Monday, January 23, 2006


my birthday gift to laurie was really a birthday gift to myself. i can't remember the last time i made anything more complicated than a pot of soup. it's been weeks, and i miss cooking. the birthday dinner was my opportunity to get in front of the stove again and to have friends over and entertain.

"food and wine" magazine has been arriving at my house and i figured the only thing separating the magazine from being a coaster, was using some of the recipes. i chose braised lamb shanks with cilantro pesto. braising is a slow-cooking technique that basically involves searing the meat, and then letting it cook in liquid at a low temperature for a long time. when you eat meat that falls off the bone, it has likely been braised.

having come to my culinary pubescence during my vegetarian years, i don't have that much experience cooking meat. i was suprised to find that i did not enjoy handling the bloody, raw stuff. the outcome was good, but in truth, i do not think i will be cooking giant hunks of lamb for quite some time.

the recipe is for six shanks but i made only four, while changing none of the other proportions. also, we drank it with scotch on the rocks: good stuff my buddy chris bought for me for my birthday in edinburgh last summer.

braised lamb shanks with roasted broccoli and squash

1/4 plus 3 tbsp e.v.o.o.
6 med. lamb shanks, about 6 pounds
salt and fresh pepper
2 cups dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
2 med onions, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced into moons
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, thinkly sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 large canned italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 pounds small delicata squash (i used dumpling squash i think)--scrubbed, halved, seeded and cut into slices
1 2 lb head of broccoli cut into florets
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained

preheat oven to 325 degrees
heat tbsp olive oil in skillet. season lamb shanks with salt and pepper all over.
add three of shanks and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, 10 minutes.
transfer to a large roasting pan or stew pot.
repeat with another tbsp olive oil and remaining shanks.
pour off skillet oil
add wine and boil for 1 minute, scraping up browned bits
pour wine into roasting pan with lamb shanks
add stock/celery/carrot/thyme/coarsely chopped onions/bay leaves
bring to boil over high heat
cover with foil and place in oven.
braise for 2.5 hours, until meat is very tender
remove foil, let cool slightly

make sofrito:
in medium skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil
add garlic, finely chopped oinion, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds and cook over moderate heat until reduce to 2/3 cup
season with salt and pepper

increase oven temp to 400 degrees
on each of two rimmed baking sheets toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and do same thing with broccoli
roast squash for 45 minutes, broccoli for 25 minutes
meanwhile tranfer lamb shanks to a work surface, strain braising liquid and skim off fat
add chickpeas/tomato sofrito/lamb shanks to braising liquid, cover and simmer for 8 minutes over low heat

cook couscous according to package (i made it with the large israeli couscous which is less absorbent and maybe therefore, not as good). add butter and salt (i used olive oil for my lactose intolerant laurie)

put couscous/lamb/roasted veggies in a bowl and drizzle cilantro pesto over the top (see below)

cilantro pesto
1 cup cilantro leaves, cleaned
1 cup flat leaf parsley, cleaned
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 knob ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil

place all ingredients in blender

Friday, January 06, 2006


for my 10th birthday, which i spent at my great aunt's house in suburban london, i was served a homemade sachertorte with candles in it. it was so unlike the creamy, fluffy birthday cakes i had at home, i was mesmerized. hidden between these dense chocolate layers was the faintest hint of raspberry jam. the chocolate frosting was not the thick buttery american kind; it was thin and shiny and delicate.

my great aunt annie was an austrian jew who, like her brother (my grandfather) fled vienna when the nazis came to town. the food i enjoyed that entire week in her home was thick and rich: goulash and spaetzle, and my beloved sachertorte. i have held a place in my heart for this food ever since. i went to prague and vienna as a 20 year old and gorged myself on wiener schnitzel and bread dumplings and goulash. this was my ancestral homeland, and this food my ancestral food.

yesterday my mom and i went to the neue gallery to take in some egon schiele, but stopped in at cafe sabarsky before we looked at the art. cafe sabarsky is charmingly old world, and completely austrian in feel, much in the same way as thomas beisl is, across from BAM. in an effort to stay close to my roots, we ordered a "sausage salad" and smoked trout crepes. i also had a terrific cafe latte. the sausage salad was terrifying to look at. it appeared to be long flat strips of spam, tossed with cheese, greens, sliced radishes, slivered red bell peppers and vinaigrette. it was actually delicious, and not even that heavy. mom was not a fan of her trout crepes. they were delicate and crunchy, more like egg rolls than the soft french-like crepes i pictured.

the desserts were behind us, laid out on a marble shelf, and looking preposterously good. next time, i will definitely partake of sachertorte and viennese hot chocolate, and bring myself back in time to aunt annie's house .

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

easy as pie, but it's a cookie

per cjr's request, a new recipe.

with the holidays comes a desire to produce mass amounts of sugary buttery crap and eat most of it myself, but give some of it away. if only i had 76 grandchildren, there would be enough mouths to finish all that i crave to make. i showed some restraint, i did, and made only a few things, including a batch of almond biscotti, all of which i gave away as gifts. ok, i ate one piece, but just to make sure it wasn't poisoned (it wasn't).

biscotti are terrifically easy to make. and many versions do not even contain any butter or oil. in fact, i recall watching
"the view" once (kudos to you if you cannot say that phrase), and the ladies saying that a person could lose 900 pounds if she switched her daily snack from a venti caramel macchiato and a scone to a frappucino and a biscotti. it's, apparently, practically like eating a carrot.

biscotti de prato

("classical italian dunking cookie")

3/4 cups whole almonds
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
7/8 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt

heat oven to 350
place nuts in a shallow baking dish and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes
in a small bowl beat eggs, vanilla and almond extract with a wire whisk.
in a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
add egg mixture until blended, about 1 minute.
cut nuts into halves and mix in.
divide dough in half.
on greased and floured baking sheet, pat dough into 2 logs 1.5 inches wide and 12 inches long.
space them at least 2 inches apart.
lower oven to 300 degrees and bake logs of dough for 50 minutes until golden brown.
transfer from baking sheet to rack, cool 5 minutes.
on a cutting board, cut with a serrated knife on a diagonal, about 1/2 inch thick.
lower oven to 275 degrees and lay slices flat on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes,
turning over once to dry the other side.
store in a tightly covered container.
taste one to make sure it isn't poisoned.