Category: Soup/Stew

Chili with Braised Beef and Squash

I had such high hopes for this chili because all of components are awesome in some form or another. It’s a bean-less chili though, which is almost hard for me to call it a chili because I always always always have chili with beans in it. I have no idea what else to call it. It’s sort of like that whole sweetened vs. unsweetened cornbread debacle. Like my affinity for all things cornbread [I’ll eat both types], I’ll eat any type of chili. I have no shame.

I was especially excited at the prospect of using some dried whole chilies to spice this thing up. I usually equate these kinds of peppers in homemade enchilada or hot sauce, but it can absolutely hop into my bowl of chili. I’ll gladly accept. Of course they came in a huge bag, so the remaining ones just sit in the pantry waiting for another day. If someone will point me to a bulk dried chili bin, I would appreciate it. I never want more than a couple. The chili base calls for a blender, which was just another not-so-subtle reminder that I need to call Vitamix about maintenance. I imagine a food processor would work, too.

Squash was the wild card to the recipe. Honestly, the chili was probably just a vehicle for the squash. It drew me in with its siren call. I love squash. I roasted up a whole baking tray of the stuff tonight and it took all my willpower not to just eat it straight from the pan. I may not be huge on sweets most of the time, but the sweetness of squash gets me every.single.time. Unfortunately the sweetness of the squash overpowered the rest of the chili, and maybe that was the point, but it isn’t the flavor profile I usually expect from a chili. I was kind of hoping for a more subtle sweetness—hoping the chilies would dampen it. I still slurped up every drop the next day at work. Don’t worry.

It all came together rather quickly. It was a lazy Sunday project since it takes about an hour depending on how quickly you can cut and peel that dang squash. New Seasons has a bunch of precut stuff in the case right by the door. I’m pretty sure I look at it every time I walk in the store [that and the guacamole…creature of habit]. I embraced my inner over-achiever and toasted some pepitas [or pumpkin seeds]. I sacrificed my hard earned dollars on a mediocre avocado to garnish. I’m such a sucker. Look how pretty it is. It was mostly for looks because that avocado was the epitome of bland.

Beef and Beer Chili

Inspiration: Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried pasilla chile
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 12oz lager
  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled and cut small
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas
  • salt and pepper
  • Avocado, sliced radishes, green onions, sour cream or cilantro for serving

Preparation

Toast the chilies in a skillet on medium high heat. Press them down to the pan so they get a lot of contact with the heat. They should start to darken after a few minutes. Toast both sides. Fill a bowl with boiling water and add the chilies to it to rehydrate. Soak for 3o minutes. They’ll be falling apart. Remove the stem and transfer the entire thing to a blender [or remove the seeds if that’s your thing]. Blend until smooth.

Put a large pot over high heat. Add one tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Pat the beef dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and chopped onion and garlic. Stir well break up the remnants of the beef juices that have accumulated. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the cumin and oregano. Stir well so it’s evenly distributed.

Add the beef back to the pot and pour in the beer. Bring to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer for about five minutes. The beer will cook down significantly. Add the chile puree and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the beef in the chile for 20-25 minutes before adding the squash. When the squash is soft, about 15 minutes, taste for additional salt and lime.

Serve in bowls topped with the toasted pepitas and your preferred accouterments.

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew with Browned Sage

This pumpkin chickpea stew is brought to you by a break in-between study sessions.

Pumpkin in January isn’t that weird, right? You’ll probably have a better time finding cans of it this time of year anyway. Actually, maybe not. Does anyone know where they keep it when it’s not on end-caps or in towering pyramids at the front of the store? I kid. The pumpkin puree ends up being a thickener more than a flavor profile, so take that as it is.

Everything I’ve been making lately tends to fall into the cozy camp — soups, stews, shepherd’s pie, pasta, baked goods. It’s as if it’s been cold and damp or something. There has also been an obscene amount of Thai basil pork being made too, but it’s spicy so that counts towards cozy in my book. My parents gifted me a cast-iron wok for Christmas, so using it coupled with the ease of the recipe means I’m making it a lot.

Is cozy a food group? It should be. It’s a quality I immediately gravitate towards. Salads, unfortunately, have a hard time making the cozy cut, unless they’re warm and nutty like the brown rice salad at Picnic House. Roasted yams, carrots, arugula, asparagus, toasted almonds, and a hazelnut vinaigrette over brown rice. See? Comforting.

The last few recipes made me laugh because they were that bland color, and this really isn’t that much different. There’s more of this color to come, my friends. More pumpkin, too. Apparently I’m a creature of habit.

This stew turned a little soupy on the first round, but thickened considerably upon cooling. By the next day, the liquid was gone and an amalgamation of pumpkin-y chickpeas and orzo remained. Still totally edible. It’s like two different meals for the effort of one. The flavor the browned sage’s earthiness brings nestles right in there with the sweetness of the pumpkin and carrot. Chickpeas seem to serve mostly as protein that matches the consistency of its fellow ingredients. They take on whatever flavor you want them to. The whole thing comes together really quickly, taking up just about as much time as it takes you to chop up the onion and carrot.

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Inspiration: Food52

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 carrot, chopped evenly [feel free to peel it if that’s your style]
  • 1/2 onion, chopped evenly
  • 6-8 sage leaves, halved
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo or other small pasta

Preparation

In a large sauce pan with high enough walls to hold all of your liquids, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the carrot, onion, and sage. Stir occasionally until the carrot and onion soften and the sage starts to brown, about 5-7 minutes. The smell is heavenly.

Add the chickpeas, pumpkin, and broth. Use your spoon to deglaze any of the onion bits off the bottom of the pan and stir so the pumpkin is broken up into the broth. Bring the broth to a boil before adding the orzo. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the orzo for about 8 minutes. It should be al dente.

Caldo Verde – Portuguese Green Soup

Be still my heart. I miss Portugal. This soup makes me realize just how much I miss it. Travel planning is in full force around here. I don’t want to jinx where we think we’re headed yet, but once I know for sure, you’ll know. I promise.

Sidenote: I’m in love with the idea of making the other soup we had in Porto, papas de sarrabulho, but the odds of me actually cooking with pork entrails and blood are next to none. Maybe the one Portuguese restaurant in Portland will make it one of these days. I would be all over it.

[The brown theme rages on]

Caldo Verde Soup

Inspiration: Food52

Ingredients

  • 2lbs cauliflower florets
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for roasting
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes [more or less depending on your tastes]
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2lb smoked kielbasa, sliced in 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens, rinsed, drained and shredded
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450° and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with a olive oil, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper and spread them out in a single even layer on the baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the cauliflower for a good 30-40 minutes. It’ll be tender and starting to char on the outside. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or your soup pot of choice, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Sauté the onion until it starts to brown. It’ll be soft and translucent at this point. Add the garlic and red chile flake. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds to allow the garlic to get fragrant and brown but not burn. Burned garlic is the worst. Pour in the chicken stock and cauliflower and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the mixture cook for about an hour. The cauliflower will be really tender. Remove from the heat and puree either in a regular blender or in the pot with an immersion one.

Pour the soup back to the pot if you removed it and put it on low heat. Add the sausage and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shredded mustard greens and parsley and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Taste for additional salt, pepper, and lemon.

Whatever you don’t eat the day of will thicken up considerably when you eat it the next day. It’s almost a glorious stew.

 

Gumbolaya

I guess you could really just call this a stew, but that’s not really telling of what kind of awesome goes inside. You know what you’re getting into when you say gumbo or jambalaya. This is just like both of those, taking the great things about them, stewing them in a pot and pouring them over rice.

The spice is going to creep up on you quickly depending on what you go for in terms of sausage and how much cayenne and creole seasoning you use. The hotter the better for us, as usual. I like to blow my nose during the meal. Super classy, right? The rice soaks up all of the tomato juice and helps mellow the kick. I picked up the okra in the freezer section and finally grabbed a jar of filé powder. It’s a gumbo necessity. I don’t cook this stuff often, but ever since the cajun cooking class I’ve been meaning to get some. It adds a bit of flavor and is a wonderful thickening agent. I’ll even throw it on a bowl of curry every now and then if it’s particularly watery.

While you could use chicken breasts for this, I really really really advocate for thighs here. They have so much more flavor and stand up to cooking for longer periods without drying out. The shrimp is optional, but again, I highly recommend it. It’ll add another layer of flavor to this quick dish. It’s not going to benefit from long cooking time. It needs all the help it can get. You do sacrifice a bit of flavor for the sake of time if I’m honest, but sometimes I don’t want to wait. This is perfect for my impatience.

Inspiration: The Cozy Apron

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1lb andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1lb chicken thighs [or breasts], cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, small dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 large bell pepper, small dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2lb okra, sliced
  • 28oz can of tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1/2lb cleaned and deveined shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • rice, for serving

Preparation

Heat some oil in large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the sausage. Let it sit for a minute or two so the oil starts to release from the meat and it starts to brown. Stir accordingly until all sides are heated. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate. Add the chicken to the pot. Brown it in the oil on all sides. Remove it to the plate with the sausage. Now add the onion, celery, and bell pepper [aka the holy trinity]. Stir occasionally until tender. Add the bay leaves, creole seasoning, cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine in the oil and vegetables. Add the garlic and stir quickly so it doesn’t burn or stick. It should smell heavenly. Add the tomato paste, stirring for about a minute or two before adding the stock, okra, tomatoes, chicken stock, chicken and sausage. Stir and bring to a boil before turning down to a low simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Finally add the shrimp and cook for about 2-3 minutes and they get color. Sprinkle the parsley and cilantro on top before serving. Oh and remove the bay leaves. Service over rice.

Spicy Kale and Pork Noodle Soup

And just like that the holidays came and went. Well, we still have NYE, right? I’m already writing 2015 at the office, and just like I wrote it now, I had to go back and fix 2014 to say 2015. My finger and brain are just not ready to coordinate in that fashion.

The holidays were full of good people and good food as they always are and always should be. That’s all I care about. The Christmas Eve feast of sandwich fixins and chips and dips outdid itself. My parents found a new-to-us Bavarian deli called Edelweiss, which yielded some new meats for the table. They also carry European specialty foods. I need to check this out. I made some parker house pretzel rolls based on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. I didn’t get a photo as I was running out of the house to get over to my parents’, but they’re just as good as they sound. I had to make the dough the night before, let it do its first rise, shape them, and then let the second rise happen in the fridge overnight. Since it was Christmas Eve, and I was working, I didn’t know when I’d get home. I wanted them to be freshly baked, so this was my first attempt at slowing the rise down like that. You don’t have to bring them back to room temp before baking. I let them sit out while the oven preheated and I boiled the baking soda mixture to ‘pretzel’ them, but that was it. They baked just fine, and I wouldn’t have known I had them in the fridge overnight. I also made the reuben dip again, in honor of Grammy, but the Thousand Island dressing I picked up really wasn’t my favorite. It was too sweet for my taste, but there was plenty of other food to make up it.

Christmas Day was the usual Mexican food feast since repeating Thanksgiving got old a few years ago. Crockpots full of meats, rice, and beans coupled with tamales, chicken enchiladas, taquitos and a table full of all kinds of toppings — fajita veggies, salsas, guacamole, more cheese, etc. It was heavenly. I avoided tortillas and chips just so I could mound my plate with a “taco salad.”

I hope your holidays were equally awesome.

I also wanted to leave you with this simple little soup if you’re not in the mood to cook or eat leftovers anymore. It’s really, really, really simple and has a whole bunch of greens if you feel like you’ve been missing that in your life the last few weeks. The “spicy” is relative to your tastes. Ramp it up or down depending on who is doing the eating. Feel free to use the already grown versions of these spices. I just happened to have them on hand and went with it.

Inspiration: Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

  • 1/2lb ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce [plus more to taste]
  • 8oz dried rice noodles

Preparation

Smash together the ginger, peppercorns, chili flakes, cumin seeds, and garlic. I used a spice grinder because I’m lazy. Add the spice mixture to the ground pork in a bowl and mix together until incorporated. In your soup pot, heat the oil and medium high. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, add the ground pork. Let it sit for a minute before breaking it up. Any caramelizing on the bottom of that pan is a good thing. Break it up into small bite sized pieces while it cooks.

When the pork is no longer pink, add the chicken broth, scallions, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Bring the whole thing to a boil before turning it down to a simmer for 6-8 minutes. Add the kale [in batches if necessary] and allow it to cook down. Allow it to cook another 10 minutes or so.

In a separate pot, cook your rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and run cool water over the top. To serve, add some noodles to the bottom of your bowl and then add the soup on top. Add more chili flakes or fish sauce to taste.