15 December 2008

My First Brisket

*This was so tasty that I reheated it the next day with a few tsp of italian herbs and served it over pasta. The picture to the right is my yummy leftovers!

This weekend we hosted our 2nd Hanukkah with my mother-in-law, her husband, my brother-in-law and of course, the rest of my little immediate family (husband + sweet baby). It was a relatively last minute decision to host it here, so I didn't plan a large menu weeks in advance the way I might normally do for such a celebration. My mother-in-law and I quickly agreed on a simple menu that made it easy for both of us to contribute. Obvious by the title of this post, my charge was the traditional Hanukkah brisket.
After a quick internet search I vetoed a number of sweeter roasts (many of which included dried fruit) and settled on this very basic recipe from Martha Stewart (with a few of my own modifications), mostly because I had most of the ingredients on hand and I knew it would be relatively inexpensive. Not to mention the fact that it was the perfect "make-ahead" meal. I cooked it on Saturday evening and then pureed the sauce, sliced the meat and heated it through on Sunday just before dinner.
This recipe is about as simple as they come. Season and brown the meat, caramelize the onions and garlic, add the rest of the holy trinity, pour in a generous amount of decent red wine, throw in a bay leaf, dump in a can of tomatoes, add the meat back to the pot and cook for a long, long time. Then you simply puree the sauce, slice the meat and serve. The result is a fork tender, melt-in-your-mouth dish that belies the humble beginnings of this tough cut of meat. It is accompanied by a rich sauce with an incredible depth of flavor that BEGS to be poured over latkes, bread or anything else that might soak it up.

  • 1 brisket of beef (about 4 pounds), top flap removed and fat trimmed
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 5 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery, including leaves
  • One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juice (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim any remaining excess fat from brisket. Season both sides of brisket well with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add brisket, and brown very well, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add remaining tablespoon olive oil, onions, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until quite brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add red wine, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cook about 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes and bay leaf and stir well to combine.
  4. Return brisket to the pot, spooning some liquid and vegetables over it. Cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until very tender, about 3 hours, carefully turning meat after 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Let cool slightly, and remove brisket, being careful not to shred it. Puree sauce with stick blender (or in food processor). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. If preparing the day before, return brisket to pot, with sauce, and refrigerate. If serving right away, slice meat across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and place in sauce. Keep warm over low heat until serving time.
  6. If refrigerated overnight, remove brisket from refrigerator, and slice across the grain. Add sliced meat to sauce, and reheat over medium-low heat untill warmed through, about 30 minutes.

08 December 2008

Spiced Winter Squash Soup

The original recipe for this warming winter soup from a delicious one made in the small, inviting kitchen of my Aunt Lis. She needed something to stave off a hungry lunch crowd while preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 22 (!!!). Enter a super easy squash soup that could be made ahead and kept warm in a crock pot, which freed up precious stove and counter space for the bigger feast that was to come.
A week later, I was looking for the perfect vegetarian soup to serve next to my favorite black bean and kielbasa soup at my sweet baby's 1st birthday party. A few cloves of roasted garlic and a dash of garam masala later I had the perfect recipe for a warm vegetarian soup on a cold December day.
Serve in deep bowls with warm, crusty bread spread with roasted garlic and butter.

  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium acorn squashes, halved
  • 2 medium-large butternut squashes, halved
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced (white/light green parts only)
  • 5 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place flesh side down on oiled baking sheet.
3) Place garlic on a small sheet of foil, cover with olive oil and wrap tightly.
4) Roast squash and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until squash is tender throughout and garlic is golden brown and fragrant.
5) In a deep sided pot, saute leeks in butter until translucent. Stir in water or stock, squash and garlic. Puree soup directly in the pot using a stick blender or blend in batches in a food processor/blender. Return soup to pot, stir in garam masala, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Add more water/stock if necessary. Simmer over low heat until heated through and thick. Just before serving, stir in cream.

30 July 2008

Lentil & Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables

So, as you can see by the title, this dish doesn't really scream SUMMERTIME! Not only do you actually have to turn the oven ON but you also have to preheat said oven to a seriously roasting temp of 400 degrees. However, my dear (vegetarian) friend just had a beautiful, sweet baby and specifically requested this dish when I offered to bring dinner...and who am I to tell a post-partum babymama 'No'?

I first made this salad for a cooking club a couple of years ago because I was dying for a reason to try farro, a grain I'd only recently discovered at the time. As it turned out, the farro, as tasty as it was, ended up as that afterthought (aftertaste?) to the deliciousness of the earthy vegetables, creamy lentils and zippy vinaigrette.
Unfortunately I didn't write down the recipe after I created the dish 2 years ago so this time I had to rely on taste memory.
Thankfully, it turned out well, even with a last minute, random raddichio addition. And my dear (vegetarian) friend swooned over it, which is the ultimate reward.

Lentil and Farro Salad w/ Roasted Veggies

1 cup french lentils
1 cup farro* (or barley, or hard red winter wheat)
5 carrots, peeled and quartered
15-20 cremini mushrooms, halved, stems removed,
2-3 T olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 medium leeks, halved and thinly sliced
3 T parsley, minced
1/2 medium head raddichio, chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice from half of a lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup plus 1 T olive oil
1 T minced fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Toss peeled, quartered carrots and halved cremini mushrooms (15 or so?) with olive oil, S&P
2) Roast at 400 degrees until soft and slightly browned (the mushies will take less time than the carrots).
3) Let veggies cool and dice into small cubes.
4) While the veggies are roasting, cook 1 cup french lentils for about 15 minutes or until just tender. Strain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking.
5) Cook 1 cup farro as you would rice but do not over cook. It should still have a little bite to it. Rinse under cool water.
6) Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard, 1 T thyme and olive oil. Season with S&P.
10) Combine the roasted veggies, grains, lentils, parsley, leeks and radicchio. Toss mixture with enough of the dressing to coat everything. Let sit at room temp for about 20 min. Stir again to see if you need to add more dressing. Add more if necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate, stirring frequently and adding more dressing as needed.
Stir before serving. (I also think this salad is best when it's brought to room temperature before serving, but this is optional.)

*I just made this recipe again for a different new-mama-friend of mine and used a combination of barley and hard red winter wheat. It was so deliciously nutty that I almost liked it better than with just the farro!

23 July 2008


Now that my sweet monkey-girl is nearly 8 months old (GASP!!!) she is enjoying all of the wonderfulness that is SOLID FOOD. Determined to raise a child who appreciates at least some of the virtues of veggies we started with two very verde "first foods" (after introducing the usual suspects of baby cereal, sweet potato and banana), PEAS and AVOCADO. What could be more nutritious than one of nature's perfect foods, avocado, which is CHOCK FULL of things like folic acid, phytonutrients, lutein, beta-carotene, and the nutritional superstars essential fatty acids (GOOOOO OMEGAS!!!)....all mashed up and mixed with mild, also green, pureed sweet peas?

Best of all, if you have already made the frozen puree o' peas it's MUY easy. Not to mention the fact that it feels so squishy and squeezy between teeny fingers!

2 cubes pureed peas, thawed (See Note!)
1/4 avocado

Stir/mash/smoosh the thawed peas with the avocado and serve! Easy Peas-y!

Note: To make pureed pea cubes I just steam a bag of frozen organic peas with a little water and puree the heck out of them with my stick blender. Divide puree evenly into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out and store them, in the freezer, in a labeled zip-loc bag.

07 May 2008

Grilled Radiccio w/Walnuts and Gorgonzola

Flipping through the venerable Alice Water's "The Art of Simple Food" I saw dozens of beautiful recipes full of what promised to be vibrant, full, layered flavors. But rather than choose something large and complicated, I decided to go with a simple side. I would have begun with something bigger, say, a main dish or a souffle, but isn't this supposed to be "Simple"?

Ms. Waters "recipe," if you can call it such, forgoes the usual List of Ingredients followed by a paragraph of Instructions. Instead, she glazes over the general technique and leaves plenty of room for modifications. Essentially, you cut a head of radicchio into quarters or sixths, depending on the size, tossed the wedges with a little olive oil and S&P and grill them over a med-hot fire until "wilted and tender throughout," which *should* take about 10 minutes. Then you toss the wedges with a little bit of your favorite homemade vinaigrette and serve.

As you can see by the title, I took a few liberties with this recipe in the hopes that my formerly and sometimes currently picky husband might actually eat it. I added the Gorgonzola and walnuts hoping to 'disguise' the purple leaves. For the vinaigrette, I chose red wine vinegar, which has a bit of sweetness to counteract Radicchio's bitterness. Furthermore, you should know that our fancy-schmancy $99.99 grill has two heat settings, "screamin' hot" and off, so the total cooking time was cut in half.

The verdict? Delicious. Hands down, this is the most. incredible. way. to eat Radicchio. The pungent, bitter flavor of the raw leaves melted away on the grill, leaving only a deep, caramelized nuttiness that paired beautifully with the walnuts and creamy Gorgonzola. Even my husband raved about it. As he says, "Everything tastes better with cheese and nuts." And there you have it.

*Grilled Radicchio with Toasted Walnuts and Gorgonzola
Serves 2-4

1 head of organic Radicchio
3 T olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 T organic walnuts, broken into pieces
2-3 T crumbled Gorgonzola
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Toast the walnut pieces in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and slightly golden. Set aside to cool.
Trim base of Radicchio and cut into 4 wedges (for a smaller head) or 6 wedges (for a medium-large head).
Toss wedges with 1 T olive oil and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a separate small bowl, whisk remaining olive oil with vinegar. Season to taste with S&P.
Grill wedges over medium-high heat (or screamin' hot) until core is tender and leaves are darkened, 5-10 minutes, turning as necessary.

Transfer Radicchio to platter, top with a sprinkling of walnuts and Gorgonzola and drizzle with red wine vinaigrette.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I served this with plain, old hamburgers, baked organic french fries and grilled asparagus.

25 February 2008

Minestrone with Italian Sausage

I made this soup for a friend who had just had her second baby. She asked for a healthy alternative to the usual "pasta bake/enchilada" meals normally brought to new mothers.

Yield: 8-10 servings

2 T olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 med. leek, thinly sliced
1 cup diced carrot
3/4 cup diced celery
2 cups diced zucchini
1 med. fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or water)
2 15 oz. cans navy beans (or sub 1 can of chickpeas for 1 can of navy beans)
1 cup packed, chopped kale
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 links Italian sausage (I used Italian chicken sausage)
1/2 cup dry red wine.
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Chiffonade of fresh basil

Heat 1 T oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until translucent. Add celery, carrots,
zucchini and fennel. Saute 5-6 minutes more to soften vegetables.
Stir in garlic; saute 1-2 min. more. Add stock and next 7 ingredients
beans (through red pepper flakes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat
to a low simmer.
In a separate saute pan, heat remaining oil over high heat. Brown
sausages well on all sides. Carefully remove sausages and thinly
slice. (Return slices to pan to finish cooking, if necessary.) When
sausage is cooked through, remove from pan and add to soup pot, reserving
accumulated juices in saute pan. Return pan to medium-high heat and
deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom.
Simmer 1 minute to reduce wine and accumulated juices. Stir mixture
into the stockpot.

Bring soup back to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer on low for at least one hour. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmeson and a little fresh basil.