How To Make Green Chili? Beer. Braised. Butt.

It took a village to make this green chili. Almost literally. I believe no less than five people were involved in the making of this chili. Which was unnecessary, but decidedly more fun. Not surprisingly, cooking with friends is more fun that cooking alone. And cooking with friends who will help you make a roux when you’re whining about how terrified you are to burn the flour? Even better. It’s football season and fall is upon us, which my buddy John lovingly referred to the other day as “chili making time.” So here ya go buddy, a green chili made with beer-braised pork butt. You’re welcome.

This green chili, like any worth making, is made in a multi-part process. The recipe for the porter braised pork is modified from a recipe by Denver chef John Broening (Duo, Olivéa) and was originally published in the Denver Post some years back. It’s the perfect base for a green chili (though I’m sure any pork made this way would taste delicious on it’s own too).
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Time For A (Veggie) Tart

Tart was not my nickname in high school…I don’t think. Tarts have an open top and can be sweet or savory. Make of that what you will. Jokes! Terrible ones!

Years ago there was a restaurant in Denver called A La Tomate that made delicious pizza-type tarts, savory but with a buttery pastry dough crust. Oh my. It was just as good as it sounded! Sadly the restaurant is long gone but their inspiration lives on in my own tarte à la tomate, which is a perfect end of summer/Indian summer/fall dish. If you’re feeling extra fancy you can even make your own pie/pastry crust. Otherwise just buy a refrigerated one at the store and impress your friends with your knowledge of French food terms instead.
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Bacon Hash Cures What Ails Ya

On my birthday (yesterday for those playing along at home), I had a lot to celebrate. First off, I can EAT ALL THE THINGS! Woooooo! So, no more pureed this and soft that for me (or you by proxy). Now we have nothing but delicious everything to look forward to cooking and eating together. In celebration of our shared new-found freedom, here is one of my favorite bacon dishes to whip up. On those mornings when the BF has imbibed a little too much the night before I greet him with this surefire headache + hangover cure.

We have this often throughout the year—though it always tastes best in the summer when the zucchini is fresh from our garden—and this dish works great for an easy brunch or dinner. It is a dish which is a contradiction of being always and never the same, because it’s a great “kitchen sink” recipe where you can toss in whatever you have on-hand. I always include bacon and zucchini, sometimes shallots or tomatoes or a green apple, this time around corn and nectarine. I also add fresh herbs if I have any on hand like a handful of rosemary, or some thyme, or a few sage leaves fried in the bacon grease. If you make some hash, tell me what you did to make it your own!
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Simply Seared Tuna

Sometimes simpler really is better. While I feel tons better and mostly like a normal person again, I still get tired very easily. Meal-planning is not my strong suit when I’m at the peak of health, much less when I’m wiped out and having to play by the rules of a small list of foods. Recently I saw a luscious tuna steak at the grocery store and since “moist fish” is on the current approved foods list, thought I’d give it a try. I opted for a very simple preparation to make it easier on my simplified digestive track. The tuna was tasty, even when over-masticated into the smallest of chewed and swallowed bites. Real food—even when really well chewed—tastes real good!
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Movin’ On Up…To Soft Foods!

Surgery saga, continued: After graduating to soft foods, I am VERY excited to be able to incorporate more variety into my meals. But being excited didn’t exactly translate into being creative, so I took my quest—and my list of approved foods—to the Internets to help. What foods are on the list now? Moist rice, noodles, soft fishes, eggs, and tofu. This recipe from Gourmet for “Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce” fit the bill of both flavorful and approved food. Plus, I think tofu gets a bad rap as being uninteresting or unpalatable. For some it might be an acquired taste (or more like an acquired texture), but I like tofu just fine and thankfully, it likes me back. My version of the recipe, with a few small changes, is below.

Solid foods are now only a few weeks away so I’ll be back on bacon by my mid-September birthday. WOOOOOOO!
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Liquid Diet Doesn’t Mean Bland Diet

People, I have graduated to soft foods. YEAH! Only certain ones, so still a pretty short list, but it’s exciting to have variety in my epicurean life once again. In the meantime—in those dark two weeks where meals could only be sucked through a straw—I got quite good at creating pureés and soups that were both green-lighted by the doctor and tasted pretty darn good. Also, I’ve lost nine pounds, which I was marveling at until my follow-up appointment earlier this week when the doc told me I will probably put it all back on (plus five more) when I return to solid foods. Jerks. So I guess I’ll enjoy being skinny while it lasts as I continue to experiment with approved foods that are also awesome. Here’s a recipe for a curried squash soup, where I used fresh squash plucked straight from my garden.
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Struggling With The New Diet

At another time in my life I would have eaten all of this, and indeed I did…

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

—Langston Hughes

I’ve started dreaming about food. Or rather, started have pseudo-nightmares where I, accidentally and without thinking, absentmindedly put something in my mouth. In my waking life I often absentmindedly put things in my mouth. (Heh. That’s totally what she said.) In these dreams I am sometimes at a party, chattering away before reaching down to the bowl of nuts or the plate of canapé and without thinking popping a small taste of heaven into my mouth. I wake up then, without the dream complete to show me what the consequence of my action is.

It’s been five days since my surgery—a procedure done on the part of my esophagus where it meets the stomach. Five days of liquids, spasms, intermittent pain and soreness. Five days without real food.
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I Am What I Eat: The Last Meal

It’s fitting that on the eve of my surgery I found this gorgeous web-TV series called I AM WHAT I EAT. Fitting because the first episode is titled The Last Meal and after tomorrow I will be on a very limited diet of mostly liquids for the next six weeks. Fitting because I have spent the past week thinking about what my last solid meals should be. I have spent the last week gorging and over-stuffing myself with all the foods that my greedy little taste-buds can find.

I AM WHAT I EAT is a new project which aims to “distill how people live and use food to creatively express themselves” in each episode. In this first offering, I AM WHAT I EAT profiles Studiofeast, a company hosting pop-up dinners in New York. Studiofeat asked its diners, “If you were to die tomorrow, what would be your last meal?”

I AM WHAT I EAT episode 1 from erik shirai on Vimeo.

The creators of I AM WHAT I EAT share my philosophy. “Over food,” their website states, “we share not only our stories but also ourselves.” The filmmakers are about to embark upon filming episode two of the series—which will be set in Tokyo and details a cuisine eaten by monks where food becomes a form of meditation—and are seeking donations on the crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo. I realize the first episode may not be as resonant with you as it is for me, but the I AM WHAT I EAT project I think we can all agree is beyond worthwhile. You can donate to their efforts as I did by going to

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The Last Supper

What is your most favorite meal of all time? Is there a go-to dish you can’t live without? One that you could eat every day? A delicious food that, if given the choice, would be your last meal?

I have no idea what mine would be.
I’ll be having surgery on my esophagus in just over a week. What that really means is for the six weeks afterward I’ll be on a liquid diet. And tragically, not the kind where you just swill bourbon and hope for the best. I’ll be starting off with liquids only—chicken broth, plain yogurt, pudding. At the start of the third week I’ll graduate to soft fruits like melon and bananas, and will be able to eat rice and tofu and the mushiest of fishes. Finally, after six weeks I’ll be able to return to a normal diet and begin eating raw vegetables, meats, breads, and potatoes again.

I’m certain after a while we will start playing the “Will it Blend?” game and the BF will toss something in the blender which I will attempt to suck through a straw. Really, if there’s any one who is up to the challenge of figuring out what the hell to eat or how to make mush taste good, it’s me.

But since you’re not the one having surgery, you won’t be punished. Recipes will continue to go up in the month of August. They’ll be posts I’ve been too busy or lazy to do justice to until now, best-of-the-bests were we revisit dishes so amazing that they deserve a second look, and guest blogs where merchants of cool tell you stuff about things that are awesome. And I’ll likely whine about how I’d rather be eating any of that instead of slurping down my daily dose of Ensure.

In true diva fashion I’m throwing myself a “Last Supper” party the weekend before my surgery where I will gorge on anything and everything I can get my little hands on. So, if you have a last supper of your own to contribute, throw it out there. I’m down to eat pretty much anything in these final days before purgatory…


Need Food Fast? You Need Chicken!

I eat a lot of chicken. I love chicken.  I have some chickens but I don’t eat those chickens. Chicken is so easy, so light, so protein-packed. Chicken lends itself to being fried, baked, poached, roasted, blah blah blah. We all have our standbys, those items that we turn to night after night because we know we won’t be let down. Which explains why I always buy boneless skinless chicken breasts in bulk to keep in my freezer. If I haven’t planned ahead, all it takes is one hour in cool water in the sink and I am in business! So, being a fan of chicken, I experiment the most with chicken—different preparations (as listed above) but also varying spices, herbs, sauces, and the like. With corn in peak season right now, it seemed only fair to add an ear of corn into the following experiment…
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