My mechanic’s coffee break

One hot, sunny morning, my husband was involved in one of his favorite pastimes: working on the car. He was midway through replacing something important under the hood (I don’t know what it is, but it sure was greasy!) when he decided to take a break, cooling off with a huge glass of iced water followed by a demitasse of espresso. It may seem weird to choose a steaming hot coffee over an iced cold soft drink, but coffee (or espresso, in this case) is just one of those simple pleasures my husband and I enjoy, regardless of how crazy hot it is.

Speaking of hot, did you know the coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia? It was the coffee berry–not the bean–that was first consumed for its stimulating effects. Experiments with this “superfood” eventually took place, and people discovered the roasted seed (or bean, as we call it) created a bitter yet stimulating beverage that aided Arab Muslims to stay alert during late-night prayers (perhaps this is the origin of our late-night college cram sessions!) As word of this miracle drink spread, people began to tame the bitter brew, and the drink evolved into what we know and love today in the form of cappuccinos, iced mochas,  sweet Turkish coffees and cans of coffee energy drinks, like the short-lived “Cocoa-Cola Blak” (it definitely tasted like coffee and coke!)

There’s a lot of great dessert recipes that use the wonderful flavor of coffee (my favorite is coffee ice cream) but what about incorporating coffee into a main course?  Meats can certainly benefit from the rich, strong, earthy qualities of the roasted coffee bean, but can vegetarian dishes be just as delicious? There are ways of making it work, and here are some suggestions to use it as a seasoning, hopefully without keeping you up all night:

Coffee marinade: In a ziploc bag, combine a cup of strong coffee with a crushed garlic clove, a teaspoon each of fresh sage, rosemary, and salt with a dash of black pepper. Marinate beef, pork or chicken overnight and cook as desired.

Spiced Coffee Rub: Mix 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Rub on meats and refrigerate overnight before cooking as desired. Another version of this recipe can be found here.

Coffee Jam: Thinly slice a round onion and sautee in oil over medium heat until it begins to carmelize, about 7-10 minutes. Add a fat pinch of Kosher salt, fresh thyme, and 1/2 cup strong coffee and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Serve with roasted meats and veggies.

Below is an easy potato side dish I made using just a few spices and it tastes like the potatoes my mom cooks when she makes a pork roast. The potatoes are nicely browned and the mushrooms add a substantial amount of meatiness, without the meat! My favorite part is how the red wine and spices create a rich and flavorful reduction you get in every bite. Serve this up with some steamed kale or green beans and you have a delicious, hearty vegetarian meal for you and your favorite espresso-loving mechanic.

Coffee Pot Roast Potatoes

Coffee Pot Roast Potatoes (serves 2)
You can also make this dish with extra firm tofu instead of potatoes, just reduce the cooking time

Ingredients:

1 pound small round potatoes, quartered (1 to 1 1/2″ chunks)
4 large mushrooms, quartered (cut them to the same size as potato quarters)
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso (or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules)
1/4 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, sage, or rosemary)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

In a mixing bowl, combine potatoes with salt, instant espresso or coffee, cumin seeds, and cayenne. Toss with a fork to coat potatoes evenly. Drizzle in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add garlic, stir to coat.

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil, add potatoes and cook until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Slowly add half of wine, cooking until it begins to reduce and thicken. Cover potatoes and cook for five minutes, stirring a couple times. Uncover & cook potatoes for another 3-5 minutes, stirring so all pieces can brown nicely. Add mushrooms and remaining wine, cooking uncovered until liquid begins to thicken. Stir, cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender and mushrooms are cooked through.

Caramelized potatoes are crisp and tender

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