Smoky Peanut Mole.

mole! it’s been a while since the last mole experience, but it’s spring break (so we have extra time) and we had some friends over for dinner (so we wanted to impress). thus, a return to mole. the fact that rick bayless described this is as a very simple mole did make it a bit more appealing. you can buy bayless’s books like we did, but the recipe is also online here via food and wine magazine.

Ingredients

2 medium (about 1 ounce total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 small white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
8 ounces (about 1 medium-large round or 3 to 4 plum) ripe tomatoes
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, plus a few tablespoons chopped for garnish
2 slices firm white bread (or 1/2 dry Mexican bolillo roll), torn into pieces
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded
1/8 teaspoon allspice, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
About 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about 1 tablespoon

  1. Tear the ancho chiles into flat pieces, then toast a few at a time on an ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat: press flat with a metal spatula for a few seconds, until they crackle and change color slightly, then flip and press again. (If they give off more than the slightest wisp of smoke, they are burning and will add a bitter element to the sauce.) In a small bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, medium-size (4-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium. Add the onion and garlic cloves, and fry, stirring regularly, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a blender jar. Set the pan aside.
  3. Roast the tomato on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes, then flip it and roast the other side; cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomato. Add the tomato to the blender, along with the peanuts, bread, chipotles, drained anchos, allspice and cinnamon. Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth and blend until smooth, stirring and scraping down the sides of the blender jar, and adding a little more liquid if needed to keep everything moving through the blades. Press the mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in the pot over medium-high. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once. Stir as the nutty-smelling, ruddy-red amalgamation thickens and darkens for about 5 minutes, then stir in the remaining 2 cups broth, the wine, vinegar and bay leaves. Partially cover and let gently simmer over medium-low heat for roughly 45 minutes, stirring regularly for the flavors to harmonize. If necessary, thin the sauce with a little more broth to keep it the consistency of a cream soup. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons, and the sugar. Cover and keep warm.

this came together with relatively little pain. we made the sauce in advance and let it sit, then fried up some shredded pork and added a healthy ladel-ful of this to the pan and served as tacos. the result was pretty delightful – as with all moles, the sauce has a real depth of flavor and complexity. the peanut shines through, and there is a touch of heat from the chiles, and it’s all just magic and rainbows. a big winner, and easy enough that hopefully we’ll do it again sooner rather than later.

Revised Bobby Flay Spaghetti Sauce (April 18, 2010)

the bobby flay spaghetti sauce i’ve been making for a while has evolved a bit. i felt it would be wise to document it rather than just keep doing it from memory.

Ingredients

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, smashed with some kosher salt to make a paste
* 2 (28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes and their juices, pureed in a blender
* 1 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
* 1 small can tomato paste
* 1 bay leaf
* a bunch of chopped basil (i use the little container you can buy at Kroger)
* 1 cup red wine
* 1 small bunch Italian parsley
* 1 healthy sprinkling red pepper flakes
* 1 slightly less generous portion of oregano
* 1 Anaheim chile pepper, chopped
* 3-5 links spicy Italian sausage
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Chop and saute the sausage before hand, then set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add pureed tomatoes with their juices, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 cup wine, bay leaf, parsley, Anaheim pepper, basil, sausage and bring to a boil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Eat.

a couple notes: i added the basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and substituted wine for water in the original recipe. flay talks about meatballs, and you can use those too – i love the turkey meatball recipe we have on this blog. but i often don’t quite have the energy to do the meatball thing, and so the sausage is a bit faster.

the sauce clearly has a spicy zing to it, which i like. i think it’s a little more flavorful than the original, which was solid, but eventually got a touch boring.

a final note – my most recent making of this, and i forgot the sausage, and it wasn’t quite as good as i recalled. i think that it really does add something to the flavor, and so i wouldn’t leave it out in the future.

Palermo’s Copycat Pizza Sauce (April 10, 2011)

continuing my quest for decent pizza, the next goal was to make the best sauce in the world. as i have grown, i think that sauce is perhaps the most crucial element in a pizza for me, and so using the pre-packaged stuff was just out of the question. after asking the internet for help, i found an entry on pizzamaking dot com posted by someone trying to capture the sauce of palermo’s in oak lawn, IL. palermo’s has a sweet pizza sauce that is one of the best around, and the notion of making something that delicious appealed to me.

based on her entry, here’s sort of how it went down:

2 large cans Crushed Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic (i used ones with basil added instead)
1 1/2 tsp. Fresh Basil or 3/4 tsp. dried Basil (i left this out, as i got the basil tomatoes)
1/2 tsp. Oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. garlic powder or fresh garlic to taste (Only if you are using crushed tomatoes with no garlic already added)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4-1 tsp. salt
6-8T sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (i don’t know if i measured this out or just tossed it in)

i simmered very gently for a few hours in the evening, then left it in the fridge until the next day, when i made the pizzas. this made enough sauce for six pizzas (rectangular baking sheet size pizzas), and i use a healthy amount of sauce per pizza.

some thoughts:

– first, it was pretty good. the sugar and cinnamon do give it a unique sweetness, which i really enjoyed. when i was stirring and tasting this, i always licked the spoon completely clean because it tasted so good.

– if there was a flaw, it’s that i might prefer a slightly thicker sauce. i think adding some tomato paste and simmering at a higher temperature to reduce it more might help this out a bit.

i’d give it a B+ as is. i’ll definitely make again, and possible take into account some of the comments in that thread i liked to before, using some more spices as well. overall, a satisfying foray into sauce.

Bobby Flay Spaghetti Sauce (February 11, 2010)

i made this one a couple weeks back, and was looking for it on the food blog. then i realized that i never posted it!

the problem was that the last spaghetti sauce we made just wasn’t quite on the mark. so i went looking for another choice, and found a recipe from bobby flay.

Ingredients

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, smashed with some kosher salt to make a paste
* 2 (28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes and their juices, pureed in a blender
* 1 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
* 1 small can tomato paste
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 small bunch Italian parsley
* 1 Cubano chile pepper, chopped
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add pureed tomatoes with their juices, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 cup water, bay leaf, parsley, Cubano pepper, and bring to a boil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Add meatballs and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and meatballs are tender. Remove the bay leaf.

a couple notes:

– cubano peppers? i used a plain bell pepper.
– i also tossed in a healthy portion of red pepper flakes.

overall, i think this was a really nice recipe. it had good, strong flavor, and didn’t have the awkward sweetness of the prior recipe. i give it an A-. carla isn’t around to grade it, but i think she liked it too.

Pesto (August 12, 2009)

My friend Maggie gave us a bit of basil from her garden. With our travel to Chicago over the weekend, however, we just got around to using it today…and we made some pesto. We were just a bit short of two cups so we “scanted” all of the ingredients. We also made a loaf of tomato bread in the bread maker to have with the pesto, some bowtie pasta, and sweet pepper marinara (store-bought).

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup.

David: I liked it with the bread. We made sure to put in a bit of extra salt. I liked it.

Carla: Pretty easy to make; we had all of the ingredients on hand. It was really good with the bread. I would definitely make this again.

Balsamic BBQ Sauce (August 11, 2008)

I saw this on Everyday Italian earlier in the summer…we tried it and we liked it. We are making it again tonight for dinner.

1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Not a sweet or spicy, but pungent sauce.