Saturday, September 29, 2012

Farmers market in the rain

Today was one of those days when you get the produce from the Orono farmers market already prewashed, extra prewashed. It was also a day to bring out the rainboots and warm jackets. Hopefully, it is only a glitch in the fall weather.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short rib chili

These days, the temperatures are slowly dropping, the nights get colder, the plants, out for the summer on the patio, have moved back to their winter location inside the house, and there are more and more evenings that call for hearty food: soup, stews and chilis. This is one of my favorite chilis that I have made several times since I first saw the recipe on one of Giada’s cooking shows, and I cannot believe I have not written it up and blogged about. This chili is not your everyday beans-beef-tomato chili but it is elegant, authentic Mexican and deeply rich in flavor with the addition of espresso powder and the base braising liquid made of a hefty amount of dried chiles. I also add a bit of cacao powder so that the chili has an even more pronounced mole character. As said, it impresses everyone. I had a friend over this weekend and served it for lunch, I typically eat about a cup, and he polished off the rest, peeking in my direction during his second helping “Do you still want some, or can I have the rest?”  Smirk.

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This is my healthified version with extra bell pepper and broccoli.

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Short Rib Chili (based on a recipe by Giada di Laurentiis)

  • 1.5 pound meaty short ribs, with bone (basically one package, can be 2 larger short ribs, or 4 smaller ones), cut into individual ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces with scissors (*often found at cheap price at Walmart)
  • 2 large dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces with scissors (*often found at cheap price at Walmart)
  • 1/2 TB clarified butter or olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and microplanned
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 TM freshly ground cumin
  • 1 TB dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 cup beef broth (preferably organic)
  • 2 TM brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee
  • 1 TB cacao powder
  • One 15 to 16-ounce can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cup of frozen sweet corn (Trader Joes has a variety that is picked a the peak of the harvest, and very sweet)
  • Adobo sauce, from can of chipotle chiles, optional
  • Chopped green onions
  • Garnishes, such as sour cream and green onions and shredded cheese.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Arrange the short ribs on plate, pat dry with paper towel and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. 

Bring the New Mexico chiles, ancho chiles and 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chiles are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender (best: Vitamix!!!). Cool the mix in an ice bath for 15 min. Holding the top on firmly with a dish towel, blend until the chile puree is smooth. (Note, wait until it is colder or it will explode because of the steam).

Heat the ghee/oil in a large flat cast iron pot (best a dutch oven with a firmly closing lid) over medium-high heat. Add the short ribs and brown on all sides, 4 minutes per side, and transfer the short ribs to plate (I typically can do the ribs in one batch, if they don’t fit, make in 2 batches). 

Add the garlic and red onions to the drippings in the pot. Saute until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cumin and oregano.  Use the broth to deglaze the pan since the onions and garlic will stick to the pan bottom. Now, add the chile puree from the blender, the rest of the broth, brown sugar, maple syrup, espresso powder and cacao; stir to blend. Return the short ribs  and stir to coat. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place the pot in the oven. Braise until the ribs are very tender, minimum 2 hours 30 minutes (see picture above).

Remove pot from oven, and move the ribs to a plate. Spoon off and discard any fat that has risen to the surface. At this point, you can cool the chili mix and the meat, and prepare the rest once the meat is cold and easier to handle. The next step is to cut the rib meat into small 1/2 or 1/4 inch size cubes. To do so, carefully cut the membrane off each piece of meat (try to cut away only the membrane and not any meat). Discard the membranes and all bones. Cut the meat into small (scant 1/2-inch) cubes. Return the meat to the sauce in the pot. Mix in the black beans and the corn. Season the chili with about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. If desired, add the adobo sauce by teaspoonfuls to increase the spiciness. Transfer the chili to a large bowl. Serve with green onions, sour cream and shredded cheddar and crusty baguette.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Common Ground Fair, Maine

This weekend the annual Common Ground Fair takes place in Unity, ME, a three day event with thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. “A big hippie fest” as my friend A. would say. I see it more as a big, big farmers market and craft fair (although there are animals exhibits). Starting at the Rose Gate entrance sets the tone for the CGF, a generous scent of Sweet Annie fills the air, people buy organic vegetables, dried flowers, local raw honey, sample greek yogurt ice cream, local goat cheeses and bread, pet alpacas and angora bunnies, and take pictures of anything that they can’t take home (like me). The kids have their own fun, a little summer sled hill, and I saw for the first time how an entire ginger root plant looks like. All in all, good fun.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Indian summer

It’s has been quite busy around here, but not too busy to not take a few photos of the beautiful Indian summer we had lately (although, the weather man reports, today is the last one of them for the week). Indian summer has such a calm in the air and ferocious warm colors that I start to warm up to it, and avoid thinking of the follow-up season… I leave you with the photos. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Russian Chocolate, Date and Walnut Torte

These are the days of world wide culinary social networks and recipes and…. google translate. Which means with some fantasy (and baking wisdom) I can make a Russian cake which had me at “hello”. Or is it a Bulgarian recipe? As Russian grad student said it is not Russian, more likely Bulgarian, cyrillic and all. With some fingers crossed it came out just fine. The raw dough tasted marvelous, the torte even better: light, fluffy, rich, not too sweet and one would not suspect dates I think.

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Russian Chocolate, Date and Walnut Torte

a 10 inch non-stick springform pan.

  • 2 cups medjol dates
  • 1 1/2 cup strong hot coffee
  • 10 TB butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • decorate with powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 370F. Spray or butter a 10 inch springform, and set aside.

Prepare 1.5 cups hot, strong coffee (best in a French press with ca 3 TB of fresh ground espresso). De-pit the dates, and cut them into small dice. Place them in a large coffee cup and cover with the hot coffee. Soak for 5 minutes.
Now, mix the flour with the baking soda, salt and cocoa and set aside.
In a standmixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, and incorporate well. Add vanilla.
Turn speed to low, and slowly add the flour mixture to the cake batter. Mix well. With a large spoon, retrieve the dates from the hot coffee, and add to the cake batter (add a bit of coffee at a time). You should only have about a 1/2 cup of coffee let in the pot after the figs are removed. Incorporate well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared form and sprinkle top with chocolate chips.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until ready by checking with a stick if you spend dry then the cake is ready. Cool before removing from the form.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maine quaintness in the summer

Yesterday was wonderful weather for the last hurray of summer trip to Acadia --- the weather was warm, sunny, good for anything, biking, hiking, lobster bakes,…. but everyone else, naturally, was thinking the same thing. The traffic started already in Ellsworth.

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But once actually on the island, the traffic dissipated.

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Nevertheless, I was still in shock from the last trip to Bar Harbor and Jordan Pond, so I decided to head to a place where most tourists don’t end up: Northeast Harbor. A wonderfully quaint little village, with a few, cute shops, basically the place where Martha Steward and the Rockefellers buy their groceries in the summer. In good New England fashion, it is all very low-key and unposh.

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Besides the quiet, the lack of foot traffic and the cute little boutiques and a killer tiny grocery store where the common items are expensive champagne, filet mignon and lobster meat, the beautiful place to be is the harbor.

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After feeling relaxed, renewed and recharged, I made a trip to Bar Harbor since there is not much food in Northeast Harbor. One is expected to have a chef. Bar Harbor, per usual, was a zoo.

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