Sunday, February 7, 2010

Veggie Chili, perfected

It's been time to step up my commitment to this blog for a while, but I have been waiting for the recipe that compelled me to do it. Tonight, I made a veggie chili I had to share.

The chili started with a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian (who, unfortunately, called it "Tex-Mex" chili and so I almost passed it up) and was enhanced with advice from Ed Brown's Tassajara Cookbook (a must-have for any touchy-feely and adventurous home-chef). But I took it from there for two reasons: 1) otherwise, writing the recipe on my blog would be copyright infringement and 2) because both of these recipes require that you start with dried beans. Just because I don't want to pop my pre-made chili out of a ConAgra can doesn't mean that I have days to spend in the kitchen, so the below recipe is amended for those nights where we feel like we can only dedicate an hour to the meal.

And it's good. You won't miss the meat, trust me. The flavor is rich and dynamic, the texture exciting, and you can easily adjust the heat to meet your tastebud's needs. We had it with this buttermilk cornbread (I always use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk because we always have it, and it works well) and a bottle of cab so good we couldn't tell it was cab. As written below, the chili to hits my spiciness-limit. Hamed, however, insisted that there was no heat. Where I've added an asterisk, feel free to increase or decrease throughout the cooking process to adjust the heat to your liking.

Oh, and if you recently received a Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas, this is the perfect recipe for your new tool. If not, I'm sure any medium pot with a lid will be fine.

Heat 2-3 tbs canola oil in the bottom of your pan. Add:
1 yellow onion (diced)
3-4 cloves garlic (minced)

Sautee at medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, and then add the following:
2 tsp ground cumin
2-3 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried dried crumbled sage
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne*
A few drops of your favorite hot sauce*
1/2 - 1 tsp kosher salt

Sautee at medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, until onions begin to brown.

Add 1 each of the following (substitute any beans for those specified here, if you like):
16 oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
16 oz can pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
28 oz can plum tomatoes (with the juice, yum)

Bring to a boil and taste. Here is where you can adjust the spice, salt, and add some pepper. Then reduce the heat as low as it goes and cover. Cook for at least 40 minutes and add:
1-2 Tbs. cornmeal mixed with a few Tbs. water.

Cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Before serving, finish off with a teaspoon or so of balsamic vinegar. This is a trick that works to brighten the flavor of pretty much any soup or sauce.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roasted sweet potato wedges with chili lime pesto

Okay, I don't like sweet potatoes. I don't care how Super of a food they are (, anything that sweet just grosses me out at dinner time. But quite recently I made a significant discovery: sweet potatoes need not be flavored with maple syrup, brown sugar, marshmallows, or any other saccharin-y substance. When you avoid adding these super-sweets, the super-food becomes super-tasty. I think that sweet potatoes carry about the same level of sweetness as a butternut squash (another vegetable that often suffers from sugar abuse) and, like a butternut squash, taste much more interesting when you play that sweetness off of hotter flavors. Hence this super easy, super interesting recipe.
For the sweet potato wedges:
Pre-heat oven to 425
Cut 3 or 4 large-ish sweet potatoes in half horizontally, then cut into 1-inch wedges. Toss with olive oil, dried Italian herbs (whatever you have onhand), red chile flakes, kosher salt, and course-ground pepper. Put onto a baking sheet (or if you're lucky, onto your sili-pat and then on a baking sheet). You should let them cook for about 20 minutes, turn them over, and then let them cook for another 20, or until brown and crispy.

While the sweet potato wedges are baking, put the following into a food processor:
3 Tbs olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
1/2-3/4 cup cut cilantro, incl. stems
1/2-1 minced jalepeno
1-2 cloves coursely-cut garlic
salt, pepper to taste
Blend into a pesto-like substance (though it will be more liquidy). Taste for seasoning and put into a bowl.

Serve the wedges and chili lime pesto together, we enjoyed dipping, but mixing, pouring, and other forms would be tasty too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pound cake: it doesn't have to taste like lemons

I usually shy away from pound cake; the typically dry, greasy, and, most offensive, lemon-cough-drop flavored dessert never quite does it for me.  But when I found a recipe for poppy seed vanilla bean coffee cake in this month's Gourmet, I left my prejudice at the door and picked up the ingredients.

Oh. My. No human being should ever eat as much pound cake as I have this week.  I realize that you might not have poppy seeds or vanilla beans in your cupboard right now, but if you get yourself to a store that sells spices in bulk, it won't be difficult (or expensive) to change that.  This cake can be your breakfast, afternoon snack, and dessert (though in my experience this is unwise).  Do yourselves a favor: make this, take it to a dinner party, express humble gratitude for the praise you will receive, and then leave the cake behind when you go home.  You'll thank me later.

Gourmet makes this with a plum pluot compote; I think the cake's flavor and texture can stand alone.  You will need:

2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup poppy seeds
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 vanilla bean
1 3/4 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup half and half, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a 9x5 loaf pan.

Mix the first 4 dry ingredients, set aside.

Cut your vanilla bean in half horizontally.  Set one half aside for future use (if you're me, that means your next vanilla pound cake...), and cut the other down the middle lengthwise with a sharp paring knife.  Now you can scrape the strange looking tiny seeds into an empty bowl.  The more seeds you get into the bowl, the more tasty your cake will be....

Using a mixer, beat the vanilla seeds, butter, and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the 3 eggs, one at a time.

Add your dry ingredient mixture to the bowl in three batches, mixing at lowest speed and alternating with the half-and-half.

Spoon batter into the loaf pan and put into the oven, on the middle rack.  Set your timer for 45 minutes - it may take over an hour, but the cake is likely to get dry quickly if you overbake it.  I have found that taking out the cake just before the middle is completely done helps keep the cake moist.  After the cake cools in the pan for 30 minutes, it should come out with just a bit of careful maneuvering.

Eat the cake when it reaches room temperature, but beware that it will get tastier over the next few days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Grandma's Summer Squash

This is a recipe that my grandmother makes whenever her summer squash plant in the garden has a big harvest.  In July and August, that means almost nightly.  The recipe is simple enough, but first timers are consistently wow-ed.  It is best to choose yellow summer squash as fresh as possible - out of the garden is best, but we have been known to pick up a few from uhm, Trader Joe's, and the results have still been tasty.  You shouldn't need to peel the squash, as yellow summer squash have a delicate and unobtrusive skin, but some varieties have a knobby, warty skin - these you can peel for your own peace of mind, but if you don't no one will notice. 

Measurements are irritatingly vague, I'm sorry. 

1 lb (or more, or less - a good rule of thumb is two medium-sized squash per person) yellow squash
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped coarse
Generous dash of salt (I like to use kosher)
Butter to taste

Halve your squash lengthwise, remove ends, and remove seeds with a spoon (try using a grapefruit spoon).  It's okay to leave some of the seeds, just make sure you are rid of the stringy part. Dice squash into bite-sized pieces.

Place squash and garlic in a saucepan and add water to the pan until it is at 2/3 the level of your squash.  Bring to boil and then adjust heat to bring the squash to a low simmer.  Add salt and cook until the squash is almost falling apart (about twenty minutes).  

Drain any excess water, add a dab of butter, and return to heat until butter melts.  I typically add no more than 1 tablespoon of butter, but my grandma uses about 4 tablespoons.  Taste for salt and serve immediately.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Finals Soup

This is the best soup we've ever made (probably) and we have been able to reheat it for four consecutive meals. And still love it.

Chop fine:
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
one red onion

Saute in olive oil in large soup pot. Add
1tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves

Saute until fragrant.
Add 1 cup barley, stir around to coat it with the oil.
After about a minute, add:
1 cup water
1 24-oz can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 24-oz can diced tomatoes
salt (liberally)

Bring to a boil and add:
1 15-oz can canellini or great northern beans

Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1-2 hrs. Just before serving, add freshly chopped basil and parsley (about 2Tbs each).

Enjoy! This makes eight large bowls of soup. Water may need to be added at each reheating.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Autumn Roasted Vegetables

This is a terrific dish to bring to a dinner party or just to add some color and vitamins to your Thanksgiving meal. The size of the dish can vary, and seasoning should be done to taste. This is for about 10 servings.

Cut into equal larger-bite-sized pieces:
4 carrots
3 parsnips
3 turnips
3 celery stalks
12 smallish purple or yukon gold creamer potatoes
1 red onion
1 yellow onion

6 cloves garlic

Put all of the veggies and garlic into the bowl and add enough olive oil to coat. Douse with a hearty shake of kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Using kitchen shears, cut into small pieces one bunch of basil and add to veggies.

Remove stems from 8 rosemary sprigs and add to veggies.

Spread your vegetables onto two cookie sheets and bake at 400F, checking at forty minutes fore done-ness. It could take up to an hour. Serve hot and enjoy!

Date Bars

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book. They are more labor intensive than your average cookie, but it pays off - these date bars are delicious!

To make the filling, bring to a boil in a saucepan over medium - high heat:
2.25 cups pitted Medjool dates
3/4 cup apple cider

Reduce heat to medium, simmer for about 10 minutes until liquid reduced. Let cool completely puree until smooth in a food processor (we had to use a blender, it worked, but we had to use additional cider).

To make the dough, whisk together:
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat or wheat bran
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp soda

In a separate bowl, mix on medium speed 30 seconds:
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Add 10 Tbs unsalted butter, mix until combined.

Add 1 large egg, mix until fluffy.

Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with batches of applesauce (use 1/4 cup applesauce TOTAL). Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic; refrigerate for two hours.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out one half of the dough to 1/2 inch thickness, roughly rectangular in shape. Cut the dough vertically down the center, so that you have two strips. Add one half of date mixture to one of the strips, making sure you have enough room to fold half of the strip over and pinch (making a long strip with date puree in the middle). After spreading out the date mixture, use your fingers to pinch and seal the edges. Repeat with other strip. Repeat entire process with other half of dough. Refrigerate again until firm.

Bake on a cookie sheet (they won't really spread out, so they should all fit onto one) for 20 minutes, until golden brown. let cool on sheets and cut into smaller bars after five minutes. Transfer bars to wire rack and let cool. Enjoy!