Tag Archives: Slow Food

Five Onion Confit

I grew up expecting to have to eat the onions on my plate whether I wanted them or not. That’s just how it went at our house, and I didn’t question it.  Good thing I’ve always liked them.   Although I remember my mother telling me my grandfather liked a good onion sandwich, we had them sliced and in salads — mostly yellow onions because they were a staple — but scallions were included once in a while, along with red onions.  Now that I think of it, red onions made their appearance when we lived in Spain because they were served in the cafes, often included with cucumbers and tomatoes in a very light water and red wine vinegar marinade.  No lettuce, just a sprinkle of salt.  It was wonderful.

Onions were chopped and fried in bacon fat for the liver my mother enjoyed so much, and as much as I didn’t want a taste of the liver, I could sit all day and inhale the aroma of those onions.  Chopped onions went into simple spaghetti sauce to flavor it, or in goulash along with other vegetables and pasta, because it didn’t seem right to not have them in the mix.  My mother’s meatloaf wouldn’t be meatloaf without chopped onions.  They were quartered and added to our Sunday pot roast with carrots and celery as well, but I didn’t appreciate their flavor in the braise.  Perhaps it was the sweetness — something I expected in the more predictable foods kids enjoy — not an onion.  I still had to eat them. I liked them best raw on burgers, or a salami sandwich, the crunch and sharp spike of flavor something that was definitely missed if it wasn’t included.

Maybe it was the onion soup my father made one year before a holiday dinner.  I’m surprised I don’t remember the details of his making it, but the flavor of those long cooked onions nestled in a rich broth gave me a different perspective on just how unique the sweetness of caramelized onions could be.  I’d never had onion confit, though, and wondered just how different it might be.  Would the sweetness that it took me years to appreciate be more intense and if it was, would I enjoy it?  Based on many of the recipes I’ve come across where onion confit or jam is included, I’m thinking yes.

But would one type of onion suffice?

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Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs for BBQ Sliders

BBQ Beef Sliders

The last weekend of summer has finally arrived, finding us packed and ready for yet another road trip to San Francisco to drop our son off at school.   The send-off is much more quiet this year since he’s beginning his second year and I guess that makes him experienced.  No picnic time at the beach for those of us sporting muffin tops, and no barbeques at home planned for the event, but a few card games at home, movies, and some take out fit the bill.  The road trip is a nice way to spend a bit of time together,  with my husband and I hovering in the city a couple of days to make sure the man boy has everything he needs.  While he’s settling in, we’ll be exploring neighborhoods we’ve never walked through, trying new restaurants, and getting much needed exercise.  The one thing about San Francisco we can always count on is that there will be a lot of hills to climb.

For those of you looking forward to pre-season football and last gasp of summer get togethers — or perhaps being stuck in the house due to bad weather — this recipe is for you.  Get out that slow cooker because that’s all you’ll need for these Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs.  Shred the beef and pile it onto a bun.  They’ll make you think you’re having a barbeque no matter what and they’re guaranteed to slide right down.

The good news is, they taste even better the next day, so make a double batch for leftovers.

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Tamales with Pibil-Style Pork and Guajillo Sauce

Have you ever made tamales?  No, not tamale pie.  My mother used to make that and as much as I enjoyed her cooking, tamale pie would not have been one of my favorites.  From what I can remember, it was noticeably sweet, and comprised of hamburger, corn, and canned tomatoes.  I’m not going to blame this on my mother, because I know it was the recipe.  Tamale pie could never compare to homemade tamales.

The only source of comparison I have is that of local women who tempt office workers with their once-a-week offerings, wrapped in foil, and still piping hot.  They’re amazing and so of course it’s a challenge to not eat one before taking them home to share for dinner.  I’d say that’s a fairly good model to work from.

Often, tamales are made with dried corn husks, the masa, or corn meal and filling spread on the inside of a dried corn husk, or fresh banana leaf before steaming.  The filling can be anything imaginable, and often is depending on who traditionally makes the tamales, and what region of Mexico or the Southwest U.S. they’re from.

If you’ve been studying Mexican cooking like I have the past few years, the idea of banana leaves wrapped around a savory filling is quite tempting; it sounds so exotic! A glance out my patio window focuses in on the not so big non-fruit bearing variegated leaf banana plant I’ve been nurturing as a possible source.  No, I’d have to depend on a local market, which shouldn’t be a challenge in San Diego considering the influence of Mexican cooking, but it is.

When I first happened on to the lone 4-lb. package of huge sections of banana tree leaves recently, I grabbed it knowing I’d procrastinated long enough and could now make my own homemade tamales. I knew I didn’t need four pounds of leaves, so attempted quite unsuccessfully to separate them.  Unfortunately, the leaf strips were enormous and all folded together, so my efforts in trying to avoid waste ended up creating something worse.  The leaves began to split, making them useless for the next shopper’s tamales.

Thankfully, my first attempt at tamales was a success thanks to the help of a very good friend.  Between the two of us, influence from a few good recipes, and a make-shift steamer, a few split banana leaves caused very few problems.

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Peposo with Roasted Pepper Salad on Focaccia

Peposo & Roasted Pepper on Foccacia

You’re wondering what peposo is, right?  Or perhaps you know what peposo is and you’ve already wondered how it ended up in a sandwich.  If you’re like me, you may even just want to take a big bite of it right now because it’s dinnertime and it would be much easier to have a savory Italian sandwich magically appear instead of needing to make dinner.  Oh, how I wish that might be so tonight.

This sandwich has quite a long story behind it, so I’ll share it soon — along with the recipe for the peposo, the roasted pepper salad, and the focaccia.  But it’s Wednesday, and I’m supposed to be wordless — or nearly so.

Spinach Lasagne with Ragu alla Bolognese

IMG_1994 I think it’s fair to say that I equally enjoy baking sweets as much as I enjoy cooking something savory.  Regardless of what it is, I normally rise to a challenge and can’t think of a better way to spend a day in the kitchen because the end product can be so rewarding.  Although most of the past Daring Bakers’ challenges have been of the sweet variety, this month, we had a rare opportunity to bake something somewhat unexpected:  Lasagna.

I’m certainly not new to lasagna, and true to my passions as a cook, I’m not sure I’ve ever made lasagna the same way twice.  No, really.  It must be because there are too many wonderful recipes out there to try, and each one poses a sort of opportunity to find the perfect one.  And guess what?  I think we’ve decided that it’s been found.  Who knew that it didn’t need to be packed with ricotta and mozzarella?  Well, okay, I did, because I have made lasagna with mushrooms and a bechamel.  But I’ve only made my own pasta once, and I’ve never made spinach pasta.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Many thanks to all the hosts, as I enjoyed this challenge quite a bit — both process and product!

There were several parts to this challenge, but in a nutshell they were to:  1) make a meat ragu sauce; 2) make the lasagna pasta by hand; 3) make a bechamel; and 4) make the lasagna, of course.  The choice factor was to make a ragu different from the one provided, and that’s exactly what I did.

Suffice it to say that amidst my husband’s unwavering focus on the first big week of March Madness, I spent the day in my kitchen preparing this absolutely yummy dish.  My Ragu alla Bolognese, inspired by a version presented in Saveur that in turn was inspired by British chef Heston Blumenthal, was completely delicious — and I didn’t have to go to the grocery store for one ingredient. Miraculous.


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