CtBF lamb shank tagine

This is another braise, so popular in the French cookbooks we have used. Taking a tough cut of meat, adding wonderful flavors, and cooking it a long time – which is great because there is so little active time, and it mostly takes care of itself.

This time, lamb shanks. With a spice rub that needs to marinate for 8-24 hours. They then get browned before adding the aromatics to the mix. A nice pinch of saffron is added next.

Some broth, the lamb shanks added back, and then finally covered, the tagine is ready for the oven.

Over the course of several hours, shanks are turned, dried apricots and raisins are added.

I used my new covered pan, and I imagine it wasn’t a great seal. The sauce really reduced quite a bit. For my 2 shanks, I used the full amount of the other ingredients.

I served this with a couscous mix. It looked pretty!

It was not for us. Smelled good, but while we love lamb, have no bias against sweet and savory combinations, it just wasn’t going to happen. I actually had a pretty thorough fail for the day! I made an apricot tart with garden apricots that I’d frozen. A shocking waste! But. I tried.

As much as we enjoy lamb, I’d not made shanks before. I imagine next time I’d tend toward the white bean, garlic, white wine spectrum. But who knows. I see that others have loved this, so I imagine it’s a personal preference thing. It’s how we learn!!

CtBF – Belgian beef stew with beer and spice bread

This is a tale of two recipes. The first recipe is for pain d’epices, which is a honey-spice quick bread. And that is then sliced and slathered with mustard – and is put on top of the beef stew stew to thicken it.

But I digress, the first step is really to make the bread. It’s a simple honey-spice bread. The recipe talks about different honeys creating different flavors. I had a jar of very-flavorful Manuka honey, and used that, supplementing with a bit of mesquite blossom honey. The unusual piece about this bread is that the honey is heated with water, salt and brown sugar, then 1 cup of flour is added and the mixture cooled. Then the remainder of the ingredients (including a healthy amount of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) are combined and baked into a loaf. The recipe says it’s better over time. What I can tell you is that it was delicious when I made it, for sure. It did get a little dryer, but is a really nice tea bread on its own.

The stew itself is fairly straightforward. At least to begin with. The beef is browned – really to caramelize the surface. This is done in a few stages in a large pan. Once that’s done, the vegetables and quite a large amount (2 c!) of bacon are sautéed as well.

The pan then gets deglazed with water, scraping up the browned bits. And the amber ale added. The beef, along with the bacon and onions are added back. Adding thyme, bay leaves cloves and salt, this is all allowed to simmer for an hour or so.

Finally, the semi-crazy part (for my western sensibility). 4 slices of the spice bread are lightly coated with dijon mustard and then laid on top of the stew. Covered and allowed to simmer for another couple of hours (with a stir or two along the way), the stew gets thickened and flavored with all of the spices from the bread. (and of course, why would I take a photo of the most unusual part of the recipe?). The result is an aromatic and flavorful stew with a bit of an unusual flavor combination.


I served it with a mash of cauliflower and potatoes, some more Belgian lager and of course, some bread – both a crusty loaf and the spice bread.


I have to say, this was a popular dish. Different for sure, but warming and tasty. Everyone enjoyed the spices in the dish, and the texture of the meat and sauce appealed. With the somewhat lighter mash to go with, it really was a great combination.

I’m not certain that this will replace my “go-to daube” a la Dorie Greenspan, but it was very good, and I wouldn’t mind having it again. Thought the added step of the bread might make it tricky for someone with my lack of meal planning.

I know there are others that have made this dish and posted about it. You can find their links at Cook the Book Fridays!

CtBF|Steak with mustard butter and French fries

Oh my goodness! This was a perfect selection for this past week. Of course it was Valentine’s Day, and it was also my mom’s 85th birthday. So a little festive dinner party was in order.

I loved reading the description – I was in total agreement. Rib-eye. Check. Thinner cut so that a nice crust would form. Check. And then, adding a little chipotle powder to give a little smokey flavor. Yum!

The other twist to this is a mustard butter (au beurre de moutarde). I wasn’t sure about that part, but why not?

I seasoned the steaks with salt and the chipotle as instructed. I missed the parsley or cilantro which would have been good. The steaks sit with the seasoning in the refrigerator from 1-8 hours. That worked with making the mustard butter. The softened butter is combined with dry mustard (I used Coleman’s) and some dijon. When I first mixed it together and tasted it – that worried me. It was terrible. I’m not the biggest mustard fan, but thought that I should trust the recipe. So into the refrigerator it went.

Fast forward, and I browned the steaks in a hot, heavy skillet. I have found that this method does work to create a nice medium-rare steak, particularly if they are bone-in.


This produced a nice crust, and perfect temperature. The butter didn’t melt as much initially, since it really was chilled – next time I will take it out of the refrigerator earlier.

I didn’t make the frites. I had one of my guests go on a “run” to pick some up while I was finishing the steaks. They weren’t going to be the most important part as far as I was concerned. What was going to make a great side to this was Dorie Greenspan’s Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin. I’ve been wanting to make it again, it’s amazing! And perfect with the steak.


Paired with 2010 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect!


This was a terrific meal! The mustard butter really developed a fabulous flavor in the refrigerator – with a bite, but just a great counterpoint to the steak. The meal worked perfectly. I would absolutely make this again. It’s actually very easy and fast, for such a wonderful great result.

Since it was a special day – we did finish off with a cake. I don’t often make layer cakes anymore, but I really thought it would be fun. So a chocolate cake with a salted caramel frosting rounded out our evening’s festivities. Perfect!


To see what the other members of the Cook the Book Fridays had to say about this recipe, you can check them out here.




CCC – Cottage Cooking Club – August Recipes

100_3542This month’s recipes at the Cottage Cooking Club were perfect for summer. Plenty of tomatoes, and other summer produce. I stopped by my favorite farm stand, knowing that I had some interesting, great sounding recipes to make.

We have great corn here, which wasn’t really on this particular menu, but also a couple of kinds of eggplant, onions and a small spaghetti squash. Oh, and some fresh tortillas and tamales…

My first recipe this month is Caponata. I’ve seen this eggplant relish many times in books, but I’d never eaten it, let alone made it. I decided to use my favorite method for cooking eggplant, and actually roasted mine. Of course, I also kind of forgot about it, so it was a bit more done than planned, but I knew it would be combined with other ingredients and simmered for a bit, so I didn’t worry too much. The eggplant then gets combined with a number of savory and sweet components and is simmered so it can blend together. Onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, chocolate (!), raisins, capers and olives. What a combination! I did use the chocolate, despite wondering a bit about it – but I do make a braised short-rib dish that has chocolate too – so why not try it!?


I first served this for my book club where I also prepared a tomato and corn pie with a biscuit crust. It’s one of my indulgences in the summer to make it once – and this was perfect because I could share leftovers with my friends!


My next recipe was the Roasted tomato ketchup. This is really the tale of two recipes. To make the ketchup, you must make a roasted tomato sauce first. I liked the idea of this, because I was able to use what is now an antique food mill. It was my grandmother’s, and so that brought a bit of nostalgia to the project. To make the sauce, tomatoes are halved, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and strewn with fresh herbs. Then they are roasted to soften and enhance their flavor. Finally, sieved to remove the seeds and skins. 


100_3567In the book, it’s mentioned that this sauce can be used for many things. It doesn’t make all that much, but I was able to tuck away a bit for later in the freezer. If I had access to a lot of tomatoes, I think this would be a fabulous way to save their summery fresh flavor for later in the year. It produces a light sauce, but one that could find plenty of uses. 

For the actual Roasted tomato ketchup, the tomato sauce is cooked down with a combination of sugar, vinegar and a number of warm spices. This can sit on the stove on low for a long time, so it’s ideal for a busy day when you can swing by for a bit of a stir, but don’t really need to be actively involved.


I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to make this other than it sounded fun. I don’t tend to use a lot of ketchup, but this was really quite good, and a fun project to make, though after all of that effort, my half-recipe produced about 3/4 of a cup! But certainly something to make whatever its served with seem more special.

Next up, Tomato bruchetta. This is the perfect way to serve garden tomatoes, and I happened to have some freshly-picked cherry tomatoes, along with some fresh basil from the garden. The tomatoes get tossed with a bit of olive oil, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, and of course the basil. The toasts get rubbed with fresh garlic, and on some I added some melty Manchego cheese. I also decided I’d make some Caponata toasts to go with to round out the plate.



The tomatoes and olive oil create just enough juice to flavor the bread. This made for just a fabulous meal. Perfect!

Finally, I made the Asian-inspired coleslaw. I like coleslaws of any kind, but particularly ones with more Asian flavors. This is a recipe from the book that I had really wanted to try from my first look through. 

This is mainly a slicing and dicing kind of recipe, with a well-flavored dressing to go on top.


Well, here’s the truth, at the last minute, I had guests come over, and I completely forgot to take a picture of the salad plated! Oh well, there are more important things than photos I suppose. I thought this was good, but when I served it, decided it needed a bit more crunch – so I served this topped with some peanuts. I thought that the next time I might add some wasabi to the dressing as well, to give it a bit more punch. I think I even did throw in a bit of jalapeno, and some diced Persian cucumbers as well. This was a great starting point, and enjoyable as it was. 

I didn’t get around to making my last recipe I had planned on. Some other time. I suspect that one of the other club members did make it, so it will be fun to read what they thought. And for me? The surprise of the month was the Caponata. But the real favorite was the Tomato bruschetta. I wish I had some now. Maybe I can make it to the farm stand this weekend!

The Cottage Cooking Club is cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook River Cottage VegIf you’d like to see what others in our group created this month, you can check them out here







ffwd – green-as-spring veal stew

One of my very favorite things to do in cooking, is to use ingredients from the garden – stepping outside to pick what I need in the moment. In AZ, that mainly means herbs, so it was fun to be able to use what’s on hand for this recipe – at least in large part.

The recipe is really split into two methods and time periods. A slow braise with typical flavors of carrot, onion, thyme, bay leaf and garlic. Then a very-fresh sauce, made quickly to provide a fresh, spring-like component. The sauce is composed of fresh herbs and greens.

For the first half of this recipe, we prep our vegetables and beef for the braise. I ended up using a veal chop that I had in the freezer, since I didn’t want to make a whole recipe.


Dorie has us boiling the veal in plain water to remove impurities. I wanted to do this also, because I was using the bone, since I thought it would enrich the sauce. Wow, it was clearly an important step.


Once that’s accomplished and everything “cleaned up”, the veal and aromatics go into the pan for a long slow simmer.


At this point, the meat and broth can be refrigerated until just before serving. The carrots, onions, etc. are removed and discarded. They’ve done their part, and no longer have much of any flavor.

When nearly ready to serve, the veal is re-heated in the broth, then removed. The broth is reduced until it’s pretty syrupy. Then the herbs are all added. I used arugula, spinach and dill. And from the garden, parsley and Mexican tarragon (it has a very similar flavor, and very pretty yellow flowers).


This gets cooked just enough to wilt the greens, then the sauce is to be blended with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender. Probably because I had reduced the recipe so much, this didn’t work. It also didn’t work in the small blender container for the same tool. It ended up being chunky, rather than smooth. Finally, the dish gets finished with some fresh lemon juice, and a bit of crème fraîche, though I ended up using a bit of light sour cream (poor shopping on my part). The meat gets added back in, and it’s ready to serve.

100_3221I served this with a parsnip puree, and some green peas. They seemed like reasonable accompaniments. A glass of Primativo to round things out.

100_3217I read that others didn’t love the “green” of the sauce for this, but it wasn’t a problem for me. Where I live, green chile sauce is always welcome, and if you saw my post about spinach pesto – well, you can see that it’s not an issue. But this was not a huge hit. I worried about the tarragon flavor, since it’s really not a favorite. I think it made the sauce sweeter than I’d like, though the dill was pretty nice – and yet another flavor not as high on the list.

So was this bad? – no. I liked the technique too, and it was fun to make, but unlike others, this is probably not something I’d repeat. If you would like to see what others thought, you can find their links here.


Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto

This recipe just screams SPRING to me! With it’s fresh lemon and spinach flavors, it’s one of the things I love to make this time of year. And it couldn’t be more simple. I usually make a big batch of this because I use it for more than just pasta, but over vegetables, as a topping on a salad, a sauce for fish – I can even just eat it off of a spoon or a cracker! Also, even if I am using it for pasta, I use a lot more than I might if it were a regular basil pesto. After all, it’s vegetables!!


Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
3/4 c pine nuts (toasted or not)
1 T grated lemon zest – from about 2 small lemons
6 T lemon juice – from those same 2 lemons
1 c (+/-) olive oil
1 c fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 t salt, or to taste
fresh black pepper

The spinach, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice all get whirled together in the food processor to create a rough paste. With this amount, it will take some pulses, and you may want to scrape down the sides to make sure everything gets incorporated.


Once that’s accomplished, the olive oil is incorporated. To be honest, I just add it, and usually with a little less than called for. This gets processed into a smooth sauce, then seasoned with the salt and pepper, and finally, the Parmesan cheese is added.



And that’s it! This makes a lovely green sauce that has a bit more body than other types of pesto. I used mine with pasta initially. This recipe is about right for 1 lb. of pasta, assuming you’d like a pretty good amount of sauce with it.





This will keep for a few days, and any leftover pasta with sauce is delicious – either cold or re-heated. Served with another Spring vegetable favorite, artichokes, it makes a lovely meal.

Thanksgiving 2012

Each year I come up with a menu for Thanksgiving, and include a lot of the recipes, so that  we can share, anticipate and get excited about our upcoming holiday together. (there are 2 files of recipes linked). And it’s a way to share with our people who can’t make it to be with us.

This year, my inspiration was really that whole California Ranch kind of idea – so ingredients like nuts, fresh herbs, grapes and cheeses have to play a role. Of course, I also have to include traditional elements like turkey, cranberries, corn, squash and sweet potatoes of some variety. And this year, I wanted to have some familiar traditional favorites for my folks too – things that we grew up with. Finally, we are a family that has football on TV during the day. While we will likely have our dinner with fancy china, silver and crystal – it will most likely take place near half-time. An eclectic and varied feast day to be sure.

My folks grew up in southern California, my Dad a transplant from New Mexico. They always had some kind of garden/farm part of their lives, whether for their livelihood in my Dad’s case as a kid, or picking vegetables for the troops during WWII. My Mom’s parents always had either a garden or were part of a co-op (way, way before that became fashionable), so that was a part of their and our lives – even if it’s just a pot of basil struggling to grow, or my sister-in-law’s amazing garden that boggles my imagination. That was, and for some still is, the bounty of California. And while I’ve never actually lived there, it’s definitely imprinted itself on our family’s lives over the years.

So this year, we have a bit of a different menu. The dressing I grew up with, flavored with potatoes, walnuts, butter and herbs. But a more (outside of our family) “traditional” herb dressing – this time with fresh herbs that we will pick that morning from our garden will be included to satisfy those who prefer something else.

We’ll also have a turkey basted with butter and herbs on the grill. We always seem to need more, plus it’s fun for the boys to have something to keep track of, particularly when it is outside in our amazing weather (we hope!).

There are always other “must-haves”. My niece insists that she will never have a Thanksgiving without my Grandmothers rolls. My mother is now the master of that recipe. This time though, another niece suggested hiding notes from all of the family members telling what they are thankful for – it should spark some interesting conversation! And we’ll include some from those who won’t be literally at the table, thereby including them in our festivities. 

Of course there will be mashed potatoes… but I also always have to have some traditional staples from early celebrations – namely cranberries, turkey, corn, sweet potatoes and squash. I don’t usually have to have them in particular guises, as long as they are present. Some years, we’ll have cornbread stuffing or a corn bread, or, well, bread! This year we will have an amazing corn pudding. For squash, we’ll stick with traditional pumpkin pie, though in years past we’ve had a zucchini saute, a zucchini soup, roast acorn squash, or a pumpkin soup. I always love a nice cranberry sauce to go along with things (especially sandwiches after!), and this year, we’ll have a cranberry-pear chutney. I know there are people in the sauce/relish debate. I’m a sauce person. Just sayin’. In years past, sweet potatoes have probably been in the most varieties of recipes, flan, cheesecake, pies, whipped, roasted, topped with marshmallows… And of course we will have the 2 turkeys as well. Since you can’t really have anything Californian without green chiles, we’ll have to start the day with chile relleno casserole (I have to cover all of the bases, but I figure it’s OK as long as it’s within 24 hours).

We’ll have a few more old favorites, and a couple of new ideas. It should be fun and festive! So here’s this year’s menu for Thanksgiving 2012:

  • Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
  • Clam Dip
  • Olive and Green Onion Dip
  • Herbed Olives  (our French Fridays Recipe of the week)
  • Roast Turkey with Potato, Sage and Walnut Stuffing
  • Herb-basted Grilled Turkey
  • “Simple is Best” Dressing
  • Corn Pudding
  • Cranberry-Pear Chutney
  • Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green and White Beans
  • Arugula, Grape and Almond Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Grandma’s Dinner Rolls
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart
  • Pecan Pie

Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving. Filled with wonderful memories – and of course, some wonderful food too!