Friday, October 28, 2011

It's chilly, so...chili!

Here in NY we've suddenly fallen out of fall and smack into winter.  I'm glad I enjoyed the crisp air and colorful leaves while they lasted.  Today I think Dan and I will have to take the A/C unit out of the window.  We've stubbornly resisted long enough, but summer is officially over.  And denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Just a quick post to share my favorite chili spice blend with you.  Although it may seem like a lot, I typically use the whole recipe amount when I'm preparing a big pot.  The resulting chili, whether it's chili con carne, chili non carne, or whatever form of chili in between, is sure to stand out in flavor.  Just be sure to supplement with enough salt so that all this rich spice really shines!
Chili Powder Blend (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
makes 1/2 cup

5 tablespoons ground mild chile pepper (such as ancho, pasilla, new mexico, etc.)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (Aleppo is best, cayenne is also good)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Use immediately, or store in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Art of Zoz

A quick non-culinary plug to my dear friend, artist Zoe Long.  Check out these incredible shoes she designed for me!  Waterproof permanent ink on white canvas shoes.  So brilliant.  Thank you, Zoe!

Check out Zoe's blog and like the Art of Zoz on Facebook.  This talented lady's going places - check her out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall pasta

In my continuing obsession with all things autumn-related, today I took a walk over to the farmer's market in my neighborhood of Astoria to gather seasonal goodies for lunch.  There I found some gorgeous Tuscan kale, and all sorts of squash and apples.  Naturally, I bought more than I could reasonably carry and awkwardly shuffle-shuffled home, cursing myself because I just had to have that huge, round kabocha squash.  Ah well!  Cooking is nothing if not a labor of love.

This is a simple recipe inspired by this recent post from one of the food blogs I follow, Dinner: A Love Story.

Pasta with Kale and Pancetta
6 to 8 servings

1 lb. (whole wheat) pasta (I like fusilli for the way the diced pancetta gets stuck in the curls)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stem ends removed and roughly chopped
good red pepper flakes to taste (I'm obsessed with the Calabrese kind from Buon Italia in Chelsea Market!)
salt to taste

3 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Put up a large pot of water on high heat.  Once it comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta.  Cook according to the package instructions.  Drain, reserving at least 2 cups of pasta water.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the pancetta.  Cook until browned, then add the garlic and cook another minute or so.  Carefully add the kale on top (it will sputter and hiss when the oil meets the water) and let it wilt into the pan.  After the racket dies down, add salt and red pepper flakes, stir, and cook another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl or tray, mix the pasta, kale/pancetta mixture, and the goat cheese.  Toss to allow the heat to melt the goat cheese, if it seems too dry, slowly pour in pasta water to your liking.  Serve hot, with extra red pepper flakes on the side.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

J'adore Le Creuset

What can't this baby do?

My Le Creuset pot is amazing.  Especially when winter rolls in and I suddenly feel the urge to braise, stew, and make soup.  Those are the definitive modi operandi of good ol' blue here.  So, in the spirit of Le Creuset appreciation, and because delicious autumn weather is now upon us, here's a warm and cozy recipe, introduced to me by my childhood babysitter, Célia, who has returned to her homeland, where she and this soup were born: Portugal.

Caldo Verde 
Makes about 10 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
1 lb. Portuguese linguiça
2 cans kidney beans
4 cups shredded kale, chard, or collard leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.  Stir in the water, potatoes, and some salt and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and either use an immersion blender to puree the potatoes into the soup, or transfer carefully, working in batches, to a blender to puree.  Return the soup to the pot.

In a skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and brown the sausage.  Once fully cooked, remove to a board, cool, and thinly slice.  Pour 1 cup of the soup into the skillet and scrape up the browned bits, then return the liquid and browned bits to the soup.  Add the sliced sausage to the soup.

Simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the kale or other greens and cook another 5 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breakfast: Cornbread

Some weekend mornings, when I have nothing in particular to do, I like to wake and bake.  No, not that kind of baking!  I mean the cannabis-free sort.  This morning I was feeling the cornbread, baked in a piping hot, butter basted cast-iron skillet, served with warm maple syrup and two eggs over easy.  
I used my ol' standby from the Joy of Cooking, because their cornbread recipe is incredibly simple - like, pre-coffee brain-dead simple.  The only change is I like to use honey instead of white sugar.  Maple syrup or molasses would work too, but would yield a different flavor, obviously.

Makes one 10-inch skillet bread, one 8-inch square bread, or about 15 muffins

1-1/4 cups yellow or white cornmeal, stone-ground
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons honey

Have all the ingredients at room temperature before you start.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and grease the pan with butter, oil, or bacon drippings.  Place it in the oven until sizzling hot.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry in a few quick strokes (you want to be extra careful not to overmix; only mix until the dry ingredients are wet.  No need to worry about lumps in the batter).  Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake 15 to 18 minutes, until nicely browned.  Serve immediately and store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sweet & Tart (and loving it)

I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite books, A Fistful of Lentils by Jennifer Felicia Abadi.  People, meet book; book, people.  It's a cookbook, obviously (and can be purchased here).  It reveals the delectable secrets of Syrian-Jewish grandmother cooking, while also giving the reader little glimpses into the history of the author's own family, as told by her grandmother and other elder family members.  It's a fun read, the recipes are straightforward and well-tested, and once you get the hang of the cooking style, with the words of all these relatives swimming around your head, you kinda start to feel like one of the family!

Below is a pretty close interpretation of the book's Dja'jeh Mish Mosh.  My minor changes are the addition of a marinating step with spices for extra oomph, using honey instead of brown sugar, and leaving the dish uncovered for the final 30 minutes of baking.  Otherwise, full credit goes to Ms. Abadi and her Grandma Fritzie.

Sweet and Tart Chicken with Apricots

Recipe adapted from, "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen," 
by Jennifer Abadi. (c) 2002, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press.

Serves 4

3 pounds chicken pieces (white and/or dark), skinned
1/4 cup kebab spice (or whatever spice blend you prefer; optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons oil
2/3 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
One 6-ounce can unsalted tomato paste
1-1/4 cups cold water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is best)
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1-1/4 cups dried whole Turkish apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Marinate the chicken: Rinse the chicken pieces under cold running water, pat dry, and sprinkle with spices, salt and pepper and place in a casserole, covered, for 15 minutes to marinate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is quite hot, add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and brown, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Repeat with the rest of the chicken and set aside.

Prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in the same skillet over medium heat and cook the onions until golden and soft,  3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, an additional 1 minute, being careful not to burn it.

Combine the remaining sauce ingredients except the apricots in a  bowl and pour into the skillet with the onions and garlic.  Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

Arrange the chicken pieces snugly in one layer in a roasting pan.  Cover the chicken with the apricots and pour the sauce over the apricots, reserving 1/2 cup for later.  Cover with aluminum foil or a tight lid and bake for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, pour the remaining sauce over the chicken and continue to bake, uncovered, until the chicken is tender and almost falling off the bones, another 30 minutes.  Serve hot over rice or your favorite grain (I like this with freekeh, smoked green wheat.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Midweek Munchies: Sauteed Broccoli

Hi Friends!  Sorry to have missed our standing date this past week.  I spent the weekend up in Fairhaven, Mass. paying a visit to the newest addition to the Pogash family, Ben Zen!  He's such a joy.  We were hosted by his lovely parents, Jonathan and Megan, and were wined, dined, and babied to our hearts' content!

Here's a shot of the water from Fort Phoenix.  Gorgeous weather, and just such a beautiful spot.

 Now, back to food-things!  Sometimes I get these insatiable and exclusive cravings for, like, vegetables.  In particular, broccoli.  So tonight this was my dinner (burp):

Of course, Dan the Man can't survive on veggies alone, so I made him a quick skillet dinner of fresh Greek sausage from our local butcher (lamb and leeks, mmm), quartered apples, and halved onions.  A glug of olive oil to start it off, a few sprigs of rosemary to finish it, and that's a wrap, folks!  A big fork salute to the ladies of Canal House Cooking. (There is indeed genius in simplicity.)

Hope you're having a great week!  Bon apetit!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Suppers: Chicken Mughlai Curry

Back to the universal meat pleaser: chicken!  Short post today; after working a vegan wedding the past 2 days, I'm feeling pretty taciturn and inactive.  I spent the little energy I had left on this tasty, easy dish.

If you're interested in the recipe, check out Grace Parisi's great book, Get Saucy.  It's a 436-page sauce bible that is a great addition to any well-rounded cookbook collection.

Buen Provecho!