This post was originally published in December 2014 and was updated in November 2020.
There are certain recipes that I am fairly confident in at first glance: they contain a favorite ingredient (portobello mushrooms, asparagus, chocolate) or riff on a beloved flavor combination (olive oil, rosemary, and garlic). But my favorite new recipes are the unexpected wild cards. Sometimes I pick out wild card recipes because I'm trying to use up a particular ingredient; occasionally it's because I'm looking for a quick weeknight dinner to add my rotation. But usually, it's because I trust the author.
Several years ago, I spent six months cooking from The Heart of the Plate and became a big Mollie Katzen fan. I finally found a cauliflower recipe I enjoyed, and spring farro became one of my all-time favorite dinners. But where The Heart of the Plate really shines is with recipes like lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea soup. The ingredients are simple: a bag of dried chickpeas; onion; some cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice for seasoning; and a finishing garnish of parsley and crushed red pepper. Nothing flashy, nothing I haven't tasted before—but the combination and cooking method make it into one of those dishes that's great the night you make it, but even better for lunch the next day when you have all morning to look forward to it.
This Peruvian potato-bean stew is another sleeper of a recipe. Potatoes and canned beans: does it get more basic than that? But the addition of chili powder, cumin, a poblano pepper, and lime juice give this hearty dish zest. Be sure to cut the potatoes into half-inch pieces, so that they cook in a reasonable amount of time.
Adapted from The Heart of Plate, by Mollie Katzen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- large poblano pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 4 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- dash of black pepper
- sour cream for serving (optional)
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and tilt to evenly coat. Add onions, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, poblano pepper, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, cover again, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Gently stir in the beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until beans are warm, about 5 minutes. Season with lime juice and black pepper.
Serve with sour cream, if desired.