February 11, 2007 at 1:02 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Mexican & S. American, Sauce/dressing)

I got adventurous and tried Cook’s Illustrated light guacamole recipe using… frozen lima beans.  That’s right, scary, but true.

  • 1 medium tomato (about 5 ounces), cored, seeded, and chopped fine (about 1 cup) ~ I used canned petite diced
  • 1 cup frozen *mature* lima beans (about 5 ounces) (I accidentally bought baby lima beans. They say in this case it’s hard to skin them so I just left the skins on for the fiber. The guacamole was a tad bit grainy due to the skins.)
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, preferably Haas (about 7 ounces)
  • 3 Tbs. juice from 2 limes
  • 2 Tbs. reduced-fat mayonnaise (I omitted this since I didn’t have it)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I used 1/4 tsp. It was fine, but prob. would have been fine with 1/2 tsp. as well.)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium jalepeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 Tbs. minced red onion or shallot
  • 1 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • fresh ground black pepper
  1. Place the tomato in a small colander set inside a bowl and set aside to drain while preparing the rest of the guacamole.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small sauce pan over high heat. Add the frozen lima beans and cook until creamy, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and rinse under cold water until cool. Pat the beans dry with paper towels then remove the skins by pinching the beans so the skins slide off.
  3. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and scoop out a quarter of the flesh. Puree a quarter of the avocado, skinned lima beans, lime juice, mayo, and salt together in a food processor until smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  4. Cube the remaining three-quarters of the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces, and scrape into a medium bowl. Add the pureed lima mixture, drained tomato, cilantro, jalepeno, onion, garlic, and cumin, and stir gently to combine. Season to taste with pepper. Transfer the guacamole to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until the flavors meld, about 1 hour.

Makes 2 cups. They say a serving is 1/4 cup:

70 cal, 4g fat, .5g sat fat, 0 chol, 8g carb, 2g protein, 3g fiber, 210mg sodiumMy Notes:

Cook’s Illustrated says that the guacamole, covered with plastic wrap pressed flush against the surface of the dip, can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature and season with additional lime juice, salt, and pepper, as needed before serving.  I’m in a bit leery of plastic wrap touching my food, esp. fatty foods, so I just stored mine in a regular tupperware, and it was fine~didn’t brown at all. It lasted fine for two days.  It might have been fine for longer even, but I couldn’t tell you, since after two days it was all gone ).

The adulterated guacamole has more fiber and protein, and less fat than normal guacamole. I think standard guacamole is about 77% fat, but this is about 40% fat.

The flavor was very good~it basically tasted like guacamole. It definitely didn’t taste as rich as normal, but with all the tomatoes, cilantro, jalepeno, garlic, lime juice etc. once it was in my burrito I’m not sure I would have noticed. I gave it to a friend and she said it “tasted very fresh”.  I told her that I put it in a new ingredient and asked her to identify it~she had no idea. Said it tasted like very yummy guacamole to her.

I don’t know if I would make this just to lower the calorie/fat content of guacamole, unless I was eating it with chips, in which case the chips have enough fat already.  I do consider the recipe a keeper though, for those situations where I only have one avocado and want to make a bigger batch for more people! Those things are expensive!

BTW, cook’s illustrated said they tried green peas and asparagus and edamame but they liked the lima beans the best.  They said peas gave it an earthy flavor and too sweet, asparagus watered it down and had a fibrous texture and unappetizing army green color. Edamame worked well to carry the flavor, but gave it a grainy texture.

Rating: B

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Silky Butternut Squash Soup

February 11, 2007 at 8:15 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Isa C. Moskowitz, soup, Starches)

Every cookbook in the world seems to have a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup. They often call for adding fruit like apples or pears, or for sweet seasonings like nutmeg or ginger. Others are very simple and just call for the squash alone. I’m guessing that over time this post is going to get very long. Feel free to send me your favorite recipe for squash soup!

Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Silky Butternut Squash Soup

For this recipe Cook’s Illustrated found that steaming the squash resulted in the best flavor and texture. Adding the squash scrapings and seeds to the steaming water made the soup even more flavorful. Some nice garnishes for the soup are freshly grated nutmeg, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a sprinkle of paprika.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts, serving 4 to 6


  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 4 Tbs.)
  • 3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large), unpeeled, squash halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy fiber reserved (about 1/4 cup), and each half cut into quarters
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar


  1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add squash scrapings and seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot. Cover and steam until squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Off heat, use tongs to transfer squash to rimmed baking sheet; reserve steaming liquid. When cool enough to handle, use large spoon to scrape flesh from skin into medium bowl; discard skin.
  3. Pour reserved steaming liquid through mesh strainer into second bowl; discard solids in strainer. Rinse and dry Dutch oven.
  4. In blender, puree squash and reserved liquid in batches, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream and brown sugar and heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt to taste; serve immediately.

My Notes:

I made this recipe quite a long time ago, but I remember it being perfect. It tasted just like the “porridge” they serve at Hangawi, an upscale Korean restaurant in NYC. Steaming the squash resulted in a much brighter orange color and sweeter flavor than roasting the squash as in the above recipe. I probably didn’t use all the heavy cream and butter, but I don’t remember how much I actually used. I’ll try it again and report back.

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Lime

I tried this recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, except I simmered the squash in vegetable broth rather than roasting it.  In addition to the squash, it calls for onion, a hot green chile, fresh ginger, garlic, maple syrup, and the juice of 1 to 2 limes.  The final soup was bright orange with a reasonably creamy texture.  I did not care for the soup however.  I only used one lime yet still the sourness of the limes dominated, and the sweet earthy squash taste was overpowered.  I did not taste any ginger either.  I wouldn’t make this recipe again.

Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’ll post the recipe once I get a library card in Chicago and can check the book out again.

My Notes:

As I reported in the thread on roasting butternut squash, I didn’t like these instructions much. The onion burnt at the tips, and the squash burnt a bit too. The resulting puree was very thick, and with a very dark, vegetable-y flavor, rather than the sweet, bright flavor I was expecting. I’m guessing the onion added the unpleasant vegetable flavor, and the burnt bits made it taste so dark. I added the half and half, and it did improve the flavor a bit, but I still didn’t like it that much. So I added 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg, and then it tasted like nutmeg, which was an improvement, but still not great. So I added 1/8 tsp. cardamom and 1/8 tsp ginger. It was okay, but I don’t think I’d make it again when there are so many better butternut squash soup recipes out there.

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Pantry/freezer vegetarian gumbo

February 11, 2007 at 7:57 am (Caribbean, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

It’s hard to get fresh okra in the North, even in the summer. But I love okra so sometimes just give in and buy sliced frozen okra. It’s too wet to make fried okra with it, but it works really well for any kind of stew. Making a stew out of frozen okra is actually super easy and amazingly tasty, and requires no fresh ingredients (although they can be added if you have them, of course).

The “recipe”

I usually just throw one bag of frozen okra (a pound? 3 cups?) in a pot with a 14-ounce can of diced or whole Muir Glen tomatoes (wtih all the juice). I add spices and let it stew for a bit until warm. The spices vary–sometimes cayenne, or paprika, or cumin, or the Turkish seasoning from Penzey’s. I usually don’t add salt as the tomatoes are salty enough. Sometimes I’ll add some onion or garlic to the pot as well, or throw in some frozen corn kernels or diced bell peppers or some lima beans (if I’m feeling adventurous–lima beans kind of scare me).

Last night I added some gumbo file and a heaping spoon of old bay seasoning, which a friend gave me. Both Derek and I really enjoyed it–he said it tasted like gumbo, but since I’ve never had gumbo I can’t really comment.

I’ve followed recipes for vegetarian gumbo from a number of cookbooks, and I’ve always found them really bland. This simple recipe is way better than any gumbo recipe I’ve tried!

You could make this dish with fresh okra as well, but I never do, because it seems like a waste. I usually save my fresh okra for “fried” okra or that great Pakistani dish from Madhur Jaffrey.

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Napa cabbage with mayo, soy, and black pepper

February 11, 2007 at 7:45 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Cruciferous rich, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog)

I found this recipe on the something in season blog a long time ago, but never got around to making it. I bought a massive head of napa yesterday so decided to try it for dinner with leftover tamale pie.

· 1 small Napa cabbage (or about 4 cups of a larger Napa cabbage) chopped horizontally from the top at 1 ½ inch intervals.
· 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably Spectrum organic)
· 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce (preferably Eden low-sodium tamari)
· ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Steam the cabbage for about 10-15 minutes until the green part has turned translucent. The outside will be soft, but the center of the stems will retain a nice crunch. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined and drizzle onto the cabbage

My Notes:

After 10 minutes there was no crunch left to my cabbage at all. It was overcooked and sloppy. Nonetheless I withheld my misgivings and threw it in a bowl with the mayo and soy. I didn’t realize how wet the cabbage was though–the bowl immediately was full of water, and the dressing was extremely watered down. The cabbage black pepper combo is always one of my favorites, but the mayo flavor actually turned me off. Maybe if I made it again I would use soy mayo–and steam the cabbage for just 3 minutes, and drain it well before adding it to the sauce.

Derek said it wasn’t very good, but did finish off his whole plateful. He especially liked the soy sauce. I guess both of us like cabbage enough to eat even overcooked soggy cabbage.

This made two large side servings I would say–maybe three or four for non-cabbage lovers.

Rating: C

I had more cabbage so I tried a raw version of this recipe:


. 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
· 8 cups of sliced Napa cabbage
. 1/2 jalepeno, minced (with seeds)
· 1 tablespoon organic mayonnaise
· 1 tablespoon soy sauce
· ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

I chopped the cabbage, mixed the dressing, then tossed it. It made about 4 servings of 2 cups each. I really enjoyed it (I ate like 4 cups of it!). I was still a bit uncomfortable with the mayo taste though–if I make this again I’m going to try some other type of fat. But the basic recipe was quite good. A little spicy from the jalepeno, very vinegar-y, and nice and salty and peppery. I served it with barbecued tempeh and mashed rutabaga, and they all went together very well.

Rating: B
Derek: B

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Jicama Salad

February 11, 2007 at 7:38 am (Caribbean, Mexican & S. American, Quick weeknight recipe, restaurant inspired, Salads, unrated)

We had a jicama salad at Frontera Grill yesterday for brunch. It was made of long fat rectangles of jicama, small squares of pineapple, and long juliennes of cucumber, with the peel on. The produce was dusted with a slightly spicy chili powder, and they served it with lime wedges. Both Derek and I enjoyed it–a nice refreshing appetizer. Derek especially liked the cucumber. I thought the three flavors (jicama, pineapple, and cukes) didn’t really meld together–they each kept their separate identity, without really complementing each other. But the three separate identities were so yummy who cares! I tried making it with some Indian chile powder I bought (nothing like Mexican chile powder) and it was delicious. Definitely a keeper. Sorry but I didn’t record amounts. Next time.

Update: I just improvised a jicama salad and it didn’t turn out so well. I use long fat pieces like at Frontera, which were good. But I added an avocado and a grapefruit. The avocado pieces turned to mush when I stirred it and the grapefruit pieces kind of fell apart, and left the whole thing sitting in a huge pool of liquid. The pink grapefruit and greenish avocado left the whole thing looking kind of putrid green color. I added 1/2 jalepeno, and some lime juice, and a bit of honey, chili powder, and salt, then drained all the liquid out. It look a little more appetizing, but definitely not something I’d try this way again.

Update 2: I tried another Frontera Grill version except I didn’t have pineapple so subbed in mandarin oranges. Derek said he liked it better than the pineapple, but I thought it was not quite as good. Just a touch of salt, chili powder, and lime juice worked well–much better than the soggy mush I ended up with last time.

Update March 2010:  I made this with daikon radish instead of jicama.  The radish isn’t quite as sweet as the jicama but it’s a reasonable substitute.  I julienned the cucumber and daikon, and used my “french fry cut” blade for the pineapple  Next time I would use the french fry cut for all the veggies, but certainly for the cucumber.  I made the salad the day before and by the next day the salad was drowning in a sea of liquid.  Maybe if I had cut the cucumber into bigger pieces it wouldn’t have been so bad, but I think it’s probably best to not cut the cucumber until you’re ready to eat, and maybe the pineapple too.

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