Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lunch at Coastal Kitchen

I was trapped in a waiting room downtown, sitting quietly while my appetite roared. Hunger pangs gnawed at the edges of my thoughts, stomach rumbles grew in volume, and I was SO ready for lunch. RL took pity on me and proposed a quick trip to Capitol Hill for lunch at  Coastal Kitchena favorite restaurant in years past. Good choice. The place has changed a bit, been renovated and even added an oyster bar since our last visit.  I was ready to love it once again.

Our booth had flat wooden seats that really needed cushions for comfort, and more frequent cleaning so diners could slide in and not stick to mystery goo. This was not a great re-introduction to an old favorite. Luckily the Kitchen has retained its quirky neighborhood hangout vibe and the food hasn't missed a beat. Coastal is known for seasonal menus based on a regional theme, and this season it's all about New Orleans. Check out some of the tempting NOLA menu items, along with ongoing Coastal favorites (menu link). I'm ready to return and work my way through more of the seasonal dishes, beginning with breakfast and a Sazerac Slam, or maybe Shrimp and Grits...

Calamari Lonesome - With fried lemon, garlic, scallions and herbs alongside house-made aioli. 
RL's plate arrived piled high with calamari rings, rounds and tentacles, squid so tempting I almost forgot to grab a photo with the cellphone. Fried lemon? mmmm, tasty. Fried basil? interesting, but not special. The calamari were a bit undercooked, but only slightly. He We ate it all with gusto - calamari, lemons, scallions and herbs.

Rasta Roll-Ups - Chicken marinated in tropical spices, sautéed with poblano peppers and onions, served in grilled tortillas topped with Jamaican aioli. Served with black beans.
"Good choice" was the waiter's comment on this selection, and he was right. I will order this again. The chicken marinade and Jamaican aioli were subtle, wonderful blends of flavors that I couldn't quite identify... tangy yet mellow, spicy but not harsh or too hot. The accompanying lime wedge wasn't necessary, but provided a light citrusy note. The black beans were adequate, a nicely cooked and generous portion but boringly bland, even when hit with a squirt of lime juice. No matter, the three chicken roll-ups (tacos?) were terrific and filling.

I'm ready to play with marinades at home, looking for something light and tropical with just a hint of Jamaican heat. Good eats ahead, I hope.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lox Omelet Loaded with Flavor

Lox, gravlax, or gravad lax; whatever its label, this salt and sugar cured salmon is a delicious seafood favorite. Lox is easy to prepare (link) and so versatile to use. Think bagels and lox, lox crostini, pasta with lox and a creamy sauce, lox in seafood soups and chowders, lox mac 'n cheese, scrambled eggs with lox, lox frittata... the list goes on. 

This time I decided to go with lox and eggs. Guests have enjoyed Eggs Benedict with Lox at brunch, but this Lox Omelet was destined for a family breakfast for two. Its rich flavors meant one omelet divided nicely into two satisfying portions, accompanied by fresh fruit and a slice or two of toasted French bread. That also cut in half any pangs of dietary guilt at combining eggs, bacon, salted fish, cheese and sour cream in one dish. No, forget the guilt, this was one terrific breakfast.

Lox Omelet Loaded with Flavor


3 eggs (I used 2 eggs + 2 egg whites)

Sprinkle of dill weed (NOT dill seed)
2 tablespoons milk or cream
lox (smoked salmon) torn into pieces
1/4 cup any creamy or meltable cheese,cubed or chunked, at room temperature
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 slices crispy, cooked bacon (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sour cream for topping (optional)


  1. Whisk eggs, egg whites, dill weed and milk together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and as it melts, rotate the pan to spread it out. Add the egg mixture and let it cook undisturbed for a bit to set the bottom. After the bottom begins to firm up, use a spatula to gently push the sides toward the center, tilting the pan to let the liquids run out to the edge.  
  3. While the center is still somewhat moist but liquid no longer flows, scatter the pieces of salmon, small chunks of cheese, green onions and bacon (if you are using some) over the top. Season with salt and pepper, then fold one side over the other to form an omelette.
  4. Slice crosswise into portions and serve (topped with sour cream if you like).
Tasting Note: The sour cream seemed a good idea, but seemed too heavy along with the omelet's cheese and bacon. I'll try a sprinkle of lemon zest, dill and parsley gremolata as a topping next time. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Savory Quinoa Patties

It's hard to cook just a little quinoa. Those deceptively tiny grains fluff up so enthusiastically I know they want to take over the kitchen. Turn your back and poof! there's even more quinoa in the pot, or at least it seems that way. Instead quinoa just takes over refrigerator space as you store the overage from a typical batch. Accept this as a gift, a challenge to get creative.

Earlier this week we enjoyed a Quinoa Mediterranean Salad for several meals, but a generous bowlful still remained, chilling out in the fridge. I could have served it as a salad one more time, but we were ready for something different. Inspiration came from a SevenSpoons' post that reviewed a quinoa patty recipe from Heidi Swanson's award-winning book Super Natural Every Day. That led me to these crunchy little cakes of deliciousness.

Just my luck, we ate every single patty this time so there were no leftovers. Too bad, because I think quinoa patties might pair well with a frisee salad and I still want to top a fat quinoa cake with a soft poached egg and parsley sauce. I must be thinking of the SevenSpoons' photo that first brought me to this recipe.

While I used leftover Mediterranean salad as the base for these patties,  plain quinoa could serve as well. Add some of your favorite savory ingredients and you're half-way there. These little cuties come together quickly after you mix cooked quinoa with crumbled cheese, capers, green onions, herbs and seasonings, breadcrumbs and eggs. Use a small cookie scoop to portion the mixture into small balls and use your fingers to compact the mixture a bit to avoid crumbling as they cook.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, place the quinoa balls in the pan and gently flatten to form small patties, about 1/2" thick. Now leave them alone for several minutes - really, don't move them, don't poke them, just ignore them - so the base will set and hold them together nicely. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the bottom is nicely browned.

Photo: space the patties so you can turn each one without disturbing its neighbors
Use an offset spatula to gently turn them over cook until the second side is nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Photo: note the crispy, golden-brown crust
Keep the first batch warm while you cook the remaining patties, or use two skillets or a large griddle and cook them all at once. You'll want to serve them hot, with a sauce on the side. To sauce or not to sauce is a major decision. RL covered his last few patties with Thai Peanut Sauce.

Photo: RL likes a little sauce on his quinoa patties
I couldn't choose a favorite between Sweet Thai Red Pepper Sauce and Mint Tzatziki, so I tried both. Both sauces were delicious and highlighted different ingredients in the patty mixture, but I preferred my quinoa cakes plain, without any sauce to mask the already tasty flavors.  

The surprise of the day was RL's change of opinion from "Do I really have to eat these?" to an enthusiastic "Let's have them again soon". That's fine with the cook although I am officially through posting quinoa recipes for a long while. Unofficially though, quinoa might appear on my plate again soon. It has joined kale as a current must-have ingredient.

Quinoa Patties
Makes 12 small patties

2 cups cooked quinoa (I used leftover Quinoa Mediterranean Salad)
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed & drained
4 green onions, sliced in thin rings
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
a generous handful of fresh feta or mozzarella crumbles
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley or mint or both, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste (option)

Olive oil, canola oil or clarified butter to cook the patties
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the oil and mix thoroughly. Chill and let rest a while to allow the breadcrumbs to soak and soften. 
  2. Portion the mixture into twelve small balls.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan, place the quinoa balls in the pan and gently flatten with a spatula to form patties, roughly 1/2" thick. Now leave them alone for several minutes - don't move them, don't poke them, just ignore them - so the base will set and hold them together nicely. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the bottom is nicely browned.
  4. Use an offset spatula to carefully turn them over cook until the second side is well browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Keep warm while you cook the remaining patties, or use two skillets or a large grill and cook them all at once. You'll want to serve them hot, with a sauce on the side, or perhaps with an egg on top.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Quinoa Fusion Stir Fry

Quinoa Week Continues...

Photo: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad meets Asian StirFry/RiceBowl
What more could a sunny morning bring to improve the day? Not much, since I'm quite happy with a multi-cultural bowl of quinoa goodness and a view of Mt. Rainier out the kitchen window.

Photo: Mt. Rainier, looking south across neighboring docks & fences
A mounded half-cup of Quinoa Mediterranean Salad leftovers joined a quick Asian stir-fry of slivered pork, fresh kale and a pair of scallions with a sprinkle of ponzu, a tablespoon of Thai sweet chili sauce and one beaten egg. The resulting dish just filled a rice bowl with a pleasing combination of sweet, savory and salty tastes - cranberries, red peppers, capers, kale, citrusy soy sauce and sweet hot chili sauce... Totally delicious.

Why so happy this morning? It helps that the kitchen television is off, so I can ignore the repetitive 24-hour coverage of disasters near and far. It helps that breakfast was yummy, healthy and quick to fix. It helps that Seattle is forecast to have more than three days in a row of sunshine. It helps that I scored a dental appointment on short notice. It REALLY helps that The Mountain is out... and I remembered to pause and enjoy the view.

Have a great day.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Food with a View at Seattle's Marination Ma Kai

Marination Ma Kai features Hawaiian Korean food you don't want to miss. I am late to the party, never having been to the Marination Station or even ordered from the Marination food truck. After just one meal a the Marination outpost in West Seattle, I'm a fan in the making. I am ready to return, planning to nibble my way through everything else on the menu, to savor each flavor-popping bite. My excuse might be trying to grab a few passable photos, since I failed at iPhoneography this week, or I could claim to crave the spectacular city view on a sunny day. But no, it's really all about the food. Just skim the unique Ma Kai menu (link). You too will be tempted by Aloha Kalua pork sliders, perfectly-cooked fish tacos, Kalua pork and kimchi quesadillas, crispy fries just waiting for a dash of Ponzu or Sriracha sauce and slaw with a snappy zing. Hey, you might even order shave ice or one of the spam specials  - why not, the food is delicious.

Photo: fuzzy photo of one remaining bite of a fish taco (my favorite), a spicy pork taco and a Kalbi beef taco. What you can't see is my smile of satisfaction over the surprisingly good fish taco. 

Photo: slightly psychedelic pic of RL's quick-to-disappear Kalua Kimchi Quesadilla. He gave it two-thumbs up, but next time will request "More kimchi, please."

Photo: one Aloha Pork Slider and an empty space on Hilary's tray where the fish taco sat just minutes ago
Photo: a tangy slaw that could make a coleslaw lover out of anyone

Photo: my favorite kind of fries, some crispy and others very crispy, that are delicious unadorned but even better sprinkled with Ponzu or dipped in Sriracha sauce.  
Ma Kai's Katsu pork sandwich remains to be sampled and compared with the Katsu Burger, a Georgetown notable that I really tried to love. I may not get to it for a while, not while house-made Portuguese sausage Breakfast Sliders and Portuguese Sausage Musubi call my name... or the Biscuits and Portuguese Sausage Gravy... or a Mini Banana Macadamia Nut Loaf waits to be dessert for breakfast. And we haven't even explored the well-stocked bar yet, but an advertised Blackberry Margarita sounded very tempting.

Ma Kai offers casual dining with engaging counter staff, a manageable menu that is well executed, and flavor combinations that are anything but ordinary. I love the West Seattle location and the spectacular view, but they are secondary -  I'll return for the food. Soon. 

Photo: View from inside Marination Ma Kai on a sunny April afternoon:
Seattle's Space Needle flanked by Queen Anne and Downtown.
Read about the history (link) of Seattle's now nationally-known Hawaiian Korean taco truck, a success that has expanded into two brick-and-mortar locations. But more importantly, drive to Ma Kai's location in the old Seacrest Boathouse building at Alki Beach in West Seattle, go right now, and graze your way through their unique offerings to discover your favorites. Do it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad

Quinoa is back on the menu again. I have ignored this versatile grain far too long, reaching past the three-pound package sitting on a pantry shelf as I grabbed other items. But it is ignored no longer. This month that fluffy, protein-filled pseudo-grain has starred in a stuffed pepper recipe. It worked so well that I was ready for something more. More, but different. 

Next I cooked a pot of quinoa, added various ingredients that we like, mixing sweet and tart flavors, and raided the refrigerator for more inspiration. Lemons, of course, lemons must be part of the mix. Friend Tanya had just gifted me another bag of gigantic Arizona lemons from her orchard in Yuma. These Southwestern lemons are something special, incredibly juicy and somehow more lemony than any of the puny, local grocery offerings.  

Photo: the puny lemon on the bottom right is the grocery store product
The dressing began with a 2:1:1 blend of Greek olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar and lemon juice. Taste, adjust, taste, tweak it a bit more... I probably ate an entire serving's worth in taste tests but it was worth it. The resulting salad was delicious. How good is delicious? Well, RL reluctantly  sampled a small serving, and then... Wait for it... asked for a second helping. 

We have enjoyed that quinoa salad recipe over several days in a number of ways and it has not lost its appeal. Serve it on a lunch salad plate.

Fill an avocado or even an avocado shell .

This is not a new idea. Similar recipes are found all over the web, and I must have skimmed a few at one time or another, but this version just... happened. Okay, just now I Googled "quinoa salad" and found over 13 million hits. 13 million! There's something going on here. Beyond the fact that quinoa is a complete protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids, is gluten-free and cholesterol-free and usually organic, has a lot of fiber and cooks in 10 to 15 minutes which is quick compared to most grains - beyond all that, quinoa is incredibly versatile and adapts to a wide range of flavors and cuisines. 

Hmmmm, what's next? What is your favorite quinoa recipe?

Quinoa Mediterranean Salad
4 generous servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed & drained

1 3/4 cups water (or broth)

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup sultanas or raisins
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar or orange juice
1 sweet red bell pepper (or several multi-colored minis)
3-4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 generous Tbs capers, rinsed
zest of one fat lemon
1/8 cup fresh mint leaves, rough chopped
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
1/4 cup or more mild feta cheese, crumbled


4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (more or less to taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Cook the quinoa as directed on the package, resisting any urge to lift the lid while it cooks. Fluff with a fork and turn out into a medium bowl to cool.
  2. Add the dried fruit and 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar to a small cup and warm in the microwave. Set aside while the fruit plumps.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon if it seems flat, or a touch of warmed honey if it is too tart.
  4. Add the chopped peppers, green onions, pine nuts, capers, lemon zest, mint leaves and parsley to the cooled quinoa. Add the now-plumped dried fruit to the mix and gently toss all to mix. Add the dressing, one large spoonful at a time, tossing as you go. Again, taste and adjust. 
  5. Top with the crumbled feta cheese and serve.
Note: The flavors will blend over time, some will brighten while others recede. I tend to add more mint on following days, or a sprinkle more lemon zest. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers - two ways

SRC: Secret Recipe Club April 2013

The tantalizing roasted pepper aromas wafting out of the kitchen this week were inspired by a SW Stuffed Pepper recipe I found at my SRC assigned blog, Mostly Food and Crafts (link). That site is bursting with recipes, craft ideas, kid projects and a gazillion linky party connections. Wow, Danielle is one busy blogger keeping up with all of that and two active children. 

The Secret Recipe Club assigns its members a new blog to explore each month, and I explored the MostlyFood archives like crazy, mentally tasting and bookmarking some interesting recipes to try soon. Michelada? Eggs in Hell Veges? I love the spices and flavors of the Southwest, so it's no surprise that a SW stuffed pepper recipe caught my attention. Since April has been w-a-a-y too busy for me to linger long over meal prep, I tweaked Danielle's recipe to cut down on the cooking time. After several days of small-batch trial and error two preps were deemed successful. Method 1 utilized the microwave and Method 2 pre-roasted the pepper. There were also a few ingredients changes, nothing too drastic and still keeping to a SW flavor profile. The original recipe is posted below, with my substitutions and changes noted in red. Compare the original with either alternative method: give all three preparations a try, or create your own variation. 

My basic stuffing ingredients included: quinoa cooked with a package of frozen spinach, crumbled and cooked chorizo sausage, defrosted frozen corn, pepper jack cheese, cumin, green onions, peppers/chilies plus salt and pepper that are not pictured. Next time I might add a drizzle or two of cream to bind the mixture together. (Note: I did not precook the corn or reheat the filling mixture. Three minutes in the microwave and quick hit under the broiler heated the pepper shell and the stuffing quite nicely.) 

Method 1: Cut a red pepper in half, remove the seeds and veins and fill loosely with some stuffing mixture. Place in an oven and microwave-proof dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and cook in the micro for 3 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle with additional shredded cheese, and place under a preheated broiler until the cheese bubbles. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Method 2: Broil a poblano pepper until blistered on all sides. Let cool until you can handle it and peel away the blistered skin. Carefully slit the body in a T-cut, remove seeds and inner veins and fill loosely with some stuffing mixture. Place in an oven and microwave-proof dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and cook in the micro for 3 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle with additional shredded cheese, and place under a preheated broiler until the cheese bubbles. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream or Greek yogurt. 

Now how easy is that?!? The peppers/chilies and filling are tender, moist and oh! so flavorful. Poblanos can be a bit "peppy", so if you are not overly fond of chili heat I'd omit any jalapeno or use a few canned peppers . Or you could just add more sour cream topping to your serving; dairy is reputed to moderate the chili heat. The jalapeno seemed less assertive in the sweet bell pepper shell, but it still had a noticeable bite to it. Still too peppy sounding for your taste? Skip the jalapeños and substitute plain jack cheese for the pepper jack. Prefer a meatless version? Substitute mushrooms or black beans for the sausage. 

Photo: Before and after the finishing broil.

Photo: Stuffed peppers waiting for salsa & sour cream

Recipe found at MostlyFoodsandCrafts, with my changes in red

1 cup rice (quinoa)
1 package frozen spinach (or use fresh kale or chard)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 scallions, sliced thin, with white and green parts separated
1/2 pound ground beef (Falls brand chorizo links)
1 cup frozen corn
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies (2 fresh jalapeños)
1 teaspoon  cumin
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (WSU Crimson Fire pepper jack)
kosher salt and black pepper
4 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed (red bell pepper and poblano chili)
1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream
salsa, for serving

  1.  Prepare your rice according to the package directions.  When you are ready to start assembling heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites and ground beef.  Cook, breaking the beef up, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn, chilies, cumin, cooked rice, ½ cup of the Monterey Jack, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Place the bell peppers, cut-side up, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or on a pan. Divide the beef and rice mixture evenly among the bell peppers, add ½ cup water to the dish, tightly cover the dish with foil, and bake until the bell peppers are soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of Monterey Jack cheese, and bake until browned, 5 to 7 minutes more.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and ¼ cup water. Drizzle over the bell peppers and top with the salsa and the greens from the scallions.                            
Now checkout the other Group B posts for this month.

Strawberries on Sunday...

... or Strawberry Sundae!

This was so festive looking I just had to grab a photo. This morning the breakfast table was a celebration of Spring, featuring brightly colored local daffodils and gorgeous fresh strawberries. Just imagine the taste of those sweet berries layered with Greek Gods Honey Yogurt and some crunchy granola. Mmmmm, the accompanying French toast spears added another satisfying note. Oh yes, this will keep me smiling for hours.

Spring weather has been changeable lately, varying almost minute by minute and neighborhood by neighborhood. Yesterday featured blue skies, heavy dark clouds, strong wind gusts, downpouring rain, random hailstorms and more blue skies with 38F weather. Today it's 52F with mixed sun and puffy clouds... so far. Sure enough, this sounds like Spring in Seattle.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kale and Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich

April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month. An entire month honoring grilled cheese? Well,let the celebration begin, as though grilled cheese sandwiches needed any excuse to appear in my galley. Just thinking of that ooey, gooey goodness melted between crunchy layers of grilled, buttered bread brought on hunger pangs. The cravings got serious when I spotted Joy the Bakers's post for a Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Her filling ingredients were a riff on a favorite appetizer, Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Just one look at the photo of  stacked sandwiches and I knew I had to grill up my own version. 

Similar ingredients lurked in my refrigerator, though I had to get creative with a few items. Kale substituted for spinach, the heat from Crimson Fire (WSU's version of pepper jack) replaced the sriracha's kick, and I skipped completely forgot to add the sour cream. Deli-sliced turkey was a last-minute addition, a spur of the moment inspiration, but was totally unnecessary. Any trace of turkey flavor disappeared as though it wasn't part of the cast of players; it's mild flavor couldn't stand up to the bolder tastes of cheese and peppers. 

I built one sandwich on a jalapeno & cheese-topped mini baguette and a second one on multigrain sandwich bread.  

Grilling the baguette was little tricky. The rounded top tried to roll over on the grill pan and a sandwich weight (aka bacon press) slid right off. No matter, the cheese melted and the filling ingredients blended together into a delicious cohesive mass. Tangy yet mellow, smooth and crunchy in every bite, this was comfort food at its best.

RL joined in the taste test and added more salt and some green tabasco to his sandwich segments. I was happy with the flavors as cooked, or hungry enough to be non-critical. Later on I spotted a package of frozen salad shrimp in the freezer and considered another round of sandwiches incorporating shrimp instead of turkey... or maybe not. I know for sure that we will celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month again and again this month.

Kale and Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich 
a description rather than a recipe

inspired by a recipe from Joy the Baker (original recipe)
  1. Saute chopped onion and minced garlic in a lightly oiled pan over medium-low heat until softened. Add chopped kale and cook until wilted. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. 
  2. Add shredded pepper jack cheese, a pinch of salt, and a handful of drained, chopped artichoke hearts to the bowl. Mix with a fork until well combined. Taste and adjust as needed - this is your chance to get creative with other ingredients. (Sour cream? crema? mayonnaise? lemon pepper or lemon zest? hot sauce?)
  3. Use two slices of bread or one split roll for each sandwich. Spread one side of each slice with cream cheesePile some filling onto the bottom slice of bread. Top with another slice, cream cheese side down, and press together lightly. 
  4. Lightly butter the top side of a sandwich and lay, butter side down, on a preheated heavy grill pan, OR melt a dab of butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet and add the sandwich(es). Toast on each side until the cheese melts and the bread is golden brown.
  5. Don't wait, slice and enjoy this treat right away.
Update: April 7, 2013
Check out the menu (link) at Monte Cristo, a Seattle food truck that specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Browse the site, you'll enjoy it and wish you lived in Seattle. 
More ideas for creative and tasty grilled cheese sandwiches (and a contest) can be found at FoodieCrush (link)
You could look for healthier grilled cheese makeovers at CookingLight (link).

Monday, April 1, 2013

OMG! Two-Beef Chili with Beans

Chili purists might shake their heads at this chili recipe with its shredded beef, tomatoes, and beans!!! Oh yes, beans vs. no beans can generate a heated discussion over what constitutes a proper bowl of red. Real Texas chili would never include tomatoes or beans, but we're a long way from Texas. Chili is really all about the meat, cooked low and slow, flavored with a variety of chile peppers and assorted spices. Beans? sometimes I cook the beans separately, serving them on the side. RL favors beans cooked along with the meat and spices, so that's a more frequent choice. Tomatoes? yes, please, and occasionally shreds of chocolate. Chili handles a lot of variations, but it's always accompanied with a variety of flavorful toppings, the "fixins and mixing" that suit each individual taste. 

Chili with beans was a hit this week. RL was not home for supper so neighbor SalmonBetty and I sampled the latest batch. We relaxed in her family room, watching "Dancing with the Stars" and enjoyed chili and conversation. The recipe was declared a keeper, one of my best versions yet. While the ingredients were typical, the method was a bit different. 

Many recipes involve roasting dried chilies, making a chili slurry, and browning cubes of meat before simmering away for hours. This method, adapted from a Tyler Florence cookbook, was a simpler preparation that still produced wonderful flavor. Add big chunks of chuck roast to a stew pot, not bite-sized little cubes that will dry out during the long simmer. Cover with water and skim off the foam that rises as the water comes to a boil. The foam (albumin) released by raw meat is neither tasty nor attractive, so this step is important. Add most of the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for two hours or more. Pull the meat apart when it's really tender and return it to the pot along with some ground beef or crumbled sausage, your choice of cooked beans and a tablespoon or two of masa. Simmer partially covered for another hour and you're almost done. The flavors blend and mellow deliciously if you let the chili rest, even refrigerate overnight, and reheat to serve on day two. But if you're not that patient, the chili is definitely tasty on the day that it's cooked.

OMG! Two-Beef Chili with Beans
approx 6 servings

3 pounds chuck roast, cut into large cubes (2 1/2" to 3" at least)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.5 quarts water (more as needed)
1 medium onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, peeled & halved
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound lean ground beef (or crumbled chorizo)
3 (14-ounce) cans red beans, rinsed & drained
1 Tablespoon Masa Harina or cornmeal

Serve with Assorted Optional Toppings: 2 cups shredded cheddar, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, sour cream or Greek yogurt, diced green onions, tortilla chips
  1. Generously season the beef cubes with salt and pepper and place in a large heavy-bottomed kettle. Add enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off the foam as it rises to the surface. Add the next 12 ingredients, diced onion through tomato paste, and return the mixture to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat to a slow, low simmer and cook until the meat is so tender it comes apart with no resistance when you poke it with a fork, about 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add water if necessary to keep the meat covered. When the meat is really tender, remove it from the pot and use two forks or your fingers to pull it apart into shreds and small chunks. Return to the pot, along with any juices.
  3. Crumble the ground beef and add to the pot, stirring in to mix. Add the rinsed and drained beans and the masa, mixed with a few tablespoons of water. Return to a low simmer and cook for 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. Partially cover the cooking pot during this final hour, giving the steam room to escape and not condense and run back down into the chili. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  4. Chili benefits from tempering, so let the pot cool and give the flavors a chance to bloom and blend. An overnight rest in the fridge is recommended, but not essential. Offer a variety of toppings for each diner to personalize their bowl of red - these "fixins and mixins" can make all the difference between ordinary chili and OMG great chili.

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