When I moved into my first apartment in Connecticut back in 2007, I went on a cookbook shopping spree. My goal that year was to occupy myself after a breakup by teaching myself how to cook. On the weekends, I would sit on the couch, usually hungover, thumbing through the books looking for a recipe that sounded yummy and manageable given my tiny, decrepit kitchen and the shitty starter set of kitchen items I'd bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
What I found as I flipped through the books was that cooking the recipes within them was going to be a challenge. "Prep the charcoal grill" .... um, but I just have a gas stove and only one of the burners actually works? "Using a gallon-sized food processor" ... a what? "Place the ingredients into a dutch oven" .... hehehehe, I mean, do I have one of those? I was 21 and I didn't have the kitchen appliances or the spice rack or the knife set of a functional adult. The cookbooks mostly assumed that I knew basic cooking terms and that I liked fancy meats and seafood, which I don't. After a few all-around disasters, up they went on top of my fridge and collected dust while I ordered pizza, marathoned Sex and the City on repeat, drank a lot of White Zin and usually fell asleep on the couch.
Flash forward to this past August, when Ali Larter's cookbook "Kitchen Revelry: A Year of Festive Menus from My Home to Yours" came out. Ali who, you ask? Let me remind you of a little movie called Varsity Blues in which a pretty blonde girl shocks Dawson Leery's virginal sensibilities by walking up to him wearing nothing but a whipped cream bikini. THAT's Ali Larter. And you know what? She's an amazing cook.
Her cookbook is what I wish I had when I was trying to teach myself to cook that winter. If I had had it, I wouldn't have been scared off of cooking for the following four years. The book itself is beautiful, featuring mouth-watering photography of the food and snapshots from Ali's home life over the course of a year. The chapters are broken down by month and there are 2-3 seasonal themes for each month with half a dozen recipes or more in each theme. There are entrees and salads and baked goods and cocktails and all of them are meant to be made with things that women in their twenties actually own. Within the past month, I've made her Lagered Turkey Chili twice and Ryan and me almost died over her Ricotta Meatballs in Chianti Sauce.
I can't wait to try and tackle everything in this cookbook and I can't recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor and try her recipe for Lagered Turkey Chili (below) this weekend:
Lagered Turkey Chili
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium onions)
- 2 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (about 2 green bell peppers)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 pounds ground turkey meat, white or dark
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder or 1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness or lager beer
- 1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 (15 ½-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- cheddar cheese
- green onions
2. Heat a heavy large nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Add the chili powder mixture to the pot and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
3. Add the oil to the pot, then add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the turkey and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, then the tomato paste, salt and cocoa powder; stir 1 minute.
5. Add the beer and simmer 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and the beans. Bring to a boil.
6. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer slightly covered until the flavors develop, about 30 minutes.
7. Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and sliced green onions.
Reprinted Source: New York Times
Notes: The second time around I used a couple more tablespoons of chili powder, one additional tablespoon of cocoa powder, and half as many beans and I think that's the way I like it.
I'm happy to say that these days I do have a food processor (the adorable Cuisinart Mini-Prep Food Processor) and it is a life saver. Everyone should own one. But if you don't, fear not. This is a cookbook that doesn't require you to have acquired a wedding registry's worth of tools to eat good food. You can watch a video of Larter making her Lagered Turkey Chili here and be sure to order her cookbook, "Kitchen Revelry: A Year of Festive Menus from My Home to Yours" for a year's worth of simple and savory recipes!