In my kitchen, there are staples and there are splurges. I cannot live without certain spices, like cinnamon and cumin. I’m a loyal cheddar girl—hype those fancy French and Italian cheeses all you want; I’ll keep my cheddar, thank you very much. Perhaps it’s my Midwestern roots? I don’t know, but when a recipe calls for a non-kitchen staple, I think long and hard about whether it’s worth it. How much do I really want to try this new recipe? What if I hate it? What if it costs ten bucks in fancy ingredients and it’s just not that great? Oh, the frustration! The disappointment!
But these chances we take on unknown recipes and splurgey ingredients can turn out to be kitchen miracles. Take, for example, the vegan Caesar dressing I mentioned a few weeks ago. This stuff is fabulous! Not only does it allow us vegetarians to enjoy a pseudo-Caesar salad, but it’s a great all-purpose dressing and vegetable sauce.
This post, however, is not about salad dressing. It’s about sour cream. Sour cream is a splurgey ingredient for me, but, shamefully, I’m a bit of a spendthrift when it comes to sour cream. I’ll buy it for one recipe, stuff it in the fridge, and forget about it until it’s growing something green and fuzzy. Yuck. Resolving to treat my dairy more respectfully, I took deliberate action to use up a surplus of sour cream. The results were worthy of more sour cream in the future.
Today I bring you a pair of recipes, a two-for-one deal at Life, Love, and Food! I do it because I adore you, dear reader. The first recipe is for a mighty tasty, mighty quick Black Bean Tostada. Lightly oiled corn tortillas are topped with a flavorful, mildly spicy black bean dip and a dollop of salsa. After they are baked for about 15 minutes, they go from oven to plate and get a dollop of sour cream. Have a few napkins ready; they can be a bit messy. Deliciousness has its price!
The second recipe is for Apple Muffins. This recipe is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe; being the health-foodie that I am, I decided to make a few changes right off the bat, and I was pleased with the results. By no means are these muffins drab “health food!" With a generous scoop of sour cream mixed into the batter, these muffins are moist, fluffy, and melt on your tongue. By substituting some whole-wheat pastry flour and a bit of almond flour (another ingredient splurge), I bumped up the nutritional profile a bit: whole-wheat flours have more fiber, protein, and vitamins compared to their processed white counterparts, and almond flour is rich in protein and fat. All of these added nutrients conspire to make for a slightly healthier Apple Muffin and therefore a slightly healthier you. Enjoy! And don’t forget to pick up a tub of sour cream at the market!
Black Bean Tostadas
For the Black Bean Dip (adapted from Black Bean Dip, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home); Yield is about 2 cups:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
Sprinkle of red crushed chile peppers
1 16-oz. can black beans
1 clove of garlic, chopped or pressed through a garlic press
1 green onion, finely snipped (I use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip it into small pieces)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice plus more to taste if you like
Salt to taste
1) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the cumin and coriander and fry the spices
for a minute or so until mouthwateringly fragrant. Stir them around often and be careful not to burn the spices. I think it’s best to watch them the whole time you are frying. Add the red crushed chile peppers at the end and very briefly fry them.
2) Drain the black beans and scoop them into a bowl (a big cereal bowl is fine). Mash them with a fork. Add the fried spices and oil, garlic, green onion, and lemon juice. Stir everything together, taste, and adjust the flavor by adding more lemon juice or salt.
For the Tostadas; Yield is one serving:
Two six-inch corn tortillas
A smidge of olive oil
A few tablespoons of Black Bean Dip from the recipe above
About two tablespoons of salsa
A tablespoon or two of sour cream
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil both sides of the corn tortillas. Place them on a baking sheet. Smear a generous spoonful of Black Bean Dip on each tortilla and top with a spoonful of salsa in the middle.
2) Bake the Tostadas for about 15 minutes or until the corn tortillas are pleasantly crispy. Remove from the oven, place them on a plate, and top with sour cream. To eat them, I find it easiest to fold them in half and eat them “sandwich-style.”
Adapted from “Pear and Ginger Muffins” in this New York Times article by Nigella Lawson
Yield: 9-12 muffins
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ c. whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ c. almond flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. ground ginger
2/3 c. sour cream
½ c. mild vegetable oil, such as canola oil
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
¼ c. dried cranberries
1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.
2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all three flours, baking powder, sugar, and ginger.
3) In another mixing bowl or a large measuring cup, combine the sour cream, oil, and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed (don’t overbeat the batter—muffins hate that). Add the apple and cranberries and fold them into the batter, again taking care not to overmix the batter.
4) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. I usually do this by scooping batter into a ½ cup measuring cup and pouring/scraping it into the tin (it’s how my mom always did it—thanks, Mom!). It’s your choice how big you want the muffins to be. If you fill the muffin cups up to the top, you will get about 9 muffins. If you want to make smaller muffins by, say, filling the cups 2/3 or ¾ full, then you’ll get a few more muffins. I made 9 muffins, and I thought they were the perfect size.
5) Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes. When they are done, a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean (i.e., no batter sticking to it) and the muffins will be nicely golden brown. Be careful not to let them burn; I was a little nervous that my muffins might burn, but they didn’t (whew!).
6) Transfer the muffin tin out of the oven to a cooling rack. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes and then run a knife around each muffin and carefully take them out of the tin. While these muffins are hot, they are a bit delicate, so be gentle while you are taking them out of the tin. I had a few casualties because I didn’t realize how delicate they would be, but most of my muffins came out just fine. Let the muffins cool on a cooling rack. As they cool, they will firm up a bit.
*Note: These muffins freeze really well, so if you have any extras, bag them up and toss them in the freezer for another day. I defrost mine by just taking them out of the freezer and letting them sit at room temperature for a few hours. They do keep well for at least two days at room temperature, but I don’t know how well they keep indefinitely outside of the freezer.