Coffee can bring people together. We’ve explored the ways in which people around the world are united by coffee, but it works wonders on the local level too. Nowadays, there are chain coffee houses on every corner, but even before these businesses reached today’s level of popularity, cafés were always places for people to meet, talk, share ideas, or even just work independently while enjoying the energy of others around them. But even if someone doesn’t like to drink coffee, there is another way that this amazing little bean can help make connections between people. When we think of coffee, we most often think about the wonderful hot drink that helps us feel awake and alert each morning. In parts one and two of this series, we’ve discussed the many different ways to brew and consume coffee in its liquid form… but there is yet another way we have yet to explore… coffee in food!
People love to gather over meals. It’s a chance to relax and share in nourishment together, while catching up on life events, sharing thoughts, and telling stories. And it’s likely that the more interesting the food is, the better the conversation.
Yes, it’s a well-known fact that coffee grounds can bring out wonderful flavors and aromas in some of our favorite foods, most commonly chocolate.
Most of us are familiar with the word “mocha,” meaning a combination of coffee and chocolate… but why is this combo so popular? It just so happens that both of these things are derived from “beans” most often grown in parts of South America. They have similar flavor qualities, from sweet to smoky to bitter, so it makes sense that one would enhance the other to make a perfect pairing. And this concept doesn’t stop with beverages. You may have seen chocolate cake recipes that call for instant coffee or something of the like. This is not for the sake of creating a mocha cake (though that could be delicious) but rather to bring out the richness of the cocoa flavor.
A Ten Thousand Villages favorite that combines these two classic flavors is a little something we call, “Mexican Chocolate Cake.” Even if coffee isn’t your thing, this wonderfully rich cake (paired with a cold glass of milk) is always a winner. While we love any conversation with our friends, conversations over cake are even sweeter.
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup coffee
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and check. Leave in for a few minutes if needed.
Frost with mousse when cake is cool.
Melt 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Add 1/4 cup oil
Whip 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with 2 teaspoons vanilla
Fold in melted chocolate
Keep frosted cake chilled. Enjoy !
Coffee can also be used in savory dishes! A common way to use coffee in a main entrée is to make a dry rub for a nice cut of meat. Just think of it like any other spice—it does have a strong flavor. When used correctly, it can enhance the flavor of meat, but the best way to ensure that it doesn’t overpower your dinner is to choose a cut of meat that is flavorful in itself. For instance, a flank steak is an excellent choice, while a more subtly flavored chicken breast is best left for other methods.
We found one mouth-watering recipe for a flank steak rub that we just had to try. The combination of smoky, spicy and bright acidic flavors brings your taste buds on a flavor-filled rollercoaster ride, while maintaining the integrity of the piece of meat and letting its flavors shine through.
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1 (2-pound) flank steak
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, sliced very thinly
4 dates, pitted and minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
Vegetable or canola oil, for greasing
For the rub: In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients together, until it reaches an even consistency. Then, massage half of the mixture into 1 side of the meat. Repeat on other side. Let it marinate up to 2 hours on the counter, or overnight in the fridge.
For the compote: Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering (not smoking), add the onions, a pinch of salt, and stir to coat with oil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a deep caramel color, about 45 minutes.
Warm your grill or grill pan over medium heat.
Once the onions have caramelized, add the dates, vinegar, and water.
Stir and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes.
Using a folded paper towel, carefully wipe down your grill pan with a little bit of vegetable oil.
To get a nice crust on the steak, wait for the grill pan to get nice and hot (oil should smoke a little), then throw on your meat. It should sizzle on contact – if it doesn’t, your pan isn’t hot enough. After 5 minutes on 1 side, flip the steak over, and cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Check the temperature; for medium-rare, pull it off as soon as the thermometer reaches 125 degrees F. Transfer your steak onto a chopping board, and tent with foil; let it rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the steak thinly against the grain on the bias. Serve with onion compote on top.
For a productive afternoon of work, or a leisurely evening meal with family and friends, there are so many ways to incorporate this amazing ingredient into your day. Whether you’re looking for an interesting new way to spice up dinner, or just a plain and familiar cup of joe, coffee is there for you.