Monday, January 30, 2012

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

Improvisation leads to some wonderful discoveries.
Our oven was broken for about a month last October-November, so we had to use our toaster oven for baking which was pretty limiting.
Braising, which is one of my favorite ways to cook, was off limits.

Then, Tom came up with the idea of using the grill, which has a thermometer on it.  He got it heated at 350 degrees and monitored it on and off. 
The grill cover prevented me from putting the top on the pot completely.  I had to leave it cocked off to the side slightly.  What resulted was a thick wonderfully rich, syrupy sauce for the short ribs.

We made the recipe again, in the regular oven, and it was fantastic once again.

I am posting it so we enjoy it in the future.  It's the best beef short ribs recipe I have found so far. 

A note about beef short ribs:  Wegman's says they switch from boneless to bone-in every other shipment. So, grab them if you see them and freeze for future use. Also, be careful to select only the beefy, meaty ones. I have noticed that Wegman's is very inconsistent. If you don't pay attention you will end up buying mostly bones, and that will defeat the whole purpose of this recipe. Bone-in is best because the bones add to the flavor of the dish.  Oh, how I wish we had a real butcher shop!

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
(adapted from Bon Appetit, Oct 2011)

5 lb. bone - in beef short ribs, cut crosswise
salt and pepper
3 T. oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 T.  flour
1 T. tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (Cab or Zin or Syrah)
10 springs flat leaf parsley (or 1 T. dry)
8 springs thyme (or 2 t. dry)
4 springs oregano (or 1 t. dry)
2 dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
4 cups low salt beef stock

Preheat the oven or grill to 350 degrees.  Pat dry, and season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.   Working in batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.  Don't overcrowd.  Transfer ribs to a plat.  Pour off all but 3 T. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes.  Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly  until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices.  Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.  Add all herbs to pot along with garlic.  Stir in stock.  Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2 to 2.5 hours.  Ribs are done when the bones slide out easily. Transfer short ribs to a platter.  Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.  Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls, over mashed potatoes if you wish, but we skipped them, with sauce spooned over.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Making Ethiopian Stew with Ann N. (Sphonny)

Ethiopian Stew
One of my most unique and fun food experiences of the 2011 was cooking in the kitchen with Ann N.(also known as Sphonny).  I was the sous chef and interviewed her as she cooked.

Why do you make Ethiopian Stew, have you ever been there?
No, but Barry and I went to an Ethiopian restaurant in San Francisco a long time ago and we had something very similar there.
Where did you get the recipe?
A woman in one of the Supervisor Effectiveness classes I taught brought it in.
Was she Ethiopian?
No. (laugh)
What exactly is Ethiopian Stew?
It's onions, chicken, whole eggs and a special blend of spices.
Whole eggs?
Yes, lots of them. You'll see.
And it is spicy. There are pancakes to go with it, to offset the heat.
How spicy?
You'll see.

So, here's the story of How Ann and I made Ethiopian Stew:
Lots of Onions
Ann N. (Sphonny):  First we need lots of onions.  I don't think onions in Ethiopia are this big, so we will use only 8.

B (Me):  I think to myself.  Boy, I am glad she is willing to chop all of those onions.  I might cry.  I volunteer to do the eggs.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Voila!  The onions.

B (Me):  Voila! The eggs.  (Is this a duel?)

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Now, we need to cut up the chicken.  I'll do the breasts.  You bone the thighs.
B (Me):  Harrumph.  Yes, Chef.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Now poke all the pieces with a fork, so they can absorb the sauce.  And do the eggs, too.
B (Me):  Yes, Chef!

B note to readers:  We are following an actual recipe, in case anyone wonders.  Doro Wot is the name of what we are making.  It is the national dish of Ethiopia.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Now we move to the stove top.  Melt the butter.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Get the tomato paste and water ready.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Add the onions to the melted butter.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Add the special spices.  Berbere, pronounced "bari baray"
B (Me):  ?????
Ann N. (Sphonny):   I made it myself!  A fresh batch this year!  It's cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamon, fenugreek seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, onion powder, allspice, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, black pepper. 
Ann N. (Sphonny):  Add the chicken.
B (Me):  I see you have a bigger pot now. 
Ann N. (Sphonny):  Yes, it is hard to judge.  You may have to size up midway.  Be flexible.  Add the eggs.
That's a lot of eggs!
Ann N. (Sphonny):  On to making the pancakes. (called Injera as shown in the recipe below.)

Ann N. (Sphonny): Now I need to do some sophisticated measuring of the flour.
Ann N. (Sphonny): I know how much I used before so I know approximately how much is left in each bag.  No need for cups. First the self- rising flour.
B (Me):  I raise my eyebrows, but I know she is an engineer.

Ann N. (Sphonny):    Then the whole wheat flour.
Ann N. (Sphonny):  And baking powder. 

Ann N. (Sphonny):  To the flours and baking powder...

Ann N. (Sphonny):   we add carbonated seltzer water.
Ann N. (Sphonny):  Add more seltzer if you need it.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Then, get ready to dip and spread.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Put the batter in a hot skillet and let the batter spread out, by rolling the pan around, to make a thin pancake.

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Flip over and finish cooking each pancake.

Ann N. (Sphonny): Place them under a towel on a plate to keep them warm.

Ann N. (Sphonny): Stew is ready to serve!

 Ann N. (Sphonny):  One egg or two?
B (Me):  Two.

Fellow guest, John S. :  Holy Mother of xyz!  That soup is hot!

Ann N. (Sphonny):  Eat your pancake to cool off your mouth!

The End.

Thanks to Ann for inviting me into her kitchen.  It was lots of fun cooking together.

If anyone would like the recipes shown above, just send me an email at


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two Biscotti Recipes: Chocolate-Almond and Pistachio-Dried Cherry

Biscotti Production for our Neighborhood Giftgiving

Several people have asked me about how we made our biscotti cookies.  Are they hard to make?  Absolutely not.  But we learned the hard way.

This past Christmas Tom and I thought it would be fun to make biscotti, Italian dipping cookies, for our annual Christmas Eve goody exchange with our neighbors.

But we had very little experience with them.  I knew they were twice baked cookies which should be crispy, not soft.  I can remember making them a long time ago, but didn't have a recipe on hand.

So, I first started looking in the Italian cookbooks, since biscotti are Italian dipping cookies.

Mario Batali had a chocolate one, based on traditional Italian grandmothers' way of making them.   Plus the ingredients were simple and were items I had on hand.

Then, I found a festive-sounding one, which called for pistachios and cranberries with white chocolate.  I decided to go with dried tart cherries instead of cranberries.  (Seems like cranberries are shoehorned into too many holiday recipes.  Dried cherries are so much better tasting!)

Chocolate Biscotti
from Mario Batali's, Simple Italian Food
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 t. baking powder
3 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 T. Amaretto (almond flavored liqueur)
1 t. almond extract (my addition)
3/4 cup hazelnuts, skin on
1/2 cup chocolate chips (he says mini, we used regular ones)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, Amaretto and almond extract. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. 

Add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated.

Roll the dough into 3 logs about 10 inches by 2 inches and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 20 minutes until light golden brown and remove from the oven.

As soon as they are cool enough to handle, cut the logs on a slight diagonal into pieces 1/2 inch thick and arrange cut side down on the sheets.

Lower the heat to 275 degrees, return the pieces to the oven, and bake 20 minutes longer, until crisp and dry.  Allow to cool.

Pistachio Cranberry or Cherry Biscotti 
by Lou Seibert Pappas from Food&Wine online

1 cup shelled raw pistachios (look in the bulk section or specialty foods section)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries or dried tart cherries (look in the bulk food section)
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pistachios in a pie plate and bake until golden, about 6 minutes; let cool. Turn the oven down to 325°.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. With a wooden spoon, stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
Butter and flour a large cookie sheet. Pat the dough out on the sheet into two 14-inch-long logs 1 inch wide and 1 inch high; leave 3 inches between them. Bake in the lower third of the oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack; let the logs cool for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice logs on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick.
Bake the slices for 7 minutes on each side.

Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool completely.

Drizzle with the melted white chocolate and refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes.

There aren't any photos of the chocolate ones because things in the kitchen were totally out of control!! We couldn't remember what if we had added sugar or not, so we just added more. And we ended up triple baking ours.

Nonetheless, I can highly recommend Mario's recipe. It is a more authentic, break-your-teeth-if-you-don't-dip-it-first, kind of biscotti.

And the second one, a Louise Seibert Pappas recipe, is more of a cake-type cookie. The flavor combinations are great. Pistachios and cherries are yummy together.

Meanwhile, the doorbell kept ringing with deliveries from the neighbors, while we were still stressing in the kitchen to get ours finished. Why did we try to make something we've never made before?
Next year, we aren't going to try something new, under pressure, during the holidays.  That's what I always say.  We'll see.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soup of the Week: Italian Sausage Veggie Soup

Italian Sausage Soup with Veggies

My older sister, Jane, sent me the link to this soup with this note:
I made this soup this week. Very quick to make but very good if you like Italian Sausage. I made it as stated but you could use other fresh vegetables and it would be fine too. We had fresh sourdough bread but cornbread would be good too!  ---Jane
We do like Italian sausage and always have some in the freezer.  So, all I had to do was buy the fresh veggies.  I adapted it -- no surprise there.  It is a good winter soup.  It's on my "make again" list.

Italian Sausage Veggie Soup
(adapted from

1.5 pounds Italian sausage (we used spicy, but you can use sweet), chopped into bite size pieces or casings removed, and crumbled like hamburger meat
lots of garlic, minced
1 liter (2 14 ounce cans) beef stock
1 large can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces), including juices
1 - 2 T. dried basil leaves
3 sliced carrots
1 can (14.5 ounces) cannelini beans, undrained
2 small zucchini, bite size
2 cups of spinach- packed, rinsed and torn
salt and pepper, generously, to taste
shredded Parmesan, for garnish

In a large soup pot, brown the sausage, and remove all but 2 T. fat.  Add garlic and saute until soft but not brown.  Stir in broth, tomatoes, basil, carrots, and season with a little salt and pepper, just a little or none.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the beans and zucchini.  Add a little hot water to be sure all the ingredients are covered.  Cover, simmer another 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.
Remove from the heat, and add spinach.  Replace lid allowing the heat from the soup to cook the spinach leaves.  Soup will be ready in about 5 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed.  I didn't add any because the stock and sausage made it salty enough.
Garnish with grated Parmesan.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year Margaritas by Jeanne

2012 Year of the Dragon

I thought it might be fun to expand the blog into good drink recipes! So here goes with a recipe for margaritas that is pretty darn good. It’s courtesy of Alan’s younger son who went to bartending school awhile back. We served them last night at a party we hosted to kick off the Chinese New Year holiday. It seems like a pain to juice all the limes, but it is so worth it!


Chinese New Year Margaritas

The recipe:
1 part sour
2 parts sweet
1 part triple sec
2 parts tequila

My standard “part” is one cup. For the sour I squeeze fresh limes. They can be squeezed ahead of time and the juice stored in the refrigerator. For the sweet, we make a simple syrup, which is made by boiling 1 cup of water, remove it from the heat and add in one cup of sugar. Stir continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved. If you are using one cup of lime juice you’ll need to ~ double the simple syrup recipe.

Put all the ingredients in a blender. Add enough ice to make it slushy or to the consistency you desire. Salted rims are optional....

If you are serving this at a party, I make a pitcher full ahead of time. That way I just pour it in the blender, add ice and serve...saves the hassle of having to measure everything every time you want to make a batch.

Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year in Mandarin)

It’s the year of the dragon!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Family Pierogies by Sarah

Ever have one of those family projects you've talked about doing for YEARS? Literally. Years. It's one of those things we talk about doing most family get-togethers with the adult grandkids and just never ever get around to actually scheduling.

My husband's family has been cooking pierogies during the winter (and to indulge out-of-town relatives in the summer) for as long as anyone can remember. With a Monday off as an excuse, and with my sister-in-law and cousin leading the charge, we made pierogies using the family recipe that's been passed down generation to generation.

The recipe is simple and super easy if you use a food processor or a stand mixer fitted with a dough blade. If you are a purist, Grandma used to mix by hand on her giant wooden cutting board. Rolling, cutting, and stuffing the pierogies takes a little finesse and a lot of time so we scheduled an afternoon of cooking and letting the kids run amok.

Dinner was fantastic and it was agreed that the pierogies were almost as good as Grandma's! (because could anyone ever make them as good as Grandma?!)

Family Pierogies

3 Cups Flour
2 Eggs
1 Cup Water

2 Cups (or so) Farmers Cheese
Sugar to taste

Add flour followed by eggs until combined. Grandma does this by hand; we used a stand mixer and food processor. Add water slowly checking consistency as you go. Dough should be dry and not too sticky to the touch.
Flour a clear work surface and rolling pin and roll out to desired thickness; Grandma's are pretty thin but held their shape without issue. Once they are rolled out to a consistent thickness cut into uniform two inch squares.

Using Grandma's special cutting board made the process more authentic.

Fill with a combination of farmers cheese and sugar - we used around two cups of farmers cheese with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. To fill, pick up a dough square and hold on the diagonal. I probably used half of a tablespoon of the farmers cheese for each pierogie. Put on half of dough, fold in half, and then pinch shut on all sides.
Grandma's storage trick is to line a tray or plate with the assembled pierogies and freeze for 15-20 minutes so they begin to get firm and then transfer to a storage bag to prevent from sticking together.

Aren't they cute? If you are cooking and enjoying the fruits of your labors now, add the assembled pierogies to a pot of salted boiling water for seven to ten minutes to cook through. Once finished cooking, mix with melted butter and enjoy with family. Be sure to tell stories about making pierogies as a kid with Grandma between bites.
This picture doesn't do them justice!

This project was a great excuse to have some family time and share a really special meal together. The kids (who are all under the age of eight) weren't into the pierogies, but I think in the coming years as they get older and can share stories they will grow to love them like we do!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Feast Everyday #3

Lemon Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Frosting and Toasted Pistachios

Hard for me to believe but it was three years ago this week that I started Feast Everyday. 

To celebrate, I made one of our favorite recipes from the blog, Lemon Pound Cake, but made cupcakes instead of a loaf, and added frosting and toasted pistachios. 

As usual, this twist created some problems I had to solve.  The cupcakes stuck to the pan, because I didn't remove them before poking and dousing them with the lemon syrup.  Had to cut the top off, and "glue" it back on with frosting, once I dug the cupcake out of the pan.

I still had fun, and that's what this blog is all about:  enjoying the adventure of creating good food in the kitchen ---discovering new techniques, ingredients, and recipes---then sharing it with family and friends.

Thank you to everyone who follows the blog, and/or contributes their comments, and recipes.

And a special thank you to my husband, Tom, who supports whatever crazy thing I do.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Sesame Crusted Salmon

Sesame Crusted Salmon

This is a simple, and quick way to cook salmon.  To get the sesame seeds to stick to the salmon,  a slurry of egg whites and cornstarch is used.  You can have this fish dish on the table in less than 15 minutes.

Sesame Crusted Salmon
(found this technique in Quick from Scratch Fish & Shellfish, a Food & Wine cookbook)

Serves 4

4 5-6 ounce, 1 inch thick salmon fillets  (we used 2 Atlantic wild-caught)
fresh sesame seeds
1 egg white
2 T. cornstarch
oil for the pan
Whisk together the egg white with the cornstarch in a flat bowl. 

Dip the salmon steaks to coat them well, then place them, skin side down on a plate and sprinkle them with sesame seeds.

Heat a non stick pan or griddle until it is hot, then coat it lightly with oil to prevent sticking.  Place the fillets, sesame seed sides down, in the hot pan and cook on medium high for 3 to 5 minutes and turn when the seeds become dark, golden brown but are not burning.  Flip the fillets over (skin side will be down now) and continue to cook, about 5 minutes more, or until the fish is opaque and firm to the touch.

Serve the fish, sesame seed side up, with a finishing sauce.

We used the one Wegman's offers, a lime soy sauce.  Or try Food & Wine's recommended sauce of 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 T. dry sherry, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/2 t. sugar, 1/5 t. grated fresh ginger, 1 clove garlic, minced, 2 t. cornstarch, and 3 T. water.


Friday, January 13, 2012

"Entertaining with Ease" Goal

Little Plates Party Tray
I snapped this photo just before our guests arrived last Friday.  We had two couples over for drinks.

One of my goals has been to make entertaining easier and less of a big production so that we actually invite people over!

Everyone I know has an aspect of entertaining that really gets them frustrated or intimidated, so they put it off.

In my case, I have never enjoyed the hors d'oeuvres aspect of entertaining.

Over the last few months, I solved my "problem" by taking one of my Dansk trays and placing little decorative plates and bowls in it.  Some are from our travels, and others are finds from tag sales or consignment shops. 

In the little dishes, I have found that finger foods work the best, with little serving spoons and toothpicks.

A bowl of nuts is popular -- cashews or pistachios.  A mix of pitted olives, too.  We put cheesespread on little toasts or crackers. Little halves of sweet cherry tomatoes with goat cheese and sprinkled with basil.  Fresh dates with marscapone, an almond and sprinkled with cinnamon.  Slices of a fresh fruit -- we used persimmons before Christmas, and now we are using the Texas grapefruit we received as a holiday gift.  (A slice of grapefruit doused with basalmic vinegar and pepper is quite tasty.)

We vary what goes in the plates based on what we have on hand and what we see at Wegman's.  It could be little bites of anything. 
Salmon on rye with dill.  Peanut butter on Triskets for kids.

This same approach could be done in any style from contemporary to country.  It's the tray that pulls it together and makes it look great.

The tray makes it easy to pass the hors d'oeuvres.  You can have extra little plates staged in the kitchen ready to go and take the tray in and swap them out.

And the tray minimizes spills and drips on your furniture.

At this party, I also served bite-size crab cakes to have something hot.  They are super easy.  If you didn't see the recipe the first time, click here:  Quick Crab Cakes.