Recipe: Sarah’s Garlic Harvest Beef Chili

Sarah's Garlic Harvest Beef Chili
Sarah's Garlic Harvest Beef Chili

This week, the tables at the local Japanese farmers’ market are overflowing with fruits, vegetables and especially garlic. My friend Atusko’s landlord is a farmer, and he gave her a bag containing 100 single cloves of garlic “seconds” that he could not sell. She passed the garlic on to me and it inspired tonight’s dinner.

With the autumn breeze dictating a sudden wardrobe overhaul, the season’s first steaming bowl of chili was like a promise of warmth on the cold nights to come.

Layers of flavors meld together for satisfying bite and a lingering, medium-spiced aftertaste. Red table wine brings out the hues of the tomatoes and beef, cumin seeds and crushed red peppers offer added mini bursts of flavor, and large chunks of garlic take the spotlight as they are slowly simmered to soft, mellow perfection.

My serving of Garlic Harvest Beef Chili was placed next to a paddle of rice and topped with shredded sharp cheddar, a dollop of real sour cream, and enough cilantro to make it obvious that fresh herbs make my heart sing.

Sarah’s Garlic Harvest Beef Chili
Serves 12
15 minute prep time
1 hour 15 min stove-top cook time

2 lbs London Broil, cut into 1 cm. cubes
2 medium onions, chopped
100 whole, peeled cloves of garlic (I cut some mutant cloves down to normal size!)
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp kosher salt
26 oz. can of tomato sauce (I used Hunts Garlic & Herb)
30 oz. of diced tomatoes (or two, 15 oz. cans) with juice
5 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp oregano
1 heaping tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red table wine
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup masa harina
water to make masa harina slurry

Steamed rice (5 cups dry)
Toppings (optional – see below)


Sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, and a bottle of hot sauce for the daddies and the shirtless egg-muscled sons who are trying to impress them


Prepare the rice in a way that it will be done at the same time as your chili – about 1 hr 15 minutes. (I love my Zojirushi rice cooker because I can prepare the rice way ahead of time and it will keep the rice warm for whenever I need it.)

In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions and whole garlic cloves in cooking oil until soft. Add the cubed beef and cook until browned. Stir in salt, spices, tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine and water. Stirring occasionally, simmer, partially covered, for an hour or until the beef becomes tender.

Mix a little water with the masa harina to make a slurry (if you do not add water, you’ll have masa chunks in your chili… yuck.) and stir the slurry into the chili. Cook for another five minutes until the chili thickens slightly.

Place a scoop of rice and then add a serving of chili next to it, overlapping the rice slightly. Down the middle, sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Top with a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with cilantro (and hot sauce if you’re a show-off).

Will you share your favorite autumn dinner recipe with me?

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If you love chili and are hungry for more…

Chili Nation is my favorite chili cookbook. The recipes are easy to prepare, yet please the palate of a chili enthusiast. The authors chose recipes from each state, and the very interesting story behind each recipe is recorded in the book. A few years back, the men in my husband’s Bible study took turns making a different recipe every week and brought them to share. All were excellent! My staple weeknight chili recipe from Chili Nation is the Tigua Indian Definitive Bowl of Red. It’s a spicy beef chili without beans. It gets its deep reddish color from several tablespoons of chili powder.

Rice Planting in Kashiwa, Japan – May 23, 2009

For the first time in my life, I saw rice being planted!

When I went outside early this morning, I noticed the back field, which has been flooded for about a week, had been drained and was full of thick mud.

A little before 9am, a rice planting machine drove up the path from the next farm over. The neighboring farmers work as a co-op and each farmer owns a different machine in for the planting process, and each does their part. The landlord and all the neighboring farmers gathered around and loaded up the planting machine with trays of baby rice plants. Before the last frost, the rice had been planted directly into the trays and grown in plastic-covered tunnels.

The planter rapidly separated the rice in the tray and planted individual springs into the ground. A little wheel on an arm sat on the side of the machine and marked the mud to assist the farmer in aligning the rows.

In movies I have watched of rice being planted, I’ve noticed that there are usually corners left behind that must be hand-planted. However, there were no corners left in our field to be hand-planted! Not only did the machine turn on a dime, it was as if the field was created for the dimensions of the particular machine.

With the gears and the trays of rice on the back of the machine, it was back-heavy. Three farmers had to climb onto the front of the machine as it ascended the small ramp out of the field, in order to counter-balance the weight.

Today’s rice planting was the most amazing, efficient planting of any kind I have ever seen. As an amateur gardener, I was fascinated. The whole planting process took less than 10 minutes.

Kashiwa rice is one of the most delicious varieties of short grain rice in the world.

Tamago: Eggs in Japan

In a grocery store where seasoned dried fish bites eclipse potato chips on the snack food aisle, familiar food is always comforting.

The egg, a.k.a. tamago, is one such item.

Eggs are easy to prepare, versatile and healthy to eat.

More importantly, though, eggs are identifiable to this American mom without having to break out the katakana and hiragana charts. (Unlike trying to discern the regular milk from the “yogurt milk,” which are sold side by side in nearly identical cartons, and will alarm taste buds if one accidentally buys the latter and pours it unsuspectingly on breakfast cereal).

Japan utilizes the metric system. The application to egg storage and sales are no eggception ;) (Couldn’t resist!) Eggs in are sold in clear plastic cartons in quantities of ten instead of twelve, unless you purchase them on a military base, where a little Japanese grandma in a back room unpacks Japanese eggs repacks them by the dozen in gray cardboard cartons and finally breaks even when she’s filled 120 cartons. (Kidding!)

Eggs are sold in a variety of sizes, and in a Japanese grocery store ten small eggs will cost about 150 ¥, 160 ¥ for medium eggs and 170 ¥ for large eggs.


Because hard boiled eggs store easily, they are a popular bento appetizer. Just about every store has an aisle dedicated to making bento beautiful. At “The Great Superstore” we discovered florescent plastic egg molds that turn the ordinary egg into an extraordinary lunchtime creature pal. Simply place the hard boiled egg into the clamshell creature mold, latch the mold shut, and throw it back into boiling water for a few minutes and presto! The once-oval chicken egg pops out looking like a kawaii (cute) sakana (fish)!


One of our favorite ramen shops at the Elm Mall in Goshogowara serves an oversized bowl of shell-on boiled eggs to enjoy with table shio (salt) while waiting for the delicious main course.

Other restaurants, such as the Sukiya, an inexpensive Japanese-style curry chain, serve a raw egg to crack open and add as a condiment to gyudon. (After dining at the previously mentioned ramen shop, it should be noted that two of our children (with my uninformed blessing) ordered the raw egg from Sukiya’s ala carte picture menu and quickly discovered that they were not the hard boiled eggs they were craving, resulting in two very large globs of egg goo on our table. It may be a while until we go back again. Just sayin’! )

Here are a few eggcellent Japanese tamago dishes everyone should try. Please note that I’ve linked to episodes of my favorite Japanese cooking show in English, “Cooking With Dog,” wherever possible :

Omurice (Chicken Rice Wrapped with Fried Egg)

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Assorted Pancake) (Similar to egg foo young, but grilled instead of fried)

Tamagoyaki and Tamago Nigiri

Katsudon (Tonkatsu Deep Fried Pork and Egg Bowl)

Rice… It’s Everywhere!

I just finished hanging our wet laundry on the drying rack in front of the kerosene heater.

Our washing machine isn’t very efficient when it comes to laundering clothes, but at least the soapy film and rice particles it leaves behind make for interesting aromatics while baking in the living room.

Rice! Rice! It’s everywhere!
On your socks and underwear

On the floor and in her hair
Rice! Rice! It’s everywhere!

Butternut Squash & Lentil Coconut Curry / Curried Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Butternut Squash, a winter squash which is in abundance and often very inexpensive this time of year, is a staple for fall menus. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, vitamin A and potassium.

The problem is that it’s often just served rather plainly as a pureed soup or mashed with pine nuts sprinkled over top. After awhile, one can only take so much of the same squashy flavor over and over again — which is why I set out to find something a little different!

These recipes went well together. They are adapted from ones found as I like the “ingredient search” for when I have random ingredients on hand and am curious what I can make from them.

Lentils, an ingredient in the recipe below, have many health benefits, too. The squash and lentils lend a delicately sweet, earthy flavor to this recipe while the curry, cayenne pepper and exotic coconut undertones made for a complex mouthwatering dish.

Butternut Squash & Lentil Coconut Curry

    1 tablespoon peanut oil
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    1 cup dry lentils
    1 cup butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cubed
    1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
    3 cups water
    1 can unsweetened coconut milk
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 tablespoon curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    salt and pepper to taste
    6 cups Cooked Basmati rice


1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the onion, ginger, garlic,until onion is tender.
2. Mix the lentils, squash into the pot. Stir in the water, coconut milk, and tomato paste. Season with curry powder, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, or until lentils and squash are tender. Stir in fresh cilantro just before serving. Serve over Basmati rice.

The fish was good by itself, but was delicious served with this salsa. The cilantro perfectly balanced the sweetness of the mangoes, the spice of the cayenne, the pungency of the red onions and the bitterness of the lime:

Curried Tilapia with Mango Salsa

    1 mango – peeled and diced
    1/4 cup chopped red onion
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
    4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (2 tablespoons for rub; 2 tablespoons for salsa)
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    1 tablespoon curry powder
    1 tablespoon garlic pepper seasoning
    4 fresh tilapia fillets


1. For the mango salsa, combine the mango, red onion, cayenne pepper, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice and salt in a glass bowl. Set aside.
2. For the tilapia rub, mix together 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, curry powder and garlic pepper in a small bowl. Rub this mixture onto both sides of the fish fillets.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the fish for about 3 minutes on each side or until it flakes easily with a fork.
4. Serve with the mango salsa.

I served the dinner with plain yogurt (to mix in with the curry to lessen the spice for the children) pre-packaged Naan. For dessert, Rasgulla(also pre-made – I just had to add the sweetened milk) sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Dessert would have been even tastier with Chai Tea – maybe next time!