Beans

Spicy Merguez with Spinach and Borlotti Beans

spicy merguez with spinach and borlotti beans

Every so often you encounter a recipe that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. That was the case when I was thumbing through an old book in my collection: Daniel Boulud’s Braise, which he co-wrote with Melissa Clark back in 2013. This is one of those books that’ve survived many a cookbook cut because (a) braising is my favorite cooking technique (so much reward for such little effort); and (b) the recipes in it are fascinating. Like this recipe for Spicy Merguez with Spinach and Beans. It’s not that shocking to imagine lamb sausage, spinach, and beans together; but the technique is what left me shooketh.

Borlotti Bean Soup with Swiss Chard

borlotti bean soup

The pandemic really changed people’s relationship to beans. In the time before we were all locked into our abodes, bored out of our minds, beans had a negative connotation; as in “that’s not worth a hill of beans” or “you’re full of beans.” Now being full of beans is a good thing. People look at heirloom dried beans like they’re looking at jewels; and getting a membership to the Rancho Gordo Bean Club is harder to get than a membership to The Soho House. Not to toot my own horn (though tooting comes easily when you’re eating a lot of beans), but I was way on the heirloom bean bandwagon way before it was cool. I was cooking Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallards back in 2012. And my cabinets have always been filled with the good stuff; most recently, Borlotti Beans from Italy (via Gustiamo) which I transformed into this robust but springy Borlotti Bean Soup with Swiss Chard.

Birthday Enchiladas

When Craig and I first started dating back in 2006, my friend Patty asked what sign he was and when he said Aquarius she weighed that against the fact that I was an Aquarius and concluded: “It’ll never work. Two Aquariuses? I don’t see it.”

Seventeen years later, we’re still two Aquariuses battling it out. And February is of course our favorite month because we both get to celebrate our birthdays. For my birthday this year, we went to Antico Nuovo and ate pasta and ice cream and had a grand old time. For Craig’s birthday this year, we went out to Kato and ate an extravagant tasting menu of exquisitely plated seafood dishes. But before that, I threw another birthday bone Craig’s way (I’m such an Aquarius) and made him a dinner he’s always wanted me to make: his mother’s enchiladas. Only I dialed them up a little and turned them into birthday enchiladas.

French Green Lentils with Bacon, Red Wine, and Mushrooms

Speaking of being shattered, did I tell you that I shattered my favorite Italian pasta bowl a few weeks ago? Well, someone suggested I go on Replacements.com to find its doppelgänger. I looked at the name of the designer, Richard Ginori, and didn’t find my beloved bowl, but I found so many cool ones, including the one you see above. So I ordered that, and a Pinocchio bowl (you can see it on my Instagram) and last night I decided to cook something to go into it.

One day I’m going to tell you about all of the plates that I buy on Etsy and Ebay. It started a few years ago, after I finished my first TV job, and I was feeling a little flush with cash and instead of buying a new car or a gold watch, I bought a vintage pasta bowl from Italy. That led to the French bread plates with the orange rims, the dessert plates with hot air balloons on them, and then a set of Italian clown plates that arrived shattered. I was shattered too.

Spicy Black Lentils with Charred Eggplant and Urfa Chili

Cinderella has to pick lentils out of the fireplace in order to go to the ball (at least in Into The Woods) and for a long time I thought to myself, “At least she doesn’t have to eat them!”

There are so many foods that people associate with “health food,” they’re anything but enticing. Lentils definitely have a prominent place on that list. (The guiltiest offender? “Nutritional yeast.” Can you think of a food with a more awful name? I can’t.) And yet, just like The Best Broccoli of Your Life changed the way we think about broccoli, Ottolenghi has a recipe for lentils that’ll shift them into the category: “Something I really want to eat!”

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Calling a cookbook “essential” is a bit clichĂ©, 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.

For me, that blindness is made manifest on my cookbook shelf. I have hundreds of cookbooks — five Inas, for crying out loud — and yet so few of my cookbooks are by people of color. It’s an embarrassing state of affairs, one that I’m in the process of remedying; after interviewing Samin Nosrat on Instagram Live, I immediately bought some of her new favorite cookbooks, including Maangi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking and Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar.

Cook A Pot of Chickpeas, Eat For A Week

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?

Brian’s Red Beans and Rice

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.

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