Thursday, December 31, 2009

Simple Suppers: Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta

Happy New Year's Eve, divas!

I hope it's been a great year for all of you, filled with great food and wine, and all the other things that make life so wonderful.  All year long, I've enjoyed bringing you my recipes, wine articles, health tips, and much more, and I have even more exciting things planned for next year.  So stay tuned!

Right now, I'm down in sunny Florida, hanging with Kuzak's family.  It's a house full of ex-policy debaters (and no less than three current attorneys), so there's no lack of healthy conversation, and that's putting it mildly.  Last night, we ate dinner at home, and The Chicago Foodie made her famous hamburgers, made with caremelized shallots and chorizo sausage, and I whipped up a batch of garlic fries (click here for recipe) and a mixed greens salad with pea tendrils, sunflower sprouts, candied walnuts, dried cherries and goat cheese tossed with a mustard vinaigrette.  It was fabulous, if I do say so myself!

So today, as part of my Simple Suppers series, I'm sharing a staple recipe in my rotation, one that reeks of comfort food, but also packs a healthy punch.  I'm talking about my Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta, of course!  I always keep packages of Lindner Bison's grass fed ground bison in my freezer for just such an occasion. If you're not familiar with buffalo meat, it's a great alternative to beef, with a richer, deeper flavor, if you ask me.  Also, it packs a nutritional punch.  Bison is very lean, low in cholesterol and high in protein, with huge nutrient density.  It has a greater concentration of iron and essential fatty acids than other protein sources.  Finally, because this bison is grass fed, it's packed with omega-3's.

For this simple supper, I cooked the ground bison into this decadent ragu sauce, flavored with red wine and spiked with herbs, and tossed with a whole grain spelt penne, but any whole wheat pasta would work.  Finally, I topped it with a some good quality aged Parmesan Reggiano and chopped flat leaf parsley. 

This is one of my favorite meals to make, and I make it often!  It's great for dinner parties, served family style, or just a night at home alone, because it makes great leftovers, too!  Pair this dish with a healthy salad, and you've got a complete meal.  So give it a shot - I promise you'll love it. 

Bison Ragu with Whole Grain Pasta
Serves 6-8 people

1 lb ground bison
1 package whole grain penne or other whole wheat pasta
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, pureed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup hearty red wine (I used some leftover syrah)
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flakes
salt & pepper
herbs, chopped (any combination of thyme, rosemary or sage is great)

for garnishing: 
parmesan reggiano
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped


To make the ragu sauce, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and saute until starting to caramelize, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for another minute.  Then, add the ground bison and saute until cooked through, stirring to break it into small pieces (about 5 minutes).

Once the ground bison is cooked through, add the red wine and bring to a simmer, allowing it to reduce for about 5 minutes. Then, add the tomatoes, bay leaf and herbs.  Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Meanwhile, to cook the pasta, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook for about 7 minutes, or until cooked al dente.  Once it's cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with a little cool water to stop from cooking.

To serve, toss the pasta with the sauce.  Either plate individual portions, or serve family style from a large bowl (like in my picture).  Top with the chopped parsley and sprinkle with the parmesan.  Enjoy! 

Businesses Mentioned:

Lindner Bison
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
(661) 254-0200 

Run by the husband and wife team of Kathy and Ken Lindner, Jr., they specialize in bison raised humanely and sustainably.  Their bison are grassfed, free of drugs and hormones.  Bison meat tastes similar to beef, but with what some describe as a fuller, richer flavor.  They can be found selling their grassfed bison at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday.  


Source for Ingredients:

grass fed ground bison from Lindner Bison (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic onions, organic garlic, organic carrots, organic thyme, organic rosemary from Hollywood Farmers Market

Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, chili flakes, organic bay leaf and organic whole grain spelt penne from Whole Foods

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wine of the Week: Sine Qua Non 2005 Mr. K The Strawman

Usually for my Wine of the Week column, I prefer to feature wines that are of the more cost-friendly variety, but this week I'm compelled to violate this preference.

The reason?

Because I've just tasted one of the most incredible wines of my lifetime: Sine Qua Non's legendary 2005 Mr. K The Strawman.

However, this story doesn't begin on Christmas Eve, when The Wine Lover popped the bottle, and I took my first sip of the liquid gold.  Rather it began years ago when I first read about cult winery, Sine Qua Non, shortly after moving to Los Angeles.  Maybe it was their decidedly eccentric names for their wines, or the fact that many consider their Grenache to be the finest in the New World, or the fact that they make their wines in a garage in Ventura, but whatever the reason, I fell in love with the idea of this winery right away.

I say idea because until this Christmas Eve, I had never actually partaken of their wine.  Sure, we've been wait-listed to join their mailing list for years, receiving our biannual we regret to inform you that we don't have any of our precious wine for you consolation postcards (you other wait-listers know what I'm talking about), and sure, I've admired their wines on restaurant wine lists, priced far higher than I have ability to pay, and in wine stores on occasion, also priced far higher than I have ability to pay, but I've never had the opportunity to sample their fermented grapey beverages.

That is, until The Wine Lover's 60th birthday rolled around this June (click here to see the photo gallery of the wines we drank in celebration).  To put it mildly, my father is impossible to buy gifts for, and even more impossible to surprise.  This left Kuzak and me in a conundrum.  What to gift him for this landmark day?  After much research, Kuzak located a half bottle of the Sine Qua Non 2005 Mr. K the Strawman, rated the coveted 100 points by Robert Parker.  It would be a kingly birthday gift, one that I'll admit was at least a little bit self-serving.  It's true that I hoped to sample a taste for myself when the time came to drink the bottle.

That day finally rolled around this Christmas Eve, with both Kuzak and I back in Floyd for the holidays, once again in close proximity to The Wine Lover's cellar.  After a spectacular meal, if I do say so myself, of Homemade Goat Cheese Ravioli with bruleed delicata squash, red kale and walnut oil, and an main course of a deconstructed lobster chowder with saffron and bacon, we cleared the table and prepared ourselves for our first taste of Sine Qua Non.

To quote Robert Parker, this wine made from 100% Marsanne grapes from the Beckman Vineyard, has "remarkably low alcohol (7.5%), a whopping 392 grams of residual sugar per liter, and exceptional acidity (6.4 grams of acid per liter)."  The color of the liquid is an intensely deep gold, and the nose is spectacular beyond belief, but only hints at the majesty that lies within the glass.  From the first sip, I instantly understood the reason for the rave reviews - this wine was complex beyond belief, with harmonious notes and deep layers of flavor, and an excruciatingly long finish of caramel and burnt sugar.  It was a complete revelation in a glass, and a wine I will never forget.  I can still summon up the ghostly taste in my mouth as I write this now.

Without question this is the finest sweet wine that has ever hit my tongue, and maybe that will ever hit my tongue.  Parker calls it, "one of the most singular sweet wines I have ever tasted, and goes on to write, "this one is as complex and intense as any sweet wine made in the world."

Is there anything left to say?

Sine Qua Non lives up to the hype, and then some.  I hope you all deign to taste this wine one day.  Now, if only Kuzak and I could off the darned wait list, we might finally get to try their Grenache!

Here's to hoping!


I'm not going to lie - this wine is hard to come by and quite pricey!  But if you are a true wine lover, like my father, this is the perfect way to commemorate a special day.  For the sake of this post, I was able to locate a half bottle from JJ Buckley Fine Wines for $224.99.  I know that seems high, but for the quality, it's a bargain compared to what people are paying for Bordeaux and Burgundy these days.  For this wine, I'd suggest looking at auctions, too.


Winery Information:

Sine Qua Non
Ventura County, CA

Well, divas, they don't have a website. To get on the waiting list (rumored to have more than 4000 people on it, including Kuzak, and wait times exceeding 5 years), you can phone (805) 649-8901 for instructions.

Tuesday Round-Up (for the Week of December 28, 2009)

The last Tuesday of 2009, can you believe it?

Amidst the craze of the holidays (we're bound for Florida today to visit Kuzak's fam), I'm bringing you a host of great articles that have caught my eye in recent days.  From a fabulous article in the New York Times on restaurant menus (read to the end to learn about Alinea's novel approach), to a delicious recipe for Almond Butter Cups from To Cheese or Not to Cheese featured on Meatless Monday, to Jonathan Gold's article on the year in food, I've got it all and more! 

Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners (New York Times)

Recipe for Almond Butter Cups (Meatless Monday)

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too (New York Times)

Jonathan Gold's The Year in Food: Changing Tastes (LA Times)  

Zagat's Best New Los Angeles Restaurants of the Decade

California Food Banks Aggressively Seek Slow-Grown, Nutritious Food (Huffington Post)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Enchiladas

For this week's meatless recipe, I'm bringing you my special recipe for Vegetarian Enchiladas!  Even though I just ate breakfast, I'm hungry again just thinking about this delicious recipe.

What makes these enchiladas so special?

Well, firstly, they're stuffed with a zesty combination of fresh corn, zucchini, green beans and tofu, wrapped in corn tortillas.  Then, these puppies are topped with my extra special homemade enchilada sauce.  Alright, I know, that sounds like a lot of work, but I promise that it's worth the effort! That canned stuff doesn't hold a candle to my sauce.  It's is loaded with big flavors, like cumin, cinnamon, pepper and onion, and tasty enough to eat straight with a spoon.

A good tip?  Make an extra big batch of enchilada sauce and freeze half for the next time you make enchiladas, because I promise you'll be making these again and again. Also, I topped my enchiladas with a little queso fresco, but if you refrain from using cheese, these bad boys are totally vegan.  Enjoy!

Vegetarian Enchiladas
Serves 5 people (makes about 10 enchiladas) 

10 corn tortillas
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1/4 cup queso fresco or goat feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp cilantro

1 cup green beans, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (if not available, can substitute frozen)
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup firm tofu, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

1 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled & chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp organic sugar or agave nectar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper


To make the enchilada sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute for another minute.  Next, add the chili powder, cumin and cinnamon and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes and the sugar and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.

Then, remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool.  Working in batches, puree the sauce in a blender.  Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute.  Then, add the green beans, zucchini and the corn and cook until softened, about another 8 minutes.  Add the spinach and tofu and cook until the spinach is wilted, about another 3-4 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

To make the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread a little sauce over the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish. Meanwhile, heat the grapeseed oil in a cast iron or frying pan over medium heat.  Place a corn tortilla in the oil, and lightly fry on each side.  Remove to paper towels to cool.  Spoon some of the filling into the tortilla and roll it up.  Place the rolled up enchilada in the baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Once all the tortillas have been filled, rolled and placed side by side in the baking dish, spoon the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle with the queso fresco.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

To serve, place two enchiladas on a plate and top with the chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

organic Blue Lake green beans, organic onion, organic garlic from Hollywood Farmers Market

Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes, organic zucchini, corn, organic jalapeno, organic cilantro, organic chili powder, organic cinnamon, organic cumin, organic corn tortillas, organic firm tofu, organic cane sugar from Whole Foods

Meatless Monday Publishes My Recipe for Cornmeal Cinnamon Pancakes!

My recipe for Cornmeal Cinnamon Pancakes is featured on Meatless Monday this week!  Not only are they vegan, but they're super high in fiber and protein!  I'm proud to report that The Original Diva (my mother) is whipping a batch up for our breakfast as I write this post. My mouth is already starting to water!

So try out this simple, delicious, healthy breakfast!  I promise you'll love it.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bacon Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Happy Holidays!

The results from the Bacon Brownie poll are in, and the winner is, "For Shiz" with 64 percent of the vote, followed by "Just Make Me Some" getting 35 percent. So, as my holiday gift to you, I'm sharing my secret recipe for Bacon Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Sauce!

I created this dessert specially for the Eat My Blog charity bake sale, and the brownies sold out in under an hour.  It's a unique dessert, rich, meaty, firing on all palate cylinders, sweet and salty and buttery and chocolaty and bacony!  It combines all the best things in the world, from chocolate, to booze, to bacon, to butter, to sugar, all into one tidy little package.

Enjoy your holidays - and maybe some Bacon Brownies, too!

Note: for the sake of the sale, I baked the caramel sauce into the brownies, but if you're serving this as dessert for a dinner party, you can bake the brownies and then drizzle the caramel sauce over them right before serving.

Bacon Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Makes 9 brownies

2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup thick cut bacon, chopped

bourbon caramel sauce:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream


To make the bourbon caramel sauce, cook the sugar over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and caremalized.  Add the bourbon and stir to combine.  Then, add the butter and cream and stir to combine.  Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce comes together.

To make the bacon brownies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar until smooth. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring to combine. Add it to the eggs/vanilla/sugar mixture and stir to combine. Then, sift together the flour and cocoa powder, and fold into the wet mixture.  Fold in the bacon.

Spread the batter into a parchment-lined 8 inch square pan.  Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let cool in the pan.  Cut into 2 inch squares (should yield 9 brownies).

Source for Ingredients:

bourbon vanilla extract, Niman Ranch thick cut bacon, organic unsweetened cocoa powder, organic cane sugar, organic butter and Reserve Bourbon from Trader Joe's

organic flour, bittersweet chocolate and organic heavy cream from Whole Foods

organic eggs from Healthy Family Farms (Hollywood Farmers Market)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Heritage Pork Tenderloin with Crispy Sage & Soft Polenta

Two days until Christmas!  Are you ready for it, divas?

I'm still holed up in Floyd, enjoying some quality time with the family.  We went to see "Avatar" yesterday, and oh my god, I have to digress into a nerdilicious rant here for a moment!  It surpassed even my lofty expectations, and when I say lofty, I mean it - I'm obsessed with 3D and have been waiting years to see this darn movie.  The movie is incredible and works on every single level.  Despite the hoopla over the 3D, this is by far the most soulful work that Cameron has ever put out, and it's perfect for the holidays.  The Wine Lover is already plotting a return trip to see it again on Christmas Day.

Best Picture anyone?

You heard it heard first.  This is the movie that should win it all, so I'll be rooting for it.

Now onto food!  

We're leaving the realm of the vegetarian (sorry all my lovely veggie readers) and moving back into meat!  I made this dish using Healthy Family Farms, CSA's Milk-Fed Heritage Pork, which is the most incredible pork into which I've ever sunk my teeth.  Forget the chicken-tasting other white meat that haunts your grocery store, this is rich, meaty, succulent, full-flavored pork that tastes the way pork used to taste before the meat industry got their hands on it and bred all the flavor out of it decades ago (they tried to make it more like chicken).  Healthy Family Farms' pork is also all natural, with no hormones or antibiotics, and raised on small family farms.

Soft Polenta with Crispy Sage

To make this dish, I simply herb-crusted and pan-roasted the thin slices of tenderloin, and served them over a soft polenta studded with chopped sage, and topped with a fried sage leaf.  Oh, wow, this was delicious!  The soft polenta with sage complimented the flavor of the pork.  I'm headed to Harvest Moon today with The Original Diva, hoping to procure some local Bright's Farm pork chops to make for dinner.  I think I just might have to serve them over polenta!

Heritage Pork Tenderloin with Crispy Sage & Soft Polenta
Serves 4 people

4 pieces of pork tenderloin (pork chops would also taste delicious)
2 tbsp herbs, such as rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
4 sage leaves
salt & pepper

soft polenta:
1 cup corn grits
3 cups water
1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
2 tbsp sage, chopped
salt & pepper


To make the polenta, place the water and corn grits in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping.  Reduce heat to simmer and continue stirring until the grits thicken (about 20 minutes).  Stir in the parmesan and sage, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, rub both sides of the pork with the herb mixture, garlic and olive oil.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Quickly, fly the sage leaves in the oil until crispy (about 2-3 minutes).  Set aside to drain on paper towels.  Then, add the pork to the pan.  Cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes), and then flip and cook on the other side for a few more minutes.  Once the pork is cooked through, remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

To plate, place some of the soft polenta on a plate and top with a crispy sage leaf.  Then, place a piece of pork on top.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

milk-fed heritage pork tenderloin from Healthy Family Farms, CSA (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic sage and corn grits from Whole Foods

parmesan reggiano from Trader Joe's

Music on Tap:

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Live Anthology (4 discs)

This set was an early Xmas gift from The Wine Lover, who took me to my first Tom Petty concert when I was in high school, one of the best shows I've seen to this day!  I've been listening to it on heavy rotation all week long, and I think The Wine Lover has been going with it for a month solid. It reminds you of what an incredible, and in some ways, underrated band they really are!

Here's a description from Amazon:

The Live Anthology is a multiple-disc set of recordings drawn from thirty years of live performances. The collection brings together material from 1978-2007 culled from hundreds of hours of live concert recordings covering every era of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' tours and represents the best tracks as chosen by producers Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Ryan Ulyate. The producers made no fixes or overdubs, letting the newly mixed original recordings showcase the invention, spontaneity, craft, and the musicianship that has made Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers among the most celebrated live performers of their time.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Cornmeal Cinnamon Pancake Recipe Featured on Meatless Monday!

Looking for a great holiday breakfast recipe?  Try out my scrumptous Cornmeal Cinnamon Pancakes featured on Meatless Monday!  Not only are they vegan, they're also packed with whole grains. 


Monday, December 21, 2009

Meatless Monday Publishes My Recipe for Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice!

Happy Holidays indeed!  I guess Christmas can come early!

Meatless Monday has just published my recipe for Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice.  This superbly healthy dish, inspired by the Original Diva (my mother), is fabulous for breakfast, lunch or dinner, works alone, or served as a stunning side dish, or even used as stuffing.  It's also a great way to make use of leftover brown rice (waste not, want not!).

They featured an absolutely gorgeous picture of my recipe on their main page!  So check it out, and peruse my recipe, and while you're at it, rate it, too!  It only takes one click!


Also, here's the direct link to my recipe:


Happy Holidays Divas!

P.S. I have a big holiday present coming to you later this week!  So stay tuned!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meatless Monday: Homemade Pumpkin Goat Cheese Ravioli with Fried Sage, Wilted Spinach and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Just another Meatless Monday!

Well, not quite, but I'm posting this a little bit early because I'm in Floyd, Virginia, buried under almost twenty inches of snow, with the power going on and off, and while we have a generator, the internet ceases to work.  So I'm blogging this while I can!  

The inspiration for this meal came from Soledad Farms and their spectacular chevre! They sell many flavors at the Hollywood Farmers Market, which I always sample, and the second their pumpkin chevre hit my tongue, I knew it had to be transformed into ravioli!  So I set about conceptualizing a hearty yet delicate winter pasta dish that would showcase the goat cheese first and foremost.  I made the ravioli using a whole grain spelt flour, stuffed them with pumpkin chevre and caramelized shallots, and served them over lightly wilted organic spinach from the farmers market.  Then, I topped the ravioli with roasted pumpkin seeds, crispy fried sage and walnut oil.  Finally, right before serving, I shaved some parmesan reggiano over the top with my microplane grater.

And then... deliciousness ensued!   

I hate to brag, but it was a spectacular dish, with texture, color, depth of flavor, and the goat cheese was truly the star.  I just ordered the pasta attachments for The Original Diva's stand mixer, and I plan to make a similar dish for Christmas Eve dinner.  To complete this meatless meal, after the ravioli, we dined on my Curried Cauliflower Soup, and throughout the night, we sipped a yummy bottle of Windy Oaks 2006 Pinot Noir, Diane's Block, Santa Cruz Mountains.  

Note:  If you don't have access to Soledad Farms pumpkin chevre, this recipe would still taste amazing with plain goat cheese stuffed into the ravioli. 

Homemade Pumpkin Goat Cheese Ravioli with Fried Sage, Wilted Spinach and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 
Serves 4 people 

4 cups organic spinach
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitos)
4 sage leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp roasted walnut oil
salt & pepper
parmesan reggiano, for shaving 

homemade whole grain spelt ravioli:
makes 1/2 lb 
2 cups whole grain spelt flour (whole wheat can be used)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup pumpkin chevre or plain chevre
2 shallots, chopped and caramelized in olive oil


To make the ravioli, place the flour on a cutting board.  Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and olive oil.  Using a fork, whisk them together and then slowly start to incorporate the flour starting with the inner wall of the flour.  As you expand the well, keep reinforcing the flour walls to keep the mixture in the center.  The dough should come together when about half of the flour has been incorporated. Once the dough comes together, clean off the cutting board, lightly dust it with flour and knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about 6 minutes.  The texture should be elastic and slightly sticky.  Once you're finished kneading, wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside for 30 minutes. 

Using the pasta attachments (or can be rolled out by hand), divide the dough into four pieces and feed each one through the pasta roller serveral times, beginning with the widest setting, and gradually moving to the thinnest setting.  Lay one sheet at a time out on the cutting board.  Place little mounds of goat cheese topped by some shallots about 1 inch apart halfway down the sheet.  Fold the top of the sheet back over the mounds, and then stamp out the raviolis using a ravioli cutter.  Place the raviolis on a cookie sheet lined with a kitchen towel.  Repeat with the other sheets of pasta dough.

To make the fried sage, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the sage leaves and fry until crispy, a few minutes.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

To make the wilted spinach, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the spinach and cook until lightly wilted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To cook the ravioli, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the ravioli and cook for a few minutes, until tender.  Remove and rinse with cool water.

To plate, place some of the spinach in the bottom of a wide-bottomed bowl or plate.  Top with about 7 or 8 raviolis.  Sprinkle with the roasted pumpkin seeds, top with a fried sage leaf and then drizzle with some walnut oil.  Sprinkle a little salt and fresh cracked pepper over the dish.  Finish it with some grated parmesan reggiano.  Enjoy!

Businesses Mentioned: 

Soledad Goats
6501 Backus Rd.
Mojave, CA 93501

Producers of award-winning goat cheese (literally the BEST fresh chevre I have ever tasted), they can be found selling their artisanal cheeses at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday.  Stop by their booth for a free sample and I promise you won't be able to leave without bringing some home with you! 

Source for Ingredients: 

pumpkin chevre from Soledad Farms (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic eggs from Healthy Family Farms (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic spinach and roasted walnut oil from Hollywood Farmers Market

organic olive oil, organic whole grain spelt flour, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitos), parmesan reggiano and organic sage from Whole Foods

Friday, December 18, 2009

Domestic Divas Holiday Recipe Archive!

While I'm on a flight, bound for Floyd, I thought I'd leave you with an archive of my recipes that would be perfect for holiday entertaining.  Think of it as my early holiday gift to you, my dear divas. From soups, to side dishes, to some great main courses, I've got you covered.  So get ready for some true food inspiration!

Holiday Recipe Archive

Soups & Salads

Curried Acorn Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger-Braised Leeks

Arugula Salad with Apples & Prosciutto
Carrot-Ginger Soup  
Curried Acorn Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger-Braised Leeks
Organic Cauliflower Soup
Organic Mixed Greens with Apples, Walnuts & Chevre
Roasted Acorn Squash and Hazelnut Soup
Roasted Kombocha Squash Soup with Olive Oil Poached Shrimp
Sweet Potato Soup with Leeks and Spicy Chicken Sausage

Main Courses

Rosemary-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Balsamic-Honey Reduction

Amberjack with Pea Tendrils and Roasted Butternut Squash Mash
Braised Cassoulet with Mussels
Curry-Dusted Tilapia with Caramelized Onions and Sweet Pea Puree
Halibut in Dashi Broth with Bok Choy and Baby Shitake Mushrooms
Striped Bass with "Ratatouille"
Walnut-Crusted Pacific Rockfish

Apple-Glazed Bone-In Pork Chops & Quinoa with Pancetta and Walnuts
Bone-In Pork Chops with Apple-Bacon Slaw
Boneless Pork Chops with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette and Roasted Potatoes
Braised Lamb Shanks
Original Diva's Slow-Baked Chicken
Rosemary-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey-Balsamic Reduction

Curried Lentils with Mint Rice
Organic Roasted Purple Cauliflower Risotto
Roasted Beet Risotto (substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth)

Side Dishes

Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice
Raisin Walnut Spiced Rice
Red Rice "Risotto" with Olives and Shaved Parmesan Reggiano
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Reggiano
Roasted Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinegar, Garlic and Thyme
Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Lemon
Slow-Cooked White Beans with Herbs and Garlic
Tomato and Potato Vegetable "Tartin"


Piccante Dolce's Blood Orange Tart

Coconut Macaroons
Individual Plum Crumbles with Homemade Ezekiel Breadcrumbs
Piccante Dolce's Blood Orange Tart
Piccante Dolce's Vanilla Ricotta with Berries and Balsamic Syrup

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rosemary-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey-Balsamic Reduction

Here's a great, hearty winter recipe that uses one of my favorite proteins - lamb!  And not just any lamb, but Healthy Family Farms grass-fed, tender-ass rack of lamb!  I must confess that I'm a little bit obsessed with the stuff currently.  So last week, I found myself staring at my cupboard with caveman-like thoughts on my mind.

"How do I cook these bony hunks of meat?" I grunted to myself as I rifled through my pantry.

The Monster just licked his lips and eyed the racks of lamb on the counter longingly, seeming to say, "I'd eat them raw!" I guess the Monster is more in tune with his cavedog instincts than I am!

Since raw lamb wasn't going to suffice, I settled on encrusting it with rosemary (yummers!) and making a quick reduction sauce with honey, balsamic, red wine and beef stock in the pan where I seared the lamb.  Oh, wow, this turned out so fabulous!  I know, reduction, can sound kind of scary, but this was super freaking simple and worth every ounce of effort.  The lamb held up beautifully to the rich, sweet, savory sauce, soaking up the flavors.

This dish would surely impress company, or just your boyfriend, returned from a late night at the office.  I left a plate for Kuzak with two hunks of rack of lamb served over my famous spiced rice (recipe to be posted by Meatless Monday on Monday, of course!).  I don't think he'd have thanked me as profusely if I'd told him that I rescued the Adorable Monster from the jowls of a hungry coyote. 

hunk of bony meat + honey-balsamic reduction + hungry caveman boyfriend home late from work = happiness

Don't believe me?  Test it out on the caveman in your life!  I promise you'll find that my calculations are positively flawless. 

Rosemary-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey-Balsamic Reduction
Serves 2 people

4 rack of lamb pieces (2 bones each) or 1 rack of lamb
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil

balsamic-honey sauce:
1 tbsp honey (preferably, a good quality raw honey)
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar (such as, Villa Manodori)
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef stock


To prepare the lamb, rub it with the rosemary, garlic and olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper on all sides.

In a saute pan, heat the grapeseed oil over high heat.  Add the lamb pieces and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook the lamb on all sides, until golden brown and cooked medium rare.  Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Note: if working with a whole rack of lamb (not just pieces), I recommend searing the lamb stove top and then finishing it in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the rack.

While the lamb is resting, prepare the sauce by draining all but 1 tsp of the fat from the saute pan where the lamb was cooked.  Over medium heat, add the honey and balsamic to the pan and whisk together.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the red wine.  Stir to combine and simmer until reduced in half.  Next, add the beef stock and simmer until reduced to a syrupy sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To plate, place two pieces of lamb on a plate and drizzle with the sauce.  Enjoy!

Businesses Mentioned:

Healthy Family Farms, CSA

6780 Wheeler Canyon Rd.
Santa Paula, CA 93060

This CSA is my go to place for eggs, chicken, cornish game hens, milk-fed pork, ducks, lamb and beef!  They can be found at Farmers Markets, including the Hollywood Farmers Market where I can be found every Sunday. Their animals are all natural, grass-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones.
Meatless Monday

A nonprofit initiative associated with the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, their goal is to persuade people to go without meat one day a week!  Their fabulous website is packed with health news and meatless recipes to inspire your cooking!  CLICK HERE TO VISIT THEIR WEBSITE!

Source for Ingredients:

grass-fed rack of lamb from Healthy Family Farms (Hollywood Farmers Market)

organic rosemary and organic garlic from Hollywood Farmers Market

Zambezi raw organic forest honey, organic beef stock, grapeseed oil and organic olive oil from Whole Foods

Villa Manodori balsamic vinegar from Amazon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roasted Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinegar, Garlic & Thyme!

Only two days until... wait for it... I travel to Floyd, Virginia!

Alright, that might not exactly be breaking news, but I'm excited to spend the holidays with my parents, even if I'm going to be Adorable Monster-less (he's going to our wonderful dog sitter's house).  So that means that I'll be eating and cooking in residence again in Virgina.  Should be a blast!

In the meantime, I want to keep bringing you holiday recipe ideas, and today we're focusing on beets!  These little suckers have been popping up in great big bunches all over my farmers market.  My fridge is packed full of then, in all sizes.  Tis the season to eat beets (sorry Obama!)!

Not only are these babies nutritional powerhouses (they contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer), but they're delicious eaten raw or roasted up in your oven. They also come in an array of colors from white to golden to beet red, and their greens are edible, too!

This recipe is a snap to make, and the combination of flavors from the balsamic, garlic and thyme make this a stunning and satiating dish!  I used both golden and red beets, but any type will do.  These roasted beets work great as a stand alone side dish, perfect for holiday entertaining, or stir them into risotto for a bloody colored, bloody good feast (click here for my recipe for Roasted Beet Risotto).

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar, Garlic & Thyme
Serves 3-4 people

1/2 lb of beets, tops removed (baby beets don't need to be peeled)
4 sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, smashed with skin on
salt & pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the larger beets to make them all about the same size for even cooking.  The smaller ones can be cooked whole.

On a big piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper, place the beets and the smashed garlic cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Wrap up the aluminum foil to enclose the beets, or fold up the parchment paper to make a sealed packet. Place the packet on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40-60 minutes, or until the beets are fork tender.

To serve, they're beautiful right in the packet, or they can be spooned into a bowl, or if you're feeling extra fancy, stirred into risotto.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

organic baby beets, organic garlic, Mission olive oil, organic thyme from Hollywood Farmers Market

Villa Manodori organic balsamic vinegar from Amazon

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Domestic Divas Holiday Gift Guide! 10 Great Gift Suggestions for the 2009 Holiday Season!

 Zingerman's Deluxe Brownie Sampler

It's that glorious time at the end of the year, filled with so many things that make you so joyful yet drive you so crazy at the same time!  To make your last minute holiday shopping a little bit easier, here's my snazzy holiday gift guide!

1) 'Tis the Season... to donate! 

I don't have to tell you times are tough, and ostentatiousness is so 2005, so my number one holiday gift suggestion is to give a donation to a charity in someone else's name!

Not sure what charity to pick?

I'd suggest supporting your local food bank.  Hunger in the U.S. is at an all time high, and it's a great way to give back to your community!  The gift is how good your giftee will feel knowing that less people will go hungry this holiday season because of them. Now that's priceless!


2) More Good Deeds - Menu for Hope Charity Raffle!

Menu for Hope is a food blogger-fueled fundraiser that raffles off items donated by food bloggers to raise money for the World Food Programme's Purchase for Progress, which helps smallholder and low-income farmers supply food to WFP's global operations. For the past three years, they've raised nearly $250 thousand in support of the UN World Food Programme. A $10 donation buys a raffle ticket for any item of your choice.  Raffle tickets make a great holiday gift!


3) This Holiday, Do It Yourself!  My Recipe for Chai Hot Chocolate Mix!

Money is tight for a lot of people right now, so buying holiday gifts can be stressful.  Not sure what to do for your coworkers?  Book group?  Neighbors?  Give them the gift of chocolate, in the form of your own homemade hot chocolate mix!  Not only does everyone love a steaming hot mug of chocolaty goodness, but this is an inexpensive and simple way to make something special for the special people in your life.

Here's my recipe for Chai Hot Chocolate Mix:
Makes about 7 1/2 cups 

32 ounces good quality chocolate, chilled and chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/12 tsp ground cardamom


Place the chocolate in a food processor.  Pulse until granular.  Add the ginger, nutmeg and cardamom and pulse to combine.  Spoon into ziplock bags.

To make the hot chocolate, pour 1 cup scalded milk into a mug and stir in about 2 to 4 tsp of the mix.  Whisk well and enjoy!

To make Holiday Lattes, combine equal parts coffee and scalded milk.  Add 2 to 4 tsp of the hot chocolate mix.  Whisk well and enjoy!

4) Nothing Says I Love You like Chocolate!  Zingerman's Deluxe Brownie Sampler!

Don't want to bake, but want to give that homemade brownie love?  Check out Zingerman's Deluxe Brownie Sampler!  Not only are the Magic Brownies like heaven on earth, but they'll ship them right to your doorstep. The Deluxe Sampler features two each of the original Magic Brownies with toasted walnuts, caramel Buenos Aires Dulce de Leche, and Pecan Blondies topped with sea salt for $36, while the Ultimate Sampler adds four more: two each of the Orange Almond and Genuinely Ginger Brownies for $60.  The brownies are also available individually for $4.75 per brownie.


5) The Gift that Keeps On Giving!  Subscription to Food & Wine Magazine!

Magazines can make great, affordable gifts, the kind that keeps on giving all year long.  Of all the foodie magazines out there, Food & Wine has to be my favorite - I love the joint focus on food and wine, and more often than not, I find inspiration in the pages.  And where do you think I first read about Naomi Pomeroy's Beast?  Right now, you can buy a subscription for yourself and get a free 6 month gift subscription for the low price of $19.99!


6) A Cookbook Makes a Stellar Gift, such as Home Cooking With Charlie Trotter!

I know that right now everyone can't stop talking about Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home, but not only is it back-ordered, but there's another top caliber chef who did the at home thing long before Keller did, and that chef is Charlie Trotter.  While I'm a huge fan of his other (more complicated) cookbooks - they made me into the chef I am today - his Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter offers his signature style in a much more user-friendly way.  A great addition to any home cook's library, check out this cookbook!  Only $16.95 from Amazon and promises to ship in time for Christmas!


7) For the Wine Lover in Your Life, Give a Bottle of Tablas Creek!

A bottle of wine makes a great gift or housewarming present, and for the value, this year I recommend giving Tablas Creek!  Not only was their most recent vintage their best ever (click here for my review), but their Cotes De Tablas sells for a measly $25 a bottle ($20 if you're a member) and was rated 93 points by Parker!  Holy Cow!  In addition to the Cotes, my other picks are the 2007 Espirit De Beautcastel for $50 (a whopping 95-97 points Parker) and their Holiday Gift Pack featuring a bottle of the 2007 Espirit De Beaucastel and the 2007 Espirit de Beaucastel Blanc in a beautiful gift box for $90.


8) It May Taste Sour, But It's a Sweet Gift!  Villa Manodori Organic Balsamic Vinegar!

Villa Manodori makes my favorite organic balsamic vinegar, and I use it in everything from salad dressings, to dessert, to a great honey-balsamic sauce for lamb, to sprinkling over beets before roasting them in the oven with thyme and sea salt!  This is a pantry staple, so why not have a great one?  It sells from Amazon for only $32!


9) Inspiration Comes in Small Packages - Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea!

This book first came to me as a gift from Shelley B., and it brought so much inspiration and joy into my life that I'm passing it along this season (click here for my review)!  This nonfiction book chronicles Greg Mortenson's quest to build a schools in Pakistan, and now there's even a sequel out.  It shows you how much of a difference one person can make, and you won't be able to put it down.  This book sells for only $7.50 from Amazon!


10) For the Adorable Monster in Your Life, Heidi's Homemade Organic Dog Treats!

One last gift suggestion for the furry beast in your life, whether it's a dog, cat or even a horse, Heidi's Homemade has you covered!  The Adorable Monster loves his Peanut Butter Dog Treats (100% certified organic), only $6.50.  They also do adorable gift baskets! 


Tuesday Round-Up (for the Week of December 14, 2009)!

What a difference a week can make!  An at-home sous vide machine?  Say it ain't so!  A food-blogger charity raffle?  Oatmeal blueberry pancakes?  Is the 2007 Chateauneuf vintage too jammy?!

I've got it all and more for you this week!

Here are your Tuesday headlines:
Eat Me Daily's Best Cookbooks of the Decade!
Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes Recipe!
Menu For Hope Charity Fundraiser Starts Today!
Food Woolf's No Fail Potato-Leek Soup Recipe!
Sous-Vide Moves From Avant-Garde to Countertop!
Critical Review of the 2007 Chateauneuf Vintage!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Meatless Monday: Curried Acorn Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger-Braised Leeks

Happy Monday, Divas!

After all the weekend's Xmas festivities, plus the surprise baby shower my book group threw for one of our members, I was so exhausted, I fell asleep at nine o'clock last night and slept like a baby all night long.  The good news?  I'm well-rested, refreshed and ready to blog another Meatless Monday recipe for your viewing pleasure.

Today we're going back to soup-land, one of my favorite places to reside, whether it be lunch, dinner or any meal in between.  Also, since the winter squash is still rolling in hot and heavy at the farmers market, this recipe is a great twist on the classic roasted squash soup.  I added toasted curry powder and coconut milk, which is a great way to make this vegan soup a little bit "creamier" without using the cream.  Then, for an added element of flavor and texture, I topped it with some delicious ginger-braised leeks.

Wow!  This soup fires on all flavor cylinders!  It's spicy, sweet, creamy, rich, everything you would want.  This would be a great holiday soup to start any meal that awakens your palate without overpowering it.  For a neat trick, serve a small portion of soup in shot glasses as an amuse bouche to begin your meal.

Curried Acorn Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger-Braised Leeks
Serves 4 people

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded (any winter squash would work)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup light coconut milk
1 tbsp curry powder, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt & pepper

ginger-braised leeks:
2 leeks, tender white parts chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the acorn squash in a roasting pan.  Rub the inside of the squash with the olive oil, thyme and chili flakes.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Turn the squash face down and poke holes in the skin with a knife.  Place the squash in the oven and roast for about 50 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the ginger-braised leeks, saute the ginger in the 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat for two minutes.  Add the leeks and saute for one more minute.  Then, add the stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover, turn the heat to low, and continue to cook the leeks for about twenty minutes, or until all of the stock has been absorbed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh from the skin and place it in a blender.  Add the toasted curry powder, garlic clove and the vegetable stock and puree until smooth, adding more stock as needed for desired consistence.

Pour the newly pureed soup into a pot on the stovetop.  Stir in the coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Slowly bring up to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls.  Top with some of the leeks.  Drizzle with good olive oil and top with a little fresh cracked black pepper.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

organic acorn squash, organic leeks, ginger, organic garlic, organic thyme and Mission olive oil (used for drizzling) from Hollywood Farmers Market

organic maple syrup, organic low sodium vegetable stock, organic maple syrup and chili flakes from Trader Joe's

organic olive oil (used for cooking) from Whole Foods

Music on Tap:

Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic Volumes 1 & 2

Alright, I'm gonna wager that while most of my dear readers are familiar with Jackson Browne, or at least, you've heard "Running on Empty" pumping out of your radio a handful of times, but you probably don't own these two incredible albums, now available as one collection.  Over the last many years, acclaimed singer-songwriter Jackson Browne has developed a huge cult following for his solo acoustic shows, beautifully captured on these two live albums, the first of which received a Grammy nomination (not that it means anything).

The songs on these albums range from the familiar ("The Pretender") to the obscure to the familiar that you may not know he helped write (The Eagles "Take It Easy"), but they all have one thing in common - Browne's skills as a master songwriter.  So check out this album!

Bonus Tip!  For you LA-area residents, I have a special insider tip for you!  On this Wednesday (December 16th), Jackson Browne will be appearing at Largo as a special guest at the Watkins Family Xmas Show, featuring siblings Sean and Sara Watkins (Nicklecreek) and their fantastic bluegrass band of players.  Other special guests include Grant Lee Phillips and Tom Brosseau! I've already requested my tickets, so viist the Largo website for more information. 



Friday, December 11, 2009

A Belated Congrats to New Top Chef Michael Voltaggio (And The Scoop on Why Kevin Didn't Win)!

Divas, I know it's a little late, but I didn't want to spoil for anyone who Tivo-d the finale, so here's a belated congrats to new Top Chef Michael Voltaggio!

While I'll admit to rooting for Kevin, I'm proud to have Michael as a fixture on the Los Angeles dining scene!  He turned in a stellar performance all season long!  I'm a confessed molecular gastronomy lover, and have eaten lots of Michael's grub at The Bazaar (review here) when he used to work there!  I can't wait for the long-awaited renovation of his restaurant in Pasadena, The Dining Room at the Langham Hotel, to commence in April under the steady hand of Bill Johnson.

Next up for the Brothers Voltaggio, or the "Vo-Bros" as I like to call them (for you non-watchers, Michael's brother, Bryan, was the other finalist)?  They've launched a website together and are considering writing a book!  A great idea if you ask me, a fellow book-writer myself.

And as for Kevin, I know he's going to be a big star!  On the down-low, I'm hearing that the reason for his poor performance in the finale was that right before taping, he'd just broken up with his wife of six years!  Poor thing, but I'm sure he'll rebound in no time.  What's that they say?  Chicken soup is good for the soul?  That's right, Kevin, eat lots of chicken soup, or in your case, pork belly soup drizzled with pork fat!


The Adorable Monster Wishes You Happy Friday!

Don't you think we need a break from cooking?  I know I do!  Last night, I made rack of lamb with a balsamic honey reduction served over ginger-spiced brown rice with apples, walnuts and spinach!  And tonight, I'm whipping up vegetarian enchiladas with my famous homemade enchilada sauce.  I promise to share both recipes soon, but in the meantime, how about a fun Friday diversion to bring a smile to your face?

For all your Adorable Monster fans out there, here are some new photos of our infuriating, precious, annoying, lovable mini goldendoodle!  He looks like the love child of a teddy bear and a snow beast.  He's just over a year old now!  I can't believe how fast the time has flown by.  It seems like just last week he was crawling into the laundry pile to steal my socks.  Oh, no, wait, that was last week, because he's still a little sock thief!

Other Monster updates?

He's finally learned to roll over for a treat, but he won't for the love of god shake my hand!  It's driving me nuts!  Every time I grab his paw to get him to shake, he cocks his head and stares at me like I'm crazy.  It's a complete inter-species communication breakdown.  He still loves his frisbee, the dog park, and his new favorite hobby is burying his bones in our sofas, which makes complete sense given that the sofa is the natural habitat of the mini goldendoodle.  He's a very social little guy, and over Thanksgiving, made best friends with a 7 month old, little white furry puppy named Rooney.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that he's the best dog in the whole world.  No, scratch that, the universe!  Except for the sock filching thing.  But we're working on that (or maybe he's working on us!).  And yes, I'm aware that I'm obsessed with my dog, thank you very much.  I mean, he is my sous chef, after all!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Simple Suppers: Slow-Cooker Beef, Vegetable & Barley Stew

I've recently been fielding lots of requests for more slow-cooker recipes, so on this blustery cold December day (OK, maybe it is 60 degrees, but that's cold for LA!), I'm writing up one of my favorite recipes for Organic Beef, Vegetable & Barley Stew.

I know we talk a lot about organics and sustainability issues on this blog, but for the record, I'm a believer in eating some meat as part of a balanced diet.  For this recipe, I used grass-fed, organic stew beef, which is exceptionally lean, affordable and delicious.  It's a great source of lean protein when eaten in moderation, like with a serving of this stew.  Also, because this type of beef is low in fat, it doesn't need to be precooked to drain the fat before adding it to your slow-cooker.  Simply toss it in with your other ingredients, and you're ready to go!

I also piled this stew full of a great variety of vegetables like cremini mushrooms and bell peppers, which you can vary by season, and pearl barley, a fantastic, nutty whole grown that's low in the glycemic index.

Don't eat beef?

A great alternative would be bison stew meat, which I always have squirreled away in my freezer from Lindner Bison, or for you non-red meat eaters, substituting chicken and chicken broth for the beef and beef broth would be delicious.

This stew is an absolute snap to make - just pile everything into your slow-cooker and leave it all day.  Also, it's a complete meal unto itself, composed of protein, vegetables and whole grain, making it the perfect Simple Supper.  Another suggestion?  Make a huge batch and freeze half of it to eat down the road.

Slow-Cooker Beef, Vegetable & Barley Stew
Serves 4-6 people

1 lb organic stew beef
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thick chunks
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup fresh or frozen lima beans
6 cups beef broth
1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme sprigs & sage leaves tied together with kitchen twine)

optional: 1 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle and tied up in a cheesecloth satchel tied with kitchen twine 


Throw all the ingredients in a slow-cooker.  Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.  Once the beef is tender and cooked through, and the vegetables and barley are cooked, remove the bouquet garni and the cardamom satchel.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle into a bowl and drizzle with good olive oil, if desired.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

organic stew beef, organic cremini mushrooms, organic onion, organic celery, organic garlic and pearl barley from Whole Foods

organic red bell pepper, organic heirloom carrots & organic fresh lima beans from the Hollywood Farmers Market

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lemon-Saffron Potatoes

The holidays are just around the corner, so I want to bring you a few "side dish" recipes that would be great for all the entertaining you'll be doing!  This dish combines three of my favorite ingredients on the planet - lemon, saffron and potatoes!  Not only is this recipe drop-dead gorgeous, with the saffron threads imbuing the potatoes with a spectacular yellow color, but it's also sure to make your taste buds sing.

Saffron, derived from the saffron crocus flower, is popular in Spain, Italy, the Middle East and my kitchen (wink!).  It's the most expensive spice by weight, but don't let that freak you out.  A little bit goes a very long way!  I always keep some stowed in my cupboard, and it's one of the main ingredients in paella (click here for my recipe), which is another one of my favorite dishes to make.

Lemon-Saffron Potatoes
Serves 4 people

4 cups small potatoes such as Yukon Gold or fingerling, chopped
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 cup warm water
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add the saffron threads to the warm water and allow them to soak for 5 minutes. The water should turn a beautiful yellow color. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest to the mixture and stir to combine.

In a roasting pan or other ovenproof dish, layer the potatoes and pour the lemon-saffron mixture over them. Toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover tightly and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and uncover. Toss the potatoes with a little more olive oil if needed and return to the oven to cook uncovered for another 20-30 minutes, or until crispy and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and check the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

saffron, organic lemon, organic olive oil & organic Yukon Gold potatoes from Whole Foods

Music on Tap:

Dave Rawlings Machine - A Friend of a Friend

Let me bet you've never heard of Dave Rawlings!

That's because he's more known as Gillian Welch's longtime collaborator and as a producer, where he's worked with such musicians as Ryan Adams and Old Crow Medicine Show. The concept of this album originated when Rawlings and Welch were hanging out in Los Angeles and spending time with other musicians.  I had the pleasure of catching one of their shows where surprise guest Emmylou Harris took the stage with them!

On this album, Rawlings records some older songs he wrote with other musicians (Ryan Adams' "To Be Young" is one of my all time favorite songs) and some newer material, with a few covers thrown in for good measure, like another of my favorite songs, Neil Young's "Cortez The Killer."  It's a wonderful effort that really spans Rawlings' career, and finally it's been recorded.