Tamed Salsa Macha!

8th June, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Salsas, easy

Last week, Steve Sando, heirloom bean king and mastermind of Rancho Gordo, peppered his Facebook page with pictures of amazing looking food from his recent visit to Veracruz. One photo in particular had me, a confirmed chilephile, almost ready to eat my screen. It showed a beautiful bowl of glistening salsa macha, made from local dried chiles, peanuts and garlic. Steve didn’t have a recipe, so I took it on as a personal mission to develop one. After a little research and a few experimental batches, here’s what I’ve come up with. It may not be 100% authentic, but it sure tastes good.

The traditional Salsa Macha of Veracruz is made with the dried chile comapeño, a small orange chile that is unavailable outside of the region. I’ve substituted a combination of ancho and de árbol chiles to bring up the flavors, and tame the flame a bit. Use more ancho if you want it milder, more de árbol if you want the heat. Dried chiltepins and pequins, widely available, can also be used to add even more fire, and the true die-hard can add dried habanero, which will also add wonderful layers of fruitiness to the salsa. Read more…»

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What’s Cooking?

2nd June, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in What's On the Table?

Tonight, it’s an elk chili, made with the Chili Canario recipe and a couple pounds of beautiful elk chuck that’s been in the freezer since last season. The house smells wonderful!

With it, some garlic braised chard, finished with an orange/balsamico reduction, roasted asparagus (which I’d thought to be the last bunch of the season, but the farm delivered another one today!), and gorgonzola polenta. A bottle of Archetype’s 2005 Cabernet/Shiraz blend is breathing. Dinner in 20 minutes!

Let us know! What’s on your table, tonight?

Pan Seared Duck with Orange Chipotle Sauce

2nd June, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Main Courses, Moderate

First, a confession. See the picture? Where’s the succulent, juicy, rare slices of beautifully seared duck breast, with crispy skin and lovely sauce? What’s that dark flesh that could be anything? Well, um…

I actually shot the photograph of the leftovers that I had for lunch today. When cooking for company, they’re rarely patient enough to wait around whilst I go about fiddling with plating and lighting and photographing the food I’m about to serve them; they want to eat, and preferably, while the food is still warm. So I had to make do with the leftovers. I’d put the tiny little pieces of duck breast in the fridge, along with the sauce, so the meat got much darker than it was on the night of serving, and the gorgeous golden, crispy skin turned into what you see here . Still, it was a deliciously decadent lunch. So it goes. You’ll have to take my word for it; it was much prettier the night before. If you want to see other pictures of nicely presented duck flesh, do a search. The web is littered with ‘em. Then, come back here for something really delicious, a bit showy for your guests, and quite easy to do.

Basically, this is a riff on the classic canard a l’orange. The addition of some sweet pickled chipotles adds a spicy, fragrantly smoky character to the dish that plays wonderfully with the orange sauce, without overwhelming the wonderful taste of the duck.

You can use mallards or teals, or whatever your hunting friends can be talked into bringing over. (Thanks, Norbert!) Whatever duck you choose, the key is to not overcook it. Read more…»

Cioppino Bianco

25th May, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Main Courses, Moderate, Soups

The now classic cioppino was originally developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen who had settled in the city’s North Beach area. Fresh fish, the catch of the day – typically crab, shellfish, squid and fin fish – are brought together with garlic, tomatoes and wine to make a rich, delicious red seafood stew, usually served with a crusty, rustic sourdough bread [1].

This version is a little lighter, but no less delightful. The more delicate saffron infused broth showcases the delicious sweetness of fresh mussels, clams and shrimp. A little smoked fin fish, and some velvety yellow eye beans add depth and texture. A garnish of gremolata brings up the high notes, and really makes it sing. Read more…»

Runner Cannellini Beans with Black Truffle Oil

10th May, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Sides, beans, easy, vegetarian

This was inspired by a wonderful side dish served by a friend at one of our yearly gatherings. He was in a Spanish mode at the time, and presented a lovely meal accompanied by a dish of beautiful warm judion beans, dressed very simply with olive oil and a little salt. The large white beans had a wonderful, buttery texture, a delicious flavor, and were absolutely delightful served in this simple way.

I’ve been looking locally for dried judion beans, with no luck. A call to Rancho Gordo, however, found a wonderful replacement; runner cannellini beans. Their current supply (can we call it a crop if it’s already dried?) is large, supple, and thin skinned, with a delightful flavor, and that smooth buttery texture I was chasing. Fantastic! Here’s a slightly revved up version, with a little black truffle oil adding an earthy but sophisticated charms to this simple dish. Read more…»

From the Heart

7th May, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Editorial

Great food, truly soulful food, is important. It doesn’t come from the head. It doesn’t come from technique, or from architectural presentation, or through years of training, or coming up through the brigade. It comes from the heart.

A friend was over for supper one night, and mentioned, somewhat casually, “You’re always so happy when you’re cooking.” He’s not wrong. From the planning, to the shopping, to the preparation, and through the cooking, I’m filled with joy when making food, especially when it’s destined to be shared with those I love. Even at the peak of the orchestrated chaos that arrives in the final stages of getting an elaborate meal to table, when I’m rushing back and forth, playfully barking instructions like a temperamental chef to the informal brigade assembled in the kitchen after being recruited at knife-point to mash, plate, serve, it’s when my spirit is most joyful. Read more…»

Smoky Yellow Eye Beans

2nd May, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in KosherKitchen, beans, easy, vegetarian

Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo calls these Yellow Eye beans, “A ham hock’s best friend.” He’s not wrong. This bean, with its thin skin, beautifully velvety texture and lovely toasty, almost smoky flavours, practically begs to be paired with pork. They’re also great for baked beans, and Steve says they make a great alternative to common navy beans in Senate Bean Soup. It’s a wonderful bean.

But, I wanted to do something for my vegetarian and kosher-keeping friends that would deliver some similar flavors in a meat-free way. It starts with Alejandra’s Sweet Chipotle Pickles, which are absolutely fantastic. With a jar of these, a bag of Yellow Eye beans, and a few other ingredients, magic happens. The chiles bring a sweet, smoky, spicy character to the party, and the beans, with their earthy goodness, are more than happy to play along. You can substitute Great Northern beans if you must, but it really is worth tracking down the Yellow Eyes. Read more…»

Alejandra’s Sweet Chipotle Pickles

28th April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

The chipotle is a beautiful thing; a dried, wrinkled morsel of spicy, smoky goodness, full of flavor and pungent aromas, and ready to add depth to many dishes.

Chipotles begin life as lovely, deep red jalapeños that have been left on the plant to ripen fully. When the fruit has begun to give up its moisture and is wilting slightly, it’s harvested, and smoked in a closed chamber over wood fires, drying and preserving it, and imparting that distinctive and wonderful smokiness.

The morita variety (Spanish for “little blackberry”) is a lovely dark reddish purple pod. This is the typical variety of northern Mexico, and the one most often found in the United States. It is not smoked as long or as deeply as the ahumado variety, so its flavors are more subtle and fruity. They’re easy to find in any Mexican grocery, and many supermarkets will have them in hanging plastic bags.

Daniel’s neighbor, Alejandra, a wonderful cook, introduced him to these fantastic sweet pickled chipotles, and graciously shared the recipe with us. They’re fantastic with huevos rancheros, or on a burger, or used to spice up a grilled cheese sandwich. Try them in an egg salad, or with some lime juice, cilantro and chopped onion as an addition to some simply cooked beans. Or, add some zest to a quesadilla. Read more…»

Orecchiette with Sausage & Grapes

26th April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in easy, pasta

I was describing this dish to a friend the other day, explaining that, yes, grapes and Italian sausages really do work wonderfully together, and found myself getting hungry for it. I knew what was going to be for dinner!

The sweet, slightly tart grapes really enhance the flavors of the sausage, and add a wonderful textural element to the dish. It’s a fairly quick dish to put together, especially if all the preparation is done prior to turning on the gas.

To my palate, sweet sausage, adding in some heat by toasting red pepper flakes in the oil, offers a better balance of flavors than using hot sausage, and brings more life to the party. The orecchiette (little ears) pasta is a perfect vehicle for the sauce, and makes a lovely presentation. The yellow bells add wonderful flavor – red or orange will do just as well. It’s a great dish for a spring supper, and the kids will love the grapes! Read more…»

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Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

23rd April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Sides, easy, vegetarian

It seems no one is ambivalent about Brussels sprouts; people love them or hate them. Personally, I think the reason more people don’t enjoy them is because, as children, they were tortured by mushy, overcooked sprouts, bitter and reeking of foul smelling sulphurous compounds. It wasn’t the sprouts’ fault. It’s time to forgive the little green globes, and find a place in your heart, and your diet for them.

Sprouts are a wonderfully nutritious vegetable, and all they require to offer their goodness is a little tenderness, a little care in preparation, and no ovecooking!

Here, we blanch the sprouts before roasting to cut down on the cooking time. Then, the sprouts are tossed with a little olive oil, balsamico, thyme, salt and pepper, and roasted in the pan to caramelize them and bring out their wonderful sweetness. Read more…»

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