Sunday, January 30, 2011

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

It is chili season. As you might be able to tell, I just got a new month of Bon Appetit magazine. When I saw the recipe for black bean chili with butternut squash, I was immediately intrigued but then got nervous as I was cooking. What would it taste like? What exactly is bulgur? Why bother with a vegetarian chili?

But-- there was no need to worry! Dinner with my roommate this evening was as close to silent as we get (for those of you who know us, we are very talkative). Our chatter was replaced with lots of "mmmm" "yum" "great flavor" and "mmmm" (repeat). This is a very healthy chili but has a wonderful flavor. I cut the recipe in half, but feel free to double it if you are cooking for a large group.

Vegetarian Chili (adapted from Bon Appetit)

What You Need

- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes (I just used a normal can of whole tomatoes)
- 1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed
- 2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
- Coarse kosher salt to taste
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1.5 cups) (any winter squash will do)
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking bulgur (this was my first time using it!)
- Sour cream
- Coarsely grated hot pepper Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
-Diced red onion
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Pickled jalapeño rings

What You Do

1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
3. Add garlic; stir 1 minute.
4. Sprinkle chili powder and coriander over; stir 1 minute.
5. Stir in tomatoes with juice, beans, chipotles, and oregano. (Note: we started cooking the beans about 1.5 hours before. I added in the nearly finished beans with the water they were cooking in at this point).
6. Add 3 cups water (if you are adding uncooked beans, add 5 cups water).
7. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (time will vary depending on freshness of beans-- since ours were almost finished, I let it cook for 30 minutes more).
8. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
9. Stir squash and bulgur into chili.
10. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat until squash and bulgur are tender, about 40 minutes (recipe said 30 but the squash wasn't ready yet).
11. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
12. Divide chili among bowls.

Serve with sour cream, cheese, red onion, cilantro, and pickled jalapeño rings. Enjoy with plenty of "mmm" "yum" "great flavor" "mmmm".

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birthday Cake Audition

I am getting ready for my birthday one week from today. Most importantly, I need to plan the menu for my pre-birthday dinner party. In honor of birthday menu planning, my roommate and I held an audition for the chocolate cake in this month's Bon Appetit magazine. While the recipe recommends baking the cake in 3 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 11/2-inch-high sides, we cut the recipe in half and used a sheet cake pan. We cut the cake in half before icing it and had only two layers.

Cocoa Layer Cake (from Bon Appetit)

What You Need
- 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
- 1 cup lukewarm water, divided
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour (spooned into cups to measure, then leveled)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten to blend

- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (we didn't have any- so we omitted it)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

What You Do

1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F.
2. Line the pan(s) with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
3. Whisk cocoa and 1/2 cup warm water in small bowl.
4. Whisk buttermilk and 1/2 cup water in another small bowl.
5. Sift flour, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into medium bowl.
6. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and butter in large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy (mixture will appear granular), about 5 minutes (you don't really need that long).
7. With mixer running, gradually add beaten eggs, then beat until smooth and fluffy, about 15 seconds.
8. Add cocoa mixture; beat to blend.
9. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend after each addition. Divide batter among pans (about 1 3/4 cups each).
10. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, reversing pans halfway through baking, about 18 minutes.
11. Cool completely in pans on racks.

1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Stir in sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Gradually stir in cream.
4. Stir until mixture is very hot and just begins to simmer at edges (it should look amazing and yummy!).
5. Reduce heat to low; stir 1 minute to let flavors blend.
6. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in vanilla (frosting will resemble chocolate sauce).
7. Chill until just thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours.
8. Let stand at room temperature.
9. Run knife around cake sides.
10. Carefully invert 1 cake onto plate (cake is very tender); peel off parchment.
11. Spread with 1/2 cup frosting.
12. Invert second cake onto palm of hand.
13. Position cake 2 inches above frosted cake layer.
14. Carefully slide cake onto first cake layer. Peel off parchment.
15. Spread cake with 1/2 cup frosting.
16. Repeat with third cake layer.
17. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Enjoy, whether it is your birthday or not.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Family Dinner: Pasta Made at Home

A couple weeks ago, my friend contacted me with an invitation to a family style potluck dinner. We have had many of these dinners before. But this time, he told me we were making homemade pasta. I grabbed my roommate and our pasta maker and arrived to his house early to have fun. I never made my own pasta before so this was a learning experience for me. It was fabulous. We made four batches of pasta on two different pasta makers. We hung the pasta to dry on clothing hangers on my friend's bicycle which rests of the ceiling of the apartment living room.

Take a look at the beautiful photos and try this yourself at home:

Fresh Pasta (adapted from Bittman's How to Cook Everything Traditional Egg Pasta Dough)

What You Need (this makes about one pound of pasta)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- A few drops of water, if needed

What You Do
1. To make the dough by hand, mound the flour on a smooth counter top, or place in a bowl.
2. Make a well in the center and add salt.
3. Then, break in an egg, beating with a fork and incorporating a little of the flour.
4. Beat in another egg and repeat, until all the flour is mixed with the eggs.
5. Gather the mixture into a ball.
6. Place the dough on a dry, lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth(add a couple drops of water if it is dry and grainy).
7. Cover with plastic and let refrigerate for 30 minutes.
8. Divide the dough into four pieces and be prepared to work with one piece at a time.
9. Clamp the pasta rolling machine to the counter and sprinkle a nearby surface with flour.
10. Roll the dough lightly in the flour and flatten it with your hands.
11. Set the machine to 1 and crank the dough through. (Dust with flour if it sticks).
12. Set the machine to 2 and pass the flattened dough through again. Repeat, setting the machine to a higher number each time until you get to 6.
13. Let the pasta rest and move on to another piece of dough.
14. When you are ready, pass the flattened dough through the appropriate cutting blade (in our case, it was fettuccine).
15. Separate the strands and let them hang dry (see our hangers).
16. Add pasta to bowling water and let cook until floating in pot or cooked to your taste (this is going to be less than 5 minutes-- most likely 3 minutes).

We made four different sauces to eat with our pasta. It was amazing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year Aioli!

I am so excited. I emerged from a two week vacation today and I'm feeling great! I spent a lot of time since my semester ended celebrating, relaxing, watching movies, and sleeping. I also walked the pup a bit (but he was happy to sleep a lot too). I didn't read as many books as I wanted to, but that's okay.

Not only did I go back to work today, I also tried something I have been scared of for a long time: making aioli at home! I made about a cup and used it for broccoli salad. Yum! And, not scary at all. Very easy, actually.

So here it is, from The Art of Simple Food.

Garlic Aioli (from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food, makes 1 cup)

What You Need
- 2-3 small garlic cloves
- Pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon water (more if needed)
- 1 cup olive oil

What You Do
1. Peel the garlic and pound it with a mortar and pestle with the salt.
2. Separate the egg yolk into a mixing bowl.
3. Add about half the garlic in with the egg and add 1/2 teaspoon water.
4. Mix the egg, water, and garlic with a whisk.
5. SLOWLY add some of the olive oil, WHISKING CONSTANTLY. (I did this wrong the first time. So just a little olive oil-drop by drop- at first, you can speed up later).
6. After adding a bit of the olive oil, the sauce will thicken and get lighter in color (becoming opaque).
7. Continue to add the olive oil as you whisk (you can speed up after you get the opaque, lighter sauce).
8. Taste and add more garlic and salt if you like.

NOTE: If you want it to be thinner, add a few drops of water.