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Archive for the ‘Entree’ Category

Mike just celebrated his company’s second birthday this year.  In fact, we just realized that the official birthday of Drogue Medical is the same day as our (upcoming) wedding day: October 2.  Although Drogue just turned two, we held the company’s first annual holiday party on Friday.

 

I decided that I wanted to make one of Mike’s very favorite dishes, osso bucco.  This is no small feat especially given that I had  never made it on my own before.  And, instead of making traditional osso bucco out of veal shanks, we decided to serve pork shanks.  This was inspired by a meal we enjoyed at Ristorante Arivederci, while visiting with my sister and bro-in-law in San Diego.  There were many firsts for me on this trip: first time I had osso bucco with pork shank, first time visiting my sister since she moved to L.A., first time staying at the Del Coronado.  And the first – and last – time I bought a wedding dress!

After diligently scouring all of my cookbooks and even looking through one of my mother’s cook books from Italy, the osso bucco recipe that I decided to use (and modify) was from Epicurious.

But rather than trying to make osso bucco for the first time at Drogue’s first holiday party, I decided to practice – first on girlfriends, then on Mom.

And after all of that practice, I’ve decided that the key to this dish is to cook it long enough.  The magic number for attempt number three?  Seven hours.  That’s right, I cooked it for three hours on Thursday night and four hours on Friday.  Thank goodness for delayed start on my oven.

There were three major differences between what I cooked and what the recipe called for.  I used turnip roots in addition to the other veggies, inspired by another version of the recipe that I’d uncovered in my research.  I also didn’t use the gremmolata – for no other reason than I just didn’t want to.  And lastly, I preferred to keep some of the veggies rather than completely discard them once the dish was cooked.   I served them in a mash form (pureed) on top of and around the shank.  So, here’s my recipe for what Mike calls Porko Bucco.

Osso Bucco
Adapted from Epicurious.com

8 to 10 large 2 1/2-inch-thick pork shanks, each patted dry and tied securely with kitchen string to keep the meat attached to the bone
All-purpose flour for dredging the veal shanks
7  tbs. unsalted butter (plus additional if necessary)
3 tbs. olive oil (plus additional if necessary)
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped carrots (use a food processor to almost puree)
3/4 c. finely chopped celery (use a food processor to almost puree)
4 turnip roots, peeled and finely chopped (use a food processor to almost puree)
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 to 4 c. chicken or beef broth
1 1/2 c. peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato or 1 1/2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cheesecloth bag containing 6 fresh parsley sprigs, 4 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt

Season the veal shanks with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. In the butter, brown the pork shanks in batches, adding some of the additional butter and oil as necessary and transferring the shanks as they are browned to a platter. Add the wine to the skillet, boil the mixture, scraping up the brown bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet, until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup, and reserve the wine mixture in a small bowl.

In a flameproof casserole just large enough to hold the veal shanks cook in one layer the pureed onion, carrots, celery, garlic and turnips in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.   Add the pork shanks with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, the reserved wine mixture, and enough of the broth to almost cover the shanks (about 1/2-3/4). Spread the tomatoes over the shanks, add the cheesecloth bag, the salt, and pepper to taste, and bring the liquid to a simmer over moderately high heat. Braise the mixture, covered, in the middle of a preheated 325°F. oven for 7 hours, or until the pork is tender. Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof serving dish, discard the strings, and keep the shanks warm. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids to squeeze any liquid from them, and skim the fat. Boil the juices for 15 minutes, or until they are reduced to about 3 cups, baste the shanks with some of the reduced juices, and bake them, basting them 3 or 4 times with some of the remaining juices, for 10 minutes more, or until they are glazed.

I make a risotto with shallots and serve it with a red wine/mushroom reduction sauce.  Then I place the shanks on top of the risotto and top it off with the basting sauce and mashed/pureed veggie mix which makes for a grand presentation.  Served with a nice arugula salad – this meal is divine!

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here!  What is it about the fall…?  I remember posting this time last year after a too-long blog-hiatus, sharing the highlights of my busy-ness and the cooking and eating that accompanied it.  But this fall is something else altogether.  It had to happen that after I publicly delighted in living in one place for a whole year (long enough to start a little teensy tiny garden, the inspiration of this post) that we would move again.  And not just any move: we have relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  It doesn’t get much further without moving to another country!

Dan got a great new job here and we had less than two months to sell or pack our stuff, find a new place, and make our way – with Piggy the cat and Sweet Pea the dog – cross-country.  We arrived, amazingly, with our relationship, our sanity and our stuff in tact and settled into our new (rental) home in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A.  Because packing, moving, leaving our jobs, Dan starting a new job, me searching for a job, unpacking, and all the attendant concerns hadn’t been quite exciting enough, I had to go and have emergency surgery a few days after we landed in L.A.  Sigh.

Luckily, we had tons of support from our families, friends and Dan’s new workplace – I am now fully recovered and the house is even starting to come together.  Check out this harvest from our grapefruit tree, a gem that I didn’t even notice when we first saw this house on our whirlwind house-hunting trip:

They are sweet and so good.

Speaking of sweet and good, there’s this recipe.  Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  Have you heard of it?  It was featured on NPR about 10 days ago, in an interview with Dorie Greenspan about her new cookbook.  At the farmer’s market the next day (Oh, the farmer’s markets in California! I am sure I will be devoting post after post to them in future…absolutely amazing!), all around me I heard whispers and far-away utterances: “Pumpkin…stuffed…with everything good.”  I wasn’t the only one who had been captivated by the NPR piece, coming to the market with dreams of soft, roasted winter squash, oozing  a warm stuffing of  breadcrumbs, cream, cheese, and herbs.

One of the most delightful moments of Dorie Greenspan’s telling of the story behind this recipe – and you really should listen to the whole thing yourself – is her description of her friend’s garden, where the family grew their own pumpkins for this dish.  Parents and children selected their own pumpkins when they were small on the vine, and each carved his or her name into the squash.  As the pumpkin grew, so did their carved names, and each knew exactly which steaming gourd of goodness was theirs when it finally came to the table.

It is too soon to start hoping that I’ll live in one place long enough to have another little garden, where I too might carve names – or drawings, or poems, or hieroglyphics – into my very own pumpkins?  I certainly hope not.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 pumpkin, about 4 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound cheese (I used Gruyère), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/2 cup whole milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Begin by opening your pumpkin as for a jack-o-lantern – cut a circle around the stem to create a kind of “lid” that you can pull off.  Scrape out the insides of the pumpkin and discard (or, even better, save your seeds and roast them separately).  Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients except for milk, season with salt and pepper, and stuff into the pumpkin.  Pour the milk over the top – you want the filling to be nice and moist, but not swimming in liquid, although I think it really is hard to do wrong here.  Replace the “lid” and place the pumpkin onto or into the baking dish of your choice, either well-buttered or using a silicone baking mat.   (I used a silicone mat on a rimmed cookie sheet, which was perfect.)  Bake for about 2 hours.  Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.  Slice into quarters and serve.

A few notes: Dorie Greenspan’s recipe calls for cream, not milk, and I have no doubt that it would be even richer and more wonderful than this version.  She also suggests many different combinations for the filling.  I stuck closely to her recipe, since this was my first time making this dish, but it is easy to see that this is a very forgiving and flexible recipe and that you could make this into anything you want.  She suggests trying other cheeses and herbs, adding freshly grated nutmeg, using cooked rice instead of bread, omitting the bacon for a vegetarian dish or replacing it with sausage (I think vegetarian sausage, of which there are several good varieties, would be great in this, too).  She also mentions adding in kale or other greens, and even frozen green peas.  I think roasted chiles would be incredible, as well as apples or pears, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and even nuts.  The possibilities are truly endless!

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When Rachael and I started The Mimi Project, we compiled a list of recipes – with the help of other family members – that we wanted to re-create.  Mimi died at Christmas last year, and Rachael and I inherited her treasured recipe box.  Every time I talked to Mimi in the months before her death, she told us that she was busy getting the recipes cards organized for us, a fact our Aunt Mary Anne confirmed.  Mimi spent hours at the dining room table, combing through those cards, ostensibly trying to get them in some kind of order.  I think the exercise might have been more about reminiscing, thinking about all the good things she had cooked and all the things she would still like to cook.  Lord knows, she cooked until the end!  After reading Rachael’s post about failed ice-box cookies, Mimi baked us a batch – they were fresh and waiting for us on Christmas morning just days after her death.

Thinking of Mimi lovingly mixing and forming and baking cookies for us even as she was dying, it’s clear to me why I feel such a connection between food, love, and family.  I was touched, then, to discover a recipe attributed to my brother Michele as I sorted through Mimi’s cards.  Rachael, Michele, and I share the same mom (and thus the same Mimi!) – but Michele’s dad is not ours.  Michele’s dad Maurizio is Italian, from Florence, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him my whole life as he now lives in Tallahassee, Florida.  He is a sweet man, an accomplished scholar/designer (he’s been working on the Large Hadron Collider!) and a wonderful cook.  I remember distinctly finding a jar of Barilla pasta sauce in my mom’s fridge many years ago – it was a new brand to our area back then, and I wanted to try it.  It was delicious – just like home-made – and I excitedly bought another jar on my next trip to the grocery store.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened that jar to discover the flavorless, processed stuff that I should have expected – and I realized immediately that the jar I’d found in my mom’s fridge had been a gift from Maurizio, homemade marinara sauce re-packaged in a recycled jar.

Michele’s sauce-making abilities rival those of his dad, so when I found this marinara sauce attributed to Michele among Mimi’s recipes, I knew immediately I had to make it.  I found the perfect use for the sauce when I came across another of Mimi’s recipes, for “zucchini lasagna.”  It wasn’t until I was in the middle of cooking the zucchini lasagna that I realized that there are no lasagna noodles – the whole point is to replace the pasta with vegetables.  It’s simple, surprisingly good, and a great use for all those squash and zucchini at the farmer’s markets right now.  And of course, for me, it’s a casserole that represents the layers of love and family that I connect to through cooking.

Michele's Tomato Sauce

Michele’s Tomato (Marinara) Sauce

1 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I like organic San Marzanos, like these)
2/3 tbsp olive oil
Half an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
Cayenne
Salt and pepper

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Do not let the onions or garlic get browned or crisp.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, a dash of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and cook over low-medium heat until the tomatoes are broken down and flavors are melded, at least 30 minutes.  Taste for salt, adjust as needed, and serve.

Mimi’s Zucchini Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (or equivalent homemade – which is preferred!)
4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into rounds – I used a combination of zucchini and summer squash
2 tbsp. flour, divided
1 (12 oz.) container of cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saute pan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add ground beef, browning and stirring to crumble.  Add tomato sauce, taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning as needed.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set cooked ground beef and tomato sauce aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute zucchini – I used a non-stick skillet and basically no olive oil.  The squash and zucchini cooked nicely and even browned a little bit.

Spray a 12″ x 8″ x 2″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil in a mister.  Combine cottage cheese and egg.  Start with a layer of zucchini on the bottom of the pan.  Then sprinkle with 1 tbsp of the flour.  Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture, then spoon half of the meat sauce over the cottage cheese.  Repeat layers.  Bake casserole at 375 degrees for 35 minutes (until hot and bubbling).  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese begins to brown.  Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.  I garnished it with a chiffonade of basil – but it’s wonderful on its own, too!

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Tallahassee, Florida is home to the Florida State Seminoles, state government, and my family.  It’s located in what we call the “panhandle” of our Sunshine State.  As you know, the Panhandle borders the Gulf of Mexico, a body of water that has recently met its match thanks to the unbelievable Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

I’m bitter – can you tell?  These are the beaches that I grew up on. I spent family vacations, spring breaks, and days in college when we just wanted to relax instead of going to class.  I caught my first “real fish” on this shoreline (a 10 pound black drum that was almost as tall as me!), jumped waves with my grandmother, and caught crabs in order to orchestrate “crab races” (it really didn’t take much to entertain me as a child!).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve experienced predictable emotions in response to disaster in the Gulf: anger and sadness.  But I’ve also experienced, unpredictably, joy.  Unable to to see into the future, Mike and I planned a trip with Boulder friends (who happen to be originally from Louisiana) to head to the beach in the Gulf.  And so, while I am angered and saddened by the oil disaster, I am grateful that in light of all of this, we were able to hop on a plane and beat the oil to our destination.  We made it.  I savored the trip as much as possible, realizing that this would be (short of a miracle) the last chance we would have to visit “my ocean” in the way that I remembered it.

And so, we chartered a boat for a little deep sea fishing and caught, cooked, and ate some snapper

We went to the local seafood market, Goatfeathers, for some grouper, shrimp, and tuna

Goatfeathers

Robert preparing the grouper for the grill

Grouper with blackening spices

Grouper on the grill

Bay shrimp (grey) and Gulf shrimp (pink - saltier, and sweeter)

My cousin Katie's, famous shrimp!

Tuna

Prepared tuna platter with wasabi paste - compliments of Mike

And we made sure to spend plenty of time in the ocean and on the beach…

My two loves - Mike and ocean

Santa Rosa Beach - 10 miles from Destin, FL

 

Cousin Katie’s Delicious Peel n’ Eat Gulf Shrimp Recipe

Serves 2

1/4 cup of Old Bay seasoning (classic – loose powder, not in the bag)
1/4 cup of caraway seeds
1 lb of shrimp (shell and tail on, preferably fresh, if not fresh then at least thawed)
Large pot of water (filled with 1 or 1.5 gallons of water)
Seasoned salt (we like this one called Aunt Cora’s but I think that’s only available regionally)
1/4 cup of white vinegar

Fill the pot with the water, vinegar (vinegar helps make shrimp easy to peel), seeds, salt, and Old Bay.  Bring to a rolling boil and add shrimp.  Continue cooking until the water just comes to a boil again (sometimes even before.) It’s very important not to overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery.  Once cooked, remove the pot from the heat and strain the shrimp.  Your strainer will collect seeds and spices.  I serve the shrimp hot or ice cold in a bowl with their seeds and remaining spices.  I also dust the shrimp with fresh Old Bay – or even sprinkle it on a plate to dip the shrimp in as I peel them.

Mike and I read about using the famous (or infamous) Sriracha Sauce (with the green lid and rooster on it) to mix with a little mayo.  It didn’t sound appealing to me at first but I tried it and it makes for a great tangy yet spicy dipping sauce for the shrimp.

Optional Sriracha Sauce Recipe

Sriracha Sauce
1/8 cup of mayonnaise
However much Sriracha you can handle

Mix together to your taste and voila!

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So – it’s official as of May 7th, 2010 I have an MBA!  We celebrated the occasion by having “the dads” – mine and Mike’s – visit for the festivities and a little spring golfing.  We had graduation dinner at a delicious restaurant called John’s.

I first ate at John’s last year when I volunteered for the Boulder Chef’s Up Front Committee.  We were down to the wire and needed one more chef to commit to our lineup.  Our Chair was swamped and so I volunteered to go in and spend money I didn’t have on a meal I didn’t need in order to try to get the chef to participate.  He agreed.  Score for him (my money and now loyalty) and score for me (success).  I digress.

At any rate, we ate at John’s on Friday and then headed to Denver on Saturday night for a lovely steak dinner with my Denver friends and family.  After sending my dad off on Sunday, I spent most of Mother’s Day pampering Mom with a pedicure and lunch.

Since I was in Denver, I took the opportunity to go to one of my two favorite Denver shops, Marczyk’s.  For the record, The Truffle is the other of my two favorites.  It’s such a bummer that I have to strategically plan my visits to Denver in order to frequent these shops.  I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but I do wish Boulder had more specialty stores like this.  That’s why, in my dreams, I will one day open a specialty food store – similar to Dean and Deluca – in Boulder.  Oh, to dream…wouldn’t that  be paradise?

Marczyk's

Pressing the rewind button – Dad and I tooled around Boulder earlier that weekend and stopped at my favorite kitchen store, The Peppercorn.  I purchased two-much needed escargot dishes.

Fast forward to Sunday- what’s a girl to do with escargot dishes if she doesn’t have snails?  And what better place to go for snails than to Marczyk’s?

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Several weeks back, I heard about a friend’s husband who was very sick.  I decided that they both needed some good ol’ fashion home-cooked love (also known as “luv”).  What better way to give a little TLC than to channel Mimi’s healing abilities through cooking her famed chicken n’ dumplings.

After Mimi passed this December, Jenny and I split her recipe box down the middle so that we could each make our own efforts at transforming the recipes into digital format as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, it’s February and I haven’t started – oh, the joys of school!   (more…)

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In trying to save money, our health, and the planet – no pressure, really! – Dan and I are trying to eat out less often and to eat more homemade meals made from whole foods.  I think of this as a direction I’m moving in, rather than a goal to be attained finally or wholly.  It can be really challenging to cook enough in your spare time to eat homemade when you’re home and when you’re not.  It’s a no-brainer that cooking large batches and freezing some is the way to go and I try to do that as often as I can.  For me, the ideal food-for-freezing is: inexpensive; relatively easy to make; nutritious (and can easily serve as a whole meal or a major component of a whole meal); reheats well; and, of course, delicious!  By far the thing I freeze most often are soups and stews and my number-one frozen dish is sort of in that category: Indian-inspired red lentil dal.

If you haven’t ever cooked gorgeous split red lentils, you’re missing out.  First of all, these are so beautiful that they are a pleasure just to have around.   I do not have a pantry and so have my beans, grains, flours, and other bulk dry goods stored in glass canisters on open shelving.  I love having these around just for the visual texture and color they add to my kitchen.  Luckily, they’re delicious too!  You can’t find them in just any old grocery store though – I’ve been to a Publix or Kroger more than once looking for them and left disappointed.  As long as you can find a store with a bulk foods section (like a local co-op or Whole Foods) or an Indian grocery store, you’re set.

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