Black Bean Chili

This is one of my favorite vegetarian meals. You can be creative with ingredients, adding corn kernels, chopped bell pepper, or extra seasonings depending on what you like or have on hand. For a non-vegetarian version, you can add shredded chicken — I will use most of the white meat from a rotisserie chicken, shredding it right over the chili as it cooks in the pot.

This is easy, quick, and easy to double.

6 15-oz. cans seasoned black beans (drain 4 cans and keep the liquid from the other 2)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for serving
1 red onion, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 celery stalks
2-3 medium red tomatoes, chopped

Ideas for garnish: sour cream, plain yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, extra chopped cilantro

Stir everything together in a large saucepot. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed throughout, about 12 minutes. Use the liquid from two cans, diluted with a little water, if the chili is too thick.

(This is yet another recipe clipped from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sometime in the late 1990s. I have made several changes but the original came from a book called “Tonics” by Robert Barnett.)

Tortilla Soup

20160531_185117This may be one of the easiest recipes I have in my cookbook. It makes for a filling meal, too, which means it’s a great idea for a weeknight dinner. I served it with small tacos, but only to make our plates look fuller and to entice my children to try the soup.

I clipped this from our newspaper more than 20 years ago! (I actually wrote the date beneath the recipe: Thursday, August 19, 1993.) That was the year I started collecting recipes in binders. It was actually one binder back then, and as the years have gone by it has grown to three. The paper said the recipe was from Southern Living magazine.

As for the ingredients, please don’t let them fool you into thinking this tastes cheap. Nearly everything comes out of a can, but trust me, it doesn’t taste like it. Perhaps the only canned clues are the way the chicken and diced tomato look. You can’t do much about the chicken (it won’t really show up anyway), and you can chop the tomatoes further if you think the pieces look too big.

This is also easy to double.

Makes about 4 cups

2 10.5-oz cans chicken and rice soup, undiluted
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes with juice
2 Tbsp. canned green chiles
3/4 cups canned corn, with liquid
1 cup (4 oz.) finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed, lightly salted tortilla chips

Combine soup, tomatoes, chiles, and corn in a large pot and bring to a boil. Serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese and chips, or put the cheese and chips in bowls at the table and let everyone help themselves.

Zuni Stew

This is a delicious soup using late-summer vegetables. On the face of it, the ingredient list may look a little ordinary, but the spices are the key — don’t skimp on those!

It’s one of the first recipes I ever pasted in my cookbook, but I never made it until now. I clipped it from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and even wrote the date next to it: August 19, 1993. It’s originally from “The Greens Cookbook” by Deborah Madison, who was the first chef at Greens, a well known vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco — and it turns out the stew is pretty well known, too.

I didn’t realize it was so well known until I was making it and poked around a bit to see if it was anywhere online. I also didn’t realize the origin of the name. Zuni refers to the Pueblo Indian tribe, and at least one article I read said the ingredients involve what is a Native American grouping of corn, beans, and squash.

One note about the tomatoes. The recipe calls for a pound of charcoal-grilled tomatoes, pureed. I wasn’t able to do that, so I just used a can of diced tomatoes and drained them. I have also used finely diced fresh tomatoes. They worked just fine, but I’m sure the charcoal flavor would have been far more delicious.

I have also substituted fresh basil leaves for the cilantro, based on what I had on hand at the time.

Makes 8 servings

2-3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 large yellow onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. chili powder, or more to taste (I used about 1 tsp. cayenne pepper)
1 lb. charcoal-grilled tomatoes, pureed
1 lb. mixed summer squash like zucchini (courgettes) and yellow squash, cut into large pieces
2 1/2 to 3 cups canned corn kernels
1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 1/2 cups canned, drained pinto beans (reserve liquid)
1/2 bunch cilantro (fresh coriander), roughly chopped
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese (if it’s not available, use a very mild cheddar)
Whole cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a pot and saute the onions over high heat until translucent. Lower the heat and add the garlic and spices, and stir everything together. Add a little liquid from the beans if needed.

Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes, then add the tomatoes and stew for 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, corn, green beans, and pinto beans and enough of the liquid to make a fairly wet stew (you may need to add water if you run out of liquid). Cook slowly until the vegetables are done, about 15-20 minutes.

Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the chopped cilantro, then garnish with cheese and cilantro leaves.

Wendy’s Chili

Whether or not this is authentic, it’s become my favorite chili, and the one I make over and over. I found the recipe years ago on a site that purportedly had the recipes for favorite restaurant dishes. Like I said, I’m not sure it’s the real thing, but it works for me every time.

Makes about 12 servings

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. ground (minced) turkey, lean if possible
14.5-oz. can tomato puree
14.5-oz. container tomato passata, like Pomi
29-oz. can kidney beans (with liquid)
29-oz. can pinto beans (with liquid)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green chili (or try 1/3 cup chopped jalapenos)
2-3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. cumin powder
3 Tbsp. mild chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Heat the oil and brown the ground turkey in a pan over medium heat.

As the turkey browns, put the remaining ingredients in a pot. Begin heating the pot to a simmer.

When the turkey is browned, drain off the fat and add the meat to the pot.

Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 2-3 hours.

Three-Ingredient Tortellini Soup

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry people)

This recipe may be the easiest one I’ve yet posted. All you need are:
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 lbs. spinach and cheese tortellini, fresh or frozen
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach, loosely packed

Bring the chicken broth to a boil, then cook the tortellini according to package directions, Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach. Cook another 1 or 2 minutes, then take off the heat and serve with black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

See? A wonderful easy meal.

Yellow Squash Minestrone

When we lived in London, we had a wonderful selection of fresh produce from all across Europe and Africa, but one thing I always missed was the yellow squash we have here in the South. Zucchini (or courgettes, as they are known in the UK) was a substitute, but I still missed the squash, which I have loved since I was little.

Now that we’re back, I’m buying it whenever I can. The other day, I came upon a farm stand selling yellow squash grown in Lawrenceville, just outside Atlanta. I bought a punnet and can’t wait to use it.

I also made this recipe, which I think is a great soup for spring. It’s another one that I’d never tried, despite it being in my cookbook for years. And now that we’re back in the beautiful South, I was finally able to make it — and it turned out great.

Makes 6 servings

1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups small pasta, like ditalini or stellini
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 medium to large yellow squash, diced
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained but chopped
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth or water
1 15-oz. can white beans, like Great Northern, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the chicken broth in a stock pot and add the onion, simmering until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, green pepper, pasta, herbs, squash, tomatoes, vegetable stock, and beans; simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add enough stock or water to the pot to make the mixture as soupy or as thick as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Red Pepper Soup

Today I was looking for a soup that would be just right for spring — fresh-tasting and not too heavy. I found this recipe, which has been in my cookbook for years but which I’ve never tried. It was just right.

It was so easy to make — just a few ingredients, let it simmer, then puree it and you’re done. That makes it perfect for a weekday dinner, but it’s so pretty and delicious that it could also be nice for a dinner party (make sure to add a sprig of parsley and serve it with crusty bread for wiping the bowl clean!). I recommend using an immersion hand blender to puree the soup.

You can also adjust the spiciness to your liking. I might add more cayenne pepper the next time for some kick…

Serves 4

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 large red peppers, chopped into chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cans chicken broth (14.5 oz. each)
2 tsp. lemon juice
Parsley sprigs for garnish

In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft but not browned. Mix in cumin and cayenne, then add chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree with blender or hand blender. Mix in lemon juice and add salt if needed. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Quick and easy to make, this soup is for a weekday night. You won’t believe how good it is.

Makes 3-4 large portions

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 can chopped tomatoes, NOT drained
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups fish stock
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 can (6.5 oz.) clams, drained but with juice reserved
3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Saute onion and celery in oil until translucent. Stir in can of tomatoes, potato, parsley, fish stock, thyme, bay leaf, clam juice, and 1/2 cup or so of water. Simmer 30 minutes, or until potato is tender. Stir in clams and soy sauce; heat through. Serve with crusty bread.

Hot Ginger Broth with Tomato

You won’t believe how easy this is to make and how good it tastes. It’s the perfect thing for a cold night when you don’t feel like cooking after work. You can make it with bouillon cubes, but it’s even better if you can use real vegetable stock.

Serves 2 (or 1 hungry person!)

2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (to make about 2 tsp.)
1 tomato, seeded and diced
3 drops of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
Half a green onion (scallion), chopped
Fresh ground pepper

Put 3 cups of water in a pot with all of the other ingredients but the ground pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Just before serving, grind the pepper on top.

I like the recipe as is, but you can play around with it and add other ingredients to suit your taste.

Artichoke Cream Soup

This is the winning recipe from a cook-off I did in 2008. I had clipped it years ago from a magazine, but it originally came from the executive chef at The Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. It really does taste like a five-star dish.


There are no shortcuts in this recipe — you need fresh artichokes, not canned — and you need to follow all the steps. They’re pretty easy, but they just take a bit of time. This would be great for a dinner party, cooked that afternoon and heated through just before the meal.

Yield: 9 cups

6 artichokes
1 lemon, sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups white wine
1 quart whipping cream (you can use heavy or double cream, but it won’t be as thick)
For garnish: Pumpernickel croutons (see recipe below)

Wash artichokes thoroughly under cold running water. Cut off stems right at the base of each artichoke, then trim about 1/2 inch from top of each artichoke. Remove and discard any loose bottom leaves.

Place artichokes in large Dutch oven or stock pot; cover with water and add lemon and salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30-35 minutes. Drain well.

Remove outer green leaves and inner yellow leaves; set aside. Cut out the fuzzy thistle (choke) and discard, leaving artichoke bottoms intact. Finely chop artichoke bottoms and set aside.

Combine artichoke leaves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes to make an artichoke stock. Pour broth mixture through a large wire-mesh sieve into a bowl; save the liquid and discard the solids.

Melt butter in the stock pot over medium-heat; add onion, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes or until tender.

Add chopped artichoke bottoms and wine; cook over medium heat about 2 minutes. Add artichoke stock and cook over low heat 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour mixture into the container of an electric blender and process until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. You may have to do this in batches. Alternatively, you could use an immersion blender in the stock pot.

When whole mixture has been processed, return to stock pot and add whipping cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated.

Pumpernickel croutons:
4 slices dark pumpernickel bread

Cut bread into desired shapes; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 325F/160C degrees for 20 minutes or until crisp.