New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

There are few things better in life than food in New Orleans – which is the reason it’s one of my favorite cities ever. I’ve been there twice now, and I still do not feel like I have had enough of it, and I am eagerly awaiting my third trip there. After my first trip there, I wrote in one of my past blog posts about the unique mix of French and Southern food, and some of my favorite restaurants in the city. And I am thankful that during my second trip, I was eating way more fish, so besides gorging on red beans and rice, jambalaya, beignets, bananas foster, and po-boys, I got to eat a lot of oysters and shellfish as well.

New Orleans food has definitely left a mark on both me and my partner’s heart, because we’ve decided to have both beignets and bananas foster at the dessert station at our wedding – with the caterers cooking bananas with brown sugar, vanilla, butter, and cinnamon with dark rum right out in the vineyard in a cozy spot! But besides my obvious love for their desserts, the other dish that really speaks to me is their red beans and rice. I have a special weakness for red beans, because growing up, my favorite food was an Indian curry dish made with red beans, rajma. Even now, every time I go back home, that is the first meal that my mom cooks for me. And while this version of red bean might be very different, it still has some very hearty flavors that are absolutely evocative of some of the Indian comfort food that I am used to. With the holy trinity of onions, celery, and bell peppers, and the flavors and smells of parsley and thyme, this dish with red beans and smoked sausage is a hearty, filling, winter meal.

Using dried beans is key in this recipe. And as I have realized, in my beloved rajma too. While canned beans might be more convenient,  the possibility of a mushy texture by simmering them for too long really detracts from the experience of both dishes. And of course, it’s always good to be able to season your food yourself, instead of getting the seasoning that comes in a can.

Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker


  • 1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and picked through for stones
  • 1/3 cup diced pancetta
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound cooked smoked sausage cut into 1-inch pieces
  • about 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • chopped green onions, garnish


  1. Place clean dried beans in a medium pot and cover with room temperature water. Allow to soak overnight before making the beans.
  2. If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, don’t fret. Place the clean dried beans in a medium pot and cover with room temperature water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the beans boil, cover, remove from heat, and allow to soak for 1 hour. Carry on with the recipe.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook pancetta until very well crisp, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook until vegetables are very well done, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne and stir to combine.
  6. Stir in the garlic, parsley, thyme, and sliced sausage. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until the sausage is well browned, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
  7. Add the softened beans to the pot, the stock, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 2 hours, uncovered, until the beans are well softened.
  8. Taste and season with more salt or pepper.
  9. For a slightly smoother consistency, blend about 1/3 of bean and sausage mixture in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. This way, some of the beans will be ground smooth and some will be kept whole, creating a really lovely consistency. You can also smooth out some of the beans by mashing them against the side of the pan once they’re softened.
  10. Serve beans with white rice and a hearty garish of green onions.

Pasta Fagioli

January’s finally here – which means that two of my favorite shows are back on TV with new seasons – Worst Cooks in America and MasterChef Junior. While one leaves my speechless at the ability of 8-13 year olds  (some of whom can barely look above a prep table without the help of a stool) to whip up delicious, and in some cases, highly technical, restaurant-quality dishes in short periods of time, the other leaves me speechless about how bad some people can actually be at cooking. Watching Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America is a real treat – she is one of my favorite celebrity chefs and there is nothing more entertaining than seeing her trying to teach cooking to someone who only cooks meatloaf in the shape of animals, someone who always burns meats because that means at least it’s cooked, and someone who made a pot roast and ended up….poisoning her dog. Suffice to say, people who are nominated on this show by their friends and family are nominated not just for their lack of cooking skills, but because they have also actually succeeded in making their loved ones fall quite ill with their food.

In between gaping disbelievingly at  one of the episodes this week, I  was reminded that I owned one of Burrell’s cookbooks (Cook Like a Rock Star) and I decided to flip through it to get some ideas for weekly lunches. I settled on pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian dish consisting of pasta and beans – it turned out to be a delicious, filling and an inexpensive and easily portable lunch. This particular version recommended using chives, but in my opinion, they didn’t add much to the dish, so for next time, I will prefer using basil.

Pasta Fagioli

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star


  • 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into quarter inch dice
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, mostly pureed with a few chunks (or according to your preference)
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz ditalini pasta
  • Freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Basil, chopped, for garnishing
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper


  • Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add pancetta. Over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it’s crisp (4-5 minutes).
  • Toss in the onion and season with salt, red pepper, oregano, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and 1 and 1/4 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.
  • Boil water in a well-salted large pot to cook the ditalini, which should be cooked only two-thirds of the way, being fairly hard in the middle.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the water to the pot with the tomatoes and beans. Cook until pasta is done, for about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and chopped basil.

Roasted Sweet Potato Poblano Salad

As someone who ordinarily detests MBA students, or at the very least, Yale MBA students, I was very happy when their building relocated from right next to our political science department to about 5-7 minutes away. Two weeks ago, my friends and I were even more pleased to discover that the Yale School of Management cafeteria was having its trial week, where it was handing out different kinds of food – for free! Being conditioned to seek out free food as graduate students, we headed there for lunch all week until the free food week was, alas, over. One of my favorite things that I had there was this sweet potato and poblano salad – this salad single-handedly changed my opinion about sweet potatoes. When combined with fresh, roasted ingredients that pack a ton of flavor, this salad by itself seemed like a meal and I couldn’t wait to replicate it at home. I finally got around to doing so this weekend, but I made a slight modification to the meal we had – to make it have more protein and be more hearty, I replaced the roasted red peppers with some black beans. I also crushed some baked tortilla chips on top of the final salad to give it some texture and crunch. If you’re a big fan of roasted red peppers, you can go ahead and add those as well. My main suggestion while preparing this dish would be to use the freshest ingredients possible – fresh peppers and fresh corn that you roast at home, as it really enhances the flavor, instead of giving a bland or salty flavor that might come with bottled or frozen ingredients.

Roasted Sweet Potato Poblano Salad


  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin (I used 3 because I love a little extra)
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 14 ounces of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 corn cobs
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Salt (to season)
  • Paprika (to season)


  1. Preheat broiler to high.  Line the baking sheet with foil.  Spray peppers with non-stick spray. Place on baking sheet 4 inches below broiler.  Roast peppers until skins are blistered and black, about 15 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side.  Remove peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool. Alternatively, store the peppers in a paper bag and let them cool.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch cubes and boil them for 10-15 minutes
  3. Set oven to bake at 375 degrees F.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, onions, olive oil, cumin, salt and half of the cilantro.  Mix well.  Spread sweet potatoes onto baking sheet; roast in oven until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  5. Now, roast your corn. You can choose to do it whichever way you are familiar with – I just put the entire cob with the husks in the oven for about 20-30 minute or until about the corn is soft and you can smell it. You can also choose to grill it. Once the corn is roasted, wait for it to cool.
  6. Meanwhile, peel peppers, cut off their stems and remove seeds. Since the seeds of poblano peppers are extremely spicy, the level of heat you want in this dish should correlate with how careful you are in ensuring whether you want any seeds in your seeds.  Cut flesh into 1/2 inch squares.
  7. Remove sweet potatoes from oven, set aside until cool, about 10-20 minutes.
  8. Take the cooled corn cobs and remove the husks. Now remove the corn from the cob and toss it with some salt, lemon juice and paprika.
  9. In a bowl, combine roasted sweet potatoes, roasted onions, roasted poblano peppers, beans, the seasoned corn, lime juice, and remaining cilantro and season it with salt.  Toss gently.  Serve cold. Enjoy!

Black Bean Hummus

If you’re looking to branch out of the traditional hummus recipe using chickpeas, black bean hummus is an easy and delicious option. I originally got the the idea from Positively 4th Street in Charlottesville, VA, which has an excellent, spicy black bean hummus on its appetizers. This one is really easy to make – just throw all the ingredients in a food processor and you’re ready to serve in 5 minutes!

If you find it getting drier than what you’d want, then throw in some extra lime juice (if it’s too salty for your taste), or some olive oil to make it smoother. I used paprika, but you can also use jalapeno peppers if you want more of a kick.


Recipe adapted from MyRecipes


  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons paprika


  • Place 1/4 cup cilantro, and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor; process until smooth.
  • Spoon into a bowl; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.

Want to make homemade pita chips to go along with this hummus? Click here

Also, see Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for White Bean and Roasted Eggplant Hummus

Pan-Fried Beans and Wilted Greens

I’ve never been a huge fan of greens – I detest most salads, and it usually takes a lot of cooking down greens to get me to eat them. This dish seems like a great compromise between a salad and a cooked dish to me. It barely takes 10 minutes to prepare and the crunch from the outside of the beans that get just a little crispy is great for the texture of this dish. I personally used baby spinach and arugula, but feel free to use any kind of greens, though I do like the slightly peppery, tangy flavor that arugula gives to this dish. It’s great to have on its own, or with bread, or even with poached eggs.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn. Gives 2 main servings or around 4-6 side dish servings


  • 6 oz  baby spinach
  • 6 oz  arugula
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz can cannelloni  beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • Good quality extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Heat one teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are very soft, for around 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the baby spinach and arugula, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl.
  2. Warm another 1-2 teaspoons of oil, enough to coat the entire bottom of the pan. Add the beans and spread them into a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Stir and spread them out again.  Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the beans.
  3. Stir the onion-garlic- leaves mixture, cumin powder, paprika, turmeric and salt into the beans. Stir until the greens are completely wilted and taste tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Stir and taste. Add more lemon juice, salt, or other seasonings to taste.
Pan-Fried Beans with Wilted Greens

Pan-Fried Beans with Wilted Greens

Yellow Rice Salad with Roasted Peppers and Spicy Black Beans

After eating huge amounts of sugary things around New Year’s, I was looking for something light, but something that was also warm and flavorful. Something that hopefully had turmeric and cumin, since dishes that have those spices are normally comfort food for me.  This dish has the lightness of a salad, but is warm and flavorful, elevating it beyond a salad. You can take out the garam masala and the cumin seeds if you think it’ll be too much spice for a meal that is meant to be a warm salad. But it surely packs in a flavorful punch and I will be definitely be returning to it as it will be a great light lunch to carry.

What are your suggestions for light dishes after a food-filled holiday season?

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit


  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers from jar
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles


  • Stir ground cumin in small dry skillet over medium heat just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk lime juice and oil into skillet.
  • Stir turmeric, garam masala and cumin seeds in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups water, rice and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Cool rice.
  • Mix onions and half of the lime juice dressing into rice. Season the rice with salt and pepper.
  • Combine black beans, all peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, chipotle chilies, and remaining half of the lime dressing in medium bowl. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix bean mixture and rice salad. Enjoy!


Brunch: Avocados and Eggs

My new (and rather expensive) love affair with avocados has driven me to try using it with all kinds of food. It might actually be just behind onions and garlic in my most frequently used ingredients while cooking. During this process, I’ve realized that avocados and eggs actually make for a great combo and are not a mushy mess that I had initially imagined (and even if they can be, who cares because it’s a delicious combo). So here are some recipes in which you incorporate both:

Scrambled Eggs with Avocado

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Now everyone has their own pet way to make scrambled egg, but I’m a big fan of this recommended by The Kitchn. Once you’ve made the scrambled eggs, just top it off with the green onions and avocado, and you’re ready for a healthy breakfast containing two super-foods!

Scrambled Eggs with Avocados and Green Onions

Breakfast Burritos – courtesy Niloufer Siddiqui

  • Black beans, one can
  • Refried beans, one can
  • Vegetables, to stir-fry (mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli are an excellent choice!)
  • Eggs
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Avocados
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over  medium-high heat. Cook the veggies (we used mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli). Add black beans and red pepper flakes and cook until warmed through, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a dish.


Prepping the veggies for the burrito

2. Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and reheat the skillet over a medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add eggs, scrambling until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Spread each tortilla with 1 tablespoon sour cream, refried beans and salsa, then layer with the vegetable mixture, scrambled eggs, diced tomato and 1/4 of an avocado. Top each tortilla with cheese and salsa. Roll tortillas into burritos and serve.

And our breakfast burrito is ready!


Eggs Benedict with Avocado

Having had an English muffin topped with a fried egg, avocado and tomato, I can assure you that this a delicious brunch item with hash browns or home fries. Check out this link for a recipe that also incorporates bacon in the eggs benedict alongwith avocados.

So have some fun experimenting with these recipes! For those who really want to experiment, try this Avocado Ice Cream! I’m still unsure about eating green ice cream, so I might take a while to come around to it. What about you? Have you ever had any desserts with avocado as an ingredient?