Russian Cabbage Soup

get-attachment-9Since it’s St. Valentine’s day eve, perhaps it’s time for a true confession: I’ve recently fallen madly in love.

It was on a quintessential autumn day in New York last year (strike up the Mel Torme, please) and we were dining with beloved friends just in from Afghanistan and London.  Needless to say, when you’ve been stationed in Kabul, what you’re really longing for, is some good, authentic NYC deli, and Russ & Daughters, that venerable lower East Side bastion of all things kosher,  didn’t disappoint.

Yes, the lox and whitefish were superb, the bagels nonpareil, but I was completely overcome by the Russian Cabbage soup.  Okay, it wasn’t much to look at admittedly, But there just was something about it.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I thought that perhaps it was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten.  It was lovely to see my friends and all, but, my goodness, this soup!  Crazy, I know, but I fell,  and I fell hard.

Needless to say, like most any one-night stand, I didn’t think too much about it when I came home.  However, like any of those fleeting love affairs, it leaves its mark and one is reminded unexpectedly of that special night.

So earlier this week, for no conscious reason, I found myself reaching for a head of cabbage in the grocery.  Home it came with no real plan on my part.  Later that evening, while we were eating the left over pot roast (you can find the pot roast recipe by searching in the recipe finder bar to the right of this page), my lost love came back to me.  I realized that the niggling feeling I’d been having for the last several days was that the pot roast reminded me of something: yes, that seemingly forgotten love, Russian Cabbage soup.

The next day, armed with my head of cabbage, and the final remaining portion of my pot roast, I hit the internet.  I couldn’t find it, though I read enough similar sounding things to embolden me.  I was sure I had it, and, joyously, I was right.

When I ladled it out to Jeff that evening, I sat on the edge of my chair and awaited his reaction. He gushed and tucked in, but I wasn’t satisfied, “Yes, but what does it remind you of?”  He looked at me blankly.  “Doesn’t it remind you of the Russian Cabbage soup from Russ & Daughters?  Didn’t I nail it?”  To my amazement, he responded, “What soup?  I don’t remember it.”  Which just goes to show you, love truly is in the eye, and dare I say, the mouth of the beholder.

So, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day it is my pleasure to present this superb recipe.  It is about to be the coldest weekend of the year, so why not tuck up next to the fire with your beloved and feast on this glorious, hearty red potage and warm the cockles of your heart.

If you don’t, (and in homage to  Casablanca, perhaps the best romantic film of all time, which you could happily watch while you eat )”you’ll regret it.  Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”

So Russian Cabbage soup, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” And have a very happy St. Valentine’s Day from ClareFare.

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Russian Cabbage Soup

Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped

1 head of cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin

1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

1 14-ounce can of tomato sauce

4 cups beef stock

Any leftover pot roast and gravy, chopped (optional)

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

salt and pepper to taste

 

Put the olive oil in a large pot, and over medium heat,  saute the onion, carrots and celery until they are soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.  In the meantime, in a skillet, brown the ground beef.  Remove the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon, and allow it to drain on paper towels.  Add the cabbage and beef to the soup pot and stir well to combine.   Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock and any leftover pot roast you are lucky enough to have.

Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and partially cover with a lid.  Allow it to simmer for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is extremely soft.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and allow to cook for about 10 minutes more.  You may serve it immediately, or refrigerate it and reheat it later.

 

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Brussels Sprouts

get-attachment-1I just realized that in all this time of blogging, I’ve neglected to discuss one of life’s greatest winter joys–Brussels sprouts.   Ridiculous really, because at this time of year, they’re never not in my larder, waiting for some opportunity to leap onto the plate–perhaps not as the main  star, but certainly gaining kudos as best supporting actor.

So quick and easy, so versatile. So delicious. As friend, Pooh, would say: “What’s not to like about Brussels sprouts? Nothin'”

The key for these  cruciferous veggies, is to be desperately careful to not over cook them, lest that horrid sulfurous smell and taste, that can happen if they’re overdone, be unleashed.  No, let your darling little green bulbs just be heated very quickly and very hot for the minimum possible time so that their outside layers get crunchy and brown, and their innards stay bright and vibrantly green.

This can be done either in a hot oven (450 degrees), by tossing them with a little olive oil, and loads of salt and pepper and popping them in and keeping your beady eye on them, to rescue them at the perfect point.

My preferred method, is on top of the stove, or at least, the one I seem to do most.  Here’s where the fun comes in.  You can pair them with pancetta and walnuts and  quickly saute them in a little walnut oil instead of olive oil.  You can do them with butter,  bacon, or you can sprinkle them at the end with pomegranate seeds for a very festive presentation at holiday time.  You can finish them with a little cream, or some Parmigiano-Reggiano, or toss in some creamy prepared chestnuts right at the end for a sumptuous, elegant performance.  The sky, is clearly the limit.

No matter which way, the key, to me, is preparing them for cooking.  I remove their stem ends and then slice each little globe into 4 or so cross sections.  I do this in advance of starting, because once the pan is on the heat, things are going to move very quickly.

Last night, I prepared them with bacon, pulled together just minutes before serving the scrumptious portobello mushroom pot roast and the cream cheese and sour cream mashed potatoes that was our Thursday night, cold-busting dinner.  No, they weren’t the most  elaborate thing on the menu.  However,  when I gluttonously went back for seconds, it was only for those irresistible Brussels sprouts.

get-attachment-2Quick Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4

3 slices thick sliced center-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound Brussels sprouts

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Prepare Brussels sprouts by removing stem end, and cutting each little globe into 3 or 4 cross sections.

In a large skillet, saute bacon on medium heat until fat is rendered and the bacon is crunchy and brown.  Don’t worry, the bacon bits will become more pliable with the moisture generated by the Brussels sprouts.  Toss in the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper, and stir quickly to combine well.  Put the lid on tightly for about 2 minutes.  The resulting steam will cook the  Brussels sprouts through.  Remove the lid and turn the heat to medium high.  Stirring constantly, continue cooking until the sprouts have some crunchy brown parts but are still vibrantly green.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

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Shakshuka

IMG_0387When Felix bounded out of the house to head back to Williamsburg earlier this week, it was not with a bang but a whimper.  To further torture T.S. Eliot, the whimper was entirely mine when I opened the refrigerator to figure out dinner, and realized my beloved, recently departed son had left it a veritable waste land.

Once my eyes grew accustomed to the bizarre appearance of open space in my hitherto jumbled, bursting fridge, I realized that surely there was something in there that I could scrounge together into something I’d actually like to eat.  The thing was, it was late, I was tired, it was cold, and I felt that Jeff and I could really use something  that seemed more like comfort food than gourmet repast.

At least some eggs were there, and some feta cheese was twinkling away for starters, oh and a jar of harissa…then an image burst into my brain.  I’d been looking at Yotam Ottolenghi’s great book “Jerusalem” the other day, for an unrelated issue.   The gorgeous cover sprung into my mind and I raced for the book.

As is so often the case, I’d left myself a little gift tucked just inside the cover.  There was a cutting from the New York Times with  Melissa Clark’s recipe, “Shakshuka with Feta.”  Ironically, when I really studied Ottolenghi’s recipe, I’m not convinced that the cover photo is of Shakshuka.   Nonetheless, the visual image was enough of a bread crumb to bring this lost girl out of the woods to very quickly assemble and make this wonderful, heart warming and soul satisfying dinner.

As is often the case, I read both recipes and  melded them together into something that worked for me. So, with thanks to Yotam and Melissa, I give you my Shakshuka.  All I made to accompany it was lots of toast which was the perfect thing to scoop up all of the delicious eggy, spicy, tomatoey goo, and a very plain green salad.

Though I’d never have predicted it just an hour earlier, dinner was not only saved, but was a raging success.  Come to think of it, maybe the day ended with a bang after all.

 

Clare’s Shakshuka

serves 2

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons harissa

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 1-inch chunks

4 extra large eggs

 

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper.  Cook gently until very soft about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until tender, about a minute. Stir in cumin, paprika and harissa and cook 1 minute.  Poor in tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in feta and stir gently to combine.  Gently crack the eggs over the tomatoes.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set, 7 to 9 minutes.  Keep track of them carefully because there’s just a brief moment when the whites are set while the yolks are still runny, and that’s the moment when you want to grab it out of the oven.

Serve with lots of crunchy toast.

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Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef

IMG_1150It promises to be a blustery cold weekend coming up and it occurs to me that, before we all delve willy nilly into holiday cooking, this might be the perfect time to make a brisket.

Now, I’d never really thought about brisket before I married Jeff in 1988. It hadn’t ever appeared in my coterie of Episcopalian go-to recipes, and I don’t think I’d ever even had it before my first Passover Seder where I was charmed and amazed by this disarmingly flavorful wonder.  How had this meltingly delicious, hearty braised masterpiece eluded me?

Needless to say, though I’m not usually a very observant wife to my lovely Jewish husband,  I have happily produced this brisket each springtime to rave reviews.

I started thinking about brisket again during the magical  “Fire, Flour & Fork” festival earlier this month, when I found myself standing under a wind-rippled tent on Broad Street, happily learning the fine points of central Texas-style barbeque from the masters Chris Fultz and Alex Graf of Richmond’s very own ZZQ.

Now their brisket is indeed, a thing of wonder. It also involves an enormous smoker and close to a day of their determined efforts.  Since it’s going to be a little while before I can again avail myself of their stupendous Q, I got to thinking about my dear old springtime treat and the sheer joy of that lovely cut of beef.

Upon consideration, I realized that it has all of the necessary elements for a  perfect cold- weather Sunday supper, whether you’re Episcopalian, Jewish or even of no religious persuasion at all.    Hence, I’ve decided to loudly proclaim:  Baby, brisket’s not just for Passover anymore.

This recipe comes from Nach Waxman, the founding partner of New York’s famed Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore which is located on Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 94th Streets.  Needless to say, the next time you’re in New York, you should drop by and see this amazing shop.  Before then, however, and to hold you till you get there, you should rustle up this superb brisket.

I found the recipe in The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.  I see from its tattered title page, that Jeff gave it to me for Christmas in 1989, which means, this is the brisket I’ve been lovingly making for 25 years now.  Nach serves his  with potato pancakes, fresh sauerkraut and green tomato pickles.  I serve mine with sour cream  mashed potatoes which I think is perhaps the perfect vehicle to catch the amazing jammy oniony gravy with which the brisket emerges,  happily bedecked,  from the oven.    Oh yes, and Brussels sprouts quickly sauteed with some pancetta are good here too.

However you accompany it, for goodness sake, make this brisket before Thanksgiving is upon us.  It’s easy and so incredibly delicious.  Plus you’ll be primed and ready to appreciate the joys of that inevitable new world bird, with a hearty Eastern European brisket under your belt.

 

 

Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef

serves 6

 

 

1 brisket of beef, 5 to 6 pounds

1 to 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup corn oil

8 onions, thickly sliced and separated into rings

1  6-ounce can of good quality tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 cloves garlic, quartered

A handful of peeled baby carrots

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Dust the brisket with the flour and sprinkle on the pepper.

Heat the oil in a large heavy  relatively shallow casserole, such as a Le Creuset.  Add the brisket, and brown on both sides over medium-high heat until some crisp spots appear on the surface.

Transfer the brisket to a dish and, keeping the heat on medium-high, add the onions to the casserole and stir, scraping up the brown bits.  Cook until the onions have softened and developed a handsome brown color, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the heat, and place the brisket, along with any juices that have accumulated, on top of the onions.  Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake.  Add the garlic and carrots, and cover tightly.  Place the casserole on the middle rack in the oven, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the casserole from the oven, and cut the meat into 1/8 to 1/4-inch-thick slices.  You can do this by removing it to a cutting board first, but I usually just carefully cut it right in the casserole dish.  Splay the slices so they’re at a bit of an angle so that you’ve effectively reassembled the brisket slightly slanted.

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Correct the seasoning it necessary, and if absolutely necessary, add 2 or 3 teaspoons of water to the casserole.

Cover and return the casserole to the oven.  Cook until the meat is brown and fork-tender, 1 3/4 to 2 hours longer.  Your house will smell amazing!

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

–Adapted from”The New Basics Cookbook” by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, New York)

 

 

 

 

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Apricot Compote

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I remember precisely the view when I opened my eyes that first morning.

My growing realization as the white plaster wall came into focus, that I’d finally found my way to my dream of the Greek island of Evia.   Stories of this magic place had enlivened my imagination since adolescence. I was expecting the exotic beauty, the beloved friends, the splendid joys of the island unfolding before me.

What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the overwhelming, sweet aroma wafting from the kitchen where a sublime treat was gently bubbling away in preparation for our first Greek breakfast.

Before too long, our party assembled on the porch, hankering after mugs of dark coffee and earthy yogurt brought up the hill from the village in large crockery bowls.  To my delight, one of our number had resumed her apparently normal island habit of rising early and starting a magnificent fruit compote to bake in the bowels of the ancient and enormous kitchen stove.  While the lazy slug-a-beds completed the luxury of a completely quiet, completely restful sleep, little did we know that alchemy was going on back there.  That a simple stone fruit, to which I’d previously never paid much attention, was being transformed into solid gold.

Fast forward to my own kitchen here in Richmond.  When I spotted the apricots in the grocery store the other day, it all came flooding back.  If I couldn’t be in Greece, then at least I could have myself a proper Greek breakfast, or at least magically transport myself there through the wonder of culinary tinkering.

To quote  Eric Cantor, our recently defeated  house majority leader, in his high school yearbook, ” I want what I want when I want it.”  so the slow cook method wasn’t going to fly.  Instead, I came up with this speedy recipe from Jean-George Vongerichten, which, with a little tweaking,  had me virtually bobbing and blobbing on the Aegean in no time.

So don’t just sail on by those dear little fresh apricots the next time you see them in the market.  Grab those unassuming orbs and make this, because, who knew?  You’ve heard of a golden parachute, but these little darlings are a golden passport.

IMG_0954Apricot Compote

makes 2 cups

1 pound firm, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 -3 tablespoons honey

Greek yogurt for serving

fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (optional)

 

Combine apricots, lime juice in a large skillet and drizzle the honey on top.  Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until apricots are glazed and syrupy, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and chill for up to 1 day.  Serve with yogurt and garnish with a tiny sprinkle of rosemary if desired.

–Adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger

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Clare’s Muesli

IMG_1114I’m extremely fond of breakfast but summertime presents its own challenges.  As an inveterate oatmeal eater during those grey times of the year, once the berries come in, I’m longing to give in and feast, but somehow, slathering them over a piping hot bowl of porridge just doesn’t cut it.

I was wrestling with that dilemma recently when I recalled my much ballyhooed summer of 1975.  I was young, I was impetuous and I was driving my parent’s completely bonkers in every way imaginable.

I was also, to their despair, living in a squat in London’s Belgravia.  Think “Upstairs,Downstairs”  generally and Eaton Square more specifically.  With a gang of boarding school pals, I was inhabiting the glamorous, though vacant home of Bernie Cornfelt, ne’er-do-well financier and sometime boyfriend of Victoria Principal.  Ole’ Bernie  had conveniently gone on the lam, leaving us to live it up in his digs.  That is, until we were supplanted later that fall, by a band of Hell’s Angels who were altogether bigger and badder than we were, even in our wildest dreams.  Alas, that, is, as they say, another story.

The thing is, during that wild summer of 1975, we had no electricity. Nor hot water, for that matter, which necessitated lots of visits to the Chelsea baths, just down the King’s Road, though that is another story too.  It was hilarious, to say the least, that while we were being written up in the London press as, “Gentlemen Squatters” we were both hungry and dirty.  A fact brought home to my father who was visiting from Richmond, when I paid him a call at the posh Berkeley Hotel round the corner.  The front desk rang upstairs saying, “Dr. Osdene, there is a young woman here who purports to be your daughter.  What shall we do with her?”  Sadly, he didn’t find it quite as amusing as did I.

Cooking that summer was a great challenge, but one of our number found a “squatter’s co-op” which was custom-made for people in our, shall I say, situation.  The great coup there was our successful  provisioning of an enormous, and I mean, enormous sack of rolled oats which became our standard fare that summer.  How we survived without scurvy, I do not know.

Fast forward to my recent disenchantment with my regular oatmeal.  Somehow I remembered those raw oat days, and realized I could probably do a bit better than that, even without setting foot outside my kitchen.  Sure enough all sorts of embellishments came immediately to hand and I created what I’ve now dubbed my muesli.

It’s completely easy and particularly delicious when teamed with any of the fruits you’re finding in the farmer’s market at the moment.  I know it’s recommended to soak muesli overnight, however, I tried soaking it,  but found that I like to just pop it in the bowl, add the fruit, slosh milk over it and gobble it down.  Or maybe it was just that I was magically transported to London in 1975.

Perhaps that won’t happen to you, but it’s so easy–not even a proper recipe really–why not give it a try as a  cold cereal alternative.  And, if you, dear reader, are a young person, please don’t drive your parent’s bonkers this summer.  Just eat the muesli and comfort yourself that a young woman in 1975 did just that, so you don’t have to.

Clare’s Muesli

makes 18 servings

9 cups extra thick rolled oats

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

3/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup wheat bran

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

fresh fruit and milk to serve

 

Combine all of the ingredients and store in an air-tight container.  To serve, place about 1/2 cup in a bowl, cover with fruit and pour on milk to cover. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

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Wow.  Somehow when I read Sam Sifton’s article and recipe in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine, I just knew.  And last night, when I cooked it and subsequently tore into it, I was sure.  I’ve stumbled upon a new keeper, bound to make frequent appearances at my table, and maybe at yours too.

Extremely easy, and only a bit time-consuming (about an hour all together, mostly sitting around getting hungry as the yummy aroma wafts about the kitchen), it’s  bound to be a family pleaser–and in fact, is destined to be Felix’s welcome home meal when he returns from school in the not-so-distant future.

So, here it is, with my slight adaptations from Sam Sifton’s adaptations from brilliant Suzanne Goin’s original recipe.  If you try it this weekend, it’s bound to perk things up, and who can resist a little perking up?

Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

serves 4

 

For the meatballs:

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 egg yolks, extra-large

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch red-pepper flakes

Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 pounds ground lamb

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped parsley

 

For the sauce:

1 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small sprig rosemary

Red-pepper flakes to taste

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground cinnamon

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

1  3-inch strip of orange peel, pith removed and the juice of that orange

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

For the topping:

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves

 

To serve with: either spaghetti or couscous

 

In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne.  Put the lamb in the bowl, and season it aggressively with salt and pepper.  Add the bread crumbs and parsley, and combine the mixture well.  Shape the meat into compact balls that are a little larger than golf balls.

Saute the meatballs in batches in a skillet until they have a nice crust on them but are not cooked through.  Set them aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Next, make the sauce.  Heat a largish oven proof dutch oven, like le Creuset,  on top of the stove for about one minute.  Add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine.  Cook for another minute and then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and saute until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.  Put the can of tomatoes in a large bowl and whiz them up with your handy immersion blender until they are mostly smooth.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel , along with salt and pepper to the sauce.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third.  Adjust seasoning.

Transfer the meatballs into the sauce, putting them about 1/2 an inch from each other and bake for 15 or 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with plain spaghetti or couscous and top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.

–Adapted from Sam Sifton, who adapted the recipe from Suzanne Goin in “The A.O.C. Cookbook”

 

 

 

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Polpettone

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How’s about a little tweak for Valentine’s Day?  Polpettone, which sounds very glamorous indeed, is Italian for meatloaf and I have to say, in the light of the crazy blizzard around here, you may want to consider losing your plans to sally forth to some overcrowded, overpriced  restaurant and instead, wire up this baby for tonight.

Now I do know that this photograph is not, well, perhaps my best or most inspiring.  If it’s any kind of recommendation, however,  please know that the polpettone was very picturesque, just moments before this when it came out of the oven.  Before I could so much as grab my camera, the hungry maniacs around here had torn into it and this is all that I could salvage for a photograph.  In fact, it was such a hit, I was grateful even to have snagged this rather pathetic shot. That funny gooey thing poking out from the middle is the salami/smoked mozzarella with which it’s stuffed.  I know. Completely over-the-top.  But “what th’?” as Mark Trail would say.  It’s only Valentine’s Day once a year, so why not give him something to make those statins worth it.

Now, I have to say that my normal meatloaf, which I recounted here in November 2010 is pretty darn good.  In fact, I continue to get reader response about it all of the time,  and people have literally stopped me in the street to opine on how great it is.  It’s easy as can be, delicious and, while not fancy, for some reason the only thing Felix ever wants to be his welcome home dinner when he arrives back from college.  High praise indeed I would say, because there’s no telling what fancy-schmancy stuff that kid could  be looking for on those rare occasions when his old ’83 diesel wends its way back from Williamsburg.

Now the original recipe for polpettone comes from my friend, Silvestro Silvestori, at the Awaiting Table cooking school  in Lecce in Puglia, Italy.  We made it when I was there in November and it was superb.  That being said, I’ve added and subtracted some things from Silvestro’s recipe to make it, well, my own.  I guess it’s more Italian-American now, and I do hope Silvestro won’t take offence as I’m headed back there in September and perhaps we’ll even make it then. 

In any case, I made this using a batch of my own meatloaf, the recipe for which you can find in the index on the right of my blog, or very easily by googling: “ClareFare meatloaf” , when it will pop up instantaneously.  

Should you decide to make it, I promise it will look prettier when it emerges from the oven.  No matter how it looks, however, please be prepared, for your Valentine to  take his first bite. He may swoon, but when he picks himself up off the floor, he will definitely proclaim you to the very best Valentine in the world.  

But really, there’s no need to send me flowers.  Just have a very happy Valentine’s Day, with lots of love from ClareFare.

Clare’s Polpettone

Serves 6

I batch of my meatloaf mix to be found on ClareFare from November 16, 2010

3/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami

3/4 pound smoked mozzarella, chopped into 1-inch dice

 

Prepare the meatloaf as directed in the previous post. Place half of the meat mixture in the baking pan.  Pat into a loaf-like shape and make a trough in the middle.  Line the trough with 1/2 of the Genoa salami, cover with the smoked mozzarella, and then top with the rest of the Genoa salami making it into a sort of smoked mozzarella filled envelope.  Pat the remaining meat mixture over the top and seal in the filling, retaining the loaf-like shape.

Bake as directed in the previous posting.

–Adapted from a recipe by Silvestro Silvestori at http://www.Awaitingtable.com 

 

 

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Boeuf Bourguignon

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Whisper down the lane.  At least that’s what we used to call it in England.  You know, that childhood game where you whisper a phrase to your friend who whispers it to the next person in line, and, at the end of the queue, the last person shouts out what they heard and it bears no resemblance to the initial phrase?

For some reason, I always found it endlessly amusing at slumber parties,  which is perhaps why this recipe is both amusing to me and perfectly appropriate for today.

A hearty pot of Boeuf Bourguignon will be accompanying me shortly to a “girl’s weekend” with some dear pals at a dairy farm in the wilds of central Virginia.  There we’ll be fireside chatting, knitting, reading and, if I’m not mistaken, laughing up a storm.  Perhaps storm may turn out to be the operative word, in fact, though “bunk activities” as they used to call it at summer camp, might be just what the doctor ordered as far as giving us all a great break from this beastly winter.

One thing we’ll be feasting upon will be this Boeuf Bourguigon, and I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t turn out to be a hit. The recipe I used,  and that I provide  here,  is marvelous and perhaps one of my most beloved.  I used to slave my way through Julia Child’ s Boeuf Bourguignon upon occasion , but an occasion it always had to be.  It was a production indeed which meant the sapid stew could never be in the rotation of daily and delicious, but always only for a special dinner party or other ritzy hoop-de-do.

In August of 2009, I stumbled over a new version of the classic dish in a New York Times article by Julia Moskin, who, excitingly will be appearing at the Woman’s Club here in Richmond, later this month.  Julia Moskin’s recipe was an adaptation of Ginette Mathiot’s  in “Je Sais Cuisiner” (“I know how to Cook”) circa 1932.  This is perhaps–dare I say it–a more authentic take on the famous stew as it gets back to the very roots of what it was meant to be: a wonderful, everyday possible, traditional French housewife’s version.

That’s not to say it isn’t sublime, because indeed it is.  In fact, it’s so good, I’ve been known to serve this version at formal dinners where, believe me, no one seemed to think it wasn’t black tie appropriate.  In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner a deux next week.  Please, don’t let on how easy it was–just revel in the praise that’s going to be heaped upon you, and the romance it’s bound to engender.

So, the whispering continues.  I have very slightly adapted the recipe again from Julia Moskin’s version.  It may be somewhat different than Madame Mathiot’s version, but I think it would be recognizable to any 20th century French housewife nonetheless.

As for this weekend, perhaps I should throw the Scrabble board into my trunk,  just to be on the safe side.    It occurs to me that whisper down the lane might not cut it anymore–outside of the kitchen,  that is.

 

Boeuf Bourguignon

serves 6

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces of shallots, peeled and chopped

1/2 pound of thick-cut center bacon, diced

3 pounds of stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch dice and patted dry

1/2 cup flour

2 cups of beef stock

2 cups of red wine ( I use Pinot Noir if I can’t find a Burgundy)

 1 bouquet garni ( 2 bay leaves, several sprigs of fresh thyme and 6 sprigs of parsley tied together)

Black pepper and salt

1/2 pound of mushrooms, sliced

 

Put oil n a heavy pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and bacon and cook, stirring until browned.  Remove them  with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add beef and brown on all sides , working in batches as necessary to avoid crowding.

Return all of the beef to the pan and sprinkle with the flour.  Stir until browned and add the stock.  Stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all of the crunchy bits, and then add the reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni.  Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer very gently for two hours.

Add the mushrooms and cook for half an hour more.  Serve immediately, OR even better, refrigerate and reheat the next day when it’s even more delectable.

–Adapted from Julia Moskin in the New York Times, who adapted it from Ginette Mathiot’s” I Know How to Cook”,  Phaidon Press

 

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Polenta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Kale

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“Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold” – Lowell George, LIttle Feat

I guess I’m showing my advanced age by quoting lyrics from the 70’s, but really, I can’t get it out of my mind.  And speaking of my youth, I don’t ever remember it being this cold.  I mean it must have been, surely, because however else were we seemingly constantly ice skating round and round the lake at the University of Richmond?  I guess it must have been this cold, I just didn’t feel it so much, bursting with the endless joie de vivre and hot internal furnace of youth.

That being said, let me let you in on a little secret.  I know how to get it back.  No, not ALL of the hot blooded enthusiasms perhaps, but at least the means for a happy, warm glow that will get you scooting through this polar vortex or storm Leon or whatever next week’s version is going to be dubbed.

I think it was my trip to Italy in November.  I’m still cruising around with a happy smile slapped on my face and a ready giddy giggle. Yes, I’m suffering from the cold, just like you are, but I’m somehow managing to channel the glorious sun and the sunny disposition of the Solento.   I think the key is the food.

The other day, while the snow was swirling, I decided to pay heed to the exhortations of the authorities to stay home. It meant I had to  make do with whatever I had on hand to produce dinner.  In poking around, since I really was due a visit to the grocery, I found only a few of my usual goodies. Nonetheless, I whipped this simple feast up in no time and barely had to absent myself from my cozy spot beside the raging fire to do it.

It was scrumptious,(and inadvertently gluten-free for those of you who care about such things) and put me in the perfect place to start plotting details for my trip back to Puglia in September.  If you want to come with me, let me know.  When we’re there, we’ll make our very own sausages–which I didn’t do for this feast–and cook with olive oil from just down the lane, and wander in the garden in the warm Solento sun to pick our herbs.  

For now, I have to be content to do that in my heart and in my mind’s eye.  I’m happy to report, however, that eating this really helped propel me there. My body may be sitting beside the fire this winter, but you can find my spirit wandering around in the boot of Italy.

 

Polenta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Kale

serves 6

 

2 cups Polenta ( I use Bob’s Red Mill and follow the directions on the package)

I pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot–your choice, chopped into large chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red pepper, cored and sliced into long strips

2 sweet onions, peeled and cut in half and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano certified tomatoes

1- 5 ounce package of baby Kale

2 teaspoons dried oregano

salt and pepper

grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

 

Make the polenta according to the directions on the package.  While it’s cooking, start to saute the sausages on medium low heat until the fat starts to render stirring constantly.  Once the fat starts to render you may turn it up slightly but stir occasionally and do keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Put the olive oil in a separate large skillet and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  When they are soft and translucent add the garlic and cook for one minute, not allowing the garlic to burn.  Add the tomatoes and kale and oregano and allow to simmer until the kale has just wilted.  By now your sausages should be cooked.  Add the pepper, onion and tomato mixture to the sausages and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Allow to cook together for the flavors to meld about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper as and serve immediately over the hot polenta, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to sprinkle on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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