Calling a cookbook “essential” is a bit cliché, but that’s not the case with Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee, this year’s James Beard Award winner for Best American cookbook. We’re in a state of reckoning right now in America, a necessary reckoning that’s had reverberations in the food world (see: Bon Appetit) and has forced many of us to question our own blindness when it comes to racial inequality.
Here’s an idea for your weekend, and really there’s not much to it. While you’re sitting around on Sunday, reading the paper or doing a marathon of Orange is the New Black, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Drop in half an onion (leave the skin on), a carrot, a piece of celery and a whole head of garlic. Then pour in a big bag of dried chickpeas. If you’re bold, add a pinch of salt (though some say this changes the texture; I haven’t found that to be true). Lower to a simmer and cook for 20 to 40 minutes, tasting after 20 to see how far they have to go. Keep ’em going until they’re incredibly creamy on the inside (it’s tempting to stop when they’re merely edible, but creamy is what you’re going for), adding more salt as they chug along to help ensure that they get seasoned all the way to the center. When they’re seasoned and creamy, take the pot off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature. Then pop it in the fridge. What now?
My newsletter readers (you do know I have a newsletter, right? Another one’s going out later today: sign up here!) went nuts last week when I shared a picture of my friend Brian’s red beans and rice and didn’t offer up a recipe. “Can you get the recipe?” one replied. “Where’s the recipe?” wrote another. “You owe $15,000 in back taxes,” wrote the U.S. government. I e-mailed Brian and he said he couldn’t help with the taxes but he’d gladly write up a recipe.
Oh kale, you’re everywhere. You’re in my belly right now because I just had you for lunch (a raw salad that was a little too spicy from Little Dom’s Deli). You’re a fad, you’re a trend. You’re chips, you’re juice. You’re unavoidable in L.A.
And here I am putting a recipe with kale in it up on the blog. Have I no shame? Am I the equivalent of an insecure middle schooler who chases the popular kids around yelling, “Hey, guys, wait for me!” (Funny: when I started high school, one of the first friends I made–an older girl–actually said, “You seem like the kind of kid who’d say, ‘Hey guys, wait for me!'”) Whatever.
Pride in the name of dinner: I’m really proud of this healthy dish I came up with last week. It started in the morning when I cracked open a bag of black chickpeas, poured them into a large red bowl, filled it with cold water and left for the day. 8 hours later, when I came home, I drained off the liquid, put the chickpeas in a pot, added more cold water to cover and threw in a head of garlic, a bay leaf and a few dried Arbol chiles. Up to a simmer it went, I added salt (breaking convention) and cooked for about 90 minutes until a chickpea tasted creamy.
The New York Times recently published an article with a powerful first sentence: “About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.”
I like this news because it’s not like it’s saying “all delicious things are bad for you!” It’s saying: “Hey, you can eat really delicious things, just not In-N-Out burgers and milkshakes, ok?” And though I don’t imagine I’ll be giving those up any time soon, it’s good to know that I can maintain a mostly Mediterranean diet by doing the following: pouring a bag of dried beans into a bowl of cold water before starting my day.
If I’m lucky enough to write another cookbook, I’d like to write one about using pantry staples. That’s how you separate a cook from a recipe follower: the recipe follower makes a list, buys what they need for that recipe, cooks it and repeats that process again the next day. A cook opens the refrigerator, opens the pantry, and makes dinner with what they find. That’s what I love to do most and what I’d like to teach other people to do.
Start, for example, with a bag of dried beans. You know I’m really into the Rancho Gordo brand, but you can use any dried beans. These ones were Pinquitos, but use any small brown beans for this formula.
My cookbook photographer Lizzie Leitzell is in town for a wedding and, of course, I had to have her and her fiance Kyle over for dinner to catch up, to reminisce about our cookbook travels and to talk about what we’re working on now.
The nice thing about having Lizzie over for dinner is that she’ll take much better pictures of the food than I ever will. Hence, the picture above is much nicer than the one I would have taken. You should see the size of Lizzie’s lens.