Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chili on My Mind

Ever since the chili cookoff, I've had chili on my mind. The third place chili at the cookoff was a masala chili made by a woman who teaches Indian cooking classes here in Austin. Her masala chili and coconut chili were two of my favorites, and I'm glad she won.

I kept thinking about her masala chili all week, so I pulled out my copy of 660 Curies by Raghavan Iyer. Sometimes I think all the choices in this book have kept me from making more recipes. How do I pick which of the 660 curries to make? But this time, I opened the book with an agenda. I wanted to make rajmah, or kidney beans. I found a recipe for tamatar malai rajmah (slow-stewed tomato sauce with kidney beans), and it was exactly what I wanted.

The recipe turned out pretty well, though not as rich as I would have liked, but that's because I modified it. It calls for 1/4 cup fried onion paste, and that's one of the other reasons I haven't made many recipes from this book. Many call for small amounts onion paste or another kind of paste, but the recipes for these pastes make large amounts and don't keep long in the refrigerator. All that waste annoys me. And I'm pretty lazy. Instead I sauteed diced onion. I also left out the 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream the recipe calls for since Dewey is still on a low-fat diet.

But still, my chili craving wasn't over. Dewey has been asking for cholent lately, so it was the perfect time to make Jewish chili. Cholent is a stew that Jews make for Shabbat, when they can't cook any food. Cholent is started in a slow cooker or on a hot plate just before sunset on Friday night, it cooks all night long at low heat, and then it's eaten at Saturday lunch. Such a long cooking time, even at low heats, makes the beans and vegetables really soft, but in a good, comfort food way.

Vegan Cholent

1 T oil
1-2 onions
4-5 cloves garlic
3 red or yukon gold potatoes
2 carrots
2 1/2 cups mixed dried beans*, soaked for 8 hours
1/2 cup bulgur
vegetable bouillion cube**
12 ounces dark beer
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons tarragon
2 teaspoons thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Turn on the slow cooker and heat the oil. Chop the potatoes and carrots into large pieces. You want them to be fairly large because they're going to cook so long. Add the onions and garlic to the slow cooker, cover, and let cook for about half an hour. Add the potatoes, carrots, drained beans, and bulgur. Add the bouillon cube and enough water to cover the beans. Add the beer, soy sauce and all the spices except for the salt and stir. Cover and cook 6-12 hours***, stirring occasionally. Once the beans are soft, add the salt. If the beans look dry, add more water. Eventually, the liquid will thicken into a tasty brown sauce. When you're ready to eat, adjust the salt to your taste.

*I used chickpeas, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, split peas, and lentils. Really, any combination of dried beans, peas, or lentils will work, just be sure to use at least three kinds.

**Feel free to use vegetable broth in place of the bouillon cube, or even just water and a bit more soy sauce.

***I know this is a big range for a cooking time, but this is a recipe that is meant to be flexible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lonestar Vegetarian Chili Cookoff 2009

Dewey and I won second place at the Lonestar Vegetarian Chili Cookoff this year! Thank you to everyone who came out to support us.

It was a great experience. We were at the cookoff grounds at 7:30 AM. We shared our tent with a group from Fort Worth and another group from here in Austin. By 11:30 AM, we had cooked five gallons of chili over a propane stove. And by 3:30 PM we had served all five gallons, one half-ounce ladle at a time.

Our winning chili recipe is here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

CSA week 1

This stir-fry used the bok choy, tatsoi, and purple beans from this week's CSA. We didn't have enough of any of these vegetables to feed even one person, but combined all together (and with the addition of green and red bell pepper), it made a great meal.

Whole wheat pasta with broccoli rabe and vegan sausages. I ate mine with a garlic olive oil sauce, Dewey had his with tomato sauce.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First CSA Pick-Up

Our first CSA pick-up was just about what I expected. Saturday morning Dewey and I walked the .7 mile to the pick-up location. There were twelve identical boxes all lined up in a driveway. Our box contained bok choy, tatsoi, broccoli rabe, turnip greens, a small head of lettuce, two small yellow squash, a small handful of purple beans (like green beans, but purple), a sprig of rosemary, some basil-whose-name-I-can't-remember, and a couple of bonus radishes.

I expected to get a variety of greens, so that wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise were the small portions. The turnip greens, once cooked, yielded less than a cup of greens. Apparently the woman who is organizing the CSA expected mainly single people, so the vegetables are portioned for just one eater.

I nibbled on the radishes dipped in EB and sea salt while Dewey and I came up with ideas on how to cook everything this week. We had a few bell peppers lingering in the crisper drawer to use up as well. Here is what we came up with.

Saturday: Turnip greens, smashed pink beans, and rosemary baking powder biscuits.

Sunday: 2.5 gallons of our chili as practice for the Lonestar Vegetarian Chili Cookoff

Monday: Pizza (using frozen dough I made earlier)

Tuesday: Stir-fry using bok choy, tatsoi, bell peppers, and green beans. The stir-fry also had tofu and soba noodles.

Wednesday: Pasta with broccoli rabe (quick dinner because I took the GRE earlier today)

Thursday: Take out (we're closing on our new house!)

Friday: Roasted poblano peppers stuffed with leftover chili and probably more chili in corn or flour tortillas

Saturday: Out to dinner (it's Dewey's birthday!), also next share pick-up

Sunday: Lonestar Vegetarian Chili Cookoff! Come by and say hello!

For lunches this week, I'll eat the yellow squash, salad greens, and whatever chili we can't freeze or offload.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I love our neighborhood. Most of the houses were built in the post-World War II boom. There's a good range of ages, from original 50s homeowners to young professionals and everything in between. People are constantly outsides walking their dogs or gardening, and it's great to see so many people walking and taking public transportation.

This is Domino the Pig. He's the neighborhood mascot. He escaped from a petting zoo at a neighborhood festival and roamed the neighborhood for months before he was adopted by a resident.

Here's Dewey posing with Domino at the Violet Crown Spring Festival, just after swine flu first appeared in the U.S. There's a spring festival and a fall festival every year featuring the work of local artists, musicians, and chefs.

Lala's is the neighborhood dive bar. It's Christmas themed. Really. There's a string of elves that dance when you open the door to the men's room. The juke box is half Sinatra and Elvis, half Christmas carols. A warning to Austinites, people still smoke here.
The heart of the neighborhood is the Crestview shopping center. Most of these businesses have been here forever. The pharmacy still sells flashcubes. The independent grocery store has a great beer selection and the cheapest avocados in town. The Little Deli is always mobbed when it's open.

The newest reason I love my neighborhood, though, is our new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Community Supported Agriculture is when a farmer sells shares of his produce to a group of people in advance. CSAs are usually some of the most sustainable farms around, and they often hold classes on gardening, composting, and cooking on pick-up days.

This CSA is one of a kind. It's a non-profit neighborhood-based program, and there's a focus on making the shares affordable. All of the produce is grown in the neighborhood, and all the shares are sold to people within the neighborhood. It's a great combination of sustainable agriculture and community.

I pick up my first share tomorrow, and I'm excited to see what will be in my box.