If you’ve ever read the blog Smitten Kitchen, you’re familiar with Deb Perelman’s particular style of effortless but soul-satisfying recipes, and they don’t come without a healthy dose of humour either. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to come out from whatever rock you’ve been living under and get with the program, man.
Over the years I’ve come to trust her recipes the same way you might a well-loved family cookbook passed down through generations. They’ve weaved themselves into our every day, providing warm comfort on cold days (baked potatoes with wild mushroom ragù), inspiration when you’ve shot yourself in the foot by promising a wedding cake (hazelnut brown butter cake), or a salad that goes the distance in 30 degree heat (skirt steak salad with blue cheese). Reading her entries on the blog feel akin to sitting down for coffee with an old friend.
So when Appetite by Random House asked if I’d be interested in taking a look at and cooking something from Smitten Kitchen Every Day, I relished the idea of catching up with an old friend (in my head, of course) via a new book full of charming stories and accessible dishes that put some excitement back into every day cooking.
I spent a good day pouring over the recipes with a pot of tea by my side. Dog-earing pages and making lists of what ingredients I needed to pick up to make the jam-bellied bran scones on page 8, the broccoli melts on page 94, the halloumi roast with eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes on page 116 and the kale dusted pecorino popcorn on page 291. The recipes will have you tossing together a healthy meal for your family in as much time as it takes to order a greasy pizza (which we have nothing against – but sometimes you just want something real and satisfying). Unfussy enough for hectic weeknight meals, but posh enough to impress on a date night at home or a Sunday dinner with friends.
I made the Bacony Pintos with The Works on page 197-198 and have been slowly devouring them through the week, the toppings always changing slightly to suit what we have on hand. Beans are like tiny flavour sponges and to waste an opportunity to cook them in the presence of BIG flavour is an even bigger waste. Thankfully Deb knows what’s up and developed a recipe that provides pillowy soft beans packed with fragrant spices and zippy heat. Add to that a roster of acidic, salty, crunchy, fatty and luscious toppings and you’ve got a meal that works for just about everyone in the family. They hint to a comforting bowl of baked beans, without the cloyingly sweet additions of ketchup or molasses, that have been kissed with TexMex flavour and punch. I am ALL ABOUT them and I think you should be too!
- FOR THE BEANS
- 1 lb dried pinto or light kidney beans, soaked overnight in cold water that covers the beans by 1"
- ¼ lb bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cayenne or a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 4 cups vegetable broth (if using salted, reduce the amount of salt you add to the mix)
- FOR THE FIXINS
- Soft Flour or Corn Tortillas (estimate 2 per person)
- olive oil
- ½ Medium White Onion, minced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- juice from ½ lime
- 1 large avocado, diced or sliced
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- sour cream/Mexican crema/plain yogurt
- FOR THE BEANS
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- In a large skillet, cook your bacon pieces over med-high heat until crisp. Set aside on a towel-lined plate to absorb acess fat.
- Remove all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat and turn heat down to medium.
- Add the diced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until just starting to turn golden. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add in the tomato paste, spices and cayenne/hot sauce and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the salt and your presoaked beans. Cook for 60 minutes, checking in after 45 to see if they are cooked through or if they need a bit more liquid to finish cooking. If after 45 minutes they aren't cooked but are looking dry, add in ½ cup of stock and keep cooking until they are tender.
- FOR THE TORTILLAS
- About 30 minutes before your beans are done, cut your tortillas into wedges and brush with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread them out snug on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp and starting to get some golden colour (if you can't fit in your oven at the same time as the beans, bake them after the beans are out while they cool a bit).
- FOR THE RELISH
- Combine the onion, jalapeno and cilantro with the olive oil and lime juice. Season with salt to taste. If you want to tweak by adding more or less of any ingredient, go for it.
- TO SERVE
- Serve the beans in the skillet they were cooked in, adding the crumbled bacon over the top and serve with the fixins on the side. Let everyone build their perfect plate of fully-loaded baked beans.
I also had a few tomatoes to use up so I added them to the relish, making it more of a salsa. I'll share the recipe as written though, and if you feel obliged to toss some diced tomato into your relish - brilliant! If not, these will probably still be the best beans you'll ever eat.
Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Text and photographs copyright © 2017 Deb
Perelman. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.