Worth the Wait

short rib chili

We love a good pot of chili, and our kitchen has turned out dozens of variations over the years. Mike is partial to a meaty, Alton Brown-style version, while I tend to favor a chili with lots of beans and sometimes no meat at all. With the weather turning colder I decided to make chili my next project, and set out on Sunday to come up with a version that would satisfy both of us.

fully loaded

For the meat, I used Aquidneck Farm beef short ribs, boned out, trimmed, and cut into chunks. I made a puree of chiles and spices, added fire-roasted tomatoes and some rich dark beer, and let everything cook low and slow for the better part of the day. I added some crushed tortilla chips for texture and a hint of toasty corn flavor, and a hit of fresh lime juice at the end for brightness and balance. And after my pot of chili had cooked for the better part of the day, I cooled it down and let it sit overnight. We ate it on Monday with a bevy of garnishes, and I have to tell you, it was so worth the wait. You can get my recipe at food52.

Shoulder Season Soup

Dinner: September 28, 2010

I’m in commuter hell this week – I’ve had a succession of early or late buses in the morning, consistently late trains, and unplanned cab rides home from the train station which, in addition to being annoyingly expensive and sometimes terrifying, have put me in a big ole cranky mood in the evening, and craving exactly what we’ve been trying to get away from – comfort food.

I sat on the train in my work clothes drenched to the bone after a rain-soaked spin through the Boston Public Market on Tuesday, with tomatoes and fennel and green beans and squash globes and all sorts of other goodies in my totes, and decided a big veg-laden soup was in order. After I got home, I peeled off my damp clothes and changed into something warm and dry, and then I got to chopping: slender leeks, carrots, fresh celery, beautifully ripe plum tomatoes, sweet red peppers, globe zucchini, fresh thyme branches and green beans all went into my pot at various stages, sprinkled with salt and bathed in dribbles of olive oil and a judicious amount of red wine as they cooked down. I added a little bit of orzo to the mix, and when it was tender, added a good amount of freshly grated parm to the soup off the heat. I blitzed up a fresh parsley and fennel frond pistou in the mini chopper to spoon on top, and served up our soup with a few thick slices of Olga’s Pane Francese and some gooey, runny cheese from Farmstead.

As antidotes go, this was just about perfect.

Heartaches, Bellyaches

What do you cook when your heart hurts?

For us, for the last few weeks, it was a whole lot of comfort food. There was pasta, lots and lots of pasta, sauced with ragu, in skillet mac and cheese, and in Michael Ruhlman’s macaroni and beef with cheese (which is better than it has any right to be). There was chicken, pan fried and roasted, with one of those roasted birds serving to provide a very special last supper for our Kali.

If you fill in the blanks, the dinners I didn’t photograph over the last few weeks, the other meals that were part of those days, you’d see a whole bunch of crap. If we could get ourselves to eat at all, it was mostly junk food, fatty, poorly fried, the kind of stuff you grab and choke down because you realize it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you’ve been up since 5:45 and you haven’t had it in you to eat anything yet, but your hands are shaking and you can’t focus on work, and you don’t have time to take a proper break to get something reasonably healthy or good, to sit for a moment and eat mindfully, or because you’re feeling rough around the edges in the morning and need something akin to a “hangover breakfast,” all caffeine and questionable meat on a grease-sodden breakfast pastry (don’t forget the cheese).

And your heart hurts.

Weeks of eating too much rich food, of too many “one more glass”-es of wine, of the stress and the heartache Mike and I have been feeling of late have left us both in a sad state, feeling as bad physically as we have been emotionally, and this weekend, we thought long and hard about how to pull ourselves out of this rut and get back our equilibrium.

And we made strides.

We broke out our new pressure canner and put up a total of 20 pints of crushed tomatoes, locally grown and perfectly ripe, to nourish us during the winter. I’d never canned anything before, and Mike hadn’t been part of the process since he was a kid helping his family do it, and it was an absolutely thrilling, terrifying, wonderful project to tackle with my husband, a productive activity we took on together and loved, and a very welcome distraction from our grief.

fairytale eggplants

And we came up with a plan. Vegetables.


It’s harvest time, our farmers’ markets are teeming with produce, we just needed to plan, and buy, and cook. And eat. And we have, and we will continue to do so.


We started with an imperfect put delicious ratatouille, my loose interpretation of Deb’s interpretation of Remy’s/Keller’s, and imperfect as it was, it was so tasty and satisfying.

Dinner: September 20, 2010

It was a wonderful start. And now we have juices and whole grains and oily fishies and crisp apples and our favorite locally made yogurt, and the vegetables, the glorious vegetables to look forward to, and we’ll be healing our bellies, hearts, and souls with them for many weeks to come while we get our lives back into balance. And I hope to share it all with you in the days ahead.

And once again, thank you.

No-sweat Cooking, Day 14

Yellow Gazpacho

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

Gazpacho is a no-brainer when the mercury rises – it takes advantage of great summer produce, it’s light and refreshing, and it’s a cinch to prepare. I typically prepare a standard red gazpacho, but we loved Melissa Clark’s golden-hued version

golden girls

We’ve been getting these fabulous lemon cucumbers from City Farm at our local farmers’ market, so I figured I’d use them in place of a regular Kirby cuke to keep the sunny hues of the other vegetables. I did omit the diced kiwi (not a fave), dicing up some red tomato for garnish instead. I also added just a splash more Sherry vinegar and salt than the original recipe called for to suit my taste. I’d happily make this once a week as long as these great veggies are in season.

Get the recipe: Yellow Gazpacho

No-sweat Cooking, Day 5

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

I love remixing leftovers, so when planning out my first week of No-Sweat Recipes, I decided to schedule this Vietnamese Chicken Salad to take advantage of the leftover roast chicken from Tuesday night’s Chicken Tonnato.

local + exotic

This is exactly the kind of recipe I love – fairly free-form, easily adaptable to individual taste, and far, far more than the sum of its parts. This salad was a real celebration of the bounty of our farmers’ markets, as everything but the lime juice and fish sauce came from either the Hope Street market at Lippitt Park, or from the Boston Public Market in Dewey Square.

my own "coleslaw mix"

I opted to skip the coleslaw mix and shred some locally grown cabbage and carrots I had on hand instead, and I added scallions and slivers of fresh chile pepper to the mix as well. This was easily the most delicious thing we’ve eaten during this project so far, the sassy dressing playing off the crunchy vegetables and bits of moist chicken. I served our salad on a bed of soft butter lettuce leaves which I ended up using to scoop up bites of the salad, and I tossed the leftovers with softened cellophane noodles for a future lunch. Mike said he’d happily eat this once a week for as long as the ingredients are in season, and I’m right there with him. Great stuff, and it couldn’t be easier to put together.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Get the recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Salad



I love a good, authentic chile relleno as much as anyone, but as Nick over at The Paupered Chef learned, they can be very time- and labor-intensive. But when a craving hits and you just happen to have some chile-braised pork left over, you can bang out a reasonable facsimile pretty easily on a weeknight.

chiles, charred and steaming

For my simplified version, I charred my peppers over a gas flame and placed them in a plastic bag to steam, then warmed up my shreddy pork in a small sauté pan. For the sauce, I roasted some halved plum tomatoes and peeled garlic cloves, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with a little olive oil, in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, plucking the shriveled tomato skins off when they were cool enough to touch. In the same pan which I used to re-heat the pork (don’t wipe it out – you want to use the tasty pork fat that remains in the pan), I toasted some cumin, freshly grated canela and dried Mexican oregano, then added the tomatoes and garlic, smashing them against the bottom of the pan.

roasted tomatoes and garlic

I whipped up an egg batter like the one Nick used, dipping my pork-stuffed chiles into flour before battering them and frying them in a mixture of rendered fatback and canola (I did a shallow fry in our iron skillet), turning them once and removing them to a paper towel-lined plate as they finished cooking. I pressed my chunky tomato sauce through a fine mesh strainer, spooned some onto our plates, added the chiles, some grated cheese, and served them with a side of creamy black beans.

Dinner:  September 1, 2009

I’m sure these lacked the complexity and depth of flavor of chiles stuffed with a proper picadillo, but this was a great way to use up leftover pork and satisfy my hunger for this favorite dish.