Moussaka

Moussaka3 (2)

One of the highlights of our trip to Greece a few years ago was certainly the food. The smells from cooking Greek classics at home always conjures up memories of that fantastic trip, and so while a bit tedious, we enjoy making this meal for “events.” This time we were cooking for my parents in sunny LA. When I first took it out of the oven there were protestations of “oh my! So much food – it will be enough for leftovers for weeks!” But after seconds… and thirds… there really wasn’t much left. On the other hand, I like to think that when people get thirds, whatever the dish is is *really* good. We found this recipe after using a different one for moussaka, but when we saw this claim to be the “Best ever moussaka” we decided to put it to the test. And sure enough, this really was the best ever that we’ve had, especially when paired with the wine used to make it!

Ingredients

2 medium globe eggplants (or 3 small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fines herbes
¼ cup minced parsley
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
¾ cup red wine
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ pound feta cheese

Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut tops off eggplants and cut lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and place on paper towels for 30 minutes to absorb the moisture. Rinse, wipe eggplant dry, and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, cook the lamb, onions, and garlic, crumbling the lamb with a fork and stirring frequently until browned.
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly in a strainer. Place meat mixture on paper towels and pat dry to further remove fat.
  4. Return the meat to the cleaned pan and add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, fines herbes, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir well. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Grease the bottom of a 9 X 13 ovenproof baking dish and dust with all but 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs for sauce.Sauce
  6. To make sauce, in a medium sauté pan over low-medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Stir in milk, nutmeg, and salt and stir until thickened. In a separate mixing bowl, spoon a little of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved bread crumbs. Then, blend the egg-bread crumb mixture into the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Layer dish first with eggplant, then meat, and then with a generous portion of feta cheese. Repeat layers and top with sauce.
  8. Lower oven heat to 350°F. Top the dish with Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cheese is golden brown. Cut into square servings. Garnish with chopped parsley. The Wine Lover’s Cookbook by Sid Goldstein  

     

Lobster Fra Diavolo

Somewhat recently a new fishmonger opened shop near our apartment, and when we popped by most recently, they had delicious looking, shelled lobster.  I also happened to have a hankering for fra diavolo and so we decided to get the lobster and the lobster stock they had on hand.

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There are quite a few recipes out there for fra diavolo, and most were either for a generic seafood medley (which we felt wouldn’t highlight flavors from the lobster) or just in photos looked totally different from what we’ve always seen when we (rarely) ordered lobster fra diavolo in restaurants.  It was also surprising how many recipes for specifically “lobster” fra diavolo called for Cognac or some variation of brandy.  When we asked our friendly local fishmonger about this, he mentioned that apparently lobster and brandy are considered a classic taste pairing.  He also noted that he had tried lobster fra diavolo both with and without the brandy and didn’t seem to know the difference.

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The recipe that we finally decided appeared to be the closest to the fra diavolos of memory was this one from Saveur.  Given the cost of the lobster and the stock, we figured we would go all in and made the recipe with some Armagnac, and we would argue that you really could taste it in the sauce.  It turned out fantastic, and if you can moderate the amount of chili pepper flakes for the “spicy” levels.

Ingredients
12 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb pre-cooked lobster meat (if you can find it, otherwise the Saveur recipe has some very detailed instructions on how to cook your own lobster)
12 cup flour
2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
12 cup cognac or brandy
1 cup seafood or fish stock (I used lobster stock)
1 (28-oz.) box whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. fettuccine pasta, cooked
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
Directions
  1. Heat oil in an 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chile flakes, oregano, and garlic to pot; cook until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste; cook until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add cognac; cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add stock, tomatoes, and bay leaf; boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, partially covered, until thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Add lobster to pot; cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta; toss with sauce.
  8. Transfer to a large serving platter; sprinkle with parsley.

Adapted from Saveur Lobster Fra Diavolo.

North African Fish Stew

While I love a good, simply roasted salmon, I’ve often wondered what else is out there in the realm of fish dishes and in particular, fancy fish dishes.  I came across this in one of my go-to cookbooks and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was easy to make and tasted very light.

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I’ve never really been one for eating fish steeped in any sauce.  After all, as Matt has frequently told me, “if it’s good fish it doesn’t need anything else!”  However, just poached or searing or baking fish gets kind of old after a while and it’s nice to mix it up with some variety.  Also, this dish somehow managed to keep the fish flavor very intact (where the fish that was chosen – halibut – actually mattered) while melding nicely with all the sauce that it was cooked in.  (It’s kind of hard to see the fish in the photo, probably because we kept the original sauce recipe the same, but with half the fish – we like more sauce!)

In general slow cooking anything with red peppers and tomatoes with a dash of coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper seems to add a nice kick.

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves
2 red bell peppers, sliced (or just buy a jar of roasted peppers and slice)
2 fresh red chili peppers, seeded
red chili pepper flakes (1 tsp or to taste depending on your spice appetite)
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsley chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, also coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sweet paprika
salt to taste
2 cups water
3 6-oz pieces of grouper, halibut or other white-fleshed saltwater fish
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pan.  Add the garlic, bell peppers and fresh chiles and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the chili pepper flakes, cilantro, parsley, paprika, and salt and sauté for another couple minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.  Taste and adjust the seasoning (once you ad the fish it will be hard to stir the sauce and play with the flavors.)
  3. Carefully add the fish chunks (in one layer), cover, and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Turn the fish and cook for 5 more minutes.  Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes before serving.  Serve with lemon wedges over couscous.

Variation – that I use:

  • If using boneless fillets (which is what I do) cook the sauce without the fish.  When the sauce is ready, add the fillets and cook in the sauce for about 10 minutes.

From Janna Gur, Jewish Soul Food

NOTE FROM LISA: I saw this post and REALLY, REALLY wanted to make this. Unfortunately, unlike Frances, we don’t live on a coast – unless you count the coast of Lake Michigan. Halibut and Sea Bass are currently $30/pound! at my local stores and I simply cannot justify that cost. So while I was disappointed, I was undeterred. For $10 I bought almost 2 pounds of boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs. If I were really cheap, I could have skipped the organic and gotten the chicken thighs for about $3 on sale. I cooked them according to the original recipe and the only addition I made was to add 5 Persian dried limes that I pierced along with the chicken thighs. The result may not be strictly authentic, but it was delicious. I served it over couscous and I have no regrets!

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Yemenite chicken soup

Chicken soup, no matter the cuisine, is food for the soul. It can cure a cold or soothe you after a bad break-up (is there a good break-up?) I have made traditional Jewish chicken soup and Italian wedding soup and wonton soup and I love them all, but this time I wanted something with a bit more zing. I love well-seasoned foods but not overly spicy. This Yemenite soup has the ability to be very spicy, but you can also control the heat. The fresh herbs and spices smell so wonderful and while many of the individual pieces are familiar, when put together they make a dish that is surprising and incredibly satisfying. I have a good spice store near my house, but if you don’t, everything is available online. It is the spices that make this dish, so don’t skimp or substitute. And if you are into Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine as I am, you will use the spices in many other dishes. Don’t get scared off by the long list of ingredients. The dish itself is not complicated if you follow the steps. It is easiest if made over two days. There are no special techniques to learn or stressful timing. The result is incredibly delicious and totally satisfying. This is especially wonderful served with challah.  Frances made this challah last night and Matthew sent me a a photo. One day, I may even share my recipe which I developed over about 5 years. For now, only Frances and I have it. Warmed pita or na’an would also go well.

challah

Yemenite Chicken Soup adapted from Joan Nathan Yemenite Chicken Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

One 4-4.5 pound chicken left whole and with giblets removed (you can use the gizzard, heart and neck if there is one, but save the liver for another use)

2-3 onions, peeled and coursely chopped

8 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1 large tomato, cored and almost quartered but not cut all the way through at the bottom

3 stalks celery, cut in half

2 Tablespoons Kosher salt (yes, you read that correctly. It’s a big pot of soup.)

1-2 Tablespoons hawayij (see recipe below)

4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick

3 medium potatoes like a red or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into a medium dice

1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

z’hug or harissa to taste (I used red z’hug because I already had it, but there is also green z’hug, which is likely more what the Yemenites use. Moroccans use the red. This is the one place where I cheated!)

hilbe to taste (see recipe below) Start preparing the day before, but at least 3 hours before.

Directions

  1. Place the whole chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water by about 3 inches. Bring to a simmer and skim off the scum that rises to the top, cooking for about 30 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, tomato, celery, salt and hawayij. Simmer covered for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, you can make the hilbe.
  3. Add the carrots, cover and turn off the heat. Allow to cool.
  4. Once the pot is cool, remove the whole chicken, which should be falling apart as you lift it. Remove the skin and bones and return the chicken to the pot. For greatest ease, refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify. You can then skim the fat and discard it. You can skim the soup without this step, but it is MUCH easier this way.
  5. Add the potatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for about 15 -20 minutes. Now add the parsely, dill and cilantro and mix through. IMAG0972Cook for a few more minutes uncovered just to warm the herbs. Serve as is or over plain cooked rice and season each bowl (or let your family or guests do it) with the z’hug and hilbe.

Hawayij

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Yield: About 5 Tablespoons

2 Tablespoons black peppercorn

1 Tablespoon black caraway seed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon of the seeds from green cardamom

2 teaspoons turmeric

pinch of saffron (optional)

Either pound the spices with a mortar and pestle or use a coffee/spice grinder. This can also be purchased online. I made mine.

Hilbe

hilbe

Yield: About 3/4 cup

Hilbe is a creamy Yemenite sauce often added to soup. Fenugreek, which is mentioned in the Bible, is a medicial herb that the Yemenite Jews most likely learned to use from the Indians. Traditionally whole fenugreek seeds were ground with water into a paste. Fenugreek powder (also called “methi” is readily available and can easily be used here.) Hilbe can also be bought online but I made mine. Because I used a red z’hug, the hilbe is pinkish. With green z’hug, it will be green.

3 Tablespoons fenugreek powder

1/2 cup water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 generous teaspoon z’hug

  1. Soak the fenugreek powder in the water for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  2. Add the z’hug, lemon juice and salt to the fenugreek mixture and using a wire whisk, beat until smooth. Adjust the seasonings, This should be fairly spicy since it is a condiment.

 

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.

 

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.

Wild Rice with Celery and Pecans

I was never a fan of raw celery, thinking that it had to always be boiled to a mushy consistency for it to be of any interest.  While I have great admiration for people who can sit around and nonchalantly snack on raw stalks of celery, I’ve accepted that celery is just never going to make it into my easy, healthy, pack-it-on-the-go munchies rotation.  (Which is too bad since “ants on a log” always seemed so delicious in concept.)

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However, I found that celery, when finely diced, is extraordinary in this recipe where it acts as the perfect complement to the soft texture of the rice, and a nice companion to the crushed pecans.

It also just looked beautiful in the dish, with the varied colors from the black rice, the green celery and the toasted pecans.  We will definitely be reaching for this for our next dinner party!

Ingredients

2 cups of wild rice
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock, unsalted
3 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 cup of crushed pecans
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the wild rice according to directions on the package, substituting the water with the stock. Generally rinse the rice, and then bring the rice and chicken stock to a boil in a pot. Once boiling, set the cover on the pot, and bring it down to a simmer, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Take the lid off the pot and fluff the rice with a fork.

Put the crushed pecans and set the pan over medium heat; cook until the pecans look lightly burnt (you’ll smell that burnt toast smell and that’s when you turn the stove off.)

In a large bowl, mix together the rice, the crushed pecans, and the celery.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from Twenty Dinners.

Turkish Style Paella with Mussels

I love making a good paella in the large paella pan while watching it simmer for hours.

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But sometimes I just don’t have that many hours, and I was looking for a new way to have dinner with mussels when I came across this recipe.

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Not only was it extremely simple, but the mixture of sweetness from the dried cranberries with the mussels and the mint made for an eclectic and refreshing tasting dinner.

Ingredients

1 lb mussels
Grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small white onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili pepper
Good pinch of ground turmeric
1 cup dry white wine
4.5 cups seafoods, chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups long grain rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins if you can’t get cranberries)
salt
Grated lemon zest and juice of lemon
1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves roughly chopped

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion and garlic and sweat until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the chile and turmeric.  Reduce heat to low and let the ingredients cook together for about 20 minutes.

Pour in the wine to deglaze, making sure to loosen up any ingredients that stuck to the bottom.  Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer, cooking until the wine has been reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add your stock, return to a boil, and stir in your rice.  Turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.

Next, add your mussels.  Cover the pot again and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until the mussels have fully opened.

Take the pot off the stove, stir in the currants and add salt or lemon zest if needed to taste.  Just before serving add the lemon juice and mint.

Adapted from Chris Taylor’s Twenty Dinners.

Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai

I have always loved veggies and legumes and after I have had a few meat-heavy meals, it feels good to make something that is vegetarian or vegan. This recipe would be vegan if you were to leave out the fish sauce.

Whenever I am making something for the first time, I try to look at several versions of the recipe by different authors and then I take aspects that I like from several of them. The original recipe that caught my eye appeared at Food 52, a website that I go to several times a day. But like Frances, I also enjoy reading Mark Bittman, so some of this recipe comes from him, with the rest from me. I did read a few other recipes for Pad Thai but these were the two that made me want to try it on my own. See what you think.

PS: Leftovers made for a GREAT lunch!

Almost Vegan Pad Thai adapted from Gena Hamshaw and Mark Bittman

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces pad thai rice noodles

For the sauce

6 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

1 Tablespoons tamarind paste (You will use this up in Indian food so don’t worry about what you will do with the rest)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1.5 Tablespoons sriracha or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup tap water

1 Tablespoon peanut oil

For the stir-fry

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 14-16 ounce block of extra firm tofu that has been pressed for at least 30 minutes (see note below)

1 Tablespoon grated ginger

2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks

4-6 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into one-inch pieces

1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4-5 cups) OR equal amount of snow pea pods

8 ounce package mung bean sprouts

For garnish

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Lime wedges

Directions

  1. In order for the tofu to have some “bite” I like to press it under bricks (books or heavy cans will work too) for at least 30 minutes and as much as an hour. This gets all of the excess liquid out and compacts the tofu. I often do this and then marinate and bake the tofu, but that is for another day.  You can even do this a day or two ahead and refrigerate it until ready to use.pressing tofu
  2. Prepare the sauce by whisking all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package. If made ahead, drain them and stir in a healthy teaspoon of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking too much. Do not over cook these or they will be like eating mush.
  4. In a large pan or wok, heat the peanut oil and stir in the garlic and ginger. After about 1 minute, add the carrots and scallions. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Now add the Napa cabbage or snow pea pods and the tofu and about 1 cup of the sauce.
  5. Stir-fry for 2 minutes and then add the rice noodles. Add more sauce until you have it the way you like it. Some people – like my husband – like LOTS of sauce. After about 2 minutes, add the mung bean sprouts. Stir-fry, moving everything constantly and gently so as not to break up the tofu or noodles, until warmed through.
  6. When warmed through, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro.

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey

short ribs with polenta

Today is one of those dismal grey days, where it can’t quite decide if it will rain or just spit at you! The temperature has begun to drop and this makes me want soups and stews – those deep, rich blends that get better when made ahead and that will last me throughout the week. Today I’m trying a recipe from the Food 52 blog that Frances introduced me to. Of course, I have to put my own spin on it, so here is my version. The whole house will just smell wonderful. It calls for buckwheat honey and you really shouldn’t substitute that. Buckwheat honey has a very rich, earthy, distinctive flavor that will perfectly compliment the brown ale and stone ground mustard. If you can’t find it in your store, then you can always get it online where I get so many things – Amazon. I also use it when I am baking my vegan challah. It lends a richness and color to the challah that would otherwise be missing because I am not using eggs.

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey – adapted from Merrill Stubbs

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil

5 pounds of meaty shorty ribs (ask your butcher to cut eat rib into 2 pieces, with some pieces on the bone and some not)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 very large onion, chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced

3 generous Tablespoons stone-ground mustard

1/3 cup buckwheat honey

18 ounces good quality brown ale (I just went to my local liquor store and chose a bottle that had notes that sounded good to me and was within my budget)

1 bay leaf (fresh if possible, but dried is fine)

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick

1 very large or 2 smaller parsnips, peeled and sliced into rounds or half moons depending on the circumference

2-3 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the oil in a 7 quart heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the ribs generously with the salt and pepper and brown them on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan or the pieces won’t brown properly. I did this in three batches, placing the finished pieces on a platter.
  2. After you have removed the short ribs from the Dutch oven, see how much fat is left in the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about any brown bits – they will be dealt with, I promise! My ribs actually had very little fat, so I didn’t need to pour any off. You want to end up with 2-3 Tablespoons of fat/oil in the Dutch oven. Then add the onoin and garlic and stir until softened and it begins to carmelize. Use a wooden spoon and scrape up the brown bits as you go. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mustard, honey, brown ale and bay leaf. Return the meat to the pan and make sure that the sauce coats the meat.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cover the pan tightly. Place in the oven for 1.5 hours. Then add in the carrots and parsnip and cook for another hour.
  5. If you want a thicker sauce, you can remove the ribs and veggies with a slotted spoon. Skim as much fat as possible (If you make this ahead and can refrigerate it, skimming the fat becomes a cinch. If not, it’s still not that hard.) Reduce the sauce by simmering it until it reduces to the desired thickness. Adjust any seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if you like. Add the meat and veggies back and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve it with mashed potatoes, noodles or polenta and garnish with some chopped parsley. A green salad and an apple tart and this is a dish fit for friends and family.