Sunday, February 20, 2011

the ones i almost didn’t make


unusually good, these ones.  try them.  you’ll like them.

Friends of ours have a chef in the family.  A good one.  Which means dinners at their house tend to rival those eaten in restaurants; a fact I consider equal parts intimidating and thrilling.  First, there was Mexican night, with slow roasted pork shoulder and an impressive array of flavorful sauces, prepared days in advance.  Then came pizza with crust to rival all crusts, resplendent with big, beautiful air bubbles, crackly on the surface, chewy inside, scattered with toppings such as caramelized apples and onions and my favorite, roasted beet greens and shaved parmesan.  In the summer, we feasted on Provencal-style grilled mackerel, straight from the garden spicy arugula tossed with lemon and olive oil, and thick slices of country bread.  Another time, we devoured plump, juicy homemade apple sausages, delicate pasta salad with figs and tarragon and perfectly roasted vegetables.  The list goes on and on.

Needless to say, I feel the need to step up to the plate when said chef friend dines at our house.  In my book, good ingredients make up for lack of ability, so that’s pretty much been my mantra.  And truth be told, I win some, I lose some.  Regardless, I enjoy the kitchen camaraderie which generally ensues when we share a meal.  More than likely, I am a better cook now than I was before I had a chef for a friend.  And I like to think I’ll always be the better baker. 

For our upcoming dinner prepared by ‘the chef’, Indian cuisine is on the menu and, you don’t have to ask me twice, I’ll be there with bells on.  At our house we are huge fans of Indian food, though we’ve never experienced the homemade variety.  In fact, Indian friends once explained to us that many dishes served in Indian restaurants are rather labor intensive and infrequently cooked at home.  Maybe they were speaking for themselves.  I really don’t know.  Regardless, I imagine we are in for a treat.

Never one to adhere to the ‘just bring your appetite’ command, I soon took to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of masala spiced carrot macaroons to complement our Indian feast.  I first sampled one of these macaroons at a book event for a new cookie cookbook written by formidable baking maven, Alice Medrich.  The macaroon was everything it claimed to be, only I wasn’t sure whether I would ever make them.  Other cookies showcased at the event did more to float my boat.  The whole carrot-Indian spice thing was a tad unusual.  Intriguing, yes.  Out of place, to be sure.  I just couldn’t think of an occasion or meal that would warrant such an exotic little cookie.

When I heard homemade Indian, these little gems immediately came to mind.  The wild card was the use of an Indian spice blend, Garam masala, which I easily located in the bulk section of my local natural foods store.  The recipe is straightforward and quite simple.  There is an air of confidence in the way it is written as if Ms. Medrich knows you will have doubts about the end result, as I did, and intends to reassure with her no-nonsense approach .  Save for swapping out ground almonds for additional unsweetened coconut, I did not stray from the recipe.  The almond omission was done in consideration of a food allergy and did not affect the outcome of the cookies. 

My hopes soared as I formed tiny beehives with a teaspoon.  On the tray, they began looking more like cookies and less like wood pulp.  Sweet relief.  As the macaroons cooked, they filled the kitchen with an exotic, spicy sweet aroma.  When the bottoms of the cookies reached a deep, golden brown, their tops were still rather pale, so I turned the oven off and browned the tops on low broil for about 2 minutes.  That did the trick.

After they cooled slightly, I popped one in my mouth and marveled at the myriad of textures and flavors.  Crisp, lacy caramelized edges gave way to an unctuous coconut center, then came the delicate sweetness of carrot followed by the subtle heat of masala.    I ate another.  Field work, mind you, justified by carrots which are by all accounts good for you.  On second thought, these spicy one-bite wonders transcend exotic; they are simply delicious. 

carrot masala macaroons

yields 36 bite-sized cookies


3/4 cup whole almonds (substitute unsweetened coconut, if desired)
2 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Garam masala, pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 – 1/3 cups lightly packed, finely shredded carrot
3/4 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1/4 rounded teaspoon lemon zest (Meyer lemon, when available)



Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper and lower thirds.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely chopped with some variation in texture.  Set aside.  Skip this step if you are omitting the almonds.

In a medium stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy.  Stir in the sugar, masala and salt.  Add the carrot, almonds and lemon zest.  Stir until well combined.  Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the coconut to soften.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Fill a large, flat bottomed skillet with about one inch of water and set on a burner to lightly simmer.

Place the bowl directly in the pan of simmering water and stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning.  Once the mixture is hot to the touch and most of the liquid has thickened or been absorbed, about 5 – 7 minutes, remove from heat.


Drop heaping teaspoons of the mixture 1 inch apart on the parchment-lined sheets.  Form hive shapes with your fingers, if desired.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are deep golden brown and the tips of the carrot shreds begin to color.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back  at the halfway mark.  If the bottoms are brown and the tops are still pale, turn off the oven and broil the tops on low for 1 – 3 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to prevent burning.  Transfer the cookies while still on the parchment to wire racks to cool.  Best enjoyed with a steaming cup of spiced tea, such as Market Spice or Masala Chai


Be sure to cool completely before storing.  Cookies keep for 3 to 4 days, loosely covered rather than airtight, to avoid sogginess.  Do not freeze. 


Recipe adapted from ‘Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt in your Mouth Cookies’ by Alice Medrich

Friday, February 18, 2011

spiced banana bars with lemon icing


If every one of my childhood pleasures could be summed up in a single mouthful, it would taste like these spiced banana bars. 

Even if I tried, I couldn’t conjure up a single memory of actually eating them; yet I so vividly recall the way they tasted, still warm from the oven, and how the banana-spice-lemon ratio was nothing short of poetry.  Mom baked them frequently;  but never so often that we tired of their deliciousness. 

A few years ago, at my request, mom sent me a copy of the recipe for those beloved bars.  It was given to her by my great Aunt Vi, a master baker in her own right.  I successfully baked a batch for a dinner party, set the recipe aside and promptly forgot all about it.  Until now.  Now, I remember.  And maybe because I have become more confident in the kitchen, I decided to make a few small changes.  I did so with trepidation, all the while assuring myself I could return to the original recipe should I fail.

Call it fortuitousness.  Call it luck.  Perhaps a touch of culinary prowess.  I don’t know.  Bottom line, my adaptation was a walk down memory lane, only in 3D.  I did not fiddle with the measurements, mind you, only with the types of sugars and flours.  I also added a dash of freshly grated nutmeg.  I know, I know.  I am late on the bandwagon with grating the whole nutmeg; but I was nonetheless thrilled when I discovered that the do-it-yourself method far exceeds its pre-ground counterpart.

If you haven’t already, it’s high time you picked up a 5 lb. bag of whole wheat pastry flour, preferably Bob’s Red Mill.  In this recipe, I replaced 2/3 of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour and, I say this with heartfelt conviction, it added a dimension of texture and flavor that, health benefits aside, truly rocked my world.  Whole wheat is not a hippy dippy byword.  It has its place in baked goods and I can attest,  it positively shines in these bars.  For those who choose to refute my less than subtle whole wheat diatribe or if you simply don’t have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, you will do just fine to stick with all white flour.    Whatever you do, don’t use regular whole wheat flour.  It is much too coarse for these delicate bars. 

If you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend using Meyer lemons for the icing.  Their season runs November through mid-March and, although pricier than regular lemons, they are well worth the investment; albeit difficult to track down.  The Meyer lemon, a cross between a traditional lemon and a Mandarin orange, is highly aromatic, deeper in color, and sweeter in taste than regular lemons.  Revered in culinary circles, Meyer lemons are a welcome stand-in whenever a recipe calls for lemon.  Namely, this one.

spiced banana bars with lemon icing


serves 8 – 10


1 cup flour (I use 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1/3 cup white flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
2/3 cup ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas), mashed
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork 
1/4 cup milk (2% or whole)

lemon icing
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 – 1/2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Sift the dry ingredients.  You can use a sieve or a wire whisk in place of a sifter.  Set aside.  With a wooden spoon or handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the mashed banana and blend thoroughly.  Now add the egg and beat well.  Next, add the dry ingredients and milk.  Blend thoroughly.  Spread the mixture evenly in a well-greased, floured 9 x 11 x 2 inch pan.

Bake for 20 –25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Place the bars, in the pan, on a wire rack to cool.  Using a toothpick, prick the entire surface of the bars, at one inch intervals.  Frost the bars generously while still warm.

lemon icing
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, hot water, lemon juice and zest.  Using a handheld electric mixer, blend in the powdered sugar until smooth.  If the icing seems thin, add additional powdered sugar, as needed.  Be sure to work speedily when frosting the bars as the icing glazes over quickly.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

happiness is a warm brownie


Brownies have never been a weakness of mine.  Call me Goldilocks, but I generally find them too hard, too soft, too chewy or too cakey to tempt my selective sweet tooth. 

Because I snub most renditions without a second thought, I can attest that these brownies are none of the above.  Unlike the unpalatable majority, they are torte-like; dense, fudgy, toothsome, and sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party while just as suitable with your midday coffee.  Their full potential is most palpable on day two, yet I confess I often serve them just out of the oven with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.  In summer months, they are sublime with fresh raspberries and a sprig of fresh mint. 

With less flour than most, the egg-sugar-butter-chocolate ratio in these babies is pretty appalling but boy does it do the trick.  I recommend using high quality baking chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger 62% or, if you can’t track that down, try Lindt’s 65% dark chocolate bar.  For that ‘je ne sais quoi’, I add a pinch of fleur de sel; but any coarse salt will do.  Just be sure to adjust the amount of salt if you are using salted butter.  Of course, you may omit the salt altogether if you aren’t on the salted chocolate bandwagon. 

The recipe for these brownies came from a dear friend whose grandmother first passed the recipe on to her.  In fact, I owe my brownie conversion to this friend and her grandma.  Without their intervention, I would continue to lead a brownie-less existence.  Let’s call it brownie salvation and shout, ‘Hallelujah!’

Over the years, I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe; although the premise (what makes them tick) is still intact: Love. Sugar. Butter. Chocolate. Butter. Sugar. Eggs. Chocolate. More love (and more butter).

In the words of one golden-haired, uninvited houseguest who never was afraid to aim for perfection, these brownies are ‘just right’. brownies

yields about 20 brownies



4 eggs
2 cups sugar (I use ultrafine baker’s sugar)
1 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces good quality semisweet baking chocolate*
1 - 1/3 cups flour
1 - 1/2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1/2  rounded teaspoon coarse sea salt (such as fleur de sel)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Roughly chop half the chocolate and combine with the butter in a small saucepan on medium low heat, stirring occasionally until melted.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended.  Combine the chocolate and egg mixtures.  Stir in the vanilla.

Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cup and leveling it with the flat edge of a knife.  This is imperative as the consistency of the brownies depends on it.


Add the flour, mixing with a fork until well blended.  Do not use an electric mixer.  A large fork or wooden spoon works best.  Chop the remaining chocolate into 1/4” pieces.  Fold the chopped chocolate and sea salt into the mixture. 


Using a rubber spatula, transfer the batter to a greased and floured 9” x 13”  glass baking dish.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the center is stable.  You will have doubts about their doneness but never fear,  they will continue cooking after you remove them from the oven. 

Let the brownies set for at least 30 minutes after baking, if  you have that kind of willpower.  As an elegant dessert, serve them warm with vanilla ice cream.  For straight up brownie consumption, they taste best the second day.

*Scharffen Berger 62% semisweet  is preferred.  A close second is Lindt 65% dark chocolateCallebaut or Valrohna are stellar stand-ins if you can get your hands on either of them. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

it’s not always easy being green

Winters in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere are nothing short of a crapshoot for devoted locavores.  Not unlike my Dutch in-laws back in Holland, we Northwest folk are seasonally thrust into a world of meat, grains, tubers, squash and root vegetables, served with a side of cabbage or perhaps, its leafy, dark green cousin, kale.  Can you say meat and potatoes?  Ja!


Due to the fact that I have little tolerance for eating the same, same, same thing night after night, I cave.  Come winter, I buy the tart and tiny cherry tomatoes from Mexico, mediocre Chilean red grapes and overly green bananas from Ecuador.  Organic, granted, but nothing to write home about.  Bear in mind, I am what you would call a seasonal locavore or in layman’s terms, impatient.  That’s me.  The impatient, seasonal locavore who starts every good book by reading the last chapter, peels back the scotch tape on gift wrap with James Bond-esque finesse and bites into as many chocolates as it takes to get to the one with the best filling. 

What little produce I can find locally sourced this time of year is little indeed: brussel sprouts hardly the size of regulation shooter marbles and Swiss chard leaves, more like Swiss cheese, hosting entire colonies of tiny black bugs.  These are all par for the course.

In the bleak midwinter, there is only one thing to do to counter the myriad of bland produce.  Well, actually, there are two.  One is proactive and the other is affectionately known as dining out.  Dining out is clearly the easiest way to garner an inspired winter meal; though not so easy on the wallet. 

More work but also infinitely more gratifying is actually taking the time and effort necessary to bring a shot of flavor to otherwise mundane meals.  Slow-roasting is key here.  As are the little things such as adding a handful of dried cherries and candied ginger to an apple crisp, roasting fish with a trio of currants, capers and pine nuts, swapping out the cheddar and parmesan for say, gruyere or pecorino, or maybe folding a pinch of chili pepper and crunchy sea salt into your favorite brownies.  Dried fruit, aged cheeses, nuts, spices… These are all stellar stand-ins when the sun is on vacation. 

My favorite way to impart flavor in winter vegetables is to drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, toss and roast in a hot oven, around 450 degrees, for thirty minutes, give or take.  I use this method on broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, fennel bulb, eggplant; you name it, I roast it.  Roasting transforms pert, raw vegetables into ‘just back from Bali’, suntanned apparitions of their former selves.  Crisp, caramelized edges give way to melt in your mouth centers with a punch of concentrated flavor accented by crunchy bits of sea salt and silky, fruity olive oil.  I sometimes have to pinch myself to remember that these are vegetables. 

Despite their roasted appeal, I eagerly anticipate the coming months when fresh vegetables are best eaten raw or lightly blanched.  In the meantime though, I get by just fine.

In an homage to traditional winter fare and my love of  roasted vegetables, I am sharing recipes for chard stuffed pork roast, oven roasted brussel sprouts flecked with shallots and pancetta and simply roasted fingerling potatoes with sea salt and olive oil.  Take that, winter dinner doldrums.

chard stuffed pork roast

DSC_1172  hello dinner.

I have the excellent fortune of living in close proximity to a very good butcher who carries the freshest, most diverse selection of natural meat I have ever tasted or laid eyes upon, primarily sourced from local farms.  

For this recipe, my butcher butterflies the pork roast, allowing me to roll in the stuffing, pinwheel style.  An easier method is to cut a lengthwise slit in the center of the pork, about a half inch from the outer edge, taking care not to cut the roast in half.  The stuffing fits nicely in the center and the loin is secured with cooking twine once it is stuffed, so be sure to have that on hand.

When I prepare the stuffing, I use a special chili pepper from Syria, called Aleppo pepper.  I highly recommend this if you can find it.  Otherwise, use traditional red pepper flakes.   

chard stuffed pork roast


Serves 6


1 bunch Swiss chard, about 6 stalks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, fine dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup golden raisins
red pepper flakes (Aleppo, if available)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 1/2 pounds pork loin roast, at room temperature



Wash the chard well.  Trim the ends of the stalks, about 1/2 inch or so.  Then, cut or tear the leaves away from the center ribs.  Finely chop the ribs and tear or roughly chop the chard leaves.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and starts to color,  about 5 minutes.  Season with salt.  Add the chard ribs and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the chard leaves in two batches, adding the second when the first wilts enough to make room for it.  Cook until the chard is tender, about 5 minutes longer.  Stir in the raisins and transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.  Add a pinch or so of the chili flakes, plus salt and pepper, to taste. 

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit.  Wipe clean the pan used for the chard mixture and place the pan in the hot oven.

Crack the peppercorns and coriander using a mortar and pestle or place between two sheets of waxed paper and pound with a mallet or skillet.  Set aside.

If your butcher has not already done so, use a long, sharp knife to make a lengthwise slit in the pork roast, taking care not to cut the meat in two, about 1/2 inch from the outer edge.  Open the roast  and spoon the stuffing onto the meat.  Close the meat around the stuffing and tie with kitchen twine, at intervals, replacing any stuffing that escapes as you go.


Rub the pork with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and rub the crushed peppercorns and coriander into the meat.  Carefully remove the hot roasting pan from the oven.  Place the pork loin, fat side up, in the hot pan.  Roast uncovered and undisturbed until the thickest part of the loin, not the stuffing, reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Check at 25 minutes but expect that it will take about 40 minutes. 

Once the roast is done, remove from the oven and tent lightly with foil on a plate or cutting board.  The pork should rest for 15 minutes.  Pour any juices back into the roasting pan.  Place the pan on a burner over medium high heat and add 1/2 cup water to deglaze, scraping up brown bits and simmering until the juices thicken.  Remove from heat and set aside.

With kitchen shears, remove the twine from the roast and, using a careful sawing motion, cut the meat into 3/4 inch slices with stuffing intact.  Spoon a bit of the jus over each serving, as desired. 

Serve with simply roasted fingerling potatoes and oven roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta and shallots.

Pairs well with a spicy red blend such as Balboa Cat’s Meow or Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red.

*Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s exceptional cookbook, ‘Around My French Table’

oven roasted brussel sprouts flecked with pancetta and shallots


Serves 4 – 6


1 1/2 – 2 pounds fresh brussel sprouts
4 ounces pancetta or 6 –8 slices, 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 –2  tablespoons olive oil
coarse sea salt (I used maldon)



Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Trim the ends of the brussel sprouts, taking care not to remove too much.  Slice small sprouts in half, quarter the larger ones.  Spread the brussel sprouts on a parchment or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to lightly coat.  Sprinkle shallots and pancetta evenly over the brussel sprouts and season with 1 – 2 teaspoons salt. 

Roast in a hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Properly roasted brussel sprouts should be slightly brown and caramelized.  If they remain fully green or appear steamed, give them a bit more time.  Remove any charred outer leaves and serve immediately. 


simply roasted fingerlings with sea salt and olive oil


These roasted potatoes can hardly be called a recipe.  Hence their name, fingerlings have an elongated, finger-like shape and are a fraction of the size of most potatoes.  They are nothing short of nature’s take on the French fry.  With creamy butter-hued flesh and delicate golden skins, fingerlings are show-stoppers both in looks and taste.  Best of all, minimal preparation is required to bring out the best in these beauties.  I prefer the Russian banana variety but you may substitute any fingerling, baby red or yukon gold potato, as desired. 

simply roasted fingerlings with sea salt and olive oil

serves 6


2 1/2 pounds Russian banana fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (such as Maldon or fleur de sel)



Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and dry the potatoes.  Slice each potato, on the diagonal, in half or in thirds, depending on size.  Spread the potatoes evenly onto a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Evenly sprinkle with the coarse salt and toss to coat.  Place the pan on a rack in the lower third of the hot oven.   Roast the potatoes for about 30 minutes, turning once to evenly brown, until the skins begin to pucker and the flesh is crisp and golden.  

Serve hot, with additional coarse sea salt, as desired.


Friday, February 4, 2011

a really super bowl of chili

…the more you eat, the better you feel, so let’s have beans for every meal


The super bowl and chili go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Even I know that, though I can’t say I’ve ever actually seen the much-hyped, highly commercialized spectacle.  The closest I’ve come was more than a decade ago when I hosted an Anti-Super Bowl gathering with my 10 female roommates.  The event was primarily estrogen-charged save for one or two guys willing to forgo the real action in favor of spending an afternoon with a room full of attractive women.  Think high school French class and you get the idea.

The intent of our fete was brilliant: we enjoyed a moving rendition of the national anthem, an energetic halftime song and dance and scores of occasionally witty, mostly lame commercials.  The game itself was muted and disregarded in favor of a great deal of talking and eating.  In retrospect, it was an ingenious way to buck the sporting trend.

Despite total inaptitude in the realm of team sports, I can attest to one commonality with ‘fellow’ Super Bowl fans: Chili.  And by chili, I mean really, really stellar chili.  Because, truth be told, my tolerance for chili only slightly exceeds my threshold for football.

Whenever my mom, a most excellent cook, simmered up a pot of the stuff, I’m sure it was delicious; only I hated it.  I’m fairly certain it had green pepper, which ranked code orange on my vegetable terror alert chart.  Equally deplorable were chopped onions cut roughly the size of thumbnails.  I also recall kidney beans with tough skins and mealy white centers.  Yeah, not my fondest food recollection.  No offense, mom. 

This will come as a shock to most  but here goes:  When I was a kid, I regularly consumed and actually enjoyed canned chili.  The thing was, unlike the homemade version, it had unobtrusive pinto beans, well-concealed onions and evenly distributed meat.  It was good.  On the way down, at least.  It was especially good smothered in melted, shredded cheddar cheese because, back then, cheddar cheese was epic. 

Whenever the brand name variety went on sale, mom loaded up the shopping cart with1lb bricks of the stuff.  We cubed it in our tomato soup and ramen, shredded it on our tacos, tuna melts, nachos and casseroles and sliced it on our burgers and sandwiches.  We could have been the spokesfamily* for Tillamook Cheese.  That is, if they were looking for a geeky accountant with huge glasses, his frazzled, slipper-clad housewife, their dweeby teenage son, sporting full-on headgear, and clueless tween daughter with a really bad perm.   Yikes.  Memory lane isn’t always a walk in the park.

My chili con carne days were over once I made that fateful connection between the consumption of chili and the aftermath of chili, probably some time around the year I entered high school.  Following this revelation,  more than a decade passed in which nary a drop of chili passed my lips.

A few years ago, I picked up an issue of Everyday Food with a hearty bowlful of turkey chili on the cover.  Leave it to Martha Stewart to give chili a dazzling makeover; though it wasn’t so much her chili that grabbed my attention as the suggested toppings: cornbread crumbles, cilantro, pickled peppers, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack.  Then there was the matter of the meat.  Turkey is decidedly less of a dead weight than ground beef.  The overall list of ingredients was far from humdrum and I had a feeling it would be good.  In fact, I took this feeling seriously and tripled the recipe.  Insanity?  Yes indeed.  It’s a bad habit I acquired while living with ten roommates (cooking in mass quantities, that is).  As luck would have it, the chili was outstanding.  And fortunately, it froze well.  

On various occasions, I have made this chili with a combination of white and dark turkey meat, ground turkey mixed with ground beef, and my current preference, all dark turkey meat.  I do not recommend using all white turkey meat as fat is necessary to keep the meat moist and imparts flavor in the chili.  Turkey notwithstanding, this chili has three unlikely ingredients going for it: cocoa powder, molasses and bacon.  I would go so far as to argue that the smoky, spicy, sweet, savory combination gives off that revered 6th taste sensation known as Umami.

Over the years, I have adapted the recipe to suit my tastes and can say with a measure of confidence that it is now a very loose adaptation of the original.  And because every bowl of chili deserves a hearty helping of cornbread, I have included my recipe for whole wheat buttermilk corn muffins with luscious maple butter.  They are ridiculously good and you won’t detect the slightest hint of whole wheat (thanks to Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour).

Be sure to make this chili before the winter is over.  If you love it, what am I saying, of course you will love it.  If you hate it, blame Martha. 

*appearances have been slightly exaggerated to enhance visual impact, more in some cases (mom), less in others (the rest of us).

turkey 3-bean chili


serves 8-10


6 strips thick bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 pounds ground dark meat turkey (I use Diestel)
3-4 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium onions)
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
2 small fresh jalapeno chiles (ribs and seeds removed), minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2- 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes in puree (such as San Marzano)
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 15.5. oz. can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can organic pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can organic kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tablespoon canola or extra light olive oil
3 teaspoons salt plus additional to season


sour cream
shredded jack or pepper jack cheese
pickled peppers  



Heat a 5-quart cast iron or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add bacon, cooking until well-crisped.  Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Add jalapeno to drippings, stirring to lightly color.  Add garlic, stirring again until fragrant and beginning to color.  Turn heat to medium high and add olive oil to garlic jalapeno mixture.  Add onions, stirring occasionally until translucent and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. 

Increase heat to high.  Add ground turkey, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until cooked through.  Drain as needed but reserve the liquid.  Once the meat is no longer pink and begins to brown, stir in the chili and cocoa powders and the cumin.  Stir in bacon.

Add the tomatoes and puree, breaking them up a bit with a spoon.  Add molasses and 1 cup reserved liquid plus 3 teaspoons salt.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. 

Add beans, stirring gently, until well combined.  Cook uncovered until meat and beans are tender and chili thickens, at least 30 minutes or longer, as desired. 

Serve with assorted toppings


This chili recipe is loosely adapted from Everyday Food, Issue #10, January/February 2005.

whole wheat buttermilk corn muffins with luscious maple butter


yields 10 – 12 muffins


1 cup fine cornmeal or corn flour(such as Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

maple butter
1 stick butter, softened
2-3 tablespoons pure grade B maple syrup (such as Coombs)



Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease 12 regular muffin cups.  Whisk the cornmeal with flour, sugar, and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg.  Once fully combined, whisk in the melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, stirring until incorporated.  Do not over mix.  Batter will be thick.  Add up to 1/4 additional buttermilk, as needed.

Divide batter among the 12 muffin cups, about 1/2 full.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Rotate once during baking.  Muffin tops will be light in color.  For golden crowns, lightly broil for about a minute on low broil.  Watch very closely so as not to burn.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Serve hot.


maple butter
With an electric mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy.  Gradually add maple syrup in a steady stream, beating until smooth.  


Serve muffins while still hot, slathered in maple butter.