Monday, March 28, 2011

Bison Chili

Whoa!  This is what happens when you've been craving chili and you see "Buffalo" on a package of ground meat at the grocery store:  You throw three packages of the stuff in your cart, and go home to create the best darn chili on the range.  Yessiree, this is hearty, satisfying fare.  I didn't have a recipe, but I wrote down everything I did.  'Cause this chili is definitely going to be made again. 

As the creative process unfolded, the red pepper and kohlrabi in the photo were relegated to crudite status.  I made an innovative cornbread stand-in, using macadamia oil instead of grapeseed oil, that turned out to be amazingly good.  Yee haw!

Because absolutely authentic chilies don't contain beans or tomato, I'm thinking about trying this sans-tomato next time.

This recipe comes with a book recommendation:  The Buffalo Commons by Richard S. Wheeler.  

The ancho chili powder will determine the overall taste and heat level of your chili.  I make my own with those leathery ancho peppers sold in the Mexican food aisle at the supermarket, mixing in a dried hot chili pepper or two. Make a lot!  Good ancho chili powder is hard to find, and makes a great gift.  It's especially important for red sauces for enchiladas, and chilies like this one.

3 pounds ground bison
2 tablespoons oil (I used avocado oil)

4 carrots, in 1/2-inch dice
1 turnip, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 onions (I used a red onion and a white onion), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons ancho chili powder (see note above) or regular 'ol chili powder
1 tablespoon regular 'ol chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin seed, toasted in a dry skillet and slightly crushed with mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon salt

1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 jar (7 oz.) tomato paste
3-4 cups water

3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf

In large soup pot, heat oil.  Add bison, break up with your spatula, and begin to saute.  While that's going on, prep your veggies in the order given and add them to the pot, stirring well each time.  By the time you get to the garlic, things should be sizzling along nicely.

Scatter the chili powders, paprika, cumin seed and salt over the meat/vegetable mixture, and stir well, cooking for a few minutes 'til the spicy aroma begins to waft around your kitchen.  Stir in the bay leaves.

Add the spaghetti sauce, the tomato paste, and 3 cups water.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. If you like a saucier chili, add another cup of water.

Makes 8 to 10 hearty servings.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eighth Box

Delivery of Box Eight was delayed because of very cold weather.  But stuff is taking off again!  Spinach, salad greens, parsley, fennel, lentils, squash, garlic ... and cute little leeks.  Ah, Spring.  I can almost taste the asparagus to come ... and meanwhile we'll enjoy these fresh, green wonders.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Trio of Toasted Nori Chips

From left:  Nori Faux Wasabi, Nori Con Chipotle, and Nori Coco Szechuan.
I have a little fascination going with sea vegetables.  Mr. Eating the Scenery, however, eschews them.  I recall a long-ago salad I made with hiziki ... he said it tasted like a locker room smelled.  The gauntlet was thrown.  But in the intervening years, he has yet to even taste anything I make with sea vegetables!

So this recipe caught my attention.  But I had to mess with it.  I went slightly crazy.  It's the curse of culinary curiosity.  If ingredient x works, why not try ingredient y?  And then, z?

I used Nancy's recipe, and it is perfect. She uses 3 tablespoons of water per five nori sheets. I started out using too much water on the wasabi flavored chips, and the folded nori stuck fast to itself, took 30 minutes to crisp, and the layers didn't curl and separate airily like the subsequent batches where I brushed on less of the water mixture. So ... curb any heavy-handed liquid tendencies!

Adapted from The Smart Palate

I didn't have wasabi powder, so used horseradish.  I love silicone basting brushes ... they work really well for this, clean up fabulously in the dishwasher, and you don't have to pick bristles off of your food.

For each flavor:

5 sheets nori
salt to your taste

Nori Faux Wasabi
2 teaspoons Bubbies pure horseradish
3 tablespoons water

Nori con Chipotle
2 teaspoons chipotle puree
3 tablespoons water

Nori Coco Szechuan
2 teaspoons coconut aminos (a very useful soy sauce substitute)
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons ground Szechuan pepper, sprinkled on before folding nori.
No salt for this one; the coconut aminos are very salty

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

Brush a sheet of nori with liquid mixture.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Fold in half and press lightly.  With kitchen shears, cut nori into five or six strips.  Repeat with remaining nori sheets.  This is like craft class in grade school!  And you get to eat your project!

Lay the chips in a single layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Place in oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Chips will crisp and begin to curl a bit.  When they're dry and crisp, remove to cool.

You can brush them with hot sesame oil as Nancy did, or hot chili oil, I suppose.  I didn't have any spicy oils, so I didn't ... but I think it would be very delicious.

I put all my chips in the same bowl, so I could be surprised by different tastes!

Each batch makes about 30 scrumptious chips.  None of which Mr. Eating the Scenery would touch.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mustard Greens with Ginger-Garlic Cream

While I love kale, spinach and chard, especially alongside savory meats, once in a while the noticeable spiciness of mustard greens makes a nice change.

For once, I actually followed the recipe directions and strained the ginger and garlic from the simmered cream, although I was tempted to chop them finely and leave them in.  The result is an elegant, creamy greens dish with a hint of exotic, spicy flavor ... quite delectable alongside Thundering Hooves spicy Italian sausage, into which I mixed a generous amount of minced CSA red onion. 
From Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton

1 pound mustard greens
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup Pure Eire heavy (though I prefer "ethereal" as more descriptive) cream
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
4 slices fresh ginger, chopped or smashed

Nearly fill a big pot with water, and add the salt.  Bring water to boil while you stem and wash the mustard greens.  Wash leaves thoroughly (this is a lot like washing the floppy ears of a large dog) and pull leaves away from thick stems.  As you finish each leaf, place it in a large bowl.  When all leaves are washed, run kitchen shears through the bowl a few times to reduce the size of the leaves a bit.

Add all the greens to the boiling water, pushing down to submerge.  Return to a boil for 4 minutes; taste a leaf for tenderness, then continue cooking for 2 more minutes, until greens are tender.  Drain in a colander, squishing the greens against the sides to get all the moisture out.  Set greens aside.

Heat the cream, garlic and ginger in a 1-quart saucepan over very low heat, simmering until reduced to 1/4 cup or so.  You'll need to stir the cream a few times to keep everything reducing nicely. When cream has reduced, remove garlic and ginger with slotted spoon.

Add greens to reduced cream, stir to coat, and heat just until hot.  Overcooking at this point will make the greens begin to release water.  Serve hot.

Makes 2 generous servings.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Saffron Cauliflower Pilaf

Saffron rice pilaf  has long been one of my favorite dishes.  I felt sure I could create a cauliflower version, and it was way easier than I thought it would be.  I checked out a few recipes to see what exactly is in the dish, then assembled my own.

The trick here is to cook it JUST enough so that the onion and garlic are soft but the cauliflower retains a crisp-tender quality.  It reheats beautifully the next day, so could easily be made ahead for a company meal.

And of course, substitute freely!  Golden raisins instead of cranberries, pecans instead of (or in addition to!) walnuts ... invention is the key to the best discoveries.

I found reasonably priced, flavorful saffron at the European Grocery on Huntington Street in Kennewick.  They keep it at the front counter, so you have to ask for it.

 1/2 cup very hot water
1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 medium head cauliflower
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts 

In a medium sized pot, combine very hot water and saffron.  Set aside.

Wash cauliflower and separate it into florets.  Run these through your food processor on the medium shred disc.  You'll get a lovely mountain of cauliflower.

To the saffron water, add onion, garlic, butter, salt and pepper.  Stir.  Bring to a simmer and cook for two or three minutes only.  Add shredded cauliflower and stir well.  Continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until color deepens, cauliflower is crisp-tender, and onion and garlic are cooked (they can be crisp-tender, too, if you like).  This will only take a few minutes.

Stir in cranberries.  The water should all be absorbed.  I didn't need to add more water; you might.

Taste for seasonings, stir in cilantro and walnuts, and serve hot. 

Makes 4 hearty servings.  Also very tasty reheated the next day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Celeriac and Kohlrabi Salad

Our decision to go grain free means that vegetables play a huge role in our meals.  Many nights I open the fridge, toss vegetables out onto the counter, study them intently for a few minutes while a way of using them takes shape in my mind, and then start chopping.

The resulting creations are usually tasty, and always very nutritious, but only occasionally blog-worthy.  I honestly didn't expect this salad would make it to the blog, but one taste and my eyebrows went up and I fetched my camera.

The beauty of this salad is its unexpected combination of tastes. Who knew that kohlrabi and cilantro would  get along so well with each other, much less make a happy threesome with celeriac?  I suppose because celery is naturally higher in sodium than most vegetables, no salt was needed.

The only dressing is lemon juice.  It seemed that oil would only weigh down this lovely, light and crisp salad, so I stopped ... like an artist has to do at some point with every painting ... when I felt perfection had been achieved.

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 small (about the size of a large grapefruit) celeriac, peeled
2 kohlrabi, peeled
3/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup chopped cilantro

Place lemon juice in large bowl. Cut peeled celeriac into pieces sized to fit into your food processor, and shred using medium shred blade.  Immediately toss shredded celeriac in the lemon juice to coat well.  This will keep the celeriac from turning brown.

Shred kohlrabi on medium shred as well, and toss it, along with red onion, into the bowl with the celeriac.  Stir well until all the veggies are coated with lemon juice and are well mixed.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Just before serving, stir in cilantro.

Delicious the moment it's made, even better and still fresh the next day.

Serves 4 to 6.