Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inauthentic Yet Still Delicious Oaxacan-Style Chili

I'm going off to Washington to attend The Rally to Restore Sanity at the end of next week, so I did my cleaning and my cooking in one burst today.  I even found the time to cook something I haven't cooked in a long time: chili.

It's been so cold lately that my thoughts cannot help but turn to a climate a little less brutal (well, in the winter) than that of New England.  That, and I have a friend in Arizona and she's been bragging that it doesn't get that cold there. It is cold here. Humph. I love fall in New England, but the gradual loss of daylight and the ability to stay outdoors for long periods makes me miss the days when I could escape the gathering gloom by flying out to LA to meet my boyfriend (who lived there for a few years) and then going to Guelaguetza for some Nopal Zapoteco sin la carne and a cafe de olla. (I like the Northeast, but it's somewhat wanting when it comes to places that serve cactus.  Sigh.)

So to cheer myself up, I searched my cookbooks for some chili to get some ideas, and then I made up this chili with those two lovely Mexican cooking standbys: cinnamon and chocolate.

1 small onion

3 bell peppers, chopped (I used green and red.)

3 large tomatoes

1 can stewed tomatoes or tomato paste (in emergencies, plain bottled pasta sauce will also suffice.)

1 bag of fake beef (I prefer Morningstar Farms), if you do not live in the US, you can get fake lamb -- that's actually probably closer to the original dish -- if you don't like fake beef, add an extra 2 cans of beans

4 tablespoons cinnamon (adjust for your tastes)

2 tablespoons UNSWEETENED chocolate

2 tablespoons cilantro

hot sauce to taste (I used my old standby, siracha sauce, however Texas Pete's Hot Sauce or Cajun Chef are also good)

Fry the peppers and onions in vegetable oil in a big soup pot, stirring occasionally.  Add the cinnamon when the vegetables get soft.  When the vegetables begin to brown, add the chopped tomatoes, the can of stewed tomatoes, and the fake meat.  Stir in the chocolate and cilantro.  Simmer for an hour.  I like to serve it with a side of rice, as that kills the pepper fire.  Serves four.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oven Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce for Wheat Pasta

There was recently a sale on store brand ground wheat pasta at the local Shaws, so Eric and I bought home a few boxes of it.  Now, I've had Pastene ground wheat pasta, and couldn't really tell the difference in texture or flavor.  With Shaws brand, you can -- it's much rougher and the flavor's a bit sweeter.  This isn't a bad thing, although it does disqualify this pasta from having store bought sauce poured over it.  (Store bought sauce is far too sweet for this type of wheat pasta, and I find that the pureed tomato makes the noodles feel a bit slimy.)

However, if you want to get all fancy and start flinging  around the word "artesian" when you invite people over, these are the noodles and this is the sauce for you: a chunky, smoky sauce with a vague tinge of pesto resting on a bed of rustic wheat pasta.

Word to the wise: this was made in the oven in my apartment, so if you don't have a forty year old, rather eccentric oven, you might want to keep an eye on this sauce, or cook it at a slightly lower temperature.

3 red peppers, diced
1/2 cup Romano cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
pesto sauce and/or fresh basil leaves to your taste
pepper to your taste
olive oil

Combine the diced vegetables, cheese, and spices in a ceramic pie plate large enough to accommodate them.  Preheat the oven for 350 degrees for ten minutes. Put the mixture in the oven and bake for an hour at 350 degrees or until the vegetables have browned and are soft enough to shove a fork through.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recipe Aid: Help My Aloo Palak

Last night, I experimented with combining elements of various Aloo Palak (creamed spinach and potato curry) recipes I have read over the years, and my experiments have yielded this dish.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with it, but it needs a something little extra.  Je ne sais quoi.  Do you have any ideas?

Basic Aloo Palak 

1 cup strained Greek yogurt
1 cup water or milk
1 cube frozen chopped spinach
6 diced Yukon Gold potatoes
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
curry powder to taste (I like my curry strong so I used at slightly less than 1/4 cup, which sounds like a lot, but potatoes, yogurt, and spinach tend toward the bland otherwise)

Sauté garlic, cinnamon, ginger and curry powder in large saucepan.   Add the frozen cube of spinach and let it thaw and soak in the spices.  Add the potatoes and simmer for half an hour.  Serve on a bed of rice.
Serves 4.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Add-ins and Vegetarian Cheats

I had a friend over on Thursday night.  We all met up at the apartment right after work and Eric and I didn't want to waste any time hiding in the kitchen.  So we did what foodie blogs say not to do and served stir fried vegetables with store-bought Golden Curry*.  We didn't even serve it Japanese-style: as a thick curry and vegetable gravy with rice on the side.  Instead Eric prepared the curry with a mixture of sesame oil, fresh chopped broccoli and onions, and then added soba noodles to the mix and simmered the whole thing until the noodles picked up the curry "gravy".   It was delicious.

Sometimes, when it's been a hard day at the office and you just want to focus on the company you have over, or even just zonk out to some old horror movie on  some obscure cable channel** while you sit in the dark alone in the house, nothing is better than just throwing some vegetables and seasoning into a pre-made sauce and slopping that sauce over some rice or noodles.  

Here are my two favorite types of pre-made sauce: 

Alfredo Sauce with Peas and Carrots 

(NB: peas and carrots and pasta or rice also go well with Discount Blue Eyed Curry, which you can make from scratch.) 

1 jar of alfredo sauce, any brand will do
1/4th cup milk 
2 diced carrots
2 cups of peas 
(frozen will do for either of these vegetables)
2 tbs of olive oil
3tbs curry powder
2 tbs Herbes de Provence 
2 cloves of garlic

Sauté the garlic, curry, and Herbes de Provence in the olive oil until they brown slightly.  Turn down the heat on the stove.  Gently stir in the milk and jar of alfredo sauce.  Add the vegetables and simmer for about ten to twenty minutes.  (You want the vegetables to pick up the flavor of the sauce.) Serve over a heavy type of noodle that can hold its own against a rich sauce: fettuccine or linguine or penne would be my choices. 

Store Bought  Tomato Sauce Alla Veggie Bologonese 

1 jar plain tomato sauce OR one can tomato paste
2 fresh tomatoes
1 diced pepper
1 can of beans (I know, I know!  Look, I keep meaning to try Anna Thomas's advice for cooking dried beans but then I go shopping and always forget to buy a packet of dried beans.) 
2 tbs curry powder
1 clove garlic
1 tbs olive oil

Again, sauté the curry powder and the clove of garlic in the olive oil until brown.  Then add the jar of tomato sauce, the peppers, the beans, and then the tomatoes.  Simmer ten to twenty minutes, depending on the kind of effect you want: if you want a great mid summer dish with crisp, incredibly fresh veggies, the less time you cook it the better.   

*A type of Japanese curry that was introduced to Japan by the British in the 19th century. I've had Japanese curry before, and before I started researching this blog I was convinced that it had come to Japan from India via some ancient trade route.  As a fan of both the East and the West, I get a kick out of the fact that the Japanese once considered curry to be a Western dish.  The world of culture is so wonderfully odd.  Heh. 

** Tis the season.