Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chili con Carne Part Deux

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Chili con Carne was a special request of my colleagues at work. After the soup last week, they specifically asked for this dish since they associated the white beans I used for the vegetarian soup last week to chili con carne. However, I made the Texan version which is pure diced meat floating in a thick rich chili sauce. This also marked the first time I used fresh tomatoes instead of the usual canned ones that I find very convenient to use. It wasn't a really a conscious decision but since I'm buying my ingredients from the local market here, I had to settle for fresh tomatoes. In short, I had no choice.

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The dish is quite spicy due to the fact that I totally forgot about the difference in the spice level of the local chili and those available in the US grocery stores. I was glad to find chili powder in bulk but the fact that it is more of an orange red color and not the intense dark red color of the chili powders in the US should have been a red flag to me. I was quickly reminded how intense they were after my initial taste so I had to add less to make sure that those who would like to try the dish can eat it without having to run to the nearest source of water. I also used fresh local chilis (the taxonomy of which I am unsure) and after deseeding and deveining then, I was happy to find out that they were quite sweet and not as potent while adding a whole new dimension to the flavor of the dish. Cilantro was nowhere to be found so I did away with it. Sour cream was also difficult to find here in the local market so I bought about a cup of heavy cream and soured it with a couple of tablespoons of the local citrus, Calamondin. Lemon juice or white vinegar will also work if you can't find sour cream in your local grocery stores. I wanted to make corn bread but finding corn meal is a challenge so I opted to buy the steamed rice cakes in the market and they go beautifully together as well.

Chili con Carne Part Deux

4 lbs beef, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, diced
4 tbsp olive oil + a few tbsp extra
1/4-1/3 cup chili powder*
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin
salt and black pepper
1 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp oregano
3 cups beef broth
1/3 cup tomato paste
6  fresh chili, deseeded, deveined and diced
sour cream

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil at medium high heat and brown the diced 
    beef in batches. Set aside until all the diced beef have been browned. 

2. In the same pot, saute the garlic and onions. Season with salt and black 
    pepper. Saute until softened. Add the fresh chilis and saute for another 
    minute. Add more olive oil if a bit dry.

3. Lower the heat to medium low and add the chili powder, coffee, oregano, 
    cumin and cayenne powder. Saute for about a minute until aromatic. 

4. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Mix well and saute until the 
    tomatoes are softened. Increase the heat to medium high and add the 
    browned beef and the broth. Bring to a boil. 

5. Once boiling, cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring 
    occasionally. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer covered for 40 

6. Add the tomato paste and check for flavor. Adjust accordingly. Simmer 
    for another hour or longer until the beef is tender. 

7. If too thick, add some water until the desired consistency is achieved. 
    Check for flavor one last time and serve warm with a dollop of sour 

LtDan'sKitchen blogs
* The original recipe I have uses 1/3 cup chili powder but depending on your tolerance for spicy food and the variety of chili powder available in your local grocery stores, I suggest you go with 1/4 cup to start with and if you think you can handle more heat, then go add some more chili powder. Most Asian chili powders are a lot more spicy but a little bit less aromatic so I added more cumin and fresh chilis to compensate. Freshly baked corn bread or a freshly steamed rice cake is definitely a wonderful way to cool off the heat in your mouth. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The recipe is based on something I saw on the internet and has hounded me for over a week now. I have made a similar version using Sophia Loren's recipe but this one is a little bit healthier and is in fact vegetarian. This went well with my co-workers who are at some level on a diet not for vanity's sake but for health reasons. This definitely gave me the push since I've been wanting to cook so badly but I'm usually too tired to cook when I go home every weekend. I have a bit more time here in my rental house but I have limited access to ingredients including the kitchen utensils and gadgetry that I am used to when cooking at home. However, a soup has to be the simplest form of food you can make in a pot so I went for it. 

Since I had to cook this soup/stoup in the city where I work, I had to be a bit more creative and inventive than usual. I had to ask somebody to buy the ingredients for me since it is a hassle having to travel an hour to the big city if I had to buy the ingredients I will need and come back to the city where I work especially since I had to teach that day. I just thought this was a lot of work for a soup but I was lucky that somebody at work was willing to do the shopping for me in exchange for a bowl of this soup. She was going to the big city on some business anyways so it was just a small detour for her to stop by the grocery store and buy a few things for me. I also have a few of the things I needed in my meager cupboard here and the rest were available in the local market. The fresh herbs were the most difficult to find but they were available in the big city so that was taken care of as well. 

Pasta e Fagioli

1 onion diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 lb dried white beans* + 1 cup cooking liquid
2 cup small dried pasta
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp oregano
2 tbsp basil leaves, chopped
14 - oz diced tomatoes, canned
2/3 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
6 cups broth
salt and pepper

1. Soak the beans in water and set aside for 6-8 hours. Drain and transfer to 
    a large pot and cook in enough water over medium low heat until soft for 
    about 2 hours. Allow to cool and set aside. Drain and reserve about a cup 
    of cooking liquid.

2. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and 
    onions. Season with salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery and 
    carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly browned and 

3. Add the red pepper, thyme, bay leaves and oregano and saute for 
    another minute. 

4. Add the broth and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and 
    cook until al dente. Lower the heat to medium low and add the beans 
    plus the cooking liquid and simmer for another 5 minutes. 

5. Add the tomato paste and stir well. Check for flavor and cook for another 
    5 minutes. Add more water if too thick. Add the chopped basil leaves just 
    prior to serving and mix until combined.

6. Serve with a drizzling of olive oil and top with grated Parmesan cheese 
    and more basil leaves if desired. 

*If using canned beans (two 15-oz cans), drain the beans and wash with tap water. Reserve about 2 tbsp of the drained beans and mash with a fork. Mix in 1/2 cup of water and use instead of the cooking liquid.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
It came to my realization that I have not featured this dish yet. I was wracking my brain as to why and it came to me eventually. This Spanish-inspired dish has liver in it and my friends were not a big fan of liver. I used to eat a lot of chicken or beef liver but I have given it up lately since I now have issues with gout and liver of any kind and gout just do not mix. However, I'm glad I thought of this dish since I wanted to bring something to the office to share with my colleagues and this dish is the perfect choice to bring for potlucks.

This stew is made with pork that is marinated in calamansi or lemon juice prior to cooking which gives the meat an extra dose of flavor. I have made this dish a number of times but I skipped the marinating part until now. I have to admit that it does add another layer of flavor to the dish. I had to give up the liver component so I used canned liver spread to flavor the dish. I know, it is still liver albeit in paste form but the stew needs the liver to flavor the sauce. An alternative will be potted meat or some kind of meat paste to add a similar texture to the sauce.

Traditionally, the stew is served with a topping of grated processed cheese. Don't get me wrong by thinking that there are different choices when it comes to cheese so why settle for the processed variety? Well, the answer to this query is simple. It was the most readily available cheese in the market then. It was only recently that Italian and other European cheeses have become more available and affordable in the grocery stores here in the Philippines so the choice of cheese is now a matter of taste. Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmiggiano will be perfect choices for this stew if you can get hold of them. 


2 lbs pork, 1/2-inch dice
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp calamansi or lemon juice
salt and pepper
3-4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, 1/2-inch dice
3 potatoes, 1/2-inch dice
1 medium green bell pepper, deseeded and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
1/2 cup raisins
6 tbsp tomato paste
3-4 cups chicken or beef broth
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
grated cheese (optional)
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Marinate the pork by adding the brown sugar, soy sauce, calamansi or 
    lemon juice, a tablespoon of salt and a dash of pepper. Mix well and let 
    sit for about 30 minutes. 

2. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions 
    and season with salt and pepper. Saute until softened. Add the bay leaves 
    and cook for another minute. 

3. Drain the meat (reserve the liquid) and in batches, add to the pan. Cook 
    until browned. Add the reserved liquid and the broth and bring to a boil. 
    Lower the heat to medium low and cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 
    hot water if the liquid gets low. 

4.  Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the carrots and 
     raisins and cook until the carrots are tender but firm. 

5. Add the tomato paste and fish sauce if using. Mix well and check for 
    flavor. Adjust the flavor by adding more salt and a little bit more black 

6. Add the bell peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes. If the sauce is 
    too thick, add more hot water. Check for flavor and serve hot. Garnish 
    with your choice of grated cheese if desired.