Flavor. We definitely consider it an essential part of the diet around here, but it’s not often that we talk about its direct relevance to nutrition. After reading a great article by Mark Schatzker last week, I was inspired to take a moment to highlight this underappreciated piece of the human nutrition puzzle.
Shatzker describes flavor as an “ancient chemical language,” which is such a beautifully fitting depiction of the science. “Flavor is the body’s way of identifying important nutrients and remembering what foods they come from.” We have evolved to seek out our favorite flavors, but we’re facing a problem because this synergy between us and our diet has been disrupted by our modern food supply. Factory farming and other questionable contemporary food production techniques yield lackluster products, in both nutrition and flavor. On top of that, a highly profitable industry of food scientists and flavor chemists have stepped in to fill the flavor void, adulterating products with enticing extracts and additives that tempt our senses but that provide none of the benefits that our bodies are craving. Shatzker’s new book, The Dorito Effect, is definitely going on my reading list. The message, which is very consistent with the way we do things around here, is to get your flavor from real food, because it’s what your body really wants.
So how can we put this theory into practice? Today, let’s remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated to craft big flavors from natural ingredients. Serving as a prime example: Chimichurri in a Hurry. Just a handful of the highly flavorful and nutritious compounds in this classic Argentine condiment include antioxidant myristicin from parsley, antimicrobial allicin from garlic, and anti-inflammatory capsaicin from chili peppers. And we get to enjoy all of those whole-food benefits in just a matter of moments thanks to my favorite blender-hack.
Continue reading “Chimichurri in a Hurry”
Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.
But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.
Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup”
Let’s talk. Today’s phenomenon? Food tasting better when someone else cooks it for you. There are exceptions, of course, but as the primary cook of a household where eating out is a relatively infrequent treat, there’s something special about enjoying a meal that was crafted with love by hands that were not my own. There are a lot of factors at play, but I contend that one of the biggest draws is the potential for cooking revelations. Basically, I’m a fan of my cooking, but I know all of my own tricks. I experiment with new things, but every move I make is informed by my tastes and experience. When we’re lucky enough to be at another cook’s mercy, we get to experience food through their perspective. Their skills, their preferences, their history.
After moving back to San Diego, we’re happy to be reunited with some old friends who are Really Good Cooks. I’ve finally entered the phase of life with casual-dinner-party-ping-pong, and it is the BEST. I get a new outlet for cooking and sharing my creations, and also a steady supply of revelations. And as a result, I got to eat the best fish burrito of my life thus far. If you know how many burritos I eat, you’ll know how serious this is (hint: this is pretty serious.)
Continue reading “Baja Fish Burritos”
Last summer was my first time eating bún – a refreshing Vietnamese salad of cold noodles, charred meat and crunchy veggies. It was during a week-long trip to San Diego that I took with Grant to make preparations for our cross-country move. This kind of trip, I learned, is exhausting. We spent hour upon hour driving around the city, touring apartments, submitting applications, finding out that the last unit was snatched up by the nice young couple ahead of us, and starting all over again. Day in, day out. I don’t mean to complain – I’m grateful we had the opportunity to move, and all hurdles are just the expected challenges of real life. But in the thick of it, we were in serious need to escape and recharge – physically and mentally.
Continue reading “Fresh Vietnamese Noodle Bowls”
Last week I cooked up a big batch of chickpeas with intentions of hummus, but accidentally under-cooked them a little. They were tender enough to eat, but weren’t quite able to blend into a smooth puree, so I bagged them in the freezer for later use (in case you’ve never tried, this is a great way to store cooked beans – the texture doesn’t suffer at all from freezing/thawing).
When I rediscovered them while foraging my fridge for lunch on Saturday, I had visions of chana masala… but I needed something a little more casual. I don’t currently have a favorite recipe for the classic north Indian chickpea curry*, and at the time I wasn’t interested in dropping everything to find one. I just wanted the essence of the dish – spicy garbanzos – in a quick and simplified way. If I could also find a quick and simple substitute for the experience of an accompanying naan… that would seal the deal.
Continue reading “Curried Chickpea Wraps”
Quick dinner! This is one of my favorite deceptively simple dishes that ends up tasting greater than the sum of its various nutrient-dense parts. Crunchy fresh vegetables pair with a spicy saute of beans – my favorite type for this dish is the dark red kidney bean, which I cook with minced onion and peppers, until they have crisp exteriors and creamy middles (yum!)
Continue reading “Bean & Slaw Tostadas”