Friday, October 2, 2009

UnRecipe: The Comfort Food Zone

Submitted for your approval... you are traveling to another dimension... a dimension of not only sight and sound but of humble, simple foods. You have entered the Comfort Food Zone. So maybe that's not what Rod Serling intended for his historic (and one of my favorite) anthology series, the Twilight Zone, but lately, I've gotten into the habit of doing a lot of cooking on Fridays, often doing multiple dishes not even meant to be eaten together, but it turns the whole kitchen into an edible zone, with things bubbling on the stove or baking in the oven. Normally I'd consider it a Test Kitchen Friday, but recently with the change of weather, it's not new things I'm trying, but a return to familiar dishes and flavors that really strike the autumnal mood. Submitted for your approval: andouille sausage mystery beer chili and a leek and pesto Italian soup with quinoa.

Hey there, hot stuff - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Chili is a notorious UnRecipe for me because I never measure or keep track of how it's made. In all likelihood, each pot of chili I've made has been like some rare, genetic singularity fang-toothed dodo bird/platypus hybrid, anomalous and extinguished before proper documentation could occur. But delicious all the same. This batch of chili used up some leftover andouille sausage we had languishing in the fridge and Brock found an unmarked bottle of beer from one of our homebrewing friends where the top had lost its seal. No longer carbonated, it would still make for a tasty cooking liquid, despite its mysterious origin. Honestly, any beer would do. You could throw in a PBR into your chili recipe and it would taste fine, and you could have the smug knowledge that your chili was a blue ribbon special.

Deconstructed chili - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I threw in chopped bell peppers, an onion, garlic, and browned some ground turkey as an additional protein punch. I've been leaning more towards the use of black beans over kidney beans for the legume component; the smaller beans make for a less chunky chili, plus if you feel so inclined, the more uniform consistency makes for a boss add-on to fries or tortilla chips. As for the main flavoring, I use two or three adobo chiles with a bit of the sauce, and then a disorganized, unmeasured mix of chili, mustard, cumin and garlic powders, plus a hefty shake of Hawaiian seasoned rocksalt. I realize this must sound really frustrating to those wanting measured amounts, but I don't name these posts UnRecipe for nothing.

Blog-inspired, Wasabi-meddled soup - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Another burner was busy bubbling away with an Italian-themed soup. This was inspired by personal chef and blogger, Silvia de Gregori's Citron et Vanille. Her beautiful Sardinian spinach, chickpea and fregola soup inspired an Italian turn, taking a big liberty with the seasoning and adding a spoonful of the homemade pesto we still have in the fridge. I also substituted the couscous-like fregola pasta with quinoa, which was also a pantry leftover awaiting its destiny in some meal. Not meant as an insult to Silvia and her amazing blog; she writes several new posts every week with beautiful, colorful photos and her dishes are always a constant source of healthy inspiration for me to incorporate vegetables in new and interesting ways. I liked the idea of her Sardinian soup and modified it to fit the needs of what the pantry and refrigerator already had, because we have a terrible habit of just letting ingredients pile up. Definitely give Citron et Vanille a look and if you're lucky to live in the Bay Area, her personal chef services would be a treat to experience.

Tasty bulbs and the last of the quinoa - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I appreciate your coming along for this visit into the Comfort Food Zone. Certainly not as exciting as William Shatner freaking out over the fact that THERE'S... SOMETHING... ON THE WING! but really, what else can beat that? There's at least a creature comfort in having a few simple meals cooked up ahead of time that can be spooned into plastic containers and brought to work, or easily microwaved for dinner after a long day. That makes venturing into the CF-Zone on Fridays a worthy trip indeed.

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  1. That chili looks great! Maybe I'll make some O.C. this weekend.

  2. I'm sure it tastes wonderful with the quinoa, I love quinoa in soups!

  3. OK, fine- you talked me into it. I'll make chili tomorrow! Seriously, chili is one of my very favorite cold-weather meals. Yum yum yum. I even brought dried chipotles to Tokyo just for that purpose! Giving in to the comfort food zone...

  4. After reading your post, I want to make both recipes. The weather is probably unpredictable here but having chili on hand and just reheating it is just more convenient. Now, that you've mentioned quinoa, I want to eat it again. They're so expensive here but I just love them the way I love rice.

  5. You've just put me in the mood to make some chili of my own. And it will definitely be a blue ribbon special. I pour PBR into everything, including my mouth.

  6. That bowl of chili looks so damn comforting and tasty. Wish I could just tuck in!!!!


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