Archive for ‘Peppers’

September 17, 2010

Comfort Food with a Newark Edge: Ironbound Estofado

It shouldn’t surprise you that the woman that’s married to the Lord of the Underworld knows a lot about New Jersey.  I don’t know what you’ve heard, but it’s a place with a lot of family, tradition and culture.  And a place that loves its food: it’s a melting pot.  One of those places is Newark, where our family roots run deep.  Spanish and Portuguese influences are strong.  These flavors resonate deep within in me.  Perhaps it’s the immigrant in me and maybe in Americans, in general.  We should all embrace our mongrel past.

With this dish it is officially fall in PK.  Although I hear the Spaniards do this kind of a dish year round.  This beef stew with chorizo and root vegetable mash is chock full of the cheapest cut of beef – boneless chuck roast – plus a couple of links of chorizo for spicy flavor.  Then add in some veg from the garden (or your local Whole Foods) and you’ve got yourself an inexpensive, flavorful, and super-satisfying comfort dinner with a twist.

This afternoon I dove in and pulled up a huge bunch of parsnips from the garden and threw them in the sink to rinse (along with a frighteningly large, oddly colored spider that was subsequently released back into the wild as opposed to washed down the disposal).  These spider-free parsnips became the base for the lovely root vegetable mash that accompanied our stew.  The great thing about this – for those of you that want fewer carbs – is that it’s mostly vegetables, not just potatoes.  And for those of you that say, “Pshaw, I care nothing about the carbs I consume!” then this mash is the most marvelous thing you can eat with the lovely meat gravy you have left after simmering your roast for many hours.  Enjoy, eaters.

Ironbound Estofado

1½ Boneless Chuck Roast (or whatever’s cheapest at your butcher – really!)

½ red onion sliced in thick rings

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, cut in very large chunks

2 medium Brandywine tomatoes (isn’t that perfect?) or ½ pound tomatoes, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped

2 links of chorizo sausage, quartered

6 c. water

Olive oil, salt, pepper

2 T. Butter, 2 T. Flour

Fresh chopped coriander (really, people, this time it’s not optional)

In a large, heavy bottomed pasta pot, heat a good glug of olive oil.  Add in your roast that has been generously seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium high heat to sear each side, four to five minutes a side.  It should get nice and brown and release from the pot easily.  Remove roast and set aside on a plate. 

Dump in the onions to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all that goodness (a.k.a., the fond) up off the bottom.  Then after three or four minutes of stirring the onions, add the garlic, tomatoes, and peppers.  Cook for another minute or two, stirring to incorporate.

Add back in the roast, along with any juices that collected on the bottom of the plate.  That’s more goodness, readers.  Add in the chorizo.  Pour in 6 cups of water.  Raise heat to high and bring to just below a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for four to five hours, uncovered.  If you feel like flipping the roast over halfway through, do it, but really there’s no need to mess with it.  It should be fine.

Just before serving, make yourself a bit of Beurre Manié to mix into the stew. PK tip: this is seriously one of the greatest things you can learn.  Mix equal parts of softened – not melted – butter and flour (use your fingers to make it into a paste) and then drop the whole chunk of thoroughly mixed fat and flour into a stock or stew that needs thickening.  After a few minutes of simmering, this results in a lovely body to the sauce, plus the flavor of yummy, yummy butter and no clumps.  Nailed it.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve the roast, peel and cube one large russet potato, two large carrots and three large parsnips.  Rinse under cold water, then cover with water, add a generous pinch or two of salt and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until the parsnips and carrots are soft.  Drain, add in two tablespoons of butter, and a splash of milk or half and half.  Use a potato masher to roughly mash the vegetables.  You’re not looking for a pristine purée here, just an incorporation of the three vegetables.

To serve place a large spoon of the vegetable mash in a warm, shallow bowl (hear that one before?), then top with a couple of spoons of the sauce from the stew along with a generous chunk of the roast, a few pieces of sausage and some of the soft carrots.  Top with a bit of chopped cilantro.

Serve this with what we served it with: an inexpensive Monastrell.

Maybe while you’re cooking, you’ll fancy a listen to the mighty, mighty White Stripes’ Icky Thump.

September 12, 2010

Gameday in the Underworld | Lamb Tagine

I knew it was game day, I just didn’t make the traditional food for it.  This is a novel spread for fall football entertaining because (well, it features lamb, but also!) each of these can be served either hot or room temperature.  If it’s not your thing, give these dishes a try on a fall weekend when your favorite team has a bye.

First, tagine of lamb (we used lovely little lamb chops).  This is a simplified version of a Claudia Roden recipe from Arabesque.  I prefer to have my lamb a bit more on the well-done side, so braises suit me well.  To braise, I first seared the chops with a garlic clove and a couple of shallots in a tagine, then added some of the lamb stock we made last weekend and then a handful of almonds (roughly chopped) and a handful of dates.  Let it cook for about an hour and a half to two hours over really low heat.  This method gave it a really lovely sauce and the chops were surprisingly tender for such a short braise.

Side dishes included roasted eggplant, tomato and bell peppers (just used a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and a 400˚ oven for about 25 to 30 minutes).  Afterwards, give it a mix with a few dashes of cumin and some ground sumac if you’ve got it.

Make a quick sauce by caramelizing a whole onion, sliced in thin rings, in a bit of vegetable oil.  Once the onions are caramelized, add a drop or two of honey, some salt and pepper and use either an immersion blender or a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  This thick sauce is great with the lamb, but it could be nice with any number of other meats, some sage-y roasted pork perhaps.

Then I made couscous.  I think it’s kind of funny how much I enjoy making this.  It’s like how your mom has a potato salad recipe memorized and the only way you can learn is by watching her. “Oh honey, I don’t know, keep adding the mayonaise until it looks right.”  Great, thanks, Mom.  (Don’t take that personally, Demeter.)  Here’s an attempt to get a recipe down for this fast side that can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Warm or Cold Couscous

3 cups couscous (not the Israeli, we used Rice Select tricolor)

3 cups liquid (water is fine, chicken stock is nicer)

½ c olive oil

1 orange (zest and juice)

3 T cumin

1/8 t of rose water, if you have it

¾ c currants or raisins (golden or plain jane)

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered or larger tomato cubed

½ c. pine nuts( toasted is nice, but not 100% necessary)

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the three cups of liquid to a boil, then whisk in the couscous.  Remove from heat and cover.

In a deep bowl, whisk together olive oil through rose water, a generous couple of pinches of salt and 20 twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add in the raisins through mint and parsley and whisk again.  After ten minutes or so, remove the lid from the couscous and using a fork, fluff the couscous and then add into the deep bowl with the dressing.  Mix well.

At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil or cumin or salt or pepper.  PK tip:  This is where taste, remember, season, taste again comes into practice (I think I originally read this in Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef).  You’ll do this a lot as you begin to cook more without a net, so to speak.

Serve with a 2004 Grenache from Orvene Winery.  It’s a stunning, affordable pairing available from our friends at Vino 100 down in the Short North.

An unusual menu for a game calls for an unusual playlist.  Today’s included old Cocteau Twins and Bjork’s Hyperballad.

PK thanks Cronus for today’s photography.

September 8, 2010

An Exotic Meal, In Season, and On the Cheap

The humble moule.  Such a tasty yet inexpensive little gem.  Pair them with the late-summer tomatoes and peppers still prevalent at local farmers’ markets, a dash of spice, and you can transport your plate to the Incense Route.

A two pound bag will set you back about six bucks at Whole Foods.  Buy a loaf of crusty bread and an inexpensive (not cheap) bottle of white wine and you have yourself an exotic, but simple dinner.   Then, invite a friend over and they’ll be amazed at your cooking prowess.  Secretly, you’d know that it only took you 20 minutes to do.  But you can still smile, nod your head, and say, “Thanks, I love to cook.”

PK Tip:  when you get your mussels home, take them out and rinse them in a colander, remove any beards and check to make sure they are all closed tightly or at least close when you tap them.  Then put that colander over a bowl and stick them back in the fridge.  They’ll be fine until dinner.  As it turns out, mussels need air to breathe.  For God’s sake don’t leave them in the plastic bag they may have given them to you in.

Mussels with Curried Peppers 

1 T olive oil

1 shallot, finely minced

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1 Bay leaf

1 splash of white wine or vermouth

1 2 lb. bag of mussels (from a reputable purveyor of fish, please)

2 medium green bell peppers, de-seeded and roughly chopped

1 medium tomato, roughly chopped

1 t curry powder

1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped (or parsley for all you cilantro haters)


In a large pan, over medium-low heat, add olive oil and sweat the shallot, garlic and bay for 5 minutes.  Then add a splash of wine or vermouth, and reduce until almost evaporated. 

While the shallot, garlic and bay are cooking, puree the peppers, tomato and curry powder in a blender or food processor.  Tip the puree into your pan, increase the heat, bringing it to a boil.

Add the mussels to the pan, turn to high, and cover.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.  The mussels are done when they yawn open.  Discard any that don’t. 

Taste the broth.  The liquor from the mussels will add some salt to the broth.  Add a pinch or two more if you think it needs it.

It is mandatory to serve this in warmed, shallow bowls with large amounts of crusty French Bread and salty butter.  A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand wouldn’t hurt either.

Playlist included Davey, by The Señors of Marseille.  I kind of think they might be a new Vampire Weekend.

August 30, 2010

Last of the (Famous International) Tomatoes

Super fresh tomatoes give the puree a lovely orange color.

We’re on the cusp of September and the tomato plants are on their last legs.  There are still a ton of green tomatoes on the vines, but I wonder if we’ll have enough hot days to turn the rest.  My guess is not.  I’ll take this as an opportunity to learn how to make stuff besides fried green tomatoes.

But winding down the summer, I can reminisce over all we’ve used our tomatoes for: some pretty tasty tomato and peach panzanella salads, sausage (we love ones from Bluescreek Farm Meats)with roasted tomatoes peppers, omelettes with tomato compote, and super simple, super fast tomato and basil sauce over pasta.  No dish was earth shattering in its creativity, to be sure, but oh my is it tasty.  I always feel a little sad when summer comes to end because the tomatoes will be gone.  Ah, seasons.

We cook pretty casually around here.  If you’ve got an hour to let something roast in the oven, now’s the perfect time of year to cook this:

Italian Sausages with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, Peppers and Onions

1 pound of Italian sausages (combination of sweet and hot)

1 large yellow onion, sliced in thick rounds

2 large bell peppers, deseeded and cut into wide strips

3 medium sized (or 1 large or heck a couple of handfuls of cherry sized) tomatoes

1 or two cloves of garlic, smashed, fresh thyme (if you’ve got it in your garden or feel like buying it), a bay leaf or two

Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Place sausages, onions, peppers and tomatoes (cut up in large-ish chunks), garlic, thyme and bay in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle a good amount of olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar over the veg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss together with your (clean, of course) hands and then rearrange to place the sausages back on top of the veg.  Slide in a 350 oven (preheated or not, who cares? it’s not a cake) for about an hour, to an hour and ten minutes.  Give the pan a shake and turn the sausages over half way through if you remember.

If you’ve got the desire to be a bit posh about it, and you’ve got more tomatoes than you know what to do with, puree four cups of diced tomatoes (chef’s choice) in the blender (throw a bell pepper in there if you want), reduce over low-ish heat in a sauce pan, at the last minute, whisk in some good olive oil, a pinch or two of sugar, and a good amount of salt and pepper. 

To serve with the sauce, put a ladle of sauce in a shallow bowl, top with a pile of the roasted veg and a sausage or two.  Good bread is almost an essential. 

We served this with PBR tall boys and thought it was just fine.

Playlist included Last of the International Playboys by Morissey.

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