Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a couple of great new things i've learned about cooking...

i ain't no chef, that's for sure. but recently i've learned a few tricks that have been REALLY helpful in terms of making food that is cheap, healthy, easy to make and tasty.

first, baking my own bread. if I can do it, just about anyone can. i used to think that baking bread was about mixing, and kneading, and letting it rise, and then punching it down and letting it rise again, adding mysterious amounts of flowers, consulting a psychic to know i it was ready and blah blah blah. turns out it doesn't have to be. i found an AMAZING book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." i found it via a NYT article. the only special equipment required is a pizza stone (even that you can skip and do it in a loaf pan if you don't have the stone.) the book claims you need a pizza peel to slide the dough onto the stone, but you don't. i've used a cookie sheet with no lip as well as a cutting board. i'm hoping to get a pizza peel sometime now that i've made literally dozens of thease loves, because i know it's something i'll use. but i digress.

The original NYT recipe is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/dining/211brex.html Try it out and see for yourself. If you like it, I do recommend getting the book, because it shows a milion variations like foccaccia and pizza dough, flat bread etc. the dough keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, (and in fact it gets better with time) and so when you're ready to bake your rolls or pizza, or whatever, you just tear off a hunk and bake it. it's been exciting for me, the smell of fresh baked bread, tasty pizzas, etc. yippee for bread.

second, beans. i have made my own black beans for years, on the stove. they've always been good, but they've always taken a lot of intensive effort. soaking the beans, chopping the stuff, skimming off the foam, stirring, turning down the heat, checking them... blah blah blah. i made them one time in the crock pot (just threw the beans and all the stuff in and let them bake overnight.) the beans were good, but not as good as usual. finally, i found the secret that i think makes the best black beans ever with very minimal effort: you cook the beans in the crockpot for about four hours with just salt, THEN you add the garlic, onion, other spices, etc., and cook them for another hour or however long you want. delicious. if you're not into beans, well, not as exciting. if you're me, this is excellent news! tasty beans without having to work hard on them? excellent. incidentally, i got the idea to cook the beans this way from this site:
www.cookforgood.com. it, also, is a great site, worth checking out.

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