Friday, February 17, 2017

Veggie Chili

Here's a nice recipe that serves 4 generously but scales up for a larger crowd.

Preheat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat.

Finely chop:
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
When the pot is fairly hot, add a splash of olive oil or some other oil of your choice.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind:
  • 1-2 heaping tablespoons of cumin seed
  • 1-2 dry hot peppers
  • ½ teaspoon oregano (double if using fresh)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch of celery salt
Add to the pot, stir into the onion and garlic mixture, and let it warm up a bit.

Using a strainer, drain the liquid from 1 large can kidney or pinto beans and wash them under the tap to get all the "syrup" off them.  Add to pot and stir.

Add 1 large can crushed or diced tomatoes, juice and all.  Mix thoroughly.  Adjust seasonings if you want more spice, but be careful not to over-salt.  If you're feeling adventurous, add a teaspoon of cocoa or a dash of cinnamon.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and put on the lid.  Initially you should check on it after about 20 minutes and give it a stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.  After the tomatoes have changed from red to orange-red, it's essentially ready but it tastes better if you simmer it longer.  You can even turn off the stove altogether after about an hour and let the flavours blend, and bring the heat back up just before serving time.

Try this with strong cheese -- Grate or crumble some into the bowl just before you add the hot chili.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Aunt Tata's Almond Cookies, Mk. III

Well, after a lot of fuss and bother and experimentation (and ingredients), the secret of those ever-so-elusive and ever-so-nomnomnom Chinese almond cookies has finally been discovered.  Astreja K. has been trying to figure this one out since the mid-1960s, when the Grade 4 teacher acquired some goodies from a local restaurant to complement a geography unit on China.  It was love at first bite.  (She's still working on the Chicken Fried Rice recipe, but it's getting closer.)

This recipe is missing a couple of the decorative features of restaurant almond cookies:  The egg wash, embedded almond, and yellow food colouring have been omitted.  Feel free to add them if you wish, but the cookies work just fine without them.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream in a large bowl:

  • ¾ cup lard (traditional) or vegetable shortening (makes a slightly lighter cookie)
  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure almond extract

Combine in another bowl:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups ground almonds (preferably whole, not blanched)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Gradually add the dry mixture to the bowl with the creamed mixture of lard and sugar.  Continue mixing or kneading together until you have a firm dough -- it should hold together and not crumble.

Form the dough into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet lined with ungreased parchment paper.  Press a thumbprint into each dough ball to flatten it slightly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The cookies are done when they've flattened and spread out a bit and have crackles all over the top, and the texture should be light, dry and sandy.