Sunday, September 26, 2010

More on Chiles

While you're making Pork and Green Chile Stew, listen to the folks from Spilled Milk tell you everything you always wanted to know about chiles but were afraid to ask.

Episode 22: Chiles

Friday, September 24, 2010

Non-Recipe of the Day: Pork and Green Chile Stew

Pete's Kitchen was the first place I ever had really good green chile stew. Their breakfast burrito is a rolled up tortilla stuffed with eggs, sausage, potatoes, and cheese, as big as your head, smothered in a spicy green chile sauce. The flavors were so well developed, I assumed it was one of those recipes where everything has to simmer for five or six days, leaping from a stock pot to a Dutch oven to a pressure cooker and back, constantly stirred, with a precise mixture of half a dozen different chiles.

Maybe green chile stew in its purest form has a non-negotiable recipe, but the best I can tell, you can screw this up a handful of ways and you'll still do fine. You can leave out half the ingredients, double up the rest, miss-measure (mismeasure?) everything, and forget to time anything, but it's going to turn out okay, as long as you pay attention to one very important step: quality chiles.

Even using standard grocery store canned chiles isn't a deal breaker. There are some recipes that are just plain bomb-proof. Pour cereal into bowl, add milk, for instance. Do you need to measure the cereal, and does it matter whether it's whole or 2%? Well, along those lines, you got your browned pork, then sautéed onions in a bit of the pork fat, followed by chicken stock and chiles. Like I said, bomb-proof.

I'm no expert, but I have to think that the version at the Santa Fe School of Cooking has to be a consensus fave. But if you use The Google to search the InterTubes, you'll find that there are zillions of recipes 90% similar except that they switch around one of the steps. Some brown the pork in oil, some don't. Some add flour to the pork, some add it to the onions, some leave it out. Some season the pork first with cumin or chili powder, some wait until you add the chicken stock, and some use the green chiles as the only spice . Potatoes are optional, as are tomatoes. Green chile quantities vary from half a cup to five pounds. Chicken stock varies from one cup to six. And some simmer for 15 minutes while others take four hours in the crock pot.

My personal recommendations:
  • If you want to fire and forget, the crock pot works like a charm, but then you need a second pan to brown the pork and maybe the onions. But the beauty of the Dutch oven is that you can do it all in one contraption. Browns the pork, sautés the onions, and because it retains heat so well it does the same job as a slow cooker.
  • Most purists will say this can only be made with Hatch chiles, but life's too short to limit yourself to just one kind of anything. Find peppers that you like and mix 'em up. M's mom sent us a gallon of assorted peppers from her CSA, Ricky and Lucy's Country Greenhouse, just outside Sidney, NE. Mostly mild and medium, but all delicious, and the blend of flavors made for a remarkable stew.

If you want to experiment, check out the Santa Fe School of Cooking's version, Denver Green Chile's version here, and Gourmet's New Mexico version here.

Pork and Green Chile Stew

1-2 Tbs vegetable oil (optional)
1-2 pounds pork butt, country style ribs, or other boneless pork, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic gloves, minced (about a tablespoon)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced potatoes
1-2 cups diced green chiles (roasted, peeled, and chopped)
cilantro for serving

Optional items:
— 1-2 Tbs chili powder (Ancho or New Mexico) + salt and pepper to season the pork before browning
— 1 cup diced tomatoes

Brown the pork in batches in a Dutch oven or non-stick pan. Set aside.

Remove any excess pork drippings, saving enough to sauté the onions. Sauté the onions until golden, then add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

If anything has stuck to the pan, deglaze with a quarter cup of the chicken stock, scraping up the bits. If you're using a Dutch oven, add the pork back to onions. If you're using a non-stick pan, then switch everything over to a large stock pot.

Add the chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the chiles (and optional tomatoes) and simmer for 15 more minutes.

Depending on how much pork you use, how big your onion was, and how much chile you use, you might need to add more chicken broth to this the stew; conversely, maybe add a few Tbs of flour to thicken it.

Stir in some cilantro and serve by itself in a bowl, over rice, or in and on a breakfast burrito.

Freezes great.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let's Move Challenge: Recipes for Healthy Kids

I'll write more about this later ... but wanted to through out one question first.

Let's Move Challenge: Recipes for Healthy Kids

Let's Move!, in association with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country.
Participants will form teams, develop, document, and prepare at least one healthy recipe in one of three categories (Whole Grains, Dark Green and Orange vegetables, or Dry Beans and Peas). Their creations will be served in the school's cafeteria, and rated by students. Fifteen semi-finalist teams will have their recipe evaluated by our judging panel during events held at their school, and the top three teams will compete in a national cook-off to determine the grand prize winner! Semi-finalists' recipes will also be posted for online voting by the public to determine a Popular Choice Winner. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs.

Here's my thought: I've always been amazed that kids will eat the worst hamburgers or pizza, frozen and microwaved garbage with no flavor but a familiar look to it, but won't try tasty dishes that look different. While I fully support the First Lady's initiative here, I wonder if we're missing a crucial element: preparation and presentation, not just ingredients and recipes. I wonder if we don't need to also address the food preparation equipment in your typical public school cafeteria.

Check out your school's cafeteria. What do you see? A couple of deep fryers, a large griddle or fry top surface of some sort, and a huge oven. So your menu options are limited to those things that can be mass produced on or in this equipment.

Maybe we need to invent some new large volume cooking equipment?

How do they currently cook veggies? Typically, they're frozen, then boiled to death in a 10-20 gallon pot. We all know that microwaving veggies preserves the vitamins more efficiently, but a commercial microwave won't get the job done. So how about a large volume design that would let the cooks whip up fifty servings at a time? Or maybe a high speed convection-hybrid TurboChefs like Starbucks is using for their sandwiches?

I think there's also potential for a variation of sous vide style cooking in our schools. Prepared meals, vacuum sealed, then reheated quickly as the kids go through the line.

Last thought: I have noticed that kids are more receptive to meals when they either participate or see the preparation. When the cooks do their work in the back, then walk out with a tray of who knows what, the kids are unreceptive. Granted, letting them roll up their sleeves every day might be too much of a stretch, but think about a P.F. Chang's style kitchen, right behind the counter, no walls, where the kids can see exactly what's going on, see the flames and smoke and cool stuff that will get their interest.

I haven't put too much thought into this ... just heard the discussion on Science Friday, and the first thing that jumped into my head was, modern cafeterias look exactly like they did when I was in school some forty years ago. And with all of our technological advances, surely there are some kitchen equipment redesigns that could help get the kids away from burgers and chicken nuggets.

More to follow ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zucchini Cornbread

My mom would make cake-like cornbread back in the day. For the life of me I can't remember with what main dish she would serve it. We were Euro-mutts of a definite haole/gringo variety, so it definitely wasn't anything southwestern, as any spice hotter than grocery store brand pre-ground black pepper would make my Celtic druid hide burst into flames. And we didn't do a lot of traditional southern cooking, despite growing up mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line. I didn't have a standard against which to judge it, but I thought my mom's cornbread was the best in the world. It didn't have the heavy creaminess from a gallon of sour cream, or the authenticity of freshly roasted corn. But it was perfectly uniform like a slice of pound cake, didn't have that unripe-banana mouth-feel that some cornbreads have, and was oh-so-sweet. I'd have two or three slices with dinner, then sneak a square out of the room folded up in a napkin to enjoy in my room or on the porch.

Found out later, all she did was take a basic Betty Crocker recipe and up the sugar and add some vanilla extract.

Been on a bit of a summer squash kick lately, and nine times out of ten, when I get into a rut, it's because I just can't think of anything else to do, out of a lack of inspiration. But this time, it's simply because the Mexican greys and gourmet globes and all of the rest have been so dang good all summer long.

The shredded or chopped zucchini gives the bread some moistness without adding sour cream or extra butter, and seems to be a natural fit for either straight-up corn or corn and jalapeño bread.

And like all good non-recipes, you can play with a couple of the numbers. You can go with as little as half a cup or as much as two cups of zucchini, which can be either shredded or finely chopped. Add an ear's worth of freshly roasted corn, a half cup of frozen, or none of the above. Cut the sweeteners in half or double them. And go a little crazy with the chiles.

Goes great with yesterday's Hot and Spicy Buffalo Chili.

High Plains Zucchini Cornbread, adapted from The Baking Sheet.

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup corn meal (white or yellow)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
(or one cup whole milk, one Tbs lemon juice or cider vinegar, left to stand for 10 minutes)
2 eggs *
2 Tbs molasses
3 Tbs melted butter
Shredded zucchini: 1-2 large or 2-4 small.** (If all you have are mediums, you're on your own!)
Optional: ¼ cup each of corn and/or diced chili peppers

* The Baking Sheet called one egg + one egg white, but I hate discarding half an egg. If anyone tries it with the one egg white, let me know what you think.
** Several recipes called for squeezing out the water from the zucchini. I skipped that part and thought it was fine, and not sure what squeezing out the water would get me.

Heat your oven to 400º and grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

In the good old large bowl, whisk your flours and cornmeal, then baking powder and baking, then salt and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk your buttermilk, eggs, molasses and butter until smooth and uniform.

Slowly pour the wet into the dry, and stir gently until just combined. Then add the zucchini (and corn and/or chiles, if you're so inclined) and just barely stir again until it looks all even. Pour the batter into your pan, spreading if needed to even everything out.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until it looks like it's just about to brown on top. Cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Freezes quite nicely if you wrap it tightly in a zip-lock or plastic wrap. Wrap in foil and warm in a 200º oven before serving.

Serve on the side of a big bowl of chili.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beans and Rice

The packages were mailed with impeccable timing so as to arrive the day before the holiday, birthday, or special event, or, in the case of a weekend shindig, on the Friday before. The boxes were cut down and refolded so as to require minimal packing materials, to scalpel away every unnecessary ounce — no sense paying Uncle Sugar and the US Postal folks a penny more than he needed to.

Inside the box were presents for the grandkids, something special for each one, but it also unfailingly included something practical. Maybe a few pounds of pecans from the nearby orchards, or something that my mom had mentioned, off-handedly, something she needed to get from the store.

And there was always an envelope. A blank envelope, no writing or return address or "To:" on the front or back. Unsealed, with the flap tucked in, so the card wouldn't fall out but so the envelope could be used again. Inside the envelope was a card, also blank, with a handwritten note on a separate piece of paper. A blank card and a blank envelope, so I could reuse it, maybe give it to my mom or dad on their birthday, saving me a trip to the store and a dollar-fifty.

The note always started with a reference to whatever we had spoken about last: "Thank you for the baseball pictures" or "It's so good to hear how you're doing in school." Then it congratulated us on our birthday, wished us a happy Thanksgiving, or explained how proud he was of whatever it was we did most recently.

And he signed off the same way every time: "Beans and rice." From my earliest years, I knew what it meant, shorthand for those things that will get you through the hard times. My grandparents had lived through the depression, had seen tough times, not tough as in your stock portfolio took a hit over the last quarter or the Apple Store was out of the 3G iPad, but real tough, missing meals tough, darning socks tough, and waking up seeing your breath it's so cold inside tough.

We weren't much of a bean family, but we had our share of rice. Whatever it was Mom was cooking, rice would make it go further. Add a cup of cooked rice to the meatloaf to make it look like two pounds of ground beef, that kind of thing. Wasn't hardly anything you couldn't add rice to. I half expected to see the grains floating in my Kool-ade.

I still have a lot of my grandfather in me. When I travel and want to send home little gifts, I'm a lot more likely to send them a pound of coffee from wherever I am, than an ornamental plate or spoon or a T-shirt — something practical and consumable that won't sit on a shelf taking up space forever. And I have trouble looking at any recipe without wondering how you could double the servings by adding some rice or potatoes or stuffing it into a tortilla. Mu shu pork burrito? Why not?

Chili always looks naked to me when it's not served over rice. Even Cincinnati-style chili can go a little further if you put a scoop of rice in the bottom of the bowl, then add the spaghetti, then the chili.

Okay, maybe that's getting carried away ... rice and spaghetti sounds like you're just asking Primo to call you a criminal and refuse to serve you. But it's still in the back of my mind nearly every time I step into the kitchen.

Not sure what Papa Joe would think about this chili. The man knew his produce and his steaks, but our family wasn't much for spices that made you sweat. But I do know that after tasting it, he would say that we should double the beans and serve it over a huge bowl of rice. Just because, you never know ... and you should never forget the tough times.

Our go to chili recipe: Hot and Spicy Buffalo Chili (The starting point)

1 pound ground bison
1 pound hot and spicy Italian sausage (casings removed)
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 4-ounce can fire-roasted diced green chiles
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, and chopped cilantro for serving

In a large skillet, cook bison and sausage over medium heat until
browned. Drain.

Mix meat and remaining ingredients in 6-quart crock pot. Cover and
cook on low heat setting 6–8 hours (or high heat setting 3–4 hours) or until
onion is tender.

Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.


  • There are lots of chili powders to try, and we'll occasionally go up to 4 Tbs if they're not super hot. Savory Spices has a huge selection if your grocery store can't help you out. Mexican oregano is a nice addition, maybe a Tbs sprinkled in with the chili powder.

  • Experiment with cinnamon, cloves, all-spice, and even chocolate.

  • I'm guessing you can get canned chili peppers just about anywhere these days. If you're lucky, you live in a place where folks roast Hatch chili peppers on the side of the road, so you can pick up a bag on your way home. In these parts, you can buy them frozen as well. Or, roast your own. The conventional wisdom is to roast them on a grill or in the oven, then place in a paper bag and let them steam. You can then peel off the skins and use immediately or slice and freeze. But I've never quite gotten the part about peeling off the skins. I just slice them up, roast them on the grill or oven, then store in zip lock bags in individual servings. Keep enough in the fridge for the rest of the week and freeze the rest.
  • Canned tomatoes work in pinch, but try roasting a pound or so, slicing them in half and oven-roasting them for 30-45 minutes. Then coarsely chop them before adding them to the mix.
  • When we've made the chili on the hot side, it always seems to mellow out the next day. So the first time, serve it plain or over white rice. The next day, make the rice with a little cumin, Mexican oregano, and lime juice, and it won't seem like leftovers at all.

Tomorrow: Zucchini Cornbread, if you really don't feel like rice in your chili

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake

Can't miss fall dessert.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet
chocolate chips
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
3/4 cup butter (melted)
6 eggs, slightly beaten

Molasses Glaze:
1/4 cup butter
1∕3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup or dark-color
corn syrup
2 tablespoons molasses

Heat oven to 350° F. With nonstick spray, generously coat a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.
Measure 1/2 cup of the flour into a small bowl, and add the chocolate chips. Toss to coat.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves), baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bowl combine the pumpkin, melted butter, and eggs. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until combined. Then add the chocolate / flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.
Bake for 60–70 minutes. It is ready when a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, but you already knew that, didn’t you? Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool for 30 minutes.
Prepare the molasses glaze by melting, in a small saucepan, the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and molasses. Bring to a simmer, then cook uncovered for three minutes or until slightly thickened. Cool for five minutes, then spoon over the cooled cake.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Improv Blueberry Bars

One of these days, I'll know what I'm doing. Talking in general terms there, but if you want one specific, you could start with understanding the chemistry of how simple house hold items, like flour and eggs and oils, respond to heat. I mean, I've only been applying heat to food and soon-to-be-food substances for half a century now ... you'd think I'd have paid attention maybe once or twice as to what exactly was going on inside that black box on the wall of the kitchen.

I always thought baking was all about following directions to the T. (Why the T? Why not the S?) But when you can't follow them exactly, because you need an ingredient substitution or don't have the right kind of pan, then you need to actually know what you're doing. Which I don't. I guess it's kinda like jazz. The secret to improvisation is a thorough understanding of the fundamentals. If you're going to cross the line, you have to know where the line is.

So we've been playing around with some desserts yesterday, with delicious albeit less than photographic results. Made a peach pie with Palisade peaches, following the basic peach pie recipe: standard pie shell plus a filling of peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, butter, and flour.

But these were Palisade peaches ... twice as juicy as your standard Georgia, South Carolina, or California peach. So the pie tasted great, but it a little sloppy. Could have used a little tapioca or maybe some more flour. Something to account for these specific peaches.

Same thing with a wonderful blueberry bar recipe I saw at One Ordinary Day. Check out her pix over at her site. Looks perfect as a dessert or snack. Looks like something that would disappear at a family gathering or that would keep in the freezer for quite some time. Whole wheat flour, fresh fruit ... just plain cool all the way around.

Gave the ingredients a quick scan ... yep, got 'em all. So started cranking out a batch without a worry in the world. And mixing the batter couldn't have been easier.

Last step: spread the batter into a 10.5"x 15" jelly roll pan ... oops! No such item in my kitchen. Not a big deal ... can just use a rimmed baking sheet, yeah? So I spread the batter onto a baking sheet ... a 12" x 17" baking sheet. Oops! Only around fifty square inches difference there. Not enough batter to make it to the edge. Dug around and found ... an enameled lasagna pan. That should work, yeah?

Well, it sort of did. But the lasagna pan takes a lot longer to heat up than a simple metal sheet, so while I got a nice crispy top layer, the bottom didn't firm up. Had to stick it back in for another 15 minutes at a lower temp to get the bottom fully cooked without burning the top. Ahhh, well, there you go ... if I had thought about the physics for two seconds, I would have seen that coming. But I still wouldn't have known the right time / temp combo to fix it without trial and error. Because I'm no Miles Davis.

In the pantheon of kitchen disasters, this little experiment doesn't even rate a footnote. My bars weren't as pretty as Michelle's, but they tasted great. And I'd like to experiment a little bit more, maybe make them even more shortbready. But it would be nice, one day, to have a full grasp of the fundamentals so I'd know what was going to happen when I changed Step X into Step Y.

OOD's Blueberry Cookie Bars

½ cup light oil

¼ cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

(I actually used 1 cup sugar + 2/3rds cup of agave nectar)

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract or one vanilla bean pod

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

¼ tsp baking soda

2-3 cups blueberries or mixed berries (fresh if you got 'em, frozen works just as well, but as always, use them frozen, not thawed.)

Heat your oven to 350º. Lightly grease a 10½"x 15" jelly roll pan.

Mix your flours and baking soda in a medium bowl. Then cream the oil, butter, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and beat well.

Add the flour mix slowly, gently mixing as you do.

Spread ⅔ of your mixture into your pan and then add your berries.

Spoon the remaining batter on top of the berries — no mixing required, because the batter will spread out as it bakes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden. Allow to cool in the pan, then slice and serve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I like toast!

Personal opinion, and we're all entitled to our own preferences ... but toast just tastes better when it's cut in triangles instead of rectangles.

Second place is slightly undercooked toast (undertoasted?) that's folded in half.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Is Summer Over?

Drank the last St Lupulin. All of the Palisade peaches are gone. No more Rocky Ford melons to be found. And the Sweet Olathe corn is scarce.

Yep, summer's over.

Bring on the chili! (Stay tuned ... ) And dust off your Dutch oven.

Post Script: Okay, I'm full of crap. Talked to a couple of farmers this week and we have the whole rest of September to enjoy plentiful Rocky Fords ... as long as we're looking at farmer's markets and not the supermarkets. (Are there regularmarkets out there? JustOKmarkets?) And they're still shipping some peaches from the Western Slope.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last one before Labor Day

One of our new year's resolutions was to pay a lot closer attention to the amount of food we buy. We've never shown a lot of discipline in that area. Dual income, no kids ... so we bought what we wanted, cooked most of it up, ate as much of it as we could ... but we threw away quite a bit as well. Lots of fruit and veggies that we bought with good intentions but never got to, or huge dishes that made for leftovers to the point in which we were sick of it, and then it all went into the trash.

So conscientious consumption was a priority for 2010, and we kicked butt for the first half of the year. We made menu plans which turned into very specific shopping lists. And when we made big dishes, we froze half of it from the get-go, so we didn't have the Eight-Days-of-Lasagna syndrome.

Then along came the screaming bundle of joy.

Cooking mit kinder can be a challenge. There's no time for planning, let alone executing, so at first we were eating a lot of fried egg sammiches. But after the first month, we decided we needed to get back in gear and pay closer attention again.

But we just don't have the time to sort through recipes, so we've been counting on Providence to show us the way. And what works for me is, to toss a magazine in the air and see how it lands.

I randomly grabbed a mag from the shelf and opened it to some place in the middle, and landed on this from the July Bon Appétit. It was a feature on 80 different ways to serve up hot dogs. Hot dogs? Seriously? You need a recipe for hot dogs? But I looked as the recipe, and it called for things we happened to have on hand. And after a quick perusal through the fridge, it looked like the hot dog combo would go great on grilled chicken as well, with a potato salad we were planning on making anyway.

Result? Well, first of all, these were the best hot dogs I've ever had. And second, there was not one ounce of wasted food. What wasn't consumed the first time around made it into the second dish, so we never had the same thing twice and didn't throw away any of it.

So, here's the basic recipe from Bon Appetit:
(click the image of their hot dog on the right to see their original recipe)

Hot Dogs with Dal and Red-Onion Raita

Lentil Dal
½ cup lentils
2 ½ cups water
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp turmeric (or play around with your own combo of curry powders)
kosher or sea salt to taste

Red-onion Raita
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbs fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tsp minced chile pepper of any sort (seeded for a milder flavor, seeds in for hotter)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbs plain yogurt

Hot dogs and buns, or grilled naan or pita bread

Dal: Rinse the lentils, then bring to a boil in a sauce pan with the water and spices. After it reaches a boil, simmer (covered) for about 30-35 minutes. Either scoop out the lentils or drain the pan, saving the water. Mash the lentils into a course paste, adding a bit of the water as necessary to make a topping that will spoon easily onto the dogs.

Raita: Mix everything into a non-reactive bowl and let stand for 30 minutes.

(As you can see, this is one of those efficient recipes, because it all takes about the same amount of time. Brings the lentils to a boil, mix the raita, and finish the dal while the raita sits and does its thing.)

Meal #1: To keep things simple, the first day we just served the dogs on hot dog buns, with a side salad.

Meal #2: Because dal and raita was already made and we didn't really need to make anything else, we used the free time to grill up a little naan to use instead of buns.

Meal #3 and #4: Instead of hot dogs, we used the left over dal and raita on top of grilled tandoori chicken.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

3 chicken breasts
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs water
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
½ cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbs chopped fresh ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
dash cayenne
(or, your favorite combo of curry spices)
2 Tbs olive oil

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry with a paper towel. Using a carving knife, score the chicken across the tops and bottoms, about an inch apart. Set aside.

In a glass pan about the same size as your chicken, mix the lemon juice, water, salt, and turmeric. Coat both sides of the chicken and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.

While it's marinating, mix all of the remaining ingredients. Coat the chicken again and let it marinate for another 10-15 minutes.

Generously oil the grates of your grill, and grill according to your grill's normal chicken time/temps.

Serve with the dal and raita from the day before. We served it alongside the green bean / potato salad from the other day (the lemony, herby dressing worked great with the curry-ish chicken) and a tomato/cuke salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, with a very light dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and sugar, with a bit of feta on top), and a bit of grilled naan again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Labor Day variations on a theme

I've been having a pretty good summer but I find myself in a quandary, which is troubling because I'm not even sure what a quandary is. But it seems I've just gotten started with summer dining fare and it's already time to move on to fall and winter grub.

Colorado throws me off that way. The best farmer's market offerings are in August, which is just a stone's throw from the end of the year. Palisade peaches, sweet Olathe corn, and Rocky Ford melons come and they go so damn quickly ... you can't find them, can't find them, can't find them ... then all of a sudden they're everywhere, and then before you know it they're gone.

The weather doesn't help. It's 90º today, 75º tomorrow, and 90º again by the weekend. So who knows whether you should be splitting a watermelon on the porch or hunkering down in front of the fire with a bowl of stew?

That's where we are with Labor Day. Typically the last major grill-fest, and yet it doesn't feel like summer any more.

Which is why I'm thinking of one-off versions of typical summer grill and BBQ stand-bys. Baked beans and potato salad, but just a wee bit off.

Potato Salad with Green Beans and Salsa Verde, via Napa's Long Meadow Ranch Winery.

Instead of mayo, the salsa verde and lemon zest and juice makes this a bright and versatile salad that goes well with just about everything, and makes for a nice summer/fall transition side.

Salsa Verde

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chives, finely chopped
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
(or substitute ½ cup of other seasonal herbs)
2 Tbs mint, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt to taste

Mix everything in a small bowl (at least one cup) and let it stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Potato Salad

1—1½ pounds potatoes, 1 inch cubes
2-3 Tbs butter
1 lb trimmed green beans

Boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes in salted water, then drain and toss with 1-2 Tbs of butter (or olive oil). Lightly salt. Then boil the beans for 3-4 minutes, just until tender. Drain and toss with 1 Tbs of butter. Optional: after draining, dunk the beans in a large bowl of ice water for a minute to preserve the color.
Clean up saver: instead of draining the potatoes, scoop them out and transfer them to another bowl, preserving the water. Then boil the beans in the potato water. This saves water and energy, since you're not bringing two pots of water to a boil separately.

Mix the potatoes and beans, then coat with the salsa verde. The author recommends serving immediately, but this will keep at room temperature for a few hours or can be saved in the fridge until you're ready.

Chipotle-Maple Black Beans, via the Cuisine at Home folks.

1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 cans black beans (drain or not drained, doesn't matter)
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup ketchup
* 1-2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

*Lots of ways to go here. Use one chile with its seeds, or two or three chiles with or without seeds, depending on how hot you want it. Start on the low end and work your way up unless you know everyone likes it hot. A grapefruit spoon is an easy way to remove the seeds: just cut the chile length-ways and scrape the seeds out.

Saute the onions over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze with the vinegar, then turn to high and bring to a boil. Add everything else, reduce to medium low, and simmer for ten minutes.
At this point, you can serve them up if you want, but it's better to turn it down to low, cover with a slight vent, and simmer for a good hour. Or, if you don't mind getting two pots dirty, you can saute the onions and garlic, deglaze, then move everything to a crock pot on high for 1-2 hours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little Girl

Here's why the posts have been few and far between lately:

Quick trip to Alaska and San Francisco

First trip to Alaska in five years:

Quick stop in San Francisco on our way back home from Alaska.