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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Kitchen Mailbox: The promise of comfort food warms winter

Thursday, January 04, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

It's January, it's cold, the holiday season is over, and the Steelers aren't going to the Super Bowl -- so what can we possibly look forward to until spring? Comfort food.

So, for the next few months, Kitchen Mailbox will tempt you with hearty casseroles, soups, desserts and other tasty recipes sent in by our readers.

We'll begin our comfort food journey with a delicious recipe for Black Bean Soup. With the first spoonful of this soup, we knew it was a winner. It's overflowing with the wonderful flavors of red onion, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, garlic and black beans.

We meant to feature our last recipe during the holiday season, but time and space worked against us. But we figured there's never a bad time for a unique recipe. The recipe is hummus -- with a twist. It's made with green olives instead of chickpeas. We served this hummus with thin slices of French bread. The hummus and bread disappeared in minutes.

Barbie-Ann Barnes of Baden found this recipe in "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes" by Todd Wilbur. This cookbook duplicates restaurant chain recipes.

To add extra flavor to this soup, try Barbie-Ann's suggestions: "This soup is also very good with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro added to it while simmering and/or as a garnish. You may want to try some shredded Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese on top as well."

Black Bean Soup,
Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon

2 15-ounce cans black beans
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 teaspoons chopped pickled jalapeno slices
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cider or wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

4 teaspoons chopped red onions
6 to 8 jalapeno slices
1 tablespoon sour cream

Pour the canned beans, along with the liquid, into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining soup ingredients and mix.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, adding water if necessary or until it's as thick as you like.

Serve each bowl of soup with a garnish of red onion, jalapeno slices and sour cream arranged carefully in the center of soup.

Stacy Port of Mars requested a recipe for green olive hummus similar to what they serve at Cafe Zinho in Shadyside.

"I'm not sure if my recipe is exactly what she is looking for, but I have a recipe that I sort of developed from ingredients on a jar of a similar product. My husband and I ate this frequently as an appetizer on our honeymoon in Italy" -- Deborah Freedman, Point Breeze

Green Olive Hummus

1 cup green olives, no pits
2 tablespoons blanched almonds
1 teaspoon basil, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup olive oil

Drain and rinse the olives thoroughly. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add oil in a thin stream while continuing to process, until you have a coarse puree.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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