Category Archives: modern and contemporary

Chile con Carne

Chile con Carne

Adapted from an original chili queens recipe in the Institute of Texas Cultures research library. Although the allspice and tomato additions are not in the original, they add a touch of natural sweetness that balances out the heat. To learn about the history of chile read my story, A Pot of Chili and the Invention of Tex-Mex Cuisine.

For the spice powder:
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

For the chili sauce:
4 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
4 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 dried chipotle chile, stems and seeds removed (add more for a spicy chili)
2 chiles de árbol, stems and seeds removed (add more for a spicy chili)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 ½ pounds pork shoulder, cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 12-ounce bottle of dark beer, optional

grated cheddar cheese
minced onion

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds. Put in a hot, dry pan and stir until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool then put in a spice grinder along with the allspice, oregano and garlic powder. Grind finely and set aside.

Stem and seed the chilies. Put in a bowl, cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes until soft and pliable. Remove from the water and blend with the broth, tomato sauce and salt.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Salt the meat. Working in small batches, sear the meat on all sides. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté until translucent and they begin to caramelize. Add the spice blend and salt to taste.

Add ½ cup beer and scrape up the brown bits. Reduce completely then add the chili sauce and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and let it reduce slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Return the meat to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring frequently and adding more liquid—dark beer preferred—if needed.

Serve as is as the chili queens would, or garnish with onion and grated cheddar cheese. Adding beans to chile con carne is sacrilegious, but it’s okay to serve beans on the side.

Serves 6 to 8

image by Antonio Diaz

Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water

Persian Almond Cake with Saffron and Rose Water

Travelers to ancient Persia feared eating saffron-laced cuisine. It was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac and consuming too much could make you so happy could literally die.

canola oil, for greasing
14 ounces sugar
½ teaspoon finely ground saffron
3 tablespoons rose water
2 ¼ pounds blanched almond flour, sifted
2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds

Lightly grease a 9½x13-inch baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil, then line with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.

In a small pot, bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and rose water, and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.

Transfer the syrup to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is foamy and thickened, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the almond flour and mix until you have a thick, homogeneous paste.

Transfer the paste to the prepared pan, place a sheet of greased parchment paper on top (oiled side down), and use your hands to flatten the paste. (It should be about 2 inches thick.) Using a rolling pin, flatten the paste further and even out the surface, then transfer to the fridge (still covered with parchment paper) for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

Oil a long knife, then cut the cake into 25 diamond-shaped pieces. In a small bowl, stir together the pistachios and cardamom, then garnish each diamond with a generous pinch of the pistachio mixture. Serve immediately, or transfer in a single layer to an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and serve within 1 week.

Makes 25 pieces
(recipe from Saveur)

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup

“Sophisticated, delicately flavored… to help your reputation as a hostess.” – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, 1950 on Cream of Cucumber Soup

Betty Crocker’s original recipe has a can of mushroom soup. This is a 21st century version adapted from the New York Times.

1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup water
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 anchovy fillets
2 scallions, trimmed
½ jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro)
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar, more to taste
¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

In a blender, combine cucumber, yogurt, water, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, herbs, sherry vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning. Chill.

Serve chilled soup garnished with fresh minced herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4

image:  Megan Griffith

Roasted Peaches with Pine Nuts and Amaretti Crumble

Roasted Peaches with Pine Nuts and Amaretti Crumble

Peaches have been cultivated and revered by the Chinese since 1100 BC. The peach’s deep cleft and sweet juices symbolized female genitals. In contemporary China, brides wear wreaths of peach blossoms in celebration of fertility.

Pine nuts have been consumed to boost libido for millennia. The ancient Roman medical scholar Galen recommended eating 100 pine nuts before bedtime. Just like oysters, they are high in zinc, which has been linked to a healthy sex drive.

5 amaretti cookies
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
3 ripe peaches, washed, halved and pitted
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold the peach halves snuggly.

Combine cookies, pine nuts, flour and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until cookies and pine nuts are coarsely chopped. Add butter to processor and pulse mixture until moist clumps form.

Place peach halves, cut side up, in the buttered baking dish. Spread topping over surface of each peach half (about 1 generous tablespoon for each), pressing lightly to adhere.

Bake peaches until tender when pierced with knife and topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly and serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6