Tag Archives: legumes

White Bean Dip

I’d kept coming across mentions of white bean dip in my recipe searches, so I decided to try it the other day, loosely following this recipe, halving the recipe and using the juice of only half a lemon. I also fried the garlic beforehand so it wouldn’t be as strong, and added some red pepper flakes.

The cilantro gave it an interesting flavour and the resulting texture was denser, creamier than that of the hummus I’ve been making (and loving), so it was a nice change. It was quite good on pita, and I love how it looks — very Christmasy.

I’ve seen other recipes calling for fresh parsley rather than cilantro, so I’ll try that next time (though the latter is much cheaper!).

Festive White Bean Dip

1 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, fried lightly in olive oil (or raw)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

1. In a food processor (or blender), combine all ingredients. Process until smooth.
2. Serve with pita, cut veggies, or whatever tickles your fancy.

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Middle Eastern Monday II: Falafel

Much delayed sequel to the previous post. It’s been a busy week (at work, sadly, not as much in the kitchen).

Sean had been wanting to making falafel since our Philly/NY days, but then it’d just been easier to buy them fresh off a cart complete with veggies, sauce, and rice/pita for 4 or 5 USD. Here, choices are more limited: I’m not a huge fan of Haya’s’ falafel and the 60+ RMB falafel “burger” at Gourmet Cafe, while super tasty, is only good for a splurge.

So we made our own, using this recipe as a rough guide for ingredients. Like the hummus, it turned out to be easier than we’d expected.

We started with a can of chickpeas…

…which we mashed with a spoon.

Then we added all the other ingredients, mixing til we got a squishy dough-like mixture. We made some modifications like adding an egg, but more on that below.

Since we don’t have an oven or deep-fryer, we pan-fried little falafel patties with a good amount of oil to imitate deep-frying.

They sizzled and browned and held together nicely in the pan. We watched with bated breath.

When they looked about done, we picked one out for a taste test. Having read some reviews about falafel falling apart and whatnot, we’d expected our first batch to fail in some way. But all we could do was grunt with pleasure for the next 5 seconds. It hit the spot like none other: crunchy on the outside, it was fragrant and moist and soft — but textured — on the inside. It might not look like your typical falafel, and I can’t attest to its authenticity, but I’d say the flavour and texture came very close to what we used to have in New York. (And yes, I’m using NY as a point of comparison for all foods whose originating country I haven’t yet visited…)

We removed them from the pan when they were just starting to blacken and most of the oil was soaked up.

Here is our lunch in full, probably one of the most satisfying meals I’ve ever had… ever:

(Yes, I know that isn’t pita bread. Sean biked all the way to City Shop to get pita that morning, but apparently the ovens over at MediterraneaN bakery had broken down — which basically meant no pita for the entire city of Shanghai that day. So we got the next best thing: nang bread, though even our fave Xinjiang place was out of their usual nang, which we like better.)

All in all, I’m incredibly thankful canned chickpeas can be found pretty easily in Shanghai; any supermarket Carrefour and up on the “foreigner-friendly” scale will stock it (usually for under 10 RMB/can). I have only just begun to fully appreciate their versatility.

Pan-fried Falafel

1 400g can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 slice of bread, toasted a few times and crumbled (makes 2/3 cup bread crumbs)
1/3 cup flour (we used pancake mix coz we didn’t have flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 large egg
Olive oil for frying

1. Mash chickpeas in a large bowl until they become crumbly but moist (do not use food processor). Stir in the onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, bread crumbs, egg, salt, and pepper (and other spices/herbs if used).
2. Add flour/pancake mix until the mixture reaches a sticky, doughy, and moist but decidedly solid consistency. When you pick up some with your hands it should feel like it can hold together in a pan without breaking apart (vague, I know, but you’ll know).
3. With your hands, shape the mixture into patties approx. 5cm wide and 1cm deep. You should get 18-20 patties.
4. Heat 3 tbsp (or just enough to cover the pan) olive oil in pan with heat on high. When oil is very hot, place falafel patties in pan. Fry until bottom is browned and has hardened into a crust, then flip. Falafels are ready when both sides have hardened and look crunchy :)
5. Remove from pan and place on plate lined with paper towel. Repeat (adding more oil as necessary) until the mixture is used up.

Enjoy with your favourite sauces (we used homemade hummus and cilantro-infused aioli (wrong part of the world, sure, but went superbly with the falafel)), raw veggies, and bread!

*Makes about 18-20 small falafel patties. I’m not sure how long the mixture would last in the fridge/freezer because these were gone by lunch the following day! I’m guessing one day max in the fridge, and much longer in the freezer… but it’s always better fresh :)

*The mixture also works pan-fried in much less oil — it won’t end up very crunchy, but that’s fine if you’re bringing them to work for lunch the next day.

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Middle Eastern Monday I: Hummus

Sean and I didn’t have work on Easter Monday, so we went and explored a bit of the Middle East… in our kitchen. We started with hummus, adapting a couple of recipes found on allrecipes.com (my go-to recipe site).

The whole process took about half an hour, though most of that time was spent scraping down the sides of our cheap blender (see Notes below), so this would literally take 10 minutes if you have a good blender.

It tasted really good and fresh and, in our humble opinion, gave the 28 RMB hummus at Haya’s Mediterranean Cuisine a run for its money. But Haya’s still does a killer marinated eggplant which I will keep going back for, but which I’m going to figure out how to make as well :D

Tahini-less Hummus
1 400g can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend on low speed, gradually adding reserved bean liquid — and stopping to manually stir mixture, if needed — until it reaches desired consistency (textured but without any hard bits).
2. Serve with pita, crackers, or even soft whole wheat bread.

1. Most hummus recipes call for tahini, but since we didn’t have that (unless you count my black sesame paste) we used a bit of sesame oil, with great results.
2. As with our peanut butter escapade last year, our blender couldn’t handle the hard solids very well, so we ended up having to stop and scrape down the sides/top pretty often. It also helped to add more liquid if it wasn’t moving much.


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Getaway extended: Taco night

I’d picked up some avocados and corn tortillas on my way home on Thursday, so for dinner last Friday we made another stab at what I would classify as Mexican food… namely tacos and salsa.

(That’s Sean’s plate with all the cheese.)

The stuff cradled inside the avocado is my attempt at pico de gallo, a mixture of tomato, cucumber, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Once again, the tomato was a bit mushy (why is it so hard to find firm, crisp tomatoes here?!), but the garlic, cilantro, and onion pepped it back up, and the cucumber provided the crunch.

The tacos, bursting with flavour and colour, were a messy but yummy affair.

Most of the tortillas quite literally burst, though, even before we got our hands on them. I’d been looking around online for advice on how to reheat frozen corn tortillas, and a couple people advocated putting them in a steamer (or microwave) wrapped in a “clean kitchen towel”. Uh, we do have 3 or 4 kitchen hand towels in rotation but none of them can be considered clean in the sense that I’d wrap/cook my food in it — the washed ones have been collecting dust on a shelf.

So we used paper towels, wrapping 4 or 5 around a dozen thawed tortillas. I put the steamer basket with the tortillas in the rice cooker, brought the water to a boil, then after a minute pulled the plug and waited another 15. Maybe half of them came out intact, but a bunch of them had developed rips and we suspect a few disintegrated entirely, as we definitely didn’t end up with twelve tacos. They were warm and soft, though, so we were willing to make do.

Since we had filling left for a second round, we microwaved our next batch with dampened paper towels to see if they would fare any better. They came out worse, like cardboard. Thankfully, the tasty vegetables were able to save them from the garbage can.

I’m not sure how I feel about corn tortillas. Sure, they’re more “authentic” — and healthful — than the flour variety, but the flavour and texture, at least of these ones, were a bit lacking. I’m sure it has to do with them being pre-frozen and made in China and reheated incorrectly though. I’ll consider investing in a brand new kitchen towel for our next endeavour.

Oh, and I’m making burritos after I get my hands on some more flour tortillas! At least I can reheat those on a pan. (Yes, I’m totally trying to make up for lost Mexican food time. And yes, I know burritos aren’t “really” Mexican, according to some people. But I don’t really care :)

Taco filling
Vegetables of your choice, diced (I used garlic, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato)
1 can red kidney beans (or other bean of your choice), drained and rinsed
Salt, paprika, cumin, basil (or spices/herbs of your choice)
Bit of cilantro, chopped
Olive oil

1. Heat a bit of oil in pan. Cook onion and garlic first for a few minutes, then add other vegetables (we’ll count tomato as a vegetable) and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add beans, seasonings, cilantro. Be liberal with the seasonings.
3. Serve with salsa, avocado, sour cream if you can afford it, and properly reheated tortillas.
4. Forgive me for the wishy-washy recipe. I didn’t really follow a recipe, and there are a million ways to do this, so have fun making up your own! :)

Where to find…

  • Corn tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady (274 Wulumuqi Lu), 28 RMB/~3 dozen
  • Cilantro: any vegetable market and probably supermarket, 1 RMB/lots
  • Red kidney beans (canned, local product): Parkson Supermarket (100 Zunyi Lu near Xianxia Lu), 5 RMB/can

  • Relevant resources:

  • The pico de gallo recipe I used, with some modifications (took out peppers, put in cucumber; lemon juice instead of lime, but only because they don’t stock limes in the fruit store)
  • Reheating corn tortillas; reheating corn tortillas


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    The little flat bean II: Lentil curry

    After brunch on Wednesday, we went out to do some shopping in Xujiahui, stopping by Carrefour on our way home. I’d originally intended to make a quick stir-fry with lentils and vegetables, but it ended up becoming a lentil curry, which we ate with some freshly baked Xinjiang nang, for which I’ve briefly professed my love before. Looks like this:

    The soft boiled egg went delightfully with the mild curry — as eggs tend to do with almost everything it seems.

    It was freaking delicious, even if — as I realized in embarrassment the next day at work — maybe a bit of a fibre overload (hah, TMI?). May have to rethink portions/proportions on that one.

    Sean finished off the leftovers with brown rice for dinner the following night (and lunch the day after that) and was nice enough to take a picture for me:

    Lentil curry with chickpeas

    4 cups hot (drinkable) water
    1/2 pound dried green lentils, washed and inspected
    2 small carrots, diced
    1 head garlic, peeled and chopped up
    2 small (or 1 large) onions, diced
    2 green peppers, diced
    2 tomatoes, diced
    1 can chickpeas, washed and drained (replace with other vegetables if you can’t handle the fiber)

    1 tbsp curry powder (adjust according to preference)
    2 tsp cumin
    1 tsp paprika or chili powder
    2 tsp cornstarch
    Olive oil, as needed
    Salt & sugar to taste

    Eggs (1 per diner)
    Nang (1-1.5 per diner), or other carb if unavailable

    1. Put water and lentils in large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook for 25 minutes.
    2. Add carrots into lentil pot — earlier if you like ’em soft, later if you like ’em harder. (I like mine as soft and bland as possible).
    2. Heat a bit of oil in pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, fry until lightly browned.
    3. Add peppers, chickpeas, and seasonings and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
    4. Add tomatoes, lentils, and carrots into pan. Pour in some of the nutritious lentil/carrot water.
    5. If sauce is too runny, mix cornstarch with a bit of cold/room temp water, and pour into pan. Mix thoroughly until sauce reaches desired consistency. Cook for about 10 more minutes.
    6. While curry is cooking, boil eggs in a small pot (put eggs and cold water in pot, bring to a boil, lower heat and cover for 5-10 minutes depending on desired consistency of yolk).
    7. Serve hot with nang.

    Prep time: ~40 minutes
    Makes 4 servings.

    Where to find…

  • The best nang in Shanghai: outside a small Xinjiang restaurant called 新疆风味 (I think) on 51 Maotai Road (茅台路), between Loushanguan Road (娄山关路) and Zunyi Road (遵义路) in Puxi, 3 RMB each.
  • Dried lentils: City Shop, 14 RMB/454g bag.
  • Canned chickpeas: Carrefour, 6 RMB/can.


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    Weekend getaway II: Quesadillas

    Sean has a break on Sunday afternoons so he usually comes home for lunch. He bought some cheddar cheese on his way back last Sunday and we made quesadillas using leftover chili. I’d been craving a quesadilla since the New York Times did a column on it.

    Wanting to make this as healthy as possible, we were careful with the cheese and liberal with the filling…

    …which made it too watery and messy to eat politely.

    Much tidier omelet-style.

    Unfortunately, even with the conscious rationing of cheese, it (I suspect) still made me break out a day or two afterwards, so this won’t be done again for a while :'(

    Relevant resources:
    This is the recipe I started with, which is kinda messy
    This is the method I switched to

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    Weekend getaway I: Black Bean Chili

    It’s been an exciting week. Even as I settled into the routine of work, we managed to sneak in a weekend getaway… to Mexico! Well, maybe closer to Texas or CA, but somewhere in that general idea. I explored a few new foods and new possibilities that I’d never considered affordable, like quesadillas, which might be mundane for some people cooking in North America but is kind of a huge deal over here. Tortillas? Avocados? They’ll add up quick, and you might as well go out for an overpriced meal at a mediocre-but-trendy “Mexican” restaurant. (There is an affordable burrito place near my office that I’ve been meaning to check out, though!)

    But I found a few of those elusive ingredients at the Avocado Lady, and realized it was possible to venture beyond the 10 or so veggies that feature in our stir-fry rotation (eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, onion, green pepper, carrot, potato, tomato [not a vegetable but whatever]). Having educated myself on the benefits of beans and prompted by a recipe my sister e-mailed over, I decided to make black bean chili for dinner last Saturday. I’ve probably had chili about once in my life, and it hadn’t been a very memorable experience, but it seemed like a practical way to make something of 300g of dried black beans.

    I put them to soak in the morning. A couple hours later they started looking like pill bugs, ughh.

    We prefaced the meal, which ended up not being ready til 9pm, with a mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer which I’ve always loved but never felt “western” enough to make. Unfortunately, the tomato I used was a bit overripe, making the whole thing mushier than it should be; also, I realized how hard it is to slice mozzarella. Excusing the crappy presentation, the combination of flavours, especially the bit of salt that brought out the sweetness of the tomato, was still fantastic.

    As we continued to wait for the beans — which I’d forgotten need 2 hours to cook — to be ready, we dug into the ripe Mexican avocado that I’d gotten at the same store (10 RMB). Sean spread his half on toast but I ate mine right off the spoon with a bit of salt (I know I’d said we were conserving, but sometimes there’s no alternative!). I don’t remember the last time I was able to take such liberties with an avocado. It’s always so stingily laid out inside overpriced “gourmet” sandwiches.

    With about 20 minutes left on the beans, I started getting to work on the chili. I set diced carrots to boil in clean water, chopped up garlic, onion, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and green pepper, and fried them (minus the tomatoes) in some olive oil.

    When the beans and carrots (in separate pots) were done, I drained them and put them back in the large pot along with the tomatoes, vegetables, and a bunch of spices (red chili powder, basil, cumin, paprika, dill, black pepper, salt). Also poured most of the water I’d saved from boiling the beans/carrots, and simmered for half an hour.

    I’d bought a pack of frozen tortillas (10RMB for 12) so I thawed a bunch and reheated them one at a time on a non-stick pan on low heat, flipping every 20 seconds or so.

    The chili ended up looking more like soup than my idea of chili, but I ladled it into our bowls with a slotted spatula so the water drained back into the pot. It was colourful, hearty, and warming, and delightful wrapped in soft tortilla.

    The best part: after stuffing ourselves, we had a giant bowl of the stuff left over! We rarely have leftovers, so that was exciting.

    This is the recipe I used (thanks Florence!), with modifications in parentheses:

    Black bean and vegetable chili

    1 cup dried black beans, rinsed (~1.5 cups)
    3 tbsp olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced (1 whole head)
    2 stalks celery, sliced (skipped, yuck)
    2 large carrots, diced
    1 cup each diced zucchini, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper (1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 1 large red onion, 2 green peppers)
    1 can tomatoes, chopped (3 fresh tomatoes)
    1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock (water from boiling carrots & beans)
    1/2 chopped parsley (skipped)
    1 tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
    1 tsp each salt and ground cumin
    1/2 tsp pepper
    (I at least doubled all of the spices coz it turned out to be a huge pot)

    – Cook black beans (or used canned). Drain.
    – In large pot (or saucepan), heat oil over medium heat. Add all vegetables, stir for about 7 min or until softened.
    – Add beans, tomatoes, water, spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 min or until cooked.

    Where to find…

  • Dried black beans (organic): City Shop, ~18 RMB/330g [Edit: Trust Mart, 10.80 RMB/350g]
  • Fresh mozzarella: Avocado Lady, 17 RMB/100g
  • Avocado: Avocado Lady, 10 RMB each
  • Flour tortillas (frozen): Avocado Lady, 10 RMB/pack of 12
  • Yellow squash/zucchini: Avocado Lady, ~4.5 RMB each
  • Basil, paprika: Carrefour, 13-14 RMB/jar

  • Relevant resources:

  • How to cook black beans
  • Mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizer


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    The little flat bean

    I can’t believe I’d never considered using lentils in my cooking before! I’d just assumed that they, like other dried legumes, take ages to cook and are so bland it’s not even worth it. But having been informed of its nutritional properties, I decided to give the little flat bean, as it is called in Chinese (小扁豆), a shot. I found them canned (10 RMB) at Carrefour, and dry at City Shop (14 RMB for over 3 times the amount), and since I had time this afternoon, I used the dried ones.

    It took under half an hour to cook in a pot of water, which is only slightly longer than cooking rice in the rice cooker. A big motivating factor for continued consumption.

    Because I didn’t have any fresh veggies around, I fried an egg to go with the lentils, which I seasoned with salt, paprika, black sesame seeds, and this stuff we have from Trader Joe’s (from my trip to the US last Nov.) called 21 Seasoning Salute. All that made the simple dish quite flavourful.

    I biked over to the veggie market a few hours later to pick up some veggies. Now that my bike (which used to be half a flight of stairs up) has traded places with Sean’s (which he kept right by the front entrance of our building), getting in and out by bike is super convenient.

    The majority of lentil recipes online seem to be for lentil soup or lentil stew, with the ingredients varying little across the board, so I just went with a stir-fry of garlic, red onion, green pepper, boiled carrot, and tomato. I added the lentils to the pan near the end, along with basil, salt, and paprika.

    After scooping some onto a plate, I flavoured it further with black sesame seeds and a tiny bit of sesame oil, and I served it—to myself, sadly; Sean is out on a photo gig—with a boiled egg, a piece of whole wheat toast, and “carrot soup” a.k.a. the water used to boil the carrots. It was hearty and tasty and it almost felt like I was indulging.

    I noticed though that lentils have a ridiculously high fibre content: 44% for their puny definition of “one serving”. I had least 3 servings today, and that’s not even counting the veggies and whole wheat bread… yikes.


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