Cowboy Caviar

Pardon the unglamorous photos, but we haven’t made this recipe in *years* so we immediately devoured it without elegance in mind.
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When I was an undergrad, I occasionally visited one of my good friend’s homes. At one of the visits, her mom made cowboy caviar and I fell in love. I copied the recipe, brought it back to my family, and it was a “thing” in our house for a while.

10 to 15 years later, I no longer have the recipe — but my friend still did! She immediately emailed it to me when I asked her about it. It took a few weeks (months?) before I finally got around to making it, but man, it’s still as good as I remember it.

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Cowboy Caviar

Serves 6 to 8 people as a side, great to bring to a party

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans OR black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 11-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 firm and ripe avocados, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar OR lime juice, to taste (see recipe notes)
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (see recipe notes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Put all ingredients in a large bowl, gently mix to coat. Add more seasonings as needed. Eat as-is or serve with corn chips!

 

Recipe Notes:

  • Instead of canned, I happened to use fresh corn this time: sliced it off the cob, put it in cold water, and drained it after it reached a boil.
  • I’ve used more than one clove of garlic before and have been happy with the results. I have to keep in mind: is it safe to bring to work for lunch?
  • The original recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but any sort of liquid acid will work reasonably well. (Maybe stay away from apple cider vinegar!)
  • For the hot sauce, the original recipe says the “Taco Bell” version, but I simply grab my trusty bottle of Sriracha and run with that. (Two teaspoons didn’t seem to work for me — I like a little comfy heat — so I probably added closer to three total.)
  • Lastly, the recipe said to throw in a little oil of some sort, but it doesn’t suffer whatsoever without it.
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Lentils & Brown Rice, a staple dish

So, I have no photos of this dish.  It’s not exactly pretty looking on it’s own either.  It’s so good that we inhale it before we even think about taking a picture!

This is a simple dish and, though far removed from the original Lebanese staple of lentils and rice that it’s based on, it’s hearty and filling and guilt-free.

When we’re in a hurry, we eat it on tortilla chips and top with blended pickled jalapeños that I keep in a squeeze bottle and/or my creamy tomatillo dressing.  If we have more time, we add even more toppings, such as: lettuce, a sprinkle of lime juice, cilantro, olives, onions, tomatoes, salsa, avocados, etc.  If you’re really in a hurry, throw some in a bowl and scoop up with tortilla chips!

Simplified Mjeddrah (Lentils & Rice)

Serves 6 hungry people

  • 1 1/2 cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon mushroom seasoning OR salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chicken OR vegetable seasoning/broth powder (use 2 tbsp if not using salt)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos

Put all ingredients into crockpot and cook for 4-5 hours on high.  Add water as needed.

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe makes a lot for a single person, even for just two people.  You can easily halve it if wanted.  You could also cook it as-is and freeze the extras in single portions for a quick meal later.  Also, if you’re starting this before you leave for work, I’d recommend cooking it on low and adding an additional half cup of water.
  • You don’t have to cook this only in a crockpot – you can use any large enough pot on the stove.  You’ll just need to add water throughout the process.
  • What’s the difference between brown and green lentils other than their color?  Green lentils fall apart less when cooked, brown ones have a tendency to become a bit more mushy.
  • I’m sure purists will say that this dish needs a specific type of onion.  We decided to simplify our life and only use red onions from now on because of their higher antioxidant content when compared to any other kind of onion! (We all need to eat more antioxidants at every meal anyway.)
  • I usually don’t use chicken or vegetable broth powder.  I tend to season this with only mushroom seasoning and Braggs – it always turns out great.

Food is nice, Thai food is better

Right now, I’m done with day two of final exams. Counting them all up, there are seven exams total. I’ve done four of them already and am mentally tired–tired of studying, reading notes, looking at questions. I can’t wait for noon this Friday.

Today we had an endodontic marathon: the written and lab exams. The written went okay; the lab made me sweat bullets. Well, mostly the instructor for our row, who is also our grader, made me sweat bullets. He’s a very nice guy, very knowledgeable, and actually doesn’t grade hard, but he’s very particular before signing you off for anything and it’s hard to guess what he’s thinking. (Usually I’m imagining that he thinks I’m doing something dumb, but I’m pretty sure this is just my head playing games with me.) Thankfully I finished the lab exam, a root canal on an upper front tooth, with half an hour to spare. Phew!

During times of stress like, oh, a week long of exams, I find myself hungry. Often. It must be my body trying to cope with the stress. I’ve found that a decent substitute for food grazing all day is to instead look at websites and pictures of good food.

Last week, Andrew’s younger brother Arthur was visiting. Since he was a student missionary in Thailand for a year and I was looking for some reason not to study during a day off, I offered to make some pad thai.

When Arthur was overseas, I went along with his family to go visit. While there, I had my first taste of street pad thai. I finally realized what all the fuss was about and fell in love with it. Previously, I never cared for it, but it’s because it’s just made differently in the States, even by those who are Thai. On the other hand, after having pad thai in Thailand, my opinion has changed dramatically–so much so that I’d be willing to fly to Thailand just to travel around and eat food from all over the country. (I’d do the same for Indonesia and be happy, too.)

Long story short, pad thai is awesome, wonderful, tasty.

After getting back home, I found myself ordering this noodle dish whenever we’d go to a Thai restaurant only to be disappointed time and time again. I started looking for pad thai recipes online and just couldn’t find any that described it right.

Until I ran across Chez Pim’s recipe.

After reading her very detailed explanation, I knew I had to try it. And really? Making pad thai is pretty easy. The only thing that is hard to do is all the prep work, but that’s only because it takes a long time.

What I like to do is make the sauce ahead of time and pour it into an old squeeze bottle. This makes it’s easy for adding to the noodles as I go along. (Another bonus: it lasts for a long time in the fridge.) There are few other things I do differently from the recipe: I just use any ol’ skillet and it works just fine; I use olive oil for the fat; I’ll substitute part or all of the fish sauce for soy sauce; since I haven’t the slightest idea where to find flat-leaf garlic chives, I use green onions instead.

After heating up the oil in the pan, add the not-quite-done rice noodles that were soaking in hot water and stir until the oil coats everything.

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Adding the sauce comes next. Stir till it coats all the noodles.

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Push the noodles over to the side. Crack an egg, let it sit for a while, then stir to mix it in.

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Next comes the bean sprouts,

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ground peanuts, chili flakes,

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and finally the green onions and a bit of cilantro.

making pad thai, pt.8

When I’m done with the pan and the food is on a plate, I always add more cilantro and squeeze copious amounts of lime on my serving of pad thai.

making pad thai, pt.9

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Delicious!

After making it the first time a few years ago, I realized this is the closest it’ll ever get to the street pad thai I had overseas. I used to make it with tofu but have since become too lazy to fry it. Nowadays, I just heap on the bean sprouts and other fillers.

I….I think I just might have to make pad thai again real soon.

Well, after final exams are over.