Rain, glorious rain! Yes, if you’ve been living anywhere in California you know that we’ve been getting record amounts of rainfall over the past six weeks. Did you know that Northern California is officially out of the drought and Southern California is also almost there? It’s amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain. I love being able to wear sweaters and Uggs during the winter months. It’s been kind of a novelty recently. But this week we had sun! It was warm. The boys actually wore shorts and T-shirts! It was wonderful! I wish it would last. But unfortunately there’s more rain scheduled for this coming weekend. That rain means more chilly temperatures and more sweater weather. But it also means it’s the perfect time for stews, soups and chilis.
A few weeks ago the rain was pelting the windows and all I wanted was a big hot bowl of soup. But not that boring see-through broth, and absolutely nothing that came out of a red & white can. I wanted something thick and hearty, with vegetables and maybe even a little meat. Something that would stick to your bones and make you feel all warm and cozy inside. Then I remembered this amazing stew I had at a food blogger L.A. event back in December.
It was our annual cookie swap and everyone made and brought cookies. But Judy from My Well Seasoned Life didn’t just bring cookies, she also brought this amazing Beef Barley Soup. It was warm and comforting and absolutely delicious! Just thinking about that soup makes my mouth water. So, I decided to make my own version. I was so well sated at the end of the evening, I thought I’d share.
What makes this soup so filling isn’t just the beef, it’s the barley and the vegetables. But unlike some soups, this isn’t one you can just whip up in half an hour. This soup is one of those meals that gets better the longer it simmers on the stove. So, if you’re planning on making this for dinner on one of these chilly winter nights, make sure it’s on a day where you’re going to be home for at least a couple hours. The end result will be well worth the time spent, I promise.
Beef and Barley Stew (adapted from My Well Seasoned Life)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine, like a cabernet or merlot
- 3 cups beef broth
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides; transfer to a bowl.
- Add the onions to the pot and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, carrots and celery and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the vegetables begin to brown, about 6 or 7 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the broth and browned beef along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Stir in the barley and salt and pepper to taste; recover and continue to simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Ladel into bowls and serve.
One of my favorite winter meals is short ribs. They’re hearty, filling and rich and I absolutely love them.
I’ve made them a few different ways including the slow cooker and a pot on the stove. While one cooks for a few hours longer than the other, the cooking techniques are quite similar. Both require covering the short ribs in liquid, and then cooking them for hours. No matter which technique you use or what kind of sauce you cook the meat in, ideally you get the same result: tender meat that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth.
This recipe comes from Fine Cooking and uses celery as part of its liquid. The benefit with using celery is that it’s pretty much available year round. I use celery all the time: as bases for stocks and stews, as well as adding it to salads and tuna for crunch. Sometimes I’ll even eat a stalk for a snack. But I’ve never used it as the main flavoring in a braise before. See, as the celery cooks, it flavors the beef and the sauce while at the same time absorbing some of the beefy flavor of the meat. The whole meal makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Yes, it’s a braise so it needs to be cooked on the stove which means you really can’t leave your house for a few hours. But the end result is so delicious, and the smells that fill your house are so amazing, you won’t mind being stuck inside. Besides if there’s a storm brewing outside (it is winter after all), you really don’t want to leave your house anyway.
Braised Short Ribs and Celery
- 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoons celery seeds
- 1 head celery, ribs peeled and cut on the diagonal into 3-inch pieces
- 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Generously season the ribs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half of the ribs, and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the remaining ribs, adding more oil if needed.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots and butter, and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to brown, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth, wine, mustard, and celery seeds. Return the ribs to the pot, cover, transfer to the oven, and braise for 2 hours.
- Stir in the celery, mushrooms, thyme, and lemon zest. Re-cover and continue to braise in the oven for another 40-50 minutes, or until the beef is very tender.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ribs, celery and mushrooms to a serving platter.
- Transfer the pot to the stove. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together a 1/4 cup of the braising liquid with the cornstarch. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the liquid in the pot until thickened to your liking for a sauce (you may not need it all). Return the ribs, celery, and mushrooms to the sauce. Serve immediately with rice or polenta.
Have I told you how much I love cranberries? Cranberry sauce, cranberry muffins, I even added dried cranberries to some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies recently (that were then promoted on ABC’s The Chew). I just can’t get enough, which is why I always seem to (luckily) have a bag or two left over from the holidays tucked away in the freezer. If you’re anything like me you have a cup or two of leftover cranberries too, which means you’re all set to make these delicious short ribs for dinner.
Short ribs are perfect for this time of year because they’re a nice hearty meat entreé that’ll warm you up all the way to your soul. There’s only one drawback with sort ribs – they usually take two or three hours to cook. While this could be a turn off to some, trust me when I tell you, you want to take the time to make these suckers.
The most common ways to cook short ribs are braised in an oven-proof pot or cooked in the slow cooker. When braised, potatoes and carrots are usually added to the pot. This not only makes for a nice filling meal, all the vegetables and stock add a rich flavor that you just can’t get from roasting.
What I especially love about braising, is the rich, thick gravy that comes from the braising liquid, which is usually made up of stock and spices. Not this braising liquid, though. This braising liquid is comprised of beef stock, cranberry juice and whole cranberries. Those berries add a delightfully tart, fruity flavor that gives great depth to the meat and makes for a really special sauce. A sauce that’ll definitely make you run out and stock up on cranberries… even if you already have a bag or two stowed away in the freezer.
Short Ribs with Cranberry Gravy (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
- 1 cup onion wedges
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
- 1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
- 4 large carrots, chopped
- 3 cups cranberry juice
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pot over medium heat.
- Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Place the ribs in the pot and cook until brown on all sides. Transfer the seared ribs to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onions and garlic to the pot and cook over medium heat until tender, about five minutes.
- Add the thyme and cook for another minute.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, cranberry juice, beef broth, and cranberries to the pot and bring to a boil. Return the ribs and any juices to the pot. Cover, place in the oven and cook for 2 hours.
- Transfer the ribs and vegetables to a plate. Skim the fat off the liquid and simmer on the stove, uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve the ribs with the gravy and enjoy.
One of my favorite things to cook on the grill is steak. I love marinating it for hours in a variety of spices, salts and vinegars. I love listening to it sizzle as I lay it on the hot grates. I love watching it sear and then trying to patiently wait before I cut into it. My absolute favorite thing though is finally getting to taste that juicy, salty piece of meat that’s been grilled to a perfect medium-rare. But steak all by itself can be kind of boring. That’s why people tend to serve it with a yummy béarnaise sauce or a delectable twice-baked potato. All those savory options are naturals to go with steak. But what if we changed things up and did something unexpected? What if we went sweet instead of savory?
Figs are just starting to show up at my farmer’s market. While most people (including me) tend to use the plump fruit for a dessert or appetizer, I like to change things up every now and then. Recently I found a recipe online that used the fig as a base for a sweet salsa. When mixed with some scallions and rice vinegar, the fig turns into a delicious topping for steak. And since it can get quite hot during the summer, this salsa also makes a nice cool alternative to the standard peppercorn or bearnaise sauces. But the best thing about the fig salsa was that it provided a delicious complement to the savory steak and gave me a scrumptious dinner the whole family enjoyed… even my sons.
Now figs don’t have to be relegated to the beginning or the end of the meal. Now they can be incorporated into the main course. That makes me super happy. It makes me so happy in fact, I think this may becomes quite the fig-filled summer.
Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 (1-1/2 pound) flank steak
- 3 cups chopped fresh figs
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
- Whisk together the rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rub onto the steak and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
- Preheat the grill to 400°F and take the steak out of the fridge. Let sit at room temperature while the grill heats up.
- In a medium bowl, toss the figs, scallion, and parsley, together with the vinegar and remaining olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- Grill the steak for about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Slice the steak across the grain into thin strips. Transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the fig salsa over the steak. Sprinkle with the Gorgonzola and serve.
My husband hates meatballs, meat loaf… even super thick hamburgers. He always says they’re too heavy for him, too thick, you get the picture. But the boys and I love meatloaf and meatballs, so I still try and make them occasionally, especially since spaghetti and meatballs are my sons’ favorite.
Well, recently I found a recipe in Fine Cooking for meatballs made in the slow cooker. As I said the boys and I love meatballs, and anything in the slow cooker makes my life so much easier because I can mix everything up in there, turn it on and take off. I can run errands, go shopping, take my boys to the park, whatever… and not worry because I know when I return, dinner will be all ready to serve. It seemed as if these slow cooker meatballs were made specifically with me (and all mothers) in mind. So, of course I went right out, bought all the ingredients, mixed up the meatballs and the sauce, placed it in the slow cooker and waited to see what happened.
When it came time for dinner, I served up the spaghetti and meatballs. While my sons looked up at me with huge grins, Hubs just looked at me. He knew I knew how he felt about meatballs but he didn’t want to roll his eyes or give me a look of distain because the boys were so happy and he didn’t want to influence them. So, Hubs grabbed his fork like a good father, and took a bite. Then he took another, and another, until his plate was empty. Then he did something he never does. He went back for seconds! I couldn’t believe it. I’d made a meatball he actually liked!
Why were these meatballs different from all other meatballs? They were tender. They were juicy. They were full of flavor. They weren’t the hard lumps of meat he was used to. All that flavor and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness came from the fact that the balls weren’t simply cooked for 4 hours. They were cooked in tomato sauce for 4 hours, thereby infusing those delectable little balls with an abundance of flavor. They were delicious; so delicious in fact that for the first time my entire family finished every last piece of spaghetti and meatball on their plate. And you know what that means. It means these easy-to-make meatballs will definitely be a staple in the Kitchy kitchen from now on.
Slow Cooker Meatballs
- 1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup sweet vermouth
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 egg
- 6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2-1/2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
- Mix the breadcrumbs and vermouth together in a large bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Add the pork, sausage, egg, cheese, oregano, salt and nutmeg to the breadcrumb mixture and mix with your hands until well combined. Form into 16 balls.
- Pour the tomato sauce into a 5 – 6 quart slow cooker. Nestle the meatballs into the sauce.
- Cover and cook for 3 – 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. (They can stay on the warm setting for up to 2 hours.)
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.