Food of the Week: Coffee

Few foods or beverages inspire the kind of devotion coffee does. Others have expressed their feelings for coffee more eloquently than I think I could, were I to feel so strongly (I quite enjoy a good cup, but I don’t drink it every day). Take this fine description from the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand: “Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.”

In terms of health benefits, there are pros and cons to drinking coffee, with the pros having a bit of an edge, it seems. Coffee contains the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, as well as minerals like magnesium and chromium. Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard regards the evidence that coffee helps reduce type 2 diabetes as “pretty solid,” according to WebMD. Varying levels of evidence also support coffee’s ability to reduce cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and inflammation.

On the other hand, drinking too much coffee (3-4 cups or more daily) may cause blood pressure to increase, and coffee can worsen heartburn. Like many things in life, moderation seems in order.

Mocha Banana Muffins

Modified from an recipe.

½ c. butter, softened
½ c. applesauce
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3 ripe bananas
1-2 T. instant coffee dissolved in 1-2 T. water
1 t. vanilla
2 ¼ c. whole wheat or white flour
¼ t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 c. chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Blend butter and sugar with an electric beater, then blend in egg, banana, dissolved coffee, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and soda, and blend just until flour disappears. Stir in chocolate chips with a spoon. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes.
Note: When I made these with 1 T. coffee, the coffee flavor was barely discernible, thus the suggestion to double the amount.

Smoky Black Bean Soup

This doesn’t scream “coffee” either, but that ingredient seems to add a certain depth to the flavor. From the EatingWell website.

1 lb. dried black beans
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T. ground cumin
4 c. water
2 c. brewed coffee
1 bay leaf
2 t. salt, plus more to taste
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (opt.)
Chopped fresh cilantro (opt.)
1) Pick over beans; rinse well. Place in a large bowl with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
2) Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add all but 1/3 c. of the onions and all the bell pepper, celery, jalapeño and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the beans, water, coffee, and bay leaf; cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam that rises to the top, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are very tender, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaf and stir in salt.
3) Puree about half of the soup in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot and heat through. Serve the soup garnished with the reserved chopped onion, and sour cream/yogurt and cilantro if desired.

Coffee Burgers

From Ken Howe’s “The Coffee Cookbook.”
1 lb. ground beef or bison
1 T. finely ground coffee
1/3 c. blue cheese
1 heaping T. chili powder
1 t. mustard
1 small jalapeno, cored, seeded, and minced
¼ c. finely diced bell pepper
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ t. salt

Mix all ingredients together, form into patties, and grill until cooked through but not over-cooked.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Beef Coffee Gravy

Another one from Ken Howe.

For Potatoes:
2 lb. white russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 oz. goat cheese
4 T. butter
½ c. milk, plus more as needed
Salt and pepper

For Gravy:
1 (15 oz.) can beef broth
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. finely ground coffee beans
2 T. cornstarch
¼ c. water
3 T. butter
Salt and pepper

For Potatoes: Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and put into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or break up with a handheld mixer on low speed. Blend in the goat cheese, butter, and ½ c. milk, adding more milk until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For Gravy: In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and coffee to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add to the broth mixture. Cook until the gravy has thickened to the consistency of cream. Whisk in butter 1 T. at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Chilled Espresso Custard

Many desserts containing coffee are quite rich, with lots of whipped cream, chopped candy bars, and the like. This “South Beach Diet Cookbook” recipe is a lighter alternative. For the sugar substitute, I recommend a stevia-based substitute rather than one containing aspartame or sucralose—or you could just use sugar.

1 ½ c. 1% or 2% milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 T. sugar substitute
2 t. espresso powder or instant decaffeinated coffee
1 t. vanilla

In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together all ingredients. Pour into four 6-oz. custard cups or ramekins and place in a 10-in. skillet. Fill the skillet with water up to ½-in. from the tops of the custard cups. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cups, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until chilled.