Monday, July 04, 2011

Good day to play catch up...

Happy Fourth of July!

Jeff, the pups and I decided to just hang around the house today - it's pretty sticky and hot outside, so we decided to grab some movies and keep cool. I did make another batch of those Root Beer Float Cookies to snack on, but only a few - the rest will go into Jeff's PT office tomorrow morning. He's recovering well from his rotator cuff repair, but is still pretty sore with all the stretching he needs to do everyday.

I do have a couple recipes to share with you today, but we definitely did not make either of them within the past couple of weeks - the weather has been the same over that time... a blazing heat with plenty of humidity! We prepared them several weeks ago, when there was a cool(er) snap and we had a chance to breathe the fresh air flowing through the open windows. Up first was this hearty dish, a take on Pasta e Fagioli, that Jeff and I both enjoyed for not only its simplicity, but how little we had to do to get it in the pot and going!

There was a little chopping involved, but only a few celery stalks, a couple carrots, a small red onion and a trio of zippy garlic cloves. Given a chance to weep and soften, to those vegetables went in a fragrant sprig of fresh oregano, a large can of fire-roasted tomatoes, vegetable broth and what I thought was one of the key ingredients, the stocky heel from a salty wedge of Parmesan cheese! Rather than toss those edges away, I stick 'em in a bag kept in the freezer for safe keeping - the cheesy nubbins are always good to drop into all sorts of soups and stews.

As soon as the liquid hits the boiling point and begins to thicken, small pasta, ditalini in our case, are stirred in to cook through, followed by a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas to heat through. Now, if chickpeas don't make sense to you in this, by all means do a switch-a-roo with cannellini beans (which is what the original recipe called for). This was really just catering to Jeff as he doesn't much care for the softer, more creamy white bean - he thankfully doesn't have any objections to the firmer garbanzo. This dish is quite thick, but you can just as well thin it out if you like - stir in a bit of extra broth just before serving.

We happily cleaned our bowls the first night, but I wondered how it would hold up overnight for lunch the next day. The noodles were a little softer, as expected, but overall it was still pretty darn tasty as the flavors had a chance mix and mingle. I do plan on making this again, but perhaps later in the year when the temps start to take a nose dive!

The next recipe? Ancho-Chipotle Turkey Chili! Yes, another one that probably probably would have been more suited for the fall or winter, but after I read through the ingredient list with Jeff, he gave the thumbs up and said go for it! I guess I'll just close my eyes when the electric bill comes... the AC has definitely been workin' overtime!

What attracted me to this specific recipe was the use of several dried ancho chiles, rehydrated in warm stock until pliable and soft. Not that this is a radical new method, but in the times we have done this as a base enhancer to a stew or chili, we've always been more than pleased with the robust results!

Getting down to the nitty gritty of this chili involves browning a few slices of bacon (you know it's going to be good if that's how we start!), then reserving a couple tablespoons of its useful dripping to start cooking a pound of ground turkey. Once crumbled and beginning to take on some color, into the turkey meat went chopped onions, spicy chipotle in adobo, paprika, cumin and coriander. There are also a couple ingredients tossed in that some may turn their nose to - cocoa powder and cinnamon - but I highly suggest you don't leave them out! With several cloves with of minced garlic added, tomato paste joined the party - at this point, be sure to give the paste a solid minute or two to cook, while stirring. This gives it a chance to bloom, bringing the essence of tomato back to life.

With the smoky chile puree stirred in, there is one more piece to the puzzle - a bottle of Mexican-style beer! This won't make it taste boozy in the least, but the malt-y undertones make a mild appearance and work to enhance the lingering background notes. If you just don't like, or can't cook with alcohol, that's fine - I see no reason why you couldn't use stock or broth instead.

The bacon that was crispy at one point won't stay that way; rather than being used as a garnish on top, the bits are added right into the pot with the pureed chiles and beer, along with a couple scoops of red kidney beans to simmer and thicken. Not a fan of beans in your chili? Take 'em out and increase the turkey by another pound to fill out the dish. While spicy, this chili wasn't slap-you-in-the-face hot - if you'd like to turn up the fire a bit, don't remove the seeds from the chipotles. To give our tongues a break from the heat that was there, we served each bowl with a droopy dollop of sour cream on top. We left it at that, but feel free to smother the top with your favorite chili toppings!


  1. The Pasta Fagioli looks delicious. I just ran across a box of ditalini and was wondering what I would make with it. This is perfect!

  2. I too cooked a pot of Chili last week in this Texas heat! Chili is yummy and if you think about it any food you cook is hot when you eat it so why not!!?? I admit we do have a lot more soups and chilis in the fall and winter though. The slow simmer on the stove helps to heat the house when it is cooler and it will definately HEAT it up in the summer! I may try the 2 recipes before the "cold" weather arrives because they look too good to wait! As always....thanks for the great recipes!

  3. I made this pasta fagioli last night for some friends and it went over great!
    I added some extra vegetables and broth - really good and not too heavy.

  4. TSRI - Glad we could help!

    CLS - Good point about the temperature... hee hee!

    Betsy - Fantastic! Thank you for the feedback.