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Basic Chickpeas

21 Jan

basic chickpeas

Yes, yes, another dried bean recipe… this one’s actually even simpler than my past basic beans. But chickpeas (which also spend time under the pseudonym garbanzo beans) are an especially easy bean to cook up. They’re extra creamy when cooked from dried and don’t even need a whole lot of aromatics – I only added a hefty amount of garlic and some olive oil to my pot. Although in the past I’ve refrained from adding salt to beans before they’re cooked, due to various rumors about it negatively impacting the texture, I’ve now changed my stance. While I still don’t add salt during the cooking process, I’ve started soaking my dried beans in salted water overnight, which I’ve found adds extra flavor to the finished beans and even seems to ultimately improve the texture. And since I’m talking about general tips for cooking beans, it’s good to know that while aromatics (such as onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and spices) will only improve your beans, anything acidic (like citrus, tomatoes, or vinegar) needs to be added after the beans have softened or else they’ll stay hard for hours on end. Of course, no matter what, cooking up dried beans does require some patience, since I’ve yet to cook up a pot of beans in under two hours, even after overnight soaking. But there’s so little work involved that it really just means experiencing the comforting, savory aroma filling your kitchen while occasionally sneaking a taste to check the texture.

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Basic Pinto Beans

14 Jan

basic pinto beans

I’ve most likely waxed lyrical on here about chipotle peppers before, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly appreciated them quite so much as when I saw them on a grocery store shelf for the first time in months. It’s been much easier to find some ingredients here in Montevideo than in Buenos Aires, despite it being a smaller city – I’m not positive on why, but I suspect it’s most likely because of the strict regulations and high taxes on imports into Argentina. Whatever the reason, I finally had my hands on a can of smoky chipotle peppers in spicy adobo sauce, and I knew I had to make good use of them. With my recent love of cooking up dried beans, it made sense to use these wonderful peppers as the flavor backbone for a pot of pinto beans. And they did not disappoint, imbuing each creamy bean with smoke and spice.

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Basic White Beans

7 Jan

basic white beans

When I first arrived in South America and found myself faced with a dismal selection of canned beans (the few that were available being expensive and poor quality), I was very disheartened. Beans are a staple in my cooking, and I wasn’t sure how I’d manage. Now, though, I feel glad to have been forced into cooking up dried beans. After many batches of black beans, I decided to try my hand at other beans as well. This basic recipe should work with nearly any variety of white beans – I can’t say exactly what variety I used, but they were the only dried white beans available here, labeled simply as “porotos alubia.” Whatever the variety, they’ve been great to have on hand for putting on salads or in soups, and when I ran out of the beans themselves, I even used the remaining cooking liquid to add extra flavor and richness to a simple lentil and vegetable soup. I look forward now to cooking up my weekly batch of beans, and I think this is a habit I’ll keep even after I return somewhere with canned beans readily available.

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Basic Black Beans

9 Nov

basic black beans

I know I already posted a recipe for cooking dried black beans (and quite recently too), but I couldn’t resist posting another one. My previous recipe has a long ingredient list and turns out a flavorful bowl of beans ready to be eaten plain, but this recipe is different. It’s much more basic, with a very short ingredient list (even shorter if you leave out the two optional ingredients, cumin and cilantro), meaning that you most likely have all the ingredients already on hand and can make these beans with almost no effort. I like this recipe for making black beans just to have on hand, to use in place of canned beans in recipes (a 15-ounce can is about 1 1/2 cups of beans, so this recipe makes the equivalent of about 4 cans). Onion and garlic give the basic backbone of savory flavors to these beans, and a little red wine vinegar stirred in at the end helps balance them, but it’s nothing fancy here, just a great building block for any black bean soup, black bean salad, or other black bean dish you might want to cook up.

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Pumpkin Puree

21 Nov

pumpkin puree

We’re approaching the end of pumpkin season, so I’ll be posting my very best pumpkin recipes this week and next week. Luckily, pumpkins keep well for a couple months (and the pumpkin puree in today’s recipe will keep good for 6 months or more when frozen) which means after you buy up those last pumpkins, you’ll have ample time to cook these delicious recipes!

When I was growing up, we never carved jack-o-lanterns; instead my parents would buy sugar pie pumpkins, and we’d draw on them with glow in the dark fabric paint. That way, after Halloween, my mom could roast the pumpkins to make puree. It almost feels a little silly to bother posting a recipe for pumpkin puree because it’s so easy, but since it’s a key ingredient in many recipes, here it is. You can really use any size pumpkin here – I roasted a 12-lb monster the other day and it gave me nearly 10 cups of puree. Most of the time, I’m sure that the canned puree suffices just fine, but I love going the extra step and making my own. It might all be in my head, but I feel like the fresh stuff has more flavor to it and tastes more squash-like – though this probably also depends on the variety of pumpkin you use. This puree is not only good for traditional pumpkin pies; I’ll be posting some less traditional recipes using it in the next couple weeks, and you can also stir it into yogurt or oatmeal.

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The Perfect Oatmeal

18 Nov

the perfect oatmeal

As the weather gets colder, I find myself craving a nice hot bowl of oatmeal in the mornings. Texture in food is important to me, so I prefer using steel cut oats which have a chewier texture (and nuttier taste). Although they take longer to cook, I typically cook up a double batch of this recipe on Sunday afternoon and package it up for breakfasts throughout the coming week. Then it’s only a matter of throwing it in the microwave for a couple of minutes in the morning (I also add a splash of milk when reheating as it tends to firm up in the refrigerator). I love playing around with different flavor combinations in my oatmeal; my default is bananas, brown sugar, and cinnamon (pictured), but all kinds of fruits and sweeteners work, and I’ve even played around with some savory flavors by adding cheese, spices, and umami-heavy ingredients. The result is a versatile, healthy, and delicious breakfast!

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The Perfect Roast Chicken

3 Oct

The Perfect Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken is a culinary feat I used to think was reserved for better chefs than I. But this recipe easily yields a perfectly cooked, succulent chicken and is actually much simpler than many other dishes I take on. There are a couple tricks that make this recipe a cut above the rest – brining the chicken is the main key to its juiciness, and cooking at a high oven temperature turns the skin a fabulous crispy golden brown. This is also a recipe with a lot of downtime, so you have the opportunity to take care of some of those chores you’ve been putting off while the chicken is brining, in the oven, or resting.

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How to Host the Perfect Pizza Party

16 Sep

anchovies, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions

Making pizza at my house is all about interactive cooking. People love assembling pizzas with a variety of toppings and watching delicious steaming hot pizzas emerge from the oven. Once you have a portion of the perfect pizza dough waiting in your refrigerator, it’s simply a matter of gathering guests and toppings. You’re going to want to plan on having one pizza per guest (and maybe one extra), and I find it’s easiest to provide the pizza sauce and cheese myself while requesting that guests bring a variety of toppings (check out my suggestions at the bottom of the post).

Keep in mind, one person will have to be dedicated to transporting pizzas in and out of the oven and keeping a close eye on them inbetween. This person will be quite busy the whole time but will also be very well-loved; choose wisely! In my house, my boyfriend typically fills this role because he deals much better with the running back and forth than I do.

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The Perfect Pizza Dough

12 Sep

The Perfect Pizza Dough

I’ve made a lot of pizza and I’ve tried all sort of dough recipes. But ultimately I’ve settled on this amazing standard, going back to the basics with just flour, yeast, salt, and water. Sugar and olive oil not only are non-traditional but also, in my experience, result in a dough that is harder to work with and not quite as tasty. Letting the dough’s first rise happen in the refrigerator adds a great complexity of flavor and texture – do not skip this step.

Make this dough today, and it will be perfectly aged by this Friday when I will post on how to host the perfect pizza party – with further instructions on assembling pizza, my unbeatable pizza sauce recipe, and some delicious topping ideas!

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The Perfect Pie Crust

29 Aug

The Perfect Pie Crust

Shortening is not an ingredient that I keep in my house; in general, I feel strange about any food where I’m uncertain about its processing and how it came to be. Hydrogenated vegetable oil? No, thanks. So naturally, I was enthusiastic to discover this amazing all-butter pie crust recipe. This recipe yields a flaky and flavorful crust that has worked well in every pie I’ve made.

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