Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chipotle beans with masa "gnocchi"

After a busy and super-fun Saturday, I wanted to use my lazy plan-free Sunday to make something slow and warming. I reached into my stack of cookbooks and pulled out the signed copy of Rick Bayless's Mexico One Plate at a Time. A quick flip thru and I landed on this recipe for chipotle beans with masa "gnocchi." It had everything I was looking for in a dish today... slow, but not complicated, used some ingredients I had in my pantry (chipotle, masa), and sounded nice, spicy and comforting. You also may have figured out by now that I am an absolute sucker for gnocchi. Now this wasn't anything like Italian potato gnocchi, but they are indeed cute little dumplings... "belly buttons" according to the book. Adorable!

The Belly Button "Gnocchi" before I boiled them. Awwwww!

I also had some home made stock (is there any other kind of stock, really?) I wanted to use, even though the book doesn't call for it, so below is the adjusted recipe.

Smoky Chipotle Beans with Wilted Spincah and Masa "Gnocchi"
adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless

1 lb. dried black beans
4 cups poultry stock
6 cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
7 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained
4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup dried masa harina mixed with 1.2 cup + 2 Tablespoons of hot water
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
5 oz. baby spinach

1. Sort through beans, making sure there is no stones or debris. Rinse. place beans in a 5-6 quart dutch oven with the onions, garlic, stock and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and cook, partially covered on a slow simmer for 2 or more hours until fully tender. Taste and season with salt (keeping in mind you'll be adding the chipotles later).

2. Make the "gnocchi:" Mix the reconstituted masa with the baking powder and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Roll into marble-sized balls and make an indentation with your finger. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt to the water, turn down the heat to a simmer, add half of the dumplings and cook about 3 minutes until they are all floating. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Repeat with the other half. Cover with plastic wrap if not using right away.

3. Puree the tomatoes, chipotles and about 1.5 teaspoons of salt in a food processor. Add puree to beans and let cook for about 15 minutes. Add the spinach and let it wilt. Taste and add salt to taste. Add the dumplings on top of the stew , turn off the heat and cover. Let sit 5 minutes until everything is heated through.

I put sliced avocado in when I served it. It also would have benefited from a squeeze of fresh lime and some cilantro, though it's really tasty as is.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cannellini Beans with Fennel and Bacon

I love beans. Canned beans make for a great base for a weeknight comfort meal. Which is just what I needed tonight. I got a can of cannellini beans, some fennel and, of course, some bacon, and made this:

Cannellini Beans with Fennel and Bacon

-3 Cloves garlic, minced
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-1 medium red onion, finely chopped
-1 medium bulb fennel, quartered then sliced thin, a small handful of the fronds reserved
-1" x 4" chunk of slab bacon, cut into lardons
-1 can cannellini beans
-salt and pepper

Heat a dutch oven or skillet, add the lardons and a Tablespoon or so of water. Cook lardons until the water evaporates and they are light brown. Remove lardons to a paper towel, keeping a Tablespoon or so of the fat in the pan (I scooped another Tablespoon out and set it aside for frying the polenta). Add the shallot and garlic to the bacon fat, and cook until starting to brown. Add the red onion and fennel. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft and starting to brown. Add beans and fennel fronds, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until beans are warmed through. Serve over pan-fried polenta or toasted baguette slices, topping with parmesan cheese and the cooked lardons.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chili tofu with Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Over the weekend I took a road trip to Chicago and overdosed on meat (post about that forthcoming). For tonight's dinner, I had to go with tofu and veggies. I really don't eat tons of meat on a regular basis. I eat tofu because I really like to, rather than using it as a substitute for meat. Though I suspect that this particular application would make most meat-lovers pretty happy. Pressing and draining firm tofu and then pan frying it makes for a really nice toothsome texture... hearty and just chewy enough with a slightly crusty outside. CHOMP!!

Chili Tofu with Stir-Fried Bok Choy

-1 block extra firm tofu, cut into 8 slices
-1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
-3 garlic cloves, grated
-1/4 cup soy sauce + 2 Tablespoons
-1 teaspoon sesame oil
-1 Tablespoon white vinegar
-2 Tablespoons sugar
-2 Tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
-1 large shallot, finely chopped
-1 large head of bok choy, chopped, stalks and leaves separated.
-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
-1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
-Cooked brown rice

-While rice is cooking, cut tofu into 8 even slices, place them on folded up paper towels, place more paper towels on top, place something flat, like a cutting board on top of them and add canned goods for weight. Let the tofu drain for about 20 minutes while you prep everything else.

-For the chili sauce, combine the ginger, garlic, 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar and Sriracha in a bowl with a whisk.

-In a non stick skillet or wok, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil. Place tofu and cook about 5 minutes on each side until they are nicely browned. Add half of the sauce to the pan, and cook the tofu another couple minutes, making sure to get all the pieces coated with sauce. Remove from pan and set aside.

-add the rest of the oil to the pan, and cook the shallots until they are translucent and beginning to brown, scraping up and fond from the sauce and tofu. Add the Bok chow stalks and cook for a couple minutes. Add the remaining soy sauce and cook until soft. Add the remainder of the chili sauce and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the liquid starts to evaporate. Add the Bok choy leaves, sesame seeds and chili flakes and cook until the leaves are wilted. Serve bok choy and tofu on brown rice.

Also.... BIG NEWS!! The Food Blog Mafia has started a blog. That would be Kelly, Kelli, Annie and myself. Check it out. Bookmark it. It's gonna be kick-ass. You can even follow us on Twitter!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009 - an Iron Stef Year in review

Wowsers. 2009 was a fantastic year here at Iron Stef. Lots of new adventures, opportunities, friends and, of course, food. If a year ever deserved a recap, '09 was it! Here goes....


It was the year of the road trip for me. Look out, Bourdain! I love being a food tourist!

Gastronomic Galesburg. I visited a place I've visited pretty much every year for my whole life. But this time I was there to experience more than just my family (though I love them and love seeing them!!). I had to find out what G-burg ad to offer. Turns out, a lot!

"Epic Roadtrip '09" Tour of the Mid-South. I traveled to Nashville, Birmingham and Memphis with my friend Eric to both follow the band The Damnwells, and to get our bellies full of good southern food.

Chicago BlogHer. A fantastic road trip with some phenomenal females and fellow bloggers. Complete with a trip to Hot Doug's, which warranted it's own blog post!And did I mention, we got Tattoos? Mine's a clove of garlic. And I still am in love with it.


This was the year that I was lucky to start hanging out regularly with my new besties, Kelli and Annie. We started to call ourselves the Food Blog Mafia, and going out to some of the best eateries St. Louis has to offer. Those chicks are good times. So much fun, so smart, and so passionate about food. Love you bitches!!

Kelly's birthday weekend- We started this off with dinner at the Chef's Table at Monarch. The food was unbelievable, as was the company. Read all about it in this post by Kelly herself.

Prix Fixe menu at Acero- Kelli recaps the experience in her new weekly column the Novice Foodie. Another awesome night out!

Overall, it was a big year for St. Louis food bloggers.

Fame & Glamour

Meeting the Forking Fantastic girls- Zora and Tamara had sent me their cookbook for me to review, my first ever experience with doing a solicited cookbook review. I love the book, and these ladies' style, so when they came to town for a book signing, I jumped on the chancce to go meet them in person. Fabulous gals, to be sure. Can't wait to make it up o New York and attend one of their famous Sunday dinners!

An afternoon with Rick Bayless- Schnucks Cooks Cooking school brought Rick Bayless in to do a short class and sign books. I have long admired Chef Bayless, so it was really exciting for Kelly and I to meet him! And we learned stuff, too!

The Debut of Skank Ham! I started putting out a web comic, Skank Ham. She's a ham, who smokes, and has some very interesting friends.

I'm a published writer! I was asked to write a feature for St. Louis' awesome food magazine, Sauce. I wrote about roasted garlic. Yum!

I'm on TEE-frickin'-VEE!! I was asked to go on a local talk show to give a review of the movie Julie & Julia. Boy Howdy was I nervous, but I think I did alright. Perhaps 2010 will see "Iron Stef TV" posts?

Big Scary Projects

I like to challenge myself as a cook. My new sassy-single lifestyle doesn't make for much time to cook these days, so often times when I had free days in 2009, I did it up big.

Tamales. This was my second time making tamales. Time consuming, but not all that hard, and completely worth it, as I had frozen leftovers for months afterwards.

Turducken!!! My biggest project of the year. It was scary, sweaty, ridiculous, and DELICIOUS!

Nonna's Fig Cookies. My favorite cookies ever. A taste of my childhood. A taste of Christmas. A taste of family. Mine did not turn out as pretty as Nonna's, but they tasted right. I talked to her the other day about it. My cousin printed out the post and gave it to her. She called to congratulate me, then informed me that she lets the dough set up in the fridge overnight. This part was not on the recipe card, and wopuld have helped me work with the sticky dough better. Eh. Next year.

Favorite Recipes

What I consider the tastiest dishes I made in 2009

Stuffed Gnocchi

Potato Pizza

Birthday Sandwich -oh yeah, I turned 30 this year! This is how I treated myself. Dark Chocolate, brie and basil, grilled on some good bread. Foodgasmic.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with ham and walnuts

Vintage Cookbook bavarian stew - there were gingersnaps in it. crazy! but really good!

Momofuko Pork Buns. Okay, Kelly did most of the work. And the blog post. But she let me help! And good gawd were they yummy.

See? What did I tell you? AWESOME year, 2009. 2010, you have a lot to live up to. I have faith in you, though. Happy New Year!!