Black & White Chili with Savory Whipped Cream

Last week I was at the store and saw stewed meat on sale: I decided to make chili. Originally, I planned to use black beans, but only had one can of black beans at home: that would not have been enough. Luckily, I had a can of garbanzo beans; thus, Black & White Chili. And what about the savory whipped cream? Continue reading to find out.

olive oil
1 pound Angus beef stew meat
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 dry chiles
15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
15 ounce can black beans, drained
28 ounces can diced tomatoes with juices

1. Heat oil and brown stew meat on all sides.

2. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 10 minutes. 
3. Add spices and chiles and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. Add beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

5. And now to the Savory Whipped Cream...you see, I was out of sour cream, but I had heavy whipping cream leftover from making tiramisu. So I whipped together 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream with a pinch of cayenne and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Serve this Black & White Chili with green onions, savory whipped cream (or sour cream), and anything else you have on hand: salsa, avocado, cheese, etc, etc.

This dish is great for leftovers: trust me: I ate them for 3 more days :)

And now for a slightly controversial question: do you put beans in your chili? And if yes, what kind? And if not, why not? And what are your favorite toppings for chili?


Daring Bakers: PAMA & POM Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This is my first Daring Bakers challenge since November! I was excited about making tiramisu. It's not my favorite dessert, but I felt challenged enough to make every single component, yet not panicked enough to give up.

Here are the lady fingers: they were relatively simple to make (if you want a recipe, email me, and I'll be happy to forward it to you).

Instead of using coffee, I decided to use a combination of POM (pomegranate juice) and PAMA (pomegranate liquor). This gave tiramisu a nice fruity flavor and a pretty pink color.

I must make a confession: I cheated (oh no!) and bought the mascarpone cheese instead of making it from scratch. I just did not have the time.

Overall, the challenge was lengthy, but the results were delicious. I have some of the cake in the freezer for one of those days when I really need something sweet.

And just one more photo (because I never know which one Tastespotting and Foodgawker might like lol).

I brought a slice of tiramisu to Oscar, my personal trainer, and he gave me 9/10 :)


New in my kitchen: yellow ramekins and a green pan

No recipe today. Just wanted to share a few new things I've recently purchased for my kitchen (thanks Sylvie for shopping with me!).

The first, are 6 yellow ramekins: how adorable are they? I used them already to make panna cotta, but can see myself using them to bake eggs or making mini casseroles and desserts.

The second one is this Green Pan. I've seen it on HSN multiple times, but was very happy to find it at Marshalls. What really cracked me up, is that half of the things on the label are in Russian, my native language ;)

I used this pan to make omelets and cook chicken burgers: it did everything perfectly!

What are some of yours latest kitchen purchases?

Check in tomorrow for Daring Bakers Challenge reveal!


Knife skills lesson & Indian omelet

I used to be one of the culinary assistants at Sur La Table. One of my favorite chefs to assist was Robyn Webb. That's how I began testing recipes for her magazines and books, and eventually became freelance recipe tester, photographer and editor of her blog. Before each class, Robyn would do a mini demo on how to properly use knives. If you would wake me up at 3 am, I would be able to recite her demo word by word :)

This past Sunday I came over to my friend's AnnaS's condo (not to be confused with my twin sister Anna) to do a knife skills lesson and to teach her how to make an Indian styled omelet.

The class went great! There were no cut fingers, and Anna kept on saying "oh, this is how you are supposed to do that!" Some of the things that I taught Anna how to do were:

* how to properly hold a knife
* how to move the knife (away from you, and in a very rhythmic motion)
* how to properly "open up" and chop a green pepper {note, this is Anna's cutting board: I advised her to get an upgrade!}

*how to chop an onion {this is an action shot of Anna}: there are two ways, and of course Anna liked the one that has a shortcut ;)

* how to chop ginger and garlic

In the end, we used some of the ingredients from the class to make an Indian Styled Omelet inspired by one of my earlier recipes.

You basically roast in a dry skillet some cumin seeds. Then add some olive oil, garlic, ginger and red onions. Let everything cook until ginger and garlic become fragrant, and the onions become slightly translucent.You then add green peppers and continue to cook for a few minutes. Season everything with salt & pepper, add chopped cherry tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes. Pour whisked eggs with a touch of milk, and let the omelet cook until everything is set. Sprinkle with some turmeric and top with fresh basil.

Anna's fiance, Nathan, joined us for lunch, and everyone was very happy with results.

In March I'll be doing another knife skills lesson for five people this time: Stephanie, Brian, Sylvie and Tammy.

If you are interested in a knife skills lesson and live in DC area, contact me!

P.S. A reader left a comment that some of my photographs take ages to load because their size is too huge. After double checking this fact with my Twitter followers, I decided to change the size of photographs I post (they'll still be 645x450, but be in a compressed format). Hopefully this will make your reading experience a lot faster and more enjoyable. If you have any other suggestions for my blog, don't hesitate to let me know: I promise I will consider them!


Quick cooking lentil soup with home-made croutons

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while now. Here's what happened: in January, I made and photographed a recipe for Lentil, Tomato & Basil Salad for Robyn's blog. The recipe used quick cooking sprouted green lentils.

I had about a cup of those lentils left. Then a few weeks ago, DC area had a huge snow blizzard, which caused me to lose power the entire Saturday (February 6th). Luckily, I have a gas stove, which allowed me to prepare this Quick cooking lentil soup with home-made croutons.

olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
5 cups water
1 cup quick cooking sprouted green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 potato, peeled, diced
several slices of whole wheat bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
garlic powder

1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion, carrots and garlic and saute until tender.
2. Meanwhile, bring water to boil, add quick cooking lentils and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add potatoes to the lentils, season with salt, and add a bay leaf. Cook for about 20 minutes till potatoes are tender.
4. Add onion/carrots/garlic mixture to the lentils and potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper.
5. For the croutons: In a cast iron skillet heat olive oil. Add your bread cubes. Season with garlic salt to taste and cook till the bread is browned on all sides. (Originally I was planning on making the croutons in the oven, but my oven was not working without power.)

If you don't have quick cooking sprouted lentils, use the regular kind: you'll just have to cook them longer than 5 minutes...most likely at least 30 minutes.  The consistency of this soup is closer to the stew. You can add more liquid if you want, or you can even puree the final product.


PAMA & Berry Drink

I love my drinks sweet, pretty and bubbly! Here's one I came up with last weekend: PAMA & Berry Drink.

All you need is PAMA liquor, berries, and sparkling water. The amounts of each is up to you: add more PAMA if you want a stronger drink, or less PAMA if you don't want to be too boozy yourself ;) You can also add a splash of pomegranate juice.

1. Cut up your berries and pour PAMA liquor over them. In this drink I used blueberries and strawberries. You can use raspberries, or even stone fruit such as peaches--depending on the season.
2. Marinate the fruit for at least an hour. Add the fruit and the PAMA liquor to a glass. Top with sparkling water.
3. Bottoms up!

This would be a fun cocktail for brunch, cocktail party, or just a late afternoon. Not a bad way to get a serving of fruit into your diet!


Roasted Tomato & Dark Cherry Balsamico Soup

In the past I've done quite a bit of roasting: potatoes, zucchini, carrots, onions, etc. But for some reason I've never roasted tomatoes, even though they are my favorite vegetable. Maybe it's because I like eating them as is. Unfortunately, the quality of tomatoes in the winter time is rather unfortunate.

Last weekend I decided to buy a bunch of Roma tomatoes, roast them, and turn them into a tomato soup.

Roasted Tomato & Dark Cherry Balsamico Soup

Two of the products I've inherited through freelancing for Robyn are Avocado Oil and Dark Cherry Balsamico, but you can use regular olive oil and any other good quality balsamic vinegar in your soup.

9 Roma tomatoes, halved
slat & pepper
avocado oil
2 tablespoons Dark Cherry Balsamico
sugar to taste
2 tablespoons half & half

1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. In a bowl combine tomatoes with salt & pepper, a drizzle of avocado oil and the balsamic. Mix.
3. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place tomato halves cut side up on the cookie sheet and drizzle with the remaining "marinade."

4. Roast tomatoes for about one hour.

5. Puree tomatoes (they will have enough liquid to turn into a soup) with half & half and a pinch (or more) of sugar. Adjust the flavor with salt & pepper.

The soup will not be completely and perfectly smooth because of tomato seeds and skin. If you want a perfectly smooth soup, you'll have to remove those before roasting the tomatoes, or put the soup through a fine mesh. I did not think it'd be worth it.

This recipe ends up making about 2 cups of soup. You can also use it as a base for pasta or pizza sauce. Of course you can add herbs, roasted garlic and onions, etc. I just wanted to keep the taste of the soup as tomato-ish as possible.

Other than Grilled Cheese sandwich and croutons, what is your favorite thing to eat with tomato soup?


Buttermilk Panna Cotta with PAMA "Boozy" Berries

Here's what happened:
1) I bought 6 yellow ramekins
2) I got a sample of 2 mini PAMA Liquer Bottles
3) Sally sent me a recipe for Buttermilk Panna Cotta from Blackberry Farm Cookbook

Ingredients (slightly edited from the original version)
1 Packet powdered gelatin
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
2 Vanilla Beans
2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk
2 cups of strawberries (or any fruit for topping)
strawberries and blueberries
PAMA liquer

1. Combine the gelatin and 1/4 cup half and half and microwave on high stopping every 10 secs to stir until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan combine remaining 1 1/4 cup of half and half with 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla beans. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat. Immediately turn off heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir until it is completely melted.
3. Pour the mixture through a strainer into another container/bowl and discard vanilla beans pods.
4. Place your bowl or container into a bowl of ice water and stir until the mixture is no longer warm.
5. Whisk in buttermilk and divide into 6 ramekins.
6. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours. [NOTE: mine took way longer than 3 hours to set up.]

And what about PAMA "Boozy" Berries?
I cut strawberries and halved blueberries and covered them with PAMA liquer. Let the berries marinade for at least an hour in the refrigerator. Once your panna cotta is set up, top each with berries. And I suppose you can drink the remaining juices ;)

I made half of the recipe because I really did not feel the need to eat all 6 portions. I also used a small glass as one of the containers.

This was my 1st time making panna cotta, and I consider this quite a success! The flavor was great: the buttermilk offset the sweetness of the half & half, and the "Boozy" berries provided a bit of a spunk.

Turns out you can freeze panna cotta! Which is exactly what I'm doing with two portions that I haven't eaten yet.

What's your favorite way to flavor panna cotta?


Daring Cooks: Pita & Hummus

If you are expecting a special Valentine's Day post, you will be super disappointed. Apologies :)

Instead, here's this month's Daring Cooks challenge.
The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

When I saw the challenge, I was really excited. I absolutely love hummus and have made it many times. But I've never made pita.

I had a bag of wheat flour and decided to use it to make pitas. The process wasn't really hard, but my pitas did not "balloon" in the oven, and unfortunately tasted a bit cardboard-y.

The hummus was a combination of all of your typical ingredients: chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, etc. This recipe was WAY too heavy on the lemon. I should have corrected it, but I ate it as is.

I also made an Eggplant & Tomato dip to go along with the pita.


Buttermilk apple pancakes (semi home-made)

Ask me if I'm a fan of the Semi-Home-Made show on Food TV, and I'll adamantly say NO. However, in my own kitchen I often use shortcuts. For example, I use canned beans instead of cooking my own. I also use canned tomato sauce, which I then jazz up with herbs and garlic, instead of starting one from scratch.

One of my favorite things in my pantry is a pancake mix that only requires you to add water. This time around, I decided to jazz up this mix with 3 ingredients: an apple, buttermilk and home-made vanilla extract.

1 apple, peeled, grated
1 cup pancake mix
3/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
apricot jam

1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Do not over-mix.
2. Heat butter in an iron skillet. Spoon the mixture into the hot butter (this should make about 6 pancakes) and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side.
3. Serve with heated apricot jam.

These came out really well! For those of you who like things on a sweeter side, I'd recommend you add a bit of sugar into the mix.

What are your favorite ways to doctor up a boxed pancake mix?


Spinach, sundried tomato & Asiago souffle

When I heard we'll be having another winter snow storm in DC area this past weekend, I decided to make an egg souffle. I was inspired by a recipe I tested for Robyn Webb a few years ago, but of course made a few changes. The recipe below is the one I made on Sunday. It's surprisingly easy to make, and is good as leftovers. Hope you like it as much as I did.

Spinach, sundried tomato & Asiago souffle

cooking spray
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1 cup 1% milk
1.5 cups shredded Asiago cheese
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted, water squeezed out
10 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Spray a 1.5 quart ramekin dish with cooking spray.
3. Melt the butter in a medium pan. Add flour, stir constantly till it's combined, smooth and bubbly. Add in milk and continue to cook until the mixture is smooth and thick. Add cheese, stir to melt. Add spinach and sundried tomatoes. Combine.

4. Mix in egg yolks into the slightly cooled mixture.

5. Add egg whites and cornstarch to a bowl. Beat the egg whites till they are white and fluffy (but don't overbeat!). Carefully fold in the whites into the mixture from step 4. Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekin dish and bake for 35 minutes. Do not open the oven while you are baking your souffle.

Serve immediately. But keep in mind this also keeps well in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.

Have you made an egg souffle lately? If so, what do you add to yours? Please share!


Eggplant & tomato dip

Last week I posted a recipe for Zucchini Caviar, and some of you reminded me that you can make a similar dip/spread with eggplant. Of course you were absolutely right. As it happened, I had one eggplant sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be used. I decided to roast it for an Eggplant & tomato dip.

A note on roasting an eggplant: you can simply put it in a pre-heated 400 oven (unpeeled!) for about 40 minutes, until it's tender. OR you can go one step further to add a wonderful smoky flavor to your final dish. Here's what I did: put an eggplant directly on top of the flame on your gas stove. Keep turning the eggplant until all the skin has been blackened. Then finish roasting the eggplant in a 400F oven (mine took only 15 minutes). Let the eggplant cool, carefully remove the skin and drain off any liquid that might be inside the eggplant.

1 eggplant, roasted, skin removed
1 tomato, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, microplane-d
salt & pepper to taste
sunflower oil
splash of white vinegar

1. In a bowl mash the eggplant with a fork.
2. Add tomatoes, green onions and garlic.
3. Season with salt & pepper, and drizzle with sunflower oil and white vinegar.
4. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

You can serve the dip with sliced cucumbers, tortilla chips, or eat it as a side.

What's your favorite way to cook with an eggplant?