Chili Con Carne

We're getting ready for football, tomorrow.

The San Francisco 49ers are playing the Philadelphia Eagles - in Philadelphia - to see who's going to The Super Bowl.

As you probably all know, Victor is an East Coast Philadelphia boy and I'm a West Coast San Francisco boy. And after 20 years in Philadelphia, we're back out west.

If the Eagles were playing any other team, I'd be a rabid Eagles fan - but they're playing my hometown team. I hafta root for my hometown team. It's practically a rule.

Victor is seriously out-numbered.

Phoebe and Nancy are coming over for the game and we're cooking up a west coast meal - chili, jalapeño poppers, quesadillas, bean dip, guacamole, beer, and tequila....

It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it's easy to put together.



Chili Con Carne

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 3 dried guajillo peppers
  • 3 dried puya peppers
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  •  2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can diced mild green peppers
  • 3 tablespoons masa harina

Soak pinto beans overnight. Drain and set aside.

Place chiles in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let sit about 15 minutes to soften. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. Discard stems and seeds. Process chiles, tomato paste, garlic and reserved liquid until smooth.

In a large pot, sauté onion and poblano pepper. Cook until wilted. Add ground beef and cook until beef is broken up and mostly cooked through.

Stir in spices, oregano, and pureed chile mixture. Add the stock, beer, tomatoes, canned chiles, and beans, Bring to boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer until beans are done - about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in masa and simmer another 20 minutes.


Serve with assorted toppings: oyster crackers, cheeses like cotija or Mexican blend, chopped avocado, chopped onions, sour cream...

Chili is definitely one of those foods that taste better the next day, so plan accordingly!



Our Super Bowl menu will be completely dependent on the outcome of tomorrow's game. It could be another west coast feast or it could be Jersey Mike's Cheesesteaks. Whichever team wins, we will be rooting for them in the Super Bowl.



Brussels Sprouts, Pears, Cherries, and Cheese

Another fun recipe from Milk Street.

I've liked Chris Kimball since his early days at Cooks Illustrated. A bit of an oddball, but I can appreciate his approach to food. Besides, you have to be a bit of an oddball to be in the food business. I speak from personal experience.

The fun thing about recipes is knowing the ingredients are not chiseled in stone. His recipe called for dried cranberries - fitting for this time of year. Alas, I had no cranberries, but I did have dried cherries. (There are also dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, and a half-dozen different nuts I could have used. Walnuts were open. I also added the steak, because I was making it as an entree, not a side dish. Us aging people need our protein.

Brussels Sprouts, Pears, Cherries, and Cheese

adapted from 177 Milk Street

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 ripe but firm pears unpeeled, quartered and cored
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 ounces fresh chèvre, crumbled
  • S&P, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil to serve
  • 8 oz sirloin steak, sliced thin

In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the cherries and vinegar. Microwave uncovered until heated through, about 1 minute.

Thinly slice the pears and sprouts and mix into a large bowl. Add the cranberry-vinegar mixture, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper; toss well. Let stand for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Toss in the nuts and cheese, then season with salt and pepper.

Plate, top with sliced steak, and drizzle with additional olive oil.


All-in-all, it was pretty good. The recipe is supposed to be a saladish side dish, but I think it would be better if the brussels sprouts were sauteed, first. It could still be served room temperature. They were just a bit too crunchy. The flavors were excellent, though.

With a couple of modifications, I can see this happening, again...


Raw Chopped Beef with Spices

  • 1/4 cup nitter kebbeh (recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped onions
  • 3 tbsp very finely chopped green peppers
  • 2 tbsp very finely chopped hot chilies
  • 1 tsp very finely chopped scraped gingerroot
  • 1/2 tsp very finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tbsp strained lemon juice
  • 2 tsp berbere
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs beef filet or top round, trimmed of fat and coarsely ground
  • 12 medium-sized Italian frying peppers

In a heavy 8-10 inch skillet, melt the niter kebbeh over low heat. As soon as it is warm, add the onions, chopped green peppers, chilies, garlic, and cardamom. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes until the seasonings are heated through and the kebbeh begins to sputter.

With a rubber spatula, scrape the kebbeh mixture into a deep bowl. Set it aside at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to cool. Stir in the lemon juice, berbere, and salt. Add the beef and toss the ingredients together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.

Mound the kitfo on a platter and serve it at once, accompanied by injera or by Arab-style flatbread.

You may also serve the kitfo stuffed into raw Italian frying peppers. Without removing the stem, slit each pepper lengthwise from about 1/2 inch from the top to within about 1 inch from the narrow bottom end. Make a crosswise slit 1 inch wide at the top of the first cut and gently scoop out the seeds. Carefully cut out as much of the white membranes or ribs as you can without piercing the skin of the pepper. Wash the peppers inside and out under cold running water and pat them completely dry with paper towels. Then stuff the peppers, diving the kitfo evenly among them, and serve immediately.

Flank Steak Caprese

Flank Steak Caprese

We had dinner with my sister and her wife, last night. Dinner at their house is always a treat, because little sister is such a great cook. Between us, she is the better cook, by far. She has an intuitive style that is unbeatable.

When we arrived, she had zucchini fritters waiting for us. They had another monster from their garden and needed to do something other than sauté as a side... Naturally, I didn't get a picture or a recipe, but suffice to say, they were delicious.

The actual dinner was exceptional. A marinated flank steak with blistered tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil,

Flank Steak Caprese

and a fresh spinach and ricotta bruschetta...

Too awesome for mere words...

The flank steak was marinated in a balsamic marinade and grilled to perfection. I didn't get a recipe, but your favorite balsamic concoction would work quite well. Save some to drizzle over everything to finish... The cherry tomatoes - also from their garden - were placed into a cast iron skillet with just a bit of oil and allowed to blister.

The grilled steak went on the platter, the tomatoes on top, chunks of fresh mozzarella on top of that, fresh basil, and a good drizzle of the balsamic marinade - along with the juices collected in the plate before slicing.

The bruschetta was another total delight.

Fresh spinach sautéed with garlic and crushed red pepper... ricotta and cream cheese melted in, spread onto slices of sourdough, topped with parmesan, and then under the broiler. A crispy gooey taste sensation.

My stomach is smiling just thinking of it...



Irish Tacos

I receive a few food-related emails every day - what a shock - and one from the New York Times had an Irish Taco made with corned beef and coleslaw.

Corned beef and coleslaw. How could it be wrong?!?

The concept is similar to a Corned Beef Special - a sandwich of corned beef and coleslaw on rye - but with a taco twist.

This is highly recommended!

I cooked off a small corned beef brisket, let it cool, and then shredded the meat. Right before serving, I put the shredded beef into a hot skillet and warmed it and slightly browned it a bit. We then topped it with coleslaw - not just any coleslaw, mind you, but Nancy's Mom's Coleslaw. It's become my favorite coleslaw recipe. It's simple and honest - no odd ingredients fighting for prominence - just excellent flavor.

Nancy's Mom's Coleslaw

Jane Mitchell via Nancy Mitchell

  • 1 lg head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 tsp Celery seed
  • 2 or 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • mayonnaise to taste

Mix and chill. It’s that simple!

Jane used white vinegar which ads the perfect acidity without imparting unnecessary flavors. Mayonnaise to taste was probably about a cup, based on the amount of cabbage.

We used street taco shells as well as small tostada shells and topped them off with guacamole and sour cream. The perfect flavor combination.

And then, for grins and giggles, I made a baked tomato rice dish based on a recipe I found on the NY Times website. I used plain white rice, canned stewed tomatoes, and a habanero pepper...

A fun twist on a classic and definitely a fun meal.

You don't need to wait for St Patrick's Day to make this, either - corned beef is available year-round!

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

It was a bit wet and rainy, today, so a beef stew seemed to be the perfect meal. I think it's funny how people not from here talk about how wet the Pacific Northwest is... A bit of rain or overcast certainly doesn't stop people from going out and enjoying the day. And nary a raincoat or umbrella to be seen. Much different than the east coast where it really can rain for 40 days and 40 nights - or a hurricane blows in and really disrupts your day. For days.

But back to dinner... Once upon a time it might have been pot pies or a loaf of freshly baked bread, but... the current living situation just isn't having it.

I never quite realized just how much I used our ovens until I was in a kitchen without one. It's amazing what we take for granted until it's gone.

[cue: present political situation]

Stew is one of those things I just make - there is no recipe - yet, my siblings and I all make a very similar stew, based on the stew of our youth. Mom always made a damned good stew - but even her stew varied from batch to batch. She wrote down a recipe for her cookbook years ago, but it is really just an approximation. I don't think she ever made it the same way, twice. Similar every time, but amounts varied.

Beef Stew Recipe

Mom always put coffee in her stew. I use red wine. And I'm pretty sure she would use a bit of Kitchen Bouquet for coloring. But this gives you an idea of her thought process.

One of my favorite childhood memories is laying sliced bread on the plate and pouring the last of the gravy over...  She did good gravy!

Dinner, tonight, was a two pan feast. I started with the skillet to brow the beef and then pour red wine over and let it reduce. Meanwhile, the pot had the onions, celery, and carrots cooking away.

I added the potatoes to the pot, stirred in the beef, and then added beef broth and let it simmer.

Well... simmer, eventually... I'm still relearning using an electric stove. We have an electric stove in the new house, but there is gas coming in for the heater, so we may switch it out, eventually. We have other things we need, first.

I know I'm going to miss our double ovens - they were sooooo convenient - but we rarely ever used two at a time. I had one set aside almost exclusively for bread baking. It's really just psychological - I think I'll be able to survive...

Heck, we're surviving without having one at all, right now!

Another successful meal and another day closer to moving into our forever home...

Life is good.

Beef Stew

And so was the stew!

Roast Beef

The Evolution of a Roast

An eye of the round roast is not, necessarily, the most tender of cuts - they're too lean. On the other hand, they're relatively inexpensive and you can do a lot with them.

Day One

I took a 2 1/2 pound roast and did a simple roast - rubbed with oil, dusted with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, quickly seared on the stove, and then into a 350°F oven. I wanted to pull it out at an internal temperature of 135°F, but didn't hear the thermometer beep - so I overcooked it to 145°F and after resting, it made it up to 155°F. Oh well... Medium-well, that is... In theory, I prefer my beef really rare - but I am not opposed to the end cut of a prime rib or a char-grilled steak.

And we planned on sandwiches, so it was all okay.

Roast Beef

Thin slices of roast beef on a homemade whole wheat roll that was spread with a garlic and caper mayonnaise, and topped with a homemade caponata that Victor whipped up.


  • 1 medium eggplant, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb,, chopped
  • 12 oz. fresh tomatoes
  •  1 tbsp capers
  • 1/2 cup green olives
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté fennel and onion in a large skillet until onion and fennel begin to wilt. Add garlic and quickly sauté. Add eggplant and cook until it begins to break down. Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down.

Add capers, olives, sugar, and vinegar, and cook until thick.

Stir in pine nuts and check for salt and pepper.

Cool and serve at room temperature.

It was a knife and fork sandwich that could adorn the menu of any restaurant. Unique and full of flavor. The mayo was excellent - just mayonnaise, garlic powder, and capers mixed together - and the entire dish really blended together well.

Day Two

With two-thirds of a roast left, it was time to channel my mother. She was queen of a roast on Sunday and hash on Friday. It was time to get creative.

Even though I was making sandwiches with caponata, I had made gravy from the pan drippings - no way was that goodness going to waste.

I made a basic beef stew.

I cubed the beef and added carrots, celery, leeks, and potatoes. In went the gravy and some beef broth, and then it all simmered until the vegetables cooked and the meat was tender.

When it was cooled, half of it went into a pot pie and the other half went into the 'fridge.

Roast Beef

I had a leftover crust from the apple crostata I had made a few days ago, so I rolled it out, placed it in the pan, added the stew, wrapped it up like a crostata, and baked it at 425°F for about 45 minutes. It was slightly more than the two of us should have eaten - but we did it, anyway.

There are two things I can consistently make without fail - pie crust and gravy. And when the two come together, it's difficult to stop.

We'll be back to the gym one of these days...

Day Three

The reality is... Days One and Two were merely so I could get to Day Three - and some homemade beef soup!

Roast Beef

We eat soup most days for lunch, and, lately, they've been more chicken, lentil, split pea, bean... Most of the beef in the house has been ground - and while you can make some really good soups with ground beef, it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

Time to channel mom, again...

I sautéed a small onion with a couple of celery chopped stalks in a bit of olive oil. When they were nicely wilted, I added the leftover stew, and about 6 cups of beef broth. When it started getting hot, I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of kidney beans and brought it to a boil.

Next went in another potato, cubed, and about a half bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I brought it back to a boil, covered it, and then let it simmer for an hour - until the potatoes were cooked through.

Tastes and smells can really evoke a memory, and this one brought back the soups my mom made when we were kids.

I think she would have been proud of this one.

Korean Meatballs

Korean Meatballs

Right now, the two main proteins in the freezer are chicken and ground beef. In my quest to find something new and different to make with the ingredients on hand, I headed off to the NY Times cooking site for inspiration.

One recipe that caught my eye was Korean Barbecue-Style Meatballs. I have no idea why these would be considered Korean, but, they came out damned good - and we had all the basics in the house!

Korean Meatballs

They don't use a binder - no egg - and use Ritz Crackers. I had the Trader Joe version and it worked great.

Korean BBQ-Style Meatballs

adapted from NY Times

  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt - or to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed Ritz crackers (12 crackers)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek

Heat oven to 425. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and use your hands to gently mix.

Shape the meat into 12 golf-ball-size rounds and arrange on a greased rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Lots of spicy garlic flavor. I can see a lot of variations on this theme as ingredients change in the pantry.

A definite winner.

Orzo Salad

Orzo Salad

We did a bit of tag-team in the kitchen, today... I had planned burgers with a mushroom sauce because I had mushrooms that needed using up. Victor decided to make an orzo salad because orzo salads are really good. I had also harvested another huge bowl of tomatoes.

You can see how logic plays right into our meal decisions.

Orzo Salad

The salad consisted of:

  • orzo
  • fresh tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • leeks
  • celery
  • kalamata olives
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

Fresh and refreshing!

The burgers were pretty basic and the mushroom gravy was:

  • crimini mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • brandy
  • red wine
  • beef stock
  • pepper, garlic powder
  • cornstarch to thicken

Neither were anything fancy, but they really hit the spot.

Tomorrow night, we're thinking of reworking the salad into a pasta dish with shrimp!

Stay tuned.

Pita and Burgers

More Pitas

Pita has become my new favorite bread - this week.

I tend to go through stages with types of breads - artisans, sourdoughs, sandwich loaves, Italian rustic - just to name a few. It's fun to make several loaves of something to get a good feel for the dough and what to expect. Once I get the basic down, I can play with different flours and the like.

It's pita's turn.

I took the recipe for the taboun I made a few days ago and tweaked the flours. it made for a bit more robust and flavorful bread.


  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups '00' flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sprouted wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Combine the water, honey, and yeast. Let it stand for about 10 minutes until foamy.

Combine the flours and salt with the yeast and water mixture, and stir to form a soft dough.

Add the olive oil and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a baking stone or baking sheet in the oven as it heats.

Knead the dough briefly and divide it into 8 balls. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover, and let stand for about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball of dough and roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick and about 7-8 inches in diameter.

Place on baking stone and bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 7 minutes.

They became the perfect base for grilled burgers.

Pita and Burgers

The pita went down, and then thick slices of tomatoes from the garden. On top of the tomatoes went fried hot peppers. next went the burger, and on top of the burger went lots of sauteed leeks. A runny fried egg finished it off.

A fried egg on anything is good, but when it's on top of something like this - it's downright excellent!




Steaks and Goat Cheese

Steaks and Marinated Goat Cheese

We took a trek down to the Bryn Mawr Farmer's Market, this morning. We really didn't need anything, but we thought it might be fun just to see what sort of gastronomical delights were available.

We picked up some fresh onions, a pound of really good coffee, a jar of honey aged in whiskey barrels, and then noticed goat cheeses. Naturally, we had to stop.

The first thing that caught my eye was a jar of marinated goat cheese medallions - Tuscan-style in olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs. The first thing Victor noticed was raw goats milk - perfect for making his own goat cheese!

We bought both.

We got home and Victor immediately set out to make a batch of cheese. You can get his recipe here.

Goat Cheese with Apricots and Pistachios

I took the medallions and made dinner.

I first marinated a NY strip steak in some of the oil from the goat cheese. it was really rich and flavorful. Onto the grill it went.

Next was heating up the last of the grilled vegetables - in more of the marinating oil.

Finally, a medallion on top of the steak - with more of the oil on top.

Steaks and Goat Cheese

Really quick and easy with lots of flavor. The cheese was really light and the sun-dried tomato marinade was just right. There's still more left over, and I think it will make a great salad dressing!

And we have our own homemade goat cheese for snacking!




Tomatillo Salsa

Burgers and Tomatillo Salsa

Burgers are my friend.

I have always loved hamburgers - charred on the outside and juicy on the inside - a good burger is a thing of beauty.

We had things of beauty, tonight.

The actual burger was merely 80/20 ground beef with salt and pepper - grilled almost medium. I don't care what the experts say - I wanna see pink in my burgers.

The real fun was everything on the plate to accompany it.

We started off with fresh spinach sauteed with onion and garlic for the base and we added a tomatillo salsa to the top. We have tomatillo plants out back that are finally starting to produce, and the hot pepper and tomato also came from out back. I see more salsas like this in our future.

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 4 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 yellow tomato, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 Caribbean pepper, minced
  • 3 mini peppers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, minced
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tequila

Mix tomatillos, tomato, onion, and peppers. Stir in mint and add garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Drizzle with tequila and mix well.

Really quick and easy - with lots of flavor. The Caribbean pepper is hot - like a habanero - so use your discretion. Any hot pepper will work, and since we have at least 8 varieties growing right now, we'll be switching them out.


Tomatillo Salsa