It’s just a day into 2014 and I already have a recipe to share. It’s a housewarming recipe, the recipe that finally helped me feel like New York was my new home. Is my new home.
A few months ago, I subleased my apartment in Cambridge and moved down to New York with no plan other than to follow a dream and see where it takes me. After wandering from temporary apartment to temporary apartment, I landed in a friend’s place to finish out her lease. I slowly moved in, both physically and psychologically. I needed two trips up north to fill the closets and round out the kitchen, and there is still a lot that I’ve left behind. When my father visited just before Thanksgiving, he installed shelves and I finally felt like I had a place to call my own. A place to hang my hat. Well, to hang my pots and pans at least.
I’ve slowly returned to cooking and baking, even adapting (sort of) to not having a dishwasher other than my own two chapped hands. I’ve made soups and vegetables (recipes soon, pinky swear) and have managed to take photos in the small, so very small, area between the bed and the window on a cutting board precariously perched atop a moving box.
On the last Friday of the year, I invited a crowd for shabbat dinner.
I borrowed a table and extra chairs. Ran to the store for a last-minute scroll of craft paper when I couldn’t find a table cloth. Trimmed roses and, with branches of eucalyptus, arranged them in a stumpy vase. Circled the table with plates and glasses and silverware. Lit candles. And, having prepared everything the day before, relaxed for a few moments before the first knock on the door.
Within minutes, everyone arrived and I made the rounds with introductions. We poured wine, blessed bread and passed bowlfuls of steaming chili. Conversation flowed easily in every direction.
After the last hug goodbye, I sat down on the sofa and drank the last few drops of red right out of the bottle. I smiled and flopped into bed. The dishes could wait.
So long, 2013. You’ve been good to me. 2014, I can’t wait to get to know you.
This recipe is adapted from the spicy chili in Einat Admony’s Balaboosta. (More on Einat and her cookbook soon.) To make my life easier, I used cans where I could: canned kidney beans instead of dried, canned tomatoes instead of fresh. I also replaced merguez sausage with lamb because it’s easier to find. The heat in the chili comes from the North African spice paste harissa. Since the spiciness of harissa can vary, use a light touch initially — you can always add more later. I like to serve this on top of wheat berries (I cook them according to these guidelines from the Kitchn), but you can use brown rice, barley, farro, or your favorite grain.
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground lamb
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 ½ C finely chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 t sugar
- 1 28-oz can of chopped peeled tomatoes
- 2-3 T harissa (depending on how spicy it is)
- 1 t ground cumin
- ¼ t chipotle powder
- about 4 C water
- 2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Sauté. Heat a large heavy-bottom pot over high heat (no oil) – it’s ready when you drop a small piece of meat in and it sizzles very loudly. If the pot isn’t hot enough, you’ll end up boiling your meat instead of sautéing. Add the beef and lamb to the hot pot and sauté until browned. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Drain off any excess liquid, but leave all the good browned bits. Remove the meat and set aside.
Sauté again. Heat the olive oil in the emptied pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, making sure not to burn it. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of harissa (you can add more later), cumin, chipotle, 2 tablespoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and water.
Simmer. Add the beans and bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. After the first 30 minutes, taste for spice, stirring in extra harissa if you’d like more of a kick. Check the chili periodically, and if it looks dry, add some more water.
Serve. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with sliced scallion.
I’m sort of in love with these carrots and parsnips (modified from this recipe). I hope you’ll indulge me a couple of photos.