Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chili and roasted squash

It is still raining, and raining and raining; all cats but one hide out and sleep, and the one not hiding out wants to cuddle. I look at the leaves on the trees, and most of them are still green, a few are yellow and not many are on the street. So, no reason to worry yet. Dnner was warming: leftover chili, a roasted acorn squash, and sauteed red bell pepper.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beet and fig salad

This morning I bought some of the golden beets at the FM, and cooked them according to my new method: cut the ends off, place them in a castiron dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, pour about a 1/4 cup of water (or broth or balsamic vinegar in the case of purple beets), turn up the heat to 400F, place them in the oven and let roast for 55min. I still have figs, and with some goat cheese (blue cheese would have been even better) and balsamic vinagrette lunch was ready.

beet_fig_salad golden_beets

Farmers market in the rain

Today was one of those days when you get the produce from the farmers market already prewashed, extra prewashed. It was also a day to bring out the rainboots and warm jackets. Hopefully, it is only a glitch in the fall weather.






Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short rib chili

These days, the temperatures are slowly dropping, the nights get colder, the plants, out for the summer on the patio, have moved back to their winter location inside the house, and there are more and more evenings that call for hearty food: soup, stews and chilis. This is one of my favorite chilis that I have made several times since I first saw the recipe on one of Giada’s cooking shows, and I cannot believe I have not written it up and blogged about. This chili is not your everyday beans-beef-tomato chili but it is elegant, authentic Mexican and deeply rich in flavor with the addition of espresso powder and the base braising liquid made of a hefty amount of dried chiles. I also add a bit of cacao powder so that the chili has an even more pronounced mole character. As said, it impresses everyone. I had a friend over this weekend and served it for lunch, I typically eat about a cup, and he polished off the rest, peeking in my direction during his second helping “Do you still want some, or can I have the rest?”  Smirk.


This is my skinnied version with extra bell pepper and broccoli.


Short Rib Chili (based on a recipe by Giada di Laurentiis)

  • 1.5 pound meaty short ribs, with bone (basically one package, can be 2 larger short ribs, or 4 smaller ones), cut into individual ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces with scissors (*often found at cheap price at Walmart)
  • 2 large dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces with scissors (*often found at cheap price at Walmart)
  • 1/2 TB clarified butter or olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and microplanned
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 TM freshly ground cumin
  • 1 TB dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 cup beef broth (preferably organic)
  • 2 TM brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee
  • 1 TB cacao powder
  • One 15 to 16-ounce can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cup of frozen sweet corn (Trader Joes has a variety that is picked a the peak of the harvest, and very sweet)
  • Adobo sauce, from can of chipotle chiles, optional
  • Chopped green onions
  • Garnishes, such as sour cream and green onions and shredded cheese.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Arrange the short ribs on plate, pat dry with paper towel and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. 

Bring the New Mexico chiles, ancho chiles and 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chiles are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender (best: Vitamix!!!). Cool the mix in an ice bath for 15 min. Holding the top on firmly with a dish towel, blend until the chile puree is smooth. (Note, wait until it is colder or it will explode because of the steam).

Heat the ghee/oil in a large flat cast iron pot (best a dutch oven with a firmly closing lid) over medium-high heat. Add the short ribs and brown on all sides, 4 minutes per side, and transfer the short ribs to plate (I typically can do the ribs in one batch, if they don’t fit, make in 2 batches). 

Add the garlic and red onions to the drippings in the pot. Saute until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cumin and oregano.  Use the broth to deglaze the pan since the onions and garlic will stick to the pan bottom. Now, add the chile puree from the blender, the rest of the broth, brown sugar, maple syrup, espresso powder and cacao; stir to blend. Return the short ribs  and stir to coat. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place the pot in the oven. Braise until the ribs are very tender, minimum 2 hours 30 minutes (see picture above).

Remove pot from oven, and move the ribs to a plate. Spoon off and discard any fat that has risen to the surface. At this point, you can cool the chili mix and the meat, and prepare the rest once the meat is cold and easier to handle. The next step is to cut the rib meat into small 1/2 or 1/4 inch size cubes. To do so, carefully cut the membrane off each piece of meat (try to cut away only the membrane and not any meat). Discard the membranes and all bones. Cut the meat into small (scant 1/2-inch) cubes. Return the meat to the sauce in the pot. Mix in the black beans and the corn. Season the chili with about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. If desired, add the adobo sauce by teaspoonfuls to increase the spiciness. Transfer the chili to a large bowl. Serve with green onions, sour cream and shredded cheddar and crusty baguette.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Common Ground Fair, Maine

This weekend the annual Common Ground Fair takes place in Unity, ME, a three day event with thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. “A big hippie fest” as my friend A. would say. I see it more as a big, big farmers market and craft fair (although there are animals exhibits). Starting at the Rose Gate entrance sets the tone for the CGF, a generous scent of Sweet Annie fills the air, people buy organic vegetables, dried flowers, local raw honey, sample greek yogurt ice cream, local goat cheeses and bread, pet alpacas and angora bunnies, and take pictures of anything that they can’t take home (like me). The kids have their own fun, a little summer sled hill, and I saw for the first time how an entire ginger root plant looks like. All in all, good fun.
CGF (20 of 1)
CGF (20 of 2)

Less (exercise) is more?

I came across this study in the NY Times this morning, and I tend to agree: moderate exercise (e.g. cycling or running 30min) leads to more weightloss than regular strenuous exercise (e.g. running 60min or more per day).

NYT here; original study here:

"The men exercising half as much, however, seemed to grow energized and inspired. Their motion sensors show that, compared with the men in the other two groups, they were active in the time apart from exercise. “It looks like they were taking the stairs now, not the elevators, and just moving around more,” Mr. Rosenkilde says. “It was little things, but they add up.”

The overall message, he says, is that the shorter exercise sessions seem to have allowed the men “to burn calories without wanting to replace them so much.” The hourlong sessions were more draining and prompted a stronger and largely unconscious desire to replenish the lost energy stores.
Of course, the study involved only young men, whose metabolisms and weight-loss motivations may be quite different from those of other groups, including women.
The study also was short-term, and the results might shift over the course of, say, a year of continued exercise, Mr. Rosenkilde says. The men working out for 60 minutes were, after all, packing on some muscle, while the 30-minute exercisers were not. That extra muscle offset some of the vigorous exercisers’ weight loss in the short term — they sloughed off fat but added muscle, decreasing their net loss — but over the longer term it could amp up their metabolism, aiding in weight control."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spicy chickpeas with coconut

This is a great idea for an aromatic, Indian inspired side dish or something to add to a salad. Chickpeas sauteed in a spiced, aromatic oil and mixed coconut shreds. I actually used sweetened coconut.

Spicy chickpeas with coconut
  • 1 TB grapeseed oil (or other unflavored oil)
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, sliced
  • 6-7 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 TB mustard seeds
  • pinch Asafoetida
  • 1 can salt-free organic chickpeas (e.g. Trader Joes), rinsed
  • 2 TB (sweetened) coconut
Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and add the chili pepper, mustard seeds, curry leaves and the Asafoetida powder and heat through until the mustard seeds pop and it has a wonderful aromatic smell. Add the chickpeas and heat with the oil, until the chickpeas are hot (ca. 3 minutes). Add the coconut shreds, mix, heat for another minute and turn off the heat. Add salt to taste, and serve.
coconut_Chickpea_1 coconut_Chickpea_2

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two ingredient sandwiches

I wanted to share this (and save it to a place where I can find these recipes fast when I go on my next hike).  Creative ideas by Saveur magazine on sandwiches with only 2 ingredients:

  • Tomatoes and Avocado
  • Goat cheese and Tapenade
  • Ricotta and Honey
  • Radishes and Butter
  • Peanut butter and crisp Bacon
  • Ham and Hardboiled Eggs
  • Smoked Gouda and Apple Butter
  • Cucumbers and Cream Cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar and Grainy Mustard 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Indian summer

It’s has been quite busy around here, but not too busy to not take a few photos of the beautiful Indian summer we had lately (although, the weather man reports, today is the last one of them for the week). Indian summer has such a calm in the air and ferocious warm colors that I start to warm up to it, and avoid thinking of the follow-up season… I leave you with the photos. 















Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mini bread loaves

Fall was definitely in the air today. Walking around with a tee shirt with no jacket made me sneeze and catch a cold. When I came home I started the winter migration of the deck: the plants came inside the house, and it was time to light a fire in the wood stove.  To add to the comfort, I baked off the mini bread loaves which had been rising since noon (I used this recipe, just split the dough into 2 parts and let the dough rise in the mini bread baskets). The rest of the comfort meal was half-clean eating dinner --- a can of 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s Campbell tomato soup with kale from the garden, pasta and some cannellini beans.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Late summer pasta

It still feels like summer although there are the first leaves on the ground. Tomatoes abound, zucchini, too, and fresh herbs. They make a great vegetable pasta ‘sauce’ with shaved zucchini, fresh rosemary, red bell pepper, tomatoes and penne. Light and filling!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Russian Chocolate, Date and Walnut Torte

These are the days of world wide culinary social networks and recipes and…. google translate. Which means with some fantasy (and baking wisdom) I can make a Russian cake which had me at “hello”. Or is it a Bulgarian recipe? As Russian grad student said it is not Russian, more likely Bulgarian, cyrillic and all. With some fingers crossed it came out just fine. The raw dough tasted marvelous, the torte even better: light, fluffy, rich, not too sweet and one would not suspect dates I think.

Russian Chocolate, Date and Walnut Torte
a 10 inch non-stick springform pan.
  • 2 cups medjol dates
  • 1 1/2 cup strong hot coffee
  • 10 TB butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • decorate with powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 370F. Spray or butter a 10 inch springform, and set aside.
Prepare 1.5 cups hot, strong coffee (best in a French press with ca 3 TB of fresh ground espresso). De-pit the dates, and cut them into small dice. Place them in a large coffee cup and cover with the hot coffee. Soak for 5 minutes.
Now, mix the flour with the baking soda, salt and cocoa and set aside.
In a standmixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, and incorporate well. Add vanilla.
Turn speed to low, and slowly add the flour mixture to the cake batter. Mix well. With a large spoon, retrieve the dates from the hot coffee, and add to the cake batter (add a bit of coffee at a time). You should only have about a 1/2 cup of coffee let in the pot after the figs are removed. Incorporate well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared form and sprinkle top with chocolate chips.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until ready by checking with a stick if you spend dry then the cake is ready. Cool before removing from the form.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wipe out

This morning the weather made me think of crocheting tea cozies and cooking thick, spicy soups. But the sun came out again and it is still very warm, no jackets required. One week down at work, and I am already wiped out. Today was dedicated to being obligation-free and just float through the day. It still included making pulled pork (tenderloin) and a beef stock, but I skipped the farmers market, email and about everything else. Lunch was from leftovers in the fridge: yellow watermelon, local tomatoes, arugula salad and spiced shrimp.