Vegetarian Chili with a touch of chocolate

February 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Chocolate. I knew I’d hook you with that ingredient. And yes, there really is chocolate in this version. Two types of chocolate, actually. But first …

Vegetarian … yeah, vegetarian. We’re pretty much completely meat-free now. Seafood being the exception. And chicken stock, although we have been doing a good job of keeping ourselves supplied with homemade vegetable and seafood stocks. The reason for ditching the fowl – the last remaining terrestrial flesh I ate – was simple. I just don’t trust where it comes from and what’s in it. Sure, I could purchase meat from Whole Foods or a retailer that sources only organic and local foods. News alert: That stuff is expensive.

Local fish and seafood is, too. I get that. But somehow I feel the seafood is a better value for the protein we get. And we use it all—from tip to tail (or claw). And we enjoy being members of our local Community-Supported Fisheries. I guess that’s a big part of it, too—it makes us feel good to support the local folks who definitely could use our dollars.

Okay, back on track. We’re talkin’ veggie chili here. I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. This is one of Jennifer’s signature dishes (one of many). I have made it now and then, but she does it justice. And Jennifer, if you see anything wrong with the recipe, please correct me in the comments section.

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili with a touch of chocolate - we added green beans in place of the corn (we were out!).

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili, two minutes later.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil (olive will do)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppers, whatever color you prefer but red is nice
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t like it so spicy)
  • 1 bag of frozen soy crumbles
  • 1 28-oz. can of whole chopped tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you squish with your hands)
  • 1 15-oz. can of red kidney beans
  • 1 15-oz. can of black beans
  • 1 cup (or small can) of whole kernel corn
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small block (2 oz?) of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until translucent.

2. Add both types of peppers and cook until tender – about 5 minutes. Add the bag of frozen soy crumbles just so it thaws out a bit before adding other ingredients. It’ll take just a couple of minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, cocoa powder, lime juice, cumin and oregano—and a general sprinkle of salt— stir thoroughly, and let it come to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. During that time it will thicken a bit.

4. Add in the 2-oz. block of chocolate and stir it around, helping it to melt and incorporate into the chili. Add the cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, guacamole, grated cheese or straight up. Give it a taste. Good, right? And you know that flavor that’s right on the edge of being familiar? It’s the chocolate. Serve it to guests and when they ask what that ingredient is, don’t tell them. It’ll be our secret.

Some notes:

1. Feel free to soak and use dried beans of any kind. I would use 1 cup of two different types of dried beans—we’ve used pinto, cranberry, garbanzo.

2. Want to speed up the cooking? Use a pressure cooker. It’ll shave off 10-15 minutes from the simmering time.

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Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 3

October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.

Breakfast:
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.

Lunch:
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.

Dinner:
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.

grilled pizza

Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.

grilled pizza

Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.

Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!

As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.

Fall’s First Frost Predicted: How to Prepare

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I listen to the local news as part of my morning ritual. But, most days I head online if I want to learn about the weather, even though sassy JC Monahan just gave me the five-day forecast five minutes ago.

My memory is a sieve when it comes to the weather. Except … when frost is predicted. It’s been a whole five hours since I heard this morning’s news, and I can still remember JC predicted frost will be in the air for Worcester County and western Massachusetts this evening. Thanks to being a “heat island” with all our brick and pavement, Boston proper will make it only down into the low 40s.

Whew.

I eased up on my fall-harvest plantings this year, but I still do have a few summer stragglers hanging on. Of what’s left, this is what will and won’t like temperatures in the low 40s:

early October zucchini

itty bitty zucchini

Zucchini/squash: Not a good year for them and they are not beefy enough to deal with temps too much colder than the low 50s. Hey, I had zucchini up until November last year. Maybe a quick one-night of 40s will be fine.

early October tomatoes

Oh, so sad.

Tomatoes: I have just two plants left and neither look great. It’s just cruel of me to keep them hangin’ on. Absolutely cruel, like pulling wings off flies. But I do it to see how far they can go.

early October carrots

Carrots - they'll be just fine.

Carrots: They’ll be just fine for a long time yet, thanks to that insulating layer of soil.

last of the season's basil

There it is - the rest of the season's basil.

Basil: Aaaaccckkk!!!!! I better go harvest that asap. It definitely won’t survive. It doesn’t even like my fridge set much below 45.

Snail-along

ick.

ps – this little guy is why it’s important to inspect your harvest before you bring it in your home – we had a few snails crawling on the walls in our fridge one morning …

early October leeks

Leeks: I have a good batch of leeks going this year. VERY excited about them. They’ll hang on for a good long time yet. I won’t have to worry about them until November or so. At that time I will try to mount them with as much soil as possible. I could be lucky enough to harvest leeks in January if I work it right.

early October jalepenos

We have jalepenos??

Jalepenos: We have jalepenos??

early October broccoli

Broccoli: It’s lovin’ this time of year.

early October chard

Chard: Back in mid August I pulled up all of my chard. Or so I thought. On a few of the smaller plants I pulled the biggest leaves off, leaving the small runts behind. A Well, wouldn’t you know but I have a batch of chard ready to go.

early October beets

The beets are so excited, they are pushing themselves outta the ground.

Beets: Happy as clams in this weather. And I have a lot of them. I’ll be harvesting them two by two for the rest of the month. I still have a whole jar of pickled beets in the fridge—maybe I need to make another.

If your ears have perked up with the sounding of the “frost predicted tonight” alarm, in all likelihood you’ll have a light frost, one that will damage only the most sensitive summer veggies in your garden. If you’re so inclined, try these techniques to help them survive a little bit longer:

-While the sun is still out, break out that old set of sheets you never use anymore and cover the most sensitive plants. The sheets will act light a light coat and keep the temps slightly elevated underneath as the soil gives off heat. Remove those covers the next day—it could really heat up under there. Plus, your neighbors will start talking about you.

Don’t have extra sheets or plant covers?

-As evening sets in, turn a hose on and water down the summer-loving veggies—the leaves, stems, fruit, etc.—and also the soil around the plants. The water around the foliage will freeze first or give up its heat first (it’s physics). Same with the moist soil.

Maybe with the temperatures climbing in the 80s starting tomorrow, I’ll be lucky enough to have some homegrown zucchini for next week’s Homegrown Food Challenge.

 

Spicy Tomato Soup

October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Normally, if you let produce sit around for awhile, bad things happen. Soft spots. Wilt. Mold. Eyes sprouting. Ooze. Fruit flies. Rot.

Okay, I’ll stop with the grossness.

But sometimes, if you let produce sit around, good things happen. Like what? Like ripeness, for one.

This time of year, you just never really know what’s gonna happen in the garden. And I speak specifically of the summer hangers on—the zucchini and yellow squash, the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes. Especially the tomatoes. Less sun, cooler weather means they take a way long time to ripen on the vine. And the frustrating part is a tomato could be green and happy one day, and then the next day it could be on the ground, fodder for the ants.

So, I pick them up and bring them home. Or I pick them when they’re just turning orangy. Or I pick one or two whenever I visit the garden, which is about twice a week this time of year.

What to do with green tomatoes? Orangy tomatoes? Let them sit on the counter—they’ll ripen. Kinda. Not a nice and juicy vine-ripening experience, but they’ll turn red. Ish.

Spicy tomato soup

The fixins.

colorful tomatoes

It's Tomato Christmas.

colorful tomatoes

Look at that tomato in the middle—it's like the Italian flag.

With a mix of tomatoes in all stages of ripeness, I turn to a recipe from Emeril Lagasse I pulled off the Food Network website. The original calls for pancetta and three different types of hot peppers – jalapeno peppers and Anaheim and pasilla chiles. And, it calls for just green tomatoes.

Is it spicy? Oh yeah, it’s spicy. Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Me? I like to add a spoonful of pesto. Tomatoes and basil – a perfect match.

Spicy Tomato Soup(this is a double batch)

  • Spicy tomato soup

    Spicy Tomato Soup

    1 Tbs olive oil

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 hot peppers, whatever type you want to cook with, diced (I used jalapeno and Hungarian wax)
  • 3.5 lbs tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until just translucent – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

-Add garlic, bay leaves, garlic, and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft.

-Time to puree!! But remove the bay leaves first!! You can puree in batches in a blender. Or, we have an immersion blender that does a terrific job. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of tomato skins getting kinda caught in the blendery parts. Just remove, or put back into the soup—whatever your preference. If you’ve pureed in batches in a blender, pour the soup into a separate bowl.

-Add the lemon juice. Give it a taste. Spicy? That’s what it’s supposed to be.

Try with a bit of sour cream. Or shaved parm. Or the runny part of your stash of pesto. Be sure you have some crusty bread. You’re gonna want to sop up that goodness.

You know, this would be a great soup to make for the Homegrown Food Challenge. Luke, give this a try—I know you love spicy stuff!

Spicy Eggplant Relish ala Moosewod

July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of the things we do when we spend time in Provincetown is head over to the Saturday farmers market. This time of year the stalls offer some great fresh produce we haven’t seen locally since last summer. This time we picked up two smallish eggplants. Versatile! Yummy! Pretty! Eggplants are all of the above … And also a bit short-lived on the countertop, especially in weather like this.

What to do with them? We could grill. We could stuff. We could make lasagna. We could bread. And we did none of those. Instead, when they began getting “long in the tooth,” we turned to an old standby – spicy eggplant relish.

I pulled this recipe from my Moosewood cookbook a few years ago for a get-together and used it as a dip. It got a great response. We used the leftovers in numerous ways, such as a spread for sandwiches, and also as an eat-by-the-forkful snack. Can’t remember exactly which Moosewood cookbook it came from, possibly the original. Luckily its a popular recipe and we were able to find it online – hey, we’re on vacation, we don’t travel with old cookbooks.

Recipe
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper, large dice
2 small-medium eggplant, small cubes, don’t bother peeling
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

-heat oil over medium-low. Add onions and sautée until softish, 4-5 min.
-add cubed eggplant and red pepper. The eggplant will soak up a lot of the oil. Stir really well to coat all of it. Let it cook low and slow. Add a generous pinch or two of kosher salt and several turns of fresh pepper.
-Let it cook down awhile – 5 min or so. Add in as much cayenne as is appropriate for you. Cook partially covered for another 4-5 min.
-is the eggplant soft? Take it off the heat. Season with salt/pepper if needed.

We ran into one small problem during this – there was no cayenne in the house. How is that possible? We made due with some chili powder and red pepper flakes. The chili powder gave it a smoky flavor, making it a bit more savory. It was a good addition, actually. I added a bit too much red pepper flakes. Adding a small sliver of cheese when serving on a cracker will take care of that. Looking forward to having this in a tofu wrap for lunch. Perfect beach food.

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