Mtn. Chef: Hearty recipes to fill your cold night cravings |

Mtn. Chef: Hearty recipes to fill your cold night cravings

Ian T. Buchanan
special to the daily

The aspen are multicolored, the streets are empty as I reflect on another amazing summer in the High Country. Soon mountain peaks will be full of snow and we’ll be waxing up our boards for the upcoming season. As I was lighting my fire the other night thinking about some hearty recipes to fulfill my cold night cravings, I was particularly drawn to some spicy food. Not necessarily hot spicy food… but rather food with lots of spices such as cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, etc… So I grabbed one of my favorite books, “The Book of Spices” by Alain Stella and started doing some light reading.

It has always been a fascination to me to understand some of the origins and life stories of the food we eat. Unbelievable to think about how influential the role of spices and food have been not only in setting recipes for diets, each distinct for each culture and region of the world, but also the economical and political ties. Particularly when they were first being traded during the period in our history when people battled the open ocean in search of exotic new lands and cultures. In many Asian cultures, spices are used in medicine such as Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Many studies have found that diets that use a variety of spices and herbs in their recipes have lower rates of ailments such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. For example, antioxidants in cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as reductions in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. “Using herbs and spices expands your palette without extra calories and may decrease the amount of salt, fat and sugar you use without sacrificing flavor,” says Kate Geagan, MS, RD.

Luckily, we don’t have to travel across the open ocean in big wooden boats to encounter these dynamic flavor enhancers. Most spices can be found at your local grocery store and there are a few specialty spice shops here in the county. And if you have the opportunity, there are many amazing spice shops in the Denver area to check out if you have some free time. Spice up your food and your health

by experimenting with some of these delicious and nutritious recipes and let’s eat for our health!

Ian T. Buchanan is the chef/owner of Open To The World Private Chef Services and lead instructor at CMC Breck’s Center For Lifelong Learning Culinary Program. View Ian’s website at, contact him at (440) 376-0096.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-1/4 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons

10 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 T unsalted butter

1 medium red onion, matchstick

4 garlic cloves, minced

5 sprigs cilantro

5 sprigs flatleaf parsley

1-1/2 cups water or chicken stock

2 Tablespoons honey

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup dried apricots

1/3 cup almonds, toasted

kitchen string

Mix together in a large bowl: ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons oil and chicken, mix well to coat the chicken.

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet or pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking, brown the chicken on both sides turning only once, once browned, transfer to a plate.

Reheat pan over medium heat and add onions and remaining salt and cook stirring regularly until soft. Add garlic, stirring constantly, and cook about 2 minutes. Tie cilantro and parsley together with kitchen string and add to pan along with, ? cup water or stock, chicken and any juices from the plate. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil together honey, remaining water or stock, cinnamon stick, and apricots then reduce heat and simmer until apricots are very soft and sauce has reduced to a glaze.

Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricots mixture to tagine. When ready, remove herbs and cinnamon stick and top with toasted almonds.

2 pounds Yellow Finn or boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 Tablespoon spanish paprika

2 pinches saffron threads

3 Tablespoons olive oil, preferably Spanish

1 slice white country-style bread

1/2 cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 cups boiling water or broth

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a gratin dish that’s large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer. Add the potatoes, season them with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the saffron.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat, tear the bread into pieces, and fry it with the almonds and garlic until golden. Remove the garlic if it gets too dark. Grind the mixture in a food processor with the paprika, adding a little of the boiling water to make it smooth. Season it with salt and pepper, add it to the potatoes, and pour over the remaining liquid. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover, gently stir the contents of the dish, and continue baking until the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Brown the top under the broiler and garnish with the parsley.

1/2 lb masoor dal (red/pink split lentils)

1 medium onion,thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter) or oil

2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground chili

4 cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 2-inch stick of cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz desiccated coconut

2 tomatoes diced

Wash the lentils well with plenty of water, put into a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and boil gently until the lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic. When the onion softens add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chili, mixing well. Cook for two minutes, then add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon.

Now add the lentils together with any liquid they have been cooking in and stir rapidly to ensure the spices mix in well. Add a little more water if necessary. (This dish should be fairly liquid.) Add the salt and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

Blend the coconut with 2/3 cup water in a blender and add to the pan. Cook to desired consistency. Add the tomatoes to the Dal just before serving.

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