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January 2015

Smoky Three-Bean Beef Chili for Super Bowl Sunday


When the temperature drops, there’s more than one way to turn up the heat. Never mind the oil burner, or more blankets. Forget jetting away to warmer climes. Head to the kitchen and make a batch of this chili. Not hot in the customary way (though it can be made quite spicy), it has a special ingredient that layers in a fireside flavor and warms the heart: Spanish smoked paprika.

Paprika, which made from dried and ground peppers, is most closely associated with Hungry, where it is a key ingredient in that country’s national dish, goulash. But the peppers were native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies, and they were brought to Europe by explorers from Spain. On the Iberian Peninsula, they do something magical while they make paprika, which they call Pimentón. In the river valleys of the rugged La Vera region, West of Madrid, they smoke the peppers over oak fires. The result is a rich smokiness that enhances every mouthful of the chili.

I make this chili when I want to warm my belly, and I’m tired of soup recipes, salmon, or even pizza. The fine folks at Kraft asked me to share it for their Tastemakers program. It’s perfect for the big game on Sunday. Cook it early in the day and sit back and enjoy the show. You can find the full recipe for Smoky Three Bean Chili here

Note: If you want to make your own beans from dried ones for this recipe, here’s how to do it. To make the 15 ounces each of cooked black beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans that are used in this recipe, start with half a cup of each, dried. Rinse and cook them separately in big pots of water, by bringing them to a boil and reducing to a simmer. Depending on the bean, it might take one to three hours or more to cook them. They are done when they are soft and no longer dry inside. They can be cooked a day ahead, and stored in a plastic container until needed.

Homemade Pizza Dough


Once or twice during my childhood, my mother made pizza at home, probably with one of my sisters, who were into cooking. Or, at least one of them was—my memory is better at recalling the elegant brown peaks of a long-ago lemon meringue pie, than who actually took it out of the oven. But I do recall hovering about the kitchen, with great anticipation, waiting for the dough to rise. It was all a great mystery to me, but it doesn’t have to be confusing to you.

Making your own pizza dough is easy. Nina and I made a batch this weekend, and we wanted to share the recipe with you. I’d like to say that this is my mother’s old family recipe, but it’s not. It’s Mark Bittman’s, and I thank him for bringing to the masses the basics of cooking that have been lost to a generation, through his books (chiefly “How to Cook Everything”) and his other writings. He likes to use a food processor to make this dough. To find those instructions, pick up a copy of “How to Cook Everything.” Otherwise, make it by hand. Here’s how I do it:

Pizza Dough

  • 1 teaspoon yeast (see note)*
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups + water
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine half the flour with the yeast and salt, mix well.
Add the water and the two tablespoons of oil.
Mix with a wooden spoon.
Slowly add the remaining flour, mixing with the wooden spoon.
If necessary, add a touch more water—you want it moist but not sticky.
When it thickens to the point where it’s hard to mix with the spoon, kneed the dough until smooth, about ten minutes (or less), forming a roundish ball.
Grease a clean bowl with the remaining oil, and place the ball of dough in it to rise.
Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm room for two hours, until it doubles in size, or in the refrigerator for six to eight hours.

Makes enough dough for two large pizzas or four modest ones; serves four.

A quick note on kneading: If you don’t know how to do it, there’s nothing to it. Even a child can do it. Here's Nina demonstrating (the punching is optional):



*And speaking of confusion, when I checked this post for an online link to Bittman’s recipe, I discovered that I might have been using the wrong kind of yeast all along. His recipe calls for “instant or rapid-rise” yeast. I’ve been using “active dry yeast” all along. What’s clear, though, is it works for my family. Nina wanted me to be sure to say that you should make more dough. She didn’t feel like there was enough pizza for her. If you want more clarity about the different yeasts, this post on The Kitchn is helpful.

Easy Holiday Beef Tenderloin


My old man was a lawyer who worked for himself, and he used to talk about the “hills and valleys” of his office. We are radically different fathers. I don’t know anything about the ups and downs of the law business, but I do know the “hills and valleys” of cooking for a family. Lately, it has felt like we were eating the same things over and over. Roast chicken, black beans, puttanesca, pesto, pizza. Repeat. Repeat again.

But just this weekend, Santa Maria rocked the alla matriciana sauce and I stunned the kids with Bittman’s “oven-grilled” pork spareribs. And tonight I’m making a halibut recipe that I developed for some friends in Alaska (I’ll share it soon), and I’m feeling more optimistic about things around the kitchen.

Speaking of which, I promised to follow up on my Christmas dinner. As I mentioned in my last post, we were visiting Santa Maria’s folks for the holidays, and I wanted to cook something special. They are now at an age when they deserve a good meal in their own home, and I needed something to match my mother-in-law’s talents for setting a spectacular table. Meals in her house are taken in their dining room, and her table is alway carefully laid out, often with cutlery, glasses, or napkin rings from their long-ago trips around the world. 

I went on my own journey, to my local butcher, for a beef tenderloin. I had never made one, but I had heard they were good. Based on the price, I knew it would be impressive. Little did I know it would be so easy, and so delicious. I could see in my mother-in-law’s eye the pleasure she took with each bite. I was relaxed because the meal came together with next-to-no effort, and we all had a wonderful holiday meal.

Easy Holiday Beef Tenderloin 

  • 2 tablespoons. olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon.
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3-lb. center cut beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. 

In a small bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, garlic, rosemary, and pepper and rub all over the tenderloin.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloin on all sides until browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 125°F, for medium rare.

Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Cover the roast loosely with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. 

Serves 6+.

Note: Recipe is adapted from this one by Giada De Laurentiis.