Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Eat...

Happy Halloween, Boos and Ghouls! I hope you're ready for the one night out of the year where it's socially acceptible to run around from house to house, banging on the door for free snacks! You're probably already sugar-coma-ed out from all the pre-holiday candy you've enjoyed; you know what I'm talking about, the bag of Reese's peanut butter cups you bought on sale weeks before Halloween, but then started to slowly eat them one by one before the 31st...  So instead of sweet, I went with savory for Halloween. Along with a peek at our spookily pimped out Halloween house, I bring to you a Ghoulishly Green Tomato Chili! *Insert Vincent Price cackle at end of Thriller song *

The Prime and "V" wishes you a Happy Halloween! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

This post is very Halloween-like, in that it's just a big UnRecipe post wearing a scary holiday costume. I wasn't planning on making "green" chili, it was more like our tomato plants were starting to die off from the cold, there were too many green tomatoes still on the vine, and there's no way I was going to just sacrifice them to the Compost Gods without a valiant effort. So our garden boxes are cleaned out for the season, resting in the chill and rain for another year, and I found myself with several pounds' worth of green tomatoes of all sorts, from a collection of heirloom plants and other varieties. I let them sit in brown paper sacks for a few days, but when it's this green, there's no magical ripening powers that are going to make them bright, juicy red. But that doesn't mean you can't use green tomatoes. Aside from the usual suspects like fried green tomatoes, I wanted to see how they would do in a chili. Green tomatoes are known for being really tart, the sugars haven't really developed yet, and they're quite firm, almost like a tomatillo. Which, by the way, I had a few of those from a CSA delivery. Those are kind of Halloween-y as what's up with the weird sticky film that's on the surface of tomatillos when you remove the paper-like husk? And the fact they kind of taste like apples? Ingredients with costumes and their own sticky ooze -- It's the Great Tomatillo, Charlie Brown!

The Green Tomato Caper, as captured on iPhone camera - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I didn't want to just stew the green tomatoes and tomatillos in a pot, I roasted them first, to cook off some of their liquid and intensify their flavor. There were a lot of pans and casserole dishes full of green tomatoes roasting away in the oven for a few days, as I had several batches. Not everything went into the chili, but the bigger Early Girl and heirlooms were what eventually made it into the slow cooker for the final stew. For the chili, I had a large pork loin that I cut into large chunks, browned in a pot, then softened onions and garlic in the drippings before throwing in several pounds' worth of the roasted green tomatoes. As for the chili seasoning, I went heavier on the cumin than the typical chili powder. I like the smoky flavor of cumin and thought it would go well with the tartness of the green tomatoes. The thing I was most surprised about in the cooking of green tomatoes is even after the oven and slow cook time, the tart citrusy flavor never really went away. Which is a good thing, as it ends up brightening the dish quite a bit. I didn't have fresh cilantro on-hand, just coriander seed, but fresh sprigs of that would have been nice as well. The green of the tomatoes eventually cooks down to a brown color in the slow cooker, especially after adding the spice mixture of cumin, coriander and a personal dry mix I make that has chili powder, finely ground coffee, mustard powder and pepper.

Can't you tell how much I LOVE this time of year??? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So how was the Ghoulishly Green Tomato Chili? Not ghoulish at all, pretty tasty, in fact. For something that came together out of necessity, as most of our dinners end up being, it was nice to work with the underripe tomatoes and see how they work with other ingredients. It makes me less hesitant to plant tomatoes during iffy seasons, knowing even the green ones have their own unique uses. And having the oven and slow cooker doing most of the work gives me extra time to deck our halls with Halloween decor! I'm a total nut for fall and autumn colors, and L-O-V-E Halloween. I have to stop myself from buying more decorations because I can never provide an acceptible answer to the voice in my head that says: "Sure, it's cute now, but where are you going to store it for the rest of the year?" Pesky voice of reason. I will kill you with more beer, just you wait.

Getting skully with it (no Mulder, har-har) - Photos by Wasabi Prime

And given the fact that it's Halloween, I'm indulging myself in sharing some non-food photos. I was obsessed with skulls in the last few weeks. Seriously, they were everywhere, and not just for Halloween. I was browsing one of my favorite shops, Common Folk, over in Bellevue, and they had glitter skulls and spooky wreaths -- wanted to buy everything, but you know, that pesky Inner Voice of Reason crashed the party in my brain. So I took photos instead of taking my wallet out. Same goes for the Alexander McQueen scarf I reeeeeeeeally liked, but couldn't justify the $200+ price tag for, yes, a single scarf. Maybe I'll treat myself to a little gold skull ring if it's still around and on sale after the holiday... Happy Halloween, y'all. Stuff your face with candy and get your drawstring pants ready -- it's November tomorrow, and you know what's coming up next: Thanksgiving! *Vincent Price cackle*

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