delicate, spicy, and ancient
Posted on October 17, 2011
I come bearing many gifts to make up for my lack of blogging. I really do think about coming here everyday, but alas, it is hard to find the time, what with all the working and cooking. So here is a sort of buffet from last week: Stuffed Squash, Chili, and Piloncillo cake. I didnt eat these together, but they have a certain warm fall feeling running through them.
The squash is Delicata, an heirloom variety, and my favorite of all squashes. It is grown here in Texas, and also pretty much every other state I have lived in– Oregon, New York, California. It is long and skinny, and much easier to cut than a big Butternut. The flesh is creamy, and mild tasting, not like a pumpkin. I am not even going to trick you into thinking this is a recipe– it is so easy. Cut it in half long ways, so you get two boats.
Put some butter and sprinkle salt. Cook at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Add the filling. Almost anything works– I like at least one fresh fruit (an apple, pear, or even a nectarine), one dried fruit (raisins, apricots, currants, cranberries), nuts (pecans, walnuts), spices (you could go sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg, or savory with sage and thyme), even a little orange zest would be good. Then you need a little moisture– I often drizzle maple syrup, or honey, or just melted butter. Chop everything, toss it with your maple or butter, and scoop it into the squash. Bake for another 30 minutes. The nuts and fruit should be well browned.
This time I had leftover pear syrup from when I poached my Monterrey pears with spices and sugar, and then cooked down the liquid. It is the most incredible pear flavor, and it was perfect as a drizzle on this. This is a rich dish, and you may want to skip dessert when you eat it.
The basis for this chili recipe is a cookbook from Vermont, of all places. Originally it had BEANS in it. Also, it was meant for venison. I could hear the voice from the Pace Picante commercial haunting me as I dared to cook it for native Texans– New York City! But what I found made me imagine Market Square one hundred years ago, not a whiff of yankee in the many layers of flavor here. It is rich and complex, hearty yet vivacious. This chili, simply put, speaks to me. Not just of San Antonio, but a little of Mexico too– with a touch of cocoa, cinnamon, and a splash of Mexican beer. I was out of cocoa, and used baking chocolate instead, which was quite nice.
We actually eat quite a bit of venison here in Texas, so when I find some in the colder months, I will be making this with it. For those not from Texas, you should know two things about chili: 1. it was invented here in San Antonio, and 2. It was not commonly made with beans until it became popular as a canned food. (Of course, all you vegetarians should go right ahead and make this with beans, or whatever “meat” you want.) I would avoid adding a bunch of other veggies though, it will disrupt the flavor profiles here. Chili is about chiles, front and center, with cumin as the supporting actor. This recipe uses Chipotle Chiles in Adobo– easily found in a can. They begin as jalapenos, are roasted, dried, and then canned in a spicy tomato based sauce. You only need a little, but they keep in the refrigerator a long time.
Cowboys used to dry beef with suet and make it into bricks, then cook it into a stew out on the range. Venison was also popular, and is much leaner of course. Chili is a cousin of carne guisado, a thicker beef stew made with into a gravy and stew meat. That will be a post for another time.
Eat this with grated cheese, crackers, or some warm tortillas. Cornbread is excellent too. We followed up today with some sweet potato pound cake for a birthday celebration, which was a real hit too.
Inspired by Cooking With Shelburne Farms by Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1tbsp chili powder
2 tsps ground cumin, or cumin seeds pounded in a molcajete
1 tsp cinnamon
1 lb ground beef or venison
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, or one square of baking chocolate
1 large (28 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1-2 cups dark Mexican beer (I have used Shiner Bock, also Bohemia)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
Heat the oil on medium high in a deep heavy bottomed soup pot. Cook the onions an garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and ground meat. Cook, stirring, for about 7 minutes.
Add the flour and cocoa, and stir, cooking for another 2 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, beer, oregano, chipotle, and salt. Bring to a simmer, increase the heat if necessary, but stir often to keep from burning. Once it is simmering, reduce the heat and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Serve 4-6.
Piloncillo Cake (a.k.a Decolonize Wallstreet Cake!)
This cake is made with Amaranth flour– an ancient grain– and piloncillo– a pre-Colombian minimally processed sugar that comes in a cone. This cake is lovely with some whipped cream. It has a molasses flavor, and a fruity undertone from the piloncillo. For a cake, it actually has about half the sugar of most recipes. It is based on a recipe for Muscovado sugar cake by Kim Boyce in Good To The Grain.
Makes one 9-inch round cake, or one loaf pan
Butter for the pan
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cone piloncillo, dissolved ½ cup water, or grated
1 cup heavy cream
vanilla, sugar or stevia to taste
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease the pan lightly with butter. Place the piloncillo in the water in a small saucepan, heat on med-low. As it begins to soften and dissolve, use a wooden spatula to break it up. This takes about 20 minutes. You can also grate the piloncillo on a box grater.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flours using a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the milk and molasses until thoroughly combined. Scrape the wet mixture into the dry mixture with a spatula and stir to combine.
Whip the egg whites on high speed until they’re softly whipped. Add the dissolved piloncillo and gently combine. Use the spatula to scrape half of the whipped egg whites into the flour mixture and gently fold them in. Continue with the rest of the whites. Scrape into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. The cake is ready when a light press in the middle causes it to spring back and the edge of the cake is pulling away from the side of the pan.