black bean taquitos with black bean guacamole + some thoughts on the big gooper’s latest cookbook

chicken taquitos

There’s something about Gwyneth Paltrow that reminds me of dissecting earthworms in the 11th grade. The innards are gruesome to look at, but you can’t seem to turn away. In fact, you’re compelled to dive right in. Or maybe this is just the part of me who secretly wishes she had the drive and competency to be a surgeon finding its way into a blog post. There’s so much about Paltrow that’s worthy of ridicule: the patrician insouciance, the lithe frame, the pizza oven in her backyard, the unconscious coupling nonsense, the bad acting, the why-is-she-famous-while-Winona-stews-in-obscurity questions, Contagion, our laughter during Contagion–the jokes write themselves, so much so that it’s almost too easy. I unsubscribed to Goop two years ago because I couldn’t read her newsletter without wanting to take a shower afterward it was so banal, basic and out-of-touch. Paltrow-bashing, for most, has become a pastime sport.

But those fucking cookbooks.

Mostly I tell people that I like Julia Turshen’s (Gwyneth’s former collaborator) cookbooks. When I had to abstain from gluten, dairy, yeast (gluten-free bread was verboten FOR A YEAR), and 37 million other foods, Paltrow’s It’s All Good was a gentle reprieve. That and the Oh She Glows Cookbook whispered: you’re not going to die, face-down, in a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Not yet, anyway. Finally, I regarded cauliflower with a reaction that no longer resembled disgust.

Yet, I read her cookbooks with a perpetual side-eye. From the Kinfolk-esque photographs of her dreamily staring off into her multi-million landscape that breeds that “simple life” and the endless name-dropping (we get it, you’re besties with Beyonce) to a pantry that costs multiple paychecks to stock, it’s hard not to drop-kick her cookbooks while eating the delicious meals I made as a result of said cookbooks. It’s really hard.

I’ll be honest–I was looking forward to It’s All Easy because I wanted simple, healthy recipes that I could make at home on the days I have back-to-back conference calls and Powerpoint has me seeing double. But then I got the cookbook and sighed because, oh, it’s her interpretation of easy. Easy for the patricians, but rough for the plebeian-crunching lot. I cook often and have a pimped-out pantry, but some of the ingredients had me doing a double-take: who has Gochujang paste, Ponzu, Sambal oelek, kuzu root, and Bonito flakes on hand? I don’t even know what these ingredients are (although I’m clearly curious) much less have confidence that my local grocery will have them in stock. The point-of-view is curious–a mish-mosh of Tex-Mex, Korean, and vegan fare–to the point where the book felt a bit ramshackle even if the most of the recipes score well in terms of ease and flavor.  I paged through the book, read through her insufferable name-dropping and did that squinty thing I do with my eyes when I’m confused.

But some of the recipes (at least the ones with ingredients that were easy to procure) are pretty good. I’ve made her falafel (I did the chickpea soak thing and I am DONE with peeling shells), chicken salad, acai bowl, and eggs, and so far, so good. But still. I was disappointed with her follow-up to It’s All Good simply because these recipes aren’t easy, aren’t meals you can wrap up and store for later. However, if you love Goop, love Gwen, love this Kinfolk aesthetic, live your life and fawn over this cookbook.

These taquitos were really tasty. I changed her recipe a bit for my spice and flavor level, and they ended up being DELICIOUS. I have leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll update this post if they’re crap upon re-heating.

INGREDIENTS: Taquito recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, modified. Of note, I like this cookbook but it’s kind of comical to call it “easy”. I quite liked the spot-on L.A. Times review, and this recipe road-test was hilarious. // Guacamole recipe is my own
For the taquitos: This recipe serves 4
1 package of corn tortillas
1 15oz can of black beans, drained + rinsed, reserve 2 tbsp of the beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt, for seasoning

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
juice + zest of one lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserve 2 tbsp of black beans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish or baking sheet. Set aside.

Mix all of the ingredients for the taquitos in a large bowl. On medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a small, non-stick pan. Add one tortilla at a time, and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Once the tortilla is cooked, quickly transfer it to a plate. Add 2-3 tbsp of the taquito mixture. Wrap tightly, tucking in the mixture as you wrap, and place the filled taquito, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas. Midway through the process, I had to add another tablespoon of oil to avoid smoking out my apartment.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the taquitos are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the guacamole. I like my guac smooth, not chunky, so I really get in there with the fork. Stir in the beans so as to not break them.

Once the taquitos are out of the oven, let them rest for 1-2 minutes. I love stuffing the guac inside the taquito like it’s a little cannoli. Chow down and serve with arugula or your favorite mixed greens.

Untitledchicken taquitos
chicken taquitos
chicken taquitos

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eating all the food in los angeles

Chowing in Los Angeles.

Truth be told, I don’t dine out much these days. I’m in stealth, money-saving mode and I spend most of my meals at home, cooking up affordable meals until my financial situation improves. Sometimes I’ll splurge on the random huckleberry donut or iced coffee, but eating out has become a splurge I’ve been skipping. However, I have all these wonderful photos in my food and great memories of my first few months in Los Angeles, that I can’t help but share some of my favorite spots.

Cora’s Coffee Shop: I love this joint. Steps away from the famed Hotel California and the uber-pricey Shutters on the Beach, this small hidden gem boasts a terrific menu infused with Mexican flavors. They serve the best cheeseburgers in Santa Monica, hands-down, and this shop was my mainstay when I first arrived in Los Angeles, flush with cash to burn on chorizo egg scrambles. Ah, the halcyon days of consistent income.

Huckleberry: From freshly-baked pastries to kale squash salads and homemade meatloaf, Huckleberry is THE spot in Santa Monica for the brunch and lunchtime crowds. They’ve even managed to turn up the volume on grilled cheese and bacon with pork from heritage pigs nestled between copious amounts of gruyere cheese. While the long lines are vertigo-inducing, they move pretty fast and the delicious fare is worth it. Recently, a dear friend of mine treated me to a fancy dinner at another Rustic Canyon-owned spot, Cassia. If you’re in Los Angeles, making the trek to Cassia is worth it. From flattened char-grilled chicken to curry chickpeas and creamed kale that will make you weep, I Dyson’d half the menu and had absolutely no regrets.

Republique: One of my favorite Cooking Channel shows is Unique Sweets. Although my palate has changed considerably (I now crazy salty foods vs. sweets), I’m fond of watching the alchemy of baking. One Saturday morning I caught the L.A. episode and nearly passed out when I saw the pistachio Kouign Amann. I then made the mistake of visiting the spot during prime brunch hour on Sunday. The hour+ wait was Odyssean, but the pastries are absolutely worth it. I stocked up on croissants, scones, jumbo cookies and spent the week chowing on them. While there I ordered their cheeseburger/fries special. Not the best cheeseburger, but it was pretty solid.

Neptune’s Net: Yesterday was a day worth photographing. My friend Amber is in town staying with me and our friend Jamie drove us to Malibu. Surrounded by bikers and locals, this heritage spot serves up fish tacos, hot dogs, burgers, and a whole menu of fish. Although recent Yelp reviews haven’t been particularly kind, we LOVED our lunch (fish tacos, deep fried chicken strips, burgers, and a mountain of fries), which was SO CHEAP, and loved our trip to El Matador Beach after.

Casa Linda: The taco game in L.A. is pretty strong. They’re filled with local avocados, fresh herbs and seasoned chicken, beef or fish. Casa Linda in Venice is pretty low-key, but the tacos are formidable. The staff is beyond kind and the food is insanely affordable given the quality. I noticed that most of the taco joints I visited don’t put cheese in their tacos and you know what? I don’t miss it. When my friend Amber arrived on Thursday, we cabbed it to Venice and she couldn’t get enough of their halibut. And their guac? DEEP, REAL AND TRUE.

ROC Kitchen: My love for the dumpling knows no bounds. I first fell in love with potstickers during a two-week trip to Taiwan in 2006, and I haven’t found many spots in the U.S. that could replicate the glory that is the Taiwanese dumpling. Thick, crispy skin, flavorful spoon and chunks of pork–it’s been downright difficult to recreate the Taiwan feeling. The closest joint was Eton in Cobble Hill, which has since closed down, and a spot in San Gabriel, which is a nearly two-hour drive from my house. I’ve settled for Sawtelle in L.A., home to Japanese and Chinese restaurants, and ROC Kitchen is pretty strong. Terrific noodles and reliable potstickers. While their scallion pancakes lacked a lot of scallion, the rest of the food is superb and super affordable.

a woman encounters the AREPA

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If my friend Amber were here right now, I’d give her a pony. And possibly an orange kitten for good measure. All because she introduced me to the glory that is the AREPA. In my humble opinion, arepas are next-level tacos. A corn-based flatbread indigenous to Colombia and Venezuela, arepas have a doughy, yet crunchy texture, and are the perfect haven for all sorts of fixings.

AND AREPAS ARE GLUTEN-FREE.

Today, I fixed mine with leftover chopped chicken, chickpeas, kale and mixed greens. Clearly, I plan to add arepas to my repertoire. I’m envisioning pulled pork and veg, roasted vegetables, and taco beef.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Bon Appetit
2 cups arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Desired fillings (such as shredded cooked chicken or pork, stewed black beans with cheese and lime, corn salad with onion and fresh herbs; for serving)
Lime wedges (for serving)

Note: Arepa flour is precooked corn flour, not to be confused with masa harina. Sometimes sold as masarepa or harina precocida, it can be found in Latin markets and some supermarkets.

DIRECTIONS
Combine arepa flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add 2½ cups warm water. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients, stirring until no dry lumps remain. Let rest 5 minutes to hydrate.

Knead dough a few times in bowl, then divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece on work surface into a ball, then gently flatten to about ½” thick.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 arepas, cover, and cook until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Uncover, flip, and cook (keep uncovered) until other side is golden brown, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer arepas to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and dough. Let the arepas cool for 10 minutes. Split arepas and stuff with desired fillings (I used chopped up chicken, chickpeas and kale sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper); serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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