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Filtering by Tag: recipes-meat

Slow Cooked Beef Stew

Beth Ribblett

The cold weather and the 2010 Duseigneur Antares Lirac had me craving some sort of hearty meat dish so I took out a piece of round steak from the freezer, one of the few cuts we have left from that 1/4 of a cow we bought last year.  Avoiding the dreaded Whole Foods run on a Sunday, I was able to scrounge up enough ingredients to make a beef stew in the crock pot.

Last month's Food & Wine had a photo of a slow cooked beef dish on its cover that has been calling to me every I look at it.  And while I made my own version, wanting something hearty and tasty with very little work involved, Jacques Pepin's Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce was definitely my inspiration!  

2 lbs round steak cut into 1"-2"chunks
2 t. kosher salt
ready to put the lid on and wait...
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
1/2 C. chopped onion
10 cipollino onions
10 small carrots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 t. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 t. Worchestire Sauce
2 C. red wine
2 C. organic beef broth
1/4 t. pepperoncino
1/3 C. flour mixed with warm water
chopped parsley for garnish


-Add all of the ingredients except for the parsley into the slow cooker and turn on high for 4-1/2 hours. 

-At 4 hours, open the Duseigneur to let it breath and pour yourself a glass while you make some brown rice. Turn the temperature on the slow cooker down to low for another 1/2 hour.

-Open the pot and ladle out most of the liquid into a pot on the stove.  Heat to a low boil and add the flour/water mixture to make the gravy.  Once it comes to a boil again, turn down to a simmer to thicken for about 5 minutes.  Add back into the slow cooker and mix into the meat and veggies.

-Ladle some of the delicious stew over a bit of brown rice.  Butter yourself a nice toasty thick piece of whole grain bread, pour yourself another glass of wine and relax over a nice Sunday evening meal!

Italian Style Grilled Pork Loin

Beth Ribblett

Last night we invited over our group of friends that will traveling with us to Positano next year.  It was a really fun evening of Italian wine and food and great company, all excited about our trip to one of my favorite places in the world!  Yes, I know the trip is 8 months away, but if you want to stay in the best place, Villa Le Sirene, and hire the best driver, Vincenzo Fusco, you have to plan ahead!

Everyone in the group loves to cook so each brought a dish with Kerry and I providing some appetizers and the meat course.  I decided on grilled pork loin, and a recipe that was fairly easy yet really flavorful, featuring my two favorite herbs for Italian cooking. Thanks to Kerry, sage and rosemary are in abundant supply in our garden!

The key to this dish is the brining and proper grilling. Brining improves the flavor, texture, and moisture content of lean cuts of meat by soaking the meat in a moderately salty solution for a few hours to a few days. Flavor brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking, so if you happen to overcook the meat a little, it will still be moist.

At a minimum, a flavor brine consists of water and salt. Other ingredients may include sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, fruit juices, beer, liquor, bay leaves, pickling spices, cloves, garlic, onion, chilies, citrus fruits, peppercorns, and other herbs and spices. This one adds my two favorite herbs to the mix with garlic, salt and sugar.  I have to admit it was pretty delicious and was a perfect pairing with the newly arrived 2011 Terre Nere Etna Rosso!

For the brined pork

    3  ounces kosher salt (3/4 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 6 tablespoons if using Morton)
    1/4  cup packed light brown sugar
    3  medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
    3  large sprigs fresh rosemary
    3  large sprigs fresh sage
    3-pounds all-natural boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat

For the herb paste

    6  medium cloves garlic, peeled
    1/3  cup fresh rosemary leaves
    1/3  cup fresh sage leaves
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. For the Brine:  In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, garlic, and herb sprigs with 2 cups of water. Stir over high heat just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 6 more cups of water and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large container, add the pork, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours.

2. Put the garlic, rosemary, sage, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large mortar and pound to a coarse paste with the pestle. Add the oil and use the pestle to work it into the garlic paste. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse into a coarse paste.

3.Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb paste liberally over the entire outer surface of the pork.

4. Heat the grill to 350 degrees F. Put the roast in the cool zone on the grill, turning the roast about every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted near the center of the roast registers 145 degrees F, 35 to 45 minutes.

5. Remove the roast from the grill and transfer it to a cutting board. Let stand for 5 minutes and slice thinly. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. If you want, finish it off with a little sage fried crispy in olive oil!

Next Step, Tuscan Ragu

Beth Ribblett

Step 1: Make the soffritto 
Step 2:  Make the ragu

True Italian Lasagna, not the cheesy, saucy stuff we make here in the US, is a very involved process.  It all starts with a soffritto, followed by a meat ragu.

Every cook in Italy has their own ragu recipe, variations on a theme of ground mixed meats, tomatoes, soffritto, herbs and spices.  But one thing that remains constant is the love and care that goes in to making the perfect ragu.  I don't claim to have achieved it yet, but I've learned a few tricks along the way that have helped me get a wonderfully flavorful sauce that can be used in many dishes.  I like to make a big pot, use some and freeze the rest for a quick tagliatelle on a busy day.

They key, as in all good recipes, is the freshness and quality of the ingredients.  Three types of meat give you a more complex flavor and if possible have the butcher grind the meat for you fresh so that you really know what is in that package.  Fresh tomatoes are ideal but a can of San Marzanos can give excellent results. I did a combination of both here and am really happy with the outcome.  Dried herbs will work but again, fresh is best!
Use a 6 Qt. pot for this, it will give you plenty of room to brown the meat.  One of the things I've learned along the way by reading over many, many recipes from Italian chefs and home cooks, is how to achieve the proper texture of the meat.  If you notice when you eat ragu in Italy it is not chunky, the meat doesn't glob together, the vegetables are chopped finely, giving the sauce a smooth, light texture.  So you'll need a wooden spoon and a lot of patience to achieve this and I'll explain below when we get to the step.

The ingredient list, with a few minor changes, is Guisi’s Ragu from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and her husband Edward Mayes. I've listed my changes and her originals.  This recipe will give you enough ragu for the lasagna as well a quite a bit to freeze for later.  If you are making the lasagna, I recommend you prepare the ragu the day before as it takes about 4 hours.

Serves 10

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground lean beef
1 pound ground veal (Mayes uses pork)
2 large links of sausage, casings removed.  I found a delicious duck and pork at Rouses with no additives or preservatives.  (Mayes uses Italian sausages, and Terranova's would be perfect)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 to 2 cups red wine
1 cup soffritto (recipe below)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 whole tomatoes finely chopped, 1-28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, finely chopped.  Mayes calls for16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a 6-quart heavy pot with a lid. Next, add all the ground meat to the pot. Here is where the most work is involved. Using a large wooden spoon keep breaking up the meat into smaller and smaller pieces as it cooks. Do not brown it too much or dry out. Don’t let it sit in the hot shortening on the bottom of the pot and sear. Keep moving it around; it should just lose its color. Keep working on the meat and keep breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces. It should also begin to smell wonderful.

When the meat has lost all its pink color and is reduced to minuscule bits (10-12 minutes), add the salt, pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine. After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer. Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then. Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense.

KT's Winter Warmer Chili

Beth Ribblett

It was one of those cold dark nights last week that I actually left the shop before 7pm.  As I opened the front door to Sangi's goofy dog greeting, comforting smoky, spicy smells drifted from the kitchen along with the rapidly clicking sound of a chopping knife in action.  Kerry was making chili.  I know if she is cooking the recipe is likely to include lots of peppers and a good amount of spicy heat, but there was another smell, a rich, almost caramel like sweetness in the air...ahh she had added one of her other favorite things in life to the recipe, a good dark beer. 

So we settled down with our delicious bowls of chili and cold bottles of Sierra Nevada beer while Harley the cat and Sangi made their cozy beds beside us to watch a little television.  There's nothing like a bowl of spicy chili in the winter to warm your soul...

    3-4 slices applewood or hickory smoked bacon, cut in pieces
    6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 small green bell pepper, chopped
    1 small anaheim or poblano pepper, chopped
    (combined about 1 cup peppers)
    1 pound lean ground beef
    1 pound ground pork
    1 tbl. ground cumin
    1 tbl. ground coriander
    1 tbl. ground ancho chile
    1 tbl. smoked paprika
    2 tsp. dried oregano
    1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
    ½ tsp salt (add more to taste later if needed)
    3 tbl. chopped chipotle chiles in ancho sauce
    2 tbl. apple cider vinegar
    Ground cayenne pepper to taste
    1 bottle (12 oz.) stout or porter beer
    1 to 1-1/2 c. water
    1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
    1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    Shredded cheddar, for garnish
    Sliced scallions, for garnish

In large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly crisp, remove & set aside when browned. To the bacon fat add onions and peppers and sauté until nearly wilted then add garlic.

While onions etc are cooking, in a separate pan brown the meat in a tablespoon of oil with a little salt and pepper briefly in a couple of batches and set aside. Finely chop enough of the bacon to get a heaping tablespoon.

When onions etc are done, add the meat to the Dutch oven, stir well. Now add chopped bacon, cumin, coriander, ancho chile, oregano, smoked paprika, black pepper, and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes over med. heat, stirring frequently. Now add crushed tomatoes, chipotle chiles, beer, and enough water to get desired consistency. Mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for 15 mins.

Add pinto beans and vinegar. If needed add a little more water. Mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 mins. – stir a few times.

Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper if more heat desired. Serve in small bowls with shredded cheese and sliced scallions.

Makes about 6 servings.

Meatballs, Mezzogiorno Style

Beth Ribblett

I am a huge fan of the wine and food from Southern Italy, hence my love of a Mano in the warehouse district, and am always searching for new wines, cookbooks and recipes from the region.  One of the most complete books I have come upon that takes an in depth look at both the cucina povera (humble cooking) style of food and the wacky indigenous grape varieties is the A16 Food + Wine from one of San Francisco's most popular restaurants.  Former chef Nate Appleman and wine director Shelly Lindgren have put together a wonderful resource that is part cookbook and part textbook, beautifully written and with stunning photographs of Italy, the restaurant and some of the cooking methods.  I did a quick post on it last year when I first got the book, but this week I made one of the recipes that I've been eying since I bought it.

Meatballs anyone? How can you not love a meatball, the traditional start to the Sunday dinner in most Italian families?  However in Italy, meatballs are rarely served as we do atop a heaping pile of spaghetti covered in a rich tomato sauce.  Throughout most of Italy meatballs (polpette) are usually served as a second course without toppings or sauce, with the exception of southern Italy where a variation is prepared in tomato sauce but is a main course without pasta as in the recipe below.

 What intrigued me about the A16 description of their meatballs was the light texture due to the higher bread content that is prevalent in recipes from the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy).  More bread means less meat and less expense, hence cucina povera, and it the case of this recipes a deliciously light, airy meatball.  With the added bread they are a meal in themselves, but I have to say I deviated from the recipe in that I did serve them over a little angel hair pasta...

Besides the fact that my mouth watered every time I looked at the recipe, I also wanted to try out the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aide mixer that I have to say performed beautifully.  But if you use a meat grinder be sure to read the instructions for your equipment on grinding meat and bread, as they will tell you the proper methods and speeds to get the best results.

I only deviated from the recipe once (besides the addition of pasta...) and that was in the amount of salt I used.  The pork fat I got was from Whole Foods and the label on the package saild "salt pork"  so I decreased the amount of salt to 2 tsp instead of a tablespoon and only added 1 tsp to the tomato mixture.  I'll note this in the ingredient list to remind you.  There will be a point in the recipe where you can adjust if you feel you need more salt.

The result was nothing short of fabulous! The texture was incredible and nothing like any meatballs I've ever had.  It does take some time though to grind every thing if you do as I did, but it was SO worth the effort!

I so wanted to drink the recommend wine, and Aglianico from Campagnia, but was too lazy to go to the shop and get a bottle.  So we settled for the most amazing bottle of the Conterno Fantino Mon Pra, a super Piemontese blend of Cabernet, Nebbiolo and Barbera that blew us away.  Not cheap, but definitely one of those bottles I'd like to have again and again...But we do have a wonderful Aglianico from Bisceglia in stock that would pair beautifully at $16.99.

Ok, so on to the recipe.  Take your time and have fun with this, you will thoroughly enjoy what comes out of the oven.  But don't cut corners with ingredients and sub low fat milk for whole milk or leave out the pork fat as one blogger did with not so good results!  It's a meatball!

A16's Monday Meatballs
Makes 28 to 30
-10 ounces boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-10 ounces beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-6 ounces day-old country bread, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-2 ounces pork fat, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-2 ounces prosciutto, chilled in the freezer for 15 minutes, cut into 1" cubes and ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor.
-1 cup loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
-**1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided **(I used 2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon)
-2 teaspoons dried oregano
-1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
-1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
-2/3 cup fresh whole milk ricotta, drained if necessary (if sitting in whey, drain overnight in cheesecloth)
-3 eggs, lightly beaten
-1/4 cup whole milk
-1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes with juice
-Handful of fresh basil leaves
-Block of grana padana for grating
-Best-quality olive oil for finishing

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread, pork fat, prosciutto, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, oregano, fennel seeds and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan. Taste and adjust the mixture’s seasoning with salt, if needed. Do this, it will help you determine the correct amount of salt

3. Form the mixture into 1 1/2 -inch balls, each weighing about 2 ounces, and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.

4. Bake, rotating the sheets once from front to back, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. (At this point you can continue with the recipe or after they've cooled, refrigerate meatballs for up to 2 days or freeze and thaw completely before starting the next step)

5. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining salt, and then pass the tomatoes and their juices through a food mill fitted with the medium plate. Alternatively, put the entire can of tomatoes and salt in a large bowl, don an apron and squeeze the tomatoes into small pieces with your hands.

6. Pack the meatballs into 1 large roasting pan or 2 smaller roasting pans. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the tomato sauce.

7. Remove the pans from the oven and uncover. Distribute the basil leaves throughout the sauce.

8. For each serving, ladle the meatballs with some of the sauce into a warmed bowl. Grate the grana over the top, drizzle with olive oil to finish and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Pinchitos, Spicy Grilled Pork Skewers

Beth Ribblett

We've had so many things going on these past couple of months that there's been no time for intricate, complex dishes that take lots of time in the kitchen.  We've been focused on quick, healthy meals that don't take a lot of fuss or hard to find ingredients.  Kerry made us a pretty delicious dish this weekend that definitely fit the bill, a finger-licking-good spicy quick grilled pork skewers that I can't wait to have again!

Pinchos or pinchito, the diminutive, translates as “little thorn” or “little pointed stick,” so pincho moruno roughly means little mouthfuls impaled on a thorn or skewer.


•    1/2 cup olive oil
•    2 Tbs. ground cumin
•    2 Tbs. ground coriander
•    1 Tbs. smoked paprika
•    1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
•    1 tsp. dried oregano
•    1 tsp garam masala or generous pinch of cinnamon
•    1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
•    1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
•    2 tbs honey
•    2 Tbs. minced garlic
•    1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
•    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
•    Lemon wedges for garnish

In a small fry pan, combine the olive oil, spices and salt. Place over low heat until warmed through and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place the pork pieces in a bowl pour spice mix over. Add the garlic, parsley, honey, and lemon juice and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Toss the mixture a few times during the marinating process.

Thread the meat onto skewers. Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat, or prepare a hot fire in a grill. Grill, turning once until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 8 as appetizer.

Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze

Beth Ribblett

We had the rare occasion of a Saturday night at home this weekend and I wanted to cook, but didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  I had bought some pork chops, not something I make often, there was a nice bunch of kale in the frig and some arugula pesto I had leftover from our most recent DC8 dish. I found a recipe for "Maiale in Agrodolce"  a Roman dish that used honey and balsamic vinegar to create a delicious, finger-licking-good, eat-it-with-a-spoon, sweet and sour sauce.  Now I've made balsamic glazes before but you have to trust me on how good and how simple this was...

My original thought was to grill the pork chops, but we were out of charcoal so I decided to just use the grill pan on the stove.  From start to finish this took me about 45 minutes and even if I had to make the arugula pesto it would have been the same, as there was a little down time and the pesto is quick.

Serves 4

4  10-oz. bone-in pork chops
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1  sprig fresh rosemary, torn into 1" pieces

1. Put pork chops on a plate; drizzle with oil; season generously with salt and pepper; let sit for 30 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine vinegar and honey in a 1-qt. saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup. Stir in butter and rosemary and set aside.

3.  Heat up a grill pan and add a few tablespoons of Olive Oil to keep the pork from sticking.

4. Put pork chops in the grill pan and cook, occasionally turning and basting with balsamic mixture, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

A Twelfth Night to Remember

Beth Ribblett

Taking no break from the eating and drinking of the holiday season, we spent Twelfth Night last week feasting with friends.  Twelfth Night in New Orleans marks the end of the Christmas and the start of Mardi Gras, and gives us all another reason to have a party!

An interesting group of people made for great conversations with topics ranging from political discussions, recent films, travel, wine, art and ducks on the bayou (a discussion that ended promptly as views tended to swim on opposite banks...) Everyone contributed something for the meal, from delicious fresh baked breads, my favorite garlic shrimp, Kerry's zucchini ribbon salad, mushroom and truffle risotto, a decadent double dose of pistachio desserts with both cake and gelato, and the best beef tenderloin I've ever eaten doused with a delicious red wine sauce.  Made by Rachel and Marline with Moises Dundee Hills, the sauce was absolutely fabulous, and made even more special by having James Moises and his wines at the table.  We fed both stomachs and souls that night and I truly hope there are more such evenings together in our future!

Here is their recipe for beef tenderloin  and the cleverly coined "Moises Sauce".

Beef Tenderloin with Moises Sauce


4 T butter
1 T flour
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 T tomato paste
1 1/4 cup Moises Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/4 cup beef broth
1 3.5 lb beef tenderloin
2 T cracked black pepper


Mix 2 T butter and flour in small bowl. Melt 1 T butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add onion, carrot and celery, sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste; stir until vegetables are coated.

Add wine; boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add both broths, boil until liquid is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.

Strain liquid, discarding solids. Return liquid to skillet.

Add butter/flour mixture to sauce, whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with pepper. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

Take meat out of fridge, one hour before cooking. Sprinkle beef with cracked pepper and salt.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Put a small bit of vegetable oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add beef and brown each side 4 minutes on top of stove.

Roast about 15-20 minutes (or until meat thermometer says 160 if thick – if thinner maybe less 140). Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Serves 4-6.


Tuscan Style Steak

Beth Ribblett

Chianina Cattle, Tuscany

For Kerry's birthday this weekend we took off to the beach with a few friends to eat, drink and be merry.  The birthday girl wanted steak and champagne so we popped a vintage Taittinger, a bottle of 2004 Tignanello (which was still a mere baby) and threw some ribeyes on the charcoal grill.

My version of bistecca fiorentina, the first time we made this was with freshly cut Chianina beef (photo above) steaks over an open fire in a villa in Tuscany with 8 of our close friends. Although we'll never be able to recreate that special experience, it is still one of my favorite preparations and it always take me back to that magical night.

Grill some fresh t-bones or ribeyes rubbed in olive oil, salt and pepper, they should be pretty rare. While the steaks are cooking, fry a big handful of fresh sage and some rosemary in a good amount of olive oil until the sage leaves are crispy.

When the steaks are done, put them on a cutting board and thinly (1/4") slice the meat of the bone. Put the meat on a serving dish and pour the hot olive oil and herb mixture over to finish cooking and seal in the juicy flavor. Salt and pepper to taste.

Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle al Ragu

Beth Ribblett

One of the food blogs that I am particularly fond of is Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino written by a woman named Eleonora who lives in Rome. She did a wonderful post last year about how in Italy Sundays mean "family", and of course family means food which is similar to how I grew up with my mother always taking the time to cook a delicious Sunday dinner for all of us and inviting extended family to share the meal as well.

Eleonora describes her Sunday ritual and her mother's signature dish that for her is a weekly display of love. I've been wanting to make this ever since I read her post, but for some reason never got around to it, until this Sunday. Because for Kerry and me, Sunday means "home" as it is the only day that we don't go to the shop or spend too much time working. We go for a bike ride, Kerry works in the garden, I work on my blog and we cook a delicious meal. So this Sunday I decided it was finally time to make Eleonora's mother's classic Sunday dish, Tagilatelle al Ragu. It is still simmering away on the stove (see photo below), but I wanted to be sure to get the post done before we sat down to eat because it is divine! I'm including her full post as it is a wonderful look into the Italian way of life brought back memories of my own childhood in my mother's kitchen.

From Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino
March 22, 2009
Sundays spent satiating

"Sundays in Italy mean family. They speak of tradition, repose and morning Mass. Sundays gather the family around the table for communal weekly updates, sports events (mainly soccer) and convivial merry. As my son and I skip down the flights of stairs of our apartment building on our way out, we walk past Signora Rosetta’s door, inebriated by the smell of tomato sauce simmering on her stove. That divine perfume then wafts over and mingles with our downstairs neighbor Gina’s veal cutlets. And so forth, in a Babylon of aromas all the way down, all good, all Sunday-like.

Every Sunday lunch, my little boy E. and I go to my mother’s house, which is a 5-minute walk from our home. Wearing a nice blouse or a new pair of trousers, to honor our host, we head out. Mamma likes that kind of stuff, she also loves it when E.’s hair is combed with a tidy part on the side. A rare image, E. defines tousled. We breathe in the morning air and take a nice stroll to our favorite cafe, buy the paper, chat with people from our neighborhood. A Sunday ritual. We may go to Mass if we feel inspired, otherwise we head straight for the pasticceria (pastry shop) and pick up a tray of assorted bigné, cannoli, sfogliatelle, éclairs etc. sold by weight and wrapped in gift paper, tied with curly ribbons.

We always arrive early, at my mother’s house. That too is part of a Sunday habit. All members of the family each chip in with the housework, helping in the kitchen, airing out the bedrooms, watering the flowers on the terrace. Every time I walk in the house where I have been raised, I am immediately overcome with a warm, reassuring feeling. Back to the womb. The aroma of my mother’s cooking returns me to all my childhood memories. The incidental music of the TV broadcasting the usual Sunday shows, the smell of fresh flowers. My mother’s books, her dust, her Persian rugs. The chandeliers, the framed black and white photographs, the Steinway grand piano. It’s all there, unchanged, thank God.
And then that which she is most proud of: la tavola, her table. It is a festive occasion, and she honors it beautifully by setting an impeccable table. She always prouds in laying a crisp embroidered linen tablecloth, ironed to perfection. China plates, double glasses – for both wine and water – shiny silverware and matching fabric napkins. Mamma cooks for two days in preparation for her family feast, and she prouds in displaying her efforts. The beverages are always served in glass (and not the bulky plastic) bottles. The wine is always chosen wisely to pair the food, and there’s always an extra dessert, usually homemade.

My mother makes it a point to pick the best ingredients, priding herself in finding seasonal variations, local and organic staples. She cooks it lovingly, employing all her generosity, and enjoying the creative process. She provides for us, not merely nourishment and great tasting foods, but an on-going, weekly display of love.

For this year’s edition of 5 Minutes for Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party – my first – I will share with all participating home cooks, mothers, and daughters of great ladies before them, my mamma’s signature Sunday dish, the one she is most fond of. It his her pièce de résistance; whenever she prizes us by making it, it is in fact a party. I have watched her make homey dishes like these countless times, as I grew into the mother I am today, and never once has she or her fabulous fares disappointed me.

The authentic Italian Sunday lunch tradition lives on in my mother’s hallmark Tagliatelle al Ragù. Pull up a chair and let's eat. This recipe is a classic. It results in the creation of an intensely flavorful, rich meat sauce to serve over home made tagliatelle, and dusted with lavish amounts of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. My mother starts preparing it early in the morning and allows it to simmer, very, very slowly for many hours, at least three and ideally four.
* 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

* 2 tbsp unsalted butter

* 1 large carrot, finely diced

* 1 small onion, cut into same size dice as carrot

* celery stalks, cut up into same size dice as carrot and onion and in the same amount
* 650gr (1 1/2 lbs) ground beef and veal total (small variations from this weight are not significant)

* 200ml (1 cup) whole milk

* 200ml (1 cup) dry, white wine

* 1 kg (28-oz can) whole or crushed tomatoes, San Marzano would be great

* A pinch of ground nutmeg

* 300gr (3/4 lb or 1 1/2 cups) tagliatelle. If you decide to make your own homemade pasta, the outcome will be a million times better. And those eating will feel even more loved by you.

* Salt to taste

* Lots of Parmigiano, grated

It all begins with an empty, heavy-bottomed, medium to large sized pot. If you have a Dutch oven, that is ideal. Place the oil and butter into the pot and bring to medium-high heat.
Add the diced battuto (carrot, onion and celery trinity) and stir to coat well, allowing vegs to soften for about 6 minutes. Hark! Do not brown the onion or celery, they need to simply wilt.

Next, add all the ground meat to the pot. Here is where the most work is involved. Using a large wooden spoon keep breaking up the meat into smaller and smaller pieces as it cooks. Do not brown it too much or dry out. Don’t let it sit in the hot shortening on the bottom of the pot and sear. Keep moving it around; it should just lose its color. Keep working on the meat and keep breaking it up into smaller and smaller pieces. It should also begin to smell wonderful.

When the meat has lost all its pink color and is reduced to minuscule bits, pour in the milk and turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Stir well and allow the milk to completely boil away. When that happens, you should only be able to see the olive oil and butter between the meat pieces and vegetables, and no more milk. This will take about 20 minutes.

Now add the white wine and evaporate it too.

Add the tomatoes. Empty the entire can into the pot and use a wooden spoon to break up the whole tomatoes into large chunks. Season with salt and nutmeg, stir well and turn down the heat to a very gentle simmer, only the occasional plip, plop! bubble should come to the surface. Do not cover. Allow the sauce to simmer slowly for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally; and to fill the rooms of your soul with warmth, love and a terrific aroma.

If you're pressed for time, or making home made pasta feels too big a task right now, you can decide over dried or fresh commercially sold tagliatelle, the only requirement is they be rough-surfaced and quite thick (at least 3 mm, 1/8-inch).

When the sauce is almost ready, bring your salted gallon of water to a rolling boil. Cook the tagliatelle, then drain them al dente, saving some starchy cooking water. Return the pasta to the empty stewpot and add about a cup of meat sauce to the cooked tagliatelle and stir well. This only colors the strands lightly, but we’re not done yet. Serve the coated tagliatelle in individual soup bowls, spooning the divine Bolognese sauce over each and dusting with copious amounts of grated Parmigiano.

Mamma uncorked two bottles of Chianti today, and the first roaring toast was to the never-ending party she throws, come Sunday at lunch."

Delectable Daube

Beth Ribblett

"A Sunday Morning Breakfast". Photo of interior of Madame Begue's Restaurant, 1894

In a New York Times article dated December 29, 1907, readers learned the secrets behind making Daube d’Italienne according to a recipe from the restaurant made famous by Madame Begué in New Orleans. The restaurant’s namesake had died the previous year and operations were taken over by her daughter and son-in-law, the Anouilles.

“Lard a nice piece of beef,” the recipe stated, “about three inches thick with strips of fat ham and pieces of mashed garlic.” Louisiana colonial cooks routinely used hog lard and bear fat for their flour-based thickening agent (or roux). Then “brown the meat thoroughly on both sides,” adding both “carrots and onions, and enough water to cover the whole.” The suggested seasonings were “salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaf and parsley.” After putting this over the fire early “in the morning” and cooking “slowly without interruption at least eight hours” (and with a few other steps), one was to serve the meat that evening over macaroni along with “a good sprinkling of grated Italian cheese”. (click here for a PDF scan of the original NYT article)

From its humble beginnings, the New Orleans Beef Daube is a wonderful example of how French and Italian cooking merge in this food mecca, be it in restaurants or at home. In its classic French form, daube (pronounced dohb) is a beef roast that is larded or stuffed with salt pork slivers and cooked in broth and wine until tender. But the simple, home-style version that developed over the years adds a Sicilian twist that can be as simple as a beef roast cooked in red gravy until falling apart and served with spaghetti.

So here is the classic New Orleans Creole Daube recipe that Dale Curry and New Orleans Magazine put out in an article in 2005 on "Saving the Daube". Don’t be off put by the long slow-cooking process. The dish can simmer on the stove with little attention while you catch up on rest and relaxation.

Creole Daube
  • 3-pound rump roast
  • 5 cloves garlic, 2 slivered and 3 minced
  • Salt, Pepper, Creole seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 14-ounce can beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

With a sharp knife or ice pick, punch holes in the roast about 2 inches apart and stuff with slivers of garlic. Rub roast generously with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Heat oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and brown roast well on all sides over medium-high heat. When browned, take roast out of pot and set aside.

In the same oil, sauté onion, bell pepper and celery over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it almost begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Add wine, beef broth, Italian seasoning, cayenne, salt if needed and sugar and stir well.

Return roast to pot, fat side up, turn fire to low, cover and simmer for 4 hours or until roast is very tender. Stir well every hour and turn roast over halfway through cooking. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with spaghetti. Serves 6.

Pair with the Farnese Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, this weeks wine of the moment!

Recipe and photo from, New Orleans Magazine February 2005, "Saving the Daube".

Lidia's Fagotini Di Prosciutto Di Parma (Prosciutto Purses)

Beth Ribblett

All of that writing about the Bastianich Vespa Bianco made my mouth water, so I had to cook something to pair with it! And of course a recipe from Lidia's Italy was most appropriate! I forgot to buy the chives when I went shopping so I substituted with fresh thyme stems, a little tricky to tie, but they worked!

Cook the “purses” just long enough to brown them. Overcooking will make them salty and, as Prosciutto di Parma is a carefully cured product, it doesn’t need to be cooked to be rendered edible. When buying the prosciutto, ask for slices from the widest part of the ham that will measure about 8 inches by 4 inches.

Yields 20 purses

20 sturdy fresh chives, each at least 5 inches long
10 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, each approximately 8- x 4- inches
20 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ripe fresh figs, cut into quarters or thin wedges of ripe cantaloupe or honeydew melon

Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and add the chives. Stir, separating the chives gently, just until they turn bright green, about 5 seconds. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water and let stand a few seconds to stop the cooking. Remove the chives and drain them on paper towels.

Cut the prosciutto slices in half crosswise to make pieces that measure approximately 4- x 4- inches. Place 1 teaspoon grated cheese in the center of each square and gather the edges of the prosciutto over the cheese to form a “purse” with a rounded bottom and ruffled top. Pinch the prosciutto firmly where it is gathered and tie it around this “neck” with a length of chive. Continue with remaining prosciutto slices, cheese and chives.

In a large, preferably non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over low heat. Add half of the purses and cook, shaking the skillet very gently occasionally, the undersides are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and cook the remaining purses in the same manner. Serve hot with fresh figs or ripe melon pieces.

Maximus Lamb Burgers with Feta Cheese and Mint

Beth Ribblett

In anticipation of our upcoming Swirl Uncorked tasting this week at the Degas House, I chose a wine from Bennett Lane in Napa as my wine of the week. These guys are located in the very northern corner of the Napa Valley and their whole line up of wines is amazing! So what better to pair their Maximus "Red Feasting Wine" with than a juicy lamb burger on the grill. And look for the Napa table on Tuesday night where Ron will be pouring the Bennett Lane and Nine North Wines!

Serves 4
From Bennett Lane Winery

1 ¼ lbs. ground lamb
4 T. Bennett Lane Red Maximus
2 T. mint jelly
2 T. shallot, minced
1 t. dried oregano
2 t. salt
2 t. black pepper
¼ lb. Feta cheese, crumbled
Hamburger buns or Ciabatta bread cut into 4 inch pieces

Put the ground lamb in a large bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the wine, jelly, shallot, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour wine mixture in bowl with the lamb. Fold in the cheese and gently mix together. Form by hand into 4 patties.

Grill meat over hot coals for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare to medium. Serve on toasted burger buns of choice, and serve with plenty of BENNETT LANE MAXIMUS RED FEASTING WINE!

Pinchos Morunos by Chef Glen Hogh

Beth Ribblett

Chef Glen Hogh of Vega Tapas Cafe was the featured chef at our Tapas Tuesday last month at Swirl. He was kicking of his new $2 Tuesday Tapas menu at the restaurant and wanted to do a little preview for our lucky patrons. My favorite dish were these delicious grilled pork skewers and I convinced Glen to share the recipe with us . We paired them with the Iberos Tinto Roble, a merlot tempranillo blend that stole the show that night and was a perfect match for the Pinchos Morunos!

If you haven't checked out Vega Tapas on Tuesdays, you've got to go! The food is incredible and served in true tapas style, so you can try a lot of things for a little money and have way too much fun doing it!


2 Pork Tenderloins, cleaned of all skin & fat
1 lb. Brown Sugar
¼ C Dried Thyme
¼ C Oregano
¼ C Chili Flakes
5 T Black Pepper
1/3 C Salt
¼ C Cumin
¼ C Coriander
½ C Paprika
1/8 C Nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Set aside. Pork should be split lengthwise to create 4 pieces. Liberally coat each and place on cooling grill placed in hotel pan. Refrigerate overnight uncovered to cure. Cut pieces into cubes and place on water soaked skewers (this will keep them from burning). Place skewers over high heat grill till scored and rotate. Remove.

Traditional ‘pinchos’ are served atop crusty bread. We add a horseradish sour cream to cool the heat from the spices.

Espera que disfruten !

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs with Spicy Barbecue Sauce

Beth Ribblett

Every Sunday our group of friends holds a potluck dinner to bring us all together for a meal and a few bottles of wine, ending the week on a positive note. This week our offering was a big crock pot full of slow cooked pork ribs with a homemade barbecue sauce. I used a some smoked salt I bought at Whole Foods to give the ribs a little extra pop.

Great food, fun and lots of laughter, shared with people you love, a wonderful way to end the week!

-6lbs. country pork ribs
-smoked salt (optional)

BBQ Sauce Ingredients:

* 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
* 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons vinegar
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic minced
* 1 green pepper minced onion
* 1 onion minced
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* salt and pepper to taste
* smoked salt (optional)

-Rub ribs with smoked salt, salt and pepper and put in the crock pot on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
-Cook minced onion, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until onions turns opaque. Add remaining ingredients, except smoked salt, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes.
-After ribs have cooked for 2 hours (if on high or 4 hours if on low), add BBQ sauce and finish cooking.
-Put ribs on a platter, spooning sauce over them, and finish with a sprinkling of the smoked salt.