Check out this fresh guy. The contents of this blanket burrito are none other than my latest nephew, Nate. My sister labored for more days than the length of my last vacation and finally, on Thursday afternoon we got this guy out into the world.
Sorry for no post last week. I was being a worrisome sister, stress eating Reese's cups and ruining a batch of ginger lemon muffins. They had so much potential but were sincerely, so disgusting it wasn't even worth a cautionary tale. I figured that this new bundle would be better to share.
Full recipe post to come.
Aunt Jess (6 times over)
Thursday, February 16, 2012
An actual thought process that I had today went something like this: “wait, what’s the difference between sheep and lambs anyways?” and then I mentally pictured that query on an iphone commercial for that siri thing. This train of thought proves two things: 1. The Rise of the Machines is upon us; and, 2. I have been watching too much TV, because I’m officially an idiot.
But ANYWAYS, I was thinking about sheep, lambs and the differences between them (spoiler alert: lambs are baby sheep) because I was thinking about shepherd’s pie and it occurred to me that shepard’s pie is kind of a messed up thing. They spend their entire career hearding and protecting the animals and then they eat them in a pie covered with mashed potatoes? And here I thought hedge fund managers were the most cold hearted career out there.
A while back I was having dinner at James Gate in Jamaica Plain and they had on their menu a “Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie.” It was surprisingly good, the filling mostly consisting of eggplant, tomatoes and loads of roasted garlic. This past Sunday I decided to take a crack at making my version of said dish, and it came out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. And we didn’t even have to kill anything, unless you count carrots, but really who does?
SLOW SIMMERED VEGETABLE PIE with POTATO PARSNIP MASH
One large onion, diced
One shallot, minced
One large carrot, peeled and diced
One bulb of fennel, peeled, cored and diced
One eggplant, peeled and diced
8 cloves garlic, divided, half minced, the other half peeled with cloves left whole
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 tbs. flour
1 large can or package diced tomatoes
½ - 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch crushed red pepper
Pinch sugar, to taste
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
Half and half
Grated cheese: parmesan, cheddar or a mix of the two (about 1 cup)
Heat a generous drizzle of oil and a small pat of butter in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot and carrot to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally until translucent and fragrant (a few minutes) add the fennel and cook the veggies until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, stir together, reducing the heat slightly if it’s too hot and let cook another 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste and flour to the pan, combining completely, stirring constantly; then add the diced eggplant and then the container of diced tomatoes with their juices and the veggie stock. Season the pot with plenty of kosher salt, lots of cracked pepper, oregano and red pepper. Taste. If necessary, add a pinch of sugar (whenever I cook with unseasoned tomatoes I find it needs it). Bring to a boil and let reduce a bit; for a few minutes. Reduce heat to low, nestle the whole garlic cloves in the mixture and let cook, covered and largely unattended for almost an hour.
Preheat your oven to 375. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot covered with water and set to boil. Let cook until tender when pricked with a fork or knife. Drain the water off and return to the pot, adding a generous pat of butter and a splash of half and half, along with salt and pepper. Mash potatoes and parsnips to your desired consistency, adding another splash of half and half if they are dry. Since the mash will go on top of the stewed vegetables, it is okay if your potatoes and parsnip lean towards the drier side.
Transfer the eggplant tomato mixture to a large baking dish and spoon the potatoes and parsnips on top. Sprinkle with grated cheese and set to bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the pie is bubbling and the cheeses have started to brown.
Serve with a big green salad, maybe some crusty bread and nothing else. This is a dish that eats like a meal. Perfect for a Sunday supper.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
I believe in salads. I really do. I actually kind of have to and I think we all should. I know that some people hate on them, but I truly think that people who “don’t like salads” haven’t had the right salad yet. If you’re going to embrace eating vegetables, you need to sex up your salads a bit. What I love about this particular salad is that it feels very hearty and seasonally appropriate and it’s filling to boot. The warm vegetables make the dressing pop and the soft sweet potatoes are complimented by the crunchy, salty parmesan laced throughout. It’s a winner.
WARM WINTER SALAD with PARMESAN CRISPS
and RED PEPPER JELLY VINAIGRETTE
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small to medium onion, peeled and sliced
Mixed greens and baby spinach
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 parts olive oil
1 part Balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 tbs. red pepper jelly
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss diced sweet potatoes with a drizzle of oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Set to roast in the oven for one hour, turning once at the halfway mark. About 40 minutes in, slice your onion and heat a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté onions for a few minutes and then lower the heat, cooking onions slowly until caramelized for the remainder of cook time on the potatoes.
The veggies can cook largely unattended, just be sure to give the onions a stir every few minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing and the crisps. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat pan liner. Grate parmesan into little piles directly on the pan and set aside. The crisps cook in the oven in just under five minutes. So, pop the cookie sheet in the oven at any point in time while the veggies are finishing. Check them; when the cheese is melted and they are golden colored and browned on the edges they’re done. Let cool for a minute or so and then simply lift the crisps right off the pan. These would also be delicious in Caesar salad or as a tiny, edible base for an appetizer.
To make the dressing combine the vinegar, red pepper jelly, mustard, a pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper in a bowl. Whisking continuously, drizzle a thin stream of olive oil into the mixture until emulsified. Alternately, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small jar, clamp the lid on and shake like the dickens then dump the finished dressing into the bottom of your salad bowl. Place the warm roasted potatoes and caramelized onions right into the dressing, top with greens and toss together thoroughly to coat. Plate the salad and top with two parmesan crisps. This makes two entrée sized or four starter sized salads.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
A whole meal of food. That’s what I’ve got in store for you today. Are you excited? There is also meat involved, which is a rare thing at Dickens HQ these days. See, we’ve decided to be “mostly vegetarian” which means we mostly eat vegetarian (and sometimes fish) most all of the time. It’s going swimmingly because we’re pretty committed, but we’re also not inflexible with it. Like if I come to your house and you’re serving meatballs, I’m not going to refuse the plate. They are after all, my spirit food.
Likewise, when this past Sunday came around and I volunteered to make dinner for my whole family in celebration of my dad’s birthday, I wasn’t going to make them quinoa and eggplant. My brother hasn’t laid a hand on me in decades, but I think if I tried to pull some bullsh!t like that he’d slap the taste out my mouth. Plus my dad, in addition to being a living legend and friends with dudes named Space, is at his core a man’s man and there’s one thing you make a special man’s man on their special day: BEEF. All capitals, that’s right.
A few years ago my friend Adam made me some braised short ribs for dinner. I don’t know that it was the first time I ever ate them, but it was the first time I remembered them. While I was drinking the juices out of the bowl, I had him run down his technique for me. It didn’t seem too complex. Mostly hands off, slow and low, whole bottle of wine, things I could get into. I took his blue print and cross referenced it against recipes by Tom Colicchio and the Pioneer Woman to come up with what I did here.
RED WINE BRAISED SHORT RIBS
with PARMESAN MASHED POTATOES and ROASTED BABY VEG
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs:
(serves 6, I doubled this to serve 12)
5 lbs. beef short ribs, cut in half into approx. 2” sections
3 tbs. vegetable oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 large or 3 small shallots, peeled and minced
3 tbs. all purpose flour
1 tbs. tomato paste
1 750mL bottle of dry red wine (Cabernet is perfect)
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Scant tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups lower sodium beef stock
Optional garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley
Generously salt and pepper short ribs on each side. Heat vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, or a large braising pan (with an oven-proof cover) over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the short ribs on all sides and set aside onto a plate or cookie sheet (takes about 8 minutes per batch). Add onion, carrot and shallots to the pan and sauté together until fragrant and the onions begin to brown (about 5 minutes). Add tomato paste and sprinkle flour into the pan, stirring constantly until well combined.
Return the ribs to the pan and pour in the whole bottle of wine. I used a Chilean Cabernet: Viu Manet. Nice and inexpensive but a totally decent Cab. with good flavor for cooking. Bring the pot up to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 25 minutes, until wine has reduced by half. At some point during this process, preheat your oven to 350.
Nestle the split head of garlic, the sprigs of thymes and oregano into the pot and then cover with beef stock. Clamp the lid on and transfer the whole pot into the preheated oven. Let bake at 350 for 2 ½ hours.
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
(serves 11, just barely, use less of everything for a smaller batch)
1 bag russet potatoes
Half and half
Grated parmesan cheese
Scrub, peel and chop potatoes. Place into a large pot and top with cold water. Place on a burner and bring to a boil. Let boil until potatoes are tender, then drain the water off and return the potatoes to a pot. Add 2 generous pats of butter, a splash of half and half, some salt, pepper and a handful of grated parmesan. Mash completely, taste test and add more butter, cheese, salt and pepper to taste. If the mashed potatoes are dry, splash in small increments of half and half until they reach your desired consistency.
Roasted Baby Veg.*
Optional: aged Balsamic vinegar
*I like to abbreviate the word vegetable to “veg” and when I do so I say it in a British accent. Paul was on a business trip in England once and this dude was talking about vegetable tempura in his distinct accent and kept saying “Battered Veg” in a very dramatic way. Paul shared the story with me and now it’s stuck itself inside my brain. I live like this on a daily basis.
Scrub the dirt off your baby carrots and run a peeler over them once just to clean them up a bit. Chop off the greens, leaving just a bit so that you still get that cute, Bugs Bunny effect on the carrots. Set aside. To peel the Cippolini onions: heat a pot of water to boil on the stove and while it’s warming cut a small X in the top of each onion (not the root end). Once the water’s boiling, toss the onions in, for just about thirty seconds and then take them out and give them a quick run under cold water. The peels will now just slide right off; trim off the root end and they are ready to roll.
Toss the prepared vegetables in a baking dish with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and if you’ve got some, a drizzle of aged balsamic. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.
If you’re cooking this meal all at once: roast your vegetables with the ribs, for the last hour or so of cooking. During the last half hour or cooking, make your mashed potatoes. When the ribs are ready, remove the pan from the oven and use a spoon to skim excess accumulated fat from the top of the pot. If you don’t like chunky gravy, you can set the ribs aside, filter the juices through a sieve and then cook the pan juices down a bit in a skillet, before then adding the short ribs. But I really don’t think you even need this extra step at all.
To serve: fill a large, shallow bowl or lidded plate with a scoop of mashed potatoes, top with a few short ribs and a big ladle full of the accumulated juices. Garnish with a touch of parsley and toss the veggies on the side. Bingo bango, birthday party.
Simplify and serve these short ribs with a green salad and lots of crusty bread for soaking up the juices. This meal seems like it’s a lot of work, but I can tell you, if you’re cooking for a normal amount of people (say 4, 6) it’s really no big deal. I was cooking for 11, so I made a double batch. It was a decent amount of work but I enjoyed it. These short ribs are soooo delicious and impressive and almost impossible to screw up. Perfect dinner party fare that can finish cooking with no effort by you while you entertain your guests and serve cocktails and appetizers.