Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Menu 15: Chili, Salad, and Oatmeal Cookies for a Chilly Spring Day

The Best Chili
As a child I used to get so confused by homonyms, two words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. Like pair and pear or chili and chilly. For a long time I connected my mom’s Chili con Carne with chilly weather. And perhaps that’s suitable. In my household, it 's a blustery spring favorite.

2 pounds ground chuck or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork
Note: You can also use ground dark turkey meat.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat if you have some
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground chile molido
½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile, more if you like your chili spicy
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon smoky sweet or regular paprika
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cups liquid: stock, apple juice, wine or a mix
Note: Don’t use more than 1 cup apple juice or the chili will be too sweet.
1 16-ounce can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained, optional
Zest from 1 orange
¼ cup fresh orange juice

Garnishes, any or all:
Sour cream
Diced avocado mixed with a little lemon juice
Chopped scallions
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh cilantro

1. In a large pot, brown the meat, drain, and tip into a bowl.
2. In the same pot, heat oil and brown the onion, celery, carrots, red bell pepper, and garlic. Add the seasonings (cumin through the black pepper) and cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, the liquid, and the meat. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the beans if you desire and cook for an additional 30 minutes. If you don’t add the beans, continue cooking the meat mixture for an additional 30 minutes.
5. Just before serving, remove the cinnamon sticks and add the orange zest and juice. Cook 10 minutes longer. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot in bowls large enough to include the garnishes.
6. Put the garnishes into bowls and serve at the table.

4-6 servings
Adapted from the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties’ Even More Special and the San Francisco Chronicle Food section’s Chili with Black Beans and Meaty Chili with Cinnamon

Mango and Hearts of Palm Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

You could also serve a Everyday Green Salad (September 8, 2009 blog), Jicama Slaw (June 21, 2009 blog) or Erasto’s Coleslaw (May 23, 2009 blog).

1 large mango, peeled, pitted and cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
3 stalks of hearts of palm from a 14.5-ounce can, drained, halved lengthwise and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 head Boston or other lettuce, washed and dried
Salt and black pepper

Lime vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt or more to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Taste carefully for seasonings and adjust to your taste.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the mango, the red onion, and the hearts of palm along with half the vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper as you wish.
3. Arrange the lettuce on four plates. Spoon the mango mixture on top. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

4 servings
Adapted from The Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living’s Great Food Fast

Classic Oatmeal Cookies

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1½ cups packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs
2½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup raisins
3½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
You can always add some chocolate chips if you want but your cookies won’t be “classic” in the same way.

1. Position rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cookie sheets or use silpats on the sheets.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3. In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, beat together the butter, brown sugar, honey, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Easiest if you have an electric mixer of some kind.
4. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the raisins, rolled oats and walnuts if desired. Mix well. You may need to use your hands.
5. Drop 1-inch globs of dough from a tablespoon on the cookie sheets. Allow about 2 inches between the globs. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned all over and almost firm when lightly pressed in the center of the top.
6. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly, about 2 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool and store in tins in the freezer (to help me resist temptation).

Makes 60-80 cookies, depending on their size
Adapted from the Irma S. Rombauer et al’s 1997 edition of The All New Joy of Cooking

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