Saturday, July 3, 2010


Serve with pita, spicy olive oil, roasted tomatoes and homemade chips.


Ground beef
Flat-leaf parsley
Grated red onion


This is pretty simple. Mix ingredients in a bowl. Season as if you are preparing hamburgers, and then add a couple tablespoons of parsley, red onion, and maybe a tablespoon of chopped garlic.

Lightly shape meat around a skewer until it forms what looks like a hot dog. Don't press meat too hard or it will get tough. Now just grill over high heat until done to your likeness.


This type of hand-made pasta is denser than gnocchi, and not made from potato. The indentation made in each piece, as with gnocchi, ensures even cooking and makes them look like little ears.


1 C semolina flour
2 C unbleached flour
1/4 t salt
3/4 C lukewarm water


Combine the semolina, unbleached flour and salt, and mound it a bowl and pour in 3 - 4 Tbls. water. Mix until the flour has absorbed as much water as possible without becoming hard or dry - not at all sticky. Knead vigorously until the dough is smooth and elastic. This may take 20 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and cover.

To make the 'little ears', pull off a handful of the dough (keep the rest of the dough covered). On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut the rope into slices no more than 1/8 inch thick to form small circles of dough. Now put one of these circles into the cupped palm of your hand and, with the thumb of the other hand, press and turn the circle at the same time to form a dent in the center that will spread the dough a little on each side. It should look like a small ear, with slightly thicker ear lobes. Repeat with all of the remaining dough, placing the orecchiette on a lightly floured cloth as they are made.

The orecchiette are cooked in the same manner as fresh flour and egg pasta, although they take longer. Watch them carefully and taste frequently for doneness.


There's more to middle eastern bread than pita.


1 pkg yeast

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup warm milk

1 T sugar

1/2 T salt + 1 T olive oil

3 1/4 cup flour



Dissolve yeast in warm large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, oil and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto generously floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 50 minutes. Punch dough down to release the gas, gather again and let it rest for the second time till doubled. Let the dough rest for a couple of hours or even more... divide to 8 equal parts.

You have several options for shaping the dough. You can either shape the dough into large rings or smaller loaves (resembling hamburger buns). To form a ring roll each piece of dough into a long snake several inches wide and press the ends together firmly to create a circle or oval loaf with a whole in the center.

Beat egg and 2 teaspoons water with fork. Brush each ring with egg mixture and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Place loaves, sesame seed side up, on parchment paper. Cover loosely; let rise until double, about 30 - 1 hour. Cover with plastic to keep them moist.

Heat oven to 450F . When the oven is ready, lower the heat to 400F . Bake the Ka'yek for 20 to 25 mimutes or until golden brown and puffed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crisp Rosemary Flatbread

Easy. Really bad for you. Delicious. We saw this on the Blue Ridge Baker.

1 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit and place baking stone on middle rack.

Combine flour, rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Incorporate the water and olive oil. When the dough comes together, knead it 4 or 5 times. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces and roll them out one at a time. Roll out no more than 1/8". Place a piece of parchment on top of each round and gently lift up the parchment with the round attached. Fold the parchment back on itself with the dough. This step is necessary because the dough will be too thin to move to the parchment with your hands. Lightly brush top of each round with additional olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Slip the dough with the parchment onto the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Enchiladas Verdes

We've tweaked this recipe a few times, and we're still working on it. Its not hard to find good enchiladas in Chicago, considering the number of authentic Mexican restaurants. Still, we want to learn how to make them ourselves when we don't feel like going out. This recipe comes from (guess who?) Rick Bayless.

Enchiladas Verdes

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 fresh hot chiles, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 pounds (10-12 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into quarters
3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth
red onion or shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (rotisserie or grilled works nicely)
12 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons Mexican crema, sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco, or shredded melting cheese like chihuahua or Monterey Jack

Blend the garlic an chiles in a food processor. Add the tomatillos and cilantro, and process until smooth.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick tomato sauce, about 7 minutes. The more you cook down the base, the richer and sweeter the tomatillo sauce will be. Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Lay out the tortillas on a baking sheet and spray or brush lightly on both sides with oil, then stack them in twos. Slide the tortillas into the oven and bake just long enough to make them soft and pliable, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and stack them in a single pile; cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.

Stir the crema (or its replacement) into the sauce. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Spread about 1/2 a cup of the sauce in large baking dish. Dip each tortilla into the sauce, fill with chicken, roll up and place seam side down into the dish. Repeat, placing the tortillas neatly in the dish. Cover the tortillas with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with melting cheese (if you decide to use it). Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with queso fresco, scallions, and sliced red onions (or shallots).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Polenta is one of my absolute favorite things to eat, and in my opinion it appears way to infrequently on restaurant menus. Why is that? It is super easy to make and is a perfect side dish in the winter -- Try serving it with these braised beef short ribs! You can buy polenta in the bulk section at Whole Foods if you just want to buy one cup at a time.

4 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup yellow corn meal (coarse)
fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil water in medium sauce pan. Pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly until combined. Bring polenta mixture back to a boil then turn heat to low to keep polenta at a simmer (large bubbles will form).

Stir occasionally and cook about 60 minutes or until polenta tastes creamy. If it starts getting too thick to stir add a little more water in 1/3 c increments. I added 2/3 c to mine. Add salt and pepper to taste. After 20 minutes remove from the heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Since we're clearly on a health kick this winter--we recently made this incredible dessert to go with our Valentine's dinner of beef short ribs and polenta. This cake tastes kind of like a melted brownie, and is best served warm with ice cream.

molten chocolate cakeIngredients
1 stick unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.

Spoon the batter into the ramekins. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.

Run the tip of a butter knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Low Fat" Beef "Short Ribs"

This recipe is only relatively low in fat. And the meat is actually chuck steak, which is basically the same cut of beef as short ribs, but without the bone. Excluding the bone doesn't result in a regrettable loss of flavor, but does cut down on the fat. But don't fool yourself into thinking this is healthy. Try serving with polenta.

beef short ribs

3 1/2 lbs chuck steak, trimmed of fat (see figure below)
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
4 large carrots, peeled and cut crossswise into 2-inch pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin (a substitute for bone marrow, which helps thicken the sauce)

Remove excess fat from the meat. There should be plenty of fat marbled in already, so don't worry about losing flavor. Pat beef dry with a paper towel. Season beef with salt and pepper up to a day in advance.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add some of the beef without overcrowding the pan and cook, without turning, 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a bowl and continue browning beef in batches. Properly browning the meat is critical to obtaining a rich flavor.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, 12-15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add wine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until reduced by half, 8-10 minutes. Add broth , carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, a little over 2 hours. Remove carrots (they should be too soft at this point, but will have added some flavor to the sauce). Add new carrots if you like. Cook meat and carrots for another 20-30 minutes until carrots are a nice texture.

Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to a bowl and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Restaurants make short ribs a day in advance, refrigerate the sauce, and remove the fat the next day. Consider doing this, because there is really no way to get the fat to congeal quickly enough to spoon it off any time soon. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Baby Back Ribs

We've been meaning to add this post for a long time. Before I get the electric chair, I'm going to order baby back ribs with cornbread and mac n' cheese. Enough said. This recipe comes from Weber's Charcoal Grilling. We cut the proportions in half, but feel free to double it if you think you can eat 4 racks of ribs.

Baby Back Ribs
Barbequed ribs are initially seasoned with a dry rub, kept moist during cooking with a mop (no, not that mop), and finished off with barbeque sauce. Make the dry rub first and then prepare the mop and sauce as the ribs cook.

2 racks baby back ribs, 2 - 2.5 lbs each
4 chunks hickory wood (not chips), soaked in water for several hours

Dry Rub
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Barbeque Sauce
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup apple juice
1 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 table spoon barbeque sauce (from above)

Ingredients for Ribs

1. Mix the rub ingredients.

2. Remove the silverskin from the back of each rack of ribs. You'll need to loosen some of it with a very sharp knife and then pull it away from the meat with a paper towel while you hold the ribs down. This step is very time consuming if you don't know what you are doing (us included), so get a butcher to do it if you can.

3. Season the ribs with the rub, putting more on the meaty side. Do not press the spices into the meat.
ribs ready to grill

4. Prepare a two zone fire for low heat (with maybe 10-12 coals pushed to the side of the grill), between 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the coals cover no more than 1/3 of the surface of the grate. Place a large disposable drip pan on the empty side of the charcoal grate. Fill the pan about halfway with warm water.

5. Arrange the ribs on a rib rack, with all the ribs facing the same direction. Make sure the ribs are as far away from the coals as possible, with the bone sides facing towards the charcoal.

6. Drain 2 chunks of the hickory and place them on top of the charcoal. Close the lid and close the top vent about half way. Let the ribs cook and smoke for about an hour. During this time, maintain the temperature between 250 and 350 by opening and closing the vent.

adding hickory chunks

7. In a small saucepan, mix the barbeque sauce ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat, and then remove the saucepan from the heat.

8. After the first hour of cooking, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes and the remaining 2 hickory chunks (drained) to the fire. At the same time, lightly baste the ribs with some mop. Leaving the lid off for a few minutes while you baste the ribs will help the new briquettes to light. Close the lid and cook for another hour. During that time, maintain the temperature carefully.

9. After 2 hours of cooking, add 8 to 10 briquettes to the fire. Remove the ribs from the rack, spread them out on a clean work areas and baste them thoroughly with some of the mop. Put them back in the rib rack, again all facing the same direction but this time turned over so that the ends facing down earlier now face up. Also position an ribs that appear to be cooking faster than the others toward the back of the rib rack, farther from the charcoal. Let the ribs cook for a third hour. During that time, maintain the temperature.

10. After 3 hours of cooking, check to see if any rack is ready to come off the grill. They are done when the meat has shrunk back from most of the bones by 1/4 inch or more. When you lift a rack by picking up one end with tongs, the rack should bend in the middle and the meat should tear easily. If the meat does not tear easily, continue to cook the ribs. The total cooking time could be anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. Not all racks will cook in the same amount of time. Lightly brush the cooked ribs with some sauce and, if desired for crispiness, cook them over direct heat for a few minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bolognese Sauce

No joking around with this post. Bolognese is serious stuff. The dish originates in the northern Italian city of Bologna, also known as "the fat city." It is not just a meat sauce; the "true" ingredients are hotly debated. Thank God that the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina voted that an authentic rendition only contains beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, broth, red wine, and milk or cream. And the rules don't stop here. The width and thickness of the tagliatelle (fresh egg noodles) with which this sauce is traditionally served are noted by a golden noodle on a plaque in the Bologna city hall.

bolognese pasta

Below are the Ingredients and Instructions, mixed, as you will find them in Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food.

Ingredients and Instructions
Heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta (or bacon), diced fine
Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add:
1 small onion, diced fine
1 celery stalk, diced fine
1 carrot, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sage leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add and brown over medium-high heat, in two batches:
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
4 ounces pork shoulder, coarsely ground
Cook until the meat is a nice chestnut color. Once all the meat browned, pour in:
1 cup dry white wine
Reduce the wine by half, scraping the brown bits off the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the browned meat and the deglazing juices to the tender vegetables with:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Measure and stir together:
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1.5 cups milk
Pour enough of this liquid into the pot to bring it to the level of the meat and vegetables. Simmer gently until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. As the liquid reduces, keep topping it up with the rest of the broth and milk, and skimming the fat that rises to the surface. Near the end, add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream. This helps tie the sauce together. When the meat is tender, remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with more salt, if needed, add:
Fresh-ground black pepper

Chez Panisse Beef Stew

This is just one of many ways to make stew. And when you live in a frozen tundra, almost any variety is a winner. But the key to making exceptional stew is browning the meat properly and using good stock.

beef stew and polenta

Below are the Ingredients and Instructions, mixed, as you will find them in Alice Waters' The Art Of Simple Food.

Ingredients and Instructions (cut quantities in half if you don't want to eat this for a week)
Season generously, a day ahead if possible:
3 lbs beef chuck, cut into half inch cubes
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Heat, in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat:
2 tablespoons oil
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Cook until rendered and lightly brown but not crisp. Remove the bacon and add the meat, browning well on all sides, in as many batches as necessary. Put the browned meat into a heavy pot or braising dish. Pour off most of the fat, lower the heat, and add:
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
2 cloves (stick them into onion quarters)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 sprigs each of thyme, savory, and parsley
1 bay leaf
A few peppercorns
Cook until slightly browned and add to the beef in the pot. Return the pan to the stove and raise the heat. Pour in:
3 Tablespoons brandy (optional)
This may flame up, so be careful. Then add:
1.75 cups red wine
Cook until reduced by two thirds, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the beef and vegetables. Add:
3 diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 small head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 thin strip orange zest
2 cups beef stock (or chicken broth)

Check the level of the liquid; it should be at least three-quarters of the way up the cubes of beef. Add more if needed. Cover the pot tightly and cook at a bare simmer on the stovetop, or in a 325 degree fahrenheit oven, for 2 to 3 hours. Check the stew occasionally to be sure that it is not boiling and that there is enough liquid. When the meat is tender, turn off the heat, and let the stew settle for a few minutes. Skim off all the fat. Discard the bay leaf, cloves, and peppercorns. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Serve sprinkled with a mixture of:
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

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