For Joni

I have been on a long break -- semester starting, deadlines, etc. This is not a *real* post -- I'll get one of those up this weekend -- but rather two recipes for my friend Joni. Joni is a Facebook friend, which is not to say an acquaintance, but rather a friend who I've met and gotten to know in that arena. I realized this morning, talking to someone very dear to me, that I've made a lot of friends that way -- through typed words on a page, lively conversation, teasing, joking, arguing. And when we've met the relationships have been no less *real* than any other. And sometimes we've never met in person, only on the electronic plane. Even then, they've been supportive, fun, and satisfying.

So: not a *real* post, but for a real friend.

Curry Chicken Salad
Makes about 3 cups

1. In a small frying pan, melt 1 tsp butter over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 c finely diced red onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until softened, but not browned. Add to the pan 1/4 tsp tumeric powder, 3/4 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder (or, if you happen to have it around, 1.5 tsp good quality curry powder). Let the spices toast for 30 seconds or so. Add 3 TB water to the pan and let the spices cook as the water evaporates. Add 2 tsp tomato paste, and a TB or two of water if necessary, and let the onions and spices cook till pasty and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

2. Dice 2 celery stalks, finely chop enough flat-leaf parsley and cilantro to make about 1/4 c, and toast and chop coarsely enough walnut halves to make about 1/4 c. You could also dice about 1/3 c unpeeled apple (something firm and tart, like a Granny Smith) if you'd like.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the spice paste along with 1/4 c plain yogurt (low or non-fat is fine, but don't use Greek yogurt here -- it's too thick), 1/4 c Hellman's mayonnaise, and 2 tsp lemon juice. Add to the bowl 1.5 c diced, cooked chicken breast, skin removed. (I use leftover roast chicken, but you could poach two small chicken breasts instead to get the right amount). Add the celery, the herbes, the chopped walnuts and the apples (if using) along with 1/3 c dried currants or chopped dried cranberries. Mix together and test for salt and add some pepper.

4. Serve, garnished with additional chopped cilantro, on lettuce leaves or in a sandwich. Then tell me how to make it taste more like the Berkeley Bowl version you love.

Chile con Carne
Serves 6

1. First, the meat: I like to use ground chuck. I usually buy a chuck roast (2 lb) and grind it at home: Cut it into 1 inch cubes, trimming the fat as you go, and place a handful at a time in the bowl of a food processor. Use the metal blade and pulse the food processor until you have a coarse ground, with pieces around the size of a pencil eraser. It will be irregular, but that's good. Keep grinding in batches till done. If you don't feel like grinding your own meat (trust me -- so good!), start with 1.5 lbs of good ground beef.

2. Second, the chili powder. I often use a mixture of dried chilies (ancho, dried poblano, and guajillo) which I grind up in a spice grinder after having removed the seeds (note -- important!). Take about 1 TB of this pure chili powder, 1 TB sweet paprika, 1 TB of cumin powder, 1 TB cocoa powder, and 1 tsp of oregano (Mexican prefered, if you can get it) and mix in a small bowl. Alternately, use 3 TB of purchased chili powder plus 1 TB cumin.

3. Heat 2 TB canola oil in a large, heavy pot. When shimmering, add about half the beef. Let it sizzle and brown a bit. Now add the rest of the beef. Let the newly added beef sizzle and brown, too.

4. Add 1 medium onion, chopped, to the pot, along with 3 hefty cloves of chopped garlic. Let the onions soften and turn transluscent. Add the chili powder and salt. Let the spices toast for a minute or so, stirring, and then add 2 cups chopped tomatoes in juice and enough water to cover the beef completely. Let the stew come to a boil, then turn down the heat so it's bubbling lazily and cover.

5. After about an hour or so, check the chili. The meat should be very tender. If not, let it go another half hour or so. There should be sufficient liquid, but if not add water.

6. Add your (canned, drained and rinsed or precooked) beans: I like pinto or kidney. The amount that you add is up to you -- I often add more to stretch the dish and make it a little healthier, but you can judge this for yourself. Adjust for salt.

7. Once the beans are incorporated and the chili is hot, you can let it sit for a bit to blend the flavors or serve immediately. Have sour cream, shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, and pickled jalepenos on hand for people to garnish with.

Onion Dip
Serves 1 if you're a college student with the munchies, or many if you're not

1. Take one envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix. Add to 1 pint sour cream. Mix. Let sit in the refrigerator for 1/2 an hour or so. Eat greedily with ripple chips.


Paul S.V.II said…
You make your own chili powder?! O__O
Paul S.V.II said…
Also, what kind of onions do you prefer? Does it vary with recipes?
Hi Dah -- yes, I do make my own. That way I can control the heat and get a variety of flavors in it. Generally, I use yellow onions -- regular old yellow onions -- unless specified, although really any kid are fine. I stay away from the really big sweet ones for cooking, generally, as they have a high moisture content; red are fine, though. Thanks for asking!