When I first set out to start a food blog and considered what I wanted it to be like and where I hoped it would fit in the spectrum of food blogs that already existed, I wasn’t sure what my expectations were, so I started the blog without a clear idea of my purpose and figured I’d do my thing and discover it along the way.
I never wanted my blog to be purely about food. I hoped that I’d write interesting content, share bits about my life and where food fit into my daily routine, and start meaningful conversations about how cooking, living and appreciating meals and ingredients make our lives more exciting and dynamic.
Now, more than a year after my first post, I think I finally realized what my blog’s purpose is. (That took long enough, no?) I think I was, perhaps, the last person to discover it.
First, Truffle Honey is a place where I document my food experiences, usually within the realm of cooking and baking in my tiny Manhattan kitchen. Blogging about food, one of my favorite things to talk about, gives me the opportunity to experiment with new recipes and ideas, and discover ways to write and share my experiences in a public forum. Second, this blog is really a first hand account of a mid-twenties girl navigating her way through cooking and baking in a way that novice young cooks who are in the same situation as I am can appreciate and learn from. Many of the food blogs that exist today are written by professional food writers, chefs, and seasoned home cooks who can make certain dishes while blindfolded and who work with ingredients in a way that I couldn’t imagine since I just don’t have their level of experience. While I may love reading the blogs of all of those wonderful people, I realize that my blog is on a different level, and is geared toward a different audience. I didn’t always realize this, but I do now.
I think I’ve been looking for a mission statement of sorts that would help me develop my ideas more clearly so that people who come to this space have a solid notion of why my blog exists and what it attempts to accomplish. At the end of the day, I’ve realized that this blog is a way for me to share relatively healthy, budget friendly, time saving meals with some fun treats mixed in for good measure to people who, like me, are learning to use their kitchens in a meaningful way and are excited by the prospect of trying new food, learning new things, and navigating our way through the things that 20-somethings face every day. Because, while life isn’t easy for anyone, I suspect that the confusion that so many of my peers experience at this age is something that is uniquely understood by us. We’re learning to fit into our adult selves, figuring things out, traveling, not knowing what we want to be when we “grow up,” living in tiny apartments, trying to save money whenever possible and learning to enjoy our lives, cities, families and friends all while working less than ideal (or not, if you’re lucky) jobs and exploring our passions. It’s quite a ride.
Now, back to the food. One of my favorite things to prepare for dinner is different variations of rice and beans. I know that might sound boring or lame but I assure you that it’s not. It’s incredibly healthy, is easy to prepare and is, generally, on the inexpensive side. It’s also adaptable and can really contain any myriad of combinations or styles.
My first recipe for rice and beans was simple, unadorned and as uncomplicated as could be. This version? It’s much more interesting, exciting, spicy, contains more ingredients, and is topped with a spicy, smooth vinaigrette. It’s the sort of salad that can be eaten right out of the fridge, or right from the stove or at a picnic, potluck, at the dinner table, or pretty much anywhere you can find a fork. It’s a perfect lunch or dinner, is still inexpensive to prepare, and reminds me, every time I eat it, that sometimes the most simple dishes are the ones I remember making the most.
Rice & Bean Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Total Time: 45 minutes
One of Sarah’s suggestions, which I think is very useful if you can plan ahead, is to make the rice the night before and store it in an air tight container in the fridge. When you use it the next day, it is completely cooled and the rice granules are sturdy and aren’t stuck together. In case this idea helps, if you want to make the rice ahead of time, you can just throw it in the rice cooker or on the stove while you’re making dinner the night before you make this salad, then just put it in a Tupperware and into the fridge til the next night.
For the Salad:
1 ¼ cup brown basmati rice, cooked and refrigerated overnight
1 15-oz can black beans
2 small zucchini
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
Handful of chopped cilantro or parsley
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons coarse salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
Fresh ground pepper
Juice of 2 limes
1/3-2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used the smaller amount but you could use more if you’d like to.)
1.Cut the zucchini into ¼ inch flat strips and toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Grill the zucchini (I used a grill pan to do this and it worked wonderfully) until there are grill marks on both sides of the zucchini, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the zucchini from the grill pan, allow it to cool a bit, then dice it.
2. You’ll want to roast the corn so it’s slightly caramelized and smoky. It tastes great this way. Trader Joe’s sells frozen roasted corn, so if you can get your hands on that, you’re golden. If not, just buy regular corn and toast it in a skilled with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for about 5 minutes until the kernels are golden brown.
3. In a large bowl, mix the zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, corn, black beans, cilantro and rice.
4. To make the vinaigrette, combine salt, cumin, chili powder and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify it for a minute or two.
5. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve at room temperature, if possible.
Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers