31 December 2007

Mishy mashy

I just submitted my first two gradschool applications of the year. Now it is time to relax for five minutes. Also to party.

I've been so busy I have cooked almost nothing in a whole week. Yesterday for snack I had two pieces of salted wheat berry bread and a dried apricot. No one believes me about the salt thing. It is true, though. Salt makes grain taste grainier.

I also have ended up eating delicious things such as this:

That is leftover kale-potato mash with sesame, mixed with goat cheese and fried. I was going to try to make this into little cakes, but the mix was not sticky enough. So instead I just pressed it into the bottom of the pan and hoped for the best. It seems to have worked.

Big tato cake

leftover mashy potatoes, kale and other additions optional
butter/olive oil/earth balance
goat cheese if you want it, although tato cakes work very well without

Get out your leftovers and let them lose the refrigerator chill a little while before you want to cook. You Could use frigid refrigerator leftovers, but they'll take longer to cook and may end up still cool in the middle.

Get a good nonstick frying pan medium hot. Melt some butter or spread some olive oil around.

If you want goat cheese, mix some big crumbles in. Then, if your potatoes are wet enough, form them into little cakes. If not, just whack the whole thing into the pan and press it down.

Leave everything for several minutes, not moving the pan at all. Then start checking the bottoms of the cakes. When they are a nice deep golden brown, start flipping. This is clearly easier with actual cakes, but also feasible for the entire pan of stuff: you just have to not care that you're breaking it into chunks. I don't care; the potatoes are still good. Just get as much of the business as possible turned over, then let it color on the other side.

When everything is nice and crispy and hot, slide it out of the pan and eat it.

The whole idea of frying potato and kale like this is making me think of cabbage. Sometime in future there may be colcannon.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to go drink a bottle of champagne.

27 December 2007

We are tired.

We just got back from christmas. We are tired. Here is a picture!

The red pears are really, really good this year. I keep (kept) having them for breakfast with crispbread and cottage cheese. They are good pears. They are much better than the tiny gross personal domino's pizzas we ended up having for dinner tonight in the Atlanta airport. Eat pears. Pears == good.

25 December 2007

Traditional holiday meals 2007: 0

I need to update but there kind of hasn't been much cooking going on since we got to Ohio.

For Christmas eve we had wine and cheese and more wine and more cheese and bread and cheese and wine. This entailed a nice search of the internet to discover just what was available north of Columbus, resulting in a trip to Vino 100 and half a loaf of an excellent gouda made by a 24-year old cheesemaker who started making cheese to save her family's dairy farm. It would be nice if I had some idea who this person is and what the cheesery is called, but I don't. (ADDENDUM: yes now I do! It was Blondie's Best from Pedrozo Dairy. Go internet!) On the other hand, the reason I don't is that it didn't even have a label on it, so that's all clearly good. It was even better to sit around and eat with a bunch of fig-pecan boursin and drunken goat and manchego and champagne and some more champagne and also bread. Then we put the shrieking baby niece to bed and opened adult presents.

For Christmas dinner we're having totally untraditional stuffed shells. They are totally easy and totally creamy, almost too creamy for John. We are combatting this by adding copious spinach to the filling. Also, spinach in stuffed pasta is great.

We haven't made them yet but I have a feeling they're going to go like this:

Stuffed shells

big shell pasta/other stuffing pasta
tomato sauce
olive oil
parsley, basil, oregano, etc
salt, pepper

Make sauce first, so it can sit and get delicious while you do everything else. Chop up some garlic and sauté in olive oil with spices of your choice plus salt and pepper. I clearly like basil and oregano; if we were making it just for ourselves, we'd end up adding cayenne as well. If you want any other vegetables in your sauce, add them and soften them too. Then add tomato sauce and bring up to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly until you're ready to assemble the shells.

Pasta is easy: boil a package of shells until done. Drain. You could also use big manicotti or cannelloni: whatever has an appropriate aperture for stuffing. Or you could say screw it and make lasagna. This stuff would work fine.

While shells are boiling, wash and chop a bunch of spinach. Steam it over the pasta water (or over the sauce, I guess) for just a minute or two, until wilted. Then stick it all into a kitchen towel and squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it. Be serious and change towels if necessary. You want this as dry as possible so the resulting shells aren't watery.

Make shell filling: mix a tub of ricotta with half a ball of grated mozzarella and a some grated parmesan. Add some fresh chopped parsley, an egg, and the spinach. Mix really well and the filling is done.

Now is the time when you preheat the oven to 350F.

Assemble: spread a couple spoonfuls of sauce over the bottom of a big casserole dish. Use a spoon to fill shells full of ricotta business, then stick them into the dish. Pour/spread the sauce over all the filled shells, sprinkle with some more grated parmesan and/or mozz, and stick the whole business into the oven.

When the top is browned and starting to get crispy, you are done. Eat it!

Eat with copious salad business, bread, and red wine.

Also take pictures and remember to post them later.


21 December 2007

Eggplant muffuletta-type stuff

We are flying to Ohio for holiday business this morning. Snow! Snow!

Oh yeah, food.

If you have half a baguette rapidly going stale:

Eggplant muffuletta-type deal.

tomato sauce
olive oil
the half a baguette/other decent bread

First, cut the eggplant into thin slices. The amount here heavily depends on how many people you want to feed. We were making two sandwiches, so used about half a standard large eggplant. Make enough slices to fill whatever sandwich you want. The slices should be seriously thin, less than a quarter of an inch. Sear them in olive oil, turning as the sides get brown. Ooh, pretty!

At the same time, in a different pan, soften chopped shallot (or onion, or garlic, or a combination) in some more olive oil. When they are soft, add some type of tomatoes and some basil. I like tomato puree for nice soft thick texture, but whatever texture you like will work. Add salt and pepper and cook a bit, until tomato sauce has absorbed nice shallot and etc flavor.

Cut a baguette into appropriate pieces lengthwise. Brush them with more olive oil if you don't feel like this is plenty already.

Assemble: spread tomato business on each piece of bread. Add eggplant slices. If you want more tomato, you can add it on top of the eggplant slices. If you are in need of cheese or something, you can add it here as well. You might want to wait on nuts in particular until the last couple minutes under the broiler, though, since they can burn easily. I advocate pine nuts in this situation.

So. Put the baguette halves on a baking sheet and slide the under the broiler until everything is hot and toasty. Then take them out, sandwich them into sandwiches, wait until you won't totally burn the roof of your mouth off, and eat them.

If these weren't already tomato, I would say to eat them with tomato soup. Tomato! You are a summer vegetable, but the whole act of preservation makes you in character with a winter setting. In fact, considering food preparation and preservation methods, tomato has clearly been one of the winners for preservation and reuse in winter due to acidity. Tomato is in fact heritagenous as a winter food. It is strange, but still. "Strange but true!" I find it very interesting how food preservation methods have kept tomato as a winter food as well as a summer for hundreds of years, so much so as to make tomato soup not just something you have when you feel sick or whatever, but a serious bestselling store brand. Everyone has a taste for hot hot tomato soup in winter. It is clearly time to actually start canning.

19 December 2007

Breakfast kickery

AWWW YEAH. We rock the breakfast so hard. Now if only we'd had some dried apricots. We had no dried fruit at all, though. It was tragic.

One thing we did have was local sage honey. Dear everyone: get some local honey! If you eat a lot of it, your body will eventually develop a resistance to local pollen and start to ward off allergens! Also, honey is delicious.

Rock breakfast with breakfast cous:

butter/earth balance/a tasteless oil
optional dried fruit of some type

Chop up a shallot and cook it slowly in butter or choice of oil. Unless you want something savory, and are thinking about not adding any honey even at all, do Not use olive oil. This stuff is going to be sweet, so olive oil will make it taste gross.

While your shallot is getting all soft and melty, chop some almonds into chunks. Stick them in a baking pan and put them in a 250F oven to toast for ten minutes or so. Check often.

When shallots are nearly done, make couscous. You know how to do this by now, considering how much of the past month has been all about the cous. Put cous in bowl; add some salt, lots of pepper, butter or oil; cover with hot water and leave to absorb/steam until done. While the cous is cooking, get your almonds out of the oven and into the pan of shallots. I mean, out of the frying pan and into my mouth. Wait, no.

Finish the shallot/almond mix with some pepper.

When cous is done, add shallot and almond. Then add a good big glob of honey. You could also use agave syrup. Then add a lot of cracked black pepper. If you want any dried fruit, such as apricots, cranberries, or currants, now is the time. If you want any fresh fruit, for instance if it is still fig season, now is also the time.

Stir it up and eat it.

John and I were sitting there eating very pleased with ourselves, talking about how if we had to feed kids breakfast, they would totally get this. No child vs adult palate crap at our house. No.

17 December 2007

Red red red

It is fall and therefore time for fallification.

This was more than a week ago, so I am having a fairly fuzzy time remembering much about it. Perhaps the camera will tell me things.

Cabbage braised in red wine

half a head of red cabbage
a glass of red wine
salt, some pepper
red or white wine vinegar
caraway seeds
couscous/something with which to eat it

This requires a serious knife.

Core the cabbage and chop it into fine, fine shreds. You want them as fine as possible. Cut across the shreds a couple times so your final product won't cling together in one long string.

Throw it into a medium-warm sauté pan with a big pinch of salt and a glug of vinegar. Turn on the overhead fan and try not to inhale any vinegar fumes; those hurt. Stir it all up and let it soften a little in the heat.

Add a glass of decent red wine, stir again, and reduce the heat. I think I had zinfandel, but it could have been cab or another dry red. Cook slowly, stirring every once in a while, until all the wine has been absorbed and the cabbage is soft and tender and tasty.

Add in a handful of caraway seeds. You wouldn't think these would make that much of a difference, but they do. Oh my god. Without them, the cabbage would still be pretty good, but with them, it turns aromatic and seedy in that way that highly flavored seeds (e.g. fennel, poppyseed) provide. It's almost a rye aroma. They also give the business a more interesting texture, so you get little bits of hard seed to grind up in your teeth along with the soft cabbage. Plus plus. Use them.

Cook for a few minutes longer, then eat.

I had mine over couscous, but you can clearly use whatever. Mashed potatoes would be good, and would turn a pretty spectacular purple when you stirred in the cabbage. They might be a little soft as a texture match, though. Some severe brown rice would be excellent.

If you want to do couscous, do the usual instant method: pour dry cous in bowl, add some olive oil or butter and salt and pepper, cover with very hot but not boiling water, and let sit to absorb, covering if you feel like it. Wait five minutes, check, add more water if needed, wait again. Eat.

I ate the entire half a cabbage myself, with two bowls of couscous.

14 December 2007

I am not Eileen

It is winter, and this means one thing. Grad school application time! Consequently: I am not Eileen. Eileen is studying for tomorrow's GRE. I, by contrast, am John: I have a MicroplaneTM.

Though I don't usually introduce myself to strangers (hello strangers! how are you I am fine!) by pimping out The Latest Kitchen Gadget, our new MicroplaneTM -- courtesy of our neighbors on the second to last day of Hanukkah, according to the electric menorah in the lobby at work -- has pretty much dictated what I've been cooking today. First there was a little (unpictured) snack of croûtes; in the oven there is Delicious Pasta Bake (I Assume).

Delicious pasta bake I assume

one large yellow onion
one shallot
half a head of garlic
smashed tomatoes from a can unless you're an overachiever
olive oil
dry vermouth
dried basil
ground cayenne (since I have an unholy affection for spicy pasta)
wheat rotelle

I'm counting on this to be intensely soporific and send a Certain Someone to bed so she cannot stress about her exam. You have similar exigencies.

Do the obvious: heat your biggest, flattest pan. Get some oil nice and hot while you smash garlic, then dice along with onion and shallot. Cook for longer than you'd like to wait, or until everything has softened to the point of melting under your spoon. Add your smashed tomatoes -- I used canned; they're fine if you add copious salt -- pepper, basil, cayenne, and vermouth.

Note on kitchen staples. It's the shallot and the vermouth that save this sauce from boredom. I used to go to restaurants all the time, taste their sauce, and notice that the thing that convinced me to put on my spendthrift hat was something I couldn't identify, but sorely missed in my own bland sauces. That something turned out to be, by turns, shallot, wine with the alcohol cooked away, or both. Now I always make sure that I have some shallots and dry vermouth on hand. The former can be a bit pricey, but vermouth is totally cheap. It's also useful any time you have a) a sauce; or b) crusty bits on the bottom of a pan. Just toss in some vermouth on high heat, flail away at the crusty bits with a spoon, and you have an Extra Delicious Bonus with your meal.

So we're up to three plugs: MicroplaneTM, shallots, vermouth.

Cook off the alcohol from same and put on water for your pasta. I salted mine pretty severely, since I was having fun with the grinder. We'll see how it goes. Let things bubble on both burners until the pasta is done. Drain and add to sauce. I drastically underestimated the amount of sauce I needed, so I added the remainder of the tomato can with some more salt.

Cheese. I used some parmesan, MicroplaneTMd into tiny strips, along with some mozzarella, cut into long thick slices with a regular cheese knife. Into the baking dish went a layer of pasta, a layer of both cheeses, more pasta, and a lot of cheese to top. Thence everything into the oven at 400F for at least half an hour, and longer if I can stand sitting here smelling delicious dinner without having any. Then we see what's up:

That's what's up. As is always the case, my ugliest food tastes best.

12 December 2007

drinky soupses

A couple weeks ago we went out and had extremely hot spicy soup at a new hotpot place in San Mateo. Ok, so apparently it's only new here, and has hundreds of restaurants already in China, but I can deal with that. A chain restaurant from China is almost certainly going to have more authentic Chinese food than a lot of US establishments.

So, hotpot: spicy broth served in a big pot on a heat source you control. Then you get lots of things to dunk into the pot, cook in the broth, fish out with chopsticks, and eat as hot as possible, while also drinking copious cups of tea and broth out of tiny drinky bowls.

It was pretty exciting because of the sheer amount of stuff we got to throw into the pot. Gigantic mixed mushroom platter! Slabs of cubed tofu! Huge daikon slices! Bok choy arranged artfully in a vase!

I think this was partially what inspired the avalanche of mushroom around here. Afterward, I spent several trips to the store looking ruminatively at the enoki and porcini that have all suddenly showed up since it's become appreciable fall.

Then one day I went for it.

Since we have no hotplate equipment and have to do everything at the stove, dunking at the table wasn't practical at home. That was fine; I did everything at the stove.

Fake hotpot

1. Make broth
2. Make/prep whatever you want to add
3. Strain broth
4. Serve.

This was kind of a lot of work, but it was worth it.

a hot pepper or two
hot pepper sauce

Things we added:
bok choy
brown mushrooms

Things I made separately and only added to mine:

First, make the broth. Put a bunch of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add a bunch of peeled garlic cloves; you can smash them or leave them whole. Splinter some lemongrass by whacking it with the flat of a knife and twisting it up, then add it as well. Get a knob of ginger, peel it with a spoon, chop it roughly, and add it as well. Halve a hot pepper or two and add it also in addition as well too. Then add a squirt of sriracha or other hot pepper sauce if you want. You could also add things like soy sauce at this point. Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer while you're doing everything else.

Get out and chop up any vegetables or tofu you want in the finished product. I separated the leaves off a small head of bok choy, sliced up a big handful of mushrooms, and chopped half a block of tofu into maybe inch-long squares. Tofu selection: use something soft that will go well in soup. My extra firm tofu was really not the best choice for this at all. If you want to add other things, feel free; all the thick cabbagy greens are especially good for this.

Set those all aside while you let the soup simmer. After about a half hour, strain out and chuck all the added bits. You can either use a wire mesh sieve or a slotted spoon for this. If you want to eat any of the bits, such as the delicious, delicious garlic, go ahead and leave them in. Then add the tofu and bring things back up to a simmer. Cook until tofu is mostly done, add mushrooms, and leave another five minutes or so to finish. Bok choy you can either add at the last minute to wilt in the broth, or steam over the pot beforehand. I steamed it and added it to bowls instead of the whole pot.

If you stop at this point, your soup is delicious and vegan. If you want meatballs, the second half of the simmer is the time to make them.


ground turkey
a piece of bacon
more lemongrass
more garlic
and I think also more ginger (it can't hurt)

First, stick your ground meat into a big mixing bowl. You can really use whatever kind of meat sounds good to you; I used half a pound of ground turkey.

Get out a piece of bacon and chop it into tiny pieces. Stick a particularly fatty bit into a sauté pan and put it over medium heat to render some fat for the meatballs to cook in. This is especially useful if you're using a dry meat like turkey.

Throw the rest of the bacon into your bowl of meat.

Remove the hard outer layers of lemongrass, chop the soft inner bits finely, and throw them into the meat. Mince some garlic finely and throw it into the meat. If you want ginger, hot pepper, or anything else, mince it finely and throw it into the meat. You have the power!

Mix everything together with your hands, then start making meatballs. I try to make my meatballs as small as possible, so they'll cook faster and get a high proportion of crispy outer bits to soft inner bits. If you can stand to make them the circumference of a quarter, that's pretty good. Of course you can also make them as big as you want, or even say screw it and make them into highly spiced burgers instead.

I got about twelve or fourteen little meatballs out of my mix. This was way too much for me, so I stuck half of them in the freezer. This means that if I feel like it, I can have meatballs tonight as well! Ha ha ha!

Toss the rendered bacon rind out of the pan, turn the heat up to medium-high, and throw in the meatballs. Press them down with a spatula to flatten them a little. Now let them cook for five minutes or so without moving them. When their bottoms are brown, flip them all over and do the same to the other side. When you think they look done, break a big one apart and look at its middle. Is it done? All right then.

Serve. Each little bowl gets some bok choy, some tasty soup, and some meatballs if you want. Eat the vegetables and other bits with chopsticks and drink the soup directly out of the bowl.

10 December 2007

Crispy bits aka I am spoiled

John went to the store and got us Presents.

sourdough baguette
more chanterelles
red wine
etc etc delicious presents!

We sat around eating all the berries and drinking cabernet. Apparently we really like cab. Perhaps we should have done some of this "trying more of it" sooner.

Then it was latenight snacktime so we went into the kitchen to put butter in a pan.

Crispy bits

butter/olive oil
the more chanterelles
loaf of good bread

Cut up the shallot and sauté in butter. Clean off the chanterelles or whatever other mushroom you want. Decide how you want to cut them up. We had big chunks. Add them to the shallot and cook everything slowly until soft and nice.

Cut as many slices of bread as you want to eat.

Chop some pecans into chunks. You can toast them in the oven beforehand if you want.

Cut some cheese, fontina or other mild melty white, into small cubes or strips. You can also clearly use no cheese and things will still be tasty.

Assemble: each piece of bread gets mushroom and shallot, pecan bits, and cheese bits. They can also get salt and pepper. Put all the bits of bread on a cookie sheet and stick it under the broiler.

Leave the oven door cracked and watch everything really closely. When cheese is melty and bread is starting to brown, pull everything out.

Eat. Tasty crispy bits for children!

07 December 2007


Our friend Carrie makes perhaps the best banana bread in the world. It is this thick soft highly-risen bright yellow concoction, and I haven't even gotten to the best part: chocolate. Yes. She puts not just chocolate chips but gigantic chunks of good chocolate into her banana bread. This is perhaps the best idea ever. So, since Carrie is about a thousand miles away, this time I made banana bread. We had lots of bitter and semisweet chocolate left over from the two sorbet excursions, so we had plenty to add.

Banana bread with lots of chocolate

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour (or whatever flour)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp butter
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
2 eggs
2 black mashed bananas
a couple big spoonfuls of yogurt
as much good chopped chocolate as you want

The recipe I was working from had you mix things specifically: cream the butter and eggs, add sifted dry ingredients, add bananas, mix, bake. I might have done this in order had our butter not been frozen, but it was frozen, so instead I just melted it, combined everything, and mixed it all up. Seriously. You may care a little more about attaining a particular crumb, but I didn't; this stuff turned out fine and delicious anyway.

So. Melt butter. We melted it in the loaf pan, which needed greasing. This is an excellent way to make sure the pan gets grease ALL over it. Also preheat the oven to 350F at this time.

Put everything in a bowl. Make sure you use really ripe bananas. This provides an excellent use for all the black bananas that you may have been otherwise throwing out; stick them in your freezer and you'll have adequate equipment for banana bread at any time. Just thaw the bananas, cut their tops off, and squish their insides out into the bowl with everything else.

For chocolate, use whatever good stuff you want. I had Ghirardelli, which is fine and good. We also had a serious darkest dark Ritter Sport bar, but I decided to save that for Secret Eating.

Mix it all up with an electric mixer of some type, or with a spoon and your arm if you really want to. Make sure you get a good, uniform consistency. Then dump it into the pan, put the pan into the oven, and bake for 45 minutes or so. Check occasionally to see how it's doing and rotate the pan if necessary. Then, when you think it looks done, test with a toothpick to the middle. As you know, sticky cakebreads of this type should not cling to the toothpick when done.

Let the bread rest upside down on a rack, still in the pan, for five or ten minutes. Then attempt to get it out of the pan. Mine came right out with only one tiny tear; it was great.

Then we ate several pieces in a row with the chocolate still warm and oozing everywhere.

The next day I took it to work. Everyone at work has been busy making food and bringing it in, since now it's apparently "the holiday season" and thus time for chocolate peppermint chip cookies and warm apple cider. I kind of got sucked in. So I brought it to work, stuck it on the kitchen table with a note, and went off to do work stuff in San Francisco. When we got back there were two pieces left. Clearly, people like banana bread.

05 December 2007

I feel better.

John has been making me lots of little spoiledy snacks lately when I am hungry and tired. They are all tasty and tiny and not at all the sort of junk food that I might end up eating while I'm as busy as I've been. On the other hand, everything he's made is strongly like what I make when even a little more full of energy and time.

The other day it was time for couscous and zucchini. This was an excellent plan. It was such an excellent plan that over the weekend I made it again for myself, with slight embellishment. Oh man. I kind of want some more right now, but our garbage disposal is not working and thus we are screwed in all kitchen matters until it is fixed. It's a good thing we have lots of chili to heat up.


Couscous with zucchini and sundries

olive oil/butter
salt, pepper
garnish cheese if you want

First, start on the zucchini etc. Peel and chop your shallot and put it in a sauté pan with some olive oil. Cook slowly while you slice the zucchini and eggplant finely. The amount you use depends on what proportions you want. I would use at least half a small zucchini, or even a whole one, and a quarter or less of an eggplant. Slice these as finely as you can, so they'll cook quickly. You can cut the slices into smaller bits if you want; John and I both cut our eggplant into small squares. Add them to the shallots, add a little more olive oil, and cook until nice and tender.

While things are tenderizing, make everything else.

If you want pecans, toast them by putting them in a pan in a fairly low oven (250F) for ten minutes or so. Check often to make sure they don't burn; take them out when the smell toasty and delicious, without browning much, if at all. You may want to put these on before starting the vegetables, actually.

Make couscous. Couscous is easy, especially if you decide you don't care about properly steaming it. I've made it by steaming, by baking, and by straight instant poured water absorption. The last method tastes just as good to me as the first, so that's how I make it. If you want to go to extra effort, go ahead. If not, get out some couscous and put it in a bowl. Heat some water in the teakettle. When it boils (or a little before, so as not to crack the bowl), pour water to cover the dry cous. It should absorb pretty quickly; add a couple more slugs of water and let the bowl sit for a few minutes. Then taste to see if the couscous is fully cooked. If not, add a bit more water, stir it up, and leave to absorb again. I'm sure there are specific proportions around online somewhere, but this works just as well.

When couscous is done, stick a pat of butter or a slug of olive oil into it, add some salt and fairly copious pepper, and stir it up. If you're using butter, make sure it's covered with cous so it'll melt in the heat.

When everything is done, tip your pecans into your zucchini and shallot. Salt and pepper, mix it up, and scoop it onto your bowl of couscous. Add some shredded parmesan if you want. You could also use lots of other cheeses. I think I may have used cubed leftover fontina when I made it the second time; this is clearly also good, since fontina plus pecans = ++.

Eat it all together. Now eat a pear.

03 December 2007

Blurry chili!

There's this dude at work named Erik. We have some mild food competition going on, made especially mild by our different-genred food; I say "I have quinoa salad!" and he says "I made brisket!" It's more of a "that's interesting!" response, followed by speculation on lunch and what to cook later on that day, plus occasional offers to try whatever was so good (like today, when I got to try a piece of his sisterinlaw's curry pizza, in which you could taste the coconut milk in the curry sauce. It was strange and good at the same time). But! the mild competition is still there. I won't generally come in and say "hey! We went across to the taqueria and got takeout burritos last night!"; I will come in and say "I made this awesome palak paneer!"

So the other day I mentioned that I was going to make chili. I didn't expect this to get that much response, since chili is one of the easiest things ever. I was just hungry and wanted to talk about dinner. So it was pretty surprising when he got extremely, intensely interested and started saying things like, "From scratch? You don't use a set starting mix or anything? That is pretty hardcore! Word."

I was kind of taken aback. It is chili! You boil beans in a pot! Then I started thinking about food culture in the US, and the very specific fooding events such as barbecue competitions and chili cookoffs, and how everyone practices and refines their own particular secret recipe over years of patient, delicious study. I guess that could produce this kind of response.

My recipe is not secret at all. It's also cheap and easy. It requires a lot of sitting around doing other things while it boils and boils, but that's no surprise considering chili. Then in the end you get a gigantic vat of deliciousness that you can reheat and reheat for days at a time. That's certainly worth the sitting around part to me.

Giant vat CHILI.

beans of some type
olive oil
hot peppers
bell pepper
frozen corn
tomato puree
water/bean broth
chik patties if you want
paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano

Start the day before: get out your choice of dried beans and soak them overnight in twice their depth of water. You can use any kind of beans you want. Red kidney beans are probably the most classic chili bean, but you get good results from navy beans or black beans as well. Sometimes we even use garbanzos. Use whatever combination of beans you like. I would soak about two cups for gigantic long-lasting vat of chili.

The next day, pour off the water, replace it with fresh, and put the beans on to boil. They need about an hour to get really tender; while they're cooking, you can start on spicy happy vegetable base.

Chop up a big onion and several cloves of garlic. You can use shallot if you want, but chili is spicy enough that you won't be able to taste the specific shallot flavor. Stick them in a large, deep pot with some olive oil and cook slowly while you chop up a jalapeño, or whatever hot pepper you like. I think I used two jalapeños this time; you know your own spice tolerance, so you use whatever you want. Chop them really finely for maximum flavor balance, then add them to the onion.

Also start the initial spicing at this point. I used lots of paprika and cumin plus a little oregano and cayenne. Normally one might use chili powder for something like this. I didn't have any, so I looked on the back of the chili powder jar and found out it was made of ground chili pepper, cumin, and oregano. Ok. I had cumin and oregano. Paprika and cayenne are both chili peppers, so I had it pretty well covered.

Once the spice and onion mix has softened and matured a little bit, it's time to start on vegetables. I listed a whole lot of vegetables up there, since I might use any or all of those in a pot of chili. None of them are Absolutely Necessary, though I think bell pepper and corn are the most important. You should use whatever you have and think would be delicious.

In this instance, I used:
- a carrot
- the very heart of a bunch of old limp celery
- a whole green pepper
- a cup or so of corn.

Dice everything up as finely as you like it, then add it to the pot. John likes the most finely textured chili possible, so we try to dice everything really finely. You can defrost corn before adding it, or you can add it frozen; it will just take a little longer to reheat the pot contents if you use frozen.

Stir it all up and cook it together while the beans finish.

At this point you can start thinking about meat replacement bits. First, do you want any of them? You are already going to have a whole bunch of beans in this business. You could clearly do without. If you do want meat replacements (or meat! Brown some ground meat of choice. Done.), think about what kind. I think this is the perfect vehicle for tvp, since it provides chewy bits of ground-beefy texture. John likes to add some warmed chik patties, diced up, to become slightly differently chewy bits. You could also do tempeh pretty easily, although I'd probably cook that separately at the end, crisping it in a frying pan and then crumbling it over my bowl. I would not put tofu in the chili.

Ok. Are the beans done? We are ready for combination.

Pour the entire pan of beans and boiling liquid into the big onion pot. You could also pour off the liquid and use broth, but since said liquid IS broth, I see no real reason to do that.

Chop up whatever meat replacement bits that might need chopping, then add them to the pot.

Open a can of tomatoes, or defrost a big preserved garden hunk, you responsible person, then add them to the pot. Salt, especially for commercially canned tomatoes. I like to use tomato puree for the smoothest texture.

Stir it all up, check seasonings, and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, put on the lid, and let the whole business simmer for as long as you can possibly stand. Aim for an hour or longer. Check it every once in a while to see what's going on and whether you can think about eating it yet. Then, when you can't stand it any longer, get out some bowls and a ladle and lay into it.

Things to serve with chili:
- aforementioned crispy tempeh crumbles
- little cubes or shreds of cheese stirred into each bowl; I like mozzarella

Guess which one I made during the last half hour of chili cooking, when I was about to die of hunger.

For cornbread, I just used the recipe off the side of the Bob's Red Mill bag. It worked pretty well. I made it in muffin tins for maximum later portability. This was an excellent plan, although I would change one thing: for the love of god, BUTTER and probably also flour the muffin papers if you want to have any chance of getting them out in one piece. Make cornbread right at the end, so you can sit down and have bowls of scorching chili with muffins hot enough to melt the butter, or perhaps the HONEY you put on them. Honey.