Really Good Chili

I have two weeks left of my first semester of grad school! I am feeling the pressure, let me tell you. Papers and projects plus work and work. Aaah. Somehow I will get it all done. Somehow.

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As the cooler weather starts coming on, I always start thinking of soup. And chili. I love chili. I decided to get a bit complicated with it this time and make Lisa Fain’s Seven Chile Chili (by the way, does anyone else get bothered when people interchange chile, chili, and chilly? Chile=pepper, chili=stew, chilly=cold) as featured on the Amateur Gourmet, a blog that I’m increasingly pulling really good recipes from. This chili cooks a long time, but the prep time isn’t so bad, so just find something to do for five hours or so in the meantime. The recipe below is written as I made it – who cares what Texans think because I love beans in my chili – but for the original, see here.

Really Good Chili

adapted from Lisa Fain’s recipe, as posted on Amateur Gourmet

4 dried ancho chiles
2 dried pasilla chiles
2 dried guajillo chiles
4 dried chiles de arbol
4 pieces of bacon
1 pounds chuck roast
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle of beer (I used Goose Island Harvest Ale)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 15-oz can black beans
1 28-oz can diced or whole tomatoes (if whole, you will need to break them down a bit after they’re cooked)
1 28-oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons masa harina
Grated cheddar and chopped onions, for serving

Start by toasting the dried chiles. Rip the stems off the top and dump out most of the seeds – I left a few in to add some heat to the chili. Put them in a dry pan and toast them over medium heat for a few minutes, until they’re sort of fragrant. Pour water over the chiles, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let the chiles soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

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Prepare your meat by removing the gristle from the chuck and then cutting it into 1-inch cubes. In a large pot or dutch oven, fry the bacon until pretty crispy. Remove and place on paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pot. Add the chuck and cook in the bacon fat until browned on all sides.

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Remove the beef and place on a separate plate. Add more oil if needed, and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Then add back the beef plus the beer, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and salt. Crumble in the crispy bacon. Stir for a few more minutes to combine all the flavors, then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.

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Meanwhile, drain the chiles (save the water!) and place in a blender with one cup of the chile water. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the paste the the chile.

Turn the heat to low once the chile boils and let simmer uncovered for 5 hours. At this point, you can taste for seasoning and add a little more salt and/or pepper if needed. I also added just a touch more cumin and a smidge of granulated garlic.

In a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup water with the masa harina (you can also use corn flour or corn meal here, like I did). After 5 hours, pour the masa harina mixture in the pot and stir.

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Simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Top with fresh-grated sharp cheddar cheese and onions.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Salad

Last week was a great week. Wednesday I managed to snag a steal of a deal for dinner using Foodie the App (I think this is just a Chicago thing) – 2 tickets to a Locavore Dinner at MK restaurant for the price of one! And how much was one ticket? $85! Yes, $85 off our bill, basically. It was awesome, and dinner was awesome, and the service was awesome, and the beer pairings (yes, beer pairings included!) were awesome. What a fun night. Since Eric was in class, I brought my second husband Evan. We laughed and complained about work and sat in our food-snob corner devouring every last bite… when I finally looked at the clock, I realized it was way past my bedtime! That’s a good thing.

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It was also a productive week – booking flights in Colombia, finalizing bookings in Borneo, and even getting discounts for these bookings! We decided to splurge a bit on our accommodation in Borneo, but I was still feeling guilty about it when hostels are so cheap there. I decided to ask for a discount at the expensive places – and they all gave us one! Just like that. “Can I have a discount?” “Why yes, you can.” I mean, how great is that?

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Anyway, I made this salad Friday night. We received a bunch of squash and pumpkin in our CSA box; I have been bombarded by squash soups, so the last thing I wanted to do was puree these pretty orange veggies with my immersion blender. A shopping trip to Trader Joe’s inspired this salad – pomegranates, apple cider, and cauliflower all lent themselves to a nice late fall salad. Smoky pancetta, diced and crisped, and a sweet and tangy apple cider vinaigrette rounded it out and made it a pretty filling meal. It was so seasonal tasting and the pomegranate seeds added the perfect bit of sweetness and freshness.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Cauliflower Salad

a Wanderlust and Foodstuff original

1 pie pumpkin
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup apple cider
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp granulated garlic
few sprinkles of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 pomegranate
pancetta, diced, as much as you like!
3-4 sage leaves
handful or more of spinach

Begin by roasting the veggies. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds (but save them! roast them!), and roast the pumpkin halves for 30-40 minutes in a 450° oven. Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower by chopping it up and coating it in olive oil and salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes with the pumpkin.

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While those are roasting, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the apple cider, vinegars, olive oil, yogurt, cayenne pepper, granulated garlic, and salt and pepper. Crisp up the pancetta. About halfway through that process, toss in the sage leaves to crisp in the bacon fat.

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When the pumpkin is soft and you can pierce it with a fork, cut it into cubes. To assemble the salad, layer of a bed of spinach, pumpkin cubes, and cauliflower. Top with pancetta, pomegranate seeds, and crispy sage. Pour dressing over the entire salad.

Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

I was about to post a recipe for Creamy Poblano soup when I realized that my last two posts were soup/stew related, so instead I have some pretty awesome pizza to share. I’ve been experimenting with pizza dough, trying to find the best whole wheat recipe.

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Well – most recipes I’ve found for whole wheat pizza dough are pretty similar. Rarely do they call for 100% whole wheat flour; usually it’s somewhere in the range of 3:1 or 1:1 whole wheat flour:bread flour. To up the health factor, I go with the 3:1 ratio and throw in a couple teaspoons of ground flax for good measure. I think I’ve said this before – you’ll never get that light, fluffy dough like you get from white flour, but I think that it’s worth it to feel like you’ve done something good for yourself.

I made a rather large batch of this dough and froze several individual portions. Last week, I failed to photograph our traditional sausage pizza with a spicy, peppery tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella, but this week I made a fall special with butternut squash. It’s one of my favorite combinations, which I lifted from some recipe ages ago, and it’s a bit unexpected at first. After the first bite, though, I’m sure you’ll be as hooked as I am.

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Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

for the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground flax

for the topping:
1 small to medium sized butternut squash
1/2 cup or more to taste of crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1/2 cup or more to taste of mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 small to medium size fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of fresh ground black pepper

salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
handful of arugula or spinach

Combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor with the dough blade. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile, combine wet ingredients. While processing, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the food processor, until the dough forms into a ball on top of the blade. Remove and knead on a dry, floured surface for a few minutes. Pour some olive oil in a bowl and place the ball of dough in the center, cover with saran wrap. Let the dough rise for approximately two hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

While the dough is rising, roast the squash in a 450 oven for 30 minutes or so, until soft. I usually place a piece of foil on my baking sheet and pour a cup or two of water in to help steam the squash.

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Slice the fennel bulbs very finely. Over medium-low heat, saute the fennel in olive oil for about 45 minutes, until lightly browned and caramelized. Set aside.

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When the dough has doubled in bulk, cut in half and freeze the other portion (or heck, make it all in one night!). Roll out the dough on parchment and pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes (if you have a pizza stone, use that… it’s on my Christmas list).

To make the topping, scoop the squash out of it’s skin and combine with blue cheese, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper – stir it all together so you have a homogeneous mixture. Spread this mixture on top of the baked pizza dough. Top with the caramelized fennel and mozzarella and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. When it comes out of the oven, top with a big dose of spinach or arugula.