So! I turned another year older on Monday. No big deal. I randomly acquired a tiara on Friday at another party (it was fate). Tacos and margaritas with my family happened on Saturday, as did a nap. I went out with my friends, who, dare I say, are the funnest EVER. The highlight of my actual birthday was hands-down taking the day off and begrudgingly changing out of sweats only to go get a sandwich and milkshake for lunch. I suspect the only thing that will be different 60 (knock on wood (or maybe not, whatever)) years from now is that I won’t bother putting on real clothes.
I think this year is off to a good start. So good, that I think I need to make a list. I’ve seen “x number of things to do before x age” lists on other blogs, and I think it’s my turn… Except I’m doing this exclusively about food. I’ve concocted a few concoctions, but there are many, many more I haven’t tried. In my 27th year of livin’ life, I’m going to make 27 things I’ve never attempted before.
Some of them are basic, some of them are challenging, and I’m excited about all of this. All of it!
1. Macarons: I know they’re trendy and everyone’s sick of it already, but they’re delicious and I like a challenge.
2. Consomme: As a lover of all soups, I should make the queen bee of soups.
3. Doughnuts: Frying = frightening. Somebody hold me.
4. Halibut (or something similar): I don’t really make fish, and don’t eat it as often as I should. Bad fish experiences can really mess with you! We’ll start with delicious, mild white fish.
5. Croissants: Yes!
6. Strudel: I’ve technically had a hand in making some before, but only under direct guidance and supervision of a friend who was sharing his Mima’s recipe. It was messy, challenging and totally fun. Must do again!
7. Steak: I’ve never made steak before. Red meat is a rare (haha) thing around here.
8. Fried pickles: Again, frying is scary. I never thought I would like a warm, vinegary pickle encased in batter, but the brewery down the street changed that for me.
9. Lithuanian stuffed cabbage rolls (balandeliai): This is a must.
10. Lithuanian potato and meat dumplings (cepelinai): Again, it’s kind of embarrassing I haven’t made this yet. I blame my mom for fulfilling all of my Lithuanian food needs!
11. Profiteroles: Heavenly little puffs of heaven.
12. Pasta e fagioli: I will conquer Marcella Hazan’s cookbook. One incredible Italian dish at a time.
13. Pho: When it comes to comfort, this rivals chicken noodle soup as far as I’m concerned, and nothing compares to Pho 777 downtown. But doggone it, I will try.
14. Pad Thai: I’m somewhat comfortable with making curries, and time to go after other Thai dishes.
15. Tom ka gai: Ditto!
16. Thai papaya salad: Again.
17. Homemade sausage: I give myself permission to back out of this, because I may be getting in over my head. That probably applies to a few other items too…
18. Posole: For warmth, comfort and spice.
19. Lasagna bolognese: I have made lasagna before, but I think I can still put this on the list. What I have in mind is a crazy labor-intensive, everything-from-scratch-including-noodles weekend project.
20. Homemade pickles: Do you know how much I love pickles?
21. Chicken mole: This is a restaurant favorite of mine.
22. Cassoulet: Wintry labor of love. I doubt I will get to it for a while.
23. Paella: I signed up for a class later this month!
24. Harissa: I plan to put it on everything in sight.
25. Tagine: Another labor of lovely, fragrant, comforting love.
26. Linguine and clams: I envision this will involve a bottle of white wine on a warm evening.
27. Pork chops: Again, a simple staple I’ve never gotten around to making.
What should I get to first?
Meanwhile, let’s focus on the right here, right now. And what we have is sweet potatoes to bake, empty, mix with delicious things, refill, bake again, and top with more tastiness. Next year will be good, but today isn’t half bad either. Cheers!
Chipotle Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Avocado, Black Beans and Cotija
2 large sweet potatoes
1/2 to 1, depending on taste, chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 cup shredded cotija cheese, plus additional for topping
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion (optional)
1/2 to 1 avocado (depending on size and how much you like avocado), sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and wrap them in foil. Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife.
Slice off the top 1/3rd of each potato lengthwise and, when cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and mash (or squeeze through a ricer) in a large mixing bowl. Mix in chipotle peppers, cotija cheese, and season potato mixture with salt and pepper. Return the potato mixture to the scooped-out potato skins and top with black beans. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and return to oven until reheated and the cheese is melted–roughly 10 minutes. Top with onions if using, additional cheese, and avocado slices.