Saturday, January 31, 2009

Turning Cabbage into Cole Slaw, Memphis-Style

When it is winter in upstate New York, local fresh produce is in short supply, but one thing you can always count on is the trusty Cabbage. They are good keepers and you can eat them raw or cooked, but please don't overcook them because their delicate texture and flavor will be wrecked. So many people hold their noses about eating cabbage because of bad experiences with slimy, swampy-smelling cabbage that results from overcooking.

I was excited when I saw that my blogger buddy Simona of Briciole was hosting the latest round of Fresh Produce of the Month featuring my favorite cruciferous vegetable (actually I love all those cabbagey types: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, tatsoi, mustard greens, etc.)

I am just squeaking in on the last day for this Brassica blog event, so you'll have to wait until the next featured fruit or vegetable is announced to participate, but look for Simona's cabbage-filled roundup after today's deadline.

I was inspired to make a different kind of cole slaw for my cabbage entry. I usually like to make my Grandma's cole slaw recipe (shredded cabbage, carrots, and onion in a mayonnaise dressing) or an Asian-style slaw (rice vinegar dressing) but I thought I would give a Southern-style mustardy Memphis cole slaw recipe a whirl after examining this recipe. I grated my own cabbage and carrots, but otherwise followed this recipe, which calls for salting the veggies to release some liquid and then adding a spicy boiled dressing. It proved to be a hit with my Crispy gang, and I was unable to snatch it away for a sexy foodie photo before most was consumed, hence this rather forlorn shot below.

Be sure to tune into Briciole in the next week to catch the full Cabbage Catalogue, or as Simona translates into Italian: Verdura Fresca del Mese: cavolo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cook the Books Club: The Language of Baklava

The Language of Baklava. And Muhammara. And Rosewater. And Lemony, Garlicky Hummus. It's all found in the second book pick from the new foodie book club, Cook the Books. Our current host, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, picked this marvelous memoir by Diana Abu-Jaber, about her childhood growing up in icy Syracuse, New York in an extended Arab family, headed by her father Bud (Ghassan) and his gaggle of brothers.

I inhaled this book, and plan on rereading it soon, both to consult it for the recipes and to relive some of the poignantly funny scenes that the ever-observant young Diana noted between her lively dad and her various relatives, teachers, and neighbors. You can read my fuller review of this wonderful book ("The Language of Baklava: A Memoir, by Diana Abu-Jaber, NY:Pantheon, 2005) on my book blog, The Book Trout, here.

Each chapter in the book is followed by a wonderful Arab recipe and this inspired me to seek out Claudia Roden's great cookbook "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" from my local library so I could learn more about this cuisine and try out some new dishes. I lingered over this 500+ page cookbook and decided to make the following feast:

A pot of Mint Tea
Magical Muhummara
Labneh Balls
Stuffed Grape Leaves and Oil-Cured Olives over Lettuce
Sesame-Rosemary Crackers
Steamed Rice
Fava Beans

The Mint Tea was brewed by steeping dried mint from my summer garden, the Fava Beans and Stuffed Grape Leaves came from cans from the "Gourmet" section of the grocery store, but I found a bit of kitchen time to whip up another batch of very tasty Sesame-Rosemary Crackers that I experimented with earlier.

The Magical Muhammara recipe is a real winner and it is straight from the pages of "The Language of Baklava". If you don't have a copy of this wonderful book (and if you are a foodie or bibliomane, you should!), then you can go to the Saveur website to get Abu-Jaber's savory recipe for this spicy, complex-flavored dip made from toasted walnuts, pomegranate juice, roasted red peppers and other delights. I've made it twice now, and my husband has wolfed it down appreciatively. We're planning to bring it to some great cook/friends this weekend during the Superbowl festivities (Go Steelers!) and I have no doubt it will be a hit. It's easy to make (and easy to make gluten-free with GF crumbs) and tastes exotic and decadently good. Magical even.

The Labneh Balls were somewhat of a Crispy Cook experiment. Roden's cookbook notes that labneh, or yogurt cheese, can be rolled into balls and rolled in spices and drizzled with olive oil for a delightful appetizer. I had made yogurt cheese, or labneh, before, which is also easy. You just need time to let plain yogurt, mixed with a little salt, drain at least overnight to remove the moisture and make the yogurt into a creamy, spreadable cheese. Because I have some frisky, dairy-loving cats around, I made my labneh in the refrigerator, with a coffee filter-lined sieve poised over a bowl. This recipe gives more specifics, but I basically just rolled the finished labneh in chopped Italian parsley, toasted sesame seeds and smoked paprika, and then drizzled it with some extra-virgin olive oil. The labneh balls went well with the homemade crackers, too.

We feasted well that evening and plan to keep all these wonderful foods in our Crispy Cook repertoire (although the fava beans tasted a bit, well, dusty. Perhaps fresh favas are more sumptuous). I can recommend "The Language of Baklava" to anyone who enjoys an interesting biography, book about food or humorous writing. Ms. Abu-Jaber has promised to stop by and review all the Cook the Books posts after Deb posts the roundup (after the Feb. 15 deadline) so be sure to check back then to see what we all cooked up.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What is this Man Doing to those Potatoes?

A chilly 19 degree F morning here in upstate New York and I am killing time editing photos while waiting to see if my kids have (yet another) snow day from school. I ran across this photo of my cute husband engaged in some peculiar activity with a batch of potatoes snapped during an autumnal party. Do you know what he is doing?

A special Crispy prize goes to first person who guesses what he is doing to those poor tubers. Anyone who was at my house on Labor Day is excluded from this contest.

Hint: This spud stunt involves hair spray.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pea Salad for the BloggerAid Cookbook

I hope to tempt you with this sexy glimpse of my Pea Salad recipe that will be sent for consideration in the BloggerAid Cookbook. BloggerAid is a growing group of bloggers united to try and raise funds and awareness of world hunger issues. One of the first fundraising projects we have planned is a cookbook featuring recipes from dedicated cooks from around the world.

My friend Lisa gave me a recipe for Pea Salad some years ago and I like to make it now and again because it is so easy and so delicious. It features frozen peas and cashews in a delicate, creamy dressing. I love this concoction because the frozen peas (petite pois are the best) just need to be thawed out and then mixed with the other ingredients, so it's a great dish to bring to a party any time of the year. I played around with Lisa's recipe and omitted the cashews because of the nut-phobes in my family, so the photo below shows a variation of this versatile and elegant dish.

Our volunteer group needs some other recipes for this forthcoming cookbook, which is scheduled for release next holiday season. If you have an original recipe and photo to share, please consider submitting it to BloggerAid by February 12, 2009. You do not need to be a blogger or even a member of BloggerAid (but of course we welcome other BloggerAid buddies!) so feel free to click on the BloggerAid badge at the righthand side of The Crispy Cook or send me a comment or email to find out how you can help.

To get the recipe for this awesome salad you will have to buy the BloggerAid cookbook, so until then......

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Golden Cauliflower & Mushroom Fettuccine - Gluten-Free

It's Royal Foodie Joust time again over at the Leftover Queen's Foodie Blogroll and this month's trio of required ingredients are mushrooms, cauliflower and noodles. Sounds simple, right? Well, for me it was a stumper, since I couldn't get past all that creamy whiteness. How could I violate the basic principles of Home Economics Cookery and make a dish out of three white ingredients, much as I love them all separately?

Husband Dan saw me muttering over a pile of cookbooks and asked me what I was up to. When I relayed my culinary quandary, he immediately shot back with the brilliant suggestion to use one of those beautiful yellow-orange cauliflowers that have been cozying up to the regular white "choux fleurs" at our supermarket. It seems that plant scientists recently worked with a mutant head of cauliflower dug out of a Canadian marsh and bred a new variety of beta-carotene enriched cauliflowers that are a splendid sunny shade of yellow.

I procured the desired golden cauliflower head and that got my creative kitchen mojo working. I made up a pot of rice fettuccine and made a buttery wine sauce that got added color from some flat-leaf parsley and a handful of dried grape tomatoes that we grew in the garden, sliced and half and threw in the food dehydrator last summer. The tomatoes add a nice bit of chewiness and acidity to the sauce.The result was not only tasty but colorful and so I present to you the recipe for Golden Cauliflower and Mushroom Fettuccine:

Golden Cauliflower and Mushroom Fettuccine

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
10 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used baby Portabellas)
1/2 medium head yellow-orange cauliflower
3 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
8 Tbsp. butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup dehydrated or sun-dried tomatoes
Grated Fontina cheese to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil

Cut out core of cauliflower and break into very small flowerets (1 inch average size). Set aside.

Heat butter in saucepan. Add garlic and cook, stirring 2 minutes, over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and rinse with warm water and set aside.

Back to the mushrooms: Turn heat to high and add white wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium, and cook until pan juices are reduced to half, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. of the parsley and the dried tomatoes and stir another 3-4 minutes.

Toss pasta with a little olive oil to moisten. Put into serving bowls, top with some cauliflower-mushroom sauce and garnish with remaining parsley and Fontina.

Serves 6-8.

There are already some other great Joust recipes posted on the Foodie Blogroll, so you may want to visit the Leftover Queen's Forum to investigate. Hopefully, this will inspire you to Joust along with me!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Adopt A GF Blogger: Emilia's Baked Rice Paper Rolls

Sea over at the Book of Yum is having another round of the Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger Event, this time focused on healthy recipes for the New Year. I have been thwarted by my impatient efforts at wrapping and frying ice paper spring rolls in the past and long wanted to try the Baked Rice Paper Rolls recipe I bookmarked at A Gluten-Free Day. This lovely GF blog is maintained by Emilia in Finland and highlights baked goods in particular, all beautifully bathed in natural light and photographed expertly. Emilia knows how to present her food artistically and has a great attitude about gluten-free living in her words below:
I don´t feel like being celiac is a big part of how I view myself and I don´t think of myself as having a problem because I am celiac. After I left gluten out my life has not changed much, although my health improved. My attitude towards being celiac might come from the fact that I live in a country where food intolerances are very common and where people view being celiac for example as something that is not much out of the ordinary.

Though most of the recipes on A Gluten-Free Day are for sweet treats, I was most intrigued by her Baked Rice Paper Rolls recipe. I have gotten familiar with rice paper rolls in the last year and find them in the Asian section of my local supermarket. They simply contain rice and water and are easy enough to prepare for cooking. I get a large, shallow container full of warm water ready (I use a baking dish) and then dip each rice paper roll in for 30-60 seconds before laying it on a damp towel over my cutting board. Then, I am ready to roll!

Since I am somewhat frying-challenged (though my past GF Blogger Adoptee, Fresh Ginger, gives me hope for the future with this informative post) I wanted to make some crunchy spring rolls for supper. Before the celiac diagnosis, Chinese take-out was our family's favorite, but the ubiquitousness of restaurant supply company wheat-infused soy sauce knocks that option out of the park, so I was determined to follow Emilia's recipe and provide my gang with some crunchy Asian goodness. I am pleased to report that her recipe was a success and has inspired me to try it out with other delicious fillings (Emilia's rolls are stuffed with spicy, garlicky cabbage).

I would recommend A Gluten-Free Day to anyone looking for some new recipes for healthy baking, as Emilia's recipes incorporate a lot of whole flours. She also conveniently lists her ingredients in both metric and English measurements, which is helpful to bakers and cooks across the world. I have some other recipes bookmarked on her elegant blog and look forward to cooking them up.

The Book of Yum will be posting the roundup of the Healthy Resolution Edition of the Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger event in early February, but in the meantime, you can check out some of the past adoptions at this link. I am excited about being adopted for the first time with this event by none other than Sea herself and am excited to see which recipe she picks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging #166 Roundup

A spectacular feast of vegetables, fruits and herbs was laid before us from the hands of talented home cooks across the globe. Weekend Herb Blogging always surprises me with interesting recipes introducing unusual ingredients and showcasing familiar ones in unexpected new ways.

This round, #166 since Kalyn’s Kitchen first started the event three years ago was no exception. Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything Once is now our WHB headquarters and generously offered me the honor of hosting this week’s roundup. Without further ado, I will introduce the dishes participants sent to us from Australia, Greece, Italy, the Philippines, Germany, England, the United States and Canada.

We start with our Appetizer Course:

JS and TS of [Eating Club] Vancouver found a bunch of garlic chives at the market and made not one but two great recipes: Garlic Chive Pancakes and Garlic Chive Omelettes. We can start our feast with a sampling of both and our friends graciously provided step by step instructions and photos for both recipes. The Garlic Chive Pancakes are stunning and are alchemized out of only three ingredients: boiling water, flour and garlic chives.

Warming soups and chili are on the mind of many in the Northern Hemisphere, where mid-winter’s icy blast leaves us feeling the need for inside-out applications of heat, so we have many WHB entries to sample for our Soup course:

Scott the Real Epicurean turns fondly to summer’s memory with a ruby-red Papa al Pomodoro. He advises using tinned tomatoes, although if one is lucky enough to have fresh tomatoes in season, he recommends oven roasting them to deepen the flavor.

Mexican Oregano is the featured seasoning in Maggie’s Vegetable Chili from her blog Dog Hill Kitchen . Her chili recipe contains chunks of celery, onion, peppers, four kinds of beans and corn, bathed in a spicy tomato base. Sounds fragrant and good.

Jo from Food Junkie, Not Junk Food has an elegant Cauliflower Veloute with White Truffle Oil to tempt us with. Jo is an archaeologist by day and Food Junkie by night, as you can see from the wonderful food photography, recipes and wine advice on her Athens, Greece food blog. I am also proud to call Jo a friend that I have joined with in organizing a new foodie book club, Cook the Books, with our friend Deb in Hawaii at Kahakai Kitchen).

Here at the Crispy Cook, I was tempted by a Cream of Ratatouille Soup recipe and made up a pot to remind my crew of summer's wonderful garden bounty.

Let us swim over to check out our options for the Fish Course:

This is Joanne’s first time at the table with us for Weekend Herb Blogging and she was kind enough to bring a helping of Salmon with Lemon, Rosemary and Capers. Joanne’s blog, Eats Well with Others chronicles her adventures in learning to eat and cook healthier foods. Welcome to WHB, Joanne!

I find my knees buckling at the sight of Laurie’s Crispy Salmon Fingers and Spinach Skordalia. Laurie is the force behind Mediteranean Cooking in Alaska and I can’t do better to describe her dish than her lip-smacking sentence: “Here I’ve enhanced traditional skordalia with earthy spinach to create a luscious, garlicky, colorful partner for crispy, pan-fried salmon fingers”.

Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and the founder of the weekly Pasta Presto Nights tried out a wonderful recipe: Seared Scallops with Peruvian Parsley Salsa. Ruth reports that the Salsa did not overwhelm the delicate scallops and plans to use the Parsley Salsa over pasta and egg dishes.

Now for some Salad to clear our palates:

Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi offered up some growing and cooking information about a beautiful red lettuce variety, Lollo Rosso. They also note that the nutritional value of red lettuces like Lollo Rosso contain anti-oxidants like beta carotene and lutein, along with healthy dollops of Vitamins A and K. Pass the vinaigrette!

My buddy Maria at Organically Cooked , provides many interesting stories about the history, food, culture and landscape of her home in Hania, Crete. Her WHB contribution is a recreation of a recent restaurant recipe, Botanical Park Salad, which incorporates a bed of spinach, rocket (arugula) and lettuce topped with salty cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

We have a great variety of Main Dishes and Sides to Share:

Italian blogger Cinzia from Cindystar offers us a bite of her Roast Pork Loin with Hazelnuts and Honey Sauce. You can easily translate Cinzia’s blog from her native Italian into English, French, Spanish and German using her translation buttons, so you can follow her recipe easily. It sounds delectable!

Sydney, Australia blogger Anna from Morsels & Musings offers us a tasty platter of Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde made from tomatillos. I’ve had Chilaquiles when dining out in Mexican restaurants, but never thought to recreate them at home and now I have an awesome recipe!

PG in Hamburg, Germany went to the farmer’s market and brought home an unusual variety of turnip, called a Teltower Rubchen. She fried them up with fragrant Indian spices and produced a beautiful and tasty-looking new recipe on her blog, Kitchen Stories.

For those who can never have too many zucchini recipes (me! me!), Ning tantalizes us with her wonderful Oven-Baked Zucchini Fries. Ning’s blog, Heart and Hearth, comes to us from the Philippines, and she is a frequent contributor to WHB and introduces us to many interesting ingredients and recipes. I love the combination of spices and cornmeal to make a crunchy coating for these healthy zucchini fries.

A spicy Ananas Pickle from Brii at Briiblog on the shores of Garda Lake in Italy is just the right condiment for a ham dinner. Ananas is another name for pineapple and this pickle incorporates many fragrant spices to become the perfect, tangy foil for the saltiness of the ham.

Maria of Kali Orexi, which means Bon Appetit in Greek, provides us with a classic recipe for Spanakorizo. This spinach and rice casserole is a perfect one-pot meal for busy cooks and it certainly tempts me with its wonderful blend of spinach, tomatoes, rice, wine and mint!

Vancouver food blogger Christine at Kitschow made up a batch of fragrant Baked Fennel to divide among our plates. The fennel is sliced and baked up with white wine, garlic, butter and oil and sounds like a wonderful dish.

More delectable greens are used in Genie’s Lemon-Kale Risotto. This Oakland, California gardener and cook plates up a healthy and rich-tasting risotto from her funny, beautiful and informative blog, The Inadvertent Gardener.

Katerina of Culinary Flavors is a new food blogger from Athens, Greece and this is also her first time participating in Weekend Herb Blogging. Welcome Maria! She made a beautiful batch of Spinach Crepes for us to share, so grab a fork and dive in.

I am sure we all saved room for just a little Dessert:

Ivy of Kopiaste…to Greek Hospitality brought a delectable Nectarine Cake with a crunchy nut bottom. She usually makes this recipe with apples but tried this recipe when nectarines were in season and it was a happy success. Ivy is one of the dynamos behind BloggerAid, a dedicated group of food bloggers organizing to raise funds and awareness of world hunger issues. (BloggerAid is currently working on a fundraiser cookbook, so if you have a recipe to share by Feb. 12, please contact Ivy or me for more information).

WHB Permanent Host Haalo provides us each with a slice of her Apricot Upside-Down Cake at her blog Cook (Almost) Anything Once. Apricots are in season in her Melbourne, Australia markets and this sunny cake looks quite inviting.

Thanks to all the great bloggers who contributed recipes to this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and to our Master Host, Haalo at Cook (Almost) Anything Once for giving me the opportunity to host this fun event. I will now pass hosting duties on to Chris at the lovely food blog Mele Cotte. Back to my kitchen...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Culinary Trip Around the World: Poland

Joan at Foodalogue came up with the brilliant idea to plan A Culinary Tour Around the World event both to sample the world's cuisines and to promote BloggerAid, a new consortium of food bloggers united to raise awareness and funds for world hunger. Last time, I traveled with Joan to Norway, where unfortunately I was blinded by the whiteness of the food, but now we journey to Poland, my husband's paternal grandfather's home land. While Dan never sampled much Polish food at home as his family, like many other immigrant families at that time, wanted to be as Americanized as possible, we do know a few Polish phrases like "Dah me boozhie" (Give me a kiss) that his grandfather passed on.

I had some cabbage (kapusti) in the vegetable crisper and thought I'd try some sauteeing it up with mushrooms and dill seed for some Polish flavor. The recipe turned out to be a toothsome one and I paired it with some plain steamed rice for a simple dinner, as I had a fancy Polish cake to pull out for dessert.

Sauteed Cabbage a la Polska

1 half head of green cabbage, core removed and chopped coarsely
1/2 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dill seed

Melt butter in large skillet. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add cabbage and saute, stirring, another 10-15 minutes, until softened, adding water if skillet becomes dry. Add dill seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, covered, another 5 minutes to let cabbage steam up and become tender.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Now, I had high hopes for my Polish dessert. I have a newly acquired cookbook, "Ultimate Cake" by Barbara Maher (NY: Dorling Kindersley, 1996), which, like the other DK publications, has clear photos and lots of them, to illustrate all different kinds of cakes and baking techniques. I was flipping through it and my caught on a Polish Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe which was virtually gluten-free, so I thought I would attempt making it, despite the fact that there were about a twenty different steps to its fabrication.

In the last book I read, Diana Abu-Jaber's "The Language of Baklava" (for the Cook the Books club), the author describes the great divide which separates cooks and bakers: "Cooks are dashing, improvisational, wayward, intuitive; bakers are measured, careful, rational, precise." I am a cook and when I tackle being a baker it takes great restraint in following instructions exactly, measuring precisely and not deviating on some cooking tangent. I was determined to make this complicated Polish treat without doing anything different other than subbing some gluten-free breadcrumbs for the tablespoon of bread crumbs called for in the recipe.

And so, with Ms. Maher's detailed cookbook instructions and lavish illustrations, I:

-Separated and whipped egg yolks and whites
-Prepared a Coffee Mousseline Buttercream Icing
-Made Simple Syrup and Coffee-Flavored Sugar Syrup
-Concocted Apricot Glaze
-Made Coffee Glace Icing
-Sliced a Cake into Layers

It took me the better part of two afternoons to do all these steps in my fabulous dessert and I enjoyed learning some new baking skills. However, this story ends badly at the very final step, when after brushing my split nut torte with apricot glaze and letting that dry, I attempted to "coax" my coffee glace icing over the top of my cake and down the sides. As much as I tried to coax this frosting over my cake, it kept bunching at the top and pulling at the glaze, which in turn, pulled at the top layer of crumbs from the cake. Granted, my cake was a little (alright, a lot) lumpier than the model cake in the cookbook photo, but this kept my Polish cake from becoming the gloriously beautiful dessert I had slaved for.

Nonetheless, my culinary Polska Palooza proved to be a hit with my family, as we all enjoyed the humble cabbage dish and ate my less-than-perfect cake, as it was still awesomely tasty.

I hope to join Joan on some of her other stops along her Culinary Tour of the World. Next up is Germany, which is another cuisine I'm not entirely familiar with, so I will have to go forth and research their traditions before attempting a Teutonic feast. One thing is for sure, I am not going to try any fancy cakes!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cream of Ratatouille Soup

Ratatouille is a great summer casserole that we make quite a bit when the tomatoes, zucchini and peppers (and sometimes those slow-growing eggplants) are popping out of the garden like firecrackers in August and September. I usually make some up at least once a week for dinner with some melted cheese on top and then freeze the rest to pull out in the winter when we need a little garden remembrance.

This recipe caught my eye and I actually was so "homesick" for ratatouille during our January Arctic-style weather that I went out and bought fresh zucchini, peppers and a lovely little eggplant to whip up this lovely soup.

Being the style of cook that I am, of course I fiddled with the recipe: I didn't peel my eggplant, I used vegetable broth instead of the chicken stock called for, used dried thyme and basil from my garden preservation stores and substituted 1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes and their juice for the fresh tomatoes. Half-and-half was used instead of heavy cream, so my version of this soup recipe is posted below.

Cream of Ratatouille Soup

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 unpeeled and chopped eggplant, diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2/3 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Saute eggplant, onions, red pepper, zucchini, and garlic, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Add tomatoes and their juice, vegetable stock, thyme, and basil. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover. Simmer 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Take half of vegetables from pot and puree in food process or blender. Return to pot, season with salt and pepper to taste and add half-and-half. Heat through and serve.

Serves 6-8.

**I plan to make this soup again, but I think I would modify it further as it was kind of tangy from the eggplant:zucchini ratio. Next time, I would triple the number of zucchinis. I would imagine that one could also just thaw out some frozen ratatouille and puree it in the food processor to form the basis for this same type of soup.

This delicious soup is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #166, which is being hosted by me this week. Weekend Herb Blogging is a food blog event that focuses on recipes featuring herbs and plant ingredients or which inform readers about the nutritional qualities of herbs and plants. Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything Once is the present hostess of Weekend Herb Blogging and you can find out more about the event, who some upcoming guest hosts will be, as well as WHB roundup archives on her site.

I have already received some interesting and toothsome WHB entries already this week and will be posting a roundup on Monday. The deadline for submitting a Weekend Herb Blogging post to me is tomorrow (3pm Sunday - Utah Time, 9pm Sunday - London Time, 8 am Monday - Melbourne (Aus) Time).

Thanks for stopping by....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who is this Crispy Cook, Anyway?

Who is this Crispy Cook, anyway? And why is she so Crispy?

This is my 300th post and I am feeling a little reflective about the old Crispy Cook blog. It's interesting that I started this blog as an off-the-cuff experiment two years ago when I was interested in creating a blog for my used bookstore, Old Saratoga Books. I wanted to get a feel for the design and function of bloggery and so I just started flinging up some favorite recipes from our new gluten-free lifestyle in preparation for my SERIOUS, ERUDITE, CAREFULLY-CRAFTED blog for the bookstore. The bookstore blog, The Book Trout, has been demoted as my primary blogging focus, however, as I find that when I have some spare time from the world of bookselling (12 years now with our open shop), I switch over to my kitchen passions with the Crispy Cook.

Originally, this blog was called "Wheat-Free, Meat-Free", but I changed over to the Crispy Cook title last year to make the title a little more memorable and to reflect the meal-planning conundrums I am often faced with in feeding my interesting family. Yours truly is the omnivore in the family and aside from a personal dislike of candied fruit, licorice and creamed corn, I am open to sampling my way through the world's foods and cuisines. Husband Dan became a vegetarian (well, pescatarian, as he eats fish and shellfish and likes to go fishing) several years ago after reading too many books like Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and books by veggie back-to-the-landers Helen and Scott Nearing, which just shows you the dangers of reading. Then a year later he got the Celiac diagnosis after a Last Supper of pizza and beer and we have had to rethink our lifestyle and eating habits. We have two often ravenous teenage daughters, one who irritatingly doesn't like pasta (the Staff of Life!) and the other who flirts with veganism now and again (but doesn't like nuts or most vegetables!). No wonder, then, that I, as chief cook in our house, am so Crispy!

All of the recipes on The Crispy Cook are gluten-free, because Celiac Disease requires the complete elimination of gluten proteins from one's diet. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition triggered by eating wheat, barley and rye (and oats not processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities). My take on the gluten-free lifestyle is to try and cook things that are naturally gluten-free as much as possible. That isn't always possible with baking, as wheat flour is such an integral part of Western food preparation, but I don't try to recreate the gluten-packed food favorites that Dan enjoyed so much as seek out new foods and ingredients to expand our culinary adventures. We've certainly enjoyed checking out quinoa, a wide range of rice and other wheatless pastas, unusual fruits and vegetables and spices (next up: rosewater!).

My goal with this blog is to share our experiences and our new gluten-free cooking style, although one doesn't have to dine gluten-free to enjoy these recipes. I also use my blogging time to improve my photography and writing skills and to swap gardening, preserving and cooking tips. Hopefully, my restaurant and product reviews also helps the GF community in the Capital District.

The Crispy Cook comes to you from Saratoga County, New York (about 200 miles north of New York City). You'll find lots of recipes that incorporate fresh vegetables and food from our garden and local farmers’ markets. I like to do canning and preserving, and to try out new recipes and cuisines, much to the consternation of my two daughters (”Did you make this stuff for the blog?”), so there’s always something interesting bubbling out of the Crispy Cook kitchen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Savory Rice and Cheese Muffins

Most mornings, the Crispy cantina is kind of slow. I need two mugs of coffee before I am able to think clearly so the kids are used to grabbing a yogurt or some cereal for breakfast before school. If they want something more substantial, it is my Dear One, Dan, who cracks any eggs or goes near electrical appliances to whip up lumberjack breakfasts.

On weekends, however, I am more likely to be creeping about the kitchen in a post-caffeinated state and the other morning, when our daily snowfall started, I decided to whip up a batch of hot muffins. I had some leftover rice, some cheese and some of Carol Fenster's Bean Blend left from my holiday cooking baking projects to use up, so I came up with these lovely muffins:

Savory Rice and Cheese Muffins

2 cup bean flour mix (if you are not cooking gluten-free, use regular wheat flour and leave out the xanthan gum below)

2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 tsp. xanthan gum

1 cup leftover cooked rice
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used Asiago)
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. onion powder
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten lightly

Grease 12 cup muffin pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)

Mix together dry ingredients.

In separate bowl, mix together milk, cider vinegar, oil and eggs. Mix into dry ingredients until everything is just blended. Add rice and cheese.

Pour into muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Delicious served hot with butter.

Store leftover muffins in an airtight container when cooled.

Makes 12 savory muffins.

I am sending a virtual batch of these delicious muffins off to Joelen's Culinary Adventures, where this month's Tasty Tools event features measuring cups and spoons, which were put to good use in this recipe. You can join in the fun by submitting a measuring tools recipe by the January 31st roundup over at Joelen's blog, where she is always cooking up a storm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging Submissions Requested

I have the honor of being this week's guest host for Weekend Herb Blogging, one of the most edifying and interesting food blog events out there. WHB was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen over three years ago to feature informational posts and recipes focused on herbs and unusual plant ingredients. Kalyn recently passed the torch of Weekend Herb Blogging from her base in Utah, USA to Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything Once in Australia. Haalo's site contains archives of recipes and roundups of WHB, lists of guest hosts in the coming months and full details of the WHB rules, but here's the basics:

Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - include the phrase Weekend Herb Blogging with a link to Haalo's site and to the Crispy Cook.

Send an email to oldsaratogabooks AT gmail DOT com with WHB#166 in the subject line and the following details:

* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo: 250px wide

Emails must be received by:

* 3pm Sunday - Utah Time
* 9pm Sunday - London Time
* 8am Monday - Melbourne (Aus) Time

If you are new to Weekend Herb Blogging, you can look through some of the interesting and delicious posts included in this past week's WHB roundup, hosted by Pam of Backyard Pizzeria. This last post featured Australian-grown black truffles, Red Danube walnuts, Selino (a Greek celery), dried Jackfruits, Fenugreek and many other tasty and unusual ingredients.

Hope to see you in the Roundup!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fete du Fromage: Bergenost Cheese

Another white food from Norway for you, but this time, I can recommend it quite highly. Chez Loulou, the gorgeous and drool-inducing blog by an American expat living somewhere in the middle of a French vineyard, has a monthly La Fete du Fromage celebrating the delights of cheese from around the world. I missed last month's Fete in the frenzy of the holiday season but I am happy to say that I squeezed some new cheese into my family this past month and I present it now for your delectation.

The cheese in question is Bergenost, described as an artisan cheese made in Corfu, New York by Yancey's Fancy Cheese. The cheese is a buttery triple cream Norwegian style cheese, made with imported cultures, and won the 1999 Gold Medal in the New York State Fair Cheese Competition. It is a cream-colored, soft cheese encased in a dark green wax shell and tastes mild and very rich. I found it in the fancy cheese case at Hannaford's Supermarket (we are not civilized enough to have a cheesemonger within walking or driving distance like the French, quel dommage!) It was perfect paired with some homemade crackers, green grapes and a hearty red wine for a light dinner.

Since we are all about celebrating the glory of cheese, I thought I would also show off my new cheese plates. I picked them up at one of my favorite funky stores, Junque, 514 Main Street in Bennington, Vermont, which sells lots of retro kitchenware, costume jewelry, knicknacks and cool crafts. The owner, Kim, is a sweetie and makes a lot of craft items herself. On my last visit I bought my circa 1940s-50s cheese plates, imprinted with lurid color images of cheese, and housed in a cute wire holder.

The Swiss cheese plate looks normal, but another plate with a pink and brown speckled cheese seems to mistakenly depict head cheese rather than the dairy kind and another shows off a distinctly unappetizing green polka dotted cheese. The back of each plate is stamped "Japan", a country without a culinary tradition imbued with a lot of dairy products, so perhaps the cheese plate artist had a little cultural misinterpretation going on. One man's Stilton is another man's compost, I suppose.

At any rate, be sure to check back with Chez Loulou after the 15th to see what other glorious cheeses have been sampled. Au revoir.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Smoky Sweet Potato Soup

Leftover roasted sweet potatoes were the inspiration for this hearty winter soup. Sweet potatoes were on sale at the market last week and I grabbed a bagful to roast up in the oven. It's easy to do: I prick them with a fork several times and then pop them onto a cookie sheet for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F. You can turn them once if you like, but that's not necessary.

Our family likes them as is or with the insides scooped out, mashed and mixed with butter and a little brown sugar and then popped back into the skins for another 10 minutes of cooking time.

I had three baked sweet potatoes left from our supper, so I decided to make soup to have on hand during our cold January weather. I grabbed some frozen vegetable stock from the freezer, sauteed up some onions and veggies, and threw in a couple of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from my seemingly inexhaustible little can in the fridge, and a smoky, spicy and slightly sweet soup was born:

Smoky Sweet Potato Soup

3 sweet potatoes, baked until soft

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
4 Tbsp. butter

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (substitute 1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes for heat, but you'll miss the smoky taste of the chipotles)
6 cups vegetable broth
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Scoop out sweet potato flesh and mash. Set aside.

Heat butter in heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring, being careful not to scorch. Add onions and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add celery and carrots, and keep stirring and cooking until vegetables are softened, about 5-10 minutes.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and add sweet potato flesh and chipotle peppers. Let cook another 20 minutes. Season with salt to taste. There is no need to thicken the soup with any kind of flour or cornstarch, as the sweet potatoes add a nice, thick texture. I like the soup chunky, but if you prefer a silken texture, go ahead and puree in a blender or food processor.

Serves 8. Garnish with chopped parsley.

I am sending this recipe on over to Honolulu where my friend Deb of Kahakai Kitchen hosts a weekly "Souper Sundays" event rounding up soups and stews from great cooks all over the map. Be sure to stop by tomorrow at Deb's blog to see what everyone's cooking up!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Puppy Chow for Dad: A Chocolatey, Crunchy Gluten-Free Gift

My cute youngest daughter Amy was excited to make her Dad a homemade Christmas present (the best kind!) of Puppy Chow, a snack she had sampled at a friend's house. She made out a grocery list and nagged me to go grocery shopping with her (!?!) last month. We purchased the necessary ingredients and then she hid them under her bed until we had a safe, secret cooking time.

This recipe is extremely easy, made even more so with the use of our microwave oven, so it only took about 20 minutes from start to finish. It certainly takes longer to eat it up! Dan was very happy with his present and I am happy to report that there is none left.

Puppy Chow

1 (12.8 oz.) box Rice Chex (the only Chex cereal that is gluten-free)
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 (12 oz.) pkg chocolate chips
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Melt chocolate chips in microwave, taking care that they don't burn. Microwaves vary widely in their heating strength and amperage, so try melting them 1 minute at a time.

Empty Rice Chex into big bowl or pot. Stir melted chocolate chips into the cereal to coat it.

Melt peanut butter in microwave, again watching closely to ensure that it doesn't burn. (burnt peanut butter smells unappetizingly like feet). Mix into Chex. Cool 10 minutes.

Mix in confectioner's sugar and toss Puppy Chow to make sure it is evenly coated.

Fills 2 (1 quart) tins.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sesame-Rosemary Crackers, Gluten-Free and Crispy!

With two teenagers in the house, the Crispy Cook has to constantly prepare and throw food at them in between working, driving them everywhere, nagging them to do things, buying them ever longer pairs of pants, and, oh, squeezing in a little bit of bloggery. My two kids don't have to eat gluten-free, but they constantly raid the stash of GF snacks I have set aside for their wheat-free dad. My youngest has a special affection for Nut Thins crackers and manages to ferret out these tasty snacks no matter where I try to hide them.

I figured I better get "cracking" on learning how to make my own gluten-free crackers for Dad so that we will always have a chance of having things to pair with cheese and spreads for a quickie dinner and for his beloved football playoffs. (Go Giants!). These crackers would be great to take to parties and on trips, and would absolutely make an easy and thoughtful homemade gift for a gluten-free friend or loved one.

The GF cracker recipe over at Lauren's Daring to Thrive was my initial starting point for my cracker research. I like her recipe because the flax seeds add a lot of fiber, which is usually deficient in my gluten-free baking (no whole wheat bran to add). Her recipe calls for almond meal, which I haven't yet added to my Brave New World of GF Flours, so I substituted in some finely ground pecans. And I wanted a Middle Eastern flavor combo for my plan to partner these crackers with some hummus, so I used rosemary and toasted sesame seeds. Thus, here is a variant of Lauren's excellent Gluten Free cracker recipe:

Sesame-Rosemary Crackers

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped (I used my food processor to make them finely ground, almost into a coarse meal)

1/4 cup flax seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. dried rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp. cider vinegar

Toast sesame seeds until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes in a toaster oven or hot oven. Watch carefully so that they don't burn.

Soak flax seeds in 1/4 cup warm water for about 15 minutes, or until they have swollen to absorb the water.

In a medium mixing bowl, blend together sorghum, tapioca, pecans and salt. Add flax seeds, olive oil, sesame seeds, rosemary and cider vinegar and mix into a ball of dough. If dough is too dry, add a tsp. or two of warm water to make dough ball stick together. Divide dough ball in half.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on your counter and place first dough ball on top. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll with rolling pin to rough rectangular shape to fit a cookie sheet. I rolled this out to a little under 1/4 inch thickness. Remove top sheet of parchment paper and place bottom parchment layer and dough on cookie sheet. Score crackers into serving size with sharp knife or pizza cutter (about 1/5 x 2.5 inches).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, or until slightly brown at edges. While first batch is baking, roll out your second cracker batch as above.

Makes about 60 crackers. Once cooled, store in airtight container to keep fresh.

We served these tasty crackers with hummus and this inaugural batch was scarfed up in one day, so I will have to double the recipe next time. They resemble the "Mary's Gone Crackers" brand that is available in our local supermarket Natural Foods aisle and are pleasantly nutty.

In addition to this Sesame-Rosemary Cracker and Lauren's original Crispy Cracker recipe, here are some other gluten-free cracker recipes you (and I) might like to try:

Goldfish Crackers
from the Book of Yum

Chickpea Crackers from the Fat-Free Vegan (test-driven by the Crispy Cook here)

Savory Grain-Free Crackers from Karina's Kitchen

Herb Blend Gluten Free Crackers from Culinarty

Walnut Crackers from Elana's Pantry

Armenian Style Lavosh
from Gluten A Go Go

I am submitting this recipe as my entry for this week's round of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Pam at her Australian blog, Backyard Pizzeria. This fun weekly event, now in its third year, highlights herbs and unusual plant ingredients in recipes from amazing cooks around the world, and is now coordinated by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything Once. The homegrown rosemary in my cracker recipe will serve as my highlighted ingredient, although the flax seeds (available at most health food stores) and sorghum and tapioca flours would certainly qualify as unusual plant ingredients as well. I certainly never cooked with them until three years ago, when Dan became a citizen of Planet Celiac, but this has been part of our new culinary adventures!

You can check Haalo's site to see archives of Weekend Herb Blogging recipes and check to see who some of the upcoming guest hosts will be. I have the honor and pleasure to be next week's host for this popular food blogger event and will have to look through my recipe file for another interesting recipe to contribute then.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Culinary Tour Around the World: Norway

One of my BloggerAid buddies, Joan of Foodalogue, is helping to promote hunger awareness through a new event, A Culinary Tour Around the World. We are going to have a virtual tour of many different countries and their culinary traditions starting with Norway.

I had to do a little research on Norwegian cooking, as I tend to favor spicier fare, and found that there was, not surprisingly given Norway's extensive sea coast, a lot of emphasis on fish dishes.
There is also a heavy emphasis on white-colored food, perhaps in honor of the long, snowy winters. The teachings of my junior high school home economics teacher stressing color balance in meal planning kept haunting me as I leafed through the pages of my Time-Life Scandinavian Cookbook and I knew I just couldn't reproduce a white fish with white potatoes with perhaps a jazzy white cauliflower on the side to liven things up.

Luckily, the Internet has many websites devoted to Norwegian culture and I was tempted at last by a Cod Au Gratin recipe that sounded like it would pass muster with the Crispy Family. It was a white-dominant casserole, but I paired it with some steamed peas to break up that Whiter Shade of Pale.

While there was no cod at my supermarket fish counter, there was a sale on frozen Swai (pronounced "Swy") fillets, which are a farm-raised catfish from Vietnam and have a firm flesh and delicate taste. I tinkered with the original recipe a bit, adding gluten-free substitutions and adjusting things as the website recipe seems a bit jumbled at Norway-Hei. I left in the capers, which I love and the rest of my family loathes, and sure enough, they were detected and left on the side of everyone's plate.

The verdict: Basically, this is a variant of the old Tuna Noodle Casserole every Mom in America was required by law to make at least twice monthly during the 1960s-70s. Sub in a can of tuna for the Cod or Swai and mix those peas into the casserole, and it would be indistinguishable from that starchy standby. However, the kids ate it up and thought it was fun to learn a little about Norway. I pulled out the atlas, donned a Viking helmet from the dress-up chest and we had a little Norwegian flag planted in the middle of our dinner, so it was a festive family dinner. I did provide a couple of bottles of hot sauce on the table, including my favorite green hot sauce, Peewee's Green, to add some non-Nordic zing.

Here's the recipe for:

Norwegian Au Gratin Cod
(or other Fish)

2 lbs. cooked cod or other firm, white fish like Swai, tilapia, haddock etc.

(I cooked my Swai in a buttered 9x13 glass baking dish which I later reused as my Au Gratin dish. I cooked thawed fillets, patted dry, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and then after they cooled, mashed them up into small pieces. I saved the cooking juices for my fish broth.)

1 cup fish broth (I used pan juices from cooking the fish and hot water with a fish bouillon cube)
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. butter
5 Tbsp. brown rice flour
2 Tbsp. snipped chives (from my freezer)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. capers
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. gluten-free bread crumbs
1 (12 oz.) bag gluten-free pasta (I used Bionaturae elbows)

Cook fish as per instructions above.

Meanwhile, cook and drain pasta until al dente. Set aside.

Make white sauce by heating skillet over medium heat and adding butter to melt. Whisk in rice flour, one Tbsp. at a time. Gradually add fish broth and bring just to a boil, while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Whisk in milk gradually, again, bringing just to a boil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and let melt.

Remove from heat and add nutmeg, chives, salt and pepper to taste, capers and fish. Add eggs and blend together gently and pat into 9x13 glass baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned at edges.

Serves 8 hungry Vikings.

A big thank you to Joan at Foodalogue for hosting this fun event and for linking it to BloggerAid. There are exciting plans for our new group of bloggers united in raising funds and awareness of hunger issues in this New Year, including a cookbook and several other Internet events, so be sure to visit the BloggerAid website and consider joining us.

Next stop in our Culinary Tour: Poland!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Spicy Lentil Chili to Warm You Up Inside-Out

It is definitely chili weather here in Saratoga County, New York. Lots of ice crust and snow that crunches underfoot and mornings where there is a bit of ice on the INSIDE of the windows. Luckily we have two woodstoves, two fat cats and one fuzzy dog to help warm our mammalian bodies, but to stoke the internal temperatures even further, nothing beats a pot of Spicy Lentil Chili.

Dan's been fiddling with various lentil chili recipes for a few years now and for his last couple of batches, he had the inspiration to add a couple of chipotles in adobo sauce to add even more zip to his creation. This makes one bodacious chili.

Being fairly small, lentils cook up quickly and this makes for an easy one-dish supper. We like this lentil chili served over rice and Cincinnati-style over spaghetti, but it stands alone just fine too.

My blogger buddy Gloria Chadwick, a prolific cookbook author and Head Blogger over at Cookbook Cuisine and Food and Flavors of San Antonio is having a monthly chili cook-off and I thought this Lentil Chili would be a great, vegetarian entry. The winners are eligible to receive Gloria's new San Antonio cookbook and a cool chile pepper magnet, but even more exciting is her offer to include recipes in another cookbook that she is working on. I made Dan write down his recipe and so I offer it forth as a very delicious meatless chili to help raise your internal thermostat.

Spicy Chipotle Lentil Chili

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/4 cup chili powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 stalks celery, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 green peppers, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

5 cups vegetable stock (homemade is best, but any GF brand will do)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, or peeled tomatoes, squished into pieces
1 (16 oz.) bag dried lentils
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (1 small can usually lasts me several months, so I keep it in the refrigerator after opening)
1 cup beer (we used sorghum-based Red Bridge for gluten-free dining)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toppings: sour cream, snipped cilantro or parsley, shredded Cheddar

Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven large enough to be your final chili pot. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and green pepper and cook, stirring, another 5 minutes.

Heat vegetable broth in separate pot until boiling. Take out about 1/4 cup of stock into a separate bowl and mix with cornstarch until completely blended into a smooth paste. Add a little more hot broth and blend in well to avoid lumps. Add this to the sauteed vegetables in chili pot. Stir and add remaining hot broth, 1 cup at a time, to blend.

Add tomatoes to chili pot and bring to a boil. Add lentiles, chipotles, and beer and bring to another boil. Lower heat and simmer, 40-45 minutes, or until lentils are tender, but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with desired garnishes.

Serves 8-10 and is even more wonderful the day after.

Gloria will be posting the January Chili Cook-Off entries after the January 20 deadline, so head on over there after that date to check out the spiciness. In the meantime, I encourage my Northern Hemisphere compadres to cook up a batch of this delicious Lentil Chili to keep your insides nice and toasty.