Chili af

by Steve, March 15th, 2020

What even is chili? In the US it’s hamburger, bean and tomato soup, seasoned with cumin and a hint of “chili powder,” which is usually dried red chili mixed with cumin and dried onion and garlic. Hey, it’s pretty good! But is it chile?

In Latin America, a chile is a hot pepper, and it is prepared in countless ways, often as a sauce (salsa). My old friend S in Cuernavaca showed me how she made two kinds of sauce, one red and dry roasted, the other green and boiled.

This weekend I made chile (the dry roasted red kind) and mixed it with beans. I’ll call the result “chili beans” because it’s been chilly a.f. in Portland this weekend, and also, I’m a gringo. Here’s the basic recipe:


  • 5 oz New Mexico chili pods (any kind will do! it’s just everybody says New Mexico are best, yada yada yada)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 bulb garlic (or more! no such thing as too much)
  • 4 cans beans (yeah, I’ve been using canned beans, don’t judge, cook your own if you want, I used red and black this time)
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • Recommended for serving: fresh cilantro, chopped; sour cream/crema (a.k.a. “Mexican cream” which is closer to crème fraiche); cotija/queso seco cheese, crumbled; lime wedges; fresh corn tortillas


Red chili sauce / salsa roja

Preheat oven to 350F. Put a pot of water on to boil.

Snap or cut the stems off the chilis. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry roast a few minutes until they start to get fragrant. Alternate method: heat a cast iron skillet and dry roast them in that.

Put the roasted chilis into a large mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and let soak for an hour or more. Reserve the water; you’ll need it later for two steps.

Take half an onion and cut it into quarters. Peel half your garlic. Dry roast these in a hot cast iron skillet until they are browned.

Put all your chilis and the roasted garlic and onion in a blender with salt, cumin and oregano. (How much cumin and oregano? I never measure, sorry! But a good bit of cumin and a little less oregano? You’re gonna have to wing it.)

Add a few ladles of the chili soaking water and blend until smooth. Keep adding water until you get a nice liquid consistency. This can be super thick, or super runny, depending on how you plan to use it. It can also be smoother or chunkier, like if you want to make table salsa. Since I’m going to cook this with beans, I make it more on the liquid side.

Give it a taste and add more salt and cumin/oregano if you think it needs it.

Thassit! You’ve made salsa roja! Imagine the variations you can come up with.

Da Beans

Heat olive oil with cumin and salt (how much cumin? again, uh… a good bit?) in a cast iron skillet. Chop one onion (this should leave half an onion for garnish). Sautée/caramalize. Mince the rest of your garlic. Add to the sautée once the onions have started caramelizing.

Throw this all in the pot with your beans, then mix in your chili sauce. Add some of the chili soaking water to thin it out till it’s a good bit thinner than you want (it’ll thicken up). Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for, I dunno, half an hour to an hour?

Voila! Steve’s Chili A.F.


Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crema, chopped onions, some fresh cilantro and queso seco crumbles. Garnish with a lime wedge. Super tasty with some heated up corn tortillas. Enjoy!

Best oven-fried spuds

by Steve, January 4th, 2015



    Spuds, peeled
    Olive oil
    Melted butter
    Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425F. Slice spuds almost all the way through and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and melted butter. Roast for 45 minutes or so. Use a pastry brush to slather the butter and oil over the tops of the spuds a couple times during the baking. Done when browned on top and crispy on the bottom.

Mothers’ Day Fritatta

by Steve, May 11th, 2014



    1 package frozen hashbrowns
    6 eggs
    1 6 oz. tub pesto
    1 bunch asparagus
    olive oil
    balsamic vinegar
    salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Preheat a large cast iron skillet* with oil over medium-high heat. Put hashbrowns in preheated pan and cover.

Roast asparagus in olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Beat eggs, and add tub of pesto. Chop up roasted asparagus, let cool a bit, then add to egg mixture.

Preheat broiler.

When hashbrowns have browned on the bottom, remove from heat and pour egg mixture over the top. Put under the broiler until firm and browned on top.

*If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can improvise with a non-stick skillet and a roasting pan. That’s what I did today. I browned the hashbrowns in two batches in a non-stick skillet, then transferred them to the roasting pan for the final broiling.

Pesto primavera

by Steve, June 30th, 2013

Yeah, it’s lestate, not la primavera, but the peas are just coming on strong, and so are the carrots. And we had some red bells and pesto in the fridge, ergo:
Pesto primavera


    1 Red bell pepper, sliced
    1 handful fresh carrots, sliced thinly on a diagonal
    2 handfuls snow peas, sliced into bite-size chunks
    1/2 sweet onion, chopped
    6 cloves garlic, sliced
    1 handful sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (I like the kind packed with olive oil)
    Grated Parmesan
    1/2 cup pesto
    Zest of 1 lemon
    Olive oil


Saute onion, carrot and pepper in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add peas, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until soft, then turn up heat and sear. When carrots and onions are browned a little, turn off heat and toss in pesto. Serve over capellini, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan and another sprinkle of lemon zest.

Leftover salad

by Steve, April 18th, 2013

No lettuce? No problem!

leftover Salad

    1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4″ squares
    1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly
    1 medium carrot, grated
    1 slice onion, chopped finley
    1 slice jalapeo, chopped finely
    A couple drizzles olive oil
    Splash balsamic vinegar
    celery salt to taste
    ground black pepper to taste
    Tamari rice crackers, crumbled

Mix all ingredients. Eat as your first meal of the year out on the deck.

Puppy Bowl Party

by Steve, February 3rd, 2013

We had our third annual Puppy Bowl Party today. Today’s menu included:

  • Cheese Pizza!!
  • Chips and Cheesey Poofs!!
  • Nachos!!
  • Guacamole!!
  • Chocolate Fondue!!

I’ve never shared my guacamole recipe with anyone, so if you’re reading this, consider yourself elite. I honed this recipe over many years working produce.


    2 large avocados, pitted and skinned DO NOT MASH!
    1 tomato, chopped
    Juice of 1 lime
    1/4 onion, chopped
    cilantro, chopped
    jalapeo, chopped
    pinch salt
    pinch cumin

Put all ingredients in a glass mixing bowl. With a sharp knife, slice the avos in the bowl while spinning it with your left hand. WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK… hard to describe exactly, but keep doing it till the avos are finely chopped, not mashed. THIS IS MY SECRET. I’VE NEVER TOLD ANYBODY BEFORE. EXCEPT MY WIFE. (Actually, a vegan volunteer at a co-op taught me this trick back in the late 80s. It works better because mashing the avos bruises them.) If you don’t want it too spicy, sub a pinch of chili powder for the jalapeo, or cut the seeds out.

Chocolate Foundue

    12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
    8 oz. heavy cream
    1 Tablespoon sugar

Heat the cream in a sauce pan until it barely starts to bubble. Whisk in the chocolate chips and sugar. Transfer to a preheated fondue pot. Thin with milk if it gets too thick.

My top secret marinara plus no-fuss lasagna

by Steve, September 30th, 2012

Put 'em in a pot

Okay, not so top secret. It’s different every time I make it, anyway. Here’s How I did it today.


    Big bowl of sauce tomatoes from the garden (“federle” variety, start from Fair Weather Farm, Lebanon, Ore.)
    2 onions
    3 stalks celery
    1 bulb garlic
    1 bunch fresh basil (from Gathering Together Farm, Philomath, Ore., bought at Beaverton Farmers Market)
    3 small zucchini (from Dennison Farms, Corvallis, Ore., bought at Beaverton Farmers Market)
    2 red bell peppers (Dennison)
    Dried herbs: oregano, thyme, basil, tarragon, crushed red peppers (the hot kind)
    Salt and pepper
    Olive oil

Start a saute with olive oil (don’t be shy, use a little more!), chopped onions, garlic, celery and red pepper. Add salt and pepper, crushed red pepper and dried herbs. I use just a pinch of tarragon, and a good dash or two each of oregano, thyme and basil. Let it cook to bring out the sweetness.

Gad zukes!

While the saute is working, look in the fridge and add any other veggies you can sneak in (this will all be blended later, so you can do just about anything if you’re trying to sneak it past a picky eater). This being September, I found some zucchini.


Add extra veggies to the saute, and cook some more.


While that’s cooking, start cutting up the tomatoes. If you’re really picky, you can parboil them and peel them, but I’m not picky. I never do this. Just dice them into small enough pieces that the skins don’t get huge and curly in your sauce. Add the tomatoes as they’re chopped, and cook all day.


After simmering all day, chop up the fresh basil and mix it in. Turn off heat and puree with a hand blender.


Then, make lasagna!


    Sauce (see above)
    1 box no-boil noodles
    1 32 oz. container ricotta
    4 eggs
    Mozzarella, grated
    Parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Mix eggs, ricotta and a dash of nutmeg. Ladle a generous layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Layer with noodles. Space them out and don’t overlap; they’ll expand. Add a layer of the ricotta mixture and another layer of sauce. Add another layer of noodles, then more sauce, and ricotta mixture. Top with grated mozzarella and parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

sauce & salsa time!

by Steve, September 22nd, 2012

Pico de gallo this morning, marinara tomorow.

Pico de gallo (crow of the cock)

    Lime juice

Chop all ingredients and mix in a bowl. If you like it spicier, increase the proportion of onion, chilis and cillantro to tomatoes.

Mother’s Day Menus

by Steve, May 13th, 2012
Photo by Jonathon Moreau

Brunch: Ricotta, lemon and poppy seed pancakes. Dinner: “all appetizers,” per the Nancy’s request. Warm potato salad with radishes, parsley and green onions from the garden, roasted asparagus from the farmer’s market, hummus, and carrot sticks.

The pancake recipe is a special one from Betsy Devine, via my girlfriend Marfa. These are our “special occasion” pancakes, and they’re worth the little bit of extra effort (separating and whipping egg whites, etc.).


Quick hummus

I whipped up a batch of hummus using a can of garbanzo beans and the juice from the lemon whose zest I stole for the pancakes. I used to be uptight about cooking from cans, but when you’re in a hurry (and don’t have any beans in the freezer, or don’t have time to thaw them), why not?


    one can garbanzo beans
    1/2 cup tahini
    3 or 4 cloves garlic
    Juice of two lemons
    a couple glugs of olive oil
    salt to taste
    dash of cumin
    pinch of oregano
    paprika to garnish


Dump everything except the paprika into the blender and blend till smooth. Serve garnished with a puddle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Great for dipping veggies, bread or crackers. (And complete protein — legume + grain!)


Warm potato salad

The potato salad I winged with what we had on hand and in the garden and a sack of new potatoes from the pantry.


    3 lbs. baby red potatoes, quartered
    1 small bunch radishes, chopped
    3 scallions, sliced< 1 handful parsley, chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1 tsp. Mustard seeds 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup rice vinegar Salt and pepper to taste


Boil potatoes until they are al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool a bit. Put potatoes in a large bowl and pour oil and vinegar over them, then mix with salt, pepper and mustard seeds. Add radishes, parsley, celery and scallions. Serve warm; refrigerate leftovers.


Roasted asparagus

Nancy got us started on roasting asparagus years ago, and it’s pretty much the only way we do it now. It’s super easy, and super tasty.


    1 bunch slender asparagus (I don’t like it bigger than a pencil)
    Olive oil
    Balsamic vinegar
    Coarse salt


Preheat oven to 425 (or convection oven to 400). Snap ends off asparagus, and arrange in a single layer on a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt. Roast until the tips are starting to caramelize, turning once or twice. Serve immediately, or put them in the fridge and serve chilled later.


With special thanks to the lovely farmers at Beaverton Farmer’s Market, which just opened yesterday, and, most of all, with great appreciation to a great mom and a real artist.

Christmas (New Year’s) Tamales

by Steve, January 1st, 2012

Cooking with gasWe didn’t have a stove this Christmas, but Mr. E. got the new one installed just before New Year’s Day. I wasn’t exactly hoping for the old range to die, but it was a nice excuse to convert to gas in the new house. Life with a stove ist definitely better than life without. And cooking with gas beats the heck out of electric.

I feel like I’ve spent most of the last three days in the kitchen, and today I finally got to make tamales in the new house (we skipped them last year because we left for LA the day after Christmas).

Here’s how I made them this year:



    Corn husks
    Filling (use your imagination!)
    6 cups masa harina
    5 cups warm broth
    2 cups shortening
    2 T cumin
    2 T chili powder
    salt to taste


Soak corn husks in boiling water (I like to soak them for an hour). Mix masa and broth; let sit. Whip shortening in a mixer until it’s fluffy. Mix in masa/broth mixture and spices; salt to taste.

I mashed a sweet potato and a russet with a little milk and butter for filling, along with some refried beans. smear masa into the corn husks, put in a dollop of filling, roll ’em up and steam ’em standing up and covered with a layer of corn husks in a double boiler until they’re not doughy; about 2 hours. Serve with your choice of toppings/sides/garnishes. I usually do a green sauce and a mole; this year I’m keeping it simple with a little guacamole.

And since it’s New Year’s Day, not Christmas, we’re starting things off with a pot of hoppin’ john.

Hoppin’ John


    Black eyed peas
    Hot sauce
    Salt and pepper to taste


Soak and cook black eyed peas. Saute onion and garlic, and add into cooked peas. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.