Christmas Lamb Shanks

img_2629Okay, so I don’t celebrate Christmas and these lamb shanks can be eaten any time. I named them Christmas Lamb Shanks because I am using an heirloom Christmas Lima Bean that I bought through Rancho Gordo, the premier site for heirloom beans and other wonderful one-0f-a-kind goodies from south of the border. I was introduced to this company on a trip to Napa Sonoma that my husband and I took with Frances and Matthew a few years ago. Of course, if you don’t have access to these beans, which are meaty and unctuous and taste ever so slightly of chestnuts, you could substitute a good dried lima bean or other large runner bean.

Chicago is currently under a polar vortex and a former colleague from Russia says that we are living in Chiberia! This dish only takes about 30 minutes of prep time but then you want it to cook low and slow so it is wonderful to make on a day when you are stuck indoors. Alternatively it could probably be made in a slow cooker or cooked overnight and then reheated when you are ready to eat. This dish cries out for a really full-bodied red wine, preferably from California or Oregon, but a Shiraz or Spanish Rioja would also be wonderful.

I really don’t do any serious measuring and this dish can be increased easily – only limited by the size of your Dutch oven. The amount I made is enough for four servings and I used a 5 quart oval Dutch Oven to give you a reference point.

Christmas Lamb Shanks

Yield: 4 servings


3 to 3.5 pounds of lamb shanks (The lamb shanks these days seem to run really large so I am using only 2. The meat will be falling off of the bone so it is not a problem; however, if you are really looking for presentation, try to find 4 small shanks or serve the 2 on a platter and then remove the meat from the bone.)

1 pound of dried runner beans, soaked 18 hours (I changed the water 3 times before going to bed. You could soak them for less, but I want them REALLY unctuous.)

2 to 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 to 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Grapeseed oil

1/4 cup of whatever red wine you will be drinking or have opened from the night before

5 large shallots, peeled, split into its 2 parts and left whole

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves which are trimmed, peeled and left whole or are lightly smashed img_2622

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks each

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

4 cups of chicken stock

28 ounces of whole San Marzano tomatoes, squeezed by hand into rough chunks

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

8 ounces whole button or Cremini mushrooms

3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley for garnish


  1. Drain your beans which should have almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a Dutch Oven or heavy duty casserole (I recommend Staub or Le Creuset) large enough to fit the lamb shanks in one layer and hold everything else, heat the EVOO or Grapeseed oil to hot but not smoking. (If I am being totally honest, I added 1 Tablespoon of duck fat to the EVOO for flavor and its burning point, but since everyone may not have it around, I didn’t want to complicate things for you.)
  3. Make 3 or 4 deep slits in each lamb shank and stuff the slit with a sliver of garlic. This took 2 cloves from the total. Lightly dredge the shanks in the flour, shaking off any excess. I put the flour in a one gallon plastic freezer bag and threw in the shanks and sealed the bag. I tossed the shanks around to coat. It’s easy and you then just throw away the bag. You can season the flour if you wish with salt and pepper, but I didn’t.
  4. Brown the shanks in the hot oil – about 5 minutes a side. They will brown best if you don’t move them around except to turn once. Adjust your heat so the oil doesn’t burn. Once the shanks are browned, pour in the 1/4 cup of red wine to quickly deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits.
  5. Add everything else to the pot except for the parsley and mushrooms and stir through to mix. The beans and shanks should be covered with the liquid from the stock and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil on top of the stove, then cover and place in the oven. Cook it for 3 hours, checking once to stir things. Then add the mushrooms and cook covered for 30 minutes more.img_2626
  6. Serve garnished with the parsley. Make sure you have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the sauce or some starch of choice. This dish reheats beautifully and only gets richer with time.


Linzer Torte with a Rich Tart Pastry

img_2523I had two favorite cookies growing up – the famous “Black and White” Cookies and the linzer torte cookie, sometimes referred to as “Lunettes.” I still haven’t replicated the Black and White cookies and many that you can buy today are sickeningly sweet, but I have developed my version of a Linzer Torte. Because making cookies can be tedious, I prefer to make this as an actual torte. The only part that I make from scratch is the rich pastry dough, so the quality of the remaining ingredients that you purchase is everything. If you prefer to make a cookie, you can still use this dough recipe. I made this for my pre-Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends and it was a big hit. It also is great since it can be made a day ahead and any leftovers will keep for several days. The crust may soften a bit, but the taste is uncompromised.

Lisa’s Linzer Torte

Yield: One 9-inch Torte


For Rich Pastry Dough (Makes enough dough for two 9-inch pastry shells)

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup frozen butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 hard-cooked large egg yolks

1 large egg

Zest of 1 large lemon

3 Tablespoons cold water

For the filling

1o ounces of Raspberry Curd (If you want to make  your own, more power to you. I buy a good commercial brand. Since what is available can vary so much, just look for what is available and check the ingredients. The main ingredients should be fruit, eggs, butter and sugar.)

10 ounces of Raspberry Jam (Again, there are so many fine commercial or artisanal jams out there, that this is not something I personally would spend time on making. Whether you choose with seeds or without is purely personal taste. With seeds is more traditional, but it is your choice.)

7 ounces almond paste (I used Odense brand. I like the quality and it rolls out well which is what you need for this recipe.

1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon milk or cream

Casting Sugar or Confectioner’s Sugar (Optional)


For the pastry dough 

I like to make this in a food processor, but you could make this by hand.

  1. Using the metal blade, add the flour, butter, sugar, egg, egg yolks, lemon zest, salt and water to the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Pulse for 15 seconds and then turn on, processing just until a ball of dough starts to form on the blades. Since all flour is different, if you must add a bit more water for this to come together, add a 1/2 Tablespoon at a time and use as little as you can get away with.
  3. Divide into two dough disks and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Assembling the Torte

  1. Roll out one dough disk to fit a 9-inch fluted flan pan with a removable bottom. (If you don’t own one of these, you can use a 9-inch pie plate, but I highly encourage you to purchase this pan.) Leave a 1-inch overhang and trim off any excess dough. Fold the overhand under and smooth the top.
  2. Roll out the almond paste to fit the inside of the pan, not quite coming to the top of the sides. You might need to trim this a bit. Fit the rolled out almond paste into the ie shell. Ideally you will refrigerate the pie shell at this point, but when I made it, I had neither the time nor the space in my fridge to do this step and it was fine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. When you are ready to bake the torte, fill the shell first with the raspberry curd and then cover that with the jam. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect and there is some mixing going on of curd and jam.
  5. Roll out the second disk of pastry into a rectangle and trim it so the ends are straight and even. Using a pastry wheel (straight or fluted) or a knife, cut 1/2 inch strips of dough. You will probably need 8 to 10 strips. Any leftover dough can be made into a simple but delicious cookie.
  6. Weave the strips into a lattice pattern (YouTube it) on top of a piece of cardboard. Once you have the pattern, you will carefully slide it onto the top of the torte. You can also weave it directly on the torte, but it is difficult to not get jam all over the dough that way. (I am admittedly still working on perfecting my weaving technique which is why I am advising you to YouTube it.) Carefully tuck the ends of the strips, trimming where necessary, under the edges of the bottom crust. Mine isn’t perfect but it was still wonderful so don’t be intimidated! Pinch the two doughs together and smooth it with your fingers.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk with the cream or milk and carefully brush the strips and outer rim of the torte with the mixture. You probably won’t use it all on this recipe. If you are using casting or sanding sugar, sprinkle it over the strips. Don’t be too anal about this. And if you prefer you can sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top just before serving, which is a bit more traditional.
  8. Bake for 23 minutes and then turn the torte. Continue baking until the pastry is golden brown. The jams will be a bit liquidy at this point but will thicken as the torte cools. This took about another 22 minutes in my oven, but ovens vary. Allow to cool completely and then remove from the flan ring and using a thin spatula, carefully remove the bottom. It should slide right off, so don’t use any big or abrupt moves or you will see your torte go flying! img_2506



img_2226I just finished reading a mystery series that takes place in the Perigord region of France. The detective in this Martin Walker series loves to cook and there is almost as much time spent on the mystery as on the food – which suits me just fine! Perigord is the home of truffles, foie gras and wild boar as well as walnut tart. When I was in college I spent one winter vacation in Alsace with a French family that I knew at the time. The food was amazing! From the moment you woke up to cafe au lait and beautiful breads shaped like people eaten with home-made confiture to lunches (the main meal) of everything from wild roast boar to fish in a cream sauce to the hand-made chocolates loaded with liqueur that we ate after long walks in the woods – this was eating! We always had a tisane before bed to help keep our livers in good working order. Amazingly I did not gain an ounce, but I’m sure that the long walks in the mountains and the numerous stairs that I climbed, in addition to just trying to keep warm because there was no central heating, all helped.

Well, I have no idea where to buy wild boar here and I’m not sure that I would purchase it even if I could, but a good pork butt (shoulder) is readily available and happened to be on sale this week. This recipe comes mostly from Gabriele Corcos and his Extra Virgin cookbook. I made a few changes in addition to using a much smaller cut of meat. This is one of those homey dishes that just makes me sigh with delight at the first bite. Leftovers are great for sandwiches.

Porchetta – Roast Pork Roast img_2231

Yield: 4-6 servings


3 to 3.5 pound boneless pork shoulder (also called pork butt – no idea why since they are clearly different ends of the body!)

3 Tablespoons fresh sage leaves

3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 Tablespoon fennel seeds

1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


2 medium potatoes (I used Yukon Gold but red Bliss potatoes would also work)

2 heads of garlic

1/2 cup dry white wine


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the sage, rosemary, parsley, 5 cloves of garlic, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and process while drizzling in EVOO. You want to emulsify this into a paste that resembles pesto.
  3. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the pork so that it opens like a book with the spine still attached. Hopefully there is a good marbling of fat, which both adds flavor and keeps the roast from drying out.
  4. Spread about half of the paste over the open “pages” of the pork, reserving the remainder of the paste for serving.
  5. Close the “book” with the fat side facing up and tie it tightly with kitchen twine. You can do this part ahead of time and carefully wrap it tightly and refrigerate it until you are ready to roast it. This can be done up to a day ahead.
  6. When you are ready to roast the pork, halve the potatoes and the garlic heads and lay them cut side down in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Lay the roast – fat side up – on top of the cut heads of garlic and potatoes. Drizzle with a bit more EVOO and sprinkle a little more salt  and pepper on top of the roast.
  8. Place the pan in the oven and roast uncovered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pour the wine over the roast and baste the meat with the pan juices about every 20 minutes. Roast for about a total of 2.25 to 2.50 hours or until the skin is very browned and the juices run clear or an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. has been achieved.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the roast to rest for about 20 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and carefully snip the twine. Then slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces and enjoy.



Crock-Pot Beef Stew

beef stew1

There are few dinners that are homier or easier to make than a good beef stew. Whenever possible I buy chuck roast and I cut my own stew meat. It really doesn’t take that long and chuck roast is just the best quality meat for beef stew, instead of the odds and ends of all kinds of beef that are sold as “stew” meat in the grocery. Stew only takes about 30 minutes to assemble and then you put it in a low slow oven or slow cooker and leave it alone. I picked up the knack of using instant tapioca to make a wonderful thick gravy from an Amish cookbook. It requires no messing with making a roux and adding it slowly to avoid lumps. The tapioca goes in the mix at the beginning and when the stew is ready, the gravy is silky, coats a spoon and is delicious. No muss; no fuss. I have always made this in my Dutch oven, but I decided today to use a crock-pot. I usually forget that I have one since it is stored out of sight, but I know how useful they can be. Hopefully, I won’t mess it up!

I make this for Sunday night dinner and then have delicious left-overs for the week. This can also be frozen. The only change you will see when re-heating the stew is that the vibrant green of the peas will fade. No taste is lost. Be sure to serve a good bread or roll to wipe up all of that flavorful gravy!

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

Yield: 6-8 servings


4 pounds of chuck roast cut into large chunks (about 3-inch pieces)

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced OR a 1 pound bag of baby carrots

1 pound of cippolini onions peeled OR if you are feeling lazy a bag of frozen pearl onions

10 ounces of frozen peas

About 12 red baby bliss or small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and left whole unless larger (then cut them in half)

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thickly or left whole if small (try to use a Cremini or Baby Bella) optional

1 cup red wine like a Cabernet or Zinfandel, but even a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc would work. Use either what you have left-over or what you will be drinking with the stew.

1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice (I like fire roasted)

1-2 cups of beef broth or water

1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

5 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca


  1. I read somewhere that we should be preheating our crock-pots so I preheated mine on high while I prepared my stew ingredients.
  2. I layered in all of my ingredients, except for the frozen peas and parsley and then stirred everything through to distribute them well. I covered the slow-cooker and put it on high for 1 hour.
  3. After 1 hour, I turned the slow-cooker down to “low” but did not touch anything inside the pot. I set the timer for 4 more hours.
  4. After four hours, I stirred in the peas and parsley, adjusted the seasonings and left the slow-cooker on “warm” until I was ready to serve it.

Beef stew

Roast Stuffed Pork Shoulder with Apple Cider Glaze

plated pork roastToday my thoughts turned to roasted meat, apples and squash – autumn seasonal foods. One of the cooking shows that I enjoy watching is Extra Virgin with Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos.  I like it not only because they make the kinds of food I like, but they live out one of my fantasies – having a farm and your family around you. Gabriele loves pork and he had a recipe for roast pork that sounded wonderful. However, as I have mentioned several times, I always like to add my own touches. For his delicious recipe you can read it here. I’m serving mine with the roasted potatoes from the pan and with acorn squash.    roast stuffed pork shoulder

Roast Stuffed Pork Shoulder with Apple Cider Glaze  

Yield: 6 servings


3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt) butterflied and with a nice layer of fat on top. You want a well-marbled piece of meat so it will stay moist during the long, slow cooking. And let’s face it, fat is flavor.

About 24 ounces of apple cider (I used Angry Orchard hard apple cider becasue I had it from another recipe, but plain cider is fine)

1.5 cups dried apple rings

1 Tablespoon roughly chopped fresh sage

1 Tablespoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian Paprika

6 small red baby bliss potatoes, halved

3 heads of garlic with the top quarter cut off

EVOO for drizzling

cooking twine


  1. In a glass bowl, cover the apple rings with about 12 ounces of cider. Let these soak covered for at least one hour, but they can soak as much as overnight.
  2. Butterfly the pork roast unless your butcher did it for you. It’s pretty easy as long as you have a sharp knife. Cut the roast vertically so that it opens like a book. Do not cut all the way through. You still want one piece.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the open roast. Then spread the garlic, rosemary and sage over the open roast. Lay the apple rings over everything covering what will become the inside of the roast.
  4. Carefully roll the roast up along the long side, with the fat on top. Using kitchen twine, tie the roast to hold it together. About 4 pieces of twine should do. The roast can be prepared up to a day ahead up to this point. If  you are not roasting it immediately, wrap it well in parchment and foil and place in a plastic bag in the fridge.
  5. When you are ready to roast the meat, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  6. Drizzle EVOO In your roasting pan. Place your potatoes and garlic in the pan, cut side down to form a platform for the roast. Drizzle with a bit of EVOO and sprinkle with some Kosher salt and pepper. Lay the roast on top of the potato/garlic bed. Sprinkle salt, pepper and sweet Hungarian paprika over the meat and drizzle with olive oil.   roast pork ready for the oven
  7. Roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pour the remaining apple cider over the meat and roast for 1.5 hours more. Let the meat rest for 20 minutes to absorb all of the juices.
  8. Place the meat on a cutting board, cut the twine and carefully remove it. The roll should hold together.

Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas – Greek-Style

Spinach black-eyed peas finished

When I was a young girl, we used to shop in a grocery store whose produce section was run by a loud and generous Greek woman named Carla. She always had a smile, story and a treat for her special customers – and with Carla, everyone was special. One day she was telling us about this dish that her family made and it sounded delicious and easy to make. There never was a recipe – just Carla’s story – but ever since then I have been making this dish – first with my mother and now on my own. If it has a name, I don’t know it, but what I do know is that it is delicious and over the years I have never tired of making it. Now Frances makes it too.

I make mine with country pork ribs because that was how Carla told me the recipe, but I think it could be equally delicious with beef short ribs. You would simply need to adjust your cooking time to be somewhat longer for the beef, which also means you would add your black-eyed peas and spinach later. Try it that way and let me know how it works out. For now, here is my version of Carla’s family recipe.

Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas with Country Ribs

Yields: 4 servings


1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 – 28 ounce can or 1 large box of crushed Marzano tomatoes with their liquid

4 meaty country ribs

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 teaspoons finely chopped or crushed garlic

1/3 cup red wine (choose anything you would enjoy also drinking that deals well with tomato)

12 ounces fresh black-eyed peas (See Note)

16 ounces of frozen chopped spinach or its equivalent fresh

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1 -2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano or 1.5 teaspoons good quality dried Greek oregano

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

NOTE: I have made this dish with fresh, canned and frozen black-eyed peas and it has always turned out delicious. If you use canned peas, be sure to drain and rinse the peas. I use two cans around 15 ounces each. If I can’t find frozen or fresh or canned black-eyed peas, I have also used Crowder beans. And while the dish called for spinach, I believe it would also be tasty (different) with kale or even collard greens. Don’t be afraid to try what is freshest or most easily available.


  1. Using a large, deep pan with a lid or a Dutch oven, saute the onion in the EVOO until just beginning to get translucent – about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and stirring, gently, saute this for another 3 minutes. I like to salt and pepper in layers. I don’t use any more this way, but I know that my onions are flavored and then my ribs etc.
  2. Add the ribs by pushing the onion and garlic towards the side of the pan and brown them quickly, turning once. This will only take a few minutes. You should have enough oil in the pan, but if you feel the need to add a smidgen more, that’s okay too. If your pan is hot, the ribs shouldn’t really stick. Spinach black-eyed peas stage 1
  3. Add your tomatoes, bay leaves and red wine. If you are using dried herbs, add them now. Bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, add your beans, spinach, fresh oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 15 -20 minutes more. Yup, that’s it! And when you eat this dish, raise a glass to Carla, wherever she may be.

Eat with a lovely crusty bread (something with sesames would be great) and salad and serve the remainder of the red wine. This can be made ahead and gently reheated.

BBQ Ribs – from the Oven

BBQ RibsI have always loved a good saucy BBQ rib. In fact, in my younger days, I was known to eat an entire slab myself! Of course, that meant ignoring all of the wonderful side dishes, which I would never do now. I don’t have a grill or outdoor brick oven so I decided to look for a ribs recipe that I could make in my oven. I tried one recipe for Memphis style ribs with a dry rub and while my husband liked them, I wasn’t sold.

I like to watch the Cooking Channel and have done it ever since Frances’ husband was a little boy and we would sit together and watch. One of my biggest fans, he would always tell me: “You could do that, Mommy!” He was fortunate enough to find Frances and now he says: “You can do that, Frances!” And unlike me, Frances has been much more successful at getting Matthew to help out in the kitchen.

I’m trying a different recipe that I happened to see on the show Rev Run Sunday Suppers. This is his wife Justine’s recipe that I have tweaked. I’m serving it with corn on the cob and my Green Fatoush Salad. I learned years ago the secret to great corn on the cob from reading the late, great Craig Claiborn. You bring water to boil in a pot large enough to hold your corn. Add a good rounded teaspoon each of Kosher salt and granulated sugar. When the water has come to a boil, add your shucked corn and bring it back to a boil. As soon as it returns to the boil, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. After 5 minutes, you have perfect corn on the cob. We don’t even need butter or added salt when we eat it. Any leftovers (I always make extra) can be refrigerated and later used in salads, cut straight from the cob.

Saucy BBQ Ribs from the Oven adapted from Justine Simmons

Serves 4-5 people with sides and can be doubled. Leftovers can be reheated.



1 rack baby back ribs, cut into individual ribs (about 3.25 pounds)

2 Tablespoons seasoning salt, such as Lowry’s

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

Cracked Black Pepper to taste ( I do 25 cracks)

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 red onion, cut into chunks

Hickory BBQ Sauce

1 cup of ketchup

1/4 cup of dark brown sugar

2.5 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

3/4 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke

generous 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard

Pinch of cayenne


  1. Season the ribs with 1 Tablespoon of the seasoned salt, the garlic powder and pepper. In a pot large enough  to hold the ribs without too much crowding, add the butter, EVOO, red onion and garlic. Saute lightly until the onion just begins to soften. Place the ribs on top. Add water to cover by 2 inches and sprinkle in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of seasoned salt. Bring to a boil, cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat and cook, simmering until the ribs are tender – about 1.25 hours. Don’t be disappointed when you see the ribs after they come out of the water. They are rather unprepossessing looking at this point. Trust me – it gets much better.
  2. Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce: Put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer the ribs to a rimmed baking pan covered with foil and coat generously with BBQ sauce. Save some of the sauce for a second coat at the end. Cover the ribs with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the ribs out of the oven and turn on the broiler. Brush the ribs with more BBQ sauce and broil, turning once or twice and brushing with more BBQ sauce, until crisped and well done. (I did 10 minutes a side but every oven is different.) Serve hot. The ribs can be made ahead and reheated.