My friend Aaron gave me a good idea a few weeks ago because he said he hates recipes that use ingredients you’ll never use again. He said he ends up omitting ingredients that he wouldn’t see himself using in the future. This point is very true, which is why I like to simplify my cooking as much as possible. So now I’m starting a new category – Ingredients you’ll always use.
The first ingredient is one of the simplest things to make, and it’s a perfect staple food to have in the cupboard. Buy it plain in bulk from the bins, and try to avoid the flavored packaged version. Packaged mixes are good, but if you want to control the flavor and have more versatility, then get the non-flavored.
It’s the easiest thing to make. If your smart enough to boil water, then you 100% wont have any problems cooking this. Just bring one cup of water to boil, add 1 cup couscous, turn off the heat, and wait 5 minutes till the couscous sucks up the water.
Recipe for 3-4 servings:
- 1 cup plain couscous
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 tomato
- small handful cilantro
- 2 teaspoons dried chicken bullion
- 2 teaspoons bragg amino acids or soy sauce
- Bring water to boil. Add couscous, chicken bullion, and bragg. Stir. Turn heat off and cover with lid. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Chop tomato and cilantro. Add to couscous
- Eat warm or cold
This is my new favorite dish. It’s a perfect appetizer. It’s very simple and looks beautiful. The ingredients are inexpensive. It’s super fresh but still bold in flavor. What more could you ask for? I’ve done a chimicurry in the past, but this one is a bit different. I’ve added fresh thyme and oregano, and I think it really changes the flavor.
Try to use fresh oregano and thyme. It’s well worth the extra cost. If you don’t already have a plant of each growing in your garden or in your window, just use the two dollars you would have otherwise spent at the grocery store buying cut herbs and buy a plant. They are only three dollars at the home depot. They grow like a weed and you can’t kill them. Having herbs fresh at your fingertips is well worth it.
Recipe for 4 servings:
- 1 pound calamari steak
- Handful of cilantro
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 packed teaspoon fresh oregano
- 1 packed teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 red chili finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground bay (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- lemon zest
- Cut calamari steaks in thin strips. Add salt and pepper
- Warm pan on medium heat WITHOUT OIL. When pan is warm, add oil, wait a few minutes, and then add calamari. Starting with medium heat avoids spitting oil and allows you to cook the calamari with a nice crust. After adding to the pan DON’T touch the strips. Just set the temp on medium low and let cook. They will stick at first, but they will lift off when the crust forms. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium low on each side. Remember medium low. Cook them slower and they will be more tender. It’s the slow down cook more philosophy.
- In a food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, oregano, thyme, and bay powder and pulverize. If you don’t have a food processor your can do it the old school way like I do. Just finely mince all the ingredients with a knife and bash it up in a pestil and mortar. Then add the oil and lemon juice to the mixture and stir it together. Add salt and pepper to taste. This can be made a day ahead of time if you want.
- When the calamari is crispy and delicious, just combine it with the chimichurry and top with more chili and lemon zest. Eat warm or at room temp.
When I was in Costa Rica, I ate this combination of rice and beans every morning, which they called gallo pinto. This same thing eaten at lunch is called arroz y frijoles (rice and beans), but for some reason they call it something different for breakfast. I thought that eating rice and beans for breakfast would be odd, but it turned out to be a really good way to start my day. The combination makes a complete protein, and it is surprisingly delicious with ham and eggs. I also had more energy throughout the day because this is a powerful combination. As soon as I came home, I tried to recreate what I ate down south, and this is what I came up with.
Recipe for 2 Servings:
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 cup cooked black beans
- 1 small pepper (half a large pepper)
- 1 tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
- small handful of cilantro
- 1/2 stick of celery
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- Cook rice and beans from dry (or used canned beans). You can cook the rice and beans the night before and eat some for dinner, and make a little extra for the next morning.
- Finely chop pepper, tomato, cilantro, and celery.
- Add lime juice. Mix everything together and serve with eggs.
This is the soup I made from the ridiculously cheap squash I got from the farmers market featured in the last post. If I find a deal on any ingredient, I just buy a bunch and figure out how to use it. This keeps me trying new things and new recipes. If your ever confused on what to do with an ingredient, just look it up on google or youtube.
This is a simple recipe that is quick to make and perfect for the holidays. You can use summer squash, butternut squash, or any squash you come across.
Here is the recipe for 4-5 servings:
- 1 squash (any squash in the 1 lb range)
- 1 yam
- 1 cup of cooked white beans
- 1/4 stick of butter
- salt and pepper
- Remove seeds from squash, rinse, and put in a pan on low. Add salt and a touch of cinnamon.
- Cut squash and yam into big chunks and remove skin, add to a pot, and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook till tender (about 20 minutes)
- Drain water but reserve 2 cups. Add one cup of water at a time while blending. Check the consistency and add water as needed to get the consistency you want.
- Add cooked white beans (either from a can or homemade)
- Add butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- The squash seeds should be crispy and dry when they are done. They take about 30 minutes on low. You can eat them separately or add them to the soup.
This is the easiest thing you’ll ever make. It is fresh, healthy, and versatile. You can use it as a dip, make veggie rolls out of it like the photo, or you can water it down to make a simple soup. Please try it, then make it your own.
It’s a simple process. Soak 2 cups of dried garbanzo beans for a minimum of 4 hours. Replace water, bring to boil, turn to medium low and simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes.
Make Minh’s coconut turmeric sauce from the previous post. Blend the garbanzo beans with 1 cup of water. Slowly add the sauce a little at a time until you get the flavor intensity you like.
This is a cool way to use the hummus. Just spread some on chollard or kale leaves, add grated carrot or sprouts on the inside and roll it up. Cut up and eat. You’ll get your greens, oranges, and carbs all in one bite.
My friend Minh creates sauces that are not only delicious, but they are designed to be medicinal for specific ailments. This sauce uses anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric and garlic, so if you have aches and pains in your body caused by inflammation, this sauce will help. There are also antiviral properties in coconut cream and garlic, so they will help your immune system fight off viruses.
If you want to take your cooking to the next level, and give your food to give you a little extra health just research the benefits of certain ingredients and intentionally use them more often.
I really like Minh’s concept of using sauces. He makes sauces that are so rich and flavorful that he doesn’t add seasoning to the meat or vegetables he puts it on. Simply cook some chicken and any veg, and drizzle the sauce on top in the amount you like. This simplifies cooking.
Here is the recipe for 2-3 servings:
- 2 cups coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons turmeric
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- zest of 1 lemon
- Blend all ingredients.
- Add to medium saucepan and simmer on low for 5 minutes
- Add seasalt to taste and lemon zest
- Put over anything you like
I’ve been very obsessed with trying different peppers in different combinations to make really quick and fresh sauces. This one is a bit less spicy than the recipes I’ve had before because it uses mild pablano peppers.
Please Note: You will probably go crazy trying to find pablanos because supermarkets for some reason call them pasillas, even though they are really pablanos. Do some research, everyones confused – or just buy pasillas knowing they are pablanos.
This is simple recipe with a simple process, but I know your be pumped on how fresh it tastes. Put it over grilled chicken or white fish. It’s mild, sweet, healthy, and mellow.
Recipe for a quart mason jar full of sauce:
- 6 pablano (pasilla) peppers
- 4 tomatillos
- 1 onion
- 2 handfulls of finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 1 handfull of cilantro
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Remove seeds from pablanos and rough chop all peppers and onion.
- In a large pot, cover everythig with water, add apple cider vinegar, and bring to boil. Then turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Put everything in a blender along with the parmesan cheese, cilantro, and salt and blend until smooth.
I love creating simple recipes to be packed and eaten in the outdoors. My perspective on cooking is that recipes should be simple, minimally processed, and full of flavor. Simplicity allows you to taste the quality ingredients by balancing few complimentary ingredients. This salad is as simple as it gets, and the quality of the ingredients is what makes it. For this reason, I think it is very important to cook the garbanzo beans from dried beans. I won’t make any guarantees if you use canned beans.
The process of cooking garbanzo beans is as simple as it gets. It’s not rocket science. Yes it takes a slight amount of planning, but if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you’ll be able to do it. Just try it.
Here’s the 2 step process for making garbanzo beans from scratch:
- Soak garbanzo beans for 8-12 hours in a pot. You can do any amount you want. Just remember that they’ll double in size.
- Drain and rinse. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then turn to medium low for 30-40 minutes. Stop freaking out. It’s not hard.
- 2 chicken breasts cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 5 cloves garlic
- palm full of fresh thyme
- Cut chicken breasts into cubes
- Finely chop garlic and thyme
- Marinate in white balsamic vinegar, garlic and thyme
- Add JUST THE CHICKEN without the marinade to the biggest pan you have on medium high. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn heat down to brown it a bit and evaporate the juices. Then add the rest of the marinade and cook for 5 more minutes and stir every 2 minutes.
- Refrigerate to cool down.
- 2 cups garbanzo beans
- 1 Romain heart
- juice of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Add lime juice, white balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil in a small mason jar and shake to combine.
- Finely chop Romain lettuce.
- Slightly mash garbanzo beans with a fork. The dressing will get picked up better in the bean this way.
- Combine garbanzo beans, lettuce, and dressing.
If you are going to eat this out on a picnic, or if you taking it to work don’t combine dressing with the salad. Just keep it in the jar and add it to the salad when you get there. This will ensure the lettuce it is fresh and crispy.
One of my friends gave me a tortilla press for my birthday a few months ago, and I finally got around to trying it out. I thought it was going to be more of a hassle than it actually is, but it turns out to be very quick and easy to do. The dough comes in a premade mix, and all you have to do is add water, salt, and lime. The dough is easy to work with, it’s not messy, and it’s very easy to clean up. Above all that, the taste of these tortillas is far above any store bought ones.
The mix I have is called Maseca, and it can be used for tortillas, empenadas, tamales, and gorditas. Its super easy. Just follow the instructions on the bag. I added lime and a touch of olive oil. Make little dough balls, and use a tortilla press to flatten them. Tortilla presses are relatively inexpensive and worth buying if you are going to make tortillas often. I cut a plastic ziplock bag and used that to press the dough in between. Then you just pan fry each side for about a minute.
Here is a recipe for delicious stewed chicken that can be used for tacos and tamales.
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 10 yellow peppers
- 3 sweet peppers (or Pasilla peppers)
- 4 tablespoons of smoked paprika
- 1 onion
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
- juice of 2 limes
- Remove seeds from chilies and rough chop. Chop onion. Put in pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
- Strain most of the water, but leave about a cup, and blend chilies and onion.
- Cut chicken into chunks and add to pepper mix. Add smoked paprika.
- Add apple cider vinegar and bring to boil, and simmer on low for about 2 hours. The chicken will cook, then be tough, then will break down and become soft. If it is tough, keep cooking on low until it turns very soft and tender. Cooking it long and low will make it tender. Just make sure it has some slight bubbling action.
- When the chicken is soft, shred it with two forks.
- Add lime juice when it is done cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve been trying to replicate this salsa from Mamma Testa’s restaurant down in San Diego for a while now, and I think I’m pretty close. No other salsa I’ve ever tasted compares to this one because it uses Parmesan cheese to make it creamy and salty. It’s very good. Here is my rendition of it.
The most important part is to make it and then LET IT SIT in the fridge for a day. Let all the ingredients to become friends, and you’ll taste the love. It’s the key last step that needs to be taken.
The chili guero, more commonly known as yellow chili in your grocery store, is the key ingredient. The person at the Mexican market said this is translated to gringo chili because its white. The flavor of the guero is the cornerstone for the recipe, so don’t replace it with any other chili.
- 15 guero chilies
- 5-7 garlic cloves
- 1/2 onion
- handful of fresh grated Parmesan
- juice of 1/2 lime
- Remove seeds from chilies and chop into quarters
- Rough chop onion
- Cover chilies and onion with water in a large pot and boil for 20 minutes
- Cut 5 garlic cloves in half and roast in pan on medium low with the skin on. Roast for 15 minutes.
- Drain water from the chilies, squeeze out garlic into mixture, and add lime juice.
- Hand grate fresh Parmesan! Please don’t use pre-grated Parmesan because it will taste like crap.
- Add Parmesan and blend until smooth. Let sit in fridge overnight.