March 16, 2015

Spirited Corned Beef!


St. Patricks Day, the favorite dish is corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. And while, it's not a traditional feast dish in Ireland, it is tender and delicious and about the easiest cut to cook, perfect for a crowd. The only trick is to cook it long enough on a low simmer with plenty of pickling spices and a bottle of beer -- a good stout (Guinness or a Harp Larger works well).  Once the beef is cooked, remove it and drain off most of the liquid, then remove the meat and glaze it with a little honey and mustard before serving it up. Add sliced potatoes and carrots in the pot to steam in the leftover cooking juices. Slice and serve the meat on top with lots of soda bread and plenty of beer.


Corned Beef Dinner
Serves about 8

2-1/2  pounds corned beef brisket
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon peppercorns
3 to 5 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 bottle beer
10 to 12 cloves garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 leek, white part only, sliced into coins
2 carrots sliced into coins
1 parsnip cut into coins

Put the brisket, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves bay leaves, mustard seeds, cardamom, beer and garlic cloves into a large pot and add enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 3 to 4 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Remove the meat and set on a baking dish. Rub the mustard and honey over the top of the meat. Bake in in a preheated 350 degree oven about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is nicely glazed.

Drain off all but about 10 inches of the cooking liquid from the pot. Add the cabbage, leak, carrots and parsnip and return to the heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes.

Slice the meat thin and serve on top of the vegetables.

February 23, 2015

Cuban Heat!

Cuban Black Bean Soup

Cuban Black Bean Soup
with Cumin and Lime

Serves 4

Just returned from Cuba, a pretty country, gracious people and fabulous food. On this tiny island, the Cubans grow nearly 90% of the fresh produce they enjoy in vibrant salads and robust dishes of beans and rice. Soon as I return to our sub-zero winter, I craved homey warmth.  

Fragrant with cumin and sparked with fresh lime juice and a splash of rum, this hearty soup makes a great dinner paired with a hunk of cornbread. Make a big batch, it tastes even better the next day and freezes beautifully.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin, or more to taste
2 tablespoons dark rum, optional
3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained
4 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Couple of dashes Tabasco or hot sauce, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
Minced cilantro for garnish

In a large deep skillet set over medium-high, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes then stir in the cumin and cook an additional minute.
Stir in the rum, beans, stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. Working in batches, puree about half of the beans in a blender and return to the pot. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and lime juice. Serve garnished with the cilantro.

January 9, 2015

Lighten Up!

Photo by Mette Nielsen
Birchwood Cafe Tofu Scramble

I've learned to love tofu, something I never thought I'd ever do. It's indistinct and neutral, but those very while those qualities can seem unappealing, they also make it a forgiving and flexible medium for bold, innovative flavors. Take this simple Tofu Scramble from the Birchwood Cafe. It's one of my favorites in the book I've been working on with Mette Nielsen, Tracy Singleton and Chef Marshall Paulsen. The key here is to marinate the tofu in coconut milk and spices for at least 8 hours. Then simply drain well, saute it with seasonal vegetables, toss in pickled radishes or onions for zip and drizzle with a flavored oil. It's great over rice, faro, skinny noodles -- filling yet deliciously light. Isn't that what we want now? More light?


1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne

1 block firm tofu, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tablespoon rice bran oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 bunch kale, stemmed, trimmed and torn 
1/2 cup cubed marinated vegetables (beets, radishes, Brussels sprouts)
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil or lemon oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add the tofu, cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. 

Drain tofu. In a small skillet heat the rice bran oil and saute the garlic, green onions and kale until the vegetables soften. Stir in the tofu and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve topped with the marinated vegetables and garnished with a little of the seasoned oil

December 8, 2014

ELF ON THE SHELF! - Real Holiday Spirits!

Holiday Spirits!
Photo by Mette Nielsen

The spirit of Christmas is, well, elusive. But real spirits are easy to find and to give. Those visions I waxed on about in last week's post, the walnuts and pomegranates, cards and the tree, remain just visions.  It sounded pretty good, right?

I've got a quicker fix for home made gifts. Holiday spirits, real spirits, some for me and some to share. Flavored Vodkas. Vanilla, citrus, rosemary, apricot, cranberry vodkas are easy to make, lovely to give.

Use good vodka, one that is clean tasting yet indistinct (not too expensive). Find great looking bottles and jars.  Do it now and it will be ready in a week or so.

It's not as messy as making cookies, quicker than putting up chutney. And, it is home made.

Here's how:

Vanilla Beans:  Split 4 to 6 vanilla beans down the center, put into tall container, fill with vodka. Give just as they are.

Rosemary:  Rinse 4 to 6 rosemary sprigs and put into a tall container, fill with vodka. Give just as they are. This vodka makes an awesome Bloody Mary!

Kumquats: Cut the kumquats in half, put enough in to fill the container 1/2 way. Fill with vodka. Before gifting, strain off the vodka, remove and discard the kumquats. Put a few sliced kumquats in the container and refill with the flavored vodka.

Cranberries:  Fill a container with cranberries. Add the vodka. Before gifting, strain off the vodka, remove and discard the cranberries. Put a few fresh cranberries into a container and refill with the flavored vodka.

Apricots:  Fill a container with dried apricots. Add the vodka. Before gifting, strain off the vodka and remove the apricots and place in a different container. Put a few new dried apricots into a container and refill with the flavored vodka. Put the vodka soaked apricots in another gift container (these are delicious sweetened with a little sugar and spooned over ice cream or cake.

December 3, 2014

Elf on the Kitchen Shelf

Cranberry Chutney
Photo by Mette Nielsen 

Making Christmas! ... Make it Fun

Christmas busts through the front door like a wild-eyed puppy. Hurry hurry! There are cookies to bake and cards to create and errands to run. We haul the fresh cut tree from the top of the car and string it helter-skelter with white lights, kid-crafted ornaments, and heirloom treasures. It stands, open-armed, like a diva, sending forth her resinous, riotous scent. We drag bundles of spruce, holly and mistletoe home from the farmers market, fill bowls with pomegranates and pecans in their shells. Crimson cranberries brighten breads and sauces, are tossed into salads and onto roasts.

Cranberries, heart-breakingly beautiful, are the last fruit of the season, a bright and bitter taste of celebration. One of the very few North American fruits, they come in from the bogs of Wisconsin, fresh cranberry capitol of the world. New Jersey and Massachusetts grow cranberries for processing into juice and jellies. (NYTimes got it so wrong.)

With a little sugar and a bit of love, cranberries make a tangy fresh salsa or chutney. These are pretty on the holiday table, and make wonderful gifts.

Fresh Cranberry Salsa
Makes 2 cups

This fresh, zesty sauce is great with chips, spooned onto roast turkey or pork, swirled into yogurt.

1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger, or more to taste
1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and grind until finely chopped. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Hot Sweet Cranberry Chutney
Makes about 8 cups

A brilliant red condiment for roasts and the cheese plate, this keeps several weeks in the refrigerator. If you plan to process it, follow the instructions on the canning jars.

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked through
4 cups chopped onions
4 cups chopped, cored apples
4 cups chopped, cored pears
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

In a large deep pot, combine the vinegar and cranberries and place over medium heat. Add the onions, apples and pears and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugars, a little at a time so that they dissolve.  Adjust the heat and simmer gently for until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. Stir in the ginger and apricots. Continue simmering until the mixture is thick enough to mound onto a spoon, an additional 20 minutes, adding a little water if it begins to stick on the bottom of the pan. Spoon into mason jars and allow to cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator.