Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12: Black Bean Soup with Chipotle Chiles

I am having a hectic and very odd week, which I will maybe not go into a lot of detail about here, because you're probably here about the food. So, I will keep it brief, but still attempt to be interesting.

In Michigan, there is a wonderful Mexican restaurant in a small town called Otsego that serves the best black bean soup on this earth. Seriously.

I have never been able to recreate it, but this may not be a bad approximation. In addition, chipotles are smoky, which eliminates the need for bacon. Make no mistake, I am not saying that bacon is a bad thing, but, you know, some people don't dig on the pig. There's a ham steak in here too, which you can totally do without. Just leave it out.

Black Bean Soup with Chipotle Chiles


1 pound dried black beans (2 cups), rinsed and picked over
4 ounces ham steak , trimmed of rind
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped fine (about 3 cups)
1 large carrot, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 ribs celery, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 - 6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 tablespoon)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes


lime wedges
minced fresh cilantro leaves
red onion , finely diced
avocado , diced medium
sour cream

1. FOR THE BEANS: Place beans, ham, bay, water, and baking soda in large saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; using large spoon, skim scum as it rises to surface. Stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until beans are tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if necessary, add another 1 cup water and continue to simmer until beans are tender); do not drain beans. Discard bay. Remove ham steak (ham steak darkens to color of beans), cut into 1/4-inch cubes, and set aside.

2. FOR THE SOUP: Heat oil in 8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, bean cooking liquid, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 30 minutes.

3. TO FINISH THE SOUP: Ladle 1 1?2 cups beans and 2 cups liquid into food processor or blender, process until smooth, and return to pot. Stir together cornstarch and water in small bowl until combined, then gradually stir about half of cornstarch mixture into soup; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken. If soup is still thinner than desired once boiling, stir remaining cornstarch mixture to recombine and gradually stir mixture into soup; return to boil to fully thicken. Off heat, stir in lime juice and reserved ham; ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately, passing garnishes separately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 11: Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Tart

Bon Appetit, I love you. Not only do you appear magically in my mailbox every month for free, you never let me down. I always find some must-try thing in there that sends me off to the grocery store for extravagant and expensive ingredients. This month is no different.

If it's dessert for me, it's gotta be chocolate. Otherwise, it's not worth the calories. Chocolate and raspberries are probably one of my favorite combinations of flavors. Those first summer raspberries, sweet and tart and floral, in combination with the heady richness of good chocolate, are a match made in heaven. Those first summer raspberries, warm from the sun, are unbeatable in my book.

What are your favorite, slightly unlikely food combinations? I used to think chile peppers and chocolate were not something I'd ever think of eating together, but then about fifteen years ago I tried a traditional Mexican mole, and it changed my mind in one bite. I love strawberries with balsalmic vinegar, which I never would have though of as even remotely appealing, but boy, was I off.

Make this dessert for company, or a special occasion. Maybe a special occasion like, I don't know, a Tuesday.

Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Tart

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Kahlúa, other coffee flavored liqueur, or strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups fresh raspberries (three 6-ounce containers)
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Using on/off turns, mix flour, butter, and sugar in processor until coarse meal forms.

Mix egg yolks, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water in small bowl. Add to processor; mix until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill 30 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch round. Fit dough into pan; trim overhang. Freeze 20 minutes.

Bake crust until golden, 25 minutes; cool.

Meanwhile, bring cream just to boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth. Stir in liqueur and vanilla. Cool ganache 15 minutes.

Transfer cooled crust to platter. Spoon chocolate ganache into crust and smooth top. Arrange raspberries atop chocolate. Stir raspberry jam and 1 1/2 teaspoons water in small saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Brush warm glaze over berries. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June 10: Chicken Breasts with Orzo, Carrots, Dill and Avgolemono Sauce

Sorry, no witty banter tonight. Chicken with a sauce--a light, lemony, Greek-style sauce. Yum. Food and Wine magazine. Must go, so tired.

Chicken Breasts with Orzo, Carrots, Dill and Avgolemono Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/3 pounds in all)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 1/2 cups orzo
4 carrots, quartered and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice


In a large stainless-steel frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderate heat. Season the chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and add to the pan. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken; add the broth, dill, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is just done, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and cover lightly with aluminum foil to keep warm. Set aside the pan with the broth.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the orzo for 6 minutes. Add the carrots and continue cooking until the orzo and carrots are just done, about 6 minutes longer. Drain and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

In a medium glass or stainless-steel bowl, beat the eggs, lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper until frothy. Bring the chicken broth back to a simmer and add to the eggs in a thin stream, whisking. Pour the mixture back into the pan and whisk over the lowest possible heat until the sauce begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer, or it may curdle. Put the orzo and carrots on plates and top with the chicken and sauce.

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 9: Duck and Pear Salad with Mango Chutney Dressing

Holy Cheebs, it is hot. It is really nasty awful hot, sticky, gross, and awful. I can't think of enough bad things to say about the weather. I do not care for hot weather.

I want to eat duck maybe twice a decade, and when I do, it's usually in this salad, or some variation of it. I love smoked duck breast; you have to get it from a specialty market. I don't have a good source for smoked duck breast in the D.C. area. If you can't find smoked duck breast, get regular duck breasts. Use a very sharp knive to cut through the skin on the diagonal, making a diamond pattern. Don't cut the meat. Grill or pan-saute over high heat until the duck is medium-rare, or rare, or however you like it. If you like it well done, you should go eat chicken, because that is a terrible thing to do to a duck breast. Give it a short rest, five or ten minutes or so. Slice the duck breast 1/4-inch thick on the bias across the grain.

This is a gorgeous main dish summer salad, perfect for the awful weather we're having. I would sprinkle a few toasted, chopped pecans over, and maybe a crumble of good stinky bleu cheese--I love bleu cheese and pears. I would arrange all of this over a big pile of mesclun greens. Yum. It is adapted, of course, from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Duck and Pear Salad with Mango Chutney Dressing

4 boneless duck breasts, boned or prepared as described above, cooled
3 cups cooked rice, cooled
1 cup chopped celery
4 scallions, well rinsed and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
Grated zest of one orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 ripe but firm pears
1 cup lemon juice
Mango Chutney dressing (see below)

Remove the skin and slice duck breasts across the grain into 1/4 inch strips.

Toss the duck and cooked rice together ina mixing bowl. Add the celery, scallions, and orange zest and season with salt and pepper. Toss again and arange the salad on a large serving platter.

If the skin of the pears seems too thick or spotty, peel the pears. Otherwise, quarter, core, and thinly slice them, and toss them with the lemon juice.

Drain the pear slices and arange them across the duck salad. Serve immediately with the mango chutney dressing, offering the peppermill to your guests.

For the dressing:
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup blueberry or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup mango chutney
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup peanut oil
1 cup corn oil

Combine all ingredients but the oils in a food processor bowl. Process for 1 minute. With the motor running, drizzle in the oils in a slow steady stream. When all of the oil has been incorporated, shut off the motor, scrape down the sides of the bowl, taste, and correct the seasoning.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

June 8: Gazpacho

By the by, the cheese spread was delicious, as usual. I did something a little different: cheddar, cream cheese, and white wine, with a few crushed fennel seeds mixed in. Food processor for a long, long, long time. It ends up light and yet incredibly rich and delicious. I served it on French bread toasts, and not only did we enjoy it, our teacher-friend who came over to watch the baseball game today thought it was pure heaven.

Dear God is it hot out. 105 today, with brutal humidity. I am already dreading going to work tomorrow, as it will involve being outside my own living room. It's perfect weather for a cold soup.

Here are my soup rules, as adapted from The Silver Palate.

1. Use great homemade stock, if at all possible. Make big batches of it so that you can freeze it and keep it on hand.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool before pureeing.

3. Add herbs just before pureeing.

4. Cook onions and leeks for a long time, slowly, in butter.

5. Think really hard about what flavors and textures balance and match. Sweet and spicy are a good match. So are sweet and sour.

Gazpacho is one of my favorite summer lunches, especially with a slice of garlic bread and a salad. It's simple and refreshing and tastes like summer. Do yourself a favor--make it with the freshest ingredients you can find, the best of the summer farmers' market. I like mine a little spicy, with a shake or two of tabasco sauce. Think bloody mary without the vodka, in a bowl.


6 large ripe tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
2 medium yellow onions
2 large shallots
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Core and coarsely chop the tomatoes; save the juices. Stem, seed, and coarsely chop the peppers. Peel and coarsely chop the onions and shallots. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the cucumbers.

In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, reserved tomato juices, canned tomato juice, and eggs.

In a blender or a food processor, puree the vegetables in small batches, adding the tomato juice mixture as needed to keep the blades from clogging. Do not puree completely; the gazpacho should retain some of its crunch.

Stir in the dill, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. To serve, stir, taste, and correct seasoning. Ladle into chilled soup bowls.

Friday, June 6, 2008

June 7: Cheddar-Beer Spread

I love Friday nights. I am a little more willing to put some time and effort into what I eat on Friday nights, since I don't have to get up in, like, four hours. That means a sort of "happy hour" around here, with some sort of adult beverage and a snackie of some kind.

This is it for tonight: Samuel Adams and cheddar-beer spread on bagel chips. You can buy all kinds of cheese spread in the grocery store, but you can also make your own, it's easy and it's delicious. Here's the thing: simmer the beer. It gets rid of the raw alcohol taste and mellows it, making it a really nice soft counterpoint to good sharp cheddar cheese. It's an extra step, but it's worth doing. All of these flavors come together and complement each other, making something so much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Spread it on crusty toasted bread, or crackers, or--oh, here's something: stuffed into celery. Nomnomnomnomnom.

Cheddar-Beer Spread

1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 shallots, very finely minced
1 cup domestic beer (a not-too-hoppy, light beer is good, like a pale ale)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the beer to a simmer until reduced to about 2/3 cup. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Combine cheeses, butter, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, and cayenne in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and homogenous, at least 1 minute. With the processor running, pour in the beer, and continue to process until the beer is completely incorporated.

Chill for at least an hour. Serve with toasts or crackers.

Ed.: Due to the monster storms that blew through the area on Wednesday, our internet service has been up and down. This should have gone up yesterday, but we were in an outage. Forgive me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

June 5: Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw

I love coleslaw, really good homemade coleslaw. I love it in a big bowl next to a burger, I love it on a barbecue sandwich, I love it on a turkey sandwich with swiss cheese and russian dressing, I love it on a hot dog with chili and onions. When I was 16, I went to Russia for two weeks and I swore I'd never eat cabbage again, but as it turns out, it was a promise I couldn't keep.

Coleslaw: it's easy to do, but the flip side of that is that it's easy to do badly. Yucky store-bought dressing, under-chopped, leathery cabbage, watery, weepy salad.

So, here are the rules of engagement: homemade dressing. Finely chopped cabbage, salted. They're small things, but coleslaw, by nature, is simple. If it's simple, it has to be pretty much awesome.

I like America's Test Kitchen's recipe, so here it is. It suggests patting the coleslaw dry with paper towels; I think that's a bad idea. I use a salad spinner.
Creamy Buttermilk Dressing

If you are planning to serve the coleslaw immediately, rinse the salted cabbage in a large bowl of ice water, drain it in a colander, pick out any ice cubes, then pat the cabbage dry before dressing.

1 pound cabbage (about 1/2 medium head), red or green, shredded fine (6 cups)
table salt
1 medium carrot , shredded on box grater
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 small shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Toss shredded cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt in colander or large mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Let stand until cabbage wilts, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Rinse cabbage under cold running water. Press, but do not squeeze, to drain; pat dry with paper towels. Place wilted cabbage and carrot in large bowl.

2. Stir buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, shallot, parsley, vinegar, sugar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper together in small bowl. Pour dressing over cabbage and toss to combine; refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. (Coleslaw can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June 4: Pan Roasted Chicken with Peach and Bourbon Glaze

Right now, you would not believe the smells that are coming from my kitchen. You really wouldn't. I am roasting that 40-cloves-of-garlic chicken I talked about a few days ago right now, so that we'll have a big delicious roasty garlicky chicken for chicken salad, or for chicken sandwiches, or for chicken eaten straight out of the refrigerator standing over the kitchen sink at 3 a.m. when I can't sleep. Whatever. It's not even for dinner tonight, and it smells so good I can barely stand it. I even threw down some of that rosemary from the plant I bought at Eastern Market this weekend.

Instead of telling you how delicious this chicken is going to be, how it smells like total heaven, I am going to show you this picture from Anthony Bourdain's new book. I love Anthony Bourdain.

Hi Tony. That's a nice bone. And by bone, I mean...bone.

Well, that's enough. Back to talking about food. And by food, I mean Tony's bone. Stop it, Molly! Jeez, this is supposed to be, you know, not full of my usual obscenity and inappropriateness. Family-friendly and all.

Chicken. Yes. Chicken. Here is some more roast chicken. I am still thinking about Anthony Bourdain, only to be distracted by the smell of roasted chicken, but here's some more roasted chicken. It includes the technique of flambe, which involves fire and alcohol. It's not as difficult as it sounds, and I think Anthony Bourdain would approve. Wouldn't you, Tony? You fine thing.

Pan Roasted Chicken with Peach and Bourbon Glaze

For Chicken:
4 four-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons canola oil
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup finely diced onions

For Sauce:
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup all-fruit peach preserves
4 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

FOR CHICKEN: Season breasts with salt and pepper; then pan roast in a heavy, covered skillet with the oil, using spray as needed. After 3-4 minutes, turn chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Add onion and cook for 2 more minutes. Set chicken aside, covered.

FOR SAUCE: Flambé bourbon in skillet. Deglaze with stock, and add remaining ingredients. Simmer to sauce-like consistency. Correct seasoning and add any accumulated chicken juices. Pour over chicken.

One last Anthony Bourdain related thing: I have categorized this entry under Food Porn. I am hilarious.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 3: Fresh Pasta with Favas, Tomatoes and Sausage

My job is beginning to be hard work. I am exhausted. And tomorrow I have to go bowling. Seriously, that's my assignment tomorrow. I even have a bowling shirt.

I don't have it in me to be clever. We had pizza tonight, not delivery but from the deli case, fresh, with some extra veggies and cheese thrown on. I worked my ass off today and I've come home tired.

Here's some pasta. I love pasta, but I'm too tired to cook it tonight; I'll just write about it instead.

Fresh Pasta with Favas, Tomatoes and Sausage

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 pound Italian sausages, casings removed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 3/4 cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (from about 1 pound), blanched 3 minutes then peeled, or double-peeled frozen, thawed
3/4 pound fresh pasta sheets, cut as desired, or dried egg fettuccine
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus additional for passing


Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 3 ingredients. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add sausages; break up with fork. Sauté until brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine; simmer 1 minute, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes and fava beans. Sauté until tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to same pot.

Add sauce to pasta. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed if dry, about 2 minutes. Mix in 2 tablespoons cheese. Transfer pasta to bowl.

Serve, passing additional cheese.

From Bon Appetit: "More info: In this dish, Alex uses maltagliati (badly cut) pasta. To make it, cut fresh pasta sheets into trapezoids. Don't worry about making each piece exactly the same size or shape. The pasta should have an irregular look."

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 2: Scattered California Roll With Lobster

I have a fancy-shmancy new job and I couldn't be more excited about it. It is incredibly challenging and very hard and difficult work, but I need the challenge, I want to grow professionally, and it's a really wonderful place to work--smart people doing good work to advance science and engineering. I am an editor working on scientific papers and helping to put together huge, 800-page programs for meetings. So far, I have mostly sat through incredibly complicated and opaque meetings in which a lot of acronyms have been mentioned but not explained. Also, I've filled out a lot of paperwork, and had a grilled-chicken taco salad in a restaurant across the street from my office with my team of co-workers.

My brain is horribly full, and I am exhausted by all of this. I can't stop yawning.

I posted a recipe yesterday, one for waffles, but mysteriously it showed up on March 8th, back when I wrote a draft. Check under the heading "bread" or "breakfast" over there on the right, and you'll see it. Really. I didn't miss a day.

I love that this is like deconstructed sushi. I realize that part of sushi's beauty is the construction, but I am a big believer of form following function when it comes to food, and the function of this salad is to taste good, not look pretty. Also, this is easier than assembling sushi.

Thanks to Food and Wine magazine for this recipe.

Scattered California Roll with Lobster

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups Japanese or sushi rice (10 ounces)
2 cups water
One 1 1/2-pound lobster
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled ginger
2 teaspoons powdered wasabi mixed with 2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 radishes, cut into 1-inch julienne
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch julienne
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch julienne
1 ripe Hass avocado, cut into 1-inch julienne
One 8-by-7 1/2-inch sheet of nori (Japanese seaweed), finely shredded

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the vinegar with the sugar, stirring until dissolved. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice with the water and bring to a boil. Stir, then cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Spread the rice on a large platter and toss with the sweetened vinegar. Refrigerate briefly until cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the lobster and cook for 8 minutes. Remove the meat from the tail and claws. Discard the intestine in the tail. Coarsely chop the meat and let cool.
Toast the sesame seeds in a small dry skillet over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar with the oil, ginger, wasabi paste and soy sauce. Season with the sea salt. Add the rice, radishes, scallions, cucumber and lobster meat and toss gently to combine; let stand for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Fold in the avocado, sesame seeds and nori just before serving.