Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beef Bourguignon by Catharine Skipp

If you are ever at a loss for what to get the parents of a new baby as a gift, the best idea is probably to bring them dinner. There is no sweet relief like getting to put off for just one more night the ever nagging question of "what are we going to do for dinner?"

The other night I was given this amazing gift by my husband's co-worker, Catharine Skipp. She is quite a foodie apparently and it really showed in the beef bourguignon and creme brulee she so lovingly prepared for us. I mean, wow! Beef Bourguignon. You don't just whip that up in a couple of minutes. There was also the side of roasted potatoes and a delicious salad with dressing and all. We added a pre-dinner martini and a glass of red wine and voila - It was all delicious and I am still thankful for her generosity.

We ate the wonderful dinner while watching the president announce the end of the combat mission in Iraq. And there was probably the viewing of an episode of Mad Men that followed. We had missed a Mad Men Martini Monday because we had spent a long weekend up at my parent's place in Vero Beach. Regardless, it was an unexpectedly nice evening with my husband that was not in the least bit stressful. No food to cook. No pots and pans to clean.

So, thank you, Catharine. I'll try to pay this forward to the next friend who has a baby.

Just in case someone wants to know more about beef bourguignon, check out Ina Garten's recipe here and Julia Child's version here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Braised Short Ribs

I have a few bonus minutes right now because Baz has decided to take an extraordinarily long nap -- for him -- and Amelia has been kind enough to synchronize her latest nap to his. Guess going to Miami Beach Regional Library's story time was a good idea. Who knew a couple of kid books and sing-a-long songs would make everyone so tired. But, it might not last long, so I am going to try and take advantage of every precious minute. Besides, I made the best dinner last night and wanted to share.

Sure, overnight marinating and cooking something for four hours may not be in everyone's time budget. But, short ribs are one of those things you just have to let cook so even though it does take a ton of time, it isn't difficult or strenuous to make. It's quite simple actually. And it was so worth it! Damien even said it was a top five.

I looked at several different recipes and then sort of made up my own. The cure that I use is mostly based on a recipe I found for my favorite short ribs at Michy's here in Miami. It's one of our favorite restaurants and Michelle Bernstein is a fantastic local chef who you have seen as a judge on Top Chef from time to time. The rest of the recipe is based a lot on her ideas as well as the Balthazar recipe. I liked that Michelle's are a little sweet and spicy, but I think Balthazar's are so French and rich.

The only thing I wish I had done differently was made more ribs! 1 1/2 pounds didn't go as far as I would have thought.

Braised Short Ribs


3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
2 pounds short ribs (with bones)

Combine all of the spices in a one gallon zip-lock bag and shake well. Dry the short ribs with paper towels and add them to the bag. Move them around so that all sides are coated with the spices. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days. (I chilled them for two nights.)

To cook the ribs:

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped or 1 cup of baby carrots
2 celery ribs
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, minced (I used powdered ginger because I forgot the fresh version and I really wish I hadn't done that.)
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half (remove seeds depending on how spicy you want it)
1/4 cup orange juice
16 ounces chicken stock
16 ounces robust red wine like cabernet sauvignon
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
handful of parsley

Heat the oil in a pot that can also go in the oven -- like a dutch oven -- over medium heat. Add the garlic. Take the ribs out of the bag and without removing any of the spices that are sticking to the ribs, add them to the hot oil. Brown the short ribs on all sides being careful not to burn them but trying to get them crispy. Remove the ribs from the pot and set aside. Pour out just about all of the fat retaining about 1 tablespoon in the pot. Return to the heat.

Add the vegetables and saute until the onion is translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients and bring it to a boil. Add the ribs back to the pot. Bring back up to a boil. Make sure that the ribs are completely covered with liquid. If not, add more chicken stock, wine and even water to cover.

Put the pot in a 350 degree oven and allow to cook for 3 hours. The ribs are done when they are very tender and are falling off the bone.

Take the pot out of the oven and remove the ribs. Set the aside. Pour the liquid through a sieve to remove all of the vegetables and herbs. Return the remaining liquid to the pot and continue cooking until it reduces by about half -- about 1 hour.

If you'd like the sauce to be a little thicker -- which I did -- take a tablespoon of flour and mix it with two tablespoons of water, stirring it until it is completely smooth. Very slowly add it to the sauce while stirring constantly to avoid any lumps.

Return the ribs to the sauce to reheat. You can serve it immediately, but this dish is also wonderful reheated later in the day.

I served the ribs on top of mashed sweet potatoes and a side of sauteed green beans. I wish I had found some haricot verts instead, but they were fine. It looked impressive and the ribs were succulent and super tasty. Like I said, I wish I had more.

So, that's it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mad Men Martini Mondays and Risotto ai Funghi (e Asparagi)

Having a second baby started out much better than I had anticipated. Let's face it - having Baz really kicked my ass. I was stunned by the sleep deprivation and had this false notion that I would be able to control things. I quickly learned that you can function on much less sleep than what I was used to (hello, I use to sleep 9 or 10 hours a night pre-baby) and that the babies control everything. There is no rushing them to eat, sleep or adjust. They do everything on their own, unrelenting time.

Amelia has been a sweet relief. She took to breastfeeding super well. She started sleeping 6 hours a night very early on and she takes her brother's "attention" with a grain of salt. It's only now, almost 8 weeks later, that I am starting to feel a little "fatigued". Baz at 18 1/2 months has way more energy than my 36 year old body can handle and Amelia is figuring out that control thing. She cries less than Baz did, but boy does she make up for lost time when she does. Her mind-bending screams in the car are stuff of legends.

So, right about now I needed to figure out some sort of pick-me-up. My answer: Don Draper. I don't know about you, but I love the show Mad Men. Damien and I bought the first couple of seasons on DVD when Baz was first born and we were hooked immediately. This season started a couple of weeks ago but we are finding it just way too hard to stay up until 10pm to watch the fresh episodes on Sunday nights. So, I came up with a plan: We save Sunday's show on our DVR until Monday night so that after the kids were fed, bathed and put to bed, we can have martinis and a date with Don Draper. Last night was our first Mad Men Martini Monday.

In honor of the event, I also decided to be a little ambitious with dinner. After all, Don deserved it. And I guess Damien did, too. He's been a great big help despite the fact that work has been a little challenging lately. (It's all Wyclef Jean's fault.) So, I decided to make risotto -- a dish I know he loves.

Without further ado, here is the way I made Risotto ai Funghi with a little bit of asparagus for color and nutrition:

Risotto ai Funghi e Asparagi)

6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 or 6 stalks of asparagus, cut into small pieces
1/4 oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup shitake mushrooms, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, broken up into small pieces by hand
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter

Heat up the chicken stock so that it is warm but not too hot. Set it aside over low heat.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium to large pot. When it's nice and hot, add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent but not yet browned (about 8 minutes).

At the same time, heat up two more tablespoons of olive oil in a separate pan. When it is hot, add the asparagus, oyster mushrooms and shitake mushrooms. Saute just a bit, coating the vegetables with the olive oil (the asparagus should be slightly softened but not mushy.) Season with salt and pepper.

Returning to the first pot, when the onions are translucent, add the rice and toast it for about 4 or 5 minutes or until the rice is opaque. Add the dried porcini mushrooms. Then add the wine. Stir constantly until the wine seems to be absorbed into the rice.

Now you will start adding in the chicken stock one ladle at a time. It is very important that you let each ladle's worth of stock absorb into the rice before adding another. Stir it constantly as it is added. When you have added about 3 cups, start tasting the rice to make sure you do not overcook it. You'll probably need close to 5 or 6 cups, but the tenderness of the rice and consistency are what's important. The rice should be al dente but not hard, but it should also not be mushy.

When you are one ladle shy of reaching the right consistency, add in the sauteed asparagus and mushroom mixture from earlier. Add the last ladle continuing to stir constantly. Now add in the parmesan cheese and butter. You should have a rich, creamy risotto now with rice that is still slightly al dente.

Serve immediately.

The constant stirring as you patiently add the ladles of chicken stock are the toughest part. It'll make your arms tired, for sure. But it really only takes about 30 to 40 minutes from start to finish to make this dish and it is absolutely delicious, especially with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top. Of course, I do think risotto takes some practice. Mine was a little bit mushier than I would have liked, but still really tasty.

Mad Men Martini Monday #1 - a complete success. Next week, maybe we'll have oysters and steak.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Banana Bread (with Chocolate Chips)

I know it's been a while. It's been so long that I now have another baby! Amelia Francesca was born two weeks early on July 2, 2010. Note to other expectant moms: Try not to give birth on a Friday night at 9:41pm of a holiday weekend. You may be greeted at the front desk of the maternity ward by an eyes-glazed-over receptionist asking, "What are you here for?" Uh, well, let's see. I am standing here in the maternity ward swaying back in forth in pain and with what looks like a basketball under my shirt. What do you think?

Needless to say, it was quite a night, but all ended well. And now I feel inspired to cook again!

Then this morning, I had the rare treat of everyone sleeping in -- even new baby. I also had three ripe ripe bananas sitting around so I decided to make my family some fresh banana bread to wake up to. I looked up a few recipes and finally came up with this one of my own:

Banana Bread (with Chocolate Chips)

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup chocolate chips**

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees and prepare a loaf pan by coating with butter and dusting with flour.

Combine the four dry ingredients -- flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. I suppose you should sift them together, but who has time for that, right? Set aside.

Beat the sugar and brown sugar into the butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon.

Mash the bananas with a fork and then add to the beaten eggs.

Add the egg and banana mixture to the sugar mixture. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Add the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. A toothpick or knife should come out clean when inserted.

*I used buckwheat flour because I didn't have enough regular white flour and, I have to say, it was a great choice. I really liked the flavor it added. I found the buckwheat flour at Whole Foods one day and had grand visions of making the kind of buckwheat crepes I have come to love at one of my favorite local spots -- A La Folie. Never happened.

**Of course, I made them dirtier by adding chocolate chips but they can easily be omitted. Or, you can substitute nuts if you'd prefer.

And of course, you can always make muffins instead. I haven't but I am sure it would work just fine. I just don't know how long you'd want to bake them.

So, that's it. My first post-baby #2 recipe. I hope you like it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Preparing for Swim Season

Ugh, it's been a busy few weeks. First I had a bunch of projects to do -- don't you just love how you don't have much going on for a couple of months and then BAM! you get three jobs at one time? -- and then we went to New York and Vero Beach. Trying to get Baz back on a decent sleep schedule took another couple of days.

But, now I'm back and things are getting back to a manageable pace. And I have two finished videos under my belt -- keep an eye out for an exciting NY Times one on South Florida pythons in the coming week or so -- and my first blog post for's Strollerderby blog about infidelity, this sex addiction "epidemic" and what children can learn from how mom's handle their cheating husbands.

Sure, I've been cooking, too. But mostly it's been some of my tried and tested recipes like picadillo, shrimp scampi and grilling everything from asparagus to kielbasa. My creativity well has been getting pretty tapped out.

I did make a pretty delicious turkey bolognese recently that I will post the next time I make it. Damien was skeptical of replacing the ground beef with ground turkey, but it was really good, if I may say so myself. The key, of course, is the seasoning rather than the actual meat and fresh thyme -- lots of it thanks to the wonderful suggestion of my Dad's Mario Battali cookbook -- made a big impact.

But, I do want to point out something that is a big deal for those of us in South Florida. The temperatures are rising a little too fast for my taste which is a reminder that swimming and pool season are in full swing around here. But, as The Miami Herald's MomsMiami blog points out, it's also a reminder that Florida leads the country in toddler deaths due to drowning. In fact, Miami-Dade (where I live) and Broward county (next door) are in the top five counties in the country for these types of accidents.

We don't have a pool and I am trying to teach Baz how to have a healthy respect for the ocean and water, but it's never a bad thing to try and educate yourself on preventing accidents.

So, take a moment to read up on how to prevent an accidental drowning. You don't have to live in Florida to be thinking about this. Summertime is here and we're all bound to be near water at some point.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I've never made beets before. I have always thought they were super complicated or something. So instead, kind of like risotto, I usually ordered them when I saw them on the menu at a nice restaurant.

But, I was feeling a bit like superwoman today because I got up early and was able to get a ton of work done, all before 11am. Baz was not interested in napping, but it was fine since I was feeling very empowered and ready to handle anything! So, I took him out to run a few errands and found myself itching to go to Whole Foods. I've taken to this whole trying to buy local and organic lately even though I do think that the whole organic movement is more of a marketing ploy than about real health issues -- especially when we are talking about Whole Foods and their perfect rows of asparagus and bins of whole grains and extraordinary prices. I do think that there is something a little scary going on with the food industry though, and I figure that while I can afford it, it's probably marginally better for me and my family to eat organic when possible. Publix's selection of such items is limited. So, I went to Whole Foods.

And there were these beets! They looked so pretty up there on the misty row of perfectly presented vegetables. And they were from Punta Gorda -- the west coast of Florida. They had me at hello : )

Well, turns out they are not difficult to make at all and I can't believe I've been missing out for so long. I looked up "beets" on the internet and found myself on the Fitness and Nutrition section of the New York Times web site. They said to cut of the greens off leaving about 1/4 inch of the stems (and save the leaves for other dishes), wash them well and then put them in a baking dish with about 1/4 in. of water. Cover the dish tightly and then put them in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes (30 to 60 depending on the size. Mine were medium to large.) You can test them by sticking a fork in them and seeing if they are tender.

After you cool them enough to handle, the peel comes off very easily with your fingers. Then I just sliced them up and pour a light vinaigrette of olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper over them. They were awesome!

I served these delicious beets with the local jumbo shrimp I also got at Whole Foods and some organic asparagus, both of which I grilled on our BBQ. For the shrimp, I used the same soy, sherry, honey, ginger marinade I used for the pork loin last weekend. It worked really well. The whole meal was so tasty and felt very healthy.

The rest of this week is going to be a bit of a nightmare. I'm doing a video with Damien in addition to the corporate job I've been working on. And my usual babysitter is giving me a hard time these days, so I'm just hoping she doesn't flake on me this week. I really really need her. So, the dinners might suffer. I'll do my best, but I might not be able to blog too much. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marinated Pork Loin and Hamburgers a la Diana

What a wonderful weekend! Some of my closest friend were in town for different reasons, but we were all able to get together this past weekend for a fabulous beach day and a couple of late night talks. Kita and her three girls were here from Colorado, Joey and her daughter for Portland, Maine and Karima from my old stomping ground, Brooklyn. There is nothing like being with your dearest friends in the world and even though we haven't seen each other in a while it felt like just yesterday we were drinking at Lucky Johnny's or covering up holes in our dorm room walls with posters left over from our butt rocker party. (Maybe I can find a picture of that to post!)

It was a great way to let off some steam too before I had to start digging into my work week this week. It went too quickly. But I did make dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and Kita was requesting I post the recipes so here we go:

On Friday, I grilled pork loin on the grill that I had marinated for several hours in a soy, dry sherry mixture that I found on the Food Network site. I think it turned out really well, but some of our younger guests thought it smelled like alcohol so maybe it would have been best to make something a little simpler for the under 21 in the group. They did eat it though so I am not sure if it tasted better than it smelled or if they were just being polite.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 pound pork loin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (the original calls for vegetable oil, but I liked the way the olive oil worked out)
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme (the original calls for rosemary, but they didn't have any at the supermarket so I used thyme)
1 tablespoon minced onion (I thought I had the shallot the original recipe called for but it was bad, so I substituted onion and it was fine, but shallot probably would have been better.)1
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

I patted the pork loin dry and placed it in a gallon zip lock bag. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sherry, honey, vinegar, oil, and juice. Add the thyme, onion, and ginger and mix well. Pour the mixture into the zip lock, covering the pork loin. Marinate for as long as possible but at least two hours.

Preheat the grill. Remove the pork loin from the bag leaving the marinade in the bag. Place them on the grill and cook for about 18 minutes (depending on the size, it could be a little more or a little less. I use a thermometer to make sure it is done properly.) When it is finished, remove from the grill and let stand for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, pour the marinade into a skillet and heat it up to a slow simmer for about 10 minutes.

Slice the pork loin, arrange on a plate and pour the heated marinade over the slices. Yum!

The following night I made hamburgers. Damien is really the best one at making them, but this is how I do it:

Hamburgers a la Diana
3 pounds organic ground beef (after the whole NY Times e. coli article, I'm all about organic ground beef)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons steak sauce (I used Smith and Wollensky's)
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

Put the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce and bread crumbs to the beef. Use your hands to mix as well as you can. I don't really measure the ingredients when I do it so these are all approximate. You can use as much or as little of them depending on your taste. The goal is a moist and tasty burger.

Once it is well mixed, make about 10-12 hamburger patties. Preheat the grill to about 450 - 500 degrees. Place the patties straight on the grill and cook for 3 minutes per side for medium (but this of course depends on the thickness of the patties so you can check one to make sure it's cooked properly.)

You can add some cheese to the burgers when they are close to finished and I like to toast french style hamburger rolls from the bakery section that are much better than the usual hamburger buns you get in the bread section.

I also use ground turkey sometimes and they are just as good.