October – Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil in the Electric Pressure Cooker

October – Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil in the Electric Pressure Cooker

Well, that is a mouthful of a title. There are several takeaway items from it though. Beef shanks are a tough cut of meat, usually requiring long cooking. In the electric pressure cooker (maybe you have an InstaPot), that time is cut down to less than an hour. Also, crispy crunchy chili oil…if you haven’t discovered it yet…run out and buy or order it. It’s addictive and can transform a simple bowl of rice or pasta into something special. Here I use it to flavor the beef shanks. This idea and most of the recipe comes from a wonderful post by Petra. She hosts the blog Food Eat Love and you will find her original version here for beef short ribs. I would recommend clicking over to it, her food is really 5 star restaurant quality and the pictures will have your mouth watering.

Myself, I spent too long in the garden getting ready for an impending rain storm and needed to cut some corners. Lacking the 4 hours needed to cook the beef slowly in the oven, I turned to my pressure cooker. I don’t use it much in the summer when we rely on the outside grill, but come the cooler wet weather I use it often.

Don’t have an electric pressure cooker? Don’t worry. See the variation at the end for instructions for cooking in a standard Dutch oven.

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

In Italy veal shanks are called Osso Bucco. You will find numerous recipes on line and in Italian cookbooks. Here in the U.S. veal shanks are difficult to find and costly if you do. I used budget friendly beef shanks instead and gave them an Asian twist.

I served it with a sweet potato that had been cut in half, rubbed with sesame oil and roasted at 425 degrees F (in the toaster oven) for 50 minutes. It was a wonderful combination.

Beef Shanks with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil (in the electric pressure cooker)

serves 4 -6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of neutral oil such as grape-seed
  • 3 to 4 thick slices of beef shank with the bone and marrow
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut into half moons
  • 1 leek, chopped (if you have a spare one that needs eating as I did)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 peeled slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 cups of fresh shiitake mushrooms, tough stem ends trimmed, cut in half if very large
  • 3 tablespoons of crispy crunchy chili oil
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of rice wine, I used Shaoxing
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of cornstarch, optional if you want to thicken the sauce
  • chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

Method:

  1. Select saute mode and add the oil to the pressure cooker. Cook the carrot and onion (maybe the leek as well if you had one laying around in the crisper) until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add the ginger, mushrooms, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine and water. Stir to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and mix everything together.
  3. Nestle the beef shanks in the liquid, trying to get everything in one level if possible. The liquid should just cover the shanks.
  4. Put on the lid, close the vent, and choose high pressure cooking for 40 minutes.
  5. At the end of the 40 minutes let the pressure release naturally for another 15 minutes.
  6. Put a tea towel over the vent and release the pressure manually.
  7. Remove the shanks and mushrooms from the pot and skim off any fat from the juices. Or pour the sauce into a fat separator, let it rest for ten minutes for the fat to surface, then pour the degreased sauce into a serving boat. (Or put everything in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight. The fat will be easy to remove when it solidifies.)
  8. If you would like to thicken the sauce, pour the degreased liquid into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and stirring into the hot liquid until it is thickened to your liking.
Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

Beef Shank with Crispy Crunchy Chili Oil

No pressure cooker? No worries. Use a heavy bottomed dutch oven with a lid, and increase the amount of liquid to 2 cups. Follow the instructions right up until step 4 above. Then, instead of pressure cooking, bring the pot to a simmer, cover with the lid, and move it to a preheated 300 degree F oven. Bake for 3 to 4 hours, until the beef shanks are tender and falling off the bone. Continue from step 7.

Leftovers were turned into a swoon worthy beef soup by adding some chicken broth and extra vegetables. This is cold weather cooking at its best.

January – Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

January – Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

I rarely braise any kind of meat in the summer or spring. Late fall and winter things are different though. Braised foods make your home smell amazing, definitely comfort food in the cold weather. And they usually provide several meals, a bonus these days of seemingly constant cooking.

I’ve made this dish several times now, it’s based on a combination of recipes. One from the New York Times and my own special 5-hour slow cooked beef stew. That one is a favorite on the blog (it was first published in 2016) and I highly recommend it as it’s walk-away-easy as well as delicious. That first recipe uses cubed chunks of beef, this one a chuck or other roast. Use a cut you would use for a pot roast. What’s so special about that recipe? One – there is no pre-searing of the meat, and two – it will cook unattended by you during the afternoon while you do more interesting things. This time I adapted the recipe to a larger roast of beef, rump or chuck or cross rib.

Note: cook this in your oven, not the slow cooker. The liquid amounts are not designed for your slow cooker, or your pressure cooker for that matter.

This is the dish to use up that half bag of cranberries left over from Thanksgiving or Christmas, or one forgotten in your freezer from last year. It’s a reason to stock up on those bags as they are a seasonal item and usually unavailable the rest of the year. The cranberries add a tart but sweet note that is addictive. 

I will let you decide what vegetables to add. Some type of onion is essential but the rest can be varied. What about a bag of those small differently colored potatoes, or young carrots, small boiler onions, shallots…or all of them?

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef with baby potatoes

Spiced Braised Beef with Cranberries and Carrots

Spiced Braised Beef with Cranberries and Carrots

The second time I made the recipe I used a bag of those baby carrots in various colors from Trader Joe’s. Both time dinner was a big hit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 beef rump roast, brisket, or chuck roast
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 package of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups of tomato juice, V8, or spicy V8 (my favorite)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
  • 3 ½ tablespoons of instant tapioca, I used Minute Tapioca
  • 1-1/2 pounds of small boiling onions or shallots, peeled and left whole. Or 2 larger onions, peeled and cut into wedges and/or a dozen small potatoes or a couple of cups of carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • For serving – chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F
  2. In a small bowl combine the paprika, garlic, cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, salt, and pepper
  3. Dry the roast and rub it all over with the spices, let sit for 30 minutes while the oven preheats and you combine the other ingredients.
  4. In a larger bowl combine the juice, stock (or water), wine, and tapioca. Stir to mix and dissolve the tapioca.
  5. Place the roast in a large casserole or baking dish with a lid. Pour the liquid over then add the cranberries.
  6. Nestle the the onions and other vegetables at the sides.
  7. Cover and cook 6 hours.
  8. Uncover and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.
  9. Add the lemon juice and garnish with the parsley.
Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Let this simmer away, undisturbed, while you go for a hike or a walk or a bike ride… You will arrive home to the heavenly scent of slow cooked beef and spices. All you need for a complete meal is a green salad and something to mop up any juices. Mashed potatoes would be excellent here, or polenta, or a loaf of crusty country bread.

Coast trail on the headlands in Fort Bragg CA

Coast trail on the way to the lighthouse – New Year’s Day 2021

Slice and serve a good strong mustard or horseradish along side.

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Spice-Rubbed Braised Beef

Braised Beef with Carrots

Braised Beef with Carrots

It will be fall-apart tender.

January 4 is the first day of our annual 30-day healthy eating plan. With a few friends we do this every year. We cheer each other on and support each other through our individual difficult spots. For some it’s the sugar or carbs, others late night eating, and still others that 5 pm cocktail. We have all slid into comfort food the last 10 months. For 30 days we give up empty carbs, sugar, dairy, wheat, caffeine, alcohol and fatty/fried foods. We feed our bodies whole grains, beans, lean meats and lots of fruit and vegetables. It’s a reset. Yes, we usually lose weight but we also speed our metabolisms and reset our taste buds for healthier food. You can find details of the diet and some recipes by clicking on the category “30 day Metabolic Diet” on the right side of my blog. You will need to use your computer as the categories don’t show up on the mobile app.

I wonder if the folks over at the blogging party Fiesta Friday have left over cranberries? I think I will mosey on over there and add this post to the link party. It’s Fiesta Friday #362 hosted by Angie and co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Come on over and join the party. Click on the links to read blogs about food, travel, decorating plus arts and crafts.

As this dish is cooked without any additional fat (strain any off the sauce), it would qualify as a phase 1 or phase 3 dinner.

Again, wishing you a safe, healthy and love filled 2021.

April – Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

April – Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

There must be a thousand recipes out there for meatballs. This recipe is a little different. I was intrigued and inspired by an article in the NY Times for Spicy Meatballs with Chickpeas by David Tanis. I have a couple of his cookbooks and admire his simplicity. There is no bread in his meatball mix, he uses raw (yes, raw) arborio or white rice as a binder, so it’s gluten free.

The original recipe calls for ground lamb, which was not in my freezer, and North African seasonings. This is when you call on kitchen creativity and courage. I did have a pound package of bulk country sausage and one of ground turkey. It was sounding like my meatballs would be more Italian than North African.

This recipe is endlessly adaptable to whatever ground meat and flavorings you have on hand. The meatballs were juicy and delicious, the rice absorbing the flavors of the sauce and the meat.

Meatballs

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE MEATBALLS:

  • 1 ½ pounds ground meat (ground beef, pork, turkey, sausage or a combination)
  • ½ cup raw arborio rice or any white rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced

FOR THE SAUCE:

  •  Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart of jarred Italian pasta sauce, whatever you have in your pantry or freezer
  • A couple of handfuls of chopped kale, chard or baby spinach, chopped (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan for serving
PREPARATION:
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine ground meat, raw rice, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, Italian seasoning, onion and garlic. Knead mixture well.
  2. Line with a sheet pan or roasting pan with foil for easier cleanup. Coat it lightly with olive oil. With wet hands, form mixture into 1-ounce meatballs and arrange in one layer on pan. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, reheat your pasta sauce.
  4. Carefully add meatballs and adjust heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the kale, chard or spinach and cook until just wilted.
  6. Serve with pasta (gluten free) and sprinkle with parmesan.

Of course you could make your own tomato sauce, that would be even more delicious.

The greens are optional, I was looking for a way to add some vegetables but you could leave them out if it’s the end of the week and your produce drawer is down to the last wilted scallion.

I found an almost empty jar of Kalamata olives and tossed them in, capers would be good, anchovies anyone?

Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

January – 5 Hour Beef Stew

January – 5 Hour Beef Stew

This recipe was first posted in November 2013, but I think it is due for a re-write. As well I wanted to adapt it to the Fast Metabolism Diet, which was amazingly easy to do. You don’t need to be on the diet to appreciate this wonderful meal. It is so easy, you just mix everything together in a large bowl, pour it into a casserole dish, cover and leave in a low oven for 5 hours. Time to catch up on some of the Harry Potter movies that are playing in marathon session on TV this weekend. Your whole house will be filled with wonderful smells. This recipe is good enough to serve company. It is appropriate for phase 1 or 3.

The original idea came from a cookbook (mine now well-used, stained, and tattered) called Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase. She was one of the co-authors of the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. She lives in Nantucket and the recipe is perfect for stormy, cold evenings.

 Serve it with mashed potatoes, or pasta, or mashed fat-free cauliflower (recipe to follow).

Note: I would not transfer this recipe to a slow cooker, it will have far too much liquid. Slow cooker recipes need an entirely different formula for success. Also, please check your tapioca label if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, not all of them are. Minute Tapioca is gluten-free.

5 Hour Beef Stew

5 Hour Beef Stew

 

(6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ lbs of lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks the size as the meat
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks the same size as the meat
  • 6-8 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 cloves of garlic, 2 finely chopped and 2 peeled but left whole
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional if your family does not like spicy food)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups of sugar-free vegetable juice, tomato juice or a large can of tomatoes, puree in your blender with additional water to make 2 1/2 cups if necessary
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, water or broth
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 3 ½ tablespoons of tapioca, I used Minute Tapioca
  • Chopped parsley for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the beef with all the vegetables. Season with the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. No, you don’t need to pre-brown the meat! I know, I didn’t believe it either but I’ve made this many times and it works.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the tomato juice, wine or water or broth, mustard, and tapioca.
  4. Add this mixture to the meat and vegetables, stir to blend well.
  5. Transfer the stew to a large casserole or Dutch oven. Cover tightly and cook 5 hours without opening the lid or disturbing.
  6. Taste for salt, some tomato juices are very salty. Add more freshly ground pepper as desired.
  7. You can serve this directly or refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day.
  8. Garnish with chopped parsley

 

5 Hour Beef Stew

5 Hour Beef Stew

5 Hour Beef Stew

Use your imagination as far as vegetables. I used carrots, parsnips and shallots this time. In the past, I’ve added turnips, potatoes, boiling onions, kohibrabi, celery root and elephant garlic. Use this recipe as your canvas for what you find at the market or in your garden.

Serve with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, pasta, or this amazing fat-free cauliflower mash. 1/8 (about 1 cup) of the recipe would be a phase 1 dinner with some brown rice or pasta. A sweet potato would also be nice with it.

If you have some, serve the pickled mustard seeds on the side. I did and it was a good counterpoint to the richness of the meat. Horseradish would also be good.

Add a salad freshly gathered from the garden, you have an easy weeknight dinner which feels much fancier than it is.

Fat-free Cauliflower Mash

Fat-free Cauliflower Mash with Beef Stew

2 – 3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of fresh cauliflower, washed and broken into florets. Woody stems peeled and chopped
  • 1 head of fresh garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 bunch of green onions or scallions, roughly chopped, white and light green parts only
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the cauliflower, scallions and garlic to a large pot.
  2. Add the chicken or vegetable broth
  3. Bring all back to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until everything is very tender
  4. Pour into a colander over a large bowl, saving the broth.
  5. When slightly cooler, puree in your blender or food processor, adding broth as needed until you have a smooth mash.
  6. Taste for salt and pepper.
  7. Save the cauliflower cooking water for soup.

This is creamy, and delicious. But…it is not rich mashed potatoes. You could add cream and butter but that would be defeating the purpose. If not restricting dairy, I might add some cottage cheese to the blender with the cauliflower. I think that would up the flavor profile a bit. Puree both until very smooth and creamy. Make sure you add enough salt, that is a key element.

 

 

 

January – Stir-fried Steak with Baby Bok Choy, Garlic, Ginger, Red Onion and Cannellini Beans

January – Stir-fried Steak with Baby Bok Choy, Garlic, Ginger, Red Onion and Cannellini Beans

This recipe is a quick weeknight dinner idea. You could make this vegetarian by leaving out the steak (of course) and adding an extra can of cannelini beans or, even better, use edamami beans instead. The addition of the beans allows you to stretch the steak, making more servings.

Stir-fried Steak with Baby Bok Choy, Garlic, Ginger, Red Onion and Canellini beans

Steak and Bok Choy

Serves 3 – 4 

  • 12 oz of steak, cut into strips
  • About 4-6 baby bok choy – mine were on the large size so I used only 4
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 3 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons of tamari or to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse cannellini beans
  2. Cut off the end stems of Bok choy freeing up the leaves
  3. Cut the stems into slices and leave the leaves whole.
  4. Separately rinse the stems and leaves of bok choy, dirt hides in the stems where they attach to the base. I found a salad spinner helpful. Dry each but keep them separate.
  5. Chop the onion into medium dice and finely chop the garlic
  6. Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and the pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with 1/4 Tsp salt in 1 Tbsp of water in a non-stick pan on medium heat until softened. Add more water if things get too dry but don’t add too much. The leaves and stems of the bok choy will release water.
  7. Add in bok choy stems, steak and 1 tablespoon of tamari, cook until the stems start to soften and steak looses it’s pink color, about 3 minutes
  8. Uncover and add the leaves of the bok choy and the beans, use tongs every minute while sautéing for another 3 minutes til tender but still crisp.
  9. Add the second tablespoon of tamari and toss.
  10. Remove the steak and vegetables to a serving dish, cook down any liquid until saucy and pour over the dish.

Note: a drizzle of roasted sesame oil would be delicious. Extra tamari at the table is a welcome addition.

I realize that many of the recipes over the next few weeks are on the comparatively bland side compared to my “usual” recipes. That is because they are designed to support a group who are following the Fast Metabolism Diet for 28 days. Don’t worry, the jacked up seasoning will be back. And, I may come back and “redo” some of these recipes.

But, meanwhile I think many people like simpler food without a lot of fancy ingredients. At the end of 28 days last May my taste buds had changed, I detected the sweetness of bok choy and the meatiness of the steak, my ability to taste more subtle flavors had become more acute. I didn’t need as much seasoning. Some folks are naturally that way and so these recipes will work for them as written. Feel free to use the recipes as a jumping off spot to your own creativity.

Serve with brown rice.

This is a phase 1 lunch or dinner for the Fast Metabolism Diet. In phase 1 serve it with with 1/2 cup of rice (the beans count as part of your starch). It is also a  phase 2 lunch or dinner prepared without the beans.

Steak and Bok Choy

Steak and Bok Choy

Beans and Stems Added

Steak and Bok Choy with Cannellini beans

I love your comments and ideas, please keep them coming.