Sunday, February 28, 2010

Three Bean Chili

Sometimes, my willingness to cook doesn't extend very far beyond chop and heat...

...beyond running a can opener...

and stirring.

On days like that, I love chili. You will, too.

Three Bean Chili
I don't care for the super spicy, but if you do, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and one minced, seeded jalapeno with the onions and peppers. Serves 6
1 lb ground pork
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t salt
1/2 t oregano
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

For topping (optional):
plain yogurt or sour cream
fresh diced tomato
green onion

  1. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat, adding the oil. Heat until the oil shimmers then add the pork. Cook 3-4 minutes, until browned. Remove to a bowl.
  2. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, stirring briefly. Add the spices and stir, cooking 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and peppers are softened.
  3. Add the beans, tomatoes, and stock. Stir and cover, cooking for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the browned pork and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Stir and cook an additional five minutes.
  5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, green onion, fresh diced tomatoes, avocado, and a beer. Don't forget the beer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Vegetables

I love couscous. That said, it's one of those things that doesn't make it onto the grocery list very often. If I had to give a reason, I would probably bring up the time I knocked over the measuring cup (which was full) and spilled couscous all over the counter, and floor, and stove. Couscous is so tiny and it rolls way faster than I expected. I found pieces of couscous for a month and a half after that.

Israeli couscous is less troublesome from the perspective of a clumsy cook. It's bigger, for one, so fewer pieces fit in a cup, which means fewer pieces to chase through the kitchen. The upside to couscous? It's really amenable to anything you throw at it and goes from season to season really easily. Curry? Can do. Soup? Check. Vegetable saute? Sign me up.

I sauteed onion and mushroom with zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, and chili flakes until everything was slightly softened, but not fully cooked. I wanted bright, fresh flavors to go with our unseasonably sunny February day.

Add the couscous and feta and it became a nice bridge dish - not really a winter dish, but not quite bright enough to be a spring dish either. It was just what we were craving. Feta, for me, is one of those odd cheeses. When I think about it, it doesn't rank very high on the list of things I like. At all. But when I eat it, I like it. I'm pleasantly surprised every. single. time. I have to say; it's kind of nice. It's like getting a tiny little gift every time I eat a meal with feta.

Israeli Couscous
Serves 3-4, depending on appetites
1 c israeli couscous
1 t butter
1 c water
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 c crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 zucchini, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 c collard or other greens, chopped
1 t chili flakes
1/2 c feta, crumbled
  1. Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat and let it melt. Add the couscous and toast briefly, stirring. Add 1/4 c water and turn the heat to low, covering the couscous. After 2 minutes, add the remaining water and recover. (If it looks like it needs more water, add it. You can always drain it later.) Allow to steam for 10-15 minutes, until the couscous is only slightly firm in the middle. Remove from heat.
  2. Over medium-high heat, warm a pan and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and mushroom and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper.
  3. Add the collard greens, tomato, and chili flakes and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the zucchini to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve the couscous with sauteed vegetables and feta.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hot Chocolate, for Reals

Have you ever had hot chocolate? The good stuff? REAL hot chocolate? The amazing kind that is more pudding than beverage?

Clive and I went to Spain a few years ago. We were in Madrid for two days and went to Chocolatería San Ginés three times. (Obsessive much?) The Chocolatería San Ginés is amazing. And old - 1890. It also (nerd alert!) is mentioned in a really fantastic book - Luces de Bohemia (1924) (I mean that sincerely. I liked the book and that makes me like the chocolate even more.) In other words, this place has some history, and a lot of experience making excellent hot chocolate. And churros. Did I forget to mention the churros? They're to-die-for good. But today, I'm talking about the chocolate.
(Image from the internet)

The chocolate is so rich and so perfect for today's return to chilly, rainy weather. Today at lunch, I saw a picture of the Calle de Alcalá in Madrid at night, and it reminded me of walking down the street with friends, and later, on a different trip, with Clive. Fond memories of Madrid and friends ... and chocolate.

Hot Chocolate
This hot chocolate is no joke - it's extremely rich. This recipe will technically fill one mug, but we usually split it between the two of us. That usually ends up being a perfect amount.

1/2 c chocolate, chopped
1/2 c half and half, divided
1/4 c water
1 T cornstarch
1 t vanilla extract
1 generous tablespoon whipped cream

  1. Put 1/4 cup half and half in a pan over medium heat. Put the remainder in a small cup with the water and cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.
  2. Add the chocolate to the pan and heat until the chocolate is melted and incorporated with the half and half.
  3. Stir in the sugar and the half and half/cornstarch mixture and reduce the heat to low. Stir constantly for 5 minutes until the chocolate has thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract.
  5. Serve with whipped cream.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cauliflower and Mushroom Curry

Remember the lasagna that I mentioned on Sunday?

Remember how I mentioned that I was on my own this week, with Clive headed to the fair-weather state of Pennsylvania? (That's a joke. This is a picture Clive sent me from sunny, fair Pennsylvania.)

Well if you remember all that, then you can probably pretty easily figure out what I've been eating for the last four days.


Lasagna for lunch, lasagna for dinner. Lasagna is definitely delicious, but it loses its luster after four days.

Can I tell you how excited I was to make something ELSE? Something that wasn't lasagna? It was so wonderful, even though I had a (ahem) slight disagreement with a serrano pepper.

I walked around the kitchen coughing for five minute before I realized that I should turn the vent fan on so I could breathe properly. Once I got it all put together, it was delicious.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Curry
If you're not fond of spicy food, omit the pepper. If you like spicy foods, add a second one.
2 t shredded coconut
2 t canola oil 1/4 c red onion, diced
1 c mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 c cauliflower, chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and diced
1 t tumeric
1 t curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup chopped asparagus
2/3 c rice

  1. Cook the rice per package directions.
  2. Put the coconut in a dry pan and heat over medium heat until the coconut browns. Keep an eye on it - coconut goes from unbrowned to blackened pretty quickly if you're not careful. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in the same pan and add the onion and mushrooms. Cook 3 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower, and water to the pan. Cover and steam for five minutes.
  5. Add the tumeric and curry and stir, cooking for 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk and cover. Simmer the vegetables, covered, for 10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat to low and add the peas, asparagus, and toasted coconut. Stir and cook an additional two minutes.
  8. Serve with rice.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Planning Ahead: Sunday Lasagna

This will be a busy-ish week for me, and those are the weeks I tend to have cheese and crackers for dinner at least once. That wouldn't be so terrible, but since I try to take last night's leftovers for lunch the next day, it leaves me in a lunchtime quandary. Making dinner on Sunday makes it easy to reheat something on what would have been a cheese and cracker night.

Lasagna is perfect for planning ahead, since it's one of the foods that almost always tastes better the next day. This recipe is a fun one, too, since it's very easily modified to what you have on hand or what you want your lasagna to become. This time around, mushrooms and spinach combine with turkey and pork to yield a hot, bubbly pan of yumminess.

Since I'm cooking this ahead, once the pan cooled down a little, I covered it with foil and put it in the fridge. If you're going any more than two or three days in advance, I recommend saran wrap AND foil and putting the pan in the freezer. Defrost it in the fridge during the day and reheat it that night. Half an hour at 350 should do it. Just remember to take the saran wrap off before you reheat it.

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
This will easily fill a 9x13 pan. I usually put three lasagna noodles on each layer. That would mean 9 noodles; I call for ten because that give me some leeway to drop a noodle on the floor or otherwise render a noodle unusable.

10 lasagna noodles
2 T olive oil
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb ground pork
2 1/2 cup(s) sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 c diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup wine
1 bunch spinach, carefully cleaned
1 can(s) crushed tomatoes
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried italian seasoning
1 pinch salt
1 t ground pepper
1/2 t cinnamon
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Boil water in a large pot. Add a pinch of salt once the water is boiling and cook the noodles in the boiling water until not quite al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Drain; return the noodles to the pot, cover with cool water, and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and pork and cook, crumbling with a spatula, until browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the turkey/pork mixture from the pan and set aside.
  4. Return the pan to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and stir in onions and mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine the spinach to the pan, stirring occasionally. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, turkey/pork mixture, oregano, italian seasoning, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes on medium-low heat.
  6. To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top. Place about 3/4 cup tomato mixture over the noodles. Continue with another layer of noodles, half the remaining tomato mixture, the remaining ricotta, and half the remaining mozzarella. Top with a third layer of noodles, the remaining tomatoes, and the last of the mozzarella.
  7. Bake until bubbly and browned, about an hour. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes

Seriously. Go make these chocolate souffle cupcakes with mint cream by Smitten Kitchen right now. They're so wonderfully rich and chocolatey without being too heavy, thanks to the whole souffle aspect.

They start with melted chocolate and end with meringue.

When they come out of the oven, the tops are perfectly puffed, and quickly fall. That's a good thing - it means there's somewhere to put the white chocolate mint cream.

Seriously. Go make these today. It's Valentine's Day, after all, the holiday of chocolate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cauliflower Gratin

The last time I was at the grocery store, I found a head of cauliflower the bigger than a basketball. I knew I was going to need a few recipes to use the whole thing. When I saw this recipe, I was definitely interested. After all, 'gratin' means there will be CHEESE. I was won over because the recipe is Deborah Madison's. Every recipe of hers that I've ever made has worked like a charm.

Our weather lately has returned to the wet wintery weather, but a cream-based gratin seemed too heavy. Instead, this tomato-based gratin with a touch of feta sounded perfect.

And it was.

Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Feta
This was a huge hit. The serving size says 4, but this easily served four people, two of whom each had two giant servings. I added spicy italian sausage, which I cooked in a touch of olive oil and beer, then sliced, to the sauce with the honey and capers. It rounded out the meal. We served this with a side salad. Serves 4.

From Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced or 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
4 links sausage, cooked and sliced
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1 large cauliflower, about 11/2 pounds, broken into florets
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 to 4 ounces crumbled feta
Finely chopped parsley

Preheat the broiler and lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon and cook until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cook for 7 minutes more, then add the honey and capers and season with salt and pepper. Slide the mixture into the dish.

Meanwhile, steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Set it on the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and add the feta. Place 5 to 6 inches under the broiler until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve. (If you are assembling the gratin ahead of time, cover and bake it at 400 °F until bubbling, about 20 minutes, then brown under the broiler.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Quinoa and Squash

I'm crap at math, so even though it's just me this week, I'm still shopping and cooking like there's two of us here. Since my shopping week started Saturday morning, I'm knee-deep in leftovers already and it's only Monday. I had roasted squash and pork roast from the weekend, so I added bacon, quinoa and onions and called it dinner.

It doesn't look like much, but onions sauteing in bacon made the house smell amazing. When I added the squash, everything got nuttier and richer. Please excuse the dark, grainy photos - I had to use the backup camera.

It may look a little plain and monochromatic, but this was serious comfort food and can easily be amended to make use of whatever leftovers you may have lurking in your fridge.

Quinoa with Squash
The beauty of it all is that since I was using leftovers, this came together in about 15 minutes.
1/2 c chopped onions
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 t salt
1 t pepper
3/4 c quinoa
1 1/2 c water
1 c pork, chopped
3/4 c roasted squash
1 small tomato, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped (optional)

  1. Bring the water to a boil, then add the quinoa. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the quinoa for 15 minutes.
  2. Put the chopped bacon into a saute pan and render until crisp. Drain all but 1 teaspoon of the fat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the squash and allow it to get brown and slightly caramelized in places, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the pork and tomato and stir. Cook 5 minutes, until heated through.
  4. Serve with chopped avocado on top.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Seattle has been overcast for a few days now, and I was in the mood for some comfort food. Risotto is already happy comfort food, but if you add squash? So much more comforting and filling. This one's a keeper.

I've only recently started using crushed sage, and I think I like it quite a bit. It's not that it's less sage-y-ness than fresh sage, but I think the flavor is a bit more subtle. And it's delicious with squash.

Squash and Mushroom Risotto

1 1/2 c roasted squash
2 c arborio rice
1 1/2 c mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c white wine
1 1/2 c onion, diced
2 t sage, crushed
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
olive oil

  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add 1 T olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and mushrooms and stir. Cook 5-8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and stir, cooking 1 minute.

  2. Stir in the rice and lower the heat to medium-low. Allow the rice to soften, stirring periodically (about 3-4 minutes).

  3. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. When the rice looks mostly dry, stir in 1/2 c stock. Stir once and lower the heat to low (2 on a 1-10 dial). Stir in the roasted squash. Once your spoon will leave a trail in the rice, add 1/2 c stock. Be patient and let the rice absorb the stock slowly. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time until absorbed.

  4. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Did I just find my next project?

I just got Material Obsession from the library. There are at least three quilts in here that I'd love to tackle, especially Cowboy Baby, which is seriously calling to me. (Image from the Material Obsession blog.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Abbreviated

I love Brussels sprouts. They're definitely one of my favorite vegetables, and I'm always beyond excited when my favorite farmers' market vendor has them on the table. Sunday was just such a day and I loaded up.

I went for a run after work tonight. When I got back and started to look for snacks, nothing sounded good - until I thought of crispy Brussels sprouts. When I make them as a side dish, I usually add a little pancetta or bacon, onions, and dried fruit - usually raisins or currants, whichever I happen to have. Tonight, I was too hungry and too impatient, and went the simple, but delicious, route.

Roasted Brussels sprouts

20 Brussels sprouts
olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 425, putting a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat up with the oven.

  2. Trim the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half, removing outside leaves as necessary.

  3. Put the Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and add 2T of olive oil, 2 t salt, and a pinch of pepper and stir to distribute the salt and pepper.

  4. Once the oven is preheated, spread the Brussels sprouts on the hot baking sheet. Be careful - they will sizzle and there may be steam.

  5. Roast for 25 minutes, or until tender.

  6. Devour.