Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini

Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini, Soy Glazed Acorn Squash, and rye toast.

Somewhere in your supermarket, usually adjacent the BBQ sauces, is a product called Wright’s Liquid Smoke. You need to own a bottle for nights when you want something hearty, meatless, and just a little trashy. It’s like having bacon without the pig. Plus it’s kosher, vegan, and gluten-free.

All of the veg you see in the photo below I had on hand and needed desperately to use before the creeping fuzz set in. The pressure cooker delivered tender beans from dry in 45-minutes. (They really are amazing, pressure cookers.) Freshly cooked beans are vastly superior in texture to their sad, canned sisters, and make what is otherwise an obvious attempt to use up aging produce into something just a little special.

Recipe yields enough for five as an entree.

Smokey Black Beans with Zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions
half a carrot
2 large bell peppers
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup water
large handfull Brussels sprouts
4 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ichimi togarashi (or ground red pepper)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry Madiera
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Wright’s Liquid Smoke
What to do with all of this random veg in the fridge?Clean and cut onions, carrot, peppers, and zucchini to 1/4-inch dice. Trim and clean Brussels sprouts then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large (≥ 4 quart) skillet over medium with olive oil. Add onions, carrots, and peppers along with half of the salt and stir to coat with oil.

Cook for two minutes, stir, lower heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for five minutes, stir, and cook for another five minutes with the cover on. At this point, the onions should be clear and the carrots soft. If not cook, put the cover back on for another five minutes.

Uncover and raise heat to medium-high. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until veg pick up a little brown. Add togarashi and stir for a minute. Add Madiera and cook for a minute, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the salt and remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.

Cover the pan again and cook until it begins to boil. Taste for salt and add more if required. Stir, lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook with cover on for another fifteen minutes or until beans are super tender.

Soy Glazed Acorn Squash, a couple slices of toast, and some good hard cider make it all seem positively civilized.

Greek Macarons (Ergolavi)

Greek almond macarons

Redolent of almonds and rose water, you’ll either find these cookies heavenly or like taking a bite out of grandma. (Omit the rose water if you’re in the grandma camp.) For me, their pleasure is derived from the contrast in texture between the crisp exterior and soft, candy-like interior. Also, they are gluten-free if that sort of a thing excites you.

Of course you can buy blanched almonds, but they’re both twice the price and half the quality of doing it yourself using whole raw almonds. The procedure is super simple. Put the almonds in a pan and just cover with water. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, kill the heat, and allow to stand one minutes before draining and rinsing to cool. While still wet and warm, pinch them between your thumb and index finger to remove the skins. This will take you about 15 minutes for this recipe. If you have a semi-responsible child/spouse, this is the perfect thing for them to do to help in the kitchen.

This recipe requires a food processor.


240g blanched & peeled whole raw almonds
2g salt
100g egg whites (3)
240g white sugar
4g almond extract
2g vanilla extract
2g rose water

Roll almonds in a fresh, clean towel to remove any excess water if you blanched them yourself.

Add eggs and salt to the bowl of the food processor and blitz for about 15 seconds to lighten and combine. Add the sugar and flavorings and blitz for another 15 seconds.

Add the almonds and process for a minute. Stop the food processor, remove the lid, and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Process for another minute, or until no pieces are larger than a sesame seed. Remove to a bowl, and chill for an hour minimum.

Preheat oven to 350º and prepare cookie sheets with at least four sheets of parchment paper cut to size. This will allow you to pipe/dish new racks while the others bake. Set your racks in the middle of the upper- and lower-third of your oven.

You may either be fancy and pipe 100ish quarter-sized kisses with a Wilton #21 tip onto the parchment paper or scoop them generously with a teaspoon measure. When I really need to eat my feelings, I use a #30 disher (2 tablespoons) and make the big boys shown in the recipe’s photo. This treatment maximizes the chewy interior. The cookies do not spread and require no more than an inch between them.

Bake two racks at a time, rotating the sheets between the racks and turning them 180º as you do so half way through the cooking time. Piped and smaller spooned cookies require 20 minutes, the Almond Bombs from Disher #30 require 24 minutes. Rest on parchment, on cooling racks, for five minutes before moving to plain cooling racks. These will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.