Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mixed Bean Chili

Spicy Central American bean stew. I grind dried chilies in the spice mix and simmer beans from scratch, to really control the flavors, adding some corn and olives for color and texture. Tasted different variations in Chicago and St. George Island, Florida on my recent summer vacation. Serve over rice.

1/2 cup dry red beans (kidney), soaked
1/2 cup dry black beans, soaked
1/2 cup dry white beans (pinto), soaked
2 cloves garlic, whole, crushed
2 bay leaves, whole
1/4 tsp black peppercorn, whole
1/4 tsp cumin seed, whole
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed, sliced
1 tbs ppaprika
2 tsp cumin, ground
2 tsp coriander, ground
1 dried red chili (Guajillo Chili); ground
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, ground
1/4 tsp black peppercorn, ground
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup yellow corn
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
bunch green onion, chopped
handful cilantro, chopped

Prepare by soaking beans overnight, keeping each bean color separate, at least 8 hrs. If mixed together, colors will bleed. Retain the soaking liquid for cooking.
To simmer beans: In large pot add beans, soaking water and extra water, and whole spices. Bring to boil, then turn down and simmer, 2-4 hours, until tender. Tender beans require both overnight soaking and a long time slow cooking. Drain and set aside.
To grind whole spices: Grind whole chili, cumin seed, corriander seed, black peppercorns, and red chili into coarse powder in spice grinder. Set aside. This step can also be done while browning onions, along with chopping base vegetables.
To start base: In large pot, brown onion, lowering heat once it colors, 10-12 min. Add splash of water, tomato, garlic and ground spices, and simmer 2-3 min. Result should be chunky fragrant vegetable mix, without much excess water, which would only slow cooking. Cover with 1-2 inches water and blend coarsely, with hand blender.
Main: To large pot with vegetable base, add beans, corn and olives, and cover with 1-2 inches water. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer, 1 hours until flavors blend together.
Finish: Add green onion and fresh cilantro to garnish.

Spicy Carrot Soup

Spices are inspired from the Caribbean mixture of American, African and Asian cuisine. Though I first tasted from the menu a fancy Italian restaurant in Berkeley, California, at the beginning of a summer vacation trip back east. The hint of curry comes from cardamom and turmeric. Allspice is Caribbean, and I picked up whole allspice berries from West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio, on the same trip. Vegetable base is onion and carrot, with potato for thickening; all roots that keep well. Cooked during the vacation, and adjusted spices back home.

1 onion, chopped
8 carrots, chopped
1 potato, peeled, chopped
1/4 tsp allspice berries, ground
6-12 pods green cardamom seeds, ground
1/8 tsp black peppercorn, ground
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp salt

To grind whole spices: Remove cardamom seeds from pods, and grind allspice berries, black peppercorn and cardamon seeds. Set aside. This step can be done while browning onions, along with prepping the main ingredients.
To start base: Brown onion, lowering heat once it colors, 10-12 min. Add splash of water, carrot and potato, and simmer 10-15 min, adding water as necessary. Result should be soft vegetables. Puree in blender and return to pot. Add spices and continue simmer 30 min.
Finish: Garnish with croutons and fresh parsley or cilantro.