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Chipotle and Adobo Chili

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While this winter has been pretty brutal for most of the United States and huge portions of Canada, Seattle has been blessed with remarkable weather. Sure it’s been a bit drizzly every now and then, but when it’s sunny and blue skies in January and February, I can’t help but think how lucky I am. Earlier this month I saw people wearing shorts just blocks form where I live and just yesterday we hit a record high for March (70 degrees, which, for Seattle, is awfully warm for the time of year).

My one critique of this unusually lovely winter is that weather was rarely bad enough to really get in the mood for rib-sticking, hearty, comfort food. Sure I made some decadent and rich braises and argues, but for the most part I kept it pretty light and healthy. As Seattle is having yet another lovely day, I bring you an incredibly hearty and comforting chili recipe, that manages to not be too heavy. I could enjoy this in the middle of a blizzard, but would be perfectly content eating it on an impossibly sunny and warm day.

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Chipotle and Adobo Chili

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
  • 1 12-ounce beer (I used an ESB)
  • 1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced (use to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can of chipotles (more or less to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add ground beef, breaking up with a large spoon into small chunks, and brown, stirring infrequently, until the beef is nicely browned (about 8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and pepper, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, beer, chipotles and adobo sauce, oregano, and an additional sprinkling of salt and pepper. Reduce heat.

Simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rinsed beans and cook an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.

I like this served with sour cream, cheese, scallions, and avocado; perhaps with some chips, roll, or cornbread on the side. And of course beer.

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Butternut Squash Soup

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While this butternut squash is comprised of incredibly simple ingredients, the taste manages to be quite intricate and rich. Roasted squash and apple create complex flavors while caramelizing onions and shallots mellow out typically harsh and intense ingredients. Besides some sage, salt and pepper, a bit of olive oil and butter, and a healthy amount of stock, there’s not much else to this recipe. A splash or two of heavy cream at the end can make this already velvety smooth and decadent soup a bit more indulgent, but it’s completely optional.

What I enjoy about this soup so much is the simplicity creates a perfectly balanced dish that’s delicious as is, but can be punched up in flavor, if desired. Seriously, this soup does not need any elaborate garnishments, but if you were so inclined, toasted pepitas would be a fantastic addition, as would some drops of hot sauce, drizzle of crème fraiche, chopped chives, salted cashews, or candied pecans.

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Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 Butternut Squash (approximately 3.5 – 4 pounds)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 shallot
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 8-10 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Prep ingredients by peeling and seeding the butternut squash, coring the apple, and peeling the onion and shallot. Chop squash and apple into approximately 1-inch dice. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until tender and golden brown, stirring once or twice during the process.

Meanwhile, approximately 10 – 15 minutes into the cooking time of the squash, in a large saucepan or stockpot, melt butter over medium-low to medium heat, chop shallot and onion (medium dice) and sauté with butter until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Add chicken stock and sage leaves and bring to a simmer. Once squash and apples are done roasting, add to stockpot and cook for a few minutes.

Blend mixture in batches in a blender or food processor, or puree with an immersion blender. Simmer mixture for a few more minutes, just to ensure the flavors meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To make this richer and creamier than it already is, finish off by stirring in the heavy cream (optional).

I garnished with some sour cream thinned out with a bit of milk and a light sprinkling of cayenne.

Lentil, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

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Recently I’ve had a lot of epiphanies in the kitchen. Which is kind of sad, because the realizations I’ve had have been kind of common things that most people should already know. What can I say; I guess I can be a bit dense?

For instance, did you know that using a high quality vanilla extract vastly improves your baking? I knew that, but it took me a while to actually fork over the dough for the good stuff. Sort of kicking myself for not doing so sooner. And it’s only been within the past year that I’ve actually made my own stock. Heck, even simmering water with a few veggies and some herbs will likely be 10 times better than canned stock. Silly me.

One of the easiest (and cheapest) things I’ve been doing in my cooking recently has been to incorporate parmesan cheese rind into soups. The first time I did it was with Minestrone Soup and it added a savory richness. Since enjoying that particular soup so much, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to add parm rind to virtually any broth-based soup. And it hasn’t disappointed.

Two of my local grocery stores sell Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds at a very reasonable price. I bought a package of 8 for a little over a dollar and threw them in the freezer and now I just pull one out any time I make a soup. While not entirely necessary, it’s a very welcome addition and if you haven’t added rind to your soups, I encourage you to do so.

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Lentil, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sausage links (approximately 2/3 lb) (I used spicy chicken)
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup lentils (sorted and rinsed) (I usually use French, but used brown as they were the only kind I could find)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 6 cups water (all the ingredients create plenty of flavor… no broth needed!)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cups baby spinach
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casings and cook until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium, add leek, onion, carrots, and celery, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until browned. Add garlic, thyme, and cumin, and cook for a few more minutes. Add lentils, bay leaves, red pepper flakes (if using), water, crushed tomatoes, and parmesan cheese rind. Bring to a simmer and cook (uncovered) for approximately 40 minutes until lentils are tender. Remove rind (most of it will melt into the soup) and bay leaves. Add red wine vinegar and spinach, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes, just until spinach has wilted. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Prepare to be wowed.

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Roasted Chicken with Chickpea-Harissa Stew

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Spice and heat is something so incredibly personal. Everyone seems to have a different opinion and preference and I think it’s close to impossible to make a recipe that involves spice that can be appreciated by everyone.

Take the chili recipe I posted last week. I thought it had a mild heat, but it was so spicy for a family member that they couldn’t eat it. While of course I had to (just slightly) harass that person for having no heat tolerance, it really made me think about what is considered spicy and not.

While I like to think I have a decent heat tolerance, I don’t really eat a ton of spicy foods. Far too often I find food is spicy just for the sake of being spicy and reaches heat levels that mask and hide more subtle flavors. When eating or cooking spicy foods I am typically incredibly picky when giving my seal of approval. I’m pleased to say I found the following recipe to be close to perfection in its level of heat. A bit of heat, but not so spicy as to mask some of the earthier, smokey flavors of the dish (as a bonus, it wasn’t too spicy for someone with a much lower tolerance to spice).

Brands of harissa can be incredibly different in their level of heat, so use your own judgment and preference when adding it. I always say start with a smaller amount; you can always add, but you can’t reduce. I used Mustapha’s (found at a local, organic store), which is Mediterranean style (harissa is originally Tunisian). You should be able to find harissa at most specialty stores.

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Roasted Chicken with Chickpea-Harissa Stew

Adapted from Bon Appetit; generously serves 4

  • 8 chicken thighs (with skin and bone)
  • A few drizzles of olive oil (no more than a tablespoon)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup harissa (see above note)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Chopped Italian Parsley for garnish
  • Sliced lemon for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a Dutch oven (or large skillet that can go from stove-top to oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and in two batches (to ensure you don’t overcrowd), sear chicken thighs on each side until golden brown (should take about 5 minutes per side). Remove chicken and repeat with remaining chicken thighs.

Once chicken has been browned, remove excess fat from Dutch oven (leave about a tablespoon). Add onion and cook for a few minutes, just until it’s just started to soften and take on color. Be sure to scrape up any flavorful browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, until tomato paste has taken on some color. Pour in harissa, sugar, stock, and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer. At this point I tasted for heat. I started out with a heaping tablespoon, but decided to add a smidge more.

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Arrange browned chicken on top of chickpea mixture (skin side up) and bake (uncovered) for approximately 20-25 minutes. Serve with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Prime Rib Chili

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#GOHAWKS!

What with Super Bowl just around the corner I got to thinking about my favorite game day foods. While pizza and wings (and beer) may be the first things people think of, chili is right up there. Who can resist a bowl of chili, topped with some sour cream and cheese? I know I can’t.

Seeing as I’m a Seattleite, I can’t help but be excited for the Seahawk’s second trip to the Super Bowl this coming Sunday. While ground beef is probably the most common meat found in chili, I thought something a little bit more special was in order, and the most logical thing seemed to be prime rib (because what else could be as decadent?). I was lucky enough to have about 2 pounds of leftover prime rib just screaming to be used, but if you don’t want to shell out the bucks, almost any cubed steak (or ground beef) would work as well. But really, the Super Bowl only happens once a year, so why not make it special?

What I love about this chili recipe (beyond cubes of tender prime rib) are the layers of flavor. You start with tasting savory tomato with an undertone of beer before ending with heat. This isn’t an alarmingly spicy chili, but it has a bit of a kick.

As far as ingredients, I used a spicy chili blend straight from New Mexico. I haven’t tested this with other chili powders, so use whatever you prefer. For the beer, I used an Amber Ale (from Hilliard’s, a Seattle brewery), but most ales should work. In fact, a lot of different beers would do well in this dish. I wouldn’t recommend a light, wheat beer as the flavors might get lost, but I would imagine most mid to dark ales (a brown ale perhaps) or even an IPA would work nicely (although I haven’t tried).

As far as the beans go, I’ve read a ton of different ways on how to cook them. Most recipes call for an overnight soak, and then instruct one to cook the beans separately. This method works perfectly, but I found cooking the beans in the chili also worked (although perhaps took longer). Lots of sources on the internet say the acid from the tomatoes prevent the beans from cooking, but I didn’t find that to be the case. In general, dried beans that have been in your kitchen cupboard or on the grocery store shelf for ages are harder to make tender (that is, they take longer), but newer dried beans are easier. If you’re worried about not fully cooking your beans, either cook separately or you could even use canned. That’s just my two cents on how to cook beans.

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Prime Rib Chili

  • 1 cup dried kidney beans (or beans of your choice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (from approximately 6-8 cloves of garlic)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 12-ounce (or pint) bottle beer
  • 2 pounds leftover prime rib, as much fat removed as possible, cut into 1/2 inch dice

The night before you make your chili, or at least 6 hours beforehand, place dry beans in a bowl with 4 cups of water, cover, and let sit at room temperature overnight.

Over medium heat, add olive oil to a large pot and let heat up. Once oil has heated, add in diced onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper, and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables have developed a bit of golden brown color. Add in tomato paste, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes.

Creating a well in the pot (by moving vegetable mixture to the sides, add in the garlic, cocoa, and spices. With direct contact on the pot surface, the spices should “toast,” which will help release their flavor. Cook for 1 minute.

Stir in beer, broth, and diced tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, drain and rinse soaked beans, add to chili mixture, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until beans have softened and reached desired texture.

Add in prime rib chunks and cook for 5-10 additional minutes. The goal isn’t to cook the prime rib any more (since it has already been cooked), but to heat through. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and perhaps a few dashes of hot sauce (optional).

(If using cubes of steak, sear separately and add in the final 15 minutes of cooking, if using ground beef, brown in pot along with onions and cook with chili mixture.)

Roasted Tomato and Fresh Basil Soup (and a Vegetable Stock Recipe)

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Besides chicken noodle, I would have to say tomato is probably the most famous, well-known soup in existence. According to Wikipedia, “The first noted tomato soup was made by Maria Parloa in 1872, and Joseph A. Campbell’s recipe for condensed tomato soup in 1897 further increased its popularity.” And of course, when thinking about tomato soup one can’t forget Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans. For so many individuals, tomato soup (perhaps with a side of grilled cheese) is the quintessential comfort food.

As for me, I’m actually not a huge fan. I can’t recall having homemade tomato soup as a kid and as a result I was just used to the very “meh” canned stuff (no offense, Campbell’s). Since I never had especially positive experiences with the stuff I kind of ignored it most of my life. I would see it on menus from time to time and would immediately just skim right past it. Even seeing it prepared by my favorite chefs on Food Network didn’t really intrigue me.

About a year ago I decided I would try to embrace a soup that most of the world seems to love and took a stab at making my own. While I liked it I thought it had a bit of a flat flavor, probably due to the fact that the fresh tomatoes I used (in the middle of winter) were far from in-season. Not wanting to be defeated by a soup, I looked for other recipes and eventually found one that roasted the tomatoes before mixing them in with the other soup ingredients.

I adore roasted vegetables. I think roasting is one of the best ways of cooking a vegetable as it brings out a ton of natural sweetness. While I was still using not-in-season tomatoes, I found that the roasting process negated subpar tomatoes.

While I had come close to finding my ideal soup, there was just one other thing I wasn’t in love with: the stock. Yes, I had always taken the route of buying vegetable stock in a carton from the store. Stock is always so much better when homemade and when it comes to vegetable stock there’s really no excuse not to make your own… it’s so easy and cheap to make.

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Roasted Tomato and Fresh Basil Soup

Adapted from Sunny Anderson

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 red peppers, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (white sugar or agave are fine substitutes)
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Gently toss together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, thyme, tomatoes, red peppers and onions on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the tomatoes and red peppers skin-side up and bake until lightly charred, 45 to 50 minutes.

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Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and mix well and cook for a few minutes until the tomato paste has become a copper color.  Add the tomato and pepper mixture, including the juices, and combine. Stir in the stock; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the soup and basil to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and pulse in small batches until silky smooth. Use a separate bowl to hold the blended soup, and then return it all to the pot, taste for seasoning, and cook for a few more minutes. Serve with additional chopped herbs and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream (optional). Serves 6.

Vegetable Stock

Adapted from Allrecipes

Besides using very basic vegetables, this is an easy stock that can be made while the tomatoes in the tomato soup roast.

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  • 1 large onion, chopped into a medium dice
  • 2 stalks celery, including some leaves, chopped into a medium dice
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into a medium dice
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • About 8 whole peppercorns
  • 2 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for approximately 30 minutes. Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Yields approximately 7 cups of stock. Easy peasy!

Turkey Noodle Soup

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Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I know mine was full of great food and great family. For the first time I was in charge of dinner and tried to really go all out and make a spread of delicious food. I had already tested almost all of the recipes I planned on serving and felt confident dinner would be a success. The one thing I was worried about was the turkey. I’ve cooked countless times with turkey and I’ve done roasted turkey breast, but never a full turkey. Not to sound full of myself, but wow… I think I did a nice job 🙂

If there was only one thing about the turkey I wasn’t pleased with I might have to critique the size. In my infinite wisdom I decided that a 16 pound bird would be the perfect size… for four people. Needless to say I have plenty of leftovers!

I’ve already had turkey sandwiches galore, the leftover stuffing was exceptionally delicious served with a fried egg on top for breakfast, and who doesn’t love leftover pie? But what should I do with the half a turkey I have left?

The first thing that popped into my mind was Turkey Noodle Soup. It would use up some of the leftover turkey and that huge turkey carcass was just screaming to be used in a stock.

The great thing about this soup is how easy it was to make. With the exception of actually making the stock, the soup itself was finished in 20 minutes. Served with a slice of crusty bread this soup was perfect on a cold, fall day. Feel free to throw the leftovers in the freezer to enjoy at a later date.

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Turkey Noodle Soup

Adapted from Tyler Florence

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts turkey stock, recipe follows
  • 6 to 8 ounces dried wide egg noodles (approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of a package [all depends on how noodley or brothy you like your soup])
  • 3 cups shredded or diced, cooked turkey
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Place a soup pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and let reduce slightly (a few minutes) and then add chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer until just barely tender (about 6 minutes). Fold in the chicken and peas, and continue to simmer for another couple of minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Turkey Stock

  • The leftover bones of a turkey
  • 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
  • 2 large white onions, cut in eighths
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 1 parsnip, cut in large chunks
  • 15 or so sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

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Rinse any dirt off of all ingredients. Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Pour in 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours but preferably longer (I cooked mine for 2 1/2 hours).

Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Use immediately, store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze.