Friday, March 19, 2010

La Daube Provençale

I recently finished Kim Sunée's memoir, A Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home. I'm not going to give you a full book report — I never liked doing those. But the gist of the story is this: Born in South Korea, Sunée was adopted and raised in New Orleans. She leaves when she is barely out of her teens and eats, lives and loves in Europe for ten years before returning to the U.S. Her story of elaborate feasts and international travel is tempered with melancholy because she lacks a sense of home and belonging.

Recipes are scattered through the book. I thought I'd try this recipe for beef stewed in red wine since it is a different, brighter take on beef stew and our freezer is still stocked with larger cuts of beef from Old Pine Farm. The citrus and olive flavors are a welcome change and the meat just melted into extreme tenderness. It is best made a day ahead for all the flavors to meld. It was probably our last wintery stew since spring officially arrives this weekend!

La Daube Provençale/Braised Beef
Adapted from Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunée

1 pound beef chuck, trimmed of fat and cubed
2 medium onions, quartered, divided
1-2 carrots, cut lengthwise and into thirds
Bouquet garni (such as a few sprigs of parsley, thyme and/or rosemary)
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry red wine
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 slice thick-cut bacon, diced
2-3 Tb flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
2-inch piece of orange rind
1 tsp orange zest
Juice of one-half orange
3/4-1 cup beef stock
1 Tb black olive tapenade
Garnishes: black olives and fresh parsley

Combine beef and one of the onions and next 4 ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl. Let marinate 5 to 6 hours. (You can marinate overnight, but wine flavor will be much stronger.)

Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain well. Reserve the marinade and vegetables/herbs separately.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Heat bacon on medium high in an enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Spread flour in a shallow plate and season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge beef in flour, adding more flour as needed. Add beef to pot and let brown, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, garlic and a 2-inch strip of orange rind and stir. Add reserved wine marinade and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and let wine reduce, skimming fat, for about 15 minutes.

Add beef stock or water just to cover meat, stir and add reserved vegetables and bouquet garni. Stir once more, cover and bake for about 2-3 hours, until meat is tender. Check every once in a while and add more beef stock of water if it is being absorbed too quickly.

Remove any fat with a spoon. Remove orange rind, bay leaf and bouquet garni and discard. Add orange zest and juice and stir. Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Reheat on medium until warm. Stir tapenade into sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with large pasta shells or polenta and garnish with olives and parsley.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Come do arts and crafts with me

I was at a party recently with a friend who was wearing knee-high black leather boots with a sizeable heel. After a few drinks, someone made the suggestion that she was wearing "Come f*@%! me" boots. After a bit of stammering and gasping, she thrust her arm out pointing down at my colorful, chunky clown-like shoes (artfully shown above) and said, "Then what are those?"

Without missing a beat, he replied,"They're 'Come do arts and crafts with me' shoes."

Hey, what can I say? My shoes may not be sexy, but at least my message is consistent. Because that's my message for you today: Come do arts and crafts with me. Literally.

I'll be teaching a two-hour Intro to Knitting workshop on Friday, April 23 from 7-9 p.m. at the Blue House in Ann Arbor. We'll be making funky, modern accessories like a sassy knitted cuff or reusable sleeve for your coffee cup. I'll show you how to cast on, knit, check your gauge and cast off. We may not get quite as sassy as the cuff seen above by Dull Roar on Etsy, but I'll show you the skills to do just that. You might even pursuade me to teach you to purl if the group is game. Now doesn't that sound risqué?! The class is just $26 and includes yarn as well as a set of needles to take home. We've only got room for six students, so head on over to the Blue House website and sign up now.

And when you get to the Blue House, you'll know me by my shoes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the hunt for spring flowers: Snowdrops

snowdrop drawingI've been trying to draw crocuses for two years now. Spring arrives and I love them so much that I race out and draw, draw, draw. I don't know what it is, but it just never works out. Now I think it's getting to be psychological. Yikes. Anyway… I noticed a huge patch of them outside of a local yoga studio on my way to work the past two days. I decided to go out this morning and try once more. I barely got past the front yard though. I saw that our neighbor's front lawn looked like this:

snowdrop spring flower
A beautiful carpet of snowdrops!
After looking over my shoulder like some kind of thief to see if anyone was going to chase me away, I plopped right down in their yard and made a few quick drawings. And then I realized how good they smelled. I had no idea they have this sweet delicate scent.

snowdrop spring flowerI'm headed back out this afternoon to try the crocuses one more time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Steamy Wok Surprise

steamed dumplingsThe boy and I have a huge vinyl chalkboard decal stuck to the side of our frig where we do our menu planning for the week ahead. This recipe debuted on the chalkboard as "steamy wok surprise." Awful, I know. But I had new bamboo steamer baskets that I wanted to use but hadn't found the right recipe yet. The recipe would be the surprise. I was thinking some kind of steamed fish and veggies, but kept lingering over the dumpling recipes. The dumplings won out.

Steamed Pork Dumplings
Adapted from

Makes 20.

1 1/2 Tb egg white
1 Tb minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup diced water chestnuts or jicama
1/4 cup minced scallion
1/2 pound ground pork
20 wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen

For the filling: Lightly whisk egg white in a large bowl, then whisk in ginger, garlic, peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add water chestnuts or jicama, scallion, and pork and mix together with your hands until combined well.

Assemble dumplings: Separate wonton wrappers and restack in piles of 10. Cut through each stack with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter and discard trimmings. Arrange 6 rounds on a work surface (keep remaining rounds covered with plastic wrap) and mound a scant tablespoon filling in center of each. Lightly moisten edge of wrappers with a finger dipped in water. Working with one at a time and leaving dumpling on flat surface, gather edge of wrapper around side of filling, pleating wrapper to form a cup and pressing pleats against filling (leave dumpling open at top). Flatten filling flush with edge of wrapper with wet finger and transfer dumpling to a tray. Make more dumplings in same manner with remaining rounds and filling.

Steam dumplings: Line bamboo baskets with cheesecloth or leafy greens. (You could also generously oil the bottom of a colander-steamer insert) Bring a few inches of water to a boil in pot that the baskets will fit in easily. Arrange 10 dumplings, about 1/2 inch apart, in each tier and steam over moderate heat, covered, until dough is translucent and filling is just cooked through, about 6 minutes.

Serve immediately with soy dipping sauce.

Soy dipping sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water
3 Tb seasoned rice vinegar

1 1/4 teaspoons sugar

handful of thinly sliced scallion

Stir together soy sauce, water, vinegar, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Just before serving, stir in scallion.

If you're making these for a party or large group, the original recipe makes 60. Do it up!