Archive | November 2009

Matt’s Veggie Chili, Twisted

Chili is simple and comforting and one of the best things on the planet. You can experiment with it in a thousand different ways and it is extremely open-minded. It is great for summer porch days, with cold beer and buddies. It warms your belly in the winter. It feeds a crowd. It’s cheap and easy to make and it just gets better the longer it sits. Leftovers are a dream. Not much you can complain about.

Matt’s chili is one of the very first recipes I ever learned and could replicate on my own. He learned it from Mason, who learned it from his mom–we think. Anyways, it was one of those eureka cooking moments where I realized that I could do this–and actually enjoy it. It taught me the basic principals of building a stew dish: saute veggies and spices (and meat if desired), add acid (alcohol) and reduce, layer in liquids for simmering, finish off flavors and add garnishes. And voila! A life of chili love was born.

About to roast these little buggers

I’ve since varied the recipe a bit–thus the “twist”–so the roasted peppers and cocoa are my additions. This is my basic version. Sometimes things change. I like to improvise.

2 green peppers
2 poblano peppers
1 jalapeno
canola oil
1 medium yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 T. cumin seed
1 tsp. cayenne (depending on your spiciness quotient)
1 c. of white wine
1 large (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 (8 oz.) cans beans (I like to use a melange of pinto, black, and kidney)
1 T. cocoa powder
shredded cheese
sour cream
chopped scallions

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Rub peppers with canola oil and place on baking sheet in the oven. Let them roast until blackened on each side, about 10 minutes. Flip at least once during the cooking.

Transfer the peppers to plastic ziplock bags or a bowl that you cover with plastic wrap. This steams the peppers and lets them cool. Let them sit about 15 minutes, then gently peel the outside, charred skin with your fingers and perhaps a butter knife. Destem, deseed (unless you like it very spicy), and dice.

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, cumin seed, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and continue to cook until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the white wine and let reduce by half. *Variation: I often use a lager beer instead of wine. When I do, I add it at the same time as the other liquids. This time, I had the wine on hand and the result was very good. But beer also works well.

Add the can of tomatoes. Drain two cans of beans and pour the beans into the pot. Pour the entire contents of the third can into the pot. Cook until bubbling (not boiling), then reduce heat to low. Add cocoa. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the texture becomes thick and a deep umber color, then the chili is ready. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with cilantro, shredded cheese, scallions, and sour cream. Oh, and corn bread. Of course.


Carrot Parsnip Gallette

Thanksgiving. Man. Does it get any better? I get to cook for days, feed people I like, and then, THEN, have a day of lounging and leftovers and pajamas afterward. I am thankful for it, indeed.

This year, I had a sort of potluck. M. made the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and bacon ice cream. Yes. Bacon. B. made the salad, rolls, and brought a pumpkin pie. R. made an apple pie. J. made sweet potatoes. So my job was easy this year. We did the turkey (Alton Brown’s brine recipe, G.’s basting concoction), cheesy baked mashed potatoes (Giada’s recipe), green beans with a lemon vinaigrette, parsnip carrot gallette, and gravy. The gallette was an on-the-fly concoction to substitute the carrot pie I was going to make before I learned that B&E were bringing a pie. And actually, it came out great, thanks to the newest member of the family:

Early Christmas present from my mom

This puppy helped me make pie crust, slice the veggies, blend the sauce. All in all, it’s my new kitchen hero.

Here’s what I came up with. Let’s just say there were a lot of requests for seconds:

Carrot Parsnip Gallette

2 discs of pie dough (recipe below)
1/2 lb. carrots, sliced
1/2 lb. parsnips, sliced
1 red onion, sliced into long wisps
olive oil
1/2 stick + 3 T. butter
2 c. + 2 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs + 1 egg white

Pie Dough (from the Cuisinart Food Processor recipe booklet)
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. ice water

Process flour, butter and salt until mixture is like course meal, about 8 seconds. Add ice water and pulse until dough begins to clump together. Do not let it form a ball. Divide dough into three equal parts and wrap each into plastic.

Press each section of dough into a disc. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook slowly until caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. They will release a wonderful sweet smell and turn a golden, shiny brown. Take off heat and set aside.

Bring 2 c. water, butter, and tsp. of salt to a boil. Add the carrots, parsnips, and thyme and simmer until soft over medium, about 10 minutes. Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon and add the bowl with the caramelized onions. Add the orange juice and white wine and reduce until it is a thin syrup, about 15 more minutes. Pour over the veggies and mix.

In the work bowl of the food processor, combine cream cheese, parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth and pour over veggies.

Roll out two discs on a lightly floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick. In a lightly greased, square baking pan, spread out both discs side by side so that they overlap, and so that there is ample overage on all sides. You could also do this on a cookie sheet. Pour in the filling and begin to fold over the extra dough on the sides so that you the filling is contained on all sides. Press the top of the dough gently so that it forms a wide lip all around the top of the gallette.

Brush an egg wash made of egg white and 2 T. water over the top part of the crust.

Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Pour in filling

Fold over all sides

It came out buttery and extremely flavorful. The caramelized onions and the reduction sauce really clenched it. It was a fine addition to the Tday table and I’d make it again in a heartbeat.

Quick Quiche for “The Dish”

In honor of T. (AKA The Dish)’s birthday today, I am posting the quiche recipe from the last post per her request.

This is a completely versatile recipe. You can swap out cheeses and vegetables to your liking.

Simple Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

1 pie crust (as I mentioned, I was in a pinch so I used a readymade one. From scratch, Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee is good.)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 heads of broccoli, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, including stems
12 eggs
1 c. milk
2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Defrost the pie crust or prepare according to directions.

Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add diced onions and garlic and 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper and saute until translucent, then turn off the heat.

Using a separate pot, line the bottom with the stems of the broccoli. Cover with water and add 1/2 tsp of salt. Add the broccoli tops and then cover. Bring to a boil and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk 6 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks in a large bowl with the milk and 3 tsp each of salt and pepper. When combined thoroughly, add the shredded cheese.

Build the quiche by layering the onion-garlic mixture then the broccoli in the crust. Pour in egg and cheese mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the eggs are cooked through.

Can be served warm or room temperature.

Fig Jam

This is another Costco story, but a dark and stormy one. You’d think all I do is shop at is Costco, but really, it’s just new and intriguing.

C. and her new boyfriend were coming to visit and wanted me to cook for them, so I asked S. to pick up a pork loin, with the intention of roasting it with Giada’s fig sauce–which is really good, you should try it. I popped mixed baby potatoes in the oven with rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper at 400:

roasted potatoes

Then I went to prepare the pork. I opened the package, and a rotten, awful smell spewed forth. I called in reinforcements to second my smelling intuition, and indeed everyone agreed that the pork was rotten. So it was time to think fast.

I didn’t have any other meat on hand but frozen chicken thighs, and wasn’t feeling inspired by them. I did, however, have a Trader Joe’s pie crust (yes–store bought. It was handy in a pinch!). And broccoli. And a dozen eggs. And cheese. So after some debate, I threw together a quiche:


Which was tasty, but still left me with 12 oz of dried mission figs and a bottle of port. Seemed a shame to let them go to waste. So, I whipped up a fig jam in my food processor, which I served over ice cream. The result was gooey and fig newton–like, in the best possible way.

Fig Jam

Fig Jam

12 oz dried mission figs, cut in half and stems removed
1 c. port
4 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan over low heat and simmer until the wine has reduced by half and figs are soft. With an immersion blender or cuisinart, mix until blended thoroughly. Serve over ice cream.

Admittedly, it was the easiest thing to make of the night, but it was really delightful. Paired with SB.’s apple-chard pie (which should be a blog post in and of itself), it was divine.

apple-chard pie

And with that, dinner was saved!

How to eat a peck of spinach

Costco has this overwhelmingly strange affect on me. I mean, I’m afraid to buy anything, because it seems like 20 deodorants is never a good idea, even if they only cost 5 bucks. I don’t know. I get a little overexcited and all my shopping skills go out the window. I’m actually a pretty good shopper. I plan meals strategically so that nothing goes to waste. Parsley for the pasta means we’ll have to make a fritatta, too. Which means buy eggs. Which means make pancakes and eggs–in which the parsley will also come in handy. You get the idea. It’s not that exciting, it’s just that I’m broke. Fine job, lousy pay. So this blog is about thriftiness, too, incidentally.

Anyways, Costco. It blows my mind. All the items that are usually off limits to me–cookbooks, cameras, cuisinarts–somehow feel completely obtainable at Costco. It actually crossed my mind to buy a $500 digital camera when I was there last, just because it was there. It seemed so easy and logical. That’s it, things seem logical there. You are certainly saving money, so ergo you are allowed to spend. Makes perfect sense.

I asked M. to take me to Costco for laundry detergent (don’t have my own card). I came home with a metric ton of baby spinach and brussels sprouts. And oatmeal and ravioli and these fried vegetable things that were really good as a free sample. So I decided to make spinach soup for dinner tonight, figuring it would be the most amount of spinach used per square inch.

A whole lotta spinach

I made a bechamel for it, which is one thing that really gets me weak in the knees. The result was buttery and bright (I blame the white wine), and really didn’t take that long to make. So here it is:

Spinach Soup

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced (I used a red delicious)
1 c. white wine
4 c. veggie broth
1/2 stick butter
6 T flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
10 c. spinach
olive oil

Heat oil over medium heat and then saute onions, garlic, and apples until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add about a tsp of salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. You should freshly grate it. It really makes a difference.

Deglaze the pot with the wine and let simmer down for 3 minutes. Add the veggie broth and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over low in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk until it’s saucy. It is easier to do this step if you heat the milk first, but I think if you’re quick with the whisk, you can get the lumps out without the preheating. Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg. When it has a smooth consistency, whisk in the shredded cheese.

Mix the bechamel into the simmering stock until it creates a creamy texture. Add the spinach and let it wilt, about 5 minutes. Finish with an immersion blender and process until it’s smooth.

As for the brussels sprouts, I roasted them with salt and pepper and olive oil at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. SO wonderful.

Brussels Sprouts