Archive for July, 2008

One of my most-coveted items on our registry was my Caribbean Blue, oval Le Creuset Dutch oven. However, by virtue of the fact that we got married in mid-May and came back from our honeymoon when it was pushing June (in DC, no less), I haven’t exactly gotten as much use out of it yet as I would have hoped. I have tons of ideas for things to do with it in the fall and winter – short ribs, bolognese sauce, various stews – but for now, in the 90 degree heat, I had to settle for breaking it in on a good-in-all-seasons chili. At least, that’s my opinion because I happen to love chili and would eat it in any weather. I adapted this recipe from a feature that Williams-Sonoma did on a chili cook-off. This was their vegetarian chili recipe, and the main change I made was to add bacon because, well…it’s bacon. However, I am sure it would be almost as good vegetarian-style. I also had some leftover saffron rice in the fridge (that’s the yellow in the photo above), so I used that as an extra mix-in, which was quite tasty. This makes a LOT (it almost didn’t fit in that pretty little Dutch oven), but what makes a better leftover than chili?

Finally, I know this picture isn’t great, but I have to include the shot of my new blue friend:

Adapted from: Williams-Sonoma


1 lb. (or 2 cups) dried black beans

½ lb. thick-cut bacon, chopped into small strips

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 ½  yellow onions, diced

2 fresh jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and minced

5 large garlic cloves, minced

3 ½ Tbsp. chili powder

2 Tbsp. ground cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 cans (28 oz. each) crushed tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup coarsely grated Monterey jack cheese

Any other toppings you like

(Next time, I would also add a tsp. or two of sugar to balance out the flavors a little more with all that chili powder)



1.       Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans and stones. Rinse the beans. Place in a bowl and add water to cover generously. Let stand for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.

2.       In a large, heavy saucepan (or your new Dutch oven J) over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until nearly crisp.  Turn heat down to medium and add onions, garlic, and peppers and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne and oregano and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add the beans, tomatoes and water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil.

3.       Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and have begun to fall apart, about 3 ½ hours. Add water if the beans begin to dry out but are not yet cooked.

4.       Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.


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The Best Peanut Sauce

I made this Asian noodle salad with peanut sauce and while I thought the salad needed a little tweaking (mainly, I wished I’d used regular white pasta instead of whole grain), the sauce was some of the best I’ve had. Make this with your favorite Asian salad and enjoy!

Adapted from: Food Network

Chinese Peanut Dressing
One 1/2-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and sliced in half, or about 1 tsp. ground ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon hot Chinese chile garlic sauce, or more to taste
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, or more if necessary
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 ½ Tbsp. sugar
2 ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 tablespoons chicken broth or water, or more if necessary

In a food processor, finely chop the ginger and garlic (or just the garlic if using ground ginger). Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed and process until smooth. The dressing should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more water or chicken broth; if too thin, add more peanut butter.

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When my husband and I went to visit my parents for the 4th this past weekend, my mom gave me some back issues of Cook’s Illustrated that she had gotten from a friend of hers. I know lots of home cooks love this magazine, but it was my first experience with it, and I have to say I am impressed. Anyway, when we got home today, I got right to work picking out some recipes from the magazine to make this week and ended up pairing May/June 04’s oven-cooked brown rice with Jan./Feb. 05’s homemade chicken teriyaki. The brown rice was outstanding. It takes a little longer to make than brown rice on the stove, which I make frequently, but the texture is flawless. I consider myself pretty good at making rice on the stove, but I will definitely make it this way in the future. The homemade teriyaki sauce was yummy as well.

The chicken also gave me a chance to practice some butchering skills, as it calls for de-boning some bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I am a firm believer that the best cooks are always talented at butchering their meat, so this was a good chance to practice these skills. It was a little difficult, but practice is good. Here are both recipes:

Oven-baked brown rice

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated



1 ½ cups brown rice (any grain length – I used long grain)

2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 ½ Tbsp. butter

Dash salt

Large wedge of lemon

¼ tsp. garlic powder

Black pepper



1.       Set oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375 degrees.

2.       Spread rice evenly in the bottom of a small round casserole with a lid.

3.       Bring broth and butter to a boil in a covered saucepan (make sure it’s covered – otherwise, some of the liquid will evaporate and mess up the proportions).  As soon as it’s boiling, stir in dash of salt and pour the liquid over the rice.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.

4.       Remove rice from oven, uncover, and fluff with a fork.  Squeeze wedge of lemon into the rice and add garlic powder and black pepper.  Fluff again to combine.

5.       Cover with a towel and let stand 5 minutes.  Uncover and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and serve.

 Perfect texture!




Chicken Teriyaki

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

This recipe requires starting with deboned chicken thighs (with skin on – the skin is important).  I can’t reproduce CI’s deboning instructions for you, but there is a similar set of instructions here, on AllRecipes.  CI also calls for making 3 slashes in the skin of each thigh, which I found difficult, but I managed something resembling that.


4 chicken thighs, butchered to specifications above

Salt and pepper

½ cup soy sauce

½ cup sugar (you could reduce this to 1/3 if you wanted)

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 minced garlic clove

2 Tbsp. mirin

½ tsp. cornstarch


(this is the full sauce recipe, but half the amount of chicken – 2 servings instead of 4 – so there will be sauce leftover, which will save just fine in the fridge)



1.       Heat broiler with oven rack about 8 inches from heating element.   Line baking sheet with foil and place a flat rack on it if you have one (I don’t, so I skipped this step and it was fine).

2.       Place thighs on baking sheet and arrange so that they are of even thickness and the skin covers the tops evenly.  Broil until skin is crisp and internal temperature is 175 degrees (My thermometer hit the temperature before the skins were super dark brown, and, concerned about them drying out, I took them out a minute before I probably should have.  You want the skin as crisp as possible, and the meat doesn’t dry out at all, so next time I’ll just judge them based on the skin).  This should take about 10-14 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through cooking time.

3.       Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir together mirin and cornstarch until no lumps remain, and whisk it into the sauce.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to ¾ cup or takes on the texture of a glaze, about 5 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat.

4.       Let chicken rest for a couple of minutes before slicing crosswise and drizzling with sauce.  Serve with additional sauce on the side.


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My parents sent me this recipe recently as a new page for a cookbook they made me when I moved out of the dorms for my junior year of college. The cookbook is one of the best, most personal gifts I’ve ever received – my dad sent pages to all my extended family so that they could contribute their own favorites. The best pages, though, are the many pages that my dad, who is extremely creative, made himself: complete with pictures of the family eating the dish (taken over the course of many weeks, no doubt), funny comments, and drawings. Anyway, these days, my parents make new pages and send them to me whenever they make a recipe that they deem essential for my collection. I received this one in the spring and have already made it 3 times – a feat for someone like me who rarely makes repeat recipes, simply because I am always excited to try something new. This dish contains 3 of my favorite things – spicy Italian sausage, chickpeas, and spinach. And, it’s super easy and quick to make! Yay.


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ large onion, diced

1 lb. hot Italian sausage (I have tried it with both turkey and pork versions, and the turkey will work, but the pork is preferable because the texture is better in the finished stew)

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cups chicken broth

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I think Goya brand is the best – they’re always firm and never mushy)

2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach

6 slices toasted garlic bread, prepared by brushing French or Italian bread with olive oil, toasting at 400 degrees on a baking sheet until crusty, and rubbing hot bread with a halved raw garlic clove.

Grated parmesan for sprinkling on top



1.       Heat oil in a large sauté pan with high sides (or a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion and sausage, and crumble sausage.  When sausage is about half done, add the garlic.  Sauté until sausage is browned and cooked through.

2.       Stir in the tomato paste to coat, and cook 2 more minutes.

3.       Add broth and chickpeas and bring the mixture to a boil. Add freshly ground black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low to simmer, and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

4.       Add spinach and cover pan briefly to wilt spinach – about 1 minute.

5.       Place a slice of garlic bread on the bottom of each bowl and ladle stew on top. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

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