Chili Powder

One of my favorite things about cooking is concocting. Making my own herbs and spice blends, flavored oils and vinegars is some of the fun. There is great joy in taking classic dishes and making them uniquely your own. Chili powder is one of the seasoning blends I think is much better crafted to your own preferences and result in a “secret ingredient.”

When I was taking culinary classes associated with my holistic nutrition degree, I was introduced to the Culinary Institute of America’s book, Techniques of Healthy Cooking. I still turn to it a lot for reference. The recipe below is based on one from this book.

Chili powder is simple to make, taking under 10 minutes. Most ingredients are easily located at the grocery store, and the flavor can be adjusted based on the type of chili you use. The result is far more complex and versatile than the store bought blends. I use this in tortilla soup, posole, meat rubs, various marinades, salad dressings, and of course, in a good hearty chili.

Feel free to play with this recipe and adjust it to suit your personal tastes. That’s half the fun of making your own seasoning blends from the basic spices and herbs on hand.

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons Chili, dried and ground (see notes)
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano Leaves, dried
3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/8 Teaspoon Chile de Arbol, ground (optional - can substitute Cayenne)

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together and store in a tightly covered container.

Notes

Chili: I prefer Ancho chili over all other chili for this blend, but also use Pasilla. When mixing, I do a ratio of 2/3 Ancho to 1/3 Pasilla. Ancho gives it a bright red coloring and Pasilla offers a toasted brown. Ancho is sweet and smokey. Pasilla is hotter. The combo of the two makes for a great base for the rest of the flavors.

Cumin: I reduced the original recipe by 1/2 as I am not a huge fan of Cumin. It is necessary and if you don’t use it at all, you will find something missing, but since I don’t love it, I reduced the amounts. Go easy with this ingredient because it has a very distinct flavor and can overpower all of the rest of the ingredients. You can always adjust and add more to your liking.

Garlic: I love garlic. Also a heavy flavor. I increased the original recipe slightly. Modify to your tastes.

Oregano: Mexican Oregano is traditional here, and readily found in the international food isle of the grocery store. I grow and dry my own more traditional Italian Oregano, and use it in my blend quite successfully.

Coriander: Ground coriander refers to the seed, not the leaf of the plant also commonly known as Cilantro. I love the toasty, earthy flavor the addition of coriander brings to the blend and use it liberally.

Chili de Arbol: I also add Chili de Arbol to this recipe for an extra little kick. It can be reduced or omitted if you are sensitive to the heat of this chili. Cayenne can be used as a substitute.

Grilled Salmon with Nori Fume Furikake

Its still early summer here in the high desert, but BBQ season is in full swing. One of our favorite ways to prepare heart-healthy fish is on the grill.

Salmon packs a health punch with essential Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, B vitamins, potassium, selenium and protein! It is high in the anti-oxidant Astaxanthin, giving the fish it’s red pigment, which helps with inflammation, supports good (HDL) cholesterol, and reduces oxidation of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

In this recipe, the salmon bathes in a flavorful marinade before grilling. Then it is finished with the great Japanese dry seasoning blend – Nori Fume Furikake. Furikake is a dry seasoning blend comprised of sesame seeds and other seasonings. Nori is seaweed like the sheets of nori used to wrap rolls in Sushi restaurants. Furikake is typically served on rice, which would make a great side dish for this fish, but here I use it to finish the salmon just before removing from the grill to impart even more flavor.

Using a BBQ grill mat to protect the delicate fish from falling through the grill grates.

Ingredients

3 - 4 Salmon fillets, skin on
Marinade
1-2 Tablespoons Nori-Fume Furikake

Marinade
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Tamari Sauce (or Lite Soy Sauce)
1/4 Cup Avocado or Peanut Oil 
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Ginger Root, freshly grated
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Ponzu Sauce

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients. Pour into a shallow baking dish that will hold salmon fillets in single layer. Place salmon in marinade, skin side up, letting the flesh rest directly in the marinade for a minimum of 20 minutes, or up to two hours.
  2. Prepare grill. If grilling directly on the grill grates, oil lightly, or to prevent sticking, you can oil a piece of aluminum foil and place on the grates to prevent the fillets from sticking and falling through. I like to use a silicone grill mat which is naturally non-stick.
  3. Preheat grill to 450 degrees.
  4. Collect Tongs, spatula, instant read thermometer and seasonings to be used at the grill. Fish cooks fast, so be prepared ahead so you don’t overcook the fish while you are dashing to get something last minute.
  5. When grill reaches temperature, place salmon on the grill, skin side down. Sprinkle the fillet with Nori-Fume Furikake to taste. Close the lid of the grill and grill for 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch of fillet thickness. A one-inch thick fillet will take about 8 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the fish achieves 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit before removing from grill. Grill to your desired doneness, I like mine a bit on the medium-rare side, but you can cook it all the way to well done if that is your preference.
  6. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. You can use Togarashi (pepper) seasoning in place of the Nori-Fume Furikake. Togarashi, like Furikake, is a dry seasoning blend with sesame seeds, dried citrus and other flavorings. It can be spicy, Shichimi or mild, Shishito, but is primarily a blend of capsicum.
  2. Salmon is an oily, rich fish that demands lighter accompaniments. Rice, steamed or grilled vegetables and wilted greens make nice side dishes with this salmon. Grilled or fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango and papaya are also good sides.

Mussels with Basque Chorizo

Yeild: 4 Servings

This is actually a quick meal, but tastes amazing. Served in big bowls with lots of the stock and a crusty sour dough for dipping, this can actually be whipped up on a weeknight. For this adventure, I substituted some clams for the mussels because I had them on hand. They have different cooking times and I don’t really recommend this as the best approach to this dish, but it is an option. They are complementary bivalve mollusks, but the clams take longer to cook and must be added 5-10 minutes before the mussels to insure they open.

The Basque Chorizo brings the flavors of sweet red pepper, paprika, and garlic to the game. We are lucky to live in an area that celebrates Basque tradition and these sausages are readily available at a Basque deli in the local area. If Basque Chorizo can’t be found, Spanish Chorizo can be substituted. Mexican Chorizo is made with entirely different spice blend and I have not tried it in this dish. If you are up for experimenting that direction, let me know how that works out.

Measurements in this recipe are a suggestion, and you can easily modify it to your tastes and the number of people you want to serve. We like a lot of soupy broth for soaking up the flavor and bread. You can reduce the liquid volume if you don’t want as much broth. If you don’t keep clam stock on hand, chicken stock can be substituted, it just doesn’t have that briny, ocean flavor. You can eliminate the wine and use all stock. This is up to you.

Ingredients

4 lbs Mussels, live or a mix of Mussels and Clams, cleaned and de-bearded
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 oz. Basque Chorizo,casing removed and diced
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
16 oz. tomatoes, diced (a pint of Cherry tomatoes works well)
8 Oz. Clam Stock (can substitute chicken stock)
8 oz. Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons, Italian Parsley, minced

Instructions

  1. Rinse and scrub mussels, removing any beard (fuzzy clingy stuff sticking out of the mussel shell). If any mussels are open, discard them – they are not alive. You can tap them to see if they will close, but it they don’t, throw them out.
  2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large lidded skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add diced Chorizo cook until it begins to brown.
  4. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes begin to soften.
  6. Stir in stock and white wine. Cook to reduce by 1/4 and release alcohol.
  7. Add mussels and cover with lid, steam for 10 minutes until the mussels open. If chosing to mix with clams, remember to cook clams first for at least 5-10 minutes until they start to open, and then add the mussels to insure clams cook completely.
  8. Discard any mussels (or clams) that do not open.
  9. To finish: Stir in butter and 1/2 the parsley. Divide into serving bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
  10. Serve with toasted Italian or Sourdough bread.

Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Yeild: 6 – 7 Cups

This sauce is a bit sweet and sour, but still retains the basic elements of a traditional BBQ Sauce. It’s very versatile and creates good carmelization and glazing when added on the grill. Pork and chicken work very well with this sauce.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, whole
4 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Molasses
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Beer
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce or other Sweet/Tart Jelly
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gather all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss onion, garlic, and rhubarb with avocado oil. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Cook in oven for 18-20 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Transfer to a large sauce pan.
  4. Add all other ingredients except salt, pepper and tabasco to the sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb is falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, puree sauce until very smooth.
  6. Return sauce to pan if not using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, optionally, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Adjust level of sweetness by adding additional brown sugar or molasses if desired, or make more tart/acidic by adding additional apple cider vinegar. This is where you can adjust the sauce to your personal taste.
  7. Insure all ingredients are well combined.
  8. Will store refrigerated for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze BBQ sauce in a freezer container for up to six months, or use a canning method for storage up to a year. I chose to process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to can the BBQ sauce for longer storage.
Ribs cooked on the Pellet smoker glazed with the Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Notes

If you don’t have Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce on hand, you could substitute Red Pepper, Tart Cherry, Currant, or a combination of these Jellies to get the sweet/tart flavor needed. Optionally, you could add fresh strawberries or raspberries during the phase when you cook down the roasted rhubarb with the other liquid ingredients.

This is a forgiving sauce, and you can play with it to make it your own by changing up ingredients, just checking the flavors and insuring balance. When I first started the sauce it just didn’t seem quite right until I added a very small amount of liquid smoke and that made all the difference.

Homemade Meatballs

This recipe is for a big batch of meatballs, intended to be prepped ahead and frozen for use in dishes such as traditional spaghetti and meatballs, meatball soups, meatball sandwiches, appetizer meatballs, etc.

Yield: 80 meatballs if formed into balls using approximately 2 tablespoons of meatball mixture. I typically use a cookie scoop to measure so I get uniform meatballs. Meatballs can be made larger or smaller to your preference. I like mine to be 2 tablespoon size as they reduce slightly when cooked and make the perfect 1-2 bite meatball. This recipe can also be reduced to 1/4 the amounts listed to make approximately 20 meatballs for a single meal and used immediately.

This recipe has very basic seasoning and is neutral so that flavors so the meatballs can marry with a variety of sauces and soup bases. This allows for versatile use of these meatballs in a variety of dishes.

Ingredients

20 oz. Ground Pork
32 oz. Ground Beef
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Dry Bread Crumbs
4 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

Instructions

  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine and evenly distribute seasonings.
  3. Using a measuring spoon or scoop, measure meat mixture into the preferred size meatball.
  4. Place meatballs in uniform rows on the parchment paper until you fill baking sheets. Keep going until you run out of meat mixture. You can place the meatballs very close to each other, but do not let them touch.
  5. Cover meatballs lightly with plastic wrap and place baking sheets in freezer for 2 hours until meatballs are frozen.
  6. Remove meatballs from freezer and package using zip-top freezer bags.
  7. Return bags to the freezer until ready to use.
  8. For use in other dishes, thaw meatballs and then cook according to the recipe direction by oven baking, pan frying or dropping into soup broth. I typically put 2 dozen into a 1 gallon bag. They lay flat in the freezer and stack nicely.

Notes

  • Place 24 to 30 meatballs into a 1 gallon zip-top freezer bag and store them in the freezer flat. By freezing before putting in bags, the meatballs will not stick together when added to the freezer bags. The desired amount of meatballs can be removed individually. The remainder can be left in the resealed bag in the freezer.
  • Other herbs and seasonings can be added as desired.
  • If using a seasoned bread crumb, you may need to reduce the salt in the recipe.