Stuffed Peppers - delicious, rustic fare in about 30 minutes

Stuffed Peppers with Chorizo and Frijoles Negros

Over two years ago I started paying more attention to cooking. Not recipes, but cooking. The way ingredients go together. The way flavors combine. Techniques for controlling heat and moisture. It's been an excellent ride, and here is where many might expect me to say that it's a ride now over.

Not so.

I often think about the value of cooking. What it's brought into my life and how the knowledge and experience have benefitted my family and me. Right now the greatest value is fast, simple meals that are delicious and a lot healthier than grabbing some McDonald's value meals or nuking a Lean Cuisine. None of that crap belongs in our bodies, but we often justify eating it for the sake of convenience. "I just don't have time!"

Bull shit. Check it out:

  • Avail yourself of some chorizo (the dish will work as well with ground beef), a green pepper, some black beans, an onion, queso fresco (or some other cheese you really like), salt and pepper.
  • Heat a pan to medium-high.
  • Poke a hole in the casing and squeeze out the chorizo in chunks into the pan.
  • Dice half that onion and toss it with the chorizo.
  • Brown it, crumble it (the chorizo, not the onion. Crumble, I mean. The onion will brown, too).
  • While it's heating, slice the green pepper in half and scoop out the seeds and stuff.
  • Preheat that oven to 300 degrees.
  • It's going to take some time for the oven to heat, so why not add the beans to your sausage mix and give it a stir.
  • Let it heat through.
  • Put the pepper halves on a baking sheet, spoon the chorizo mix into the halves and bake in that oven for about 20 minutes.
  • When it comes out, sprinkle with queso fresco and a little hot sauce.

The whole process takes about 30 minutes, provides a reasonably healthy lunch, and you get to listen to your own music the entire time. What's not to like?


Wednesday news bites for August 27, 2008

Photo credit: ewanr

To Eat Local, Kill Local
The case of eating local meat often runs up against NIMBY syndrome (not in my back yard). If you want to do it right, however, you have to make some tough choices. Chris Cosentino and others speak out in an article in San Francisco Magazine.

FDA: Irradiating Spinach, Lettuce OK to Kill Germs
Cool. No, seriously. What else will it kill? You know, eventually.

Thinking Globally, but Growing Locally
If you're eating local, you're eating seasonally, too. And it should go without saying that you're eating...er...locally, too. So, no bananas in New York State, no apples in Florida. Got it?

Sour Grapes
I don't often cover the restaurant business here, but this one has to do with ethics: Wine Spectator has given an award to a non-existent restaurant. Looks like one of the worst cases of advertorializing I've ever seen. Nick Fox provides a brief write-up.

Rock 'n' Roll: How to start composting
It's a good habit to get into, and doesn't take a lot of space as long as you have the right equipment.

Weekend Project: Sharpen your Knives!
This is something I definitely need to do. People seem to worry a lot about sharp knives, but most kitchen knife accidents are caused by dull knives.

Cheap vs. Expensive Food: Is 'value added' really the way to go?
Are we willing to pay food's real worth?


Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

My monthly food column as it appeared in the August issue of Satellite Magazine

When people think of national cuisines, they traditionally think of French, Italian or Chinese. These are mother nations, and many of the ingredients and techniques pioneered there spread throughout various regions and across the world's oceans. But India has some of the world's richest culinary traditions and is rapidly becoming a major player on the culinary world stage. And it's the last stop in our summer travels.

Most people associate curry with Indian cuisine, but curry merely indicates a heavy mix of spices. Indian curries usually include turmeric, coriander and cumin. But Indian cuisine is as varied as its regions, ranging from hearty, rich foods in the north to light seafood dishes along the coast to hot, spicy dishes in the south. It's the northern cuisines that we usually think of when we think of Indian food--heavily sauced foods and stews from the Punjab region in Northern India, and it is this region we travel to this month via tandoori chicken.

Tandoori recipes are named for the clay oven, called a tandoor, in which they're traditionally prepared. If you don't have one of these ovens sitting in your back yard, you're probably not alone. Your oven, set at a very high temperature, will do just fine. You can also use your backyard grill. They key to many Indian dishes is the balance of flavors and massive ingredient list. Tandoori chicken is no different. Once everything is mixed, however, the preparation is a snap.


  • Six chicken thighs (approximately 2.5 pounds. You can use chicken breasts, but they won't be as flavorful. To get the most flavor, make sure the bones are in and the skin on--delicious!)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 a small onion
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (or any acid--you could try lime juice or various types of vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon (cinnamon will impart some sweetness to the dish. You can add more if you like, but be careful. Cinnamon is one of those spices that can easily overwhelm the taste of your food.)
  • Salt (to taste, though you should add at least one hefty pinch)
  • Ground pepper to taste


  • Cayenne pepper or red chili
  • Cloves


  • Roasting pan and wire rack

Note: Some recipes will call for red or yellow food coloring to help boost the dish's visual appeal. I don't like to go that route as it seems most unnatural.

Start with a large, non-reactive bowl (preferably glass) with plenty of room for the chicken thighs (but small enough to fit in your refrigerator). Finely chop the onion, shallot and garlic, and fold them together in the bowl with the yogurt. Add the lemon juice, stir to combine, and then add the paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and pepper (also add the cayenne or red chili flakes if you've chosen to use them). In addition, you can add a pinch of ground cloves to your mix, if you want to add some of that smoky, anise flavor they impart. You can also add turmeric to liven the dish and give an additional color pop. Stir everything together and then place the chicken thighs in the bowl. Rub the mixture over the chicken thighs so they're liberally coated, then stash the chicken in your fridge and let it marinade at least two hours. Twelve is better, twenty-four is best.

When you're ready to cook, get the roasting pan and place the wire rack inside it. Put the pan and rack in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is heated, place the chicken on the rack and bake the chicken for approximately 30 minutes (if you stick a skewer into the middle of the chicken thigh, juices should run clear). Remove the chicken from the oven and serve it hot with rice. Some people will sprinkle chopped chives or cilantro as a final garnish.

Thus ends our summer culinary journey. Like all summer trips, the end is a bit melancholy, the return home just a bit too soon. Your own food journey doesn't have to stop, though. Keep exploring. Create! Seek out those cuisines and cultures that interest you and bring a piece of them into your home through food. It's not quite the same as being there, but it just might push you to make the trip.


Wednesday news bites for August 20, 2008

Feed kids real food, not drugs
Culinate.com tackles doctors' latest recommendations that kids get drugs to help them lower cholesterol. Culinate's shocking recommendation? Stop feeding kids chemicals and candy and give them some real food.

Food for thought
The American Conservative magazine suggests food culture is no longer just the concern of hippy liberals and their dirty farmer's markets. Sustainability, local food and eating together are now the province of the conservative movement. How do they take our best ideas and claim them as their own?

Weather Watch
Agriculture savant Frederick Kirschenmann assesses the potential effects of climate change on farming in the United States and ways to ensure adequate food supplies in the future.
via Ruhlman

Poverty brings out the best in consumers...and cuisine!
Slashfood.com on the economic necessity for inventive food preparation.


Wednesday news bites for August 13, 2008

Fast Food Nation
Photo credit: una cierta mirada

Obesity on the Kids' Menus at Top Chains
What does it do to a kids 1,200-calorie-a-day diet when lunch weighs in at 1,020? The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a study that finds 93 percent of the top chains' kid's meals are over 430 calories, the recommended 1/3 of daily caloric intake for kids aged four through eight.

Monsanto plots growth hormone exit
Based on increasing negative public opinion of Recombinant bovine somatotropin, Monsanto seeks to sell its inventory of Posilc, their branded hormone. Already illegal in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the EU, Slashfood wonders who will buy the stuff?

Dark Meat
Shmuel Herzfeld writes about an immigration sting that revealed poor working conditions, abusive practices, and teen agers working 17-hour days. Shocking and deplorable enough, but it could also mean the meat produced as kosher isn't kosher at all.

Niche Farming Offers Way Back to the Land
Niche farming provides extra income for many small and family-owned farms. Perhaps with the growing local food movement we'll see more people returning to the land.