I can’t help myself. I am on a soup and stew bender, and this chili is my latest rendition. This chili is a hearty stew perfect for the winter weather. It’s chunky and sating, packed with black beans, brimming with peppers and butternut squash, and fortified with spicy sausage. If you can stand it, let it refrigerate overnight before serving, and it will taste even better. This will warm you in the cold weather, and is a festive snack option for Superbowl viewing.
Black Bean, Sausage and Butternut Squash Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cups butternut squash cubes cut in 1/2″ square
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, membranes and seeds removed, cut in 1/2″ pieces
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked black beans
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 scallions, white and green parts finely sliced
fresh avocado as garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in a stock pot or deep skillet over medium heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, cut in 1/4 inch slices.
Add onion to pot and saute until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add squash, garlic and peppers. Saute 3 minutes. Add dry spices and cook stirring, one minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste and bay leaves. Simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in black beans, sausage, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 more minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Before serving add cilantro. Serve in bowls with with scallions, fresh avocado (if using) and additional cilantro.
It’s Nacho Night at our house. Yes, I confess. Foodie I may be, parent I certainly am, health minded almost always. But there is a time and place for nachos, and tonight is the night. Is it possible to call nachos healthy? I suppose, or, where there is a will there is a way. But if you bear with me a moment, I will try to list the merits of a homemade platter of nachos for an easy, family dinner. Or, rather, I will repeat the arguments my 13 year-old presented me with when he implored that we have nachos for dinner tonight. I fell for it.
These nachos are meatless. The chips are layered simply with grated cheese, green onions and black olives (deferring to the pickier sensibilites of my 10 year-old.) Grilled under the oven broiler until the cheese melts and the chips turn a bit brown, the nachos are then served with bowls of homemade guacamole and salsa on the side. Both of these sides are healthy, and loaded with veggies. I have tried different chips and prefer a good quality corn chip, but if you wish to up the ante, Trader Joe’s carries Flaxseed chips. They are as equally high in fat as regular chips, but offer the added flaxseed, and taste good to boot. Finally, nachos score big in the social department: Great for a crowd, family friendly, fun to eat, and just in time for the Superbowl. So, maybe not the healthiest, but they sure make up for it in the fun and camaraderie department. These days, this kind of fun eating is a bright spot in our day. Are you convinced yet?
Nachos with Guacamole and Tomato Salsa Serves 4-6
12 oz. (350 grams) corn tortilla chips
3/4 lb. grated cheese (monterey jack, cheddar or combination)
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
8 green onions (scallions), ends trimmed, finely sliced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, stemmed, sliced thinly or 1/4 cup bottled, sliced jalapenos
On a rectangular baking sheet, or oven-proof serving platter arrange half the chips in one layer. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Cover with remaining chips in one layer. Sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Evenly arrange olives, green onions, jalapenos over chips. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place under pre-heated oven grill. Grill until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serve immediately with Salsa and Guacamole.
For the Guacamole:
Makes about 2 cups
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, grated, with juices
1/2 red serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 ripe avocados
Juice of one lime
dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/4 cup chopped cilantro/coriander sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium sized bowl combine onions, chile pepper, garlic, avocados, lime juice and hot sauce.
Mash avocados with a fork and mix ingredients together, keeping a lumpy consistency. Add cilantro and stir in. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: Guacamole can be made up to 4 hours in advance. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent discoloration. Also, try putting an avocado pit into the middle of the guacamole to help prevent discoloration.
For the Tomato Salsa: also known as Pico de Gallo Makes about 3 cups
1 1/2 cups pasata or tomato purée
3 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded,finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, minced
1 serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
1 teaspoon dried cumin
Juice from 1/2 lime, about 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the Salsa: Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir to mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit at least one hour and up to 4 hours before serving.
Note: The ingredients and amounts are a general suggestion. Add or omit spices and chiles to your desired taste.
No, I am not talking about the Superbowl. I am talking about UEFA. It’s World Cup Football Championship time again and for those of you not interested in or in touch with this intenrationl rite, it is THE football championship that takes place worldwide every summer. Don’t get me wrong. I hardly watch football (that’s soccer for you Americans). But, after all, I am married to a Dane and spent many years in Europe where, come summer, if you are not following at least a teensy bit of football in the news or on the television, you are living in a shoebox. Two years ago we were vacationing in Italy at the time the Italians won the world cup. Now that left an impression I am still talking about. During the quarterfinals we were in Rome. Being the tourists we were, we naively ventured into the city for dinner during the quarterfinal match. While the restaurants were open, they were very empty except for wayward disoriented tourists such as ourselves. The staff were, to say the least, distracted, and we quickly deduced that we might as well just go with the flow, and root for our new favorite football team while not being overly critical about the spotty table service. After our meal we realized that there would be no hope in finding a taxi driver to bring us back to our hotel. So, we wandered into another restaurant with a lounge and cheered on our new favorite team as they won the match. From that moment on the streets came alive with revelers, cars honking, sirens blaring. This continued well into the night, long after we had gone to bed – and it was just the quarterfinals. The semi-finals took place after we left Rome for Tuscany where we were sharing a house with some friends near Montepulciano. The afternoon of the match, we wandered around the narrow streets of the medieval village and came upon the square, or Piazza, where an enormous screen was being erected against a building façade. Rows of folding chairs filled the Piazza, encircling the fountain, and an instant outdoor theater was in place where all the village residents would gather together that evening and watch the football match. It made me think of the film Cinema Paradiso.
The finals were played on one of our last nights in Italy. We had moved on to the Isle of Elba and were staying in a lovely hotel with an excellent restaurant. The staff was very professional and proper, and the clientelle was well-heeled and dignified, hailing from Europe, the Middle East and Russia. So, imagine the night of the finals, when in the middle of the first dinner service, a tuxedoed maître d’ wheeled a television into the center of the dining terrasse. On cue, all protocol was suspended, and waiters, busboys, hotel staff gathered around the television along with diners balancing dinner plates on their tuxedoed laps. The French tourists cheered on France and the Italian tourists and staff cheered on the Italians. We were all caught up in a passionate TV dinner for the next 2 hours. When the meal was finished we crowded into the bar, squeezing into already full sofas, balancing on the arms of chairs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, elbow to elbow with our fellow football fans. A Swedish photographer bought us a round of drinks, we reciprocated and also bought drinks for the French couple sitting at our feet, the bartender invited our children to perch on the bar and gave them free sodas. Together we cheered and booed as Italy won the world cup. What an equalizer. Who said that English is the international language?