dark days #19: eat like the locals chili

For the penultimate Dark Days winter eating local challenge this week, I’m showing off an adaptation of one of my favorite winter recipes.  The chili recipe isn’t remotely authentic to places that eat meat stews with chili peppers, but it’s my souped-up version of the Midwestern-style chili enjoyed in my younger days. With our variable spring weather, it’s just the thing after a cold, wet day of mucking about.

I feel very attached to the original chili recipe; indeed, it was one of my earliest Culinaria Eugenius recipes.  But the additives (sugar, salt) to canned kidney beans and a whopping 3/4 cups of processed A-1 steak sauce, plus a bit of ketchup, always bothered me.  One of the main reasons I underwent the messy, time-consuming process of making homemade ketchup last summer was in hopes of modifying this recipe in sufficiently tasty, locally sourced way.  I think I was a success.  I use quite a bit more homemade ketchup (1/2 cup, but I’d even go up to 3/4 cup), so the chili has a slight sweetness, and the allspice and coriander in the ketchup add subtlety to the mix.  I also added some onion powder and cumin to add more nuances.  Using a spicy dark beer (I used a local Christmas ale) rather than a lighter beer helped, too.  I played with the idea of adding things like molasses, more dark soy (with its molasses taste), orange zest or raisins (both ingredients in A-1) to align the local version with the original, but you know what?  I think it’s good enough as it is.

Yes, I still eat my chili with non-local saltines (or salted matzoh, as the case may be), and several of the spices are not local — most notably, the chipotles en adobo.  I might try to make the latter myself this year, since I always have plenty of jalapeños, and can smoke the chilis with our Weber.  We shall see.  But it remains crucial to use chipotles in adobo, since they add a strong smoky, chili-fleshed, garlicky, vinegary taste that is not easy to replicate.

This stew is very spicy, be warned.

I cannot for the life of me remember which farm grew the beautiful local kidney beans I used for this recipe.  I bought them months ago at Sundance market, and uncharacteristically, I threw away the label on the little baggie before writing down the name.  So thanks, farmers, whoever you are, for such a lovely bean.  (Anyone know the farm? Lost Creek Farm!  They’re the folks who suffered the freak hail storm last year that wiped out all their tender veggies.)  It wouldn’t have been the same with pintos or black beans, but you can, of course, substitute any hearty, thick-skinned dried bean.

Now excuse me while I sit back on my local laurels and feel very well pleased with my own fine locavore self.

Almost Plebian Chili Eat Like the Locals Chili

2 lbs. hamburger meat (lower fat better) (1 lb. local hamburger meat — I used Knee Deep Farms)
1 large yellow onion, chopped (local farm, storage)

1 T. chili powder (non-local)
1 t. black pepper (non-local)
1 t. onion powder (non-local)
1 t. cumin (non-local)

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes with puree (or substitute can of diced tomatoes and a half-can of tomato paste) 1 quart homemade tomato purée
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed (try to buy ones without added sugar) 4-5 cups cooked local dried kidney beans (under a lb. dried)
3/4 c. steak sauce AND 2 T. catsup (this is the “almost plebian” part) 1/2 cup homemade ketchup
2 T. Dijon (non-local)
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced a good slug of homemade lemon-garlic vinegar
3 or 4 canned chipotles in adobo, plus some sauce, chopped (don’t omit) (non-local)
1 T. sesame seeds (non-local)
1 T. dark soy sauce (especially if you’re not using beer) (non-local)
1 bottle beer or 1 cup water 1 bottle local dark, spicy beer (I used part of a 22-oz. bottle of Oakshire’s Ill-Tempered Gnome)

Note:  this recipe calls for cooked kidney beans.  Prepare the dried kidney beans by soaking them overnight, then cooking them in water doctored with a half of an onion, a carrot, and a couple of bay leaves until centers are creamy (1 hour or more).  Beans must be fully cooked before using them for this recipe.

Brown (A) on high heat in a dutch oven, preferably in two batches, but I’m not lookin’. Drain meat of extra grease. Turn down heat to medium low and add (B) to coat meat. Stir in (C), then cook for about 1 hour, covered, at a simmer. Tastes better the next day. Add salt only if necessary (and it probably will be if you localized the ingredients) and add more beer or water if the chili is not as soupy as you would like. Usually doesn’t need it, but if you use low-salt kidney beans or use less processed substitutes for the steak sauce and catsup (which I don’t recommend in this recipe), you’ll need salt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if that strikes your fancy, and/or pickled peppers. I prefer straight-up saltines and a beer chaser.

kitchen quickies classes: $5 a throw!

I’m so pleased to announce the new series of low-cost OSU Extension Master Food Preserver classes in Eugene.  As many of you know, OSU Extension is undergoing severe financial pressures with the reduction of local funding, and there will be a bond measure on the ballot this May to keep Extension alive. To showcase some of our offerings, the MFP volunteers are hosting a series of special, cut-rate classes this spring.  Please sign up right away if you’re interested!  Having an experienced cook available to provide tips you won’t find on the internet and answer your individual questions makes these classes invaluable.

I’m particularly excited about the pie classes, since I know I need some help on my pie crusts, and about the summer sausage class, since my husband loves this picnic classic, but each and every class will be excellent.

Which one am I teaching?  Why, thanks for asking! I’m offering the March 29 “Roll Your Own Sushi” class.  Sushi originated in Japan as a preservation technique and convenience food, and it’s now enjoyed around the world.  I’ve lived in Japan and have a degree in Japanese literature, but more importantly, I can roll a mean sushi roll.  We’ll discuss sushi’s history, then delve into buying sushi ingredients in Eugene, making perfect sushi rice and homemade pickled ginger, and hosting a sushi party.  You will practice rolling techniques for hosomaki (small rolls) and temaki (hand rolls, the ones that look like ice cream cones).  We’ll be using vegetable fillings, so vegetarians, vegans, and raw fish averse participants are warmly welcome.  By the time we’re done, you will want to host your own sushi party!

OSU Extension Service – Lane County
Master Food Preserver Program

A new series of classes being offered for only $5.00 per class!!

March 29, 6-8 PM – Roll Your Own Sushi (taught by me!)

April 9, 6-8 PM – Perfect Pies and Pie Crusts

April 15, 9:30 – 11:30 am – Ancient Grains

April 30, 6-8 PM – Stuff It! Savory Pies

May 1, 10 AM- noon – Going Nuts!

May 7, 6-8 PM – Oodles of Noodles

May 8, 10 am – noon – Summer Sausage

May 13, 6-8 PM – Simply Sauerkraut

To register for any or all of these classes and find out more, just download the online registration sheet.

dark days #18: in lieu of a local meal — a dream of summer meals

Let’s face it folks, this is the dreariest part of late winter for locavores.  We’re tired of eating local meat-laden stews, and besides, the potatoes, onions, garlic, and winter squash are all in their death throes.  The Months of Kale are just beginning, and that brings with it a new ennui, but for now, let me just say that I’m tired of non-green things.

I’ve been dodging rain showers and slugs to do my spring garden cleanup this week, so I thought I’d share some of my plans for future local meals in lieu of a proper winter eating Dark Days challenge post.  The garden is at its least picturesque this time of year, but I always take a few shots so I can remember that spring hopes usually come to fruition later in the summer.

Berries are the most promising this year.  I’m finally in the magic third year for my raspberries.  I should have a good crop this year. I’m not sure I have enough sun for part of the row, but all looks good for the blackcaps and Meekers in the front.  My strawberry patch is well-established now, too.  My new haskapberry (also known as honeyberry, see photo to left) hedge in the front is blooming and growing like crazy.  I’ve planted a couple of salal starts.  I have a fantasy of making a hedgerow jam just as they do in England, but mine will be blackcap raspberry-honeyberry-salal.  I also planted some red currants in the front, and I can’t wait to play with them.  Currants, like gooseberries are so hard to find here because of their fragility, so one really does need to grow them.

I planted two kinds of peas: the ubiquitous ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ and ‘Waverex.’  I’ll add some ‘Cascadia’ in a couple of weeks for variety, I think.  I’m still working on my lettuce bed.  I bought several kinds of leaf lettuce and chicories from Gathering Together Farm in Philomath last year.  (It’s a wonderful organic working farm and restaurant, and you should go for a meal.)  I’m the first person to complain about salads, but I’m much more inclined to eat them when they’re full of unusual and sturdy leaves.  So we shall see what kind of salad love I’ll be able to create. I’m still loving my arugula.

My onions and garlic starts are doing quite well, and are the herbs.  My caraway wintered over, and it’s now producing a flower head.  I’m really looking forward to having my own caraway seed.  I’ve yet to plant my ‘Mammoth’ dill seed, but the fennel is already up and running in two places in the garden.  I’m trying to decide if I need to plant more lemon thyme, or if I should just hope for the best with the scraggly old plant that was crowded out by the much more vigorous French thyme last year.

Spring artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables, but I am not sure I’ll have them this year.  I lost one of my two ‘Green Globe’ plants this winter, and the other is now hidden behind a rosemary bush that’s finally grown too high.  I planted more in the front (‘Imperial Star’) and they say they produce in the first year, but I dunno.

I’ve also put in some ‘Jersey Knight’ asparagus, a gift from my neighbor.  That’s a far-off dream.

I’m still holding out hope for my ‘January King’ cabbages that are scraggly (to the right).  The aphids seem the only species around here that is happy with their progress.  I squished a bunch for that unpopular view, hoping that Pat Patterson’s technique for releasing aphid squish scent into the air for predators would work.  Yeah, I know.  I’ll likely pull them and put in ‘Detroit’ beets. Or cucumbers.  I’m pretty much satisfied with ‘Cool Breeze’ for summer eating and pickling, so I’m going to stick with that variety.

Still trying to figure out where I’m going to put in all of the heirloom beans I bought last year and this spring, having forgotten I had some from last year.  Hutterite soup bean!  Orca!  Vermont cranberry!  Scarlet runner!  Yelloweye!  I think I only have one row for beans, too.  Hm.

I do have, however, a nice old galvanized garbage can for growing potatoes this year.  I’m rather unreasonably pleased by this development.  Will keep you updated.

And tomatoes and peppers, right?  I make dark promises about nightshades each year, and find myself in a frenzy of gluttony no matter what kinds of reasonable goals and lists I make.  So all I’m going to say is that I have a brilliant pepper bed (to the left) and two tomato beds.  I want ‘Saucey’ plums, ‘Sungold’ cherries, and a black slicer or two for tomatoes.  For peppers, I need many, many, many lovely red Hungarian peppers, jalapeños, and anaheims.  And we’ll see what else develops.  I think I’m also going to grow a Japanese or Italian eggplant, so I can make more ajvar.  The stuff I froze last year was great.

You can also see my tiny ‘Desert King’ fig tree, which sustained some frost damage this year (center) and my newly transplanted elderberry tree (upper right corner) that I’m hoping will do better in the back than it did in the front.  It’s also closer to its sister elderberry, on the opposite end of the back yard, so I’m hoping for more pollination action.

So that’s my summer vegetable and fruit forecast.  Dreams of summer meals.  What are you planning to plant?  Some of you have already commented on my Facebook page, and I’d love to hear more!

term done!

Finished the second of three quarters in the academic year yesterday.  My class, HC222: The Rise of Culinary Literature, exposed students to 18th century aesthetics, the Industrial Revolution, the birth of the women’s magazine, WWI and WWII rationing in Europe and America, fascism, colonialism, modernism, and the “postindustrial” American diet advocated by Michael Pollan.  The students were asked to study for the final by using the tools of the trade:

I felt a little ashamed at the grocery store buying some of these items (you guess which ones).  But a good time was had by all.

So, did you catch the mention of Culinaria Eugenius in Cheryl Rade’s article on Eugene food bloggers in yesterday’s Register-GuardWell, you can now! Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start your own local food blog, now that mine is fueled by Spaghetti-Os?

dark days #17: savory delicata squash leek bread pudding

My much-needed break this weekend turned into a ninth inning rally that found me in bed on Saturday with a stomachache, working on food.  A strangely felicitous combination.  I made progress on my proposal for a panel for a titanic conference that doesn’t accept many of these little rafts of folks clinging to one theoretical lifeboat; we’ll hope for the best.  Women and children first!

I finally got out into my garden on Sunday, armed with new spades, forks, and a vision of edible landscaping for the front yard.  Managed to get in two bare root ‘Cherry’ red currant bushes, two ‘Imperial Star’ artichokes to replace one withered ‘Green Globe’ in the back, ‘Cherry Red’ rhubarb, and a bunch of flowers and flowering bushes. Turned the compost (cooking nicely) completely, fertilized the struggling elderberry and the honeyberry hedge-to-be, and weeded the caneberries, rhubarb in the back, and strawberries.

This, of course, means I didn’t do much cooking, local or otherwise.  I did make one local meal for the Dark Days winter eating local challenge, though.  On Friday night, I had the smarts and leftover challah to make a big casserole of Thomas Keller’s leek bread pudding recipe, and we enjoyed that with a simple salad of arugula from the garden (it’s only growing more when I pick it!) and dried local Asian pears that a friend gave to me.  I added previously roasted delicata squash — our last saved local winter squash, yay! — to the leek bread pudding, which provided a bit more nutrition and sweetness to the affair.  I think, if I were to make it again, I’d also add more leeks.  I like leeks, and they’re in the market now.  We were also able to use my now flourishing chives and thyme, local eggs, cream, and milk.

a cocktail for the last day of classes?

Don’t start too early.  But when you do, may I suggest a consommé cocktail at the Rabbit?  Read more about them in my latest article in the Eugene Weekly.  The photos of the pale, shimmery drinks were handled by EW photographers — didn’t they do a beautiful job with this Blue Moon, a cousin to the Aviation?

new article in register-guard: bake sale philanthropy!

Need your early morning donut/cupcake fix?  I explore the link between sweet baked goods and charitable giving in this morning’s food section of the Eugene Register-Guard.  The article features the cupcake club of one of my honors students and two local businesses: Holy Donuts and The Divine Cupcake.  If Voodoo Donut had been in town, the article might have even delved into the darker arts of charitable giving.  Oh well.  Next time.

dark days #16: springing for lamb

This week’s Dark Days winter eating local challenge is all about spring.  I sprung at the chance to attend a lamb butchering demo at Benedetti’s Meat Market this weekend and brought home some succulent grass-fed lamb loin and shoulder chops from Anderson Ranches in Brownsville.  (I’ll write more about the meat class later this week, but I wanted to squeak in under the DD deadline.)

Retrogrouch fired up the ol’ Weber, and I gave the ultrafresh, pliable lamb chops a sprinkle of fresh rosemary with blooming purple flowers and a slick of olive oil.  Just a hint of salt and pepper and they were good to go.  We served them as is, with some fresh mesclun salad greeens from one of the local farms patronizing our winter farmer’s market (outside Hideaway Bakery on Saturday mornings).  I’ve never had such wonderful lamb.

my easy bake oven

I haven’t been this excited by something I baked since I received my Easy Bake Oven from Santa after months of begging.  And, in contrast, my baked goods actually tasted good this time!  At the OSU Extension Master Food Preserver bread baking classes over the past two weekends, we made a range of yeasted breads, flatbreads, and crackers.  Bread shot, clockwise from top: ciabatta, “transitional” rye made with half wheat/half rye, cloud rolls, and whole wheat.  Grissini (Italian yeasted breadsticks) are on the bottom with a nude descending a staircase.

As we did in last year’s class, we used the professional kitchen at Food For Lane County instead of our usual haunt at the Extension building.  It’s a great space for many people moving around and many mixers or food processors humming to the beat.  I feel much more confident about baking bread now.  Which is good, since the quick bread I made with a laboriously roasted and pureed sweet meat squash this week did not turn out that great.  : /

In my fantasy life, in the very near future, I will be baking Polish rye, a light sourdough rye with no seeds.  It might very well be between loaves of raisin-black pepper-walnut bread that I churn out after tasting the wonderful version at Pearl Bakery in Portland yesterday and immediately knowing how to make my own.  In my real life, however, I will be grading papers.  Ah well. As much as I clung to my evangelical belief in the End Times of the relentless schedule of deadlines this term, it didn’t happen.  (Sorry to those of you who donated the annual tally of $0.11 to my church.)  We’re now in the last week of the quarter before finals week, and I’m rushing to finish up and start again immediately after spring break.  We have three terms, not two semesters, so there’s an additional turnaround of courses and students in March.  Whew.

So with this future ahead, I decided to cut my losses yesterday, and take a break before diving back in.  I was Most Deeply Pleased by the opportunity to stroll around Portland on a sunny day, picking up books and tchotchkes and Chinese food and baked goods and a wonderful cauliflower ham soup.  I’m a little disappointed that today isn’t quite as sunny, but I suppose the motivation to work should outweigh the motivation to garden, and that won’t happen if it’s nice.

So on that note, onward!