Basics to Bean A Foodie

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I went home to visit my parents recently and had an interesting and amusing conversation with my dad.  He had just started reading my blog and was wondering if the recipes I showcase were my own.  So I replied, “dad… of course they are.  Otherwise thats plagarism.”  I had to laugh because he kept on asking how I knew what I was doing.  He just couldn’t figure out “how I know what to put together.  How did I come up with it?”

So I figured if he was interested, maybe other people would be interested in how to begin a great recipe too.  So I’m gonna let you in on a few techniques I use to turn my dishes into something delicious (most of the time).  To start, I think in general, it takes a lot of practice, a lot of mistakes and a lot of messy kitchens. But with time it becomes second nature and you rely more on your own preferences than you do on a recipe.  But the number one trick I use on a regular basis is a “base.”  A base is a few ingredients that form the initial flavorings of a dish.  I generally use aromatics in my bases – ingredients that provide a good aroma and taste to recipes – such as garlic, onions, celery, carrots, leeks, herbs, etc.

One of my go to bases is a mirepoix (pronounced meer – puah) – a combination of onions, celery and carrots.  See the picture above!  You can sauté this mixture in butter or olive oil and it will nicely flavor any soup, stew, sauce or even something like meatloaf. I use this combination so much that I barely even think about it – it really is second nature.  You might be familiar with a different version of the mirepoix called the holy trinity.  This is an equal mix of onions, celery and green peppers and is generally used in  Cajun and Creole cooking.  Another go to base is just plain old garlic and onions.  I use this combo just as much as the mirepoix.  Also, any combination of herbs (dried or fresh) is a great start to any dish.  You’re just looking for a combination of ingredients that will impart a slight flavor and aroma to your dish – not overpower it.

Once you got the flavor base, you can add just about anything and still have a dish with a nicely balanced flavor.  Take for example my garlic and onion base – throw in some diced eggplant, summer squash, yellow bell pepper and a can of diced tomatoes and you got yourself a delicious ratatouille.  Or start with the mirepoix and then add 3 cans of rinsed cannellini beans, 1 quart of chicken stock, 1 head roasted garlic and blend up for a nice white bean and garlic soup.  If you’re ever in doubt on how to start, pick your favorite flavor base combinations and start adding a few ingredients at a time to build up your dish.  Don’t go crazy at first – start slowly and use what you know best.  With time you’ll feel more comfortable using more flavor bases, different spices and herbs and different ingredients to make a complete dish.  I encourage you to experiment – make a few messes – and enjoy yourself in the kitchen. Soon enough you’ll have the basics to bean a foodie down too!

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