Posts tagged ‘Texas’

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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January 22, 2012

Texas Chili

When I started dating my boyfriend, born and raised in El Paso Texas, there was one point in our relationship when it was almost over.  It was a chilly California evening, and I was preparing dinner while he opened the latest Netflix (which we have cancelled due to their price increase – bastards!).  Beer in hand, I started to serve up my warm chili, excited as ever to dig in.  This is when the evening turned… I had made the ultimate Texas blunder.  A mistake that could not be rectified… I had put BEANS, yes, I said it, BEANS in the chili!  WHAT?!?  I was then lectured on the fine making of chili and the short list of ingredients that qualify to be a part of this dish (beans was not one of them).  Needless to say, he ate it.

I learned my lesson, and have over the years perfected my bean-less chili with just the right amount of heat and spice.  I’ve experimented with many combinations of chiles, most of which were new to me after moving to Houston, and have been delighted by the variety of flavors I can unearth.  This chili develops a hidden smoky flavor, not like barbecue, but a delicate heat with warmth and spice from Anaheim chilies, cayenne and a touch of jalapeño.  The subtle sweet tomato and flavorful tender meat warms you from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  • I yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño, finely diced with seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, finely diced with seeds removed
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile and garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Grated cheddar cheese (topping)
  • Sour cream (topping)
  • Onions (topping)

Method

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan on the stove on medium with a tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the pan it hot, add in diced onion and cook on medium for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic, jalapeño and Anaheim chilies and cook additional 5 mins until onions are translucent
  4. Add in ground beef and brown meat, use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces and turn occasionally until brown on all sides.  The meat will continue to break up as you cook it but this helps it along.
  5. Brown meat, then add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, jalapeño powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to coat the meat evenly
  6. Add cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water and stir
  7. Bring the chili to a low boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Add sugar and flour and stir.  Cover again and simmer for another 30-40 minutes
  9. Taste and see if you need to add more salt/pepper.  Be light-handed, you can always add more, you can never take it out. (TIP: you happen to add too much salt, the one thing that might help save your dish is to add some sugar.  It helps to mellow it out and remove some of the acidic flavor)
  10. Top with cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream and serve in a large warm bowl

 

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