One interest of mine that seems to grow with each passing year is cooking (which goes hand in hand with another increasingly growing interest of mine, eating). I enjoy cooking many different types of things (especially with a beer or glass of wine nearby), including food that is grilled, or food with a zesty kick. Consistent with this, one of my favorite magazines is Chili Pepper, a food magazine that addresses “The Zesty Life.” I enjoy the magazine for several reasons. It is diverse in terms of the areas covered, with book reviews, travel articles, information not just on food, but beverages (include a regular wine feature), various exotic ingredients, festivals, etc. Lots of good stuff.
Oh, and it has recipes. LOTS of recipes. And lots of pictures to go with it, pictures that make me want to cook as soon as I get the magazine out of the mailbox. The theme of the magazine is food with a spicy flair (though certainly not “hot” in the sense that most people will be turned off by it), but the range of meals and recipes offered is impressive. I’ve described the magazine to others as “Bon Appetite with extra paprika.”
There are one or two quibbles. First, many of the recipes call for lots of ingredients, many I won’t use again for quite some time (another feature they share with Bon Appetite). More than a few times, I’ve had to buy a rather large quantity of an ingredient because it seemed important to the recipe, but was not sold in smaller amounts, and I knew as I placed the item in my shopping cart that 3/4 of my purchase (usually expensive too, naturally) would end up first at the back of the fridge, then in the trash. I wish they would offer suggestions for how to address this, or how else I might be able to use these types of ingredients, or at least a cheaper, smaller alternative.
In addition, more than a few recipes will include ingredients I’ve never heard of before. These may have alternatives offered, but not always, or else they may say “purchase at your local (fill in the ethnicity) specialty store.” Now, in Denver, I can get to many stores like this, given time. But with a six and four year old, I have that kind of time maybe three times per year.
Those complaints aside, I can usually manage to figure out something that honors the spirit of the recipe. In this post, I want to briefly mention a recipe I cooked not too long ago that I absolutely loved: Sirloin “Sliders” with Chipotle Ketchup and Paprika Aioli. What you have here are small burgers made with high grade meat, and blended with, among other ingredients, poblano pepper, sauteed bacon and onion. These “sliders” (hey, any recipe that pays homage to White Castle is okay by me. Now excuse me a moment while I wipe away a tear) are easily cooked on a pan at high heat for just a couple of minutes a side, though this summer I plan on trying them out on the grill as well. The use of the ground sirloin improves the overall flavor and texture of the burger immensely, in no small part because the better meat holds its form while cooking much better than regular ground beef (which is important if you are cooking small).
This recipe is exceptional, however, because of the contrasting flavors in addition to the burger that comprise the burger. First, you make a chipotle ketchup that has a decent kick (ingredients include ketchup, roasted red bell pepper, roasted garlic, chipotle chile pepper in adobo, and vinegar). You also make an aioli mayonnaise that includes mayo, cilantro, smoked paprika, and lemon juice. The burgers are served on toasted rye (which is inspired - I love rye!), and the combination of the smoked, spicy, citric, and creamy flavors is fantastic, especially with a side of sprouts topped with a pineapple glaze (also part of the magazine).
Now, this recipe was offered as a starter for a Valentine’s Day Feast, but there is more than enough if you are cooking for two, or two plus a child or two (I just reserved some of the sirloin in order to make the kids regular burgers). Served with a salad and fries, the meal was wonderful. I drank a darker beer to hold up to the spiciness, but in retrospect I imagine a brown ale (Newcastle!) would work fine. Of course, you could also follow the full menu. Give yourself some time for the prep, but the actual cooking is quick. The recipe can be found in the January 2008 issue. I’d post the whole thing, but I have no idea re: copyrights for recipes. In fact, if anyone does know, please post a comment and fill me in. In the meantime, I highly recommend this meal. In fact, this issue has been great - I’ve made three meals from it, with a fourth on the way. In the next few days, I’ll fill you in on a couple of other items I cooked from the January issue.