Tuesday, October 30, 2007

All American Fall Dinner

I love when it gets cool outside. Why? because then it is time for me to make chili!

Chili is such an American dish.

The main ingredients, beans, tomatoes and chiles, both sweet bell types and dried spicy were all cultivated originally in the Americas.

For my chili, I use black beans, more accurately, black turtle beans, because they are naturally full of antioxidants. A member of the common bean family that has spread through the world to include snap or string beans, shell beans such as the French flagelot and Italian Borlotti, pinto, white, kidney, pink and yellow beans.

Tomatos were also native to Central and South American and have become the most commonly cultivated fruit in the world. Fruit? Vegetable? Eh... It really is a fruit, but we eat it like a vegetable... except for my mother and the Angel... Someday I will look up the picture of the Angel's first tomato.... she ate it straight from the fridge like an apple.... she was 15 months old. Yeah, the diaper rash was wicked.

And crazy is what the Europeans thought the Aztecs were when they saw them eating those tomatoes... See, the conquistadors recognized that the tomato was a member of the deadly nightshade family... along with the eggplant, tobacco, chile peppers and potatoes. But the reality is that the fruit of the tomato is edible.. very edible. I oven roasted some tomatoes by quartering some romas and drizzling them with olive oil, salt and pepper and baking them in the oven until they start to carmelize. The flavor gets sweeter and smokier and are a nice addition to the canned fruit.

The last major ingredient are the chiles. The chile's also a member of those crazy nightshades... but like the tomatos and beans quickly spread throughout the world. We call them peppers, but that was a misnomer that was caused by Columbus... having found chiles when he landed in Santo Domingo, he felt that they must somehow be related to the pepper (piper nigrum, et. al) because of their spiciness. (Also as Columbus had failed to find the gold or other spices that he was tasked to locate, he probably felt that should come home with something that Queen Isabella was hoping to locate!) As sailors began to trade the goods that they found in the New World throughout the Old, these new "peppers" spread. Today, India is the largest producer of chiles (how is that for irony? Columbus searches for India and pepper and finds chiles that are then exported to India who then produces huge numbers of them).

My version of chili includes fresh and dried, mild and spicy peppers.. and because I can't over-spice the chili because of the girls delicate (cough) palates, I ended up adding chili sauce too! My other ingredients include a small amount of finely ground beef (I find that it browns and breaks up better...) onions, a beer (to deglaze the pan after the browning... I like to get all the flavor that I can out of the meat), oregano and then coriander seed and cumin that I grind together in my mortar in pestle.... oh, and my secret ingredient (also of American origin), cocoa powder... it worked for the Aztecs and Maya... it works for me too... Everyone always notices it, but they NEVER know what it is.

Yeah for fall and chili!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holy cow!

Has it really been that long since I posted?

That is just crazy.

Well, in all fairness the school year is off going at a whirl and my girlies are not eating the fine school lunches this year.

The national Student Lunch Program was begun in 1946 by President Truman. Lunches are supposed to meet basic guidelines, containing no more than 30% fat and must contain one third of the daily requirements for protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories. Of course I think that we still allow ketchup as a vegetable, but as it turns out that concept might be smarter than I would normally give Ronald Regan credit for... since the lycopene that is present in tomatos is far more concentrated in ketchup because it is made from tomate paste.

That being said, most school lunches are revolting. At my kids despised them... of course, being middle school/junior high girls they aren't interested in eating anything normal or healthy at the moment. So naturally every day there is an argument... I suppose they are better off eating bread and fruit then nothing...

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