Chili of Boyfriends Past

These last few weeks I haven’t just been reliving the most recent breakup in my thoughts, but every one before it. The long and short, past and recent, have ended in similar fashion – boy leaves girl #1 after lying to be with girl #2 because, at least for the short-term, girl #2 appears skinnier/funnier/prettier/wealthier/taller or just all-around the better choice.

The latter have all had an epiphany that makes them question or regret their decision. Every. Single. Time. How do I know this? Because they ultimately sought out girl #1 to say so. Maybe their guilty conscience makes it hard to sleep at night?

I really should have written a book. I could at least be independently wealthy by now.

Back when this blog was known as its previous self, I shared a recipe for chicken chili from boyfriends past. I haven’t cooked that chili again in more than two years. My thoughts wandered back to that chili when I was perusing my pins to decide what was going to be on this week’s menu. As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t felt like myself. Cooking was my therapy five years ago – the tangible when I didn’t quite know how to cope with the unfortunate situation I found myself in as a 22-year-old – and for now I don’t want much to do with it. So I just needed a pot of food that could cook itself with a few ingredients and I could reheat and eat for days. But I can’t bring myself to cook that chicken chili.

That’s how Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili was born. Unfortunately, I don’t think my nutritionist will be too impressed at my next appointment about the sausage.

Disclaimer: I’m not kidding when I say this chili is spicy! If you’re weak, I’d go the pre-packaged chili spices route to start instead of my spice measurements. But it’s the roasted red pepper and hot Italian sausage that make it different.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili

3/4-1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4-1/2 lb. hot Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
2 red bell peppers
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 Serrano chili, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes and juices
4 ounces sliced Jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-15 ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet or saute pan, brown the ground beef and sausage until meat is no longer pink and drain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice red bell peppers in half and lay flat side down on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until soft and blackened on edges. Cool until cool enough to handle and peel away skin. Chop coarsely and reserve.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook the onions, green pepper and Serrano pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes.

Add the ground beef, sausage, diced tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers, chili powder, Tabasco, oregano, paprika and cumin. Bring to a boil, then add kidney beans and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, with cover slightly ajar, for about 1 1/2 hours.

Braised Short Ribs and Goat Cheese Mash

Back in the Game with Red Wine Braised Short Ribs & Goat Cheese Mash

Welcome, old (and new) friends! I’m sure some of you remember my old blog “A Touch of Garlic.” At the end of last summer, I dropped off the face of the Earth between balancing a new job and consulting part-time for my old one, and moving. Then at the end of December when I could actually breathe again – bye, bye old job for good – and I decided 2012 would be my year, I wanted to give this blogging thing another shot since many of my friends said they missed it, or at least missed the easy access to my recipes! But it just didn’t feel right writing on the old blog – so much has changed in my life in the two years since I started it. So, I bombed the old and it’s taken me this long to get my act together. What can I say, I’ve been busy?

I went from 100+ posts down to a mere 30-some in the transfer. I wanted a fresh start so I only brought over my favorite or most popular recipes. Unfortunately, all of your comments did not make it over, so if there’s an old recipe you go back to and have a question, feel free to ask again. Some of the posts still have their photos, some do not. My photography is just horrible, so bare with it and when I make the recipe again (since I’m sure to in the next year), I’ll post hopefully a newer and better one to fill in the gaps. As for the other content – life updates, trips (or more importantly, the food I eat on trips), link roundups, decorating ideas, cooking tips – all of that will make a reappearance over time. But you can always get some of that by following me on Pinterest, too.

Now onto what I do know how to do, unlike photography: cooking. I found this on Pinterest a while back and it made me LOL.

Drinking a lot of wine alone is not lonely, it is romantic. Damn, self, you got nice eyes.

I do an inordinate amount of my wine drinking by myself. In my kitchen. In my sweatpants. In my bed. In my bathtub, or hey, even the shower (I’ve mastered that, too). I can also easily polish off a bottle of champagne or Asti for dessert. There’s something to be said about a relaxing night of me time and a bottle of wine. Last weekend I had one such night and decided to make red wine braised short ribs, too, before a phone date with my best lady friend who lives in the far away land of Albany. What a nice romantic dinner. I even got fancy and used a cloth napkin on the sofa!

So I’m in my 20s, unmarried and somehow own a Dutch oven. Don’t ask, I know this isn’t the norm. I cooked my red wine braised short ribs in the Dutch oven – a one pot shop – which did make the cooking and clean up easier, but this could easily be transferred from a large, deep pan to a crockpot or slow cooker if you don’t have one.

Braised Short Ribs and Goat Cheese Mash

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs & Goat Cheese Mash

Adapted from Bon Appétit

5 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1- 1lb. bag baby carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 cups low-salt beef stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven, or transfer to your slow cooker if you’re using one instead of a Dutch oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard. Serve over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Goat Cheese Mash

2-1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and chunked
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
4 ounces soft goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain potatoes and place back into pot. Allow them to sit over the heat for a minute or two, adding milk, butter, and goat cheese to allow them to slightly melt. Mix on slow speed with a with a hand mixer until mashed and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sirloin with Chimichurri

June Girls’ Night: Sirloin with Chimichurri and Parmigiano Polenta

Every Monday night the girls and I indulge in our guilty pleasures of good food and The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad. Or more like it’s the one night of the week we can stuff our faces with dinner and dessert (and sometimes wine!), and make snarky comments about the cheesiness of “the most dramatic season ever!”

Last week was my turn to cook dinner. We had been stuck in a rut of pizza delivery and pasta due to our busy schedules, so I had been anticipating making chimichurri using fresh basil.

Chimichurri is a marinade for grilled meats from Argentina made with parsley, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes. While chimichurri is traditionally used as a sauce for beef, it is also served well with white fish (halibut, tilapia, cod).

I chose polenta as a side dish because I wanted an alternative to potatoes, and the basil and oregano variation of chimichurri I made reminded me a lot of pesto. The chimichurri even tasted great on top of the polenta! Believe it or not, prep and cooking time for this meal clocked in at just an hour, so it ranks as a perfect weekday dinner to impress in my recipe book. And I quickly roasted zucchini and carrots seasoned with EVOO and salt and pepper alongside the sirloin in the broiler.

Sirloin with Chimichurri

Sirloin with Chimichurri

3 – 3 1/2 lbs. top sirloin roast
1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
4 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven on broil to 500 degrees. In a large roasting pan, rub 1/4 cup EVOO on the sirloin. Season generously with sea salt and pepper. Pour water and white vinegar into bottom of roasting pan for basting. Roast sirloin in oven for approximately 30 minutes, basting occasionally for medium-rare to medium temperature, or until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees.

In a food processor or blender, combine parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup EVOO, red wine vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes. Pulse until ingredients combine to create a smooth sauce.

Parmigiano Polenta

2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 cup polenta (also called cornmeal or corn grits)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
3 tablespoons butter

In a large non-stick pan, heat EVOO and saute red onion until translucent on medium heat. Add garlic and saute for another 3-4 minutes until fragrant, being careful not to burn garlic.

Add chicken stock or broth and bring to a boil. Combine polenta and lower heat. Simmer and stir frequently until polenta becomes thick and smooth. Before serving, add butter and Parmigiano to melt into a creamy mixture.

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

There’s a book called “Like Water for Chocolate.” The main character, Tita, communicates her love and emotions through the food she cooks, flavoring each dish based on her feelings–hopes, expectations and desires. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized I am, in this sense, Tita.

I’ll be honest with you all. I was supposed to have a date Saturday evening. This was the first time in a very long time I was genuinely excited about a date. Cooking for someone I have found is something I guard as very private. It is my greatest passion and I don’t want to share it with just anyone. I invested a lot of thought into what I was going to cook for my date. I knew we both had a love of Italian food, and wanted to pour all my effort into creating not only a casual and romantic meal, but a new dish that wasn’t defined by any recipe I’ve ever read.

The menu: roasted artichoke salad with arugula, fresh mozzarella and olive oil; gnocchi with brasato al barolo ragu sauce; and limoncello panna cotta with blueberries. Let’s not forget a very expensive bottle of wine to top it off.

Much to my disappointment the date was canceled… at the 11th hour. Approximately 20 hours into cooking. The best thing that came out of this was that while I had already made the tomato base of the ragu sauce, I hadn’t cut the brasato al barolo yet. I feel bad for that poor piece of beef sitting on the cutting board with my santoku knife now…

I’m very fortunate to have a great group of girl friends who canceled their own plans for the evening to come and eat my dinner by candlelight, drink wine and go out to the bar.

I will admit, I truly think this is the best dinner I have ever cooked. I felt pressured my cooking wasn’t going to live up to my guest’s expectations. I certainly had nothing to worry about. I don’t know when I’ll ever cook this again. Recipes can become both good and bad memories, just like a photograph. So enjoy this one for me and only share it with someone special (it does take two days to make after all!). In the meantime, I think my future dates are going to have to settle for Ellio’s Pizza slices out of the box (yes, the pizza you’re served in the school cafeteria) until I’m ready to share.

Note: Today’s recipe is Gnocchi with Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce. I will post the Limoncello Panna Cotta with Blueberries recipe on Tuesday, and the Roasted Artichoke Salad on Wednesday.

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

Brasato al Barolo Ragu Sauce

3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2-12 oz. cans tomato paste + 2 cans water per can of paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Chopped basil

Brasato al Barolo

2-2 1/2 lb. boneless eye-of-round beef roast or other lean cut
2 cups Barolo wine
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 slices prosciutto, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, chopped with their juices

1 package gnocchi
Basil for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese

The tomato sauce for this recipe comes from my Big Nona’s (great-grandmother’s) kitchen. My mom would say it tastes best if you prepare the tomato sauce at least one day in advance, cool completely and refrigerate before serving.

In a large pot, coat the entire bottom with EVOO. Add the minced garlic, sliced onion and crushed red pepper. Cook on medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes until onions are completely softened.

Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes, stirring frequently scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the tomatoes from sticking. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until flavors can combine.

Add tomato paste and two cans of water per can of tomato paste to the tomato base. Add salt, pepper, sugar and basil. Stir and cook until contents reach a near boil. Lower temperature to low heat and cover with a tilted lid, allowing steam to escape. This will help thicken the sauce. Simmer stirring frequently to keep from burning for 90 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate.

Place the beef roast in a large glass bowl. Add wine, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt. Cover and refrigerate allowing to marinate for a minimum of 6-7 hours.

Remove beef roast from marinade and dry completely, reserving marinade. Heat EVOO and butter in a large skillet on medium heat and add prosciutto. Once prosciutto has started to sizzle, place the beef roast in the pan. Brown and sear on each side for approximately 3 minutes.

Remove beef roast from the pan and place in a crockpot or slow cooker. Pour reserved marinade into the slow cooker, plus chopped plum tomatoes and their juices, and cook for several hours until beef begins to “pull away.” Note: This took approximately 5-6 hours in my slow cooker.

Begin to reheat the tomato sauce on medium heat. Once beef roast is cooked, slice and pull away the roast into shreds. Add the beef roast, carrots and celery to the tomato sauce. Simmer on medium-low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours. The meat will become more tender and fall apart in the sauce.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook gnocchi as instructed. Pour brasato al barolo ragu sauce over gnocchi, and garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Skirt Steak

French Bistro Skirt Steak with Shallots and Red Wine Reduction Sauce

My parents just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. I can’t quite fathom 30 years yet, considering I wasn’t even a thought 30 years ago. My younger sister and I decided to surprise our parents with dinner, champagne and cake. This translated to me cooking and my sister setting the table. On the menu was French bistro skirt steak with shallots and red wine reduction sauce, champagne risotto, and sauteed asparagus.

I had never cooked skirt steak until I took a French cooking class about a year ago. Cut from the beef flank, the skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle (which lies between the abdomen and chest cavity), and is one of the tastiest and most affordable cuts of steak (about $9.99/lb.). It’s a long, flat piece of meat that’s flavorful but rather tough. Properly cooked, skirt steak can be quite tender and delicious, but is also one of the easiest cuts of meat to overcook quickly and ruin. For all my fellow meat eaters who squirm at the sight of fat (agh!), don’t worry! While this cut is well marbleized, it literally melts off when cooked (trust me, I was the kid who dissected their meat before eating it). Recently, skirt steak has also become quite fashionable because of the Southwestern dish, fajitas.

Skirt Steak

There are two ways to cook the skirt steak: to marinate it for a long time to tenderize it, then cook it for a longer time over lower heat, or to crank up the heat and sear it for just a few minutes on each side. It can either be quickly grilled, or stuffed, rolled and braised. In bistro-style cooking, it is pan-fried on the stove and then served with sauteed shallots.

A lot of grocers will pound the skirt steak before you buy it making it a very, very thin cut. For his recipe, the skirt steak should be about 1 1/2- to 3-inches thick or more. You can explain to the butcher at the grocery store what you are making and they should be able to pull a few pieces from the back that haven’t been pounded. I’ve had best luck finding skirt steak at Whole Foods in the DC area.

French Bistro Skirt Steak with Shallots and Red Wine Reduction Sauce

2-3 skirt steaks (about 2 lbs., as pictured)
4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 ounces cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO

Pat dry skirt steaks with paper towels or dish cloth. Season generously on both sides with sea salt and black pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cooking. Note: Sea salt has a cleaner, saltier flavor compared to table salt. It will keep you from over-salting food after cooking and is the preferred method of seasoning when grilling meats.

Skirt Steak Seasoned with Sea Salt

Simmer shallots, red wine and red wine vinegar on medium heat into a syrup. The shallots will begin to absorb the red wine and turn red in color, approximately 20 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and reduce by simmering half way. Reserve until ready.

Shallots and Red Wine Reduction Sauce

Heat EVOO in a stainless steel pan on medium to medium-high heat. Do not use non-stick. You will be pan searing the skirt steak and will want it to brown. Skirt steak about 2-inches thick should be seared 6-7 minutes on each side to be cooked until temperature is medium-rare. Skirt steak should not be cooked above medium temperature.

After skirt steak is removed from pan, reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the pan you seared the skirt steak. Deglaze the pan, and pour brown bits and chicken stock into red wine reduction sauce. Reheat and swirl cubed butter into red wine reduction sauce.

Slice skirt steak, pour red wine reduction sauce over top and garnish with parsley.

Come back tomorrow for part two… champagne risotto!