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4th of July Party? How about a tasty recipe for marinated olives and feta?

Marinated Olives and Feta

Sophisticated but incredibly easy: smash some olives, crush a bit of garlic, shred some bread, and you’re good to go!

Want to bring something different to your 4th of July party that DOESN’T need refrigeration or special care? A while back, I found something genuinely fabulous in my favorite place to find fabulous things – Bon Appétit Magazine. It’s a perfect recipe for things like 4th of July parties where light, savory snacks with friends really hit the spot.

There’s only one part of this recipe that needs a bit more explanation – smashing olives and crushing the garlic. I know that there are all sorts of ways to do this, but my video gives you some easy ways that work for me. The rest is that simple.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 ounces of drained green (I prefer Castelvetranos for their flavor) unpitted olives
  • 3 medium-sized cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil – essential to get the “good stuff” for this recipe.
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 ounces of crumbly feta cheese. I use President Cheese.
  • 1 loaf of crusty bread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees F
  2. Rip up your bread into bite-sized pieces and place them on a baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the pieces of bread for 5-8 minutes, or just long enough to make the them a bit crispy and golden.
  3. Lightly smash (by pressing the side of the knife blade directly on top) the olives to just break apart the skin and flatten slightly.
  4. Smash (using the same technique as for the olives – you don’t want them completely flat!) and peel 3 cloves of garlic.
  5. Use a vegetable peeler (this will give you nice wide strips) to peel the zest from the lemon. Remember – only the yellow, not the white which will be bitter.
  6. Place lemon peel, smashed olives, crushed garlic, ½ cup of good Extra Virgin olive oil, and ½ tsp of red pepper flakes into a small saucepan over med-low heat. Swirl every so often and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the garlic is golden around the edges.
  7. Crumble feta cheese into a shallow serving bowl.
  8. Pour the olive oil mixture over the feta and let it sit at least 10 minutes. Longer if possible, perhaps an hour or more, before serving.
  9. Serve together with your crisped bread pieces.

You can always double or treble this recipe for a larger crowd.

Some last DO’s and DON’Ts – DO remind your guests that the olives are unpitted, but DON’T worry about letting this sit out for as long as your guests are nibbling. It will go fast!  A Negroni is the perfect adult beverage to accompany this appetizer.

Happy 4th of July, America!

Recipe for a Warm-up: Bloody Mary Soup

Bloody Mary Soup

A new food memory: try my friend’s recipe for this delicious Bloody Mary Soup.

A few years ago, on what in Southern California is considered a “cold” winter day, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted a Bloody Mary.

We were actually standing on her balcony watching the sunset with friends. Despite my thick coat, gloves, and my beanie, I was still freezing! Okay, the wind was also making it pretty cold, and we had just got the fire going, so give me a break.

“In this weather?” I was a little astonished.

“Soup,” she finished.

That was when I noticed she was handing me a stoneware mug with the most delicious-tasting savory soup I’ve had in years. And now that I have the recipe, whenever I cook up a batch of this marvelous soup, I think of my friend and the great time we had with our friends that cold afternoon on her patio.

I believe food is a fabulous way to bring people together. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you also know that I have a real love for delicious recipes. Put them together, and you have what I call “food memories” – it’s one of the more emotional aspects of sophisticated living.

Now, with my friend’s permission, I’d like to share this wonderful soup with you, with the hopes that you’ll make some great food memories of your own. And before we go any further – yes, it is a “Bloody Mary” in the truest sense.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • ½ cup of your favorite vodka (Chopin Vodka).
  • 2 cups V-8 juice – your choice, regular or spicy (I use spicy)
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock (broth) (I use beef for a richer taste)
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce (make sure you shake it up)
  • 1 28oz or 32oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes or diced tomatoes (I use Fire Roasted tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup horseradish (prepare to taste – I use way less because I use the Spicy V-8), add a dash of your favorite hot sauce if you like.

Instructions

Bloody Mary Soup recipe Fran Berger

You probably already have what you need to make this recipe.

In advance of cooking, I recommend that you prepare the “liquids” in one large bowl. Combine the V-8 juice, chicken or beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and your tomatoes (canned or freshly cut). Don’t strain the tomatoes. Mix everything up and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a stock pot with olive oil and heat (medium). Add thyme leaves, garlic, celery ribs, onion (all chopped) and sauté on medium (cook until tender and onions are golden). By the way, make sure that your stock pot is large enough to hold everything – including all of the liquid!

Add the vodka to deglaze the veggies – scrape up all those beautiful browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the alcohol has “cooked off” – shy of a minute at medium heat.

Get your bowl of liquids and pour it in!  This is where a large stock pot is really useful. I recommend Staub’s 4-quart “Cocotte” for this task, because you’re going to heat this up until it boils, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. I’ve let this go for up to 50 minutes and it seems to cook up the tomatoes very nicely. But as I always say, watch your pots!

Stir occasionally while simmering. Add the horseradish and hot sauce GRADUALLY. Taste often to make sure that you don’t overpower the other flavors. You can always set aside the horseradish and hot sauce for guests to flavor up for themselves.

When time’s up, turn off the heat.  Use an immersion blender to carefully puree the tomatoes, and serve warm in a big mug.  This recipe will make 6-8 servings (depending on the size of your mug) and can be doubled or tripled (or more!) for your party – just be sure your pot is big enough!

Add a pickled bean stalk or pickled artichoke as a garnish to add even more flavor. See my blog post on pickling. And see my video using this recipe.

The last touch: a shot of Chopin Vodka, if you like. Either way, it’ll taste so amazing served hot. Absolutely the best “bloody mary” you’ll ever make for yourself. Watch this video to see how easy it is!

Enjoy!

Drinks and Snacks for Your Super Bowl Party!

Cool Drinks and Great Snacks for Your #Superbowl – #SB51

I’ve tried all kinds of ways of hosting a Super Bowl party. You can go the route of a big meal – one or two big dishes. Another way is to line up some cool drinks and have lots of savory snacks on hand.

Mix up a batch of “Minty Moscow Mule Punch” for your Super Bow party. From Real Simple.

This approach gives everyone some variety and easy choices. They’re also good for the ‘quick snap’ as a friend of mine likes to describe it – one cup, one napkin, and you’re off and running back to the big screen.

It’s important to serve beverages that will go best with whatever menu you’ve planned.  If your crowd likes sodas and beer then set up a couple of ice filled coolers with bottled sodas (more fun than cans) and some interesting beers (perhaps a Belgian ale, a local craft beer and a lager).

If your crowd is more into a full bar, then set up / mix some batch cocktails that you can serve in a pitcher so you aren’t playing bartender all day.  Here’s a great drink recipe for a Minty Moscow Mule Punch that is very popular. Or what about White Negroni Punch (see featured photo above). Remember – make these well before your guests show up.

Don’t forget to have enough ice on hand.  Start making ice the day before and fill up gallon ziplock bags with ice cubes so you’ll have a head start. I use this party guideline: 2 pounds of ice per person for a party.

Even if I decide to bring in platters of sandwiches and salads I will always make some snacks to put my personal touch on the party.  Important rule for Super Bowl snacks – make more than enough. Nothing is worse than running out in the middle of halftime. I love these four recipes – they really hit the spot:

A plate of “Cacio e Pepe Chips” from Bon Appetit. Make a lot. They’re addicting!

Cacio e Pepe Chips – featuring kettle-cooked chips and grated percorino! Great with just about any beer.

Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts – this is an absolute winner. You can prepare this recipe 2 days ahead of your party.

Spiced Popcorn with Pecans and Raisins – a real head-turner at my parties. And, habit-forming. Plan on your guests eating two or three servings a piece so if you’re doing this one make sure you make a lot!

Buffalo Wing Popcorn – no kidding, what a combo. Another addicting dish.

I always recommend that you not use your regular dinnerware for these kinds of gatherings. But try (really try) to resist the urge to use paper plates. Not only are your average grocery store disposables kinda flimsy, they’re really ugly. I mean, seriously!  I get my disposables (plates, cutlery, and cups) from EMI Yoshi. They’re plastic, recyclable, AND they’re really cool looking.  Find them on Amazon.

Have a great time!

Tomato and Cabbage Tabbouleh

tomato-and-cabbage-tabbouleh

In Tomato Heaven with Cabbage Tabbouleh

I love tomatoes – served any way that is possible.  I’ve been known to simply salt them and eat them like apples – one bite at a time (I always remember my Father eating them like that) or if they’re tiny then I just pop them in my mouth and enjoy their natural sweetness.  Delicious!  This recipe stopped me because of the beautiful colors from the tomatoes and mint AND it’s so easy.  It would be great for a BBQ.  It was created by Anissa Helou and published in bon appétit July 2014. Serves 8, all you need is a room full of friends and family to enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)
  • ½ medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
  • 1 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 4 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 1½ cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes.

Toss bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season with salt.

DO AHEAD:Tabbouleh (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.

 

 

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Cherry Tomato Panzanella

crispy-chicken-cutlets-cherry-tomato-panzanella

A Fond Food Memory in the Making with Panzanella

Chicken cutlets are great for a week night dinner as they cook quickly and with the colorful cherry tomato salad served on top you’re basically done with dinner preparation and you’ve easily created a wonderful food memory!  The recipe calls for “bone in” chicken breasts but I would buy boneless/skin on chicken breasts and eliminate the need to debone the chicken – way easier – just be sure to pound the breasts evenly so that they cook properly.  There were a few comments posted with this recipe where the writer used boneless/skinless chicken breasts and loved the recipe that way so if you don’t want skin it will definitely turn out well.  This was created by Alison Roman and was published in bon appétit July 2015. Serves 4 friends or family members.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup torn country-style bread, (from about 1/4 small loaf)
  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup parsley leaves with tender stems

Directions

  1. Combine onion and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add bread; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until golden brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut bones and cartilage from chicken breasts. Pound chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook 1 chicken breast, skin side down, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more; second side will not brown. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining cutlet and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (no need to wipe out skillet).
  5. Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add whole tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly blistered and starting to burst, about 5 minutes. Toss in sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Transfer to bowl with croutons. Add pickled onion with pickling liquid, halved tomatoes, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Serve chicken with panzanella spooned over.

A Simple, Easy Treat: Great Golden Oven Fries

golden-oven-fries

Wanna Enjoy a Pan of Deep Golden Fries?

Did someone say you could get great French fries from the oven?  I’m in!  I am a serious potato lover in any form, it’s kind of pathetic- I can’t leave them alone – and if they’re fried then I’m completely gone.  Some of my favorite food memories are of eating crispy French fries with my friends at the local drive-in when I was in High School.  The secret to really great French fries, you know the ones that are very crispy outside and soft and wonderful inside, is to fry them twice.  Apparently there’s a very simple secret to get this wonderful result without, I repeat, without your fryer.  This recipe is from Deb Perelman on her website,  smittenkitchen.com , from October 28, 2015.  She said it was inspired by Michael Chiarello’s technique.  I’m trying it immediately! A treat for about 4 people.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold or 3 smallish Russet potatoes (I find these to be equivalent in size, although the specific size isn’t terribly important)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fine sea salt

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F
  • Peel your potatoes if you wish; scrub them well if you do not. Cut potatoes into just-shy-of 1/2-inch batons. Place in a large pot and cover with an inch or two of water. Set heat to high and set timer for 10 minutes. If potatoes come to a boil in this time (mine usually do not), reduce the heat to medium. Otherwise, when timer rings, whether or not the potatoes have boiled, test one. You’re looking for a very “al dente” potato — one that is too firm to eat enjoyable, but has no crunch left. A good sign that they’re not too cooked is when you roughly tumble them into a colander, only one or two break.
  • Meanwhile, coat a large baking sheet with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and place it in the oven for a few minutes, so the oil gets very hot and rolls easily around the pan.
  • Drain your potatoes and immediately spread them on oiled baking sheet in one layer. Drizzle with last tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for 20 minutes, until golden underneath. Toss potatoes around to encourage them to color evenly and return them to the oven for another 5 minutes. Repeat this 1 or 2 more times (for me, 30 minutes total roasting time is the sweet spot), until your “fries” are deeply golden, brown at the edges and impossible not to eat.
  • Season with more salt while they’re hot, pile them on a platter and dig in.

More than a Traditional Panzanella: With Beet and Rye

http://franberger.wpengine.com/beet-and-rye-panzanella-salad-recipe

Beet and Rye Panzanella Salad – a Recipe with a Dash of Tradition

I love a good traditional Panzanella Salad and will order it every time at my favorite Italian restaurants.  But, when I saw the picture of this recipe in the February 2016 edition of bon appétit for Beet and Rye Panzanella created by Claire Saffitz, I was blown away by the colors of the dish.  We all eat with our eyes and I absolutely had to see how this gorgeous salad was made-the photograph was that beautiful.  After seeing how truly simple this salad is I’m going to use it for my next get-together and make a perfect food memory from a perfect salad! Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds small beets, any color, scrubbed (about 10)
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ loaf rye bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large orange
  • 4 ounces ricotta salata (salted dried ricotta), crumbled
  • 1 cup torn fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, tarragon, and mint)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Place beets in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and add water to come ½” up sides. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake beets until tender and a cake tester or paring knife easily slides through flesh, 45–60 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, toss onion, 3 Tbsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  • Toss torn bread and 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing once, until bread is golden brown and crisp around edges, 8–10 minutes; set aside.
  • Rub beets with paper towels to remove skins, then halve (or quarter if large) and place in a large bowl; add onion with liquid.
  • Using a small sharp knife, remove peel and white pith from orange. Working over bowl with beets, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes to release juices; discard. Add reserved toasted bread and 2 Tbsp. oil and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes for flavors to meld.
  • Just before serving, fold in ricotta salata and herbs, drizzle with more oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

 

Thinking Big with Beer-Braised Carnitas

Beer Braised Carnitas

More than One Food Memory from Carnitas: Delicious Pulled Pork

I love Carnitas on anything – only one problem –  you can’t ever make a small amount of it.  But, the great thing about bulk recipes is that they can be used in multiple ways and you can make more than one food memory all from one pot!   This recipe for Beer-Braised Carnitas is one of those – you can use it for tacos, burritos, nachos, over a simple salad, added to eggs for a breakfast skillet with hash browns– and that’s just off the top of my head!  I found this on one of my favorite recipe sites- epicurious.  It was published in February 2013 by bon appétit and was created by Chris Morocco.  Please note: more than one reviewer suggested cutting the salt in half.

Ingredients

  • 2 dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles
  • 4 pounds skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 2″ pieces
  • 12 ounce lager (such as Modelo Especial or Budweiser)
  • 4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt

Preparation

  1. Toast chiles in a dry large heavy pot over medium heat until slightly puffed and lightly darkened on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from pot; let cool. Stem chiles and halve lengthwise; discard seeds.
  2. Bring chiles, pork, beer, garlic, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in same pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender, 60-80 minutes.
  3. Uncover pork; simmer until liquid evaporates and pork begins to brown, 20-25 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot, until pork is shredded and browned, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup water to pork; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, for about 1 minute.
  5. DO AHEAD: Carnitas can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool. Cover and chill. Reheat with 1/2 cup water in a covered pot, adding more water if needed to keep pork moist.

Easy Recipe for Gnocchi Skillet with Sausage and Tomatoes

Gnocchi on your Favorite Skillet

Food Memory in the Making with Gnocchi, Chicken Sausage, Tomatoes and your Favorite Skillet

This recipe is so quick and easy to make and looks beautiful on the plate – color in the dish is always important as we eat with our eyes.  It reminds me of a favorite food memory – the first time I ever tasted Gnocchi – they were so soft and delicate.  I found it on a great website, thekitchn.com, in their 23 Romantic Recipes post this week.  One of the best things about this recipe is that you can use store-bought gnocchi and any type of Italian sausage you like. Spicy, anyone? They also suggest that if you want to finish the skillet with Parmesan that you can but that it’s not necessary if you’d rather not have cheese. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 9 ounces (about 3 links) cooked chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 to 2 ounces fresh basil, julienned (1/2 to 1 cup loosely packed)

Preparation

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling; cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Heat a 10-inch or larger cast iron skillet over medium heat with a light drizzle of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Push the sausage into a pile at the edge of the skillet and turn the heat up to high.
  3. When the skillet is quite hot, add the tomatoes, skin down, crowding them in if necessary. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until they are blistered, then stir in with the sausage. Cook for 2 more minutes, until both tomatoes and sausage are slightly browned. Stir in gnocchi and cook just until all is combined, but the tomatoes have not broken down into sauce.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Cooking tip: a cast iron skillet is preferred only because it will give you the best color and sear to the sausage and tomatoes but any skillet will work as long as it does NOT have a non-stick coating.  That will interfere with the browning.

Brunch? How about a Frittata with Fontina Cheese and Mushrooms?

mushroom-leek-and-fontina-frittata

Frittata with Mushroom, Leek, and Fontina Cheese

Eggs are my favorite food and I could eat them all day long for every meal.   Frittatas are almost a perfect egg dish because they don’t have to be served hot to be delicious!  In fact, they can be served at room temperature so they’re a perfect do-ahead entrée when you have friends over for breakfast or dinner.  This recipe for a vegetarian frittata is from the bon appétit test kitchen issue February 2013.

Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium leeks, whites and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10″ nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until softened and all liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, crème fraîche, and parsley in a large bowl; mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms, shaking the pan to evenly distribute mixture. Cook the frittata, without stirring, until its edges begin to set, about 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over eggs and transfer skillet to oven. Bake frittata until golden brown and center is set, 25-30 minutes.

 

Summer Salad with Arugula-Mint Pesto

Snap Peas and Green Beans with Arugula-Mint Pesto

Snap Peas and Green Beans with Arugula-Mint Pesto

What a great way to spring into summer. I found this fresh Snap Peas and Green Bean salad recipe on Epicurious from the bon appétit June 2015 issue.  It was created by Carla Lalli Music.  I think I’ll follow the suggestion and use the pesto on almost any sandwich I can think of-especially grilled chicken. Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw skin-on almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 cups (lightly packed) baby arugula
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved, divided
  • 1 cup mint leaves, plus more for serving
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 12 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 12 ounces green and/or wax beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop half of almonds and set aside. Pulse remaining almonds with garlic, arugula, half of Parmesan, and 1 cup mint in a food processor to a smooth paste. With motor running, stream in oil; thin with 2 tablespoons cold water to reach a pourable consistency. Season pesto with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook peas and beans in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl of ice water and chill until cold. Drain peas and beans; pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice and 3 tablespoons pesto; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange peas and beans in a large bowl or platter over remaining pesto. Top with more mint leaves, reserved almonds, and remaining Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Do Ahead: Peas and beans can be blanched 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Something for a Rainy Day: Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots

Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots

Author: Recipe by Maggie Ruggiero

One of the things I love about rainy days is how they beg for me to be in the kitchen for just a little while and after several hours in an oven with no further effort from me. The dish I’ve put together becomes something fantastic making the whole house smell amazing! Those are the days to invite a group of friends over for a Sunday afternoon watching sports or just drinking a great glass of wine together and sharing stories while waiting for the fabulous thing that you’ve put in the oven to finish cooking. I’ve come across a recipe that I’m going to do just that with – it sounds incredible and the reviews are fantastic. It is by the wonderful Maggie Ruggiero and I found it on one of my favorite websites, Epicurious.com, though it was first published in Gourmet Magazine December 2008.

Ingredients

  • For braised beef:
    • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 carrots, quartered
  • 3 celery ribs, quartered
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water
  • For potatoes and carrots:
    • 2-1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
    • 1-1/2 pounds carrots
  • Equipment: a wide 6-to 8-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
  • Accompaniment: crusty bread

Instructions

  1. Braise beef:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
    • Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
    • Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown meat, without crowding, in 3 batches, turning, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 12 minutes.
  3. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook paste, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into vegetables.
  4. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in wine, bay leaves, and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two-thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Add broth to pot along with water, beef, and any juices from platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  7. Set a large colander in a large bowl. Pour stew into colander. Return pieces of meat to pot, then discard remaining solids. Let cooking liquid stand 10 minutes
  8. Cook potatoes and carrots
    • While beef braises, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally (1-inch).
    • Add potatoes and carrots to stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes.

There are a couple of suggestions in the “reviews” part of the recipe posting that I will definitely follow. For instance, take the braising vegetables, puree them and return them to the pot with the broth. Don’t forget to remove the garlic skins, thyme stems and bay leaves before you puree them. I will add mushrooms as well; I do love mushrooms in anything. And do NOT forget that crusty bread. I can’t wait to try this!