Short Rib Ragu

Short rib season seems to be coming to a close with asparagus, ramps, and morels making their presence known.

And its about time. 

This ragu is has an unctuous texture due to the immersion blender; it also has the right proportions of herbs to wine to vegetables.  No additional seasoning of salt & pepper required. 

When the gremolata hits the hot pasta and ragu, the aroma is out-of-this-world.  Hard to deny anything with lemon zest/parsley/garlic.

Short Rib Ragu
adapted from Food52
serves 1-2 (plus leftover ragu)

1-2 pounds bone-in short ribs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 anchovy filet, finely chopped (or use 1 tablespoon anchovy paste)
1 1/2 cups red wine (think Merlot or Cabernet)
14 ounces whole tomatoes and juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or substitute dried, but dial it down a bit)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
1 bay leaf
beef or chicken stock or water

gremolata, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using, soak dried mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water.

Season ribs well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large, heavy pot (I used a 5-qt. enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat until shimmering. Brown ribs in batches for 2-3 minutes per side, then set aside. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of accumulated fat from pot, then sauté onion, carrots and celery until soft. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.

Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and leave a "hot spot". Add tomato paste and anchovy paste to the hot spot and stir until caramelized, then stir into the vegetables. Add red wine to deglaze and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and (if using) mushrooms and soaking liquid.

Add ribs to pot and cover with stock or water until ribs are barely covered. Bring liquid to a boil, then cover tightly and braise in oven for at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until ribs are fall-apart tender. Check the ribs about 1 1/2 hours into the braise.

Remove ribs from liquid and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove bay leaf and discard. While ribs cool, purée the braising liquid with an immersion blender until thick. If needed, set pot over medium-low heat to reduce if the sauce seems thin. When ribs have cooled down, discard bones and large pieces of fat, shred the beef and return to the pot. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, skimming any large pools of fat from the surface.

Refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove additional fat from the surface before reheating. Serve over pasta, polenta, or risotto sprinkled with gremolata.

1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large lemon, zest only
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Easy!

Ricotta Cake

As this cake baked, my kitchen smelled like orange zest.  That's how I knew this would be a good cake. Especially with the addition of a dollop of orange marmalade.

The addition of an apple initially threw me for a loop, but it brings texture and an "extra touch of something" to the mix.

Ricotta Cake
slightly adapted from Food52
yield: one 9-inch cake

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup fresh ricotta
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 apple, peeled and grated (should yield about 1 cup)

Heat the oven to 400˚. Butter and flour a 9 inch spring form pan or tart pan with a removable base.  Use the wax paper from the butter to save a step.

Cream the butter and sugar using a hand mixer until light and fluffy, and on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time.

Slowly add the flour, salt, ricotta, orange zest, baking powder and apple.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the sides start to pull away from the pan.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on the rack. Serve with your favorite seasonal fruit.

Reminds me of Miss Pacman.

Salmon + Spaetzle + Charmoula

Ever have a craving for two entirely different things yet putting them together on the same plate just makes sense?

That is what happened when I found two separate recipes from two web sites that I wanted to make.  My spaetzle craving was long over due mainly a result of a memorable meal almost a year ago at a Portland, OR restaurant called Gruner.  This would be my second time to make spaetzle (first being in culinary school three point five years ago) and without a suitable colander I used a food mill.  The trick is getting enough batter into the mill for the spaetzle to drop into the water.

Part two of this meal includes salmon and a pesto-like sauce called charmoula (other spelling chermoula).  It's origins are a bit of a mystery, but the flavor profile is similar to harissa, a sauce from Tunisia.

Salmon & Charmoula
yield: 1 -2 servings
adapted from Serious Eats

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 salmon steaks or fillets, skin removed

In a small food processor combine cilantro, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Process to thoroughly mince garlic and herbs. Add spices and olive oil and process until thoroughly combined into a paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season salmon with salt and pepper, and spread half of the charmoula paste onto the fish. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400°F.

On a baking sheet, lay salmon on aluminum foil. Cover with remaining charmoula and add a small amount of wine or water before folding fish up into a pouch. Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, then uncover and continue roasting until fish is cooked through, another 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve with spaetzle.

yield: 1-2 servings
adapted from Gourmet Cookbook (2004) & Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup (2 ounces) milk (whole or 2%)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. 

Stir together the flour and salt in a medium size bowl.  Whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl, then whisk into flour until batter is smooth.

With a rubber spatula, press batter through a colander or pour batter through a food mill into simmering water.  Cook spaetzle until firm, about 2-3 minutes.  Use a strainer to remove spaetzle and shock in a bowl of cold water.  Once cooled, drain and toss with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Once butter is fully melted and beginning to turn golden, add the drained, cooled spaetzle and let it heat for a minute in the pan before starting to saute. 

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to cook it until each piece has toasty brown edges. Off the heat, toss with 1 tablespoon minced herbs (parsley, chives, and dill work well.) Eat immediately with the salmon.

Radish & Pecan Grain Salad

Salads like this one remind me of warm weather, picnics, and farmers markets.  While not exactly spring in New England, this plate of crunchy radishes, chewy grains and lentils, and tart dried fruits might just transport you.   

Radish and Pecan Grain Salad
Adapted from Food52
Yield six to eight

2 cups mixed grains/beans/rice (used barley, millet, and French green lentils, but farro, wild rice, and quinoa can also work)
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 pound pecans, slightly chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup mixed radishes (used watermelon and French breakfast) cut into thin slices, preferably using a mandoline (watch your fingers!)
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dried cranberries/raisins/cherries

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the grains/beans and cook until just tender, about 25 minutes. The barley went in first, followed by the lentils.  The millet was cooked separately due to it's shorter cooking time.

Drain the grains/beans into a colander, then set aside until warm to the touch.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Season with salt to taste.

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies

In the continuing journey to find a cookie that combines chocolate, fruit, and oats, this one takes the cake, err, cookie. 

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
yield: three dozen (using a 1" cookie scoop)

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1/2 cup dried fruit mix (raisins, cranberries, cherries)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate, dried fruits and pecans.

Either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet pan and then freeze the whole tray, bag the dough scoops, and freeze for future enjoyment.

If baking immediately, bake the cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  If baking from the freezer, add 2-4 minutes of additional baking time. 

Peanut Sauce

This sauce has layers of character.  The first few notes are roasted peanut and sesame oil, followed by garlic and chile.  The heat builds, and thankfully, it doesn't blow out your taste buds making you wish for a cold beverage to wash away the fire.  But I guess the chile measurements could be increased to taste.  Per David Lebovitz's writing, this sauce is also delicious as a french fry dip...will trust his recommendation.

Peanut Sauce
adapted from David Lebovitz
yield: one generous cup

1 cup dark roasted unsalted peanuts (toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes)
1/2 to 3/4 cup hot black tea (drink the leftovers)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 small chile, seeded and finely chopped (I used a jalapeno)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2-3/4 teaspoon chile paste or chile oil
1/3 cup packed cilantro sprigs
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

Put the peanuts, 1/4 cup hot tea, and the vegetable oil in a blender.

Let the blender run for a few minutes until the peanuts are almost smooth. Then add the remaining ingredients and let the blender run until the sauce is smooth.

Check the consistency. Add up to another 1/4 cup of tea if the sauce is too thick.

Serve the sauce with cooked Chinese noodles, shredded chicken, sliced cucumbers, and chopped cilantro.

The peanut sauce can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to two months.

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade

Citrus season is in full swing.  Take advantage of all the varieties of oranges and lemons piled up at markets & grocery stores.   This marmalade is composed of two of my favorites: a blood orange and a Meyer lemon.  Spread the marmalade on toast or serve with biscuits, especially these cream biscuits.  The recipe makes enough to fill two small jars, so keep one in the refrigerator and either give the other jar to a friend or store in the freezer. 

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade
taken from the New York Times
yield: 2 cups

3 medium Meyer lemons, ends trimmed
1 medium blood orange, ends trimmed
1 cup granulated sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)
1 cup Demerara (raw) sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)

Place a small plate or saucer in the freezer.

Wash the citrus well under warm water. Cut the lemons and orange in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1/8-inch segments, lengthwise. Cut out any exposed membrane and remove the seeds.

Measure the cut citrus; you should have 2 1/2 cups.  Place the citrus and the same volume of water into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the peels are very soft and fully cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the sugars to the pot, stir to combine. Turn the heat up to high and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and let the marmalade simmer until set. It should take about 20 to 30 minutes, but start checking after 15 minutes to see if it is set by spooning a little onto a chilled plate from the freezer. If it looks like jam and not runny syrup, it’s ready.

Allow marmalade to cool to room temperature before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within a month.

Beef Stock

This is a modified version of making traditional beef stock.  More like a cheater's version if you don't have the space, stock pot, or desire to clean an oven. 

Beef Stock
adapted from Food52
5 - 6 cups

2 pounds beef marrow bones
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the bones with cold water and pat dry. Place the bones in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Roast for about an hour. 

Remove bones from oven, rub with tomato paste, then roast another hour.

Place the bones, vegetables and herbs in the slow cookers/crock pot, with just enough water to cover. Turn pot to high for 45 to 60 minutes, then turn to low and leave it alone for the rest of the day (about 7 hours).

Strain stock through fine strainer, and let cool completely before placing it in the refrigerator overnight.  Placing the stock in an ice bath is also a good idea.

The next day remove and discard fat. Transfer stock to storage containers in various sizes and freeze until needed.

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup

The first time I made this soup was early January 2010 for a New Year's party.  I decided to make the full batch which serves four to six people and when ladled into small bowls, it can stretch for a gathering.  In this recipe, I scaled the ingredients down for a smaller batch.  San Marzano tomatoes are typically sold in 28 ounce cans - feel free to use a 14 ounce can of whole tomatoes (regardless of brand) or open the larger size and use the remaining tomatoes for another use.  I'm sure that won't be a tough challenge!

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup
adapted from the Amateur Gourmet
originally from Michael Symon's Live To Cook by Michael Symon

Serves 2 to 3

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small-ish red onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 14-oz can San Marzano tomatoes with the juice
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, or a little less depending on taste (don't buy it, make your own)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Blue cheese (Roth Kase is recommended; Maytag or Buttermilk are also good)

Heat the olive oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a large pinch of salt and sweat for two minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice and the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the cream, sriracha sauce, and thyme and simmer for 45 minutes.  Take care to not let the soup boil - heavy cream doesn't like it!

Add the blue cheese to the soup, and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  A regular blender could also be used and work in batches if necessary.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot, taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and reheat to serve.

The soup will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for a few days.

How to Cook Rice .. in the Oven

Raise your hand if you have ever under or over cooked rice?  This foolproof way of baking rice in the oven will put a stop to that.  The rice came out of the oven buttery and tender.   

Simple White Rice

serves 1 -2
adapted from the Educated Palate

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup rice
1 1/4 cup water
Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Put the butter in an ovenproof pot and melt over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add the water and season with salt.

When the water begins to bubble, cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired.