I can get pretty stubborn about food. Once I think I don’t like an ingredient or a dish, I will avoid it forever if I don’t make myself, from time to time, retry the foods that I’ve had bad experiences with. Call it a very low-risk act of courage. If I can face cilantro or rutabagas, I don’t have to face my fear of heights or anything that has the potential to result in bodily harm. I’ve learned to like, even love, lots of foods, especially vegetables, just by giving them a second chance. (To be honest, I haven’t re-tried the dreaded rutabaga yet; some experiences are just too traumatic to go through again.)
About 9 years ago, I had a hummus pizza in a restaurant in Estes Park, Colorado, that left me convinced that I just didn’t like hummus that was heated above room temperature. (I wrote a few underwhelmed words about it here.) So, though I’ve recently embraced the joys of hot baba ganoush, I’ve stayed away from any recipe that would have me stick my precious chickpea dip into the oven. But when I saw the absolutely gorgeous Turkish Hot Layered Hummus on a blog called Panning the Globe, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. Go there and look at the photos and you’ll see what I mean.
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In the past, beans were considered a humble food, a source of protein for the common folk before it became affordable to eat meat daily. Today, beans are generally seen as a side dish (barbecued beans)–or the province of vegetarians. People tend to think of them as bland and boring, and cooks often add meat or, at the very least, herbs and spices to give them flavor. Because of beans’ unpretentious reputation, you may be a little surprised to learn that there are gourmet beans, beans grown in small crops from heirloom seed with price tags befitting luxury legumes. The biggest name in this small crop endeavor is Rancho Gordo, a California company that currently offers over 35 different types of naturally GMO-free beans. (The specific varieties change often due to availability.)
I first tried Rancho Gordo beans about a year ago, when I found Yellow Eye beans in one of the “fancy food” chain grocery stores. I didn’t have high expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that there really was a difference in flavor from “regular” dried beans. Just as noticeable as their delicate flavor was their texture, which was creamy yet firm. I hoped to experiment more with Rancho Gordo beans, but the local store stopped carrying them. After looking for them around town, I finally gave up last month and ordered 10 pounds of beans from the company’s website:
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