Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Working for a California-based company means a lot of conference calls with the West Coast. Waiting for everyone to join leaves a lot of free time to talk about the weather. Frequently, I'm asked why I wouldn't prefer living somewhere with consistently warm weather, like California.
I remember in particular one call last winter. I was on with one guy from California and another from Romania. As I looked out the window, more than two feet of snow had already fallen and more was on the way. The guy from California wondered how I could stand it.
Today, in mid-October, it's crisp and windy. Leaves are floating through the air and it's simply beautiful. Sure, I'll be out there raking them up in a few weeks, but as I do I'll be breathing in that spectacular fall scent. Aside from that, there is, of course, the food. As the weather turns cooler, new produce comes into season and I pull out my recipes for slow-cooked, braised, or roasted foods. This chili is just the dish for a cool fall day: warm, hardy and more than a little bit spicy. Corn and tomatoes are still good, so the salad that tops the chili offers a hint of summer. I'm sure it would taste good on a 70 degree day someplace else, but on a cool day in New Jersey, it's not only tasty, but comforting as well.
So I'll take my changing seasons. And I'll pair them with the perfect foods for each. I'll have warm, soul-satisfying soups and stews for cold winter days, and cool, crisp salads for hot summer days. For me, the food just wouldn't taste the same without the changing seasons.
Chunky beef chili with tomato corn salad
adapted from The New Slow Cooker
For the chili:
4 lb. boneless beef chuck, trimmed of most fat and cut into 1 inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
For the tomato corn salad:
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Salt and pepper
Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. In a large heavy frying pan over high heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add half the beef and sear, turning as needed to brown evenly, until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Repeat with remaining beef.
Pour off most of the fat from the pan and return to medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and saute until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chipotle chiles with their sauce, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in 1 cup of the stock and stir to dislodge any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add remaining stock, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. The meat should be very tender.
To make the salad: whisk the mustard, vinegar, zest, lime juice, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss with the tomatoes, corn, cilantro and green onions.
To serve, spoon the chili into bowls and top with some of the salad. (Add some cheddar cheese too if you like!)