Dawn’s NOT Award-Winning Spicy Chili

Ed convinced me to enter my chili in a chili cook-off, and I immediately got to work on concocting a recipe. After much tweaking and experimentation and a little heartburn, I came up with what I believed to be a very strong contender: chili with a decent thickness, sufficiently spicy but not make-you-cry-spicy, and layered southwestern flavors, both subtle and complex. I tried to incorporate the best elements of my favorite chili recipes, and I felt good about my entry.

But I didn’t win. I can be a gracious loser if I believe my opponent is truly better than me in the arena. Totally fixed but whatever. I was not a gracious loser. My family, however, gave me their own made up out of pity very sweet People’s Choice Award, since my pot of chili was the most empty out of 20+ pots. That has to count for something, right?

For the big competition, I used dried beans because the texture is just immeasurably better than canned. However, for a normal Wednesday night, I have no problem using canned beans. Just be sure to rinse and drain really well. Grated cheese, sour cream, and cornbread are essential partners here. Beer won’t hurt, either.

Like most of my recipes, this one isn’t so much of an exact science — more like some loose guidelines. Try it, and who knows? Maybe yours will actually win a real award.

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1 large can pureed tomatoes

1/2 can or bottle of lager or light beer

1/2 cup brewed coffee

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/4 to 1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see picture above)

2 cans dark red kidney beans

1 can corn

In a large dutch oven, brown the ground beef. Do not drain fat. Add chopped onion and yellow pepper and cook about five minutes. Add tomatoes, beer, coffee and all seasonings. Simmer another five minutes. Coarsely chop about 1/4 of the chipotles and add them to the mixture, including the adobo sauce and the chopped jalapeno. Add kidney beans and corn, and cook over very low heat (or in a crockpot) for at least one hour. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and cornbread.

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Coconut Pork

Today is one of those days where cooking anything beyond grilled cheese feels like a major accomplishment. But the pork is defrosted, and the show must go on!

This dish is inspired by an old recipe posted by the hilarious writer Ayun Halliday. I have made some major modifications, but the spirit remains the same. I can’t remember if the kids actually ate this or not, but at this point, there is no turning back.

Coconut Pork

1 to 2 pounds of boneless pork tenderloin, sliced in thin medallions

2 – 3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 red pepper, sliced in lengthwise strips

1 to 4 hot peppers, depending on your tolerance, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped (not minced)

2 inch piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks (careful, this is tricky!)

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 can of coconut milk, and none of that low fat nonsense

1 can of Mandarin oranges, drained

Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Heat oil and saute peppers, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes. Add pork and cook until no longer pink, but do not overcook! Add salt, sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk, and simmer on low for 20 to 30 minutes. Before serving, stir in a small can of Mandarin oranges. This may or may not entice your children to try it. Garnish with cilantro, and serve over rice or rice noodles.

Dawn’s Awesome Sauce

By now I assume most of you are familiar with my ultimate secret ingredient, Sriracha Hot Sauce. I have been adding this to my recipes for many years, and a little goes a long way. It is very popular now, and there are many websites devoted to recipes using Sriracha. It should be available in the ethnic section of most supermarkets throughout the US. Back in the day, we could only get through super-hard-to-find special grocery stores. I am happy to see the world finally caught on to the awesomeness that is Sriracha.

This is my standard sauce I use to spice up everything from sweet potato fries to burgers to seafood.

Dawn’s Awesome Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1 Tablespoon real mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon sour cream

A few squirts of Sriracha sauce according to taste, see below

In a medium bowl, combine ketchup, mayo and sour cream until smooth. Add one heart shaped squirt, mix well, and taste. If it’s good, you are done. If not, add just a little more at a time and keep checking. I prefer about two and a half heart shaped portions, but I like things on the hotter side. Say goodbye to boring old ketchup!

Dawn’s Famous Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Like many people, I have been making hummus for years, and I never put too much thought into the ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, salt, garlic, etc. Hummus, like pizza, is hard to screw up. But also like pizza, there is good and then there is gooooood. I first discovered hummus in 1989 while in school outside of London. We had a large Middle Eastern population, so hummus was frequently part of our cafeteria’s offerings. It was love at first taste for me!

Years ago, I started serving this every Friday night with homemade bread. Then I gained 20 pounds and tried to lay off the bread a bit. My husband and I would open a nice bottle of wine, sit in the living room, and exhale after a long week.

I like my hummus with a bit of a kick. I have tweaked this recipe over the years, and not to brag, but I am kind of famous for my hummus. It is not difficult, but the devil is in the details, and that’s what makes this hummus great.

Dawn’s Famous Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 can chick peas, 15.5 oz.

1/2 teaspoon iodized salt (not sea salt, not kosher salt)

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup roasted red peppers (approximately two big pieces)

A few very generous sprinkles of cayenne pepper or one hot pepper of your choosing

Juice of one lemon

Two heaping tablespoons of tahini

Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients for about one minute in food processor. Scrape sides, then slowly add lemon juice from top chute while food processor is running.

In a small cup or bowl, mix together tahini and olive oil until very well combined, about a minute. With food processor running, add the tahini mixture until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Serve with bread, pita chips, or fresh vegetables if you want to be virtuous.