dessert

I had hoped to give my system a bit of a break after our Valentine’s Day gut-buster of a meal, but I ended up doing quite the opposite. I kicked off my long weekend early, taking Friday afternoon off to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch with the lovely and delightful claudia of cook eat FRET fame. We met at A Voce, and bonded over two glasses of wine each and a steady flow of excellent plates – three appetizers, two pastas, and a positively swoon-worthy dessert. The food was fantastic, and I’d highly recommend A Voce to anyone looking for a nice place to dine in the city, but really, my dining companion was my favorite part of lunch. I haven’t smiled and laughed like that in far too long, and I look forward to the next time claudia and I can share a meal.

Dinner:  February 16, 2008

Since Mike and I had both had lunch dates on Friday, we did go a little light on dinner, nibbling on wild Portuguese sardines in piri piri, crackers, olives, good bread and a bit of cheese. We had a full day of running around ahead on Saturday, starting with a visit to Anne for our bread, eggs, milk and cheese for the week, and we ended up ferrying half a wheel of Bartlett Blue up to Karen at Union Square as a favor. In return, we got free cheese from Anne and the lamb kidneys we planned to purchase from Karen were comped as well. Nice. We had plans Saturday night but ended up staying in, too wiped out from the day’s activities, both of us feeling a bit under the weather. I whipped up a quick pasta toss, melting a little butter into some olive oil, sizzling garlic in it until golden, then adding chopped anchovies and capers to the mix. I tossed the sauce with some hot cooked linguine and topped the dressed pasta with coarse toasted breadcrumbs spiked with hot Dijon mustard.

On Sunday we picked up a Zipcar for the day, made a Target run, then headed down to Red Hook to stock up on some much needed provisions at LeNell’s and grab dinner at The Good Fork. No photos, but our appetizers and entrees were excellent across the board. If there was an easier way for us to get down there I think we’d be there all the time.

We woke early on Monday to ferry a few things over to the Salvation Army in Williamsburg, then enjoyed a big breakfast at egg and headed home to work on our remaining projects for the weekend. Mike returned the car and did some work on our computer setup, while I cleaned, culled and reorganized around the apartment. The day was unseasonably warm, so we opened windows and our back door to let in the fresh air while we worked. We were hungry again by mid-afternoon, so I put together some sandwiches using the last bits of tapenade we had in the fridge, some lightly pickled red onions, and some fontina, mortadella and sopressata we picked up over the weekend.

I had planned to make some gooey, cheesy enchiladas for dinner on Monday night, but when a delivery man arrived at our door bearing a shipment of Rancho Gordo beans, I veered in a different direction. The warmth of the day was fading and rains were moving in, so a big pot of beefy chili felt like just the thing. Chili is one of those things that I never make quite the same way twice, but I was so pleased with how this batch turned out I decided to take notes. It’s a bit time-intensive what with the use of the dried beans, but I think the flavor and texture are well worth it.

Before I get to the recipe, let me just say hello and welcome to any of you who have wandered over here from REAL SIMPLE. What a nice surprise to be mentioned and what an honor to be in such great company. I hope you like what you see here!

Dinner:  February 18, 2008

Beef and Black Bean Chili

1/2 lb. dried black beans (I used Rancho Gordo’s Black Valentine)
Cold water
1 bay leaf
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2 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 red onion, peeled and diced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
1 lb. ground beef (I used grass-fed ground beef from Hardwick)
3 tablespoons good-quality chile powder (I used Mike’s homemade blend, based on Alton Brown’s version)
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 28 oz. can fire-roasted whole tomatoes with juice
1 bottle amber ale (I used Abita)
2 tablespoons canned green chiles, chopped
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Shredded cheese, sour cream and scallions for serving

Place beans in a pot, add the bay leaf and a generous amount of cold water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the lowest temperature possible and continue cooking the beans until they are very tender. Discard bay leaf.

Add the oil to a deep, heavy-bottomed soup pot and add the onion, seasoning with salt and cooking until softened. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, then add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon. Add a bit more salt and cook the meat until it loses its raw red color, then add the chile powder, cumin, oregano and chipotle powder, stirring through to coat the meat. Let cook over medium heat a few minutes longer, then make a hot spot and add the tomato paste, allowing it to toast before stirring it through. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, then add the beer and chiles. Drain the beans and add them to the pot, stirring well. Cover and simmer over low heat for an hour or more. Serve with your favorite sharp cheese, sour cream, and sliced scallions – a squeeze of fresh lime juice would also be good but we were out of limes.

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