Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chili Powder

Good Chili starts with good chili powder so I’m going to show you how to make your own. All you need is a good source for dried chilies, an oven to dry them in and a food processor to grind them, oh and a recipe. For my base chili powder I use six dried ancho chilies, five New Mexico Chile’s, five Chile de Arbol and a tablespoon of toasted cumin seeds. The Ancho’s are a mild deep red chili that provides the base for the chili powder. The New Mexico Chilies are a lighter red and slightly hotter and finally the Chile de Arbol is small thin red chili that adds more heat and is similar to cayenne in heat. The combination of these chilies provides the depth of flavor that you will need for a good chili. The great thing about making your own chili powder is that you can experiment with different chilies to get the flavor you want. It’s also very inexpensive compared to store bought powder and you won’t be tied to grocery store chili powder and its lack of depth anymore once you start making your own.

First find a good source to buy dried chilies. Dried chilies are not brittle but are somewhat soft and pliable and can either be dried further for chili powder or rehydrated for other dishes. After you get comfortable with making your own base chili powder you can start making different powders for a variety of dishes or dumps for world class chili! Dumps are what the chili champs use to provide even more depth of flavor. Take a look at this to see what I mean.

Start by removing the stem from each chili and slicing lengthwise down the chili to open it up and remove the seeds. Lay the chilies open on a cookie sheet and place in a 300F oven for 4-5 minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle then break the dried chili into pieces. Place any parts of the chili that have not dried enough to break up back into the oven for about four more minutes and repeat with the remaining chilies. After your chilies are dried and broken into bits place them in a food processor and pulse on low for several seconds to get them started then process on medium for about fifteen seconds and then on high for fifteen seconds more. Toast 1 tablespoon cumin seed in a cast iron skillet until the seeds are about two shades darker than what you started with then finely grind in a coffee/spice grinder. I process only one kind of chili at a time and then at the end combine them all for about another thirty seconds. This should yield about 1 ½ cups of chili powder.

Chilies seeded and ready to be dried

Dried chiles crushed and ready for the food processor

Toasted cumin seeds

I like to make a Saturday afternoon of it and dry a bunch of different chilies. This way I can have my base chili powder and a powder of each individual chili that I can create dumps with or use in a variety of different dishes. I also like to make my own crushed red peppers out of Chili de Arbol or cayenne and leave the seeds in for some real heat.
Have fun making your own dried chili powders and be careful to wash your hands before rubbing an eye ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Man there must be a thousand different ways to make nachos. I found these nice little red and yellow peppers and was trying to think of how to use them and nachos seemed like a great idea so I got a flank steak and got to work. Marinate the flank steak overnight in some oil, fresh lemon juice, cumin, cilantro, minced garlic and salt and pepper. Pound the flank steak to about ¼ inch thickness, thinly slice and cook in batches in your cast iron skillet. Now slice up the peppers and sauté for a few minutes until just starting to soften a bit. Squeeze a half of a lemon over some white corn and black beans then toss with some dried oregano and you are ready to go. Layer white tortilla chips, flank steak, peppers, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, corn and beens until you have a few layers. Heat in a 350F over for about ten minutes. Top with salsa, sour cream, chopped green onions and cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Corn Fritters

I was eating some steamed frozen corn one day last week and I thought there has got to be a way liven these up a bit. Well a couple of days later while perusing the Whole Foods deli I ran across some corn fritters and picked up a couple. They were good but not quite good enough so I started thinking and looking at corn fritter recipes. The ones at Whole foods were a bit too heavy with the flour and some of the recipes I researched looked to thin. I wanted something with some body but not to thick and floury. So I came across this recipe and modified it a bit.

What you will need.
Six ears of corn
2 eggs beaten
4 scallions finely sliced
1 Tbs chopped fresh sage
1 cup cheddar cheese. I used a nice 15 month aged English cheddar I found at Whole Foods
½ cup or more all purpose flour
about ¼ cup milk
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Sweet Pepper Bruschetta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the corn and cook for four minutes after the water returns to a boil. After the corn has cooled a bit slice the kernels off of the cob then reverse the knife blade and run it down the length of the cob to milk it.
Mix the kernels with the scallions, sage, cheese and salt and pepper and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the flour, eggs and enough of the milk to make a smooth batter. Add the batter to the corn mixture and stir to mix well. Preheat your cast iron skillet for several minutes until light wisps of smoke appear then add a few tablespoons of canola oil. Drop by large spoonfuls into the hot skillet and shore up the edges of the fritter with a spatula until they hold shape. Cook about four minutes per side until golden brown. Top with sweet pepper bruschetta and enjoy!

On a side note, bruschetta has come to mean something it's not. In it's classic sense it is toasted bread with olive oil, rubbed with garlic. The garlic oils released on the hot toasted bread produce a wonderful aroma and taste. It is the best garlic bread you will ever have. Bruschetta has come to be toasted bread with olive oil and a variety of toppings and now the topping itself has acquired the name bruschetta.

Classic Bruschetta

The asparagus dish I served with the corn fritters is an easy rustic dish. Simmer the asparagus in about an inch of water for 6-8 minutes until slightly cooked but still has some snap. Shock the simmered asparagus in cold water to stop the cooking and return to the still hot pan used to cook it in. This will help evaporate the moisture on the asparagus.
Wrap the asparagus in a couple of thin pieces of prosciutto and arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and an aged balsamic vinegar. Top with Parmesan-Reggiano and oregano and serve at room temperature. Yeah you could whip the ingredients into a balsamic vinaigrette but I like the way you get different melding of the flavors with each bite. Hence the rustic!