I have a problem. I have a very serious problem.
I have a very dorm-like kitchen—but I’m not a dorm student.
I have a hot plate, a rice cooker, a slow-cooker, and a toaster oven—but no classes, no tests, and no ten page papers due tomorrow. I’m thirty, with a degree but no stove top and no real oven. My husband and I live in a rudimentary studio apartment attached to the retail space that we are only weeks away from opening as a bicycle shop.
The decision to live in the back of our business came with a lot of benefits—and a lot of sacrifices. One of those sacrifices was a full kitchen, complete with countertops and a pantry. We use our table, covered with a table cloth, for prepping, and a bookcase serves as our pantry. Is this life hard? No; you’d be surprised what kind of traditional living you can live without. Does it come with challenges? The answer, of course, is a resounding, “Yes!” But one does not live in their retail space unless one has the ability to problem solve and adapt, as millions of college students do every year.
Unlike college students, 10-cent ramen in our household is not the definition of “adapting.” My husband and I have always enjoyed cooking and eating good food. And so our rather nice convection toaster oven has found itself cooking quiche, rather than frozen burritos, and baking chicken to be served with goat cheese and sliced banana peppers. Our slow-cooker is great for rump roasts and kielbasa with sauerkraut. And our rice cooker has been our work horse, a trusty steed used for so much more than just rice.
In addition to cooking in the non-kitchen kitchen, as Nicole and I call it, another sacrifice has been money. We love to eat—but have embraced the challenge of eating good food on a very limited budget. We would love to eat flank steak and risotto every day, as well as a million other meals requiring fifteen or more ingredients, but we don’t have the space, and we have decided for the sake of opening a successful retail business that we prefer to put as much time and money into the business as humanly possible. But we’ve seen no reason not to try to eat well and eat cheap when we know it’s not impossible to do so. And so an adventure has begun: Welcome to the Simple Person’s Non-Kitchen Kitchen!
My husband’s and my latest obsession has been burritos. Not the oh-so-delicious but quite boring kind of burrito with the usual ground meat, refried beans, pre-grated cheese, sour cream and salsa that is reminiscent of eating a tube of goo. Oh no, why go that route when you can put your rice cooker to work on some dried black beans and Kamut?
“Kuh-what?” An Egyptian word pronounced kuh-moot, it means “soul of the earth” and is a large-grain variety of khorasan wheat related to durum wheat and spelt. (Hey, now you know some Egyptian!) Bob’s Red Mill is the brand we purchased, and yes, it’s a little pricey, and yes, I said we eat cheap and we do: we bought our bag at Big Lots for only $3.50! It is rich in protein, considered a high energy grain packed with nutrients, and easy to digest. The slightly nutty flavor compliments pork, our preferred burrito meat, but is not overwhelming.
Black beans and Kamut, paired with sour cream and/or salsa and/or guacamole, create a texture that will make you sorry you’ve eaten that last bite but will leave you feeling quite satisfied nonetheless.
Hearty Burritos with Black Beans and Kamut
½ cup dried black beans, cooked ahead of time
1 cup Kamut grains (also called berries), cooked ahead of time
1 lb ground meat of choice
sour cream, if desired
salsa or pico de gallo, if desired
guacamole, if desired
fresh cilantro (seriously a must—if it doesn’t taste like soap to you)
Prepare black beans according to preferred method. I soak my black beans in brought-to-a-boil water for one to two hours, drain them (keeping the water!!!), place them in my rice cooker and then measure in the soak water, adding additional water for a total of 1 ½ cups water. I then set the cooker cooking, walk away, and about an hour later, I have perfectly cooked beans! No stirring, and no mushy ones in some places, and crunchy ones in another.
Prepare Kamut according to preferred method. I set my beans aside, wash out my rice cooker, measure in one cup Kamut and 3 cups water. I do not soak my Kamut first, and it cooks in about 50 mins.
*If you would like to cook on your stovetop, I understand soaking your Kamut overnight first is a great idea. Then bring 2 cups water to a boil, add your Kamut and simmer for 40-45 minutes. If you don’t soak, simmer your Kamut in 3 cups water for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the texture is as chewy as you like it.
*Kamut done in the rice cooker with 3 cups water yields a grain that is toothy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside—the way I like it! Add a little more water for a softer consistency. The great thing about Kamut is that it’s versatile in this way!
Cook your ground meat, seasoning it in whatever way you like for burritos. At this point, we mix together our beans, Kamut, and meat into a mixture that can then be spooned into tortillas. Add sour cream, salsa or pico de gallo, and/or guacamole. Choosing at least one of these is a good idea, as the soft consistency with the beans and Kamut is what makes it so textually interesting. Garnish with grated cheese and cilantro, fold, and try not to inhale your burrito!
Kirsten Hollingsworth loves food. She makes crepes in a cafe by day and writes at night. Her mode of transportation is a bicycle and she has three feet of hair named Edgar Allan Pelo.