This week has been full of discoveries and culinary creativity. Cooking school is keeping me busy, but I feel more and more relaxed and in my element every time I cook unfamiliar dishes using new techniques and skills. It’s always best to use fresh ingredients, so these days, I go to our local grocery store at least twice a week to get ingredients for my cooking assignments. Most days, my sweet husband asks if there’s anything I need from the store on his way home from work. It’s always a huge time saver for me, and by the time he comes home, I usually have a few cooking assignments made for dinner. I love when it works out that way!
Sweating the Small Stuff
I’ve always loved to cook, but it’s always been my dream to learn foundational cooking techniques. Now that I understand the basics, my cooking repertoire has become more efficient and intentional. I’ve been getting rid of bad cooking habits I’ve picked up over the years. For example, I used to usually cook with my heat setting between medium to a little over medium-high for the entire cooking process. These days, I usually start on the lowest heat setting to sweat my aromatics and mirepoix (a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables used in various sauce). Did you know that when it comes to aromatics like garlic, shallots, and onions, it’s best to ‘sweat the small stuff’? I didn’t!
Sweating is not for every recipe, but it’s usually the best way to enhance flavor in your dish. It works best for making stocks, clear or light-colored soups, and a variety of other savory dishes. I usually prefer quick cooking and like to cook my garlic to the golden brown state before adding the rest of my ingredients. I laughed when I realized I’ve been cooking my garlic and onions wrong all these years! That explains the hint of nutty bitterness that I’ve been tasting. Eureka!
My husband got his own stand-up comedy show the night I did the garlic sweating assignment. We both discovered I like to talk to my garlic, especially when it takes what seems like an eternity (about ten minutes) to sweat them. My task was simple: dice two cloves of garlic; heat up olive oil in the frying pan; cook one garlic clove on the lowest setting and the other on medium heat; add water and let the garlic simmer; pour the liquid into a container and drain the garlic to set aside and cool; and finally, taste, observe, and record the difference in taste and color between the two.
Well, a couple times, I did things out of order. One time, my old habits took over and by ‘default’, I started ‘cooking’ the garlic on medium heat, instead of ‘sweating’ them. Yes, that one didn’t take long to brown! Another time, I managed to skip two steps. When I finally got it right (thirty minutes later), I definitely savored the moment.
Here’s a photo of my liquids.
The clear liquid on the left had a surprisingly pleasant light sweetness to it. The liquid from the dark brown garlic test had a strong and undeniably bitter taste. It also had a hint of nuttiness to it, but the bitterness was definitely quite overpowering.
The batch cooking section was exciting for me. Now, I’m less intimidated by batch cooking for the week on Sunday afternoons. With proper planning and preparation, it’s possible to get all your batch cooking done in ninety minutes. Within that time, you can wash and chop ingredients, soak beans and seeds, pressure cook legumes, steam or boil grains, soak beans and seeds, make dressings and sauces, make stock, and wash and chop salad ingredients. All these things help to make cooking less stressful and time-consuming throughout the week.
The Pressure is On!
During the pressure cooker section, we decided to invest in an electronic slow/pressure cooker. I’ve always been a bit paranoid around pressure cookers (especially the traditional stovetop/manual ones), since they always look like a steam bomb waiting to explode. After doing a lot of research, we decided to get the Breville Fast Slow Pro. It’s a multicooker that allows you to pressure cook, slow cook, reduce, saute, steam, and sear. Because it automatically adjusts time, temperature, and pressure, I’m able to get other chores done while it cooks our food. My favorite features is probably the LCD screen which tells you how much pressure is still inside the cooker. My second favorite is the automatic steam release setting, which lets you know when it is safe to open the cooker.
The first thing I cooked in our pressure cooker was a white bean soup with dino kale and potatoes. Yum! My legume cooking assignment was to pick a legume and prepare it two ways. For the first half of the assignment, I decided to make crispy roasted chickpeas and tossed them with some of my favorite herbs and seasonings. Oh, they were soooo yummy and had the perfect crunch!
Here they are, all ready for the oven!
Here’s how they looked after roasting in the oven for twenty-five minutes.
Oh. So. Crunchy!
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 (15 oz) can
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, massaged
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pat the chickpeas dry between two paper towels. Be sure to remove any loose skins.
- Pour chickpeas into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the dry seasonings and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the mixture onto the chickpeas and toss to coat.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Stir the chickpeas at the 15 minute mark.
Question. What is your favorite chickpea recipe? Do you like to eat them sweet? Or savory? Please leave a comment by clicking here.