Spicy Beef Chili

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Tomorrow marks the first day of fall, and while every cafe and restaurant has you convinced that pumpkin spice-flavored everything is the answer to all our problems, I’m leaning in a different direction. No disrespect to squash-flavored caffeine, but I’d rather go for a warm, comforting bowl of chili to herald the changing season.

This spicy beef chili is time consuming but oh so worth it. Bonus: the heated leftovers taste even better.

Spicy beef chili

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds chuck steak, cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt and pepper
1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed and meat broken into small pieces
1 small white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and sour cream, for serving

1. In a large pot, heat the oil. Season the chuck with salt and pepper. Add half of the chuck and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chuck. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage to the diced chuck.

2. Add the chopped onion to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin and the chuck, sausage and any accumulated juices. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the water. Cover and sim-mer over moderately low heat for 1 hour.

3. Stir in the beans and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt. Serve the chili in deep bowls, passing the cheese, scallions, and sour cream on the side.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

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I make these light and healthy spring rolls all the time, especially when the weather begins to warm up. (Or when it never cools down, as is this case with this year’s endless Bay Area summer.)

Even though I usually make them with shrimp, you can substitute with shredded chicken, fresh crab, or any kind of protein. The herbs are interchangeable too: I prefer a mix of romaine lettuce, mint, and basil, but anything goes. Sometimes I substitute shredded carrots with cucumbers or avocado instead. You get the picture.

Don’t make these too ahead of time, as I’ve learned the hard way that refrigerating fresh spring rolls results in a stale wrapper. Don’t worry, though. These are so good you won’t have any left over.

Shrimp spring rolls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled (or shredded chicken)
4 ounces dried bean thread (glass) noodles
16 round rice paper wrappers
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 bunch mint leaves, removed from stems
1 bunch basil leaves, removed froms tems
1 Persian cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 bunch romaine lettuce, ribs removed

1. To make the peanut sauce, whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. To make the spring rolls, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Set aside.

3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over bean thread noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
Working quickly, tear off a piece of lettuce that is roughly half the size of the wrapper and place in the center of the wrapper. Add 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer 1/4 cup of the noodles over the shrimp, followed by a spoon of carrot, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves. Place 2 of the cucumber sticks on either side of the noodle pile.

5. Fold the bottom and top halves of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top. Slice in half.

6. If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.

Coconut Tapioca Pudding

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The first time I cooked with tapioca pearls a few years ago, I ended up with a giant mess. I was trying to recreate boba tea, and I overcooked the small, translucent spheres and the whole thing dissolved into a gelatinous blob that adhered itself to the pot. After that experience, I stayed away from tapioca pearls – until now.

When I came across this recipe for a cool, tropical tapioca pudding first published in Sunset Magazine, and by the Bay Area’s very own Tim Luym, no less, I knew I had to give tapioca a second chance. Luym is the former executive chef of Poleng Lounge, a fun, street-food centered Filipino restaurant that’s no longer around, but I’d met Luym at an Anthony Bourdain book release a few years ago and his super friendly vibe and his amazing use of Southeast Asian flavors made an impression on me.

But I digress. Back to the tapioca. Thankfully, this dish turned out to be really easy to make. Just keep an eye on the tapioca pearls as they boil and take care not to overcook them. Use small, white pearls, not the larger, dark ones that you typically see in boba tea. I topped this pudding with toasted coconut, mango, and grass jelly, but lychees, kiwi, or pineapple will work just as well.

Mother's Day sushi brunch

Ingredients:

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
1 mango, chopped
1/3 can grass jelly, drained and chopped

Preparation

1. In a saucepan, cook tapioca in 2 quarts boiling water until only slightly chewy to the bite, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer.

2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk, milk, sugar, and vanilla, until steaming, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Stir drained tapioca into vanilla mixture. Cook, stirring often, until tapioca pearls are clear and just tender, 3 to 6 minutes.

4. Let pudding cool, then chill, stirring occasionally, at least 1 1/4 hours. Stir in more milk if pudding seems too thick.

5. Spoon pudding into glasses or small bowls. Top with toasted coconut and fresh fruit.

Chilled Vegetable and Bean Thread Noodle Stir-Fry

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Originally adapted from an old Martin Yan recipe for vegetarian rolls wrapped in Mandarin pancakes, this recipe has gone through several permutations over the years. The biggest change is that I added more noodles and got rid of the pancake/wrapper component.

This dish makes a healthy meal on its own and the vegetables can be replaced with whatever is season. Best of all, you can make it ahead of time since it can be served room temperature or chilled.

Beijing-style chilled vegetable stir-fry

Ingredients:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
6 pieces dried cloud ear
8 ounces dried bean thread noodles
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of salt
2 tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Soak mushrooms and cloud ears in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Thinly slice mushrooms and cloud ears. Soak bean thread noodles in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Cut noodles into 8-inch lengths.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high heat in a small frying pan. Pour in 1/3 of beaten eggs and swirl pan to cover entire bottom. Cook until egg is lightly browned on bottom and set on top, about 1 minute. Turn sheet over and cook 10 seconds; slide out of pan. Repeat to make 2 more egg sheets. When sheets are cool, cut in half, stack and slice crosswise into 1/8-inch shreds.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add remaining tablespoon cooking oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add mushrooms, cloud ears, cabbage, and carrots; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add bean thread noodles and broth; cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add mung bean sprouts, egg shreds, oyster flavored sauce, sugar, and sesame oil; cook until heated through. Remove to a serving bowl and serve room temperature or chilled.

Veal Marsala

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One of these days I’d like to eat my way through Italy. That hasn’t happened yet, but thankfully there are tons of Italian classics I can recreate in my kitchen. Veal marsala is one of the most common, and I make this with variations all the time. Sometimes I use chicken, sometimes I use cremini mushrooms instead of button – you get the idea. You can eat this with mashed potatoes but I prefer to serve the veal over buttered egg noodles.

Veal marsala with mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pound veal cutlets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
10 ounces egg fettuccine, cooked al dente and tossed with one tablespoon butter

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean.

2. Pat veal dry, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While fat is heating, dredge 2 or 3 pieces of veal in flour, shaking off excess, then saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered. Saute remaining veal in 2 more batches using remaining oil and butter.

3. Add Marsala to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and any veal juices accumulated on platter, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer 2 minutes more and spoon over veal.