once about 2/3 of the way through.   With my butternut squash, I roasted for 30 minutes.  Leave the roasted squash on the tray.

2.  While squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

3.  Pile onions on top of roasted squash, still on their baking sheet. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture; it doesn’t have to be uniformly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

4.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil per slice of bread, and cook bread until just golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.  Tip: I just used a toaster and skipped the oil all together.  Spread cheese on toasts, heap with the squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.


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