Monday, November 26, 2007

Chili for a Chilly Day

Its Sunday morning, the temperatures have plummeted here in Arizona (for you non-Arizonans, that means that the highs are only around 70 and the lows are in the 40s), so it seemed like a good day for chili. Oddly enough, I came across this recipe earlier in the day while flipping through the latest Williams Sonoma catalog. Even better, this was a recipe for which we had all the ingredients on hand: leftover turkey (check), fresh oregano (check), anaheim chilis (check, courtesy of our CSA), fresh cilantro (ditto).

White Turkey Chili (Adapted from Williams Sonoma)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 lb Anaheim chilies, roasted, peeled, and diced
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 lb diced cooked turkey
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano
4 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp cornmeal

In large pan over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add cumin and garlic; cook, stirring, ~30 seconds. Stir in chilies and broth. Reduce heat to simmer. Stir in turkey, beans, oregano, and cilantro. Put cornmeal into a small bowl, stir into turkey mixture. Cover and simmer for ~1 hour.
Ladle into bowls for serving.

So, what's the verdict? We were pleasantly surprised...what started out as a way to use up some of our ingredients turned out perfectly. Football is on the TV (of course the Cardinals managed to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory"), its a cool fall day outside, and we have a bowl of chili to warm up...a great ending to the Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Easy Entertaining

Scott and I love to entertain. Whether it's a Friday night cocktail party, or hosting a formal dinner party. Planning, cooking, and socializing over cocktails are some of my favorite activities. Having the right mix of complicated and noncomplicated dishes makes it fun for the host as well.

I'm all about taking a few shortcuts to make an impressive spread. Here is an easy idea that I bring out this time of the year, that looks festive, tastes great, and is as easy as spreading cheese.
Use your favorite spreadable cheese like Boursin. Put about a tablespoon on each endive leaf. Arange in a circle and sprinkle some chopped chives or parsley. In the center of the circle, you can add dried cranberries, canned artichoke hearts, or whatever you like.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Very seldom will you see anything that I bake pictured on this blog. I am terrible at baking, and most of it is for the dogs. This time however, it was intentionally so. I made this simple foolproof recipe for Chase's 3rd birthday.

Banana "Pup"cakes

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole wheat or regular flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Mix bananas, applesauce, and oil together, then beat in eggs.
2. Toss in all the dry ingredients, and beat until well mixed.
3. Pour into muffin pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Makes 16-18 "pupcakes"

Chase approved "frosting"

1/4 cup cream cheese
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp honey

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Frost the "pupcakes."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Suprise - great wine and food pairing

After a full day of weekend errands, shopping the Farmer's Market, and stocking up on wine at our favorite wine shop, we had a refrigerator full of fresh local veggies, and a nice peice of fresh halibut. While I typically go for Asian flavors with halibut and seabass, I had a craving for something more substantial. With fresh tomatoes, fennel and onions crowding the crisper drawer, it was easy to switch gears from my usual ginger-soy Asian influence to something more "provencal."

As I was dreaming up the perfect mix of ingredients and flavor, Scott was delegated to pick a wine for the evening. Not an easy task, when you consider that I asked for something on the lighter side, but not white, and something that we hadn't had recently. (And I will also mention, that out of the 35 bottles we have in the wine cooler, we didn't have one pinot noir or other "light red.") Scott pulled out one of our impulse buys earlier that day. Another "mysterious" wine for us, the Salmon Run had no other information on the label other than 'red table wine.' That, and that it was bottled by Frank and Sons in New York. We love the mystery of not knowing what to expect. Sometimes we are disappointed, sometimes happily suprised. This evening it was the latter. The first suprise was the color. Light, almost transparent, it was reminscent of a young pinot or beaujolais. Skeptical, I took a wiff - then a sip. Cherry and other ripe berries exploded right off. Somewhat off dry, extremely fruit forward, but ending with just a hint of cinnamon and spice, I set the glass down. It took me a minute to process what I was tasting. I was expecting a dry, tannic red. I wasn't sure if it reminded me more of the cheap table wines my parents drank when I was a kid, or a grown up, sophisticated dry rose. After another sip, and thinking about the food we were going to be eating, I decided this was actually going to go quite well with our dinner. As I said, the label indicated that it was a red table wine, and I think I got what that meant. It wasn't competing with food, but it was an easy to drink background flavor. Light enough to pair with the provencal style halibut, and fruity enough to complement the greens and beets that we were having along side. In fact, sipping it as an apertif was quite enjoyable.

Halibut - Provencal Style

olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 cups peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine (I actually used 1/2 cup red and 1/2 cup white)
2 Tbsp. chopped pitted, kalamata olives
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp capers
1 Tbsp or more, canned artichoke hearts, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup water (or as needed)
2 6-8 oz halibut fillets (or other firm white fish)

Heat oil in a large oven proof pan over med-high heat. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add onion, fennel and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoe and the rest of the ingredients, through bay leaf. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Stir in water.

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and place fish on top of onion mixture. Wrap handle of skillet with foil. Cover and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or utnil fish flakes eaily when tested with a fork Discard bay leaf.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trick or Treat

While it may seem like our philosophy is along the lines of "never miss a chance to torment the dog", that's not exactly true. But what better opportunity than Halloween to have fun with a Golden Retriever that has too much personality and energy to be just a dog? In honor of the festivities, Chase donned his bow tie and decided to go as a butler (or was it maitre 'd?) After a few moments of primping and adjusting, Chase grabbed his pumpkin and was ready to go around the neighborhood collecting goodies.
All kidding aside, Chase did greet the kids at the door (sometimes a little to friendly), and even managed to drop a lollipop into one neighbor's grab bag!

After things died down, it was time for the "adult" portion of the evening. We opened up the GatoNegro Merlot -- Black Cat Merlot for those of you that forgot your high school Spanish lessons. Gato Negro is a from Chile (hence the Spanish) and was an inexpensive impulse buy in late October. Our past experience with Chilean wines hasn't been phenomenal, so we started with fairly low expectations on this bottle. Even with that in mind, by itself the wine was a bit disappointing -- somewhere between a cheap Italian red and a too young Australian wine. I came across this on the web site, which may explain it a little bit: "This renowned brand of Chilean wine was born in the 1960s through the genius of a German winemaker at the time." While Germans make some great Reislings, I'm not sure that applies as well to the world of reds. We decided to let the wine breathe a bit as we made dinner.

We opted for a little "treat" of our own -- some homemade pizza of course. Using our homemade dough, we topped it with carmelized onions and shitake mushrooms, port-soaked figs, fresh arugula (from our CSA), and blue cheese. After baking to perfection (minus a few interruptions from the stragglers of the neighborhood still looking for more free candy), we ended up with the spectacular pie below.
Now back to that wine. Sipped alone it didn't have a lot going on, when paired with food the GatoNegro was quite enjoyable. It had a nice balance -- not too spicy, or too tannic, just a litle acidity, and a fairly good finish -- to go well with the pizza and to stand up to the arugula. Overall, it was a nice Halloween wine!