To read my original post, Dried Beans; how to cook (Basics) published April 2013 (click here)
As much as I do love the idea of a pot of aromatic dried beans bubbling away on the stove for hours on end, more efficient cooking methods are now a consideration well worth exploring. I had been using my finicky old pressure cooker as an alternative to slow cooking beans, but it was sadly lost in transit. Enter the Instapot! I admit I was reticent at first about taking a leap, but my utility bill spurred me into action. After much research I placed an order.
I have to say my Instapot is a marvel! It is a pressure cooker without all the hissing and fuss, or a lingering t thought of a steamy explosion. My very first go around with my Instapot delivered perfectly cooked dried pinto beans in just 30 minutes!
I followed my no old standby cooking methods. No pre- soak for the beans and no salt until the beans were fully cooked.
A few words about sourcing your dried beans. This is tricky business. Know your source! The age of dried beans vary widely and this does matter. Buy organically grown dried beans from a reliable vendor rather than relying on supermarket varieties that may be old and take hours rather than minutes to cook. I have been sourcing dried beans from Rancho Gordo in California for years. They offer an extensive selection of top quality dried pulses at competitive pricing, and wonderful customer service.
Cooking dried beans using an Instaapot
- 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed
- 6 or 7 cups water( hot water speeds up the process)
- aromatics of choice and sea salt to taste after the beans are fully cooked.
Suggested aromatics: peeled garlic clove ,¼ cup diced onions, a pinch of ground clove for pinto beans, and epazote (click here for info) small chipotle chile (optional)
Add the beans to the Instapot along with the aromatics and water.
Move the lid of the Instapot into the locked position.
Choose pressure cook and then choose manual high pressure.
Set timer for 25 minutes or 30 minutes for very soft beans.
The Instapot will shut off automatically.
Cancel the keep warm button and Let the Instapot cool for at least 10 minutes.
If you want to release steam manually move the valve to the venting position and release steam carefully. Or do as d I do and just let the pressure reduce naturally.
You can then salt the beans to taste.
Before serving transfer the beans to a container using a slotted spoon and pour the cooking broth into a separate container. Add just enough reserved cooking broth to just cover the beans before serving or before refrigeration.
If you prefer a richer broth simply mash some beans into a paste and stir into your beans, then warm as needed and serve.
Be sure to save any cooking broth that is left over. The broth is ideal for adding to stir-fries or when sauteing.
Keep in mind cooked dried beans have a lovely earthy flavor all their own their own. Season accordingly.
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s colorful history, culture, customs and of course its irresistible food that is celebrated around the world on the 5th of May.
So let the celebrations start in your very own kitchen. The first thought that always comes to mind is guacamole that has been part of the Mexican diet since Aztec times and pairs well with any Mexican meal you may be planning. The process is quite simple and the results are sublime if you taste as you go. Avocados and chiles can vary greatly but can be brought together with a balance of heat, lime juice, salt, and an attentive palate. I’ve always find this ritual as comforting as it is ultimately delicious.
Ingredient quantities are approximated and will vary to suit your own taste preferences.
Above all keep in mind this is an adventure in cooking that will continue to evolve every time you make a guacamole!
Best to prepare guacamole several hours before serving as it is best when chilled.
- 2 or 3 ripe hass avocados, green with lumpy skin or Puebla avocados ,dark with smooth skin
- a small yellow onion, finely diced, amount to taste
- serrano, jalapeno, and or red chiles, seeded and finely diced, amount to taste
- sea salt to taste
- freshly squeezed lime juice to taste
- chopped cilantro leaves to taste
- a tablespoon of avocado or olive oil ,optional, but it does add a nice richness and texture.
Cut avocados in half around the seed and and twist to remove the seeds, saving one to use later. Spoon the flesh into a mixing bowl and mash together with a bean or potato masher just until combined.
Add the diced onions, dced chiles, and salt and mash together bearing down enough to release the liquid in the onions and chiles as you mash away.
Add lime juice and swirl in until combined. Then add the cilantro and mix until well combined.
Taste and add more chile, salt, and lime juice as needed until the guacamole’s flavors dazzle like a chilled fresh lime juice margarita wit an assertive lingering heat.
Transfer the guacamole to a non reactive container and place the reserved avocado seed in the center. Legend has it that this will help keep the guacamole fresh and green. Press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole. Put the lid on the container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Serve the guacamole along with margaritas and appetizers, with the main courses or a buffet. And do not be afraid to include guacamole with non Mexican meals as well. I’ll be having guacamole and salsa verde (see recipe here) with my Chinese stir fry tacos later this evening!
An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.
Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.
Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.
Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.
With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.
Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!
My huitlaoche alternative
Makes enough for 3 servings
A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
- 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.
Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.
When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.
When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.
To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.
Grilled Corn omlettes
For each omlette:
- 3 organic eggs
- pinch of salt
- a splash of water
- 1 teaspoon salted butter
- 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
- 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
- salsa verde (see recipe here)
- sprigs of fresh cilantro
- Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.
Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.
Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.
Rotisserie chicken soup seems to be getting a lot of buzz these days. It’s a given that those beautifully browned super market rotisserie chickens more often than not fail to live up to expectations, so why not repurpose the chicken for a better outcome. The bones will make a very flavorsome stock for any hearty home made soup that strike your fancy.
The Mexican rotisserie chicken soup recipe that follows is just one of many possibilities you might choose for your rotisserie chick soup. The idea is to be creative and utilize what you have on hand. The objective is to make a hearty soup with all the depth, character, and flavor of a hearty regional chicken soup from any culture that inspires you.
Mexican Rotisserie Chicken Soup
A whole rotisserie chicken, skin, meat, and bones separated
For the stock:
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- reserved chicken bones and skin
- 6 quarts water + more as needed
- 1 bunch of cilantro sprigs or broad leaf parsley
- 12 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot and add the onions and sauté until the onions have softened. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened.
Add the bones and skin and stir to combine. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the cilantro or parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the marjoram.
Bring the pot back to a boil and lower the heat too a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours. The broth/stock should have reduced by about half.
Let the stock cool and then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Be sure to press the solids and bones as you strain to extract all their flavor. Set the stock aside and discard all the solids.
Once the stock is cool skim off excess fat and discard. Otherwise refrigerate the stock and skim off the fat once it has solidified.
For the soup
Prepare ahead: flame roast or broil 1 large red bell pepper and 1or 2 green serano chiles until charred. Place them in a bowl and seal with cling film and set aside to sweat. When cool enough remove the charred skin and discard. Open the pepper and chiles and remove seeds and membranes. Slice the red pepper into thin strips and cut the stripe into 1 inch lengths. and finely dice the serrano chiles .
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2½ cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ quarts stock
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
- pulled rotisserie chicken
- 1 prepared red bell pepper and serrano chiles as described above above
- salt and pepper to taste
Add the oil to a sock pot set over medium heat. When hot add the onions a sauté until the onions soften. Add the corn, carrots and sauté for several minutes. Then add the stock and bring the contents of the pot to a simmer. Add the marjoram and cook for 20 minutes.
pull the chicken into bite size strips and add them to the soup and bring back to a simmer.
Add the prepared red pepper strips and diced seranno chiles and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- tostada chips
- fresh cilantro leaves
- fresh lime wedges
Bring the soup to a simmer and ladle the hot soup into individual serving bowls.
Place the tostada chips, cilantro leaves and lime wedges on the table to be add to the soup to each persons liking.