Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

Moroccan chicken plated2

This Friday, I had the family over for Shabbat. My brother and his wife are visiting so I wanted to make something extra special. My niece has taken over the challah baking for me and my nephew helped out by bringing a salad. It’s so lovely when we can all be together. Some day I hope that Matthew and Frances will be able to be here regularly for Shabbat with their children (hint hint). We also would love for our niece and nephew and their three children from Atlanta to come join us as well. I’m frankly not sure where we would put everyone, but somehow we would manage. I have one of these tables that seems to expand to feed the masses and no one has ever complained about being cozily squeezed in when the food and company are good.

Friday’s dinner included Roasted Tomato Soup, Jerusalem Salad, Moroccan Beet Salad, Roasted Eggplant Dip, Moroccan Chicken, Moroccan Carrot salad, Israeli Couscous, and my Apple Frangiapane Tart for dessert along with Glazed Apricots. There is nothing like good food shared with people you love. We were four generations sharing our love for one another and our traditions. What could be better than that?

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives adapted from Shallots New York

Moroccan chicken plated

Yield: 12-14 servings

Ingredients

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs

5 chicken legs

4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut in half to make 8 pieces

10 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads, crushed

1.5 teaspoons ground dried ginger

2.5 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste (if using Kosher chicken, do not add additional salts since the other ingredients have a great deal of salt)

EVOO

7 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

4 cinnamon sticks

1.5 cups of pitted cracked green olives and kalamata olives (or any good mix of Mediterranean green and black olives)

4 preserved lemons, quartered with pulp removed and skin sliced into thin strips (You can purchase preserved lemons from Morocco in amny places nowadays. They are not difficult to make, but you have to plan ahead since they take 2 weeks to cure.)

3 cups of good chicken stock, preferably unsalted

Juice of 2 lemons

Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Directions

  1. In 2 heavy gallon freezer bags, mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin and turmeric, evenly divided. If not using Kosher chicken, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each bag and about 5 cracks of black pepper to each bag. Divide the chicken pieces into the bag, remove the excess air and “massage” the chicken with the spices. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 Tablespooms of EVOO and brown the chicken pieces in batches. Set the chicken aside on a platter. Don’t worry about brown bits stuck to the bottom. In the same Dutch oven, add another Tablespoon of EVOO and add the sliced onions and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the cinnamon sticks.
  3. Place the chicken pieces over the onions and scatter the olives over the chicken. Then scatter the strips of preserved lemon pulp over the top. Mix the chicken stock with the fresh lemon juice and pour it over everything. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the Dutch oven tightly, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 35 minutes. Moroccan chicken in pot
  4. Serve with Israeli couscous and top with minced parsley. You should serve lots of Mediterranean salads on the side.

 

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Beet Caviar

IMG_1440Okay, so this isn’t really anything like caviar (which I also happen to love). But until I can think of a better name, we’ll just have to go with this. Caviar or not, it is a delicious beet spread (nope, too dull) that I first ate with a Russian friend and later had a version of it at the Chicago Russian Tea Time Restaurant. This along with my mushroom walnut pâté are wonderful additions to any party spread. And both are so easy, there is simply no excuse for not making them. Whip some up for this Passover or anytime you want to celebrate something. And if you use the pre-cooked beets like “Love Organic Beets” that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store, this really is a snap to make. The photo just doesn’t do justice to the taste.

Beet Caviar adapted from The Eastern and Central European Kitchen: Contemporary and Classic Recipes by Silvena Rowe

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

4 medium beets, washed and trimmed

5 Medjool dates, pitted

2 Tablespoons cognac (Bourbon or Vodka)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

2 Tablespoons lemon juice or to taste

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt or Kosher salt

3 Tablespoons creme fraiche, mascarpone or sour cream (If you want to keep it vegan, you can use Tofutti, Better Than Cream Cheese)

freshly chopped chives for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. If you are not using pre-cooked beets, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the center. Puncture the beets with a fork a few times and roast for 1 hour or until the beets are completely tender when you test by cutting into the center with a knife.
  2. In the meantime, gently heat the cognac in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Place the dates in a glass dish and when just hot, pour the alcohol over the dates. Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes.
  3. When the beets are cooked and cool enough to peel, remove the skins and chop into cubes. Place in a food processor or blender with the dates, cognac, walnuts, mascarpone, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Puree until the texture is to your liking.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or lemon juice. Serve with chopped chives. If you prefer, you can swirl a bit of the creme fraiche (mascarpone or sour cream) through the mixed beets instead of processing it together. It is purely an esthetic decision and will not change the taste.

Oxtail Stew

oxtail

I’ve been making oxtail stew for at least 25 years. In those days, oxtails (which do not come from an ox) were not popular in most American diets, but nowadays with the snout to tail movement in full swing, eating them is much more acceptable. Oxtails are not super meaty, but they are so rich in protein and flavor that you don’t need to eat a lot to feel a deep satisfaction. While I wouldn’t ordinarily eat meaty stews in the summertime, when the temperature drops and the wind chill rises, I start dreaming about my first batch of oxtail stew for the season. The recipe below is not the oxtail stew that I have been accustomed to making. I happened to be looking online today to see if oxtails could be a Kosher cut of meat and came across this recipe. It looked so simple and good that I decided to try it and share it with you. Perhaps later on in the winter, I will share my traditional recipe.

When buying oxtails, you will have graduated size pieces, with some larger and others very small. They all add flavor and protein richness to the dish, but you will need enough of the larger pieces for serving. Just be sure to have plenty of good bread on hand to soak up all that rich, umami-filled sauce. Serve a crisp salad and you are done! Well maybe a lovely baked apple or apple tart to finish things off. This dish is at its best when made one day ahead.

Oxtail Stew adapted from Dianne Rossen Worthington

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons EVOO

4 pounds of oxtails (there is a LOT of bone so this is not too much)

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch thick rounds

5 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3 cups good quality beef broth

1 cup red wine (a Zin or Cabernet or Cabernet Franc)

1(14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with its juice (I like fire roasted but any good brand is fine)

2 bay leaves, dried or fresh

1 generous teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

2-4 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. In a heavy Dutch Oven 7-9 quarts) heat the EVoo over medium high heat. Season the oxtail pieces generously with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Brown the meat in batches, making sure to not crowd the pan. You are not sauteeing the meat, so in order to get a good brown, do NOT move the meat around. The meat should also be dry when it goes in the pan. Turn your kitchen fan on or your smoke detectors off! The burned brown bits forming at the bottom of the pan are not really burned and they will add lots of flavor to the stew. As you brown each batch, remove the pieces of oxtail to a platter on the side. When finished, cover lightly with foil to keep warm.
  2. Add the sliced onions and carrots and saute them until they begin to soften and the onions become translucent. Add a little salt and pepper as you do each layer. Now add the garlic and saute for another minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oxtails, wine and broth. If y ou are using a 7 quart Dutch oven as I did, it will fit but be very full. Bring to a full boil, then cover the pot, turn the heat down to simmer for 1.5 hours. After that, uncover the pot, adjust your heat if necessary and cook for 1.5 hours more, uncovered. If any scum comes to the top, you can skim it offor just leave it for when you are skimming the fat later.
  4. When the oxtails are tender, add the Kalamata olives and the vinegar and cook for another minute uncovered. Turn off the heat and cover tightly. In order to skim the fat the most easily, you can refrigerate this overnight or if you are like me and the temperature permits, I just put it on my terrace overnight!
  5. When ready to serve, skim the fat which rose to the top and solidified. Then gently rehat until simmering. You can do this in a 325 degree F oven for about 30-40 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or over noodles or rice and garnish with parsley.

Green Beans!

green beans and tomatoesGrowing up I watched the old tv show, The Waltons, and was imediately taken by Livvy sitting at the large kitchen table or Grandma, sitting on the porch trimming fresh green beans and talking about whatever was on their minds. As it was supposed to, it evoked a sense of home, family and warmth that we all wanted to replicate. While my childhood was a time of the “miracle” of frozen vegetables, I remember nagging my mother until she bought fresh green beans in season. I have never looked back and will only buy fresh green beans whether at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. To this day, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take a crisp, fresh green bean and to snap off the stem end.

These green beans are easy to make and can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature. A pound should feed 4 people, but my husband and I finished them off ourselves.

Green Beans

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound crisp, fresh green beans

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 rounded teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 to 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or sea salt)

cracked black pepper (about 10 grinds)

2 teaspoons EVOO

Directions

  1. Trim the green beans by snapping off the stem end. If they are fresh, they will snap cleanly.
  2. Place the beans in a pot of water to just cover them and cover the pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Immediately rinse the beans in very cold water or plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and to retain the bright green color. As soon as they have cooled off, place the beans in a dish towel and wrap them to dry.
  3. In the now dry pot that you cooked the green beans in (I have a wonderful oval pan from Rachael Ray that is a favorite for so many things, including cooking green beans) add the EVOO, the garlic, salt, pepper and the dried beans. Turn the heat to high, add the tomatoes and just gently toss for about 2-3 minutes – just to heat through and until the tomatoes barely begin to soften. I dare you to not start stealing beans before they ever make it to the serving bowl!

 

Oat and Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

The thought of making my own sandwich bread never really occurred to me, and when it did, all I could think was that it would be more effort than it was worth. After all, the local grocery store has quite the panoply of breads to choose from every week.

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But then I came across this post from “Smitten Kitchen” and immediately had to try it because it just sounded so healthy and wholesome.  As it turns out, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, and the result when toasted with a little dollop of butter ended up having a texture and flavor that I would not have dreamed bread could have.  Now the only trouble is that I’m going through it so quickly!  Thank goodness the recipe yield two loaves.

Ingredients

5 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats (I used Quaker oats)
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse salt
3 tablespoons raw or brown sugar, honey or agave nectar (I like the honey)
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus a little more to coat bowl
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk, any kind
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

Make bread dough:

  1. In the bottom of large mixing bowl, combine water, milk and sugar or honey, then stir in yeast. Add egg and oil and whisk until combined. Add flour, oats and salt and if mixing with a machine, combine with paddle attachment at the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for 1 minute. The dough will be wet and coarse, let it rest for 5 minutes.
  2. If using a mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-low for 2 more minutes. By hand, do the same with your spoon. The dough will seem firm and more smooth, ideally supple and sticky, but if it’s still very wet, add a bit more flour, a spoonful at a time. If it seems excessively stiff, add a little more water, a spoonful at a time.  Continue to mix with dough hook or by hand for 4 minutes.
  3. Scrape dough out onto lightly floured counter. Knead a few times, then form the dough into a ball. Oil your empty mixing bowl and return dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature for 60 to 70 minutes, or until doubled in buik or transfer to the fridge and let it ferment overnight or up to 5 days. If proofing in the fridge, remove the dough before the fridge about 3 hours before you plan to bake it.

Form loaves:

  1. Turn dough onto a floured counter and divide it into two equal pieces. Press each gently into a rough rectangle-ish shape.
  2. Fold in sides so that the first dough is roughly the width of your bread loaf pan (about 9 inches).
  3. Roll from bottom to top and then put this log into your bread loaf pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough.  (This is really important as otherwise your bread will rise lopsidedly and then you’ll have delicious but highly irregularly sized bread which is not great for sandwiches.)
  4. Let proof at room temperature for about an hour, or until the dough is about 1 inch above the rim of the baking pan. Halfway through, heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake bread:

  1. For 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans once for even color. (Then again, I forgot to do this and it turned out beautiful anyways.)
  2. The internal temperature should read 190 degrees F. Remove loaves from tins and let cool on a rack. If you’re planning to freeze bread, let it cool completely before slicing it.

From Smitten Kitchen, Oat and wheat sandwich bread.

Sachertorte

One of my favorite restaurants in NYC serves the most beautiful Austrian desserts in an old time-y, wood paneled room that feels like a time capsule that sends you straight to Inter-war Europe.  My favorite dessert there, the “Sachertorte” apparently derived its name from a famous hotel in Vienna called the “Hotel Sacher” where this dessert was first made.

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According to the cookbook this recipe derived from, this cake was invented by a sixteen-year-old pastry apprentice named “Franz Sacher” for Prince Klemens von Metternich.  In 1876, his son Eduard opened the now famous “Hotel Sacher” where this is still served today.  After having tried this famous dessert on both sides of the pond, I still think the one from NYC is better, and so I was over the moon when the chef published a cookbook and included the recipe for this dessert!

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • All-purpose flour for dusting

Rum Syrup and Jam

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1.5 cup smooth raspberry (or apricot) jam (Don’t get preserves; while the cake will taste just as good, it will look a little lumpy as mine does below because of all the fruit chunks)

Glaze

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( 1cup)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Brush a 9″ round cake pan with butter and dust lightly with flour.
  2. In a double boiler, heat the chocolate until just melted.  Remove from the heat and stir until smooth.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside for now.
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand-held (or standing) mixer, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.  Add the melted chocolate and beat until just combined.
  6. In another large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium speed until slightly thickened and foamy, about 2minutes.  Gradually add the granulated sugar, and beat until the whites hold a soft peak.  Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixutre to lighten it.  Gently fold this mixture into the remaining egg whites until just smooth.  Fold in the cake flour.
  7. Using a spatula, spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven and carefully flip it onto the prepared baking sheet.  Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, make the rum syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the water and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the rum, remove from heat, and let it cool.
  9. Generously brush the cake all over with some of the rum syrup, reserve the remaining syrup.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  10. Cut the cake horizontally in half.  Brush each cut side generously with the rum syrup.  Spread 1/2 cup of the jam evenly over the bottom of the cake.  Set the other half on top.  Spread the remaining 1 cup of jam evenly over the top and sides of the cake.  Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
  11. Make the glaze: In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter until melted.  Remove from the heat, stir until smooth and let cool only slightly (too cool and the mixture will harden).  Remove the cake from the refrigerator.
  12. Pour the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, and then spread it evenly over the cake.  I like to put my cake on a cooling rack, put foil or something else below it, and then drizzle the chocolate so that it falls smoothly on the sides.  Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set (yes, another 5-10 minutes of waiting before eating!) before serving.
  13. Transfer the cake to a cake plate, and serve (with whipped cream it is even more decadent!)

 

From Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna by Kurt Gutenbrunner

Chicken with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Rice

chicken with riceIf you have a well-stocked pantry and 45 minutes, there is no reason that a weeknight chicken dinner needs to be boring.  Now I don’t always have the same things on hand and these kinds of recipes aren’t authentic anything. But if you cook long enough or enjoy trying new things when you eat out, you develop a sense of what sort of goes together. I also make use of my nose. I may not always know what spice I want by name, but I know it by sniffing. I also try to take into account the esthetics of the dish, which unsurprisingly perhaps turns out to usually help with the taste as well. This dish needed a pop of green so I added some frozen peas towards the end.

I don’t totally recall the occasion, but Frances and Matthew sent us a gift from D’Artagnan a while back and it included all kinds of wonderful goodies – some things I had tried and others, like a venison sausage with dried sour cherries, I hadn’t. It sat in my freezer until the other night after we had finished eating the cassoulet. I thought that before it got freezer burn, I really should use it. I had ordered some boneless, skinless chicken thighs figuring I would find a use for them. So now I had the basis for tonight’s meal.

I always, always keep an interesting array of dried fruits and nuts on hand that I buy from Nuts.com. If you live in the United States, you REALLY must try them! Frances is now a total convert. Check out what I came up with for an ordinary Thursday night. This should be a guide for you to try something different. If you don’t have this sausage on hand, try some andouille or chorizo and then adjust your spices.

Chicken with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Rice

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 Tablespoon more

1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)

1/2 pound pork and venison sausage with dried cherries

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf, dried or fresh

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

Kosher Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to taste

1.5 cups Basmati Rice (Mine was white, but you could use Brown or Texmati rice)

4 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted

1/2 cup dried sour cherries

1/2 cup blanched almonds (whole or slivered)

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon Ras al Hanout (I buy it on Amazon, but you can also make your own)

2 Tablespoons honey

Directions

  1. Place 3 Tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch Oven and heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the chopped onion, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and saute for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and bay leaf and saute, turning just until it begins to lightly brown.
  3. Add the chicken stock, cherries, turmeric, cloves, another 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) cinnamon sticks and Ras al Hanout. Bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, add the rice and stir through. Tuck the sausages into the rice. Cover the Dutch oven tightly and turn the heat down to a simmer. Check it if you aren’t sure. Then cook for 35 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, saute the almonds in 1 Tablespoon of the butter, moving them around until they just begin to brown. Add the honey. Turn off the heat and toss in your peas, gently mixing them together.
  5. At the end of the 35 minutes cooking time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. The liquid should have been absorbed and the rice is very moist. Stir through the almonds and peas. Adjust your seasonings (add the pepper here) and enjoy.

chicken with almonds, cherries and rice

 

Classic Cassoulet

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It’s 7 degrees F outside and with the windchill, it feels like -19 degrees F. So of course, my husband and I decided that it was the perfect day to bundle up and go for a walk! I was on a mission since I had decided yesterday that I REALLy wanted to have some cassoulet and I knew that I only had some of the ingredients on hand. We walked first to Whole Foods which disappointingly did not have what I needed and then decided to go in the total opposite direction to another market. Thankfully Plum Market had the duck and armagnac sausage, demi-glace and duck fat that I needed. I already had the duck confit and the cassoulet beans which I had soaked overnight. We came home with our digits semi-frozen but feeling good so I set to work putting my cassoulet together. Many cultures have slow cooked beans and cured meats. Eastern European Jews eat cholent on Saturday for the Sabbath day hot meal, Americans grew up eating franks and beans, but no one has taken the slow cooked bean dish to greater heights than the Gascons of France. When Frances makes this dish, she makes enough for 12 and she and Matthew manage to consume all of it within a couple of sittings. We can no longer eat that way so I made a somewhat more manageable amount – enough for 6. Below is the recipe for 12 from D’Artagnan (where you can also purchase all of the specialty items if your grocer/butcher doesn’t carry them) along with my smaller amounts. It does actually get better the second day, so if you think you can eat your way through, go for the larger amount. The only real changes that I made were to use a good nitrite/nitrate-free bacon instead of ventreche (which is French pancetta) and to add a larger amount of herbs into my bouquet garni. I wish you could taste this. You just take a bite and close your eyes. There is a brief hushed silence while you allow the taste to be absorbed and – well, you actually sigh, it’s just that good.

Classic Gascon Cassoulet from D’Artagnan  

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Yield: 12 servings for original amounts. 6 portions if you use my changes. If I did not change an amount then that is because I didn’t change it from the original despite changing other amounts.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds French Coco Tarbais Beans, rinsed and picked over (I used 3 cups dried beans)
  • Water, as needed
  • 12 ounces Ventrèche, in one piece (I used about 8 ounces good bacon)
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled (I used 5 cloves)
  • 2 medium onions, skinned and cut in half ( I used 1 large onion)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped (I used 3 thin carrots)
  • 1 bouquet garni, made of 5 parsley sprigs, 3 celery leaves, 3 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf and 10 peppercorns, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
  • 6 Duck Leg Confit, cut in half at the joint (I used 3)
  • 6 1/2 ounces Duck and Veal Demi-Glace, dissolved in 3 1/2 cups of water (I only ended up using about 2.25 cups and saved the remainder for another use)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 packages Duck and Armagnac Sausage (I used one package – 8.5 ounces)
  • 1 pound French Garlic Sausage, cut into 12 slices (I used 8 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup Duck Fat, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Add beans to a large, non-reactive container(s), cover completely with water and soak overnight at room temperature. Keep water level several inches above beans. Check back every so often as beans will absorb a lot of water. Use a few separate containers if necessary.
  2. Drain beans, put into a large, heavy pot with whole ventrèche, garlic, carrot, bouquet garni and onion that’s been studded with cloves. Add enough water to cover at least 3 inches above beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until beans are barely tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Drain beans, discard onion and bouquet garni, leave carrots and garlic with the beans.  Remove ventrèche, cut into ½ inch squares, set aside.
  4. Season beans with 1 teaspoon salt and several grindings of pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  6. In a medium skillet over high heat, sear duck and Armagnac sausages until just browned. Remove from pan, cut into thirds and set aside.
  7. Lightly grease large casserole, preferably earthenware or enameled cast-iron, with duck fat, on both bottom and sides. Place half of the bean mixture in casserole. Add duck legs, browned duck sausages, chopped ventrèche, and sliced garlic sausage. Drizzle with duck fat. Cover with remaining beans.
  8. Stir tomato paste into demi-glace/water mixture, mix well until dissolved. Pour evenly over bean mixture. Drizzle with remaining duck fat.
  9. Bake until hot and bubbling, about 2 ½ hours, checking occasionally to make certain the beans are not drying out. (See Ariane’s Recipe Tips below).
  10. NOTE:  Cassoulet may be prepared ahead up to this point, then cooled and refrigerated up to 3 days. Remove from the refrigerator to bring up to room temperature before proceeding.
  11. Increase (or preheat) oven to 400 degrees F. Bake cassoulet until top is browned, about 45 minutes. If at this point, cassoulet is not heated through, cut open the crust, pour ½ cup of water and/or demi-glace, and continue to cook until hot all the way through.
  12. Serve immediately. Each guest should get an equal proportion of beans to meats.

Ariane’s Recipe Tips:

Don’t hesitate to open the crusty top to make sure the cassoulet is not drying out. The texture should be similar to a thick stew. If it seems too dry or pasty, add some liquid, such as stock, demi-glace or even water. Typically, you’ll have to cut the crust and add liquid about 3 times before it’s hot all the way through. Some cooks in Gascony think cassoulet will only be ready after 7 times of breaking the crust and adding liquid!

If adapting the recipe, try to use as many confit meats as possible. They will give the most flavor.

Cassoulet should always be eaten very hot!

Don’t forget the leftovers. Cassoulet is even better the next day after flavors have had time to develop and marry.

 

Penne Pasta with Broccoli Rabe

Penne with Broccoli Rabe

This is an easy pasta dish that can be adapted to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. I first tasted a version of it about 25 years ago at a restaurant in the Hamptons on Long Island. I have long since forgotten the name of the restaurnat or even if this is actually what I ate there. It’s delicious and is wonderful on a cold winter night. The sauce is very light so this is one pasta that won’t weigh you down and make you feel that you have to hit the gym. And while I actually do enjoy bitter greens, cooking the rapini this way, smooths out the harsh edges.

Penne Pasta with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

16 ounces penne pasta or other hearty pasta

1 large bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), with the leaves torn into pieces. Slice the thicker stems into smaller pieces; thinner stems can just be broken.

3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes cut into julienne

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

EVOO/Meyer Lemon Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used chicken but any kind you like is fine) removed from its casing. Most commercial “hot” sausage isn’t very hot. If you want more heat, you can add some red pepper flakes.

1/4 cup red wine (use what you will be drinking) or chicken stock

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

About 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water

zest of one lemon

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy saute pan, brown the sausage in about 2 Tablespoons of EVOO and the butter. Break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic towards the end of the browning and cook for 2 minutes more. I used chicken sausage which doesn’t have a lot of fat. If you use a pork sausage you might need to drain off some of the fat before continuing.
  2. Add the wine, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg, parsley and fennel seeds. Stir and cook on medium heat for 3 more minutes.
  3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt to a vigourous boil. Add one pound of pasta and boil for 7 minutes. At the end of 7 minutes, add the broccoli rabe to the pot of boiling pasta. Stir through and continue boiling for 4 more minutes. (This is a total of 11 minutes for the pasta)
  4. Before draining the pasta and broccoli rabe, carefully remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add it to the pan with sausage and tomatoes. Drain the pasta and broccoli and put them back in the pot. Add about 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. If you have Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, use that. Add the lemon zest. Pour the sauce over the top and mix through.
  5. Serve with freshly grated cheese – Asiago, Pecorino or a good Parmesan – and a good crusty bread. A green salad consumed after the pasta is always a good idea.

 

Lentil Soup

bowl of lentil soup

On Friday it was raining. On Saturday it was snowing. Today it is 18 degrees F. What’s a girl to do? I made lentil soup, of course! This simple, thick and warming soup is just right and is a one pot meal when you add some crisp bread on the side. I made a big enough pot to give some to my sister and mother and to have for lunch during the week.

Lisa’s Lentil Soup

Yield: 8-10 portions

Ingredients

3 cups green lentils, rinsed

3 Tablespoons EVOO, Grapeseed or Canola oil

4 cups stock/broth (I used chicken but you could use vegetable or beef if you prefer)

6-8 cups of water

28 ounce can or 26.4 ounce box of diced tomatoes with their liquid (preferably San Marzano)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch rounds

1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch rounds

1 large turnip, peeled and cut in large dice

1 large red potato or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut in large dice

2 stalks of celery, cut in 1/2 inch slices

2 pieces of lemon zest cut into 3 inch strips (I use a vegetable peeler for this and remove any of the white pith with a sharp knife)

juice of one lemon

Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Sausage of choice (I used a chicken andouille sausage, but a good garlicky sausage would also work. You can leave the sausage out if you want to keep this vegetarian, but I like to add it.)

Directions

  1. In a 6 quart stock pot with a lid, add the oil and heat on medium. Add the chopped onion and saute for 3 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add the other vegetables and saute for 3-5 more minutes.
  3. Add the lentil, tomatoes, stock and lemon zest. Add 6 cups of water and 1.5 teapoons of Kosher salt. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Once it has come to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover tightly. Cook for 1 hour.
  4. After 1 hour check the pot and add the remaining 2 cups of water and the lemon juice. If you are adding the sausage, add it now. Most sausage is precooked or smoked. If it isn’t, brown the pieces first in a pan with a very small amount of oil. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes more. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! bowl of lentil soup2