Chili with Beef and Beans

July 31, 2007


It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re eating chili. It warms you in winter and cools you in summer. It’s great on hotdogs. It turns a hamburger bun into a meal. Even the most veggie-hating kid will snarf down onions, peppers, tomatoes, and beans if you blend them into this tasty brew. SAM

3 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped (1 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (1/2 cup)
1 medium banana pepper, seeded and chopped (1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, pressed
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons molasses
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the beef. Drain off all except 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the onions and green bell, red bell, and banana peppers and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the oregano, salt, black and cayenne peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the beans, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Makes 8 servings.

COOKING TIP: Chili Toppings

July 31, 2007

You can turn a bowl of chili into a meal with a few well-chosen toppings. Start with sour cream or yogurt. Add some corn chips and diced green onions. Top it off with shredded sharp Cheddar and fresh cilantro. Or forget all of the above and garnish your chili with chopped avocado. It’s a fabulous combination.

Beer Bread

July 30, 2007


Remember Last-Minute Dinner Rolls? Here’s a quick bread you can have on the table in 40 minutes, start to finish. Slather it with sweet butter or Pimiento Cheese, or dip it into a rich, beefy chili. SAM

3 cups self-rising flour
1 tablespoon caraway seed
12 ounces dark beer
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Combine the flour, caraway seed, beer, and honey and pour into the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until browned. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Makes 12 slices.

Sun Tea

July 29, 2007


There are households in sunny climes where sun tea is a summer ritual. Set out your jar in the morning, and you’ll have fresh tea by lunchtime. Make it plain or spicy. Double or halve the recipe. However you make it, it couldn’t be simpler. You don’t even have to boil the water. SAM

1 gallon cold water
9 small tea bags
6 whole cloves (optional)
1 stick cinnamon (optional)

Pour the water into a clear, 1-gallon glass jar, add the tea bags, and the cloves and cinnamon, if desired. Screw on a tight-fitting lid and place the jar in direct sunlight. After 3 to 4 hours, remove the tea bags and spices and serve over ice with sugar, mint, or lemon.
Makes 1 gallon.

COOKING TIP: Spicing Tea

July 29, 2007

Place whole spices inside a tea ball or infuser and drop it into the tea. That way you won’t have to strain the tea to get them out.

Zucchini Cake

July 28, 2007


With zucchini, it’s all or nothing. One day you’re waiting impatiently for one to come in—the next day you have bushels. What to do with all those squash? It’s kind of like finding homes for kittens. When the neighbors start ducking behind shrubs when they see you coming with your garden basket, that’s a sign it’s time to bake Zucchini Cake! SAM

1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing

In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the zucchini and set aside to cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the zucchini, flour, sugar, oil, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla extract, and eggs. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, scraping the bowl constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the bowl occasionally. Stir in the pecans by hand and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and ice with Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing.
Makes 15 servings.

Curried Fruit

July 27, 2007


Dressed in this buttery, sweet curry sauce, even the most ordinary piece of fruit can hold its own against any Cheeseburger Pita, chili dog, or taco on the planet. Use any kind of fruit you’d like. I’ve never tried it on watermelon, but who knows? You might just invent a whole new taste treat. Let me know. SAM

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 to 2 tablespoons water, as needed
2 bananas, sliced
1 cup blueberries
2 medium peaches, peeled, cored, and diced
2 pears, peeled, cored, and diced

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the sugar, stirring occasionally until dissolved. Add the curry powder and cook for 2 minutes, thinning with water if necessary. In a mixing bowl, combine the bananas, blueberries, peaches, and pears and add the curry sauce, tossing to coat.
Makes 8 servings.

Macaroni Salad

July 26, 2007


On hot summer days, turn your favorite mac-and-cheese into a cool, refreshing salad. True, we’re adding salad-like things. And there’s not a lot a cheese. But the old, sweet comfort of macaroni is definitely the same—maybe better. ‘Come winter, we’ll figure out a way to bake macaroni salad. Hmmmm, that sounds good! SAM

8 ounces uncooked macaroni
6 large green onions and tops, thinly sliced, with 2 tablespoons of the tops reserved for garnish (3/4 cup)
2 hard-cooked eggs, roughly chopped
2 medium center ribs celery with leaves, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
4 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 (2-ounce) jar pimientos, sliced and drained
1/2 cup dill pickle relish, drained with 2 teaspoons of juice reserved
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package and drain. In a large bowl, combine the macaroni, onions less the reserved tops, eggs, celery, bacon, Parmesan, pimientos, and relish. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish, mustard, and reserved relish juice. Stir into the macaroni mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with paprika and the reserved onion tops.
Makes 6 servings.


July 25, 2007


A sandwich by any other name just might be a taco. As with pita, you can put almost anything inside a taco shell, and contrast is the key. This is a yin-yang thing: hot-mild, fat-lean, smooth-crunchy, raw-cooked. Like structural anthropology but tastier. SAM

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Hot-pepper sauce to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
12 taco shells
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole
1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, garlic, hot-pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the beef browns. Drain and divide among the taco shells. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and cheese.
Makes 12 tacos.

COOKING TIP: Fresh Herbs for Ratatouille

July 25, 2007

Instead of a bouquet garni, which you remove after cooking, flavor your ratatouille with 1 cup of loosely packed, chopped herbs. Include parsley, oregano, thyme, sweet basil, lemon basil, and/or Thai basil. Rosemary might be too strong, but maybe not. Try a few tender leaves and see what they taste like. Strip all the leaves from the stems and roughly chop the larger ones. Stir in the herbs after the ratatouille is finished and then let it sit for at least an hour.