Friday, September 17, 2010

the season's first pot of chili

Chili Weather!
Each year I wait in anticipation for The Perfect Fall Day, the day when you know the time is right. The day when.... it's cool enough to make that first pot of chili in the fall!
Well, yesterday was that day on the Lonesome Road. As the days grew shorter and farmers started to harvest, I knew it would be soon so I've been stocking up on the ingredients while checking the weather forecast each evening. Finally the day was here!
I usually use ground turkey in chili for its low fat content and (usually) lower prices. This time however, I splurged on some lean free-range ground buffalo. What an amazing, rich flavor! A bit on the pricey side, but hey, it was autumn's first pot of chili, an equinox celebration!
You may also notice that I don't include chopped peppers in this recipe. That is just a matter of personal taste; I don't care much for cooked peppers but certainly feel free to add them if you wish; I would suggest poblano pepper for its mild and almost smokey flavor.
I'm not one who serves chili with a side of fire extinguisher; this is not a spicy hot chili. The amounts of ground dried chipotle and cayenne pepper can be increased to suit your own heat tolerance, or you can simply use a hotter chili powder blend.
  • 1 pound lean (90/10) free-range ground buffalo (yes, you can use ground beef, turkey or vegetarian crumbles if you prefer)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • One 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, liquid and all
  • One 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • One 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) dried chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon (or more to taste) cayenne pepper
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown and break up the ground buffalo a bit and add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until softened but not browned.
Add the diced tomatoes; fill the empty 28 ounce can with water and add to the pot. Add tomato sauce, spices and beans, combining thoroughly. Cook on a low simmer for as much time as you can allow; an hour will be fine but the longer this amazing brew cooks, melding spices, juices and free-range goodness, the more magical the flavor will be!
Offer toppings like shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese, sliced jalapeno peppers, sour cream, chopped raw onion, or chopped cilantro.
Serves approximately 6.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

wordless wednesday? not quite

Fair Food!
Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese Curds

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

cheap eats - thrifty side dishes edition

Penny-Pinching Potatoes ~
Potatoes Lyonnaise
What a beautiful name for a dish that is so easy, so inexpensive and so incredibly delicious. How can you go wrong with potatoes, onions, and garlic in butter? Plus, it's a dish that's not only pleasing to tastebuds but to your wallet as well.
"Lyonnaise" typically describes a dish prepared with onions, specifically fried onions, but also refers to the cuisine of Lyon, France. Lyon is also well-known for its high-quality pork products and of course, for Beaujolais Nouveau (among other wines).
But for now, the Lonesome Road Studio Kitchen is swooning over Lyonnaise Potatoes, a perfect side dish with roasted meats, something warm and cozy during chilly nights. Try leftovers combined in a frittata - just incredible!
The Ingredients:
  • 8 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius).
    Place russet potatoes in a pot of water; bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes.
    Drain, quickly rinse with cold water and set aside.
    Heat olive oil in an ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add onion slices and saute until slightly browned. (It may seem like a lot of onions, but they will cook down and become absolutely delicious!) Add garlic and saute about 10 minutes more, until onions caramelize. Transfer onions and garlic to a bowl.
Can't you just smell those onions cooking?
Melt butter in bottom of pan, scraping up browned bits. Add potatoes and onions and stir gently to combine wih butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and lightly browned on top; you can also raise the oven temperature for a bit to brown the potatoes more, or broil very briefly.
Serves 6.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the weekend baker

The Flavors of Fall ~
Zucchini Spice Cake
If you're lucky enough to have a bumper crop of zucchini squash (or know someone who does), quickly whip up this incredibly moist, spicy and delicious Zucchini Spice Cake. It's wonderful on its own, or with a bit of applesauce. (If you really want to frost it, I would suggest a cream cheese frosting similar to pumpkin bars.)
The original recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks by the folks at Victory Garden; I've tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes but in general you can personalize the spices to your preferences. I've also considered substituting some of the vanilla extract with a tiny bit of maple, but haven't experimented with that yet, as well as versions with walnuts and/or raisins. I'm too busy enjoying this recipe as is!
The recipe is simple to adjust if you're up to your ears in zucchini and wish to make 2 or 3 cakes. It is also perfect for school lunches (how about baking the batter in fun cupcake form?) and it freezes absolutely beautifully. It's a recipe that you will turn to again and again.
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (I prefer safflower in this recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (or, you can use yellow squash as well)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
Combine dry ingredients. Beat together the eggs, brown sugar and pure vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients, stir in the grated zucchini. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 inch (approx. 20x20 cm) baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (or if you can't resist the wonderful spicy fragrance a minute longer!).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

bacon makes everything better!

Meat Candy!
Lately a lot of people I know have been doing jalapeno poppers with various fillings - and all wrapped in bacon. And grilled. Can it get much better than that?

The usual fillings seem to be cheese, and the usual "fillee" seems to be jalapeno peppers. Well, the Lonesome Road garden had an overabundance of beautiful, mild Cubanelle peppers recently, so I decided to make stuffed, bacon-wrapped grilled peppers as a main dish.

Cubanelle peppers are similar to "Italian Frying Peppers" and are perfect on the grill. To begin with, cut a "T" shape on one side of the pepper; the horizontal cut at the top near the stem, and then straight down but not through to the other side of the pepper. Carefully clean out the seeds and trim off excess ribs, then stuff them!

I stuffed mine with pre-cooked hot turkey Italian sausage halves cut to fit the length of the peppers, plus mozzarella cheese (they don't have to be stuffed until bulging, just comfortably enough to get them back together again). Wrap each pepper with a slice of bacon and secure with at least two toothpicks, one at the top, one towards the bottom. I did soak my toothpicks in water for a while first, even after I heard grill guru Steve Raichlen say that it really makes no difference if you soak wooden skewers or not; they burn anyway. And um, yeah. He was right. That's why he's the guru and I'm not. Anyway.....
Grill over a medium-hot fire until the bacon is thoroughly cooked, watching carefully and turning often (this takes around 20 minutes but can take longer depending on the heat of your fire). By the time the bacon is fully cooked, the peppers will be perfectly cooked; firm, not mushy, with a wonderful full flavor.

Count on two peppers per person, more (of course) if the peppers are small. Be sure to try them stuffed with chorizo and Cheddar cheese as well, for more of a south-of-the-border flavor. In fact, let your imagination run wild... why not pre-cooked meatballs and provolone, then serve with marinara sauce; or shredded chicken breast, marinated tofu (facon-wrapped, of course!), Middle-Eastern-inspired ground lamb and feta cheese... oh, I could go on and on.
(But first I should check the garden and see how many more Cubanelles we have left!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the unofficial start of fall?

Above, "The Big Kahuna Burger," one of three Pulp Fiction-inspired artworks by Lonesome Road Studio.
September 1st, and many are calling this "the first unofficial day of fall." And, this weekend is Labor Day weekend in the United States, so grills will be up in smoke at least one more time before the snow falls. (Or, if you're on the Lonesome Road, you put on your coveralls, fire up the torpedo heater and grill anyway.)

An easy-going, casual holiday like Labor Day is best served with a low-key, fun menu and tops on the list is burgers. There's a burger to please everyone's taste: beef, buffalo, lamb, turkey, chicken, black bean, veggie, a huge portabella cap... the list is endless. And maybe more endless than the list of burgers themselves is the toppings that you can put on them. Want a Greek burger? Just crumble a bit of feta cheese, add fresh spinach leaves, tomato and onion and top with tzatziki sauce. How about an old-fashioned bacon barbecue burger? Have a pizza burger with mozzarella and provolone cheese plus marinara sauce, maybe sauteed mushrooms and pepperoni slices... or a Mexican burger with salsa, avocado, sour cream, jalapenos and olives.

If you think those are creative ideas, check out some of the ideas at Chicago's Kuma's Corner, one of the most heralded repositories of insanely inventive burger dining in the area:
  • The "Judas Priest" - with bacon, bleu cheese dressing with apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries
  • The "Slayer" - French fries topped with a ½ lb. burger, chili, cherry peppers, andouille, onions, jack cheese, and... ANGER
  • The "Lair Of The Minotaur" - caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, bourbon-soaked pears
  • The "Insect Warfare" - panko-crusted goat cheese, bacon roasted corn and green chili medallion, topped with roasted corn, cilantro, green chili salsa and paprika creme fraiche
  • The "Black Sabbath" - blackening spice, chili, pepper jack, red onion
  • Or maybe just the House Burger, complete with a fried egg.
You get the idea.
So while you're flipping (and not pressing, please) that burger, dream up a little something out of the ordinary and say good-bye to summer with the sandwich equivalent of a 21-gun salute!
And while you're at it, take the groovy poll in the upper right; poll closes at noon on Wednesday the 8th of September - come back to Bite This! to see the results!


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