Well, that’s it. I’ve gone nuts… Or have I? Actually, no. This is absolutely delicious. The best part is that it is really easy too! Maybe the best part is how good it tastes. This is a great way to add loads of flavor to roasted chicken, pork, turkey, fish, or use it as a spread on a sandwich. Hell, its good on a spoon! Sweet, smoky, tomato-y, and very flexible.
How do you make this wonderfulness?
Core and dice 1 pound of tomatoes
1/4 pound bacon, cooked crispy, and crumbled
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar (The recipe I had called for cider vinegar, but sherry is tastier!)
salt and pepper
1/2 Tablespoon dried thyme
Combine the tomatoes, sugar, onion, thyme and vinegar in a pot, and bring to a boil. Add the bacon, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring frequently. By this time a lot of the the liquid will be evaporated, and what you will have is a jammy consistency from the tomatoes and onions cooking down. Taste and season with salt and pepper. That was pretty easy!
With this combination of flavors you may have a hard time deciding where not to use it. Once you’ve made it, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll make it again!
Sometimes, inspiration strikes… from the most unlikely places. I needed to make soup, and I was wandering around the various parts of the kitchen looking for things to use. In dry storage I ran across some apple wood chips that we use to smoke things sometimes. Then in the cooler I saw a bunch of yellow tomatoes that we needed to use really soon. So, I started thinking, “What if I smoked the tomatoes?”
When I started making this soup that was really all I had for an idea. I had no idea how long it would take to get a decent smoke flavor into the tomatoes, and no idea how I was going to season it once I was ready to put the whole thing together. It all worked out quite nicely, through a series of accidents, and correcting them!
Step one, deal with the tomatoes. There are a couple of things that you will have to do with this, but none of them are particularly difficult. First, quarter the tomatoes, and cut out the little place where the stem attached. Then squeeze the quarters to get rid of the seeds. All of the flesh parts of the tomatoes are going to get smoked. I seasoned them with salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Get your smoker set up. At work I use a deep hotel pan to hold the soaked wood chips and a perforated hotel pan to hold the smokee. Then I just cover the whole thing with foil. Simple, and having an exhaust fan keeps it from getting smoky inside! I have a stovetop smoker I use frequently at home, and it works well. I think I had the tomatoes on for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, I just tasted a piece of a tomato to see if I had enough of a smoke flavor. I didn’t want it to be super strong, but I wanted to be able to taste it. Once I had it where I wanted it I pureed it in a food processor, and left it to cool. (This doesn’t make a lot of puree, but you’ll be adding more liquid to get it to a soup consistency, so don’t worry. I nearly doubled what I had to start with,)
Next I roughly chopped some onion and tossed it with a little salt, pepper, cumin, corriander, and oregano, and a couple of cloves of garlic and olive oil. This all got roasted under the salamander (broiler) until lightly browned, and tender. Then I pureed it, and let it cool over night.
When I was ready to start the soup I started adding the onion mixture to the tomatoes, and added some lemon juice to brighten it up, and water to get the consistency I was looking for. I added more than I thought I wanted. Oops! So, to balance out the lemon juice I added a little bit of honey. Now, it was too sweet. Salt helped bring things together a bit better, but although it tasted good, it was kind of one dimensional. I started looking for things that would help accent the smoke flavor, and balance out the sweetness a bit more. With the cumin, corriander and oregano I realized that I could go with sort of a Southwestern thing, and grabbed the container of ground ancho chili powder, and the black pepper. Ancho is not hot, but has a nice earthy flavor. Turns out the ancho was EXACTLY what was needed in the soup! I had no idea how much I needed so I added a little and tasted, and added more, until I liked it. This soup was all about tasting. There was no recipe, and no plan. Just a bunch of tasting spoons, a container of soup, and me, playing!
Sometimes, this is the most fun kind of cooking. Start with something simple, and see what you can do with it. In this case, a very tasty cold soup!
I will often garnish soups, just because it is nice for presentation and if you can make something that goes nicely flavor-wise that is always a good thing. In this case I made a little bit of pico de gallo.
With the hot weather we have been having lately a nice cold soup is a great lunch, or part of your lunch.
Anyway, my point here is we should give ourselves time to really play with our food. We need to eat, but it doesn’t have to be boring, and it should really taste good and be fun to get it on the table! Right?
Summer means many different things to different people. Back when I was a little kid, it was summer vacation. Now, it means grilling (I’ve been working on a post about grilling, and hopefully will finish it soon.) and tomatoes. Oh, and there is always disc golf, but that isn’t really what we’re talking about today. Today is the finals of the PDGA World Championships, BTW! Congratulations are in order for Sarah Hokum (Women’s Open), Ken Climo (Master’s Open)(13x!), and Paul McBeth(Men’s Open).
Tomatoes are really a summer fruit, and the best ones come in the heat of August (at least here) and are generally best when stolen from a neighbor’s plant! Anyway, this kind of thing really just can’t be done with the crappy tomatoes you buy at the grocery store in January. Also, don’t put them in the fridge! This, and the caprese salad are really all about the tomatoes.
Here is what you’re going to need…
1 pizza crust (make your own, or use a premade crust, I tend to keep Udi’s pizza shells on hand, so we went with one of those)
some nice tomatoes I needed 4 or so small tomatoes.
herbes de provence
1 head garlic
fresh basil (I just pulled several leaves off the plant on my kitchen windowsill)
First thing first. Preheat your oven to 350F. Place the entire head of garlic in a piece of aluminum foil, and drizzle it with olive oil to coat it well. Close the foil pouch and put it i the oven for roughly 45 minutes or until it is nice and tender.
The next thing is the tomatoes. Slice them about 1/4″ thick. Toss them with olive oil and herbes de provence. Place them on a baking sheet, and roast them for about 15-20 minutes until they are nice and tender.
Squeeze the foil wrapped garlic. When it is soft you are going to unwrap it(Yes, while it is still pretty warm.) and cut the top off of the head. Then you are going to squeeze the little cloves to get the soft, sweet garlic out of them. Yep, its going to be messy. Keep going, it is totally worth it!!! Get it all into a bowl, and discard the skins.
Slice your cheese about as thick as the tomatoes.
If you are making your own crust you may need to partially bake it before you top it, because all you need to do is crisp it up, and melt the cheese.
When your crust is ready, rub it with olive oil, and then the garlic you squished into a bowl. Use as much or as little as you like. I used all of it! Top with the tomatoes, add the cheese, and the tear up basil leaves and sprinkle generously on top.
Clearly this is not for the vegetarians among you. If you are one, perhaps now is the time to go look at something else…
Are you still with me? Good, now, lets talk about meaty chili goodness!
I know most of you probably make chili using ground beef or turkey, but we won’t be doing that. What I used might make this the most expensive pot of chili you have ever made. What I used is a piece of beef called the chain. The chain is a strip of meat that is located next to the tenderloin. It is pretty similar as far as tenderness and flavor, but because it is wrapped in fat and connective tissue it is rarely eaten except as ground beef. You can’t buy chains* in the store so I would suggest a chuck roast, and cut it into cubes. Since you will be simmering this for a while you will end up with nice tender meat by the time the chili is ready.
This wasn’t originally going to be chili. I’m not sure what I was making, exactly, but I had a few ideas in mind. As I gathered ingredients it sort of became obvious that it was, in fact, chili.
2# beef chuck cut into cubes
1 TBSP achiote paste
1 TBSP canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large onion diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large poblano, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
25 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups cooked black beans
salt and pepper to taste
ground cumin, corriander, dry oregano to taste
3 bay leaves
ancho chili powder to taste
The first step is to get the meat marinating. Combine the achiote, oil, salt and pepper, and mix them into a smooth paste. Add your cubed meat. I used the cryovac machine at work to seal this up, and left it in the fridge overnight. Obviously a ziplock bag would do almost as well. At this point you should also cook your beans. Drain them and cool them in the fridge.
When you are ready to cook, gather all of your ingredients. We are going to start with the meat. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pot, and add the meat. Lightly brown the meat, and add the onions, peppers and garlic, and a little salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, and then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring up to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and season to taste with salt, pepper, ancho powder, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, and oregano. Allow your chili to simmer, and add the beans after an hour or so. Taste it after a while and adjust the seasonings if you need to. If it is to acidic you can add a little bit of honey. That will help balance things out. Give it a couple of hours to simmer, and enjoy. This is not going to be a spicy chili, but it is tasty! If you like it spicy there are lots of possibilities, for instance chipotle peppers would be nice in place of the ancho chilies while still giving you a nice smoky flavor.
This chili was a huge hit at work, and I think it will be for you as well. There are plenty of things you can tweak, but this should get you started. Enjoy it! I know I did!
*In the course of day to day prep at work we do some butchering, and end up with scraps that are perfectly edible. The chain falls into that category. The only way to get chains is to buy beef tenderloin PSMO (peeled, silver skin, side meet on or pismo). To make this chili you would probably need three chains. Of course if you like filet mignon or chateaubriand this will save you quite a bit of money. The less processed the meat the less expensive it tends to be. The last time I went to the store pismos were $19.99/pound, and filet mignon were $23.99. Breaking down PSMO’s takes a bit of practice, and time. It is certainly something you can do, but you do need a sharp knife, and the time to do it.
Now, from the title I would imagine that there are at least a couple of you looking at the screen, and thinking “WTF??” This is the kind of thing that I sometimes come up with when I am facing a seemingly random assortment of things on my shelf, and need to come up with a seafood soup for Friday lunch at work. It isn’t really chili, being short on beef, and having lentils, but don’t really know what to call it. It was very tasty (I have been told.), and could have been made gluten-free very easily!
This all started with a container of roasted poblano peppers that were sitting on my shelf next to a container of diced tomatoes. I have no idea how much precedence for a soup like this there is, but I’ve used similar things together before, and had great results.
You’ll want to cut down the size of this recipe… I tend to make large batches of soups. This one was roughly 4 gallons.
I had eight poblanos that had been roasted, but I had to peel them. This is easy to do, but it is easier to do when they are still warm from roasting. If you’ve never roasted a pepper, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. Simply hold your pepper over the flame on your stove, and when it starts to turn black on the side, turn it. Once the skin is blackened and bubbly all over put it into a sealed container of some kind for about 15 to 20 minutes, and the steam will make it easy to just rub most of the blackened skin right off. Then pull off the top of the pepper, and scoop any seeds out. Done.
1 #10 can diced tomatoes, divided in half (At home: 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
8 roasted poblanos (2 peppers)
2 large onions chopped roughly (1 regular sized onion)
1 cup garlic cloves (4-5 cloves)
3 pounds of 26/30* shrimp tail off, deveined and peeled. You could also use smaller shrimp if you want. (1 pound)
1 gallon vegetable stock (1 quart)
4 bay leaves (1 or 2)
ground cumin, corriander, and oregano
salt and pepper
honey (if it is too spicy honey is a great way to balance things out)
Once you have your peppers roasted put them in your food processor with the onions, garlic, and half of the tomatoes, and process until smooth. You’ll have just made a very tasty salsa! .
Place the salsa in a large pot , and bring it up to a boil. You’ll want to be careful doing this, between the peppers and tomatoes there is plenty of sugar to burn. Keep it moving. Once it is up to a boil, add the shrimp. I just sort of sautéed the shrimp until they started to cook a bit. Then I added the beer, the rest of the diced tomatoes, the cumin, coriander, oregano, bay leaves, and the stock. Bring it up to a boil, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it is too spicy add a bit of honey to balance it out. Let it simmer for a little while, and serve.
This kind of thing is quite easy to make, and tastes great! Its great if you are abstaining from meat during lent, or are looking for a nice seafood soup that isn’t they typical clam chowder!
* When buying shrimp you’ll often see numbers like 26/30 or 21/25, or U10. These numbers tell you how many shrimp are in a pound. The U10 means that there are less than 10 shrimp per pound!
The other night Amy and I were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Neither of us had anything thawed, and didn’t really feel like a big meal, but we both wanted something tasty. What we did have was a can of chickpeas(for some reason we thought they were actually cannelini beans until she actually got them out of her pantry), some pasta, a couple of roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, half of a red onion, some garlic, a bottle of Pinot Grigio that we only needed part of. This is actually a really simple thing to put together, and will get you a really quick and tasty dinner in under a half hour.
The first thing is to cook the pasta. Obviously, you need to follow the recommendations on the package since gluten-free pastas vary in cooking times. Once it is cooked drain it, and rinse it in cold water to cool it. Toss it in a little olive oil, and set it aside for now.
Next, we’ll make our “sauce.” Dice the tomato. Half inch cubes should be fine. Mince a few cloves of garlic. We used about four, but if you really like garlic use as much as you want. Dice half of a red onion. To that add white wine and olive oil to just cover everything. A fifty-fifty mix will work well, but it doesn’t need to be exact.
Open the can of chickpeas, drain, and rinse them. Get a medium sized skillet hot over medium heat, and add a small amount of oil. When the oil is hot add the chickpeas. Saute them for a minute or so to get them hot. Next, add the tomato mixture (There is no rule saying how much to add so go with what looks good to you.), and keep things moving in the pan. Add the spinach to the pan, and cook until it has wilted. You may be surprised at how little spinach it looks like once it is wilted! You’ll eventually get it up to a boil. Once the liquid comes up to a boil add the pasta, and saute everything until everything is hot.
Obviously, this kind of thing gives you lots of room to improvise, and make it your own. In this case, it was vegan as well as being gluten-free. Whatever it little category you want to cram it into, it was very tasty, very quick, and very easy!
Well, this happens sometimes. I end up eating really late. It isn’t intentional, but I get busy doing things and still need dinner. Of course these time are usually when I have some long cooking dinner in the works. Tonight would certainly fall under that heading. I sort of had a feeling it might. I had a family thing to go to, and had planned to pop in, and split in fairly short order. I had hoped to be home, cooking by about 6, and instead didn’t get home until 7pm. It also took a bit longer than I expected to cook the beans, but in the end it was all worth it!
One of the best things about the internet is the abundance of information about cooking, recipes, and food. Michael Ruhlman, Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert, and Mark Bittman just to name a few. I follow these, and several others on Twitter, and they all send out interesting messages, recipes, and today I adapted a post from Mark Bittman. Really, my biggest change to his recipe was to skip the bulk of the meats and just use a couple of chicken legs.
1/2 pound of dry cannellini beans soaked overnight
2 chicken leg quarters
2 cloves of garlic
2 onions cut into half inch dice
2 sticks of celery half inch dice
2 carrots half inch dice
1 zucchini half inch dice
salt and pepper
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dry thyme
handful fresh parsley chopped
1 quart of chicken stock plus a little water
Since I had my beans soaked last night, and I broke down the chicken to get the legs I was more or less in assembly mode tonight. Step one, heat some oil in the large pot, and brown the chicken a bit. I could have given them a bit more time to brown a bit more, and that might have added a bit to the flavor, but in the end it was pretty good.
Then add the beans and enough stock to cover everything. This took about a quart for me. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer.This will need to simmer for about an hour. In the mean time, take your diced vegetables, and sweat them in a large skillet. You’re looking for them to start to get nice and tender, but not brown. A little salt is helpful when you are sweating veggies since it draws out moisture. Once they are tender I added the tomatoes, and herbs, and got everything hot, and also reduced the liquid a bit from the tomatoes and whatever came out of the veggies.
Once I had been simmering the beans for about an hour, and the veggies were softened and hot I added the veggies to the beans. Then I returned the pot to a boil, and turned it back to a simmer. This is where patience started to come into play. Everything really started to smell great. Cannellini beans take time to cook, and if you want to do this right you will let them take the time they need. You will be rewarded.My beans took another 30 minutes to finish cooking. They were tender, and not the least bit chalky. After an hour and a half simmering in the stock, and with all of the veggies the chicken was so tender that grabbing a leg bone to fish it out would leave you with no meat at all! That was dinner, and although it was certainly different than the cassoulet that I have had in the past I would certainly be happy to eat it again. That is a good thing, because I have plenty! Next time I make it I will probably find some turkey sausages that I can throw in there, and make it a bit more traditional. Traditional or not this was very tasty. Personally I always find this kind of long, slow cooking process very rewarding. It always seems to pay off in the end with a ton of flavor, and actually is fairly simple to do as long as you give yourself the time to take on the challenge. I ended up having dinner a little later than I would have liked, but it was great, and gluten-free. Hope you all enjoy it.
Edit: One thing I kind of forgot this morning at 2 am when I was finishing this up is a link back to day one, just in case you haven’t read it yet.
I keep seeing these ads on TV for some steam in the bag dinner with like pasta and chicken, and veggies. They have this intro that says something like “who says sauteing, and chopping and peeling at the end of the day is relaxing?” These commercials bother me, a lot. Are we that lazy? Obviously, since I and at least some of you are on gluten-free diets we can’t eat these, but if you are looking for a quick meal like this there is a way to do it.
How many people do you have to feed? Figure one ounce of pasta per person. What do you like? Farfalle? Penne? Whatever. Cook that according to the directions on the box. Drain it, and rinse it with cold running water to cool it. Drain it, put it in a container to store it, toss it with some olive oil, and put it in the fridge till you need it for later.
At work we make a mix of tomatoes, white wine, fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic. It’s really simple, and works really well. Go. Do that! The easiest way to cut something leafy like the basil is to take the leaves, and kind of roll several of them together. Then take your knife, and slice through all of them. This is called chiffonade. Whatever you feel like is fine. This is going to be the sauce part of the pasta.
So, now you can pick whatever you feel like having in your pasta. Chicken? Peas? Broccoli? Mushrooms? The sky is pretty much the limit. The real key is to make sure that whatever it is will cook quickly. Something like chicken could be cooked ahead, and sliced or cubed so that when you put it in all you have to do is get it hot. Veggies will mostly go quick, so unless you have something like eggplant that will take some time don’t worry about them. Just cut them small enough that they are about the same size as everything else.
When it’s dinner time, get a skillet that is big enough to fit all of the stuff that you want to put in there, get it good and hot. Add some canola oil. (Now is NOT the time for you to use your nice extra virgin olive oil! You’ll be wasting it.) Once the oil is hot, add whatever will take the longest. Since I’m not giving a specific recipe, I can’t help you here. Once you have in the veggies, and chicken or whatever, and they are getting hot, add the tomato mixture. Carefully, and remember that you can always add a little more if you want, but its a bit tricky to take it out. You’ll see the liquid start to boil. Add the pasta, and toss or stir. This will get everything coated in your sauce, and heated through.
That’s it! Put it in your serving bowl or on plates or however you want to eat, and you’re done! Toss a little cheese on top, and everybody will be thrilled!