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Archive for November, 2009

I’m salivating thinking back on this meal (which was admittedly only a few hours ago). Well, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Tender chunks of beef, slow-braised in a dark beer broth with lots of caramelized onions, shallots, and plenty of herbs. All that, plus tangy mustard and a whiff of wintery spice make this an easy dish to fall in love with.

If you like pot roast, boeuf bourguignon, or beef goulash, you will adore carbonnade. Don’t get me started on how good your house will smell while this simmers on the stove. Sit back and enjoy a glass of Belgian beer while you wait. Salut!

-1 lb. stewing beef, such as chuck roast (avoid pre-packaged stew meat, which tends to be gristly)
-1 Tbsp. flour
-1/2 lb. shallots, peeled and halved (about 5 med.)
-2 small onions, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil, as needed
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 c. vegetable or beef broth
-1/2 pint (300ml) dark Belgian beer, such as Chimay Blue
-1 Tbsp. brown sugar
-3 bay leaves
-leaves of 4 fresh thyme sprigs
-handful of parsley, chopped
-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
-2 gingersnap cookies plus 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, or one piece Lebkuchen (German gingerbread)
-1 tsp. Dijon or spicy mustard
-salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim and slice the beef into 1-in. cubes. Pat dry with paper towels (to ensure your meat browns, not steams). Sprinkle with the flour, salt, and pepper, and toss well to coat.

2. Heat half the butter and a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a deep, thick bottomed pot on medium-high until bubbly.


3. Add half the meat to the pot and allow one side to brown thoroughly.  Do not stir for several minutes until a dark crust forms.  Turn with tongs and brown the remaining sides.  Remove the seared meat to a bowl, leaving the oil behind.

4.  Add more olive oil (if needed) and the remaining beef to the pot. Brown and remove to the bowl.

5.  Add the remaining butter to the pan, reduce the heat, and add the shallots and onions.  Stir and shake regularly until softened, browned, and caramelized all over.  Take care not to burn.

Not there yet…

(more…)

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caviar dip

Sounds fancy, right?  But this dip is a cinch to put together and makes a nice hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or prosecco before a holiday dinner.  It plays off the classic combination of caviar and crème fraîche, swapping out the traditional blini base for root vegetable chips.  Salty, creamy, slightly decadent…what’s not to like?

caviar dip

Although there has been a lot of (justified) talk about saving money and scaling back expenses this holiday season, the tiny bit of caviar in this recipe is worth the splurge.  Not sure where to find it in stores? Look for little jars near the seafood section (often with the smoked fish).  Whole Paycheck…er…Whole Foods almost certainly carries it.

caviarWhat possessed the first person to eat caviar?

-3/4 c. crème fraîche
-1/2 c. sour cream
-4 tsp. caviar (I used generic German black caviar, but whatever suits your fancy/wallet), plus a little extra for garnish*
-1 small bunch chives (about 3 Tbsp. total when snipped)
-1 1/2 tsp. minced shallot
-1 tsp. minced red onion
-salt and pepper, to taste

To serve:  1 bag of root vegetable chips, such as Terra Chips, or kettle-cooked potato chips

1.  In a medium bowl, snip most of the chives, reserving a few for garnish. (more…)

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spinach dip

I’m excited to introduce a new guest blogger, Chris Ferrera, whom I’ve known since we were gangly teenagers wearing braces and carrying ugly purses (me, at least). We’ve been best buds since the time when a big night out was meeting at the mall to gossip over virgin piña coladas and spinach dip.  Ah…the days before calories counted.

It’s no surprise, then, that Chris’ signature appetizer today is a cheesy spinach artichoke dip.  This one is a classic.  Without further ado, here she is to explain how it’s done:

My name is Chris, and I’m married to a football addict.  My husband loves all sports, but football season holds a special place in his heart. Right around June, he starts talking incessantly about how he can’t wait for cooler weather, the pre-season games, and his fantasy leagues’ drafts.  (Yes, leagues, plural.)

I, on the other hand, am not the world’s biggest football fan, so the period of time between August and February every year has required some negotiation in our marriage.  To avoid spending Sundays in separate rooms, watching separate TVs, we needed to find some common ground—a way to make football (almost) as enjoyable for me as it is for him.

Turns out, that common ground is food, and more specifically what we like to call Football Food—basically anything cheesy, meaty, carby, or fried.  I love to eat and enjoy nothing more than a built-in excuse to indulge in delicious, savory snacks each week.  One of our favorite go-to football snacks is my mom’s Spinach Artichoke Dip.

There are countless spinach dip recipes out there, but I firmly maintain that this is the BEST, as long as you don’t have a problem with butter, cheese, and cream…

cheese sauceThe holy trinity

Spinach Artichoke Dip

-8 oz. heavy cream
-1 stick butter (4 oz.)
-2 Tbsp. flour
-4 oz. sour cream
-3/4 c. parmesan cheese (shredded)
-1/4 c. Monterey jack cheese (shredded), plus a bit more for sprinkling on top
-2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
-1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (more…)

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quinoa cake with mushroom ragout
The other night, while my husband made a delicious roast pork loin, I was in charge of cooking the side dish.  I followed the German instructions on my package of quinoa (which called for too much water and cooking time) and ended up with a soggy, risotto-like pot of mush. So much for stereotypes about exacting Germans, eh?  Anyway, we were left with about 3 cups of quinoa that I was determined not to waste.  Because its texture was so similar to risotto, I decided to try a riff on arancini (fried risotto balls) for lunch today.

We were both surprised by how delicious these quinoa cakes were.  Next time, I might even ruin my quinoa on purpose, just to have another excuse make this dish.  Give this recipe a try next time you’re craving something different with an Italian vibe.

quinoa cake batterhumble beginnings…

quinoa patty…a tasty end

Quinoa Cakes:

-2 1/2-3 cups cooked quinoa (preferably slightly overcooked in excess water, so the grains cling together)
-2 eggs
-1/2 c. grated parmesan
-2 1/2 Tbsp. flour
-pinch of red pepper flake
-1 tsp. fresh basil
-1/2 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp. dried oregano

-1/2 tsp. ea. salt and pepper
-approx. 2.5 c. panko or regular bread crumbs
-vegetable oil, for frying

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and oil.

2.   Put the panko in a wide bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3.  Heat a large skillet with 3 Tbsp. oil until very hot.  Heat your oven on its lowest setting and line a cookie sheet or pan with paper towels.

4.  Take a heaping tablespoon of quinoa mixture in the palm of one hand and shape into a flat round approx. 3/4 in. thick (the size of a small crabcake).  Gently coat in the crumb mixture and place in the hot oil.

5.  Repeat.  Fry, gently turning so that each side is golden brown. Add more oil as needed.  Remove cooked cakes to the heated oven to keep warm while the others cook.

6.  Top with mushroom ragout and serve immediately.
(more…)

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sexy nigella lawsonJust say yes.  (Image via The Sydney Morning Herald)

Nigella Lawson argues for thoughtful self-indulgence on NPR (audio track).

Per the domestic goddess: “If you can wallow in the pleasure of every single mouthful, then you’re doing something good…”

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fried polenta

It’s official:  all this cold, dark weather has put me on a comfort food kick.  If the forecast is to be trusted, sunset hits Berlin at about 4:30pm. Honestly, I haven’t seen the sun make an appearance on any recent afternoon.  It’s just been gray, gray, gray.  Then pitch dark.

autumn leaves

As close to a sunny day as you get in Berlin.

So how does a SAD girl beat the blues?  With vitamin D supplements, the occasional jog, and frequent carby, cheesy, meaty homecooked meals.  If I make it through winter without having to buy new jeans (or more Spanx), it will be strictly by the graces of my under-30 metabolism.

I was very pleased with myself for inventing the following recipe until a friend pointed out that it’s quite close to the Midwestern classic, tamale pie.  Whether you see this as Tex-Mex-Italian fusion or classic comfort food, see that it makes it onto your dinner table—stat!

chili polenta

cooking chili

Chili con Carne:

-1/2 lb. ground beef
-2 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp. tomato paste
-dash of sugar, preferably brown
-1/2 c. red wine (optional), beer, or water
-3/4 c. tomato juice
-1 tsp. beef bullion base (optional)
-1 regular can kidney beans, drained (14.5 oz.)
-1 regular can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
-2 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the ground beef on high heat in a medium pot, breaking up into small pieces and seasoning with half the chili powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Turn the heat down a bit and push the beef to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Fry the chopped onions in the remaining oil, sprinkling with a little sugar to aid browning.

3. Mix together the beef and onions and stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits into the sauce. Let the wine cook off.

4. Reduce the heat and pour in the tomato juice, bullion (if using), beans, diced tomatoes, cumin, cocoa, and remaining chili powder.

5. Simmer uncovered for 1-1.5 hrs. Add water or more tomato juice if it begins to look dry. Taste for seasoning, adjusting chili powder, sugar, salt, and pepper to your preference. (more…)

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