Roasted Butternut Squash with Hoisin and Ginger

This is a wonderful take on the fall classic of roasted butternut squash with maple syrup. The flavor gets a little kick from the addition of ginger and replacing the sweetener with hoisin. It comes together in just the time it takes to prepare the squash. While it is a lovely side dish, it could also become a main course if served over rice with any left over sauce.

serves 2-3 as a side dish

Ingredients:

1 small to medium size butternut squash (you can also use delicata squash sliced, acorn squash halved or any other winter squash you prefer)

1 T. canola or other neutral oil

Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt

¼ inch piece of ginger very finely minced (about a ½ t. but feel free to add more if you want a little more zing)

¼ cup hoisin sauce

2 t. soy sauce

1 t. rice wine vinegar

2 t. sesame seeds

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, peel the butternut squash (not necessary if using delicata) , cut in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds and slice into ½ or ¾ inch slices (they will look like half moons and crescents).
  3. Place the squash and the oil in a bowl and toss to coat.
  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet (or other oven a safe pan) with parchment (or foil) to prevent sticking.
  5. Arrange the squash in a single layer on the baking pan, sprinkle with the salt, and place the pan in the pre-heated oven.
  6. While the squash begins to cook, make the sauce.
  7. Peel and very finely mince the ginger. Add the ginger to a small bowl, and then add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Mix very well.
  8. When the squash is just tender when a knife tip is inserted into it (20 -30 minutes depending on the thickness and freshness of the of the squash), remove from the oven and paint thickly with the hoisin-ginger sauce letting it drip down the sides (but not so generously extra sauce is pooling in the pan as it will burn). You will probably have a little sauce left over.
  9. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
  10. Increase the heat in the oven to 375 degrees and return to the oven for 10 minutes or so until the squash is very tender and the sauce is just bubbling and beginning to caramelize just a little around the edges of the squash.
  11. Enjoy!

Broccoli and Mushrooms in Spicy Garlic Sauce

This recipe serves 2-3 people and is a very quick and easy weeknight meal. The most time consuming step is making rice to go with it. It works great with either long- or medium-grained rice and either white or brown. If you want to jazz up the meal a little serve it with a side of your favorite dumplings or with some fried tofu squares.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 c. sliced shiitake or oyster mushrooms (if you don’t like mushrooms, you could substitute either thinly sliced pork or pea pods depending on whether you want to keep the dish vegetarian, but–if using meat– ¾ of a cup should do)

3 T., plus 1 t., neutral oil, such as canola, divided into 2 T., 1 T. and 1 t.

2 T. and 1 t. soy sauce, divided

1 ½- 2 c. broccoli florets (about half a typical head of broccoli), cut into bite-size pieces

¼ cup water

3-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size, finely minced

1 ½ t. Chinese black vinegar (if you have it), if not use any vinegar you have available including balsamic

1 ½ t. sugar or honey

½ t. toasted sesame oil (can be replaced with regular sesame oil, but increase to ¾ t.)

½ to 1 ½ t. chili garlic sauce (I have found these sauces vary greatly in the intensity of their heat so taste yours and add accordingly)

1 T. corn starch

3 T. water

Cooked rice to serve, and toasted sesame seeds and/or slcied scallions as garnish (optional)

PREPARATION:

  1. Heat 2 T. oil and 1 t. soy sauce in a fry pan.
  2. When oil is shimmering add the mushrooms and fry until nicely browned and the edges become crispy.
  3. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and add another 1 t. of oil.
  4. Add the broccoli florets and turn the heat to medium high in order to get some charred spots on the broccoli (2-3 minutes). Don’t let them burn.
  5. Reduce heat to medium low, add the water and cover to lightly steam the broccoli, removing it from the pan when it is just crisp tender (about 2-3 minutes). Almost all of the water should also be gone. If more than a spoonful remains, drain it from the pan.
  6. Add the final 1. T of oil to the pan and heat on low. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so until it is fragrant and it no longer smells raw.
  7. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar/honey and toasted sesame oil. Stir to combine.
  8. Add the chili garlic sauce to taste.
  9. Combine the water and the corn starch until thoroughly mixed and add to pan, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
  10. Return the mushrooms and broccoli along with any liquid that has accumulated with them to the sauce and heat through.
  11. Taste and season with additional soy sauce and/or chili garlic sauce if needed.
  12. Serve over rice, garnishing with toasted sesame seeds and.or scallions if you wish.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

3-4 servings

This soup is both hearty and light at the same time, as well as being high in fiber and other nutrients. It also comes together very quickly for a weeknight supper. This recipe flavors the soup with curry spices, but the basic recipe is really flexible. You could substitute Spanish, Greek, or Middle Eastern spice mixtures and it would work equally well. I fried some shallots for a crispy topping but you could just as easily add toasted nuts, sliced scallions, or even a sprinkle of cheese–whatever catches your fancy.

Ingredients:

1 T. and 1 t. canola or vegetable oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 to 1 ½ t. finely chopped or grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. curry powder (choose whatever is your favorite–I used half garam masala and half vindaloo)

½ t. cumin powder

1 ½ t. kosher salt

1 head of cauliflower (1½ to 2 lbs. before trimming)

¾ – 1 lb. russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (2-3 potatoes)

1 quart low sodium chicken stock (or water if you want this to be vegetarian)

2 C. water

1 t. white wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)

¼ c. whole milk (omit if you want the soup to be vegan)

Black pepper to taste

1 medium shallot

Preparation:

  1. Cut the cauliflower head into florets discarding leaves and the thickest part of the stem. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  2. In a large heavy bottom pot or pan (large enough to hold at least 2 quarts), heat 1 T. of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and ginger and sauté until the onion is softened (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 1 minute more.
  3. Add the curry, cumin, and salt mixing well, and sauté until the mixture becomes very fragrant (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the chicken stock, water, and vinegar to the pot along with the cauliflower and potatoes and increase heat to medium-high to bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potatoes and cauliflower are both very tender (15 minutes or so, a little more if the vegetables pieces are larger).
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, peel and thinly slice the shallot.
  6. Heat the remaining 1 t. of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and fry the shallot, stirring often, until brown and crisp (do not go far from the pan as shallots can burn very quickly).
  7. Using a blender or stick blender, blend the soup until it is smooth. If you prefer to have some pieces of cauliflower for texture, remove them before blending. If using a regular blender return the soup to the pot (adding back in any cauliflower you removed), stir in the milk and add a good grinding of black pepper. Taste to adjust other seasonings.
  8. Serve topped with crispy shallots.

Fried Shrimp Rice Bowl

In his wonderful cookbook, Smoke and Pickles, Edward Lee includes recipes for a number of fabulous rice bowls: spicy pork with jicama and cilantro; and tuna with avocado, pork rinds, and jalapeno, to name just two. This is not as complex as the ones in his book, but it is also easier to pull together for a weeknight meal. I do think the flavors are good enough for company, though. Making the daikon pickle to go with it is certainly optional, but it is dead simple and adds a terrific layer of flavor to the dish.

Serves 2 but can be doubled, tripled, etc.

Ingredients:

For the rice bowl:

8 large shrimp (these should be from the 16-20 per pound size) shelled and deveined

6-8 shiitake mushrooms, depending on size

1 ½ t. neutral oil (safflower, canola, vegetable)

1-2 t. mirin (depending how sweet you want the mushrooms)

1 t. soy sauce

12-16 pea pods, tough strings removed

½ c. fresh or frozen peas, thawed or blanched in hot water, if fresh

2 scallions, white and tender green, sliced

½ c. all purpose flour

2 T. rice flour (only if you have it, you can also substitute 1 T. corn starch and 1 T. all purpose flour, or just use all purpose flour)

1 c. water (or you can use beer, if you like)

salt and pepper

2 cups cooked white rice (you can use medium grain rice as we usually do, or long grain if you prefer)

2 T. mayonnaise (any brand you like is fine)

2 T. Gojuchang (if you don’t have Gojuchang, you can substitute sriracha or hot sauce but decrease to 1 to 1 ½ T. and add 1 t. of honey)

Furikake (only if you have it) to taste

For the daikon pickle:

1 medium size daikon radish (available at Whole Foods and at Asian markets)

1 c. rice wine vinegar

½ t. kosher salt

2 t. sugar

2 t. chili flake (if you have it) or similar hot flaked spice or ½ t. crushed red pepper

1 t. turmeric

Preparation:

Daikon Pickle: If you are making the daikon pickle, this should be done first and left to sit for a bit (a couple of hours is good, but even half an hour will do).

  1. Peel and thinly slice the daikon.
  2. Combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, chili flake/red pepper and the turmeric in either a pan if you are heating it on the stove or a heat proof container (like a Pyrex measuring cup or Ball jar) if heating in the microwave. Gently heat the mixture to just below simmering, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt have largely dissolved. (Note: if heating in the microwave, as I usually do, make sure there is a loose cover over the container in case it gets too hot and splatters).
  3. If heated in a pan, transfer the vinegar brine to a glass or ceramic container.
  4. Immediately, add the daikon slices and submerge (or stir/shake).
  5. Leave on the counter until ready to use (if within a few hours) or refrigerate, if not using for a day or two.

Rice Bowl:

  1. Prepare the rice and keep warm (easiest using a rice cooker, but it is fine to leave it covered in a pan).
  2. While the rice is cooking, prep the other items and get the shrimp out of the refrigerator so that they can warm a little.
  3. For the mushrooms, remove the stem and clean and slice the caps to about ¼” thick.
  4. Heat 1 t. oil, mirin and soy sauce in a small fry or sauté pan over medium-low heat.
  5. Add the mushrooms slices and stir to coat. Allow the mushroom to cook until they give up most of their liquid.
  6. Allow them to cook for a few more minutes until the edges begin to brown, but watch the heat so the mirin mixture doesn’t start to burn. (It will make them bitter.)
  7. While the mushrooms are cooking, wash and remove any tough strings from the pea pods or snap peas.
  8. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
  9. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, and add the final ½ t. oil to the pan. Heat to medium.
  10. Dry the pea pods/snap peas with a paper towel and then add to pan. Stir until they begin to brighten in color and look just cooked (about 1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  11. If using frozen peas, microwave briefly with a little bit of water to heat them through. If using fresh peas, bring a small pot of water to a boil, add the peas and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. In either case, thoroughly drain the peas.
  12. Slice the scallions, if that is not already done.
  13. Combine the gojuchang and the mayonnaise in a small bowl and set aside.
  14. In a shallow bowl, combine the all purpose flour with the rice flour, if using, and add the water or beer, stirring thoroughly until the batter is smooth.
  15. In a deep pot (a pasta pot works well to avoid splatters), add oil to reach to about ¾ of an inch. The amount will vary depending on the diameter of the pot but is likely to be about 3 cups. (NOTE: If you strain out any bits of batter or shrimp, the oil can be saved in the refrigerator and used to fry other seafood or fish for up to about one month.)
  16. Heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until it appears to shimmer. (NOTE: if you want to know if the oil is hot enough, throw in a small piece of bread–any kind–and count to ten to see if it fully fries to golden. If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough. If it burns, the oil is too hot.)
  17. When the oil is hot, dredge the shrimp batter and drop into the hot oil cooking a few at a time so as not to crowd the pan or have the oil cook too much. As soon as the batter is golden (only about 2-3 minutes) remove the shrimp to a paper towel lined plate. Continue until all 8 shrimp are cooked.
  18. To assemble the bowl, begin with rice, nestle the shrimp into the warm rice and add the mushrooms, pea pods/snap peas, peas, and scallions. Put slices of daikon pickle in a small bowl and pass, along with the gojuchang mayo, and–of course–soy sauce at the table.

Linguine with Mussels, Herbs and Wine

This is a quick and simple dish that packs in a lot of flavor, from the brine of the mussels to the floral quality of the herbs and the salinity of the wine. The herbs bring a lot to this dish and so it is worth using fresh if you can get them (at a minimum try to get at least one fresh). While it is important to have a mix of green herbs, you can easily substitute ones you like best. In addition to the three listed below, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, and even scallions work fine.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

2 lbs. mussels (preferably small Maine mussels, Whole Foods often carried Moosabecs which are tasty and usually well-cleaned) NOTE: The mussels should be stored in a bowl sitting on a small bag of ice in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can ask the market to give you a bag of ice when you get the mussels.

2 T. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 ½ T. fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 ½ t. dried thyme)

1-2 T. fresh basil (or 1-2 t. dried)

4-5 chives blades snipped or chopped into small pieces

¾ c. dry white wine (for a slightly different take, you can substitute beer)

2 T. unsalted butter

freshly ground pepper

freshly grated parmigiano or pecorino cheese, best quality you can find

½ to ⅔ lb.of dried linguine

Preparation:

  1. Wash the exterior of the mussels well and pull off any beards (fibers coming out from where the shell closes) and return to the bowl in the refrigerator. Throw away any mussels that do not fully close within a few seconds when tapped on the counter as they are already dead and should not be eaten.
  2. Bring a well-salted pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  3. While the water is heating, finely mince the garlic, chop the fresh thyme (if using), and snip or cut the chives.
  4. Place a deep pot or large fry pan with a tight fitting lid over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and then the garlic. Allow the garlic to sauté for a minute or two, but do not let it brown.
  5. When the pasta water reaches a rolling boil, add the linguine and cook for the recommended amount of time on the package (usually 10-12 minutes).
  6. Add the white wine to the pot/fry pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Allow to come up to a simmer to cook off some of the alcohol.
  7. Add the mussels to the wine and garlic and immediately cover the pot/pan.
  8. While the mussels are cooking, roll up and thinly slice the basil leaves (chiffonade). This is done after the other herbs because the leaves will begin to discolor soon after they are cut.
  9. Cook the mussels for 3-5 minutes until all (or almost all) have opened. Immediately turn off and remove the pan from the heat.
  10. Add the butter and the herbs to the mussels and toss well. Discard any mussels that did not open.
  11. When the pasta is cooked, drain well, and divide among serving bowls.
  12. Top the pasta with mussels using tongs, leaving the bulk of the sauce still in the pot/pan.
  13. Once all the mussels have been removed, carefully tilt the pan and using a ladle or spoon pour the sauce over the mussels and pasta, leaving behind any residual grit (there shouldn’t be much).
  14. Top the dish with freshly ground pepper and grated cheese to taste. (The cheese will melt into the sauce and enrich it.)

Barbecued Beans

These beans are a cross between Texas style barbecued beans and New England baked beans. They don’t have the ground beef typical of Texas, but are spicier and less sweet than the New England tradition. The beans can be made in either a vegan or a carnivore’s version. They are wonderful as a side dish to almost any cookout food, but have enough depth of flavor to serve as the main attraction with additions like crusty bread, avocado, a fried egg, or even just tossed with some leftover brown rice. They also reheat and freeze beautifully so it is worth making a big batch.

Ingredients:

1 lb. best quality pinto or similar bean (in the ones pictured I used Rancho Gordo‘s King City Pinks), soaked for a few hours or overnight

1 or 2 pieces of thick cut bacon (or 1-2 oz. or guanciale, if you weirdly happen to have it as I did) cut into medium dice (about ⅓”) – OPTIONAL

1 T. of neutral oil (safflower, canola, or vegetable) NOTE: Use 2 T. oil if not using bacon

1 small or ½ large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small or ½ large green pepper, finely diced

1 (or more) jalapeño peppers, finely diced (feel free to substitute Fresno or other hotter chiles if you prefer more heat)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1-3 cups water (amount needed to ensure that beans are submerged in at least 1 ½ inches in liquid)

¼ cup of ketchup

1-2 T. mustard (Coleman’s English if you have it, but you can use anything you have on hand)

2 T. dark brown sugar

1 T. apple cider vinegar (feel free to substitute any vinegar you like if you don’t have apple cider)

1 T. hot sauce

2 t. smoked paprika or your favorite chili powder

salt to taste

PREPARATION:

  1. Soak the beans, if you have time, for at least 3 hours or overnight. If you don’t remember to do this, don’t worry, it will just take longer for the beans to cook and they will probably need added liquid (hot water) during cooking.
  2. Drain the beans.
  3. In a large oven-proof pot or pan big enough to hold the whole dish, add the oil and the bacon, if using. If using bacon, cook slowly over medium low heat to render as much fat as possible from the meat. Remove the diced pieces from the pan when they are cooked. If not using meat, heat the oil over medium heat.
  4. Add the diced onions to the pan and sauté until just starting to turn opaque.
  5. Add the garlic, green pepper, and jalapeño and sauté for a minute or so.
  6. Add the chicken stock, beans, and water to cover.
  7. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 45 minutes on the stove top on low to medium heat. Just high enough to keep the beans bubbling and so they begin to soften. Add hot water if the top begins to look dry.
  8. Preheat the oven to 300° F.
  9. Add all the other ingredients to the pot, except the salt: ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, hot sauce and smoked paprika or chili powder, as well as the reserved bacon, if using, and stir gently to distribute throughout.
  10. Cover the pot and bake for 2 ½ hours. Check for doneness and add salt at this point (whether or not they are fully done). If the beans are fully cooked and have absorbed the flavors, you can take them out and let them rest for at least 15 minutes (or longer if you want) before serving. If they are a little too liquid for your taste, remove the top and bake uncovered for another 15-30 minutes. If they are not fully cooked when you check at 2 ½ hours, return to the oven and check every 20 minutes or so until they are done. (Depending on their age and if they were soaked before cooking, beans can take up to 4 hours in the oven).

This is also a great recipe to change up the flavorings, heat and sweetness level to suit your own taste!

Shrimp Burgers

These burgers have the best texture of any seafood burgers I have ever had. They are even better if you top them with a spicy mayo or other hot and creamy sauce. This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in Cook’s illustrated Light & Healthy quite a few years ago. This makes four good-sized burgers.

Note: This recipe requires a food processor, a blender will turn the shrimp to mush.

Ingredients:

1 lb. cleaned and deveined raw shrimp, preferably untreated for the freshest taste

3 T. mayonnaise, commercial is fine

¾ cup fresh bread crumbs from flavorful white bread slices, crusts removed and bread torn into pieces (1-2 slices if it is from a large boule, more if from a smaller ciabatta or other long loaf).

½ cup of panko (for coating the burgers)

2 scallions, thinly sliced both white and green parts (except the roots and tough green ends)

1 t. freshly grated lemon zest

2 T. flat leaf parsley (or, if you prefer, cilantro), minced

¼ t. kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

pinch of cayenne

1-2 t. olive oil

Preparation:

  1. In a medium or large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sliced scallions, lemon zest, parsley or cilantro, salt pepper and cayenne.
  2. Put the bread into the bowl of the food processor and pulse to tear into coarse crumbs (this should be about ¾ cup).
  3. Add the breadcrumbs to the mayonnaise mixture.
  4. Add ⅓ of the shrimp to the food processor and pulse until it is minced to medium fine (but be careful not to let it become a paste).
  5. Add the remaining shrimp and pulse between 4 and 10 times to create a mixture that includes both chunks and finely minced shrimp. (Pulse two times then look, then pulse two more times, etc. to make certain you do not go too far–the number of pulses required will depend in part on the size of shrimp you are using.)
  6. Scrape the shrimp from the processor into the mayonnaise mixture and gently fold with a spatula until just combined.
  7. Divide the mixture into four portions and shape into burgers.
  8. Place the panko on a plate or in a shallow bowl.
  9. Gently place the burgers into panko and sprinkle crumbs over to coat, pressing them to adhere very gently. (If you prefer a softer burger, you can omit the panko).
  10. Put the burgers on a plate or tray covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (although they can be refrigerated for several hours).
  11. To cook, place olive oil in a non-stick skillet and heat to very hot (but not smoking). Add the burgers and cook for 5-6 minutes on the first side, allowing a crust to develop, and then turn and cook for 4 minutes or so on the other side until cooked through.
  12. Serve on hamburger buns with spicy mayo or other condiment of your choosing.

Goan Style Fish Curry

This recipe is an adaptation of one from Diane Kennedy in her book Simple. It is definitely worth getting the best fish you can for this dish. Halibut is a wonderful choice if it is available. The dish goes beautifully with basmati rice.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 T. canola or other neutral oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 t. ground coriander

½ t. ground cumin

1 T. hot paprika or medium chili powder

⅛ t. cayenne (more to taste depending on the spice level you prefer)

3-4 garlic cloves, minced (depends on size of cloves)

1 t. turmeric

2 t. grated or finely minced fresh ginger

½ c. crushed tomatoes

14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk (mixed to homogenize before adding)

1 T. brown sugar

2 t. lime juice (if you have tamarind paste, fel free to sue it in place of the lime juice)

1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced (you can dice if you prefer)

1 lb. firm white fish, preferably halibut, cut into 2 inch chunks

cilantro or parsley, chopped, or scallions, sliced, for serving (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a large deep fry or sauté pan that has a cover over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and sauté until it becomes translucent and begins to turn a bit golden.
  3. Add the coriander, cumin, paprika/chili, cayenne, garlic, turmeric and ginger and sauté until fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
  4. Add the crushed tomato and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  5. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar lime juice (or tamarind paste) and the jalapeno and stir and simmer until mixture is thoroughly combined.
  6. Gently add the fish piece to the curry, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook until the fish is just cooked (this can take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes depending on the heat level). Check often; it is cooked when each piece of halibut just turns opaque throughout.
  7. Serve the curry over, or alongside, basmati rice, and top with cilantro, parsley, or scallions, if you wish.

Black Lentil Soup – Punjab-Style

Ingredients:

1 T. neutral oil (canola, etc.)

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1″ piece of ginger, grated or very finely chopped

1 ½ t. cumin seeds (substitute cumin powder if you don’t have seeds – but if using powder add it to the soup with the coriander, turmeric, and garam masala)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 t. ground coriander

1 t. garam masala, divided into two ½ t. to use in soup and in topping

¼ t. tumeric powder

½ t. smoked paparika or medium spicy chile powder

¾ cup crushed tomatoes

½ t. kosher salt (make this 1 t. if using water or your stock is very low sodium)

1 cup black lentils, (preferably Rancho Gordo caviar lentils, if you can get them, but any black or small green French lentils will work), rinsed and picked over. NOTE: brown lentils will become mushy in this soup and so are not a good choice.

4 cups low sodium chicken stock (you can use water if you prefer)

1 cup water (hold in reserve)

3 T. greek yogurt

3 T. sour cream

2 scallions white and part of green thinly slices

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion and cumin seed and stir occasionally until the onion is soft and beginning to turn golden.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or so.
  4. Add the coriander, ½ t. garam masala, tumeric, and chili powder or smoked paprika and mix to distribute.
  5. Add the chicken stock and salt, than add the lentils. Stir. Bring the soup to a simmer then cover and reduce heat to low.
  6. Cook until lentils are tender (about 30 minutes). If, at any point, the soup looks too dry, add some of the reserved water. The soup should be thick, but not as thick as a stew or sauce.
  7. While the soup is simmering, mix together the yogurt, sour cream, and ½ t. garam masala.
  8. When serving the soup, top with a generous tablespoon of the yogurt-sour cream mixture and sprinkle with slices scallions.

Beef and Bean Chili

This is a complex chili based on many of the components traditional Texas chili, but with the apostasy of bean added (sorry! but I really like beans both for flavor and texture and as a way to make this more economical). This is a chili that can come together very quickly on a weeknight if you use the short cuts/substitutions (ground beef and canned beans). If you have the time, however, it is worth doing the extra work of chopping meat and soaking beans because they add a real richness to the final product.

Making this as written will result in a medium spicy chili. If you like less spice reduce the jalapenos and/or the spicier chili powder. If you like more spice, just add more of either or both of these ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound steak tips/flap steak OR 1 lb. of lean ground beef

3T. canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large or 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into small dice

1 t. cumin powder

1 T. medium spicy chili powder (my favorite is Oaxacan Adobo from the Teeny Tiny Spice Company)

1 t. chocolate chili (again Teeny Tiny Spice has a wonderful Chocolate Chili powder) OR ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate finely chopped AND 1 t. Ancho or other spicy chili powder (if you have no ancho powder, substitute ¼ or ½ t. cayenne, to taste)

1 t. oregano

2 T. masa harina OR ½ corn tortilla ripped into small pieces OR 2 T. fine cornmeal (polenta or medium or coarse cornmeal will not work)

½ can of beer (almost any ale will work well, but use whatever you have on hand)

1 (14.5 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes (my favorite are San Marzano, but any good brand will work)

½ cup water

2-3 whole dried guajillo or ancho chiles, depending on size

2-3 cups soaked and cooked pinto beans OR 1-2 cans of pinto or kidney beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed (amount depends on how much you like beans). I am a huge fan of Rancho Gordo’s dried beans and of taking the time to soak, cook, and freeze (if not using right away) beans. They make a real difference in a recipe, but they do add time and hassle so feel free to use your favorite canned beans.

Salt to taste.

PREPARATION:

2
  1. If using sirloin tips/flap steak, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small pieces (the tip of your pinky or even a bit smaller).
  2. Add 1 T. of the oil to a dutch oven/heavy soup pot or large, heavy fry pan (it needs to be big enough to simmer the finished chili). Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers.
  3. Add the chopped or ground beef in batches to brown quickly, without overcrowding. Remove the meat to a paper-towel lined bowl to drain. Add more oil if pan is dry but do not scrape up any browned bits that cling to the pan. Continue until all the meat is cooked. There should be a good amount of browned and crusty bits on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped jalapenos, cumin, masa/torn tortilla/cornmeal, oregano, and whichever chili powders you are using to the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for 5-8 minutes stirring often, until the onions are translucent and the mixture is very fragrant. (If the bottom of the pot seems to be burning you can add a small amount of oil and stir to prevent scorching.)
  5. Add the meat, beer, tomatoes, finely chopped chocolate (if using), the water, and salt to taste and stir well to combine. Add the dried guajillo or ancho chiles and push down into the mixture without breaking up the chile.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour or so. You will know the chili is done when the onions begin to lose a little bit of their definition and the sauce appears a thick dark orange brown. If it starts to seem too dry, add a bit more water.
  7. Remove the whole chiles and discard.
  8. Add the beans and stir gently to combine. Leave on low heat, stirring occasionally and gently, until the mixture is heated through.
  9. Serve over rice or with tortillas chips on the side.