Ingredient spotlight: Blue Chair end-of-summer plum jam and smoked serrano chili powder

This week at Williams-Sonoma I bought ‘end-of-summer’ plum jam by Blue Chair Fruit, a jam and marmalade company based in Oakland, Calif. I also picked up a jar of the Williams-Sonoma brand  smoked serrano chili powder.

These are both really interesting ingredients. The plum jam is fresh and authentic tasting. It only has a few ingredients, plums, sugar, and lemon juice. Lately I’ve been eating it on toast, but there are so many ways you could use it. I would love to make these crescent jam and cheese cookies with it. It would also be delicious on a fresh waffle…

With the smoked serrano chili powder I’m excited to find ways to highlight it in a dish. A few days ago I made roasted kidney beans  using my past recipe, with the serrano chili powder and cumin as my spices. The chili is smoky, similar to canned adobo chilis. It’s also a little spicy, which I love. I want to try adding some to this Smoky Braised Mexican Pumpkin recipe. I think it would also be interesting in a dry rub for this bbq tofu.

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Fall Time Dishes

The fall chill is setting in and I’m excited to start making tasty, warming dinners. With the clocks turning an hour back this weekend, it’ll be even darker at night too. There’s something about cooking seasonal foods during the cold months that makes it easier to get through.

Here is a list of autumn-flavored meals and foods that I’m looking forward to making this week,

Pancetta, white bean, and chard pot pies: I would scratch the pancetta, or use Morning Star bacon instead to make this vegetarian. It’s also a pretty time consuming recipe, so I’ll have to plan it for a weekend.

Pumpkin curry with chickpeas: I have a little sugar pie pumpkin I want to cook, this would be delicious for it.

Dijon-braised brussels sprouts: These just look delicious. I really like mustard lately.

All Day Apple Butter: I’ve been craving apple butter for weeks now, ever since I went apple picking at Jones Creek Farms in Sedro Wooley. The apples I collected there are long gone, but I picked up some more at the store.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars: No explanation needed.

Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

Black beans aren’t my favorite. When I’m cooking at home I usually reach for kidney beans before using black beans. I like the flavor more, and somehow I like to think that they’re healthier. Cuban-style black beans on the other hand, I love. When the beans break down they create this great sauce.

I started craving Cuban-style black beans and rice yesterday and went online to find a recipe.  This one looked promising, but it calls for dry Spanish wine, an ingredient I don’t have and didn’t want to improperly substitute.

I ultimately chose this Bon Appétit recipe, though in the end I didn’t follow it very closely. I used a carrot in place of the green pepper (didn’t have one), added spices and hot sauce, and didn’t add the sugar the recipe called for. I also used more broth than the recipe to give it a looser consistency. Next time I make this I would love to serve it with cotija cheese, cilantro, and limes. I guess I just like Mexican-style black beans.

Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

Adapted from Bon Appétit

Serves 3 to 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
3/4 cup vegetable or no-chicken broth (or water with Better than Bouillon)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Tapatio or other preferred hot sauce (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion and carrot, sauté until vegetables caramelize a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir halfway through.

Add garlic and spices. Continue to sauté until garlic and spices are fragrant.

Add half of the beans to pan. Mash beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining beans, broth, vinegar, and hot sauce. Cover, and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season beans with salt and pepper to taste and serve with long grain white rice.