Tag chipotles

Food52’s Smokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili

I found the recipe for SpiceBoxTravelsSmokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili soon after the food-blogger posted it on Food52, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In part, I was fascinated by the beans themselves: no boring brown, the Vaquero is dappled in black and white, patterned like an Appaloosa horse.

Vaquero beans, chipotle, orange pepper, onion, carrots, spices

But the recipe also got me thinking: Given The Professor’s focus on taste, interestingness, and satisfaction, a good chili would be an easy A+, right? Mouth-tingling flavor? Check. Belly-filling beans? Check. And this recipe, with its surprise ingredient, seemed to check the interesting column too.

I had to try it ASAP. So I Googled myself to heirloom bean-grower Rancho Gordo‘s website to order some Vaquero beans, waited a week for UPS to deliver the beauties, and started them soaking.

Then I diced and sauteed and boiled. And boiled some more. And a few minutes more. Finally the beans were done and I stirred in the surprise ingredient: dark chocolate.

Food52’s tester had noted that “Adding the melting chocolate at the end more than compensated for the depth meat would have added, and rounded things out for a great balance of flavors.” The tester also mentioned that she had adjusted the spice, adding just one of the chipotles in adobo sauce that the recipe called for and only a pinch of cayenne.

So with the kids in mind, I added just one chipotle and nixed the cayenne altogether. I also cut down on the chocolate — a little. And there my problems began. For the recipe to work, the sweetness needed to balance the smokin’ heat. Yet I hadn’t added much of the spice. So the result was too sweet for The Professor and me, and yet still too spicy for the kids.

The Cook will try SpiceBoxTravelsSmokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili again in a few years, when her eaters are ready for more spice. In the meantime, any curious cooks out there should try this recipe. As The Professor said, “The chocolate makes the recipe very rich.” And when a meat-lover calls a vegan dish “rich,” that’s saying something.

You can find the recipe here. Note: I had to cook the beans much longer than the recipe indicates.

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Fresh Corn Salad with Chipotle Sauce

Yesterday I set out to make stuffed poblano peppers in chipotle sauce — and ended up with a corn salad. What can I say … my peppers didn’t cooperate, a mad dash to the grocery produced no more poblanos, and so The Cook played inventor. But let me start from the beginning.

As you may recall, the poblanos are stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, and mushrooms. I’d made the dish once before and earned a B+. I was hoping my second effort would produce an A. To improve my chances, I planned to serve it with the popular creamed corn.

I roasted the poblano peppers, peeled them, and then cut a small slit in the side in order to scrape the seeds out. I don’t know if it was me or the poblanos, but my seed-removal efforts left the peppers with multiple rips and, I realized, in a truly un-stuffable state.

So I improvised. I cut the kernels off of the cob. I diced some red pepper, some shitake mushrooms, and one of the poblanos; minced some garlic and sliced a shallot. While those ingredients were sauteing, I followed the very easy recipe for the chipotle sauce: puree one clove of garlic, one chipotle pepper, salt and water in a food processor; add cilantro and pulse once. I served the corn salad with roasted salmon, drizzling both with chipotle sauce.

Maybe it was just relief that my poblano plans hadn’t ended in disaster, but I thought the corn salad was delicious. Next time (and by “next time” I mean tomorrow) I’ll add another shallot and perhaps some more mushrooms. And I might toss the corn salad in the chipotle sauce, treating it more like a dressing, But for a first-time, by-the-seat-of-my-pants effort, I was pleased.

Of course, what *you* want to know is what The Professor thought. Well, he liked it. He thought the corn salad could have been warmer. And that, while the salmon was cooked perfectly, it wasn’t the best piece of fish.

“The corn salad might pair better with a white fish,” he added. “We haven’t had halibut in a while.”

Given the quality of the salmon and the adjustments I want to make to the recipe, I didn’t ask for a grade. But look for one soon.

Shrimp Tacos — The Professor Gives an A!!!

It took months, if not years, of trial and error to come up with this recipe for shrimp tacos — a recipe that earned an A from The Professor! (In the pescatarian category, of course.) And finally I am ready to share it.

But first, let me recognize the recipe that started me down this culinary path: An article in Sunset magazine (which was then under the creative direction of my dear friend, Paul Donald, who is now doing this) titled “Tostadas in no time: Fish makes a quick and healthy Cal-Mex meal.” The original recipe called for halibut and a yogurt-lime sauce.

I always served them as tacos rather than tostadas, using heated but still flexible corn or flour tortillas.

I used halibut until I realized that it was just plain dumb to buy an expensive fish with a subtle flavor and then drown it, so to speak, in a spicy sauce. I tried buying a less expensive white fish, which helped my bank account but did nothing for the flavor. Then I tried shrimp, which I buy frozen at roughly the same cost-per-pound as fresh cod but which holds its own against the other strong flavors in the taco.

Then I added black beans, replaced the lime-yogurt sauce with a more flavorful chipotle sauce and upgraded the cabbage slaw by adding carrots and cilantro and by warming the mixture just a bit.

The result earned an A. “The combination of flavors and textures makes the dish interesting and very tasty,” said The Professor. “It’s so tasty that I always eat a bit too much.”

I will say, this is not a recipe for a weeknight. Especially if you don’t have The Professor to clean and grill the shrimp for you. But it is delicious, especially when you cook the shrimp on an outdoor grill, which seals in the juices better than a stove-top grill-pan. The beans add warmth and substance to the dish, while the cabbage slaw adds crisp fresh flavor and crunch. And finally, the chipotle sauce adds heat.

With that said … here is the recipe!

Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Serves 2 – 3 (IOW, what I prepare for The Professor, my toddler, and me)

Ingredients:

shrimp (I calculate 2-3 shrimp per taco and 2-4 tacos per person)

olive oil

spices

corn tortillas (again, 2-4 per person)

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

lime juice to taste

1 can of black beans

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

2 T mayonnaise

2 T adobo sauce

salt to taste

Directions

De-vein and clean the shrimp, and toss with olive oil and your spices of choice. Set aside.

For the sauce, stir the yogurt, mayonnaise, adobo sauce, and salt together.

Open and drain the can of beans. Chop the garlic and heat a saute pan on medium. When it is warm, add the oil. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, making sure not to let the garlic burn. Add the beans, a half cup of water or stock and turn the flame to medium-low. Once the beans are warmed, crush them with the back of a wooden spoon or use an immersion blender. Add more liquid if needed and then adjust the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro. Turn the flame off  or to low, and put the lid on.

Shred the cabbage and carrots (it’s faster to use a Cuisinart, though I have also shredded cabbage with a knife and the carrots with a cheese grater — the side of the classic four-sided grater with the largest holes)

Mix the shredded cabbage and carrots together with salt. In a small pan with olive oil, saute the mixture until it’s warm but still crisp. Remove from heat and add lime juice and 1 T or more of the chopped cilantro to taste.

Heat the tortillas on a griddle or in the oven and then wrap in aluminum foil.

Grill the shrimp. The Professor heats the grill to 500 degrees and cooks the shrimp 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second. When it comes to grilling, there is no sure-fire perfect cooking time. It all depends on the number and size of the shrimp being cooked, and the size and heat of your grill. But The Professor never cooks the shrimp for more than 4 minutes.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Chipotle Sauce

I was still thinking about Betsy’s Roasted Red Peppers, and whether they could be embellished in a way that would transform them from side dish to main event, when I came across a recipe for Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Chipotle Sauce.

“Stuffed with quinoa, black beans, mushrooms, and corn, these peppers make a satisfying vegetarian main course,” promised the writers of Power Foods, my new cookbook from the editors of Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine.

I had to try it.

The Professor arrived in the kitchen after the poblanos had been roasted and peeled. Peering suspiciously into the dish where they lay limply, waiting for their filling, he asked, “What are those for?”

“I’m stuffing them,” I told him. “You’re skeptical?”

“I’m always skeptical,” he replied. Which is true. No matter how easily bored he is by dishes I serve too frequently, he’s naturally suspicious of new recipes. But explaining such paradoxes isn’t my job, so I got back to cooking the stuffing.

I sauteed the mushrooms for a few minutes, added in the corn and black beans, and finally mixed in the quinoa and goat cheese. Then I carefully spooned the mixture into the peppers.

Making the chipotle sauce took about one minute: Toss the garlic, the chipotle, some salt and water into a food processor and blend. Add the cilantro and pulse until it is chopped. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish.

The recipe called for baking the stuffed peppers for 15-20 minutes, but I was worried about making the peppers too soft, so I took them out after 5 minutes.

The result: All of the flavors (in the stuffing, the chipotle sauce, and the mild zing of the poblano itself) worked well together, and each bite brought a slightly different combination of tastes. The black beans, corn, and mushrooms added texture to the stuffing and, along with the goat cheese, gave the peppers the heft they needed to be more than just a side dish.

“They are definitely more substantive than Betsy’s Peppers,” said The Professor. He praised the flavor and gave the dish high marks for “interestingness.” His one complaint was that the peppers were too soft.

The final grade: B+.

“It’s worth another shot,” he added, encouragingly. “If you cooked the peppers a bit less, it could be an A.”

Next time I’ll cut the initial roasting time to 10 minutes. In the meantime, you can see the full recipe here.