Q: I had a brain lapse at the grocery and forgot that I prefer french (Puy) lentils in my standard lentil soup because the brown ones turn to mush. Now I have two pounds of brown lentils! Got any good vegetarian recipes starring brown lentils?
When we were young(er) and broke(r), I didn't know what to do about meat. I'm a meat eater and, nursing a newborn, I was always hungry. Fine. That's just an excuse. I'm just a big eater, lactating or not. I didn't want to subsist on rice and beans, and tofu wasn't all that cheap. The meat I craved was grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free, and preferably from a nearby farm. The good stuff does not come cheap! Our $10 weekly vegetable co-op bag formed the base of our menu, and I learned to use meat sparingly.
When I was in my 20s I decided to live alone, finally, after sharing homes and apartments with an ever-changing stream of roommates. That first year in my solo apartment was the genesis of my desire to learn how to cook well. I knew how to follow a recipe, but I realized there's so much more to becoming a cook at ease in the kitchen. I remember staring at a pile of brown and wilted vegetables in my fridge and thinking how recipes are nothing more than the gleaming tip of the iceberg, shiny and alluring, but not signaling the many demands they make on a cook: how to shop, how to plan, how to make the most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry every single day.
There were a few recipes that got me through those early days of starting to acquire the 95% of kitchen knowledge that isn't found in recipes. No matter how empty my fridge, I always had eggs, lentils, and spices, and maybe you do too. If so, this is the simplest weeknight meal — homey and comforting.
I don't want to start any bean wars here, but we might be doing it all wrong. Like a great many of you, I was taught never ever to add salt to beans until the end of cooking or else risk hard, crunchy beans that take forever to become edible. But I recently took a chance on a bean-salting tip I picked up from Cook's Illustrated. The results? They've been very surprising.
One of the best ways to guarantee perfectly cooked beans — ones that emerge creamy and tender instead of crunchy or mushy — is cooking them ever-so gently over low, steady heat. Hmm... low and steady heat, you say? Sounds to me like a job for the slow cooker.
Side dishes are accompaniments that should complement a main dish, make it better, and accentuate its positives. Plunking down an afterthought on the table next to the pièce de résistance is like telling your date to a black tie affair that it’s ok to wear underwear. Some sides are quick and easy like this spicy kale. Others turn a usual suspect on its side, as in the case of this butternut squash. Salads like this slaw, aren’t “just a salad,” but rather attention-getters in their own right.
And sometimes a side dish requires more effort than the main dish it’s meant to bolster. These beans fit into that category and yield results that are worth your time.
Chimichurri may not have been invented for tacos or, for that matter, vegan tacos. But this Argentine condiment shouldn't be limited to the grilled meats it traditionally accompanies. I love chimichurri stirred into vegetables and find that its bright and garlicky, tangy flavor especially complements greens like kale. Add some black beans, wrap it up in a tortilla, and top with avocado, and you have a quick yet flavorful and nutritious weeknight dinner.
Cobb salads are a weekly occurrence at my house. They are filling, fast, and can be modified to suit any preferences, plus they are a great way to use up leftovers. This version is loaded with zesty barbecue chicken, black beans, and cheddar jack cheese for a Southwestern spin on the American classic.
Pressure cookers are great for making all sorts of delicious meals, from risotto to stews, curries, braises, soups, and even beyond to desserts like cheesecake. But what really keeps the pressure cooker in full rotation in my kitchen is its workhorse function: nothing can beat it for quickly cooking grains, rice, stocks, and beans. Today we'll look at how you can cook a pound of beans in the pressure cooker in significantly less than an hour.