Monthly Archives: October 2009

Beans? No Beans?

Who cares? I find it funny that anyone would try to be a “purist” about a food originated by cowboys and prison cooks. We’re a little late in the game to be claiming that any one recipe is the genuine article. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say that chili is not meant to be a showcase for bison or kobe beef or arugula. Chili is cheap, filling, and full of spicy goodness. It’s a stew for cheap cuts of meat that fall apart into delicious threads of flavor run through with spice. To me, chili is a quintessential comfort food. It’s an anti-fancy dish that stands athwart the bulwarks of haute-cusine yelling Stop.

My chili is always a little different each time I make it, depending on what I have on hand, but it’s something that I make at least once every fall (along with borscht, but we’ll come to that later). Without further ado:

Chili con Carne

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Homebrewed Wheat Thins

I brew a fair bit of beer in my spare time. There are basically two ways to make your own beer- the first uses pre-prepared malted grain extract, and is about as complicated as pouring a jug of molasses into boiling water and leaving it for an hour. That’s the way that I started, and I made some satisfying beers. This summer, though, I started making beer from whole grain. The process takes longer, but I enjoy the feeling of control, and I really like the beer that I make.

One side benefit of brewing beer from grain is the large quantity of “spent grain” left over. I generally use between 10 and 15 pounds of grain every time I brew, and the brewing process only removes the sugar and a few proteins. Most of the nourishing complex carbohydrates and proteins are left behind in the husk.

There are many breweries across the country that are beginning to market “spent grain” recipes in their pubs. Many suggest that they do so to “recycle” and be eco-concious. I suspect that most are hoping to hit a double: get the benefits of good marketing that come from being perceived as environmentally friendly, and save money on flour down at the pub.

In any case, brewing results in a pile of spent grain. It’s great for composting, but it’s tasty to eat as well. There are not a lot of spent grain recipes out there, even on brewing websites, so I’ve adapted a few whole grain recipes for my own ends. This is one such recipe:
Spent grain crackers and Irish chedder

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Taking Stock


I make a lot of stocks and sauces in the fall. Fresh vegetables, a cool house, and freezer with room all say “make stock!” to me. Ok, the freezer never has room, but that doesn’t stop me. I grew up in a large household, and I remember helping my dad make broth from the leftover bones of roast chicken and turkey. These days, I pick up bone-in chicken breasts on $1/pound sales and fillet them myself, saving the bones and scraps for stock. Suck it, co-op.

I always start with a traditional base of browned carrots, onions and celery which a foodie might call “mirepoix”. I always hated cookbooks and cooks who call food by foreign names for no other reason than to sound fancy. You are not in France. Your dish is called “Eggplants and Zucchini”, not “Augberines et Courgette”. I find lawyers have a similar tendency, although “ex post facto” does sound quite a bit more interesting than “after the fact”.

Anyway. If I have spare time I might roast the veggies and chicken bones in the oven for an hour or so- it adds flavor, but it’s not necessary. I try to keep tasty kitchen scraps around for when I make stock- hard cheese rinds like Manchego or Parmesan go into the freezer, as do fresh herb stems like thyme or tarragon. There’s no “secret” to great stock. Don’t over season it- stock exists to be a base for the flavors of whatever you make with it, not to act as the last refuge of your kosher salt crystals.

Add everything to a pot and fill with water. I usually try to fill my 2 1/2 gallon pot about halfway with bones, scraps and veggies before filling it with water. Simmer the stock for a couple hours and set it aside to cool. I like to strain mine through wire mesh, then pick bits of meat off the bones for chicken noodle soup or chicken pot pie later. I freeze the stock in muffin trays. Once they freeze,dip the base of the tray in hot water. The cubes release easily, and you are left with easy-to-use  half- cup stock blocks.

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Tuna got nothing on this:

Salmon cakes

Salmon Cakes

(original recipe from Jay Harlow’s West Coast Seafood)

  • 2 cups salmon
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • dash lemon juice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter

I like to take the bones after filleting salmon and bake them for 30 minutes or so. The meat flakes right off the bone, and even a 5-pound fish will supply enough meat for this recipe. If you have the head, don’t forget to flake out the cheek meat. Chop the meat roughly and do another pass through looking for bones. Mix in the parsley, dill, lemon juice, bread crumbs and salt and pepper if desired. Stir in the egg. Split recipe into fourths, then roll each portion into a ball and flatten it into a patty.

Saute the onion in the butter over medium heat. Once the onion begins to soften, lay the patties out on top of the onion. Cook them for several minutes, then flip them and cook until the onion browns. Makes 4 patties. Serve with salad or on a bun.

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The Beginning of Things

We might as well start by talking about food, right?

It’s fall. We’re eating the last of last season’s squash to make room for the almost-ripe pumpkins (we’re covering them every night to keep the frost from nipping them).

Lunch today was paprika-spiced kabocha pumpkin soup, with smoked mozzarella and avocado turkey panini. The avocado cut the smokiness of the cheese, which paired beautifully with the spicy, creamy soup. All I needed was a dark ale like Deschute’s Jubelale for my day to be complete.

Pumpkin Soup with Smoked Paprika

(Original recipe from

  • 1 4-5 pound kabocha pumpkin
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped, about 2 cups
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 large tart green apple (Granny Smith) peeled, cored, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  • Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out guts, and lay cut side down on baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until soft (45 min to an hour). Let cool and scoop out the flesh.
  • Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened (about 4 minutes). Add smoked paprika, cayenne, and cumin and stir for a minute more.
  • Add chopped apple, pumpkin, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the apples are cooked (about 20 minutes).
  • Using an upright or immersion blender, process soup until smooth.
  • With soup on low heat, slowly add the milk and cream, stirring to incorporate. Add salt to taste. Adjust other seasonings to taste. Garnish with chopped or whole fresh sage and Boursin cheese.

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