One Bag of Beans, Three Meals (Balsamic Pork Chops, Chorizo Dinner Tacos & Breakfast Tacos)

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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.

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Summer Black Bean Chili with East Coast Grill Corn Bread

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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.

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Yesterday’s Beans Are Today’s Bruschetta Topping

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This post combines three recent posts into one scrumptious bite: (1) Rancho Gordo beans; (2) My Love Affair with Toast; and (3) My Very Own Herb Garden.

Let’s start with the toast: instead of a jam-topped breakfast concoction, this toast moves in a more savory direction. I toasted it just like normal (I couldn’t cut a thick slice because Craig bought pre-sliced sourdough bread; I forgive him) and then–here’s where we go savory–rubbed it with a garlic clove and then drizzled it with good olive oil (Katz’s, if you wanna know the details).

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What’s Up With These Black Chickpeas?

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At Cookbook, the delightful store in Echo Park where I bought my first bag of Rancho Gordo beans, I came upon a bag of black chickpeas. “What’s up with these black chickpeas?” I asked the nice people there.

“They’re just like regular chickpeas,” said Robert, one of those nice people. “Except…well…they’re black.” With a sales pitch like that, how could I not buy a bag? So I bought one and brought it home.

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One Bag of Lentils, Two Dinners

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There are two kinds of people who cook at home: the first kind chooses an elaborate recipe, buys all of the ingredients, spends hours cooking it, invites friends to eat it, spends hours cleaning it, and takes the rest of the week off. The other kind has long-range vision, makes a large batch of something and uses that batch to feed his or her family for the rest of the week. This kind of home cook–the true home cook–is resourceful, inventive, and frugal without letting that frugality show. And, lately, I’m proud to say, I’m shifting from Column A to Column B. Let me prove it to you with a bag of lentils.

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Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallard Beans with Lamb Sausage (By Way of Echo Park)

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The best dinners are the ones that have a story. This is one such dinner.

It started on a typical day: I was driving to Silverlake to eat lunch at Forage (one of my favorite places to grab a bite here in L.A.) and to have coffee and do work at Intelligentsia. Only, it was street cleaning day which means half of the normally available spots were no longer available. I circled and circled and started to go a little crazy. Trying to find a parking spot isn’t something I had to do in New York; here, it can be a totally maddening experience, especially as you pass the same landmarks again and again, not one car budged, not one person dangling their keys.

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Chickpea Curry

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One of my favorite things to make on a weeknight, these days, is a kitchen cupboard chickpea curry. It goes like this: I open my kitchen cupboard, pull out a can of chickpeas, a bag of rice, a tube of tomato paste, a can of coconut milk, and as many spices as I feel like using. It also helps to have an onion, garlic, ginger, lemons (or limes) and cilantro, but only the onion is essential there–the other stuff just makes it that much better.

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Stewed Borlotti Beans with Polenta

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My favorite way to cook, the cooking that makes me happiest, is the kind of cooking you do on the fly: no planning, no prepping. You just see what you have already on hand and you make dinner. And often that dinner is way better than the dinner you spend a week prepping for, shopping for and methodically executing. I have a theory about this. The theory involves cravings: the food that you crave in a specific moment directly correlates to something that your body wants. So, when you’re making dinner on the fly, if you add an extra pinch of red chile flakes? That’s because your body’s craving some heat. And that’s why the dinner you make on the fly is often so satisfying.

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