Mina de Carne (Meat-Potato Matzah “Pie”)

The In-Between

So we are now in the in-between days of the Passover holiday, which lasts eight days in the Diaspora and seven days in Israel. I could simply broil or roast some meat or fish, make a salad and potatoes and call it a day. However, I like to make the holiday special and there are certain dishes that I only make during Passover even if I could serve them at other times.


Flexibility

This Sephardic dish is wonderful because it is so flexible. The simplest version of it is ground beef or lamb, mashed potatoes, matzah and eggs with a bit of seasoning. But with a little bit of imagination and time this dish can become something really special. And a little bit of meat will feed a family. I guess you could say that it is a Sephardic Shepard’s Pie.

If you are not feeling ambitious at all, then just use the basic technique that is given and season it to suit your tastes.

Recipe

Yield: 4-6 dinner servings or more if used as part of a multi-course meal

Ingredients

1 roasted eggplant* (optional)

1 pound lean ground beef or lamb

1.5 pounds Yukon Gold or “new” potatoes (They are the smallish red ones)

3 sheets of square plain matzah (NOT EGG Matzah)

Non-dairy “buttery” sticks (margarine)

2-3 Tablespoons olive or other oil, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro or dill

2 rounded teaspoons hawayij or ras el hanout or other spice mix (Make your own or they can be purchased online and through spice shops). You could even use Garam Masala for an Indian twist.

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

3 large eggs

Paprika for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

If using the roasted eggplant, make this first and set aside to cool. Chop it coarsely.

I don’t bother to peel my potatoes. The skins not only have nutrients, but they are relatively thin and add extra flavor, in my opinion. Simply cut each potato into quarters and then each quarter into half so you en up with eight pieces. Place them in a 3 quart saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook them uncovered for 20 minutes or until quite tender. Drain the potatoes well and then mash them with a potato masher or a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the potatoes aside to cool.

Place some warm tap water into a deep 9-inch square baking dish and then add the whole squares of matzah. Allow them to soak for about 1+ minutes. You want them flexible but not falling apart.

Carefully lift each sheet of matzah out of the water and place it flat on paper or a tea towel to drain. Then dry the baking dish and grease it well with the margarine and then 1-2 Tablespoons of the oil. If you only use the oil the matzah won’t crisp up and it will stick. Set the pan aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add one Tablespoon of the oil and brown the ground meat, chopped, roasted eggplant, if using, the onions and the garlic. Break up the meat as you brown it. I used a very lean meat so I did not have any extra fat or liquid to pour off. Add your spices, about 1 teaspoon of salt and some cracked black pepper. Add the chopped fresh herbs and mix everything through.

Lightly beat 2 of the eggs and add it to the mashed potatoes. Stir about 1/2 cup of the potato mixture into the ground beef mixture to bind it together.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat the remaining egg and pour it into a platter with a slightly raised edge. Coat both sides of one softened matzah sheet lightly with the egg. Lift it out carefully and allow any excess egg to drip back into the platter. Place the matzah in the bottom of the prepared pan. Use part of a second slice of matzah, if necessary, to cover any gaps so that the bottom is completely covered. Repeat with a second layer of matzah. Reserve any left-over egg. (I didn’t have any.)

Spread the meat mixture on top of the matzah in the dish. Spoon the potato mixture over the to and spread it evenly. Pour any left-over egg onto the potato mixture. Sprinkle with some paprika.

Bake the Mina for about 40 minutes or until the top is browned and the filling is firm. Remove the Mina from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Cut it into large squares. I serve mine with a large tossed salad.

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Chicken Khao Soi

Spice Up Your Life

So it’s not winter but it’s also not quite Spring. It’s the “drears.” I don’t know about you but I desperately need a bit of spice in my life. This recipe showed up in my inbox and I had to have it. It’s a Thai dish so I cannot speak to its authenticity, but I can tell you that it is delicious – after a few small tweaks. The soup is pretty rich and VERY satisfying. So while it may not seem as if it would feed six people for a dinner, I found that a relatively small amount goes a long way.

Pet Peeves

I don’t know about you, but I really hate when a recipe calls for a tiny amount of something that I otherwise would not have in my pantry – and which isn’t available in my local stores. And which I may never use again.

Since I do a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I’m always happy to buy the right spices or grains to complete my recipe. I will even grind my own spices for those dishes because they are so integral to truly experiencing the food. But I do not make a great deal of Asian or South American dishes.

So when this recipe called for a type of dried chili pepper that three well-stocked grocery stores didn’t carry I said ENOUGH! I know that each pepper has its own flavor profile but surely the dish could be made with some more easily available option. And while I would have liked to use bean sprouts, the only ones around were very sad looking… Yet despite these small disappointments, the final dish was so yummy that I have to share it with you. The smell of the khao soi paste alone was intoxicating.

A Word About Measuring

Spices and herbs make a dish. I recently made my Christmas Lamb Shanks and made the mistake of not tasting it before serving. It needed salt. It would have made all the difference. In the case of this dish, do NOT skimp on the spices. This isn’t baking. I generally measure spices, garlic, onions, cilantro etc. with a heavy hand. I know what I like and rarely do I regret my choices. If you don’t feel comfortable, start out with even measuring and add more as you taste. Otherwise you can pretty much assume that I used somewhat rounded measurements.

Recipe from Bon Appetit

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Khao Soi Paste

4 large dried chiles, stemmed with seeds (I used a combination of Poblano and Negro Chiles. The original recipe called for large dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded. )

2 medium shallots, halved

8-10 garlic cloves

1 rounded tablespoon of grated ginger

1/2 cup chopped cilantro stems

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 14-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk (Use the regular – not “lite”)

4 cups chicken broth (low sodium or unsalted)

1½ lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise

1 lb Chinese egg noodles

3 tablespoons (or more) fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION

Khao Soi Paste

  1. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25–30 minutes. Alternatively, heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes and cover the bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 Tbsp. soaking liquid in a food processor or blender, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth. (I ended up using almost all of my soaking liquid.)

Soup

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4–6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 20–25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.
  2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
  3. Add chicken, 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, and sugar to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.

Beef Stufato with Buckwheat Pilaf

You Say Stufato

A stufato is simply the Italian way to say stew. The version that appears below comes from my handwritten notes dating back about 40 years. Since writing a blog was the furthest thing from my mind then, I did not write down the author. Soooooooo, my apologies to the person(s) who came up with this delicious and easy peasy beef stew. For an old-fashioned Irish beef stew check this out.

So What is Kasha?

You could serve this warm and welcoming dish with some good chewy country bread, over rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, but I am serving it with a kasha pilaf. Kasha is roasted, whole grain buckwheat. And buckwheat is a great source of healthy fiber anti-oxidants and is rich in minerals. Best of all, it tastes great! While I am not in any way gluten-free, buckwheat is. I always make a lot because it is great as left-overs and stuffed in pita with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for a vegetarian or vegan lunch.

The Sum of Its Parts

I often find recipes with multiple parts and after I have made them, it turns out that I really only like the topping or the base but not what was in between. That’s how I came to make my Sriracha Cashews. So while beef stew definitely would not be appealing to a vegan, the buckwheat pilaf would. I have found inspiration in some unlikely places. I have successfully turned non-vegan recipes into vegan ones and clearly non-Kosher recipes into Kosher acceptable meals. So before you go dismissing a recipe, see if you can’t find some take-away that you can use.

Recipe for Stufato

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Up to 2 cups of a dry red wine like a Cabernet (use whatever you plan on drinking)
  • 14.5 ounce can of a quality diced tomato (preferably San Marzano)
  • About 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Additional chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (Optional)

Directions

  1. Heat EVOO in a heavy-duty saucepan with a cover. Add meat in a single layer, without crowding and brown on all sides. (I did this in batches. If you crowd the pan, the meat won’t brown.) Remove the meat to a dish while you prepare the rest of the stufato.
  2. Add the onion to the same pan that you browned the meat in and sprinkle with the brown sugar and about a teaspoon of salt. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. (The juices from the onion should be sufficient to de-glaze the pan and all of those browned bits from the meat add flavor.)
  3. Once the onion has softened, add the wine to just cover the meat (you don’t want to drown the meat – just barely cover it), tomatoes, garlic, and herbs and stir through to mix. Now add back your meat and any juices and give another stir. Add some cracked black pepper and stir once more. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook on low for 2 hours. Adjust your seasonings and discard the bay leaves before serving.

Recipe for Buckwheat Pilaf (Vegan)

Yield: About 4 cups (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of roasted whole grain buckwheat (Kasha)
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO or butter
  • 2 cups of hot broth (Vegetarian, chicken or beef, preferably unsalted) (If using salted broth, eliminate the additional salt mentioned below.)
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped yellow onion, sliced mushrooms, celery and carrots
  • About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the vegetables. Saute the vegetables until slightly softened.
  2. Add the hot broth (and salt, if adding) and bring to a boil. Add the kasha and stir through. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Uncover the pot and fluff the pilaf with a fork before serving.

Zucchini Bake

I have been hesitant to add recipes like this to the blog because they seem so obvious to me and because I really don’t measure when I make them. However, I realized that what may appear obvious to me just may not be to someone else.

Just Plain Good

This zucchini bake doesn’t have strange new combinations of ingredients or use sous vide techniques. It is simple to make, very flexible and the results are delicious almost no matter what you do. The fact is that the zucchini bake is just plain good. Zucchini bake goes beautifully with any grilled meat, poultry or fish. It could also be a main feature of a vegetarian meal.

East Does It

When my son was little, I always looked for new ways to get vegetables into him. Since most children – and adults – like pizza, I took the basic elements of a vegetarian pizza but changed the emphasis of the ingredients. Even though my son thought that he wasn’t a fan of zucchini, he always gobbled this up. Below are some basic guidelines for this easy and delicious side dish. However, feel free to add or change the cheeses or switch up the herbs to make it your own. You can also easily double or triple the ingredients to serve a crowd.

Switching It Up

If you decide that you like the zucchini bake but want to switch it up a bit, you could try the following:

  • Change the herbs – use thyme instead of basil and oregano
  • Change the cheeses to match. Use a good Gruyere, Comte or aged Cheddar cheese instead of one of the Italian cheeses
  • Add some sauteed onion to the layering
  • OR use feta or other goat cheese mixed with some Swizz, Mozzarella or Greek Kaseri cheese and Za’atar and Aleppo pepper

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch rounds
  • 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes
  • EVOO (preferably garlic flavored) for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • About 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup (or more, to taste) of shredded or grated cheese (I like a mix of Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, Provolone or Asiago. Use cheeses with flavor – not like that soapy stuff that you get on some pizzas.)
  • About 1/4 cup of dried bread crumbs, plain or seasoned

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the zucchini and partially cover the pot, if necessary to maintain a good simmer. Cook the zucchini for 3-4 minutes and immediately strain the zucchini under VERY cold water. Spread the zucchini out on a tea towel and pat dry. You want to just barely blanch the zucchini. (What you want to absolutely avoid is mushy zucchini.)
  3. Use a heavy baking dish that is large enough to hold the zucchini when layered. (The shape of the dish is irrelevant.) Drizzle the bottom of the dish with EVOO. I like to use garlic-flavored EVOO but plain is fine if that is all you have.
  4. Place a layer of broken up stewed tomatoes on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of zucchini. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs. Crumble some of the basil and oregano over the bread crumbs, along with a sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper. (I never measure, but don’t be stingy with the herbs.) Drizzle a little EVOO on top and then repeat the layering until you have used everything up. I like to end with tomatoes.
  5. Spoon the liquid from the tomatoes over the top. Add a bit more cheese and drizzle with EVOO. (There is no magic here, so it is hard to mess this up. If this is part of a main dish vegetarian meal, I might add more cheese than if it is simply a side.)
  6. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheeses are melted. The zucchini bake can be made ahead and reheated.

Tuna Puttanesca

When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.

Good for Your Health and Your Budget

We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.

This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.

So Easy!

Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.

Let’s Get Started

Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People

  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
  • About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
  • About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
  • Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
  • 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
  • One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
  • 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)

Directions

  1. Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
  3. Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
  4. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
  5. Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.

Cider-Braised Duck Legs with Leeks, Prunes and Apple

A Wet Wintery Sunday

This past week in Chicago we went from a polar vortex to a spring thaw. In the span of seven days, there was snow, ice, rain, wind and slush. So the idea of spending Sunday snuggled at home with my husband while something delicious bubbled away on the stove seemed like the perfect antidote. While the duck slowly cooked, I happily needlepointed while my husband tinkered.

I came across this recipe in our local newspaper a few weeks ago and knew that it was something that I wanted to try. All I needed were the duck legs and leeks. Little did I know that I would not only get this wonderful meal, but I was able to render almost a quart of lovely golden duck fat to enjoy throughout the coming months. More on that later.

Chasing Away Those Blues

With a little bit of planning, this delicious recipe will yield four generous servings along with the aforementioned duck fat and cracklings. I served it with polenta, a green salad a lovely fruity red wine. Chase those winter blues away with this rich and flavorful duck stew. The duck falls off the bone and is juicy without being fatty. The apples and prunes are the perfect complement to the dark duck meat while the Calvados and cider cut through any overt sweetness of the fruit.

While the stew simmers, you can use that time to get those nasty little chores done around the house. Or better yet, take a long soak in a warm tub or curl up with a good book and a better companion.

Recipe from Chicago Tribune, Food and Dining January 16, 2019 and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large duck legs, about 10-12 ounces each
  • 1.66 cups apple cider, preferably fresh
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 7-8 ounces of pitted prunes
  • 2 flavorful apples, cored and sliced with the skin left on (I used Honeycrisp. Fuji or Braeburn would also be good.)
  • 1/4 cup good quality apple brandy such as Calvados (If you don’t plan on actually drinking the brandy, you don’t have to buy the most expensive Calvados on the market. Any decent bottle will do and closed tightly, it will last for some time. It’s great to use with apple tarts, by the way.) 
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Trim the excess fat and skin from the duck legs. [Do NOT throw this away. At the end of the recipe are directions how to render the fat and make cracklings.]
  2. Prick the skin on the legs all over with a fork and season the legs generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven or covered braising pan over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the duck legs in a single layer, skin-side down. Cook until the skin is a lovely brown and the duck has given off excess fat. Turn over the legs and cook the underside until brown. The second side will cook much faster than the skin side so don’t walk away and leave it. Remove the browned legs to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Allow the fat to cool down slightly and then CAREFULLY pour the fat through a fine sieve into a clean glass jar. This is just the beginning of the duck fat that you will render.
  4. Deglaze the pan, using 2/3 cup of the cider, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender – about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the herbs and spices. Add the chicken broth and remaining 1 cup of cider. Stir through and then add back the duck legs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 2 hours, untouched, until the duck legs are very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. [The braise can be made ahead up to this point. It can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days, if desired. I didn’t do this, but it’s good to know that you can.]
  6. When you are ready to serve the duck, remove the legs from the pan and skim as much fat as you can from the braising liquid. [I actually didn’t have that much at this point, because of judicious trimming and pricking and browning the duck initially.] Add in the prunes and sliced apples and stir through. Add back the duck legs. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add in the apple brandy. Cook for 5 minutes more. Serve over polenta or a sturdy noodle like a spaetzle so that you don’t lose a drop of that wonderful braising liquid.

Directions

How to Render Duck Fat and Be Happy All Year

Duck fat is possibly the eighth wonder of the world. Okay, I exaggerate. But it is a slow-burning fat that makes a humble pot of beans or potatoes or simple scrambled eggs into something truly special. Stored in the fridge or freezer it lasts almost indefinitely and a little goes a long way. It’s easy to prepare and while it takes a bit of time, it requires little effort and supervision. Here’s how:

Remember all of those trimmings of excess skin and fat? Coarsely chop them and place them in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add 1/2 cup of tap water. Cook low and slow, allowing the trimmings to render the fat (liquefy) while the water evaporates. Any bits of skin will turn toasty, crunchy brown and these cracklings can be used in salads or however you like. Don’t be impatient. This takes about an hour or more. Once all of the fat has liquefied and the skin has browned, carefully remove the cracklings to a paper towel using a slotted spoon. Allow the duck fat to cool slightly. Then carefully pour it through the fine-meshed sieve into the bottle with the other reserved fat. Cover the jar. Once the jar cools, it should be refrigerated.

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs (galbi-jjim)

While you will never catch me sitting down to eat a rare steak or roast beef, I do enjoy eating meat – especially when it is slow roasted or braised. I recently bought some beautiful short ribs on the bone even though I wasn’t quite certain what I wanted to do with them. I came across this recipe for Korean slow-cooker short ribs and decided that in honor of Frances I had to try them. Only Frances or her mother can tell me if this is authentic; I can simply say they are delicious! This is real Korean comfort food. The flavors only get richer the more you eat!

If you are feeling lazy, just serve it over some cooked rice so you don’t lose a drop of the yummy sauce. If you are feeling more ambitious, you could choose to add some carrots and potatoes or water chestnuts, dried red dates and ginkgo nuts to the slow cooker about half-way through the cooking time or serve with sugar snap peas that simply have been steamed or stir-fried. This is a wonderfully easy and delicious dish to make for a relaxed dinner with friends. And wouldn’t you rather be taking part in the evening instead of stuck fussing in the kitchen?

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs by Chungah Rhee from Damn Delicious and Eating Korean by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on the number of banchan served

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 cloves garlic, minced, about 1 good tablespoon

1 rounded tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces (Although don’t fret if the short ribs are cut differently. Do try to get them on the bone, however, as the bones lend flavor and gelatin to the sauce.)

1/4 cup water or broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Optional Additions

1 pound baby carrots

1 pound red baby bliss or other small potato

For Garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

3 scallions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and red pepper flakes, if using.
  2. Place short ribs into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in soy sauce mixture until well combined. Galbi jjim3
  3. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.*
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water or beef broth. Before stirring in the slurry of cornstarch, use a spoon to carefully skim off as much of the fat that has risen to the top as you can. Then stir the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. If you don’t remove the fat first, your sauce will never appear to get thicker – to say nothing of the fact that the fat has done its job of keeping the meat moist and adding flavor, but eating all of it is neither tasty nor healthy.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley or scallion and sesame seeds, if desired. Galbi jjim1

NOTES:

*To test for doneness, pull on a bone as it should slide out freely. In a Korean home, this dish would be served with the ubiquitous kimchi and a choice of banchan. Left-overs will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Simply gently reheat.

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup with Lemon and Kale

Autumn is here and that means hearty and flavorful soups that are one-pot meals. I came across this soup on the New York Times website and decided to give it a try, with a few modifications. The most difficult step in this recipe is browning the meat, which means that pretty much anyone can make this soup. It takes some chopping and a bit of time to cook, but there are no special techniques or skills needed. However, it is not a pantry soup. It does require a fair amount of fresh ingredients, but is well worth the effort. And unlike traditional beef mushroom barley soups (which I love, by the way) this soup manages to be both hearty AND bright, with a lightness not usually associated with beef barley soup.

The original recipe called for one pound of meat cut into tiny pieces that would serve eight people. If I am going to the trouble and expense of serving meat in a soup that will serve as my dinner, then I both want to taste and see the meat. I also like to trim and cut my own meat into the size pieces I want that are almost totally devoid of any fat or gristle. I don’t happen to find it a bother to do this and I know exactly what I am serving. If you want to cut down on the work, then please go ahead and use prepared stew meat from the meat department. You won’t have the control over the cut or quality of the meat, but it will definitely simplify things for you. Otherwise, buy good quality chuck roast and cut it yourself. Make this soup on a day that you plan to be at home and you will be rewarded with quite a treat. It will take a 7 quart or larger stock pot or Dutch Oven.

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup with Lemon and Kale by Melissa Clark and tweaked by me

Yield: About 8 dinner servings

Vegetable Beef Barley with Kale and Lemon1

INGREDIENTS

2.5 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed

4 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed, more as needed

3 small or 2 large leeks, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, sliced

1 fennel bulb, diced

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 rounded teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Large pinch cayenne, optional

2 quarts beef stock, divided

3 sage sprigs 

2 rosemary sprigs

2 bay leaves

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

2 large turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

¾ cups pearled barley

1 large bunch of kale, torn into large, bite-size pieces

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon, plus juice 

Thinly sliced jalapeños or other chilies, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Season beef generously with about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let mixture stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, hot pot over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook in batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. (Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam but won’t brown.) Drizzle in additional oil if the pan seems dry. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and cover lightly with fol to keep it warm. Don’t worry about brown bits that are stuck to the pan. All will be well – I promise!
  3. Add leek, celery, fennel and garlic to the pan; cook until soft, about 7 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Push the vegetables to one side, and, if the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil. Add tomato paste and spices to the cleared spot and cook until tomato paste is darkened and caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir together vegetables and tomato paste.
  4. Return meat to the pot. Pour in 1 quart of stock and 8 cups water. Using kitchen string, tie sage, rosemary and bay leaves into a bundle and drop into pot. (I like to wrap my herbs in cheesecloth and then I tie the bundle to the handle of the pot which makes fishing it out later easier. The cheesecloth also keeps the herbs from breaking off and floating in the soup.) Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, partly covered, for 1 hour.
  5. Stir in the carrots, parsnips, turnips, barley, 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until barley is cooked through and meat is tender, about 1 hour more. Pull herb bunch from pot and discard.
  6. Stir kale and parsley into pot until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in lemon zest and juice. If soup is too thick, thin it with the additional quart of stock. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve with chilies, if you like. We found the chilies completely unnecessary – perhaps because I chose to use a large lemon which provided all of the kick that I needed.

NOTE: You can make the soup ahead through Step 5. Then you can turn off the heat. Add the kale, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Cover the pot and allow it to just sit. I then gently heat the soup to serve. The alternative is to add the kale, parsley, lemon zest and juice to the pot after it has been reheated and just prior to serving. Barley does tend to soak up whatever liquid it gets near so the longer the soup sits, the more the barley will expand and soak up the liquid. You can always add additional water or stock to thin it down if you wish. The kale will lose its vibrant green the longer it sits, but left-overs are still delicious.

Spaghetti Pancake or Baked Pasta alla Norma

When my son was little he had a VERY limited palate that largely consisted of one form of pasta or another. In an effort to expand his horizons and to keep me from getting incredibly bored, I would make individual spaghetti pancakes for him out of left-over pasta. It didn’t really matter if I had made a pesto sauce or a red sauce – pretty much any left-over pasta would work, including just butter, garlic, pepper and cheese.

The other day I was looking at one of the food blogs I follow and I saw a recipe for “Baked Pasta alla Norma.” I thought, wow, this is a great name and is sure to be something that I would want to make. When I actually got down to reading the recipe, I realized that it was just a fancy version of my old friend, the spaghetti pancake! Give it a try and if you have picky eaters, leave out the eggplant, hot pepper flakes and capers and simply add some extra cheese. It’s kind of hard to go wrong with a dish like this. So if you want sausage in your version, add some cooked, crumbled sausage or try zucchini instead of eggplant or add some sliced cured black olives. Use left-over pasta instead of making pasta just for the dish and make individual portions in smaller oven-safe frying pans or do it on your stove-top, flipping the “pancake” over half-way through until you have a nice crust on top and bottom and the egg is cooked through. Just have fun with it and if you want to tell your significant other that it is Baked Pasta alla Norma, I won’t tell them that it really is just spaghetti pancake.

Baked Pasta alla Norma or Spaghetti Pancake by Claire Saffitz from Bon Appétit, October 2018 Baked Pasta alla Norma

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 medium globe eggplant, peeled, cut into ½” pieces

2 pints cherry tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, smashed

¼ cup EVOO, plus more for skillet and drizzling

½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for sprinkling

Kosher salt

2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. cream or milk

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

4 oz. finely grated Parmesan, divided (You could also use Asiago or Pecorino Romano or any combination.)

1 lb. spaghetti, linguine or other pasta

2 Tbsp. drained capers

½ cup torn basil, plus a few whole leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, ¼ cup oil, and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron. Season generously with salt and toss to combine. Roast, shaking skillet once or twice, until eggplant is tender and tomatoes burst, 25–35 minutes. Let vegetables cool while you prepare the pasta (watch out for the hot handle when you take the skillet out of the oven). Reduce oven temperature to 400°. Baked Pasta alla Norma6

  2. Whisk eggs, cream or milk and tomato paste in a medium bowl until smooth, then whisk in about three-quarters of Parmesan. (Truthfully, I just eye-balled how much cheese I used and put more on top to form a nice crust.)

  3. Cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Immediately drain pasta in a colander and shake to remove excess water; transfer pasta back to pot.

  4. Add cooled vegetable mixture to pot with pasta. Wipe out skillet and drizzle in a little oil; roll around in skillet to coat. Add egg mixture to pasta and toss vigorously with tongs until pasta is evenly coated. Add capers and ½ cup basil and toss again to combine.

  5. Transfer pasta mixture to skillet and press gently into an even layer. Top with remaining Parmesan, a few whole basil leaves, and an extra sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if desired. Drizzle with EVOO.

  6. Bake pasta until surface is nicely browned, 30–35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges for serving. Baked Pasta alla Norma5You can top with a few fresh basil leaves for a bit of color.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. I could happily eat it every day and have for weeks at a time. So when I came across this recipe for chicken shawarma that you could make at home,  I simply had to try it. This recipe did not disappoint. Is it exactly like the shawarma you get off of the spit at a restaurant? No, but it is really, really close and truth to tell, I undoubtedly used a much better quality chicken then most shawarma stands would. It’s a fun weeknight dinner that can be prepped the night before. Serve it casually stuffed in a pita or alongside some dill rice or cauliflower tabbouleh, accompanied by salads and a tahini sauce. Left-overs can be easily re-warmed.

Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce by Tori Avey

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 4 large thighs)

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp allspice

3/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

For Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup good quality tahini like Soom brand

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 1 lemon

About 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cold water

Directions

Prepare Marinade

  1. Slice the chicken breasts into 5-6 pieces each and the thighs into 3-4 pieces each. Place them in a glass or stainless dish or large plastic zipper bag.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 6 Tablespoons olive oil, the spices, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper (if you are salt sensitive or are using Kosher chicken, reduce the amount of salt). Pour the spice marinade over the chicken pieces. Stir with a spoon till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, or seal the zipper bag. Place chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate at least 1 hour, up to overnight. [For maximum flavor, allow to marinate for 8 to 12 hours.]

Oven Cooking Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced.
  2. Place the chicken in the oven. Let it roast for about 15 minutes until cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once with tongs halfway through cooking.
  3. Take chicken out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces. [You could do this first cooking ahead and then do the next step when you are ready to actually sit down and eat.] 
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stove-top over medium high heat. A cast iron pan is great for this step. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp.
  5. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.

For Tahini Sauce

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together. Use 1/4 cup of water to start and mix it through. Here’s where it gets personal. I like a thick sauce so I may only use a little more water, but if you prefer a thinner sauce with the consistency of heavy cream – and also because different brands of tahini differ in density – use water, mixing until you get the consistency you want. The tahini will actually thicken when you first add the lemon juice and then you thin it with water. Extra sauce (should you have any) will keep for a day or two in the fridge and can be used to make salad dressing or with any other grilled meat or poultry.