Kimberley Hasselbrink comes at cooking with a photographer’s eye and a love for improvisation in the kitchen. In her introduction to Vibrant Food (Ten Speed Press, 2014; $25), a cookbook featuring her original, seasonal recipes and photos, she writes of her approach to recipe development: “Some colorful ingredient will capture my fancy, and I’ll begin to think about it. I’ll think about its texture, what would taste good with it, whether it needs sweet or salt or acid, and I’ll build a recipe from there.”
Because the recipes that evolve from Hasselbrink’s love for color highlight seasonal produce at its peak, the preparations she develops are generally fairly simple—allowing the main ingredient, be it rhubarb or squash or pomegranate, to shine. The result is a collection that presents both a visual treat (every recipe is accompanied by a full-color photo) and an accessible recipe that will bring even the most reluctant cook to the kitchen.
Carnitas Tacos with Apple Salsa
This is my riff on carnitas. It’s also my riff on pork and apples. I experimented with a few different fall and winter fruits for the salsa: citrus, Asian pear, and apples. In this context the apple salsa was the hands-down winner. It’s a lovely counterpart to the deep flavors and crispy texture of the pork—something bright and fresh to balance all that rich, succulent meat.
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Juice of 1 orange
2 cups water
1 large, sweet-tart red apple, such as Brae-burn or Pink Lady, cored and finely diced
6 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Juice of 2 limes
12 to 16 corn tortillas, warmed
1 to 2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
To make the carnitas, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ancho and chipotle chile powders, cumin, salt, and pepper. Toss the pork into the bowl and generously coat with the dry rub.
In a large, heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of pork as will fit in a single layer and sear until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.
When all the pork is browned, add the onion, garlic, orange juice, and water to the pot, along with any pork that was removed. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the pork is falling-apart tender and cooked through, about 1½ hours.
Remove the lid. Using tongs or a large fork, pull the pork apart to shred it. Raise the heat and cook, uncovered, until the liquid reduces and the meat begins to brown and crisp at the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.
While the pork cooks, make the salsa. In a mixing bowl, toss together the apple, green onions, cilantro, jalapeño, salt, and lime juice until well combined. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
To serve, top each warm tortilla with pulled pork, apple salsa, cabbage, and queso fresco. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Sweet Potato and Three-Bean Chili
There is a cult around heirloom beans. I didn’t get it at first—and then I tasted snowcap beans for the first time, and I understood. They have a creaminess that is luscious. They’ve become my favorite bean for chili. Using dried heirloom beans adds a lot of depth and texture to a bowl of chili, especially when it’s vegetarian. Your bean choices in a chili are wide open: in addition to heirloom beans, you can use meaty Christmas lima beans or petite black-eyed peas or classic kidney or pinto beans. The versatile sweet potato adds a little sweetness without adding refined sugar. It’s a hearty, filling bowl of smoky-sweet savory goodness. Note: You can use 4 cups of well-drained canned beans to save time soaking, and substitute chicken or vegetable broth for the bean water, if you like.
½ cup each of three dried bean varieties, such as snowcap,
scarlet runner, and cranberry beans
2 large yellow onions, one halved, one diced
3 large cloves garlic, one halved, two minced
1 dried bay leaf
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1 medium sweet potato (about 9 ounces), diced
1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated, for serving
Fresh cilantro, for serving
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving
In a large bowl, soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover by about 2 inches. This will yield about 4 cups of beans.
Drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans to a large pot with enough water to cover by about 1 inch, along with the halved onion, halved garlic clove, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are cooked through but firm, about 45 to 60 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.
In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat, add the diced onion and minced garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the diced sweet potato and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes more, until the sweet potato just begins to soften at the edges. Next add the chipotle and ancho chile powders and the cumin and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the beans, tomatoes, salt, oregano, and 1 cup of the reserved bean water to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is cooked through, about 60 to 90 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving, or cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The flavors of the chili will improve if left to sit overnight.
To serve, reheat if necessary. Ladle into bowls and top with the cheese and fresh cilantro. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt for some creaminess, if desired.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Smoky Red Pepper Soup with Pumpkin Seeds And Feta
I love what fire does to a pepper, making it lusciously smoky and rich. This soup takes the essence of a pepper and concentrates it. Peppers are one of those ingredients whose color is hardly diminished by cooking. I find that I need texture in a blended soup; this one is rounded out with pumpkin seeds toasted in cumin and a few chunks of salty feta cheese.
3 pounds red bell peppers (4 to 6 peppers)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extravirgin
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat the broiler.
Arrange the peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the peppers are mostly blackened. Remove from the broiler and set aside to cool.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins under running water. Pull the stems from the peppers and rinse out the seeds. Coarsely chop the peppers and set aside.
Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the sweet and smoked paprika, salt, and chipotle powder. Add the broth and the red peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
In a small pan over medium heat, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the pumpkin seeds and the cumin and sauté until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside.
Purée the soup using an immersion blender or food processor. To serve, top each bowl with the toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled feta cheese.
Yield: 4 servings
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food, written and photographed by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press, Copyright 2014). Available for purchase at randomhouse.com.