Okay, so I may be obsessed with cooking. And food. Mmm ... I like food. The technical term is "foodie", although you could make the argument that I'm something of a "food nerd". It fascinates me and I love learning how to make new things from scratch, so I guess you could also say that I "geek out" over food.
Didn't used to be that way. I used to be a REALLY picky eater. I wouldn't try very many new things, couldn't do any fish, didn't like the thought of not knowing every ingredient that was in the item I ordered ... there are some things I still haven't come around to (ahem, calamari, mustard, mushrooms, pickles, and lots of other things that Mr. Dude "sacrifices" by eating for me), but it's a much shorter list than it used to be.
I blame my college roomies. Some of them were vocal performance majors who couldn't eat dairy or cooked tomatoes because that would mess with their vocal cords too much. We each took turns cooking dinners for all of us, and all I knew how to make was Italian and Mexican. Translation: lots and lots of dairy and cooked tomatoes. What on earth do you make for these people?!
So the internet and I became best friends and I branched out. I learned about quinoa, risotto, cooking with wine, why the crock pot is my best friend, how legumes and grains make a whole (and dirt-cheap) protein ... but I digress. Suffice it to say that cooking has become an addictive hobby that Mr. Dude certainly appreciates.
I made a kick-butt stew (seriously, it's spicy enough to kick your butt) tonight for dinner and do you know how Mr. Dude reacted?
Mr. Dude: "You know, I like it, Stephanie. But the beef is really tender ..."
Me: "Um, it's supposed to be like that. That's why you cook it so slowly at a low temperature. That's what makes it tasty."
Mr. Dude [with a sheepish grin]: "Oh. Uh. Then it's good!"
For all the geek speak that he teaches me, apparently I need to return the favor and start showing him what I know about cooking. If he doesn't know the basics about how food is supposed to taste, then I haven't been doing my job!
Or maybe I just don't talk his ear off about what I'm making the way he talks my ear off about technology ...
For the record, here's what I made. Props to Cynthia Lair and her Feeding the Whole Family cookbook. Everything I've ever made from there has been phenomenal. No joke.
[Side note: I may have been giddy when Mr. Dude's aunt, a registered dietitian and college nutrition professor, offered to introduce me to Cynthia. It'd be the cooking equivalent of meeting Bill Nye, the Science Guy. True story.]
Yes, that's Mr. Dude's keyboard in the background.
Yes, it glows. In multiple colors.
Because why wouldn't you buy a keyboard that glows?
Spice Island Beef Stew
Prep time: 10 minutes to prepare stew, 2.5 hrs cooking time.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 habanero pepper, minced (remove seeds if you're not a fan of "heat")
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp allspice
1 bay leaf
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange plus water, wine and/or stock to equal 1.5 cups
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 tsp sea salt
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup cooked red beans
Heat a large stew pot or pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and meat. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove meat and set aside on plate.
Add remaining oil to pot along with onion. Saute briefly, until onion begins to turn translucent. Add garlic, habanero, thyme and allspice. Cook for 30 seconds, until garlic and spices are fragrant.
Return meat to pot. Sprinkle flour over sauteed mixture and stir to coat meat and vegetables. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, then add bay leaf, orange zest and juice, liquid, tomatoes and salt.
Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer 1.5 hours, or until meat begins to tenderize.
Add bell pepper and zucchini. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, 20 minutes, or until vegetables are nearly tender. Add beans and simmer 10 minutes more, until flavors have blended and meat can be shredded with a spoon. Discard bay leaf, adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.
[It's super tasty with toasted homemade bread. Just sayin'.]