Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili

The calendar says February which means cooking and eating heavy meats, stews, and braises. Meals meant for winter days. Or like my New England friends, staying indoors while the snow piles up outside.

In San Francisco, the weather isn't exactly frigid with snow on the ground. Looking for something still hearty, full of flavor, and that doesn't require an oven (my kitchen doesn't have one), this chili fits the bill. I also had (almost) every ingredient on the list and made substitutions for what came up missing. In lieu of jalapeno, use one chipotle in adobo (which is really smoked jalapeno in a can). And I didn't have celery or a red onion. My adaptation makes enough for two big meals with leftovers; the original serves eight to twelve.

Pro tips: Even though the chili is vegetarian, I added ground beef on a second go of this for Super Bowl supper, but chorizo or another spicy sausage would work just fine. After browning the meat, keep the fat in the pan, add a little more oil if needed, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Make the chili in advance, and it gets better after a day.

Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 small sweet potato, medium dice
1 (14 ounce) can cooked black beans, rinsed
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 ounces water, chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado, optional, for garnish
Tortilla Chips, cooked white rice, or cooked quinoa, optional

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the sweet potatoes and cook until golden brown.

Stir in the black beans, garlic, chile powder, cumin, and jalapeno and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, water, and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is slightly thickened, about half an hour.

Taste the chili and adjust for any seasonings.

Garnish with avocado chunks or tortilla chips or serve over rice, or quinoa. A sprinkle of chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, or squeeze of lime would be great flourishes.

Short Rib Ragu

Short rib season seems to be coming to a close with asparagus, ramps, and morels making their presence known.

And its about time. 

This ragu is has an unctuous texture due to the immersion blender; it also has the right proportions of herbs to wine to vegetables.  No additional seasoning of salt & pepper required. 

When the gremolata hits the hot pasta and ragu, the aroma is out-of-this-world.  Hard to deny anything with lemon zest/parsley/garlic.

Short Rib Ragu
adapted from Food52
serves 1-2 (plus leftover ragu)


1-2 pounds bone-in short ribs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 anchovy filet, finely chopped (or use 1 tablespoon anchovy paste)
1 1/2 cups red wine (think Merlot or Cabernet)
14 ounces whole tomatoes and juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or substitute dried, but dial it down a bit)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
1 bay leaf
beef or chicken stock or water

gremolata, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using, soak dried mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water.

Season ribs well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large, heavy pot (I used a 5-qt. enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat until shimmering. Brown ribs in batches for 2-3 minutes per side, then set aside. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of accumulated fat from pot, then sauté onion, carrots and celery until soft. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.

Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and leave a "hot spot". Add tomato paste and anchovy paste to the hot spot and stir until caramelized, then stir into the vegetables. Add red wine to deglaze and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and (if using) mushrooms and soaking liquid.

Add ribs to pot and cover with stock or water until ribs are barely covered. Bring liquid to a boil, then cover tightly and braise in oven for at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until ribs are fall-apart tender. Check the ribs about 1 1/2 hours into the braise.

Remove ribs from liquid and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove bay leaf and discard. While ribs cool, purée the braising liquid with an immersion blender until thick. If needed, set pot over medium-low heat to reduce if the sauce seems thin. When ribs have cooled down, discard bones and large pieces of fat, shred the beef and return to the pot. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, skimming any large pools of fat from the surface.

Refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove additional fat from the surface before reheating. Serve over pasta, polenta, or risotto sprinkled with gremolata.
Gremolata:

1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large lemon, zest only
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Easy!