Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beef, Black Bean, and Chorizo Chili

Okay, so it's not the season for chili, but I just wanted another meal I could throw in the slow cooker and call it a day.  So, while the sun is shining and the daffodils are finishing their blooms, I am packing the All-Clad with beans and sausage and chiles and tucking in to a bowl laden with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions.

Growing up, I found that chili and/or nachos signified the weekend.  On Saturdays at my dad's house in northern Illinois, we would make a giant tray of nachos or a pot of chili and he would turn on a baseball or football or (rarely) basketball game.  Dad would settle into the couch, and I would sit on the floor, picking black olives off the nachos or adding cheddar cheese to my chili.  Inevitably, he would fall asleep, and I would pick up my homework.  But about five minutes before the end of a game, he would jerk awake, tussle my hair, chastise me for not watching the game, and pretend that he was watching it all along.  Neither of us were fooled by this act, but it was the ritual of Saturday, so we would act as if we were.  Through this, I learned to love baseball (but somehow neither basketball nor football)--perhaps it is because I never had homework to do during most of baseball season. 

Nowadays, I have a binder where I keep recipes that I pull out of magazines or that come from friends.  I have a whole section devoted to chili--turkey chili, white bean chili, meatless chili, chili with chorizo.  So choosing this one among many was a difficult but necessary decision.  It's the kind of hard work I am willing to engage in.  I like this recipe because you get the bonus combo of chorizo with chipotle.

At first I worried this wouldn't be spicy enough, so I added a tablespoon of the adobo sauce that the chipotle chiles are in.  Okay, yes, that made it spicy.  But I would argue that one should sniffle a little upon eating one's chili.  It's just the right amount.

So for the next sports game you either are excited to watch or feel as if you must suffer through, may I recommend this chili?  Even if you're not watching the game, you get a good meal.  And maybe, just maybe, it might lead to the love of baseball.

Beef, Black Bean, and Chorizo Chili
Adapted from  Cooking Light

5 cups

1 link Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces), thinly sliced
3/4 pounds beef stew meat
3/4 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup beer
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1(15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon masa harina
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Cheddar Cheese, shredded

1.  Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chorizo to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned. Remove chorizo from pan and put in slow cooker. 

2.  Add half of beef to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.  Add beef to the slow cooker.

3.  Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes.  Add to the slow cooker.
  • 4.  Remove 2 chipotle chiles from can, and chop. Reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use.
  • 5.  Add chopped chiles, tomato paste, and next 6 ingredients (through ground cumin) to slow cooker. Stir in beer, lime juice, beef broth, tomatoes, pinto beans and black beans.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. 
  • 6.  Gradually stir in masa harina.  Add additional adobo sauce to taste and correct for seasonings.
  • 7.  Serve with sour cream, green onions, or cheddar cheese.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Soba with Grilled Asparagus and Sea Scallops with Sweet Miso Sauce

Well, hello there spring.  Nice to see you.

Asparagus practically shouts spring.

Growing up, I was not a fan of asparagus.  I actually have a very vivid memory of eating asparagus soup at my aunt and uncle's house in Utah.  The last one left at the table, I was not allowed to watch television or read a book until I had finished my soup, but I thought the taste was bitter.  What person would like this soup?  In my eight-year-old mind, I was convinced that everyone else must have politely suffered through the soup just so they could get up from the table.  But no one was fooling me.  And I refused to eat it.   I am not sure if my father came to rescue me after everyone had gone to the living room or if I just dumped the soup into the garbage disposal.  All I know is that I most certainly did not eat it.

I understand now that my pre-pubescent palate was hardly refined.  I like to remind myself that children have considerably more taste buds than the adult quota of (approximately) 10,000.  As some of these taste buds shuffle off their mortal coil, we become more willing to eat things we refused as a child.  Such has been the case for me with beets and asparagus. 

Thank goodness, because spring wouldn't be spring without asparagus.

To celebrate our latest season, I put together this noodle, asparagus, and scallop dish.  Oh sweet spring.  Unfortunately, I accidentally locked myself out of the house after I went to go buy the scallops (I went for a run first, ending at the market.  When I run, I bring only the house key, and I grabbed the wrong key).  Thus, I spent some 30 minutes perched on the front stoop with 25-dollars worth of seafood wrapped in a plastic bag waiting for the husband to arrive home.  Thankfully, it was very chilly out and the scallops were just fine. 

For dinner, this was spectacular. The miso was salty, the mirin sweet, the scallops seared on the outside, the noodles cold, the asparagus crisp.  Just say yes to this recipe.  I promise, you won't be pouring this down the garbage disposal or hoping your father will come to save you from the asparagus.

Soba with Grilled Asparagus and Sea Scallops with Sweet Miso Sauce
Adapted from  Everyday Noodles

Serves 6

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup miso
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
10 ounces dried soba noodles  (I used somen, and they were just as tasty)
36 medium asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
18 sea scallops
Kosher slat and finely ground black pepper
12 walnut halves

1.  Whisk together sugar, sake, mirin, and rice vinegar until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the miso, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of the oil and which until well combined.  Set the miso glaze aside.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and cook the noodles, until tender yet firm, about 3 minutes.  Drain, shock under cold running water, and drain again.

3.  Heat a well-oiled frill pan over medium heat.  Brush the asparagus and scallops with all or most of the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Frill the asparagus first until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes total, rolling them to heat them evenly all around.  Divide and top each noodle serving with asparagus.  Grill the sea scallops in the same pan until cooked through and crisp on each side, about 2 minutes per side.  Divide the scallops among the servings of noodles, and spoon some of the miso glaze over each.

4.  To toast the walnut halves, put them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, being sure to shake the pan so as not to burn the pieces.  Remove from the pan and cool slightly before chopping.  Serve scallops garnished with toasted walnuts.

Blue-Ribbon Carrot Cake, American Food

Here we are with the third in an at-least-four-part series on the quest for the best carrot cake.  I know I have one more cookbook with a carrot cake recipe, and I might have more.  In this third entry I think we may have found a winner--a blue-ribbon winner, in fact.

Many of you may have extra carrots from the recent leporid visit--if only I had a few deviled egg recipes to help you out.  However, if you happen to have a couple of carrots left over, this may be the recipe to try.  Around here, Easter is a complicated holiday.  I, a lapsed Catholic.  The husband, a Jew.  Both of us, committed to reading, at least, this David Sedaris essay.

According to Evan Jones (the author of the cookbook), this recipe comes to us straight from the Guadalupe County Fair in Seguin, Texas, in the late 1960s and from the files of one Viola Schlicting, who changed her German carrot-nut bread into cake and won a blue ribbon.  Well, thank you, Viola, for I would argue this is the best recipe we have going so far.  This recipe is particularly cake-y and it has a much better spice balance.  It's not really suitable for muffins, but it does indeed deserve the take-home prize from the county fair as a cake.  (I made both muffins and sheet cake...)

Finally, I am learning some important facts about carrot cakes:
1.)  If you bake using oil, they are better the next day.  If you replace the oil with yogurt, they are better on the day of.
2.)  More shredded carrots.  Yes.  You cannot have enough. 

One more recipe to go, but make this one in the mean time.  P.S.  I forgot to take pictures of the final product.  Instead I just ate the final product.

Blue-Ribbon Carrot Cake
Adapted from  American Food

6-8 servings

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
4 eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup broken walnuts
1 cup raisins

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.  Combine oil and sugar, mixing thoroughly.  

3.  Sift together dry ingredients, then sift half of the seasoned flour into the sugar-oil mixture and blend well.  Stir in remainder alternately with eggs, adding 1 egg at a time and blending well after each addition.  

4.  Stir in carrots, add walnuts, and blend thoroughly.  

5.  Pour into a greased 10-inch tube pan or into prepared muffin cups.  Bake for an hour and a half (cake pan) or 45 minutes (muffin cups).  

Family Feast April 2011

April 16, 2011

Prosciutto and Melon
Red Peppers in Balsamic Vinegar
Cipollini Onions
Herbed Mushrooms

Osso Buco
Peas and Pancetta

Strawberry Shortcake
Belgian Chocolates

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Red Swiss Chard with Ginger

Today I have been working on carrot cake for tonight's book club (posting tomorrow perhaps), but I also needed to eat some chard.  Keeping up with the CSA box is sometimes hard work.  That's a lot of vegetables.  But Jacques Pepin's swiss chard with ginger (and garlic and jalapenos) is pretty darned tasty.  I do think that even more ginger (and garlic and jalapenos) would be even better (so I added more below).

This is pretty simple.  Pretty basic.  Pretty tasty.  And, ain't it pretty?

Now, simply, I just need to go grade the rest of those papers.

Red Swiss Chard with Ginger
Adapted from  Jacques Pepin's Table

4-6 Servings

1 1/4 pounds red Swiss chard
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 - 3ounces  piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (2-4 tablespoons)
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (2-3 teaspoons)
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Trim about 2 inches from the tops of the chard leaves, and discard the trimmings.  Cut the remaining chard ribs and leaves into 2-inch pieces.  Wash and drain the chard.  You should have about 2 cups, lightly packed.

2.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  When it is hot, add the shallots, and saute them for 30 seconds over high heat.  Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, mix well, and cook for 10 seconds.

3.  Add the chard stems, still wet from the washing, turning them over in the pan several times to incorporate the shallots, garlic, ginger and jalapenos and prevent them from burning in the bottom of the pan.  Sautee for 2-3 minutes.  Then add the rest of the chard leaves and the salt.  Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the mixture for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan (if need be, add a tablespoon or two of water), til the chard leaves are wilted and tender but the ribs are still slightly firm. 

4.  Transfer the mixture to a serving dish, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pulled Pork

Mostly, I just felt like using the slow cooker.  That, and I needed to spend the day away from the house in order to get these papers graded.  It's amazing the number of things that can distract me from grading papers.

Let's talk pulled pork though, shall we?  Pulled pork has as many advantages as there are recipes to make it.  Advantages to pulled pork are that it's great food for a crowd (just double your recipe.  Triple it, even.  Or you could literally go whole hog).  It takes all day to cook, but it's one you can walk away from if you have a slow cooker but it's more traditional if you smoke the meat outdoors.  And it is oh so tasty.

Recipes for pulled pork are just as various.  People get rather emotional about this subject.  Now some people swear by dry rubs.  Others swear by brining the pig.  However, I married a former-Kansan, and that means BBQ is almost always wet.  What's the difference?  Well Memphis BBQ uses a dry spice rub before hand--usually cumin, garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, you name it.  But Kansas City (and those good folks from North Carolina) like their barbecue with sauce, with even more sauce on the side.  But once you start talking sauce, then the sparks start to fly.  Now Eastern North Carolinans like their sauce to be more vinegar than tomato and molasses, which Kansans prefer.  Western North Carolinans add some tomatoes to that vinegar concoction.  South Carolinans prefer a mustard-based sauce.   Confused?  Well, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia all have their own versions of the sauce, too.  Then, to boot, you have to decide, will it be pulled pork or chopped pork?  Will it be with cole slaw on top or alongside hush puppies, potato chips, cornbread, beans, or hash?

I throw my hands up.

I am a transplanted Mid-westerner in the West.

I am making pulled pork in a slow cooker, damnit, slathering it with a molasses- and tomato-based sauce, and calling it good.  I leave it up to you to determine your regional affiliation. On a side note, I got my emo on by going to see Bright Eyes at the Fox yesterday.  What am I doing pretending to make any sort of authentic pulled pork?

One Year Ago: Olive Paste and Blue Cheese Canape/ Creamed Blue Cheese with Brandy

Pulled Pork
Adapted from  Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking

4 servings

1 boneless pork shoulder roast (3 lbs)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups barbecue sauce (homemade or bottled), plus more for serving
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
Soft sandwich rolls, split and toasted

1.  In a large pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil.  Add the pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, about 10  minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan.  Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3.  Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and add the broth mixture.  Cover and cook until pork is very tender, 8-10 hours on the low-heat setting.  Transfer the pork to a platter and let cool.  Cut away the strings and pull the pork into shreds, removing all the fat and gristle.  Return the pork to the cooker.  Add the 2 cups barbecue sauce, the mustard, the honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Stir well, set the temperature to high, and cook, uncovered, and stirring frequently,until the flavors are well blended and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

4.  Serve the pork on the rolls with additional barbecue sauce.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Carrot Cake, Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food

I certainly did not mean to be away from the blog for this long, but then the spring sprung, and well, it appears that it got away from me.

But, sigh, we're on spring break right now, which means I can get caught up.

But before I catch you up on the second round of carrot cake (and I have another round planned for later this week), let me get you caught up on the most exciting things.

I decided to run a race.

Now for some of you, this means nothing.  You are superstars.  You run marathons in your free time.  You laugh at half marathons.  But I am not that person.  About a year ago, I professed loudly and proudly that I did not like to run.  But in January, I purchased new kicks, and I got myself out there so I could participate in the Oakland Relay (which encourages four non-overachievers to band together to run separate legs of the race).  Let's be clear here, we were near the back of the pack.  Times meant nothing.  But I ran a 10k.  And I literally said to the guy manning my finish line, "That's it?"  Now part of this may be because I was running the third leg, so the only person at my finish line was that guy.  No kidding.  And then around the corner were all the relay participants.  Part of this may also be because I was actually enjoying myself.  Of course, my legs felt like noodles, I had a headache from being a little dehydrated, and I am sure I was bright beet red.  Because I am ever-so-attractive when I run.

The next week, I signed up for Bay to Breakers.

These have been big decisions for me.  I still would not call myself a runner, but I am running.  In less than five weeks, I will be running another 10k (this time with a monstrous hill).   And the goal is to run a half marathon Halloween weekend.  Am I crazy?

Well, perhaps if I keep eating carrot cake muffins, I will never be able to haul myself across the finish lines.  But I do love the carrot cake.  For the bonus, carrot cake has finally put a dent in the sheer number of carrots from the CSA box.  And we're finally moving away from the winter root vegetables and into the world of asparagus.  Sweet asparagus.

In this second round of carrot cake, I would say that this is a better recipe than The Joy of Cooking, but I am not entirely sold yet.  Here are its pros and its cons:

Not as oily as the Joy of Cooking
Has much more of a carrot taste to it
Lower fat--I like the use of yogurt, and I even used non-fat yogurt rather than the whole milk kind
Not a spice cake

Lost a lot of moisture on the second day
Could use a kick up of the cinnamon--it felt a little one note

All in all, this was a solid entry into the carrot cake extravaganza.  I am looking forward to making more carrot cake, to writing more entries on the blog, and (gasp) to ticking off the miles as I run.

18-Carrot Cake

12 Muffins

1 3/4 cups (241 grams) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Vanilla Yogurt
2 ounces Vegetable Oil
10 ounces (284 grams) Granulated Sugar
3 Large Eggs
8 ounces (227 grams) Raw Carrot
1 cup raisins

1.  Prep a 9x3 inch pan with pam and flour or set up muffin cups.

2.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.

3.  Combine the dry ingredients.  Alton suggests a couple of pulses in the food processor. Pour dry ingredients into a large bowl.

4. Grate carrots.  I used the food processor with the grating attachment, but you could use the box grater.  Place the carrots on top of the dry ingredients.

5.  In the food processor, combine the yogurt, oil, sugar and eggs.  Spin until thoroughly combined and slightly thickened.

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and carrots.   Add raisins.  Mix just until batter comes together.  Do not mix smooth.

7.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan or muffin cups.

8.  Bake for 30 minutes (muffin cups) or 45 minutes (cake pan), then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake another 5 minutes (muffin cups) or 15 minute (cake pan).  Check the doneness of the cake by inserting a toothpick .  It should come out clean; if not, put back for another 5 minutes.

9.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool 15 minutes.