Posts Tagged "slow cooking"

Simple Vegetarian Chili

I love chili. It’s the perfect cozy-day meal that you can cook all day and watch the leaves or snow fall outside. I grew up eating beef chili, but since I don’t eat beef anymore, I’ve fallen in love with vegetarian chili. (My mom finds this hilarious since I refused to eat chili with beans as a kid.)

Sometimes I get quite fancy with my chili, but this recipe is my favorite. It’s very simple and is all about those delicious kidney beans that I refused to eat as a child. The key to this chili is cooking the dry beans in with the beer rather than just throwing a can of already cooked beans in at the end. You could do that, I suppose, but if you follow this method, the beans will take on the most wonderful flavor.

And yes, you read that right. I use beer. Me, the person who hates drinking beer. I grew up eating chili made with beer, though, and just because I’m not using meat in this recipe doesn’t mean that I’m going to cut out such a key ingredient.

And so to begin:

Start by heating olive oil in a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven. Sauté:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Saute for about five minutes. Then add:

1-3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped*
salt

Cook for another five minutes. Then add:

at least 3 tablespoons of chili powder
about 2 teaspoons of cumin
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of coriander
a few grinds of black pepper

Let the spices cook for a minute or two. Then add:

1 1/2 to 2 cups of dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight**
28 ounces of crushed or pureed tomatoes

One 12 fl oz bottle of dark beer (emphasis on dark)
1 cup of water (you may need to add more as it cooks if the chili gets too thick)

Give everything a stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Have a lid on the top of the pot, tilted so that it’s still letting steam out. The chili will start to splatter when it boils. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmer for hours. Taste every few hours in order to adjust seasoning. (This is the best part of making chili!) My family is notorious for adding chili powder by the spoonfuls all day long, so really, in the end, I have no idea how much chili powder I use. Also, if using canned tomatoes, you might want to add:

1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

I like my chili to be really spicy with a slight hint of sweetness in the background.

If you want to add zucchini or corn in at the end, you can. I highly recommend serving the chili with cast iron skillet cornbread (recipe coming soon), Greek yogurt, and gouda cheese on top. Enjoy!

And sorry about the lighting in the below picture. It was sort of an afterthought.

chili-1

*If you’re using jalapenos from your freezer, as I do during the winter, be careful! Something about the freezing method seems to make jalapenos hotter (or at least the ones in my freezer seem to get hotter). Mine are so unpredictable that I start with a quarter of a jalapeno and add more throughout the day. I learned this lesson the hard way. One time I put a whole jalapeno in and it was so spicy that I could barely eat it (and I love spicy!). So be cautious in the beginning and keep tasting throughout the day. Also, experiment with other hot peppers. Though I usually just use jalapenos in this basic recipe, there are many others that are quite wonderful in chili.

** I say 1 1/2 to 2 cups because it depends on how beany you want your chili to be. (And yes, beany is a word.)

 

 

 

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Turkey Bolognese

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temperatures and something that may surprise some of you: I start craving meat. Unlike many people who live for grilled meat during the summer, I could easily live, and be very satisfied, feasting on every fruit and vegetable I can possibly afford to buy at the farmers market. That’s not to say that I turn vegan during the summer, but I certainly can go days without meat and be content (with the exception of seafood when I’m at the Cape). When fall comes, however, I start craving those slow cooked and hearty meals and, though I love vegetables more than most people, I’ll be the first to say that many of my favorite traditional meat dishes cannot be replaced with vegetables. With that said, since I don’t eat beef and rarely eat red meat in general, I find some meats to be too rich and fatty for my taste, these days. Therefore you’ll find that I sometimes replace a traditional beef dish with a leaner meat, such as turkey. My bolognese is the perfect example.

I learned how to make bolognese at a cooking class at Sur la Table. There the instructor used a pound of beef and a pound of pork. Though it is traditional, that combination is far too rich for my taste. I, instead, have found that dark meat turkey works very well. But just because I’m using turkey, don’t think that I skimp on the other traditional fatty parts of this dish. To me, when you make something such as bolognese, you have to either go all the way or not make it at all. This is not a dish that, in my opinion, can be made with low fat milk and white meat turkey. It’s just not the same. Therefore, it is important to use ground turkey thigh and whole milk.

And one note about the turkey. I, unfortunately, can’t easily find ground turkey that’s raised locally. I bought mine at Whole Foods, and I must admit that it was the first time I bought meat from a grocery store in at least a year. But I know that if I can’t find the meat I need locally, Whole Foods is the next best choice (at least in this area).

With that said, this recipe is all about a few ingredients cooked slowly. Each step builds the complexity and richness of the dish. Do not rush this dish! 

bolognese-1

You begin by chopping the following:

1 large yellow onion
1 large carrot

1 stalk of celery

You want to chop them as finely as possible. I have found that the best way to do it is to give them a rough chop with my chef’s knife and then dump them in a food processor and let the blade chop them the rest of the way for me. The proccessor can get them much finer than I can. Just don’t let them turn to mush.

In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven. Saute the above vegetables until soft and lightly browned, about ten minutes. Season with salt. Then turn up the heat and add:

2 pounds of ground turkey thigh

I have considered trying 1 pound of turkey and 1 pound of ground pork, but the turkey is so wonderful on its own that I have yet to do it. And as I stated above, it is very important to use dark meat. The white meat just doesn’t have enough flavor. Also, you may want to add a little more olive oil with the turkey, if the pan looks dry.

Cook the meat on medium-high heat until it is nicely browned and it has absorbed all of the fat. That’s an important step that you don’t want to skip. Once the fat has been absorbed, add:

2 cups of red wine

This is an Italian recipe, after all. Of course there’s red wine. I often use chianti, but I honestly know very little about wine to know if it’s the best choice or not.

Once again, you must let the meat cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Also be sure to scrap up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the wine has cooked down and the pan is dry again, turn the heat down to medium low and add:

12 ounces (two small cans) of tomato paste
whole milk

Stir the tomato paste into the meat while you add the milk. Add enough milk to completely cover the meat. And now you wait and let the meat absorb the milk. This step will take around 60-90 minutes. Stir every so often and season with salt and pepper towards the end. Be sure to taste. Actually, in my opinion, it is impossible not to. It smells so amazing that I actually have a hard time stopping myself from tasting too much. I’ve been known to eat quite a bit of it right out of the pan. When it’s almost done, it will look like this:

bolognese-2

As for the pasta, I often serve it with rigatoni. The ridges on the rigatoni hold the bolognese well, plus it’s a sturdy pasta. This time around, however, I served it with my current obsession: bucatoni. I must say that it was a delicious choice. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure it can handle a heavy sauce.

Serve with a touch of parmesan or pecorino cheese on top.

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Classic French Onion Soup. a.k.a The Soup that Requires a Box of Tissues to Make.

A fair warning. This recipe has a lot of steps. East steps, yes, but there’s a lot of them. See, I’m in my late twenties, I don’t have a family of my own yet, so on my day off, if I want to spend over four hours in the kitchen making soup, I can do it. In fact, when I saw this French onion soup recipe, its main appeal was how long it would take.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for old classic recipes that take hours to make.

The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated Soups, Stews and Chilis. I’ve been searching for a good soup cookbook for years and can now say that this is the one I’ve been searching for. It’s perfect. So all credit goes to the wonderful editors of Cook’s Illustrated.

To begin the recipe you:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut 4 lbs of yellow onions into slices (cut with the grain). Spray a dutch oven with cooking spray, put the onions into the dutch oven, mix with 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into 3 pieces). Cover it and bake it for one hour.

Sounds simple, right? Except they forget to mention one minor detail in the recipe. You’re going to need an entire box of tissues to cut 4 lbs of onions. My eyes have always been sensitive to onions. They started watering after slicing 1/2 an onion. I still had 3 1/2 onions to go, so I knew I was in trouble. The process, for me, went like this: Cut an onion. Run to the bathroom and wipe eyes. Give eyes a minute to stop burning. Go back to the kitchen. Cut another onion. Try not to cut finger off while eyes are on fire and tears are blinding vision. Run back to the bathroom again.

By the time I was done, onions and tissues were all over the floor. I didn’t feel very French at this point.

This is what 4 lbs of onions looks like:

onionscutting-1

And this is what the onions look like after baking for an hour:

onions1-1

 

Next: stir the onions and scarp the sides of the pot. Put the onions back in the oven, covered partially this time (leave about an inch open) and cook for another 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours. When you take them out of the oven, they look like this:

onions2-1

 

This time, after you pull them out of the oven, you put them on the stove and cook them over medium high heat for about 20-25 minutes. Stir and scrap the pot until the liquid evaporates and there’s a brown coating on the bottom. They will look like this:

onions3-1

 

Add 1/4 cup of water and scrap up the brown parts from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water evaporates (about 6-8 minutes this time). Repeat this process 2 or 3 times. By the end, the onions will look like this:

onions4-1

 

See how much darker they are? And to think it’s just water, onions, and butter! Anyway, stir in 1/2 cup of dry sherry and let cook for about 5 minutes. At this point I added 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water (the recipe called for beef stock instead of water, but I obviously skipped the beef). Also add thyme, a bay leaf, and salt. Scrap the brown bits and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Finish it off by topping each broiler proof bowl of soup with a piece of toasted bread and a handful of Gruyere cheese. Put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

onionsdone-1

 

So the verdict? This soup is amazing! The flavor is worth every single step. With that said, this is not a soup I will be doing more than once or twice a year.

And also: buy this cookbook or get it from the library. It is an excellent soup book to have on hand. I will be definitely trying more recipes soon (just maybe ones that don’t take 4 hours to make.)

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Pulled Pork Shepherd’s Pie

pie

My version of meat and potatoes. For those of you who think that I don’t eat meat, here ya go. When I do eat meat, I go all the way.

The inspiration for this dish came from one of those shows on the Cooking Channel that features dishes from various restaurants across the nation. I have no idea which restaurant it was that gave me this idea, but I simply had to try it myself. Pulled pork and mashed potatoes are two of my favorite things.

The pork came from Cedar Cress Farm at the Worthington Farmers’ Market. I used pork shoulder (about 3 lbs). I prepared mine in a crock pot because I was going to be in and out of the house during the day. If you can cook it in the oven all day, that’s the best way to do it, but a crock pot works as well.

Once again, this really isn’t an exact recipe but, if you’ve read my previous posts, I suppose you’re used to that by now.

Start by heating olive oil in a saute pan at medium-medium high heat. Smother the pork in salt and pepper and sear it until each side is brown. (Note that if you’re cooking it in the oven, you should sear it in the same pan you’re going to use to roast the pork so that all the flavors can remain in the same pot). Once the pork is seared, move it to the crock pot (if using one). Then pour a few splashes of red wine into the saute pan in order to get all of those good, flavorful brown bits off the bottom of the pan. After cooking for a minute, pour that wine over the pork in the crock pot. Add some water (a couple cups) and then let the pork cook all day. (I started my crock pot on high just to get the heat up and then, after about an hour, turned it down to low.) When it’s done, it’ll be falling apart. Once it’s cool enough to touch, shred it using two forks.

While the pork cools, heat a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Once melted, add a tablespoon of flour and whisk it together. Now add a few splashes of red wine and about a 1/2 cup of the water/wine mixture that cooked with the pork (this is optional. It’s fatty from cooking with the pork but has wonderful flavor. If you don’t want it, just use all chicken stock). I also added a few ladles of homemade chicken stock (eyeball how much you need, based on how much pork you made). Once the mixture thickens, season it with a little more salt and pepper (taste it first!).  If it doesn’t appear thick enough, whisk in about a teaspoon of arrowroot flour to thicken it even more (this step may not be necessary depending on how much liquid you added in the beginning. Just be sure to use a flour, such as arrowroot, that can easily be whisked into the liquid. It helps to lower the heat and mix the arrowroot flour with a touch of water first before adding it into the hot liquid). Add the shredded pork and stir until well combined. Add more chicken stock if you think it needs more liquid.

(Note that if you cooked the pork in the oven all day, you should do the above step in the same pan you cooked the pork in so that you can get all that good flavor from the bottom of the pan.)

Now the fun part: assembling the pie. Simply pour the pork mixture into a heavy pot or dutch oven and top it with homemade mashed potatoes. Dot the top of the potatoes with tiny cubes of butter and bake it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Once it is bubbly hot, stick it under the broiler to get the top nice and brown. Then enjoy the best meat and potato dish you’ll ever eat.

 

 

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Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Lasagna

I come from an Italian family. When I was growing up, lasagna was made with a large 32 oz (or more) container of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and sometimes even provolone. Each layer was then covered with a hearty sauce made with ground beef and, more often than not, there was Italian sausage on top. It was rich, heavy, hearty, and delicious.

When I gave up beef, though, I had to find a new lasagna recipe, for giving up lasagna was not an option. Over the past few years I’ve experimented with adding different vegetables to lasagna and have discovered that I love veggie lasagna so much more than the meaty one I grew up with. The beauty of a veggie lasagna is that there are so many possibilities. When you pull beef out of the picture and use whatever vegetables you have on hand instead, lasagna is never boring.

The recipe I show below is, by far, my favorite combination of ingredients. Plus it’s light and full of so much more flavor than the more traditional lasagna. This is more complicated than most of my recipes, simply because there are so many steps. It’s a good day-off recipe, and it’s wonderful to do with kids. I loved helping my mom build lasagna when I was growing up.

Here’s what you need to prepare before you build the lasagna:

A ricotta mixture which is: 

  • A small container of ricotta cheese (about 15 oz). 
  • A couple cups of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • One clove of fresh garlic
  • One egg (this helps bind the mixture, but I sometimes forget to add it and it comes out fine)
  • Fresh basil, if available, or any fresh or dried Italian herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Roasted bell peppers or any other seasonal vegetable roasted

  • 2 large or 3 small bell peppers roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

My favorite olive mixture

  • I use about 8 oz of kalamata olives (pitted) and about 6 or 7 pepperdews from an antipasto bar. Pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Make extra. It’s wonderful leftover on bread, pastas and salads. 

Cremini or Baby Bello Mushrooms or a mixture of both

  • I use a couple small containers. I sauté them first with olive oil until they are nice and brown (mushroom tip: don’t add salt and pepper until they start to brown. Also cook them in a large pan and in small batches if you don’t want them to be soggy.) 

A marina sauce of your choice

  • I use my family’s favorite, simple recipe, which I will post at another date. 

You favorite hard Italian cheese

  • For this recipe, I used a combination of Parmesan and Asiago, simply because those were what I had on hand.  

I also use no boil whole wheat lasagna noodles. I know. My Italian great grandmother would have a heart attack if she knew such a thing existed. I didn’t believe they would bake properly at first, either, but it actually works.  I also use a pan that’s around 12×9, but any pan around that size would work.

To build the lasagna:  First, I pour just enough marina sauce along the bottom of the pan to slightly coat it.  Then I add my first single layer of noodles. Now it’s time for the first layer. I do:

  • one layer of the ricotta mixture
  • all of the roasted peppers
  • a few large ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

I don’t have a photo of this layer. Granted, I took a photo, but only after I started the next layer did I realize that I didn’t have a memory card in my camera. Did Ansel Adams ever forget to put film in his camera? I do hope so.

Next layer:

  • top the previous layer with a single layer of noodles 
  • one layer of the ricotta cheese mixture
  • spread the olive mixture on top of the cheese
  • add a few ladles of sauce, to slightly coat

olive layer-5

 

Next layer:

  • Another layer of noodles
  • ricotta cheese (if any left)
  • marina sauce
  • all of the mushrooms
  • sprinkle your choice of cheese on top

mushroom-5

Now top it with the rest of the noodles (one layer), pour lots of marina sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese.

 

finished-5

Cover it and bake in a 350 degree over for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Finished product:

finished-1

 

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