The Google "Top 10"

Interesting, but not altogether surprising, were the results of a recent survey conducted by "the Google team" as they swept their data and came up with the ten most requested recipes on the Internet in 2010.  They were, in descending order: chili, meatloaf, cheesecake, banana bread, pancakes, salsa, hummus, lasagna, apple pie and meatballs. To my way of thinking, home cooks don't want these recipes to expand their repertoire, but merely desire variations or improvements to the dishes they already make!  This recipe hit parade is a window onto the shared table of the American appetite and, perhaps, unites us in a way we hadn't imagined. Not unlike other top ten charts, music, art, books and movies, there exists a collective experience -- and many similarities -- that bridge class, race, religion, education, gender, and politics.  Humbling perhaps, even disarming: We all like a lot of the same things.

Within this gaggle of Google picks, are two dishes that belong, quite obviously, to other cultures yet have become a ubiquitous part of the American diet.  Salsa and hummus now sit as authentically as peanut butter and jelly on our supermarket shelves, and represent millions of dollars in weekly sales.  I am happy to say that I will be sharing my favorite versions of these top ten recipe requests in upcoming blogs.   Today, a chili.  Tomorrow, a meatloaf.

The original recipe for Espresso Bean Chili (vegetarian) came from my very first cookbook, Little Meals, and I served it on white polenta for quite a dramatic effect.  The recipe begins with dried black beans and, although a cinch to make, takes several hours to cook the beans properly.  For the busier cook, I adapted the recipe for my "Entertaining Made Easy" column in Bon Appetit, where already cooked, or canned beans are used.  It has become a favorite recipe of the editors there.

Espresso Bean Chili Little black beans remind me of espresso beans and thus this recipe was created.  Espresso powder is added for complexity and richness.  You may use canned black beans (drained well) or black beans that you cook until tender.  The recipe is easily doubled and can be made a day ahead.  Garnish with sour cream, shredded sharp cheddar, chopped scallions, and slivered cilantro.

1/4 cup olive oil 2 large onions, finely chopped 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder 2 tablespoons chili powder 2 tablespoon ground cumin 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with puree 3 tablespoons honey 3 large garlic cloves, minced 6 cups cooked black beans (or 3 15-ounce cans) 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder pinch of ground cinnamon

Put oil in a large heavy pot and heat until hot.  Add onions and cook about 8 minutes until soft and golden.  Add the espresso, chili and cumin.  Stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, honey and garlic.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Add the beans, 1 cup water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, chipotle chili powder and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, about 30 minutes until the mixture has thickened.  Adjust seasonings.  Serves 4