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Leena Cooks: Sichuan Chili Oil for Dan Dan Noodles

By on Mar 12, 2014 in chili, Condiments, Leena Cooks | 0 comments

If my husband had his way, he would eat Asian food for every meal. Doesn’t matter what kind or region–he’s not picky. He just craves the perfect balance of all the flavors—sweet, sour, spicy and umami–that Asian cultures around the world have adapted in their own special way. And bonus points from him if whatever he is eating has noodles in it (especially hand-pulled). Save for this one amazing dumpling shop in NYC, I am a bit more reluctant to dine at Asian restaurants, mainly because because they can be hit or miss. When they hit, holy shit—it’s amazing. But when they miss, I sort of never want to give it a try again. I know, not the best attitude for a FOOD WRITER to have, but at least I’m honest. And willing to change! I have been doing a fair bit of reading lately around Chinese cuisine. Specifically, I just finished the book Fresh...

Leena Cooks: Andra’s Killer Veggie Chili

By on Jan 18, 2012 in chili, Leena Cooks, Recipes, Vegetables | 1 comment

For a majority of my life, vegetarian chili has always meant one thing to me: a bunch of beans with some spices cooked in water. Every vegetarian chili I had eaten had been variations on that theme. At my annual chili cookoff, my world was rocked. I was overwhelmed with a plethora of kick-ass vegetarian chili. More than just beans and water, that is for damn sure. The winner of the event was made by my friend Andra, and she made a hearty chili made richer with the addition of soy chorizo. I had to get my hands on a recipe that made me actually want to eat vegetarian, so here it is. The recipe and heaps of food porn and tips after the jump. There are several tips I grabbed from Andra’s chili recipe that make it great: *use a flavorful liquid, including a good beer. *soy chorizo creates a meaty base that even meat lovers will mow down. *swap green onions in for traditional yellow...

Leena Cooks: Three Meat Chipotle Chili

By on Dec 7, 2011 in Beef, chili, Leena Cooks, Main, Meat, Pork, Recipes | 0 comments

Man, I am so glad I had my latest chili cook-off. As a cook, it is easy to get stuck in your own ways and your regular recipes, so it is always a blessing to have as many cooking inspirations as I did from my cook-off. I mean, I actually WANT to make a vegetarian chili! Hell hath frozen over, folks. One of the cook-off prizes was a book written by Jane and Michael Stern called Chili Nation, featuring regional chili recipes from all 50 states. My friend Matt made a killer beef chili with chipotle and chunks of beef stew meat, and it inspired me to try something similar. I found the “Serious Capital Punishment Chili” from the District of Columbia (also the International Chili Society’s top winner in it’s 1980 cook off), which not only had cubes of beef round and chipotle in it, but also hints of dark chocolate and two kinds of ground meat in it. I made a few...

Leena Cooks and Eats: Scenes from a Chili Cookoff

By on Nov 30, 2011 in California, chili, chili, Leena Cooks, Leena Eats, Mains, Meat | 2 comments

I didn’t always love eating chili. As the story goes, I overdosed on my mom’s chili at the tender age of 3 and got sick. The memory of this made me avoid chili for the next 20 years or so (I still can eat red kidney beans without gagging a little), until I went to culinary school and decided to try making a chili recipe I could actually stomach. That was 2005, the year of my first chili cookoff, and this year is number five. The cookoff has followed me from Chicago to Australia to California, and has yielded some of the most interesting chilis I have ever tasted (like a kangaroo chili with Vegemite and a Thai chicken chili), and this year was no exception. The big surprise? Really delicious vegetarian chilis that were more than just beans and water! More chili cookoff food porn after the jump. Another great cookoff! I’ve been inspired to try making my own veggie chili...