Beef Stock

My mom gave me a dutch oven for my birthday, which is perhaps a little odd considering my birthday is in July and I received the gift in December. Someone was excited, I guess, to get me cooking soup. So with a dutch oven taking up space in my cabinets, and a new artisanal butcher right down the street, the stars were aligning – it was time to try my hand at a beef stock.

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I was really excited to go to The Butcher & Larder for the first time. I knew they sourced whole animals from reputable, sustainable farms – organic, pasture-plentiful, humane farms. I also knew they offered up daily sausages and pâtés in addition to the fresh cuts of meat. It’s no surprise, then, that I walked in looking for beef bones and walked out with a bag full of sausages (and bones, of course).

They took the liberty of roasting the bones, so that was one less step for me. Most recipes recommend roasting the bones first to bring out a deeper flavor in the stock. I started with a basic recipe from Simply Recipes, but added in a few extra ingredients at the last minute. This week – hopefully – I’ll share the soup that I made using the stock.

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Beef Stock
adapted from Simply Recipes

5 pounds beef bones (ask your butcher, and let them know you’re making a stock)
Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
5 stems fresh thyme
1 large chunk of ginger, chopped roughly
1/2 cup dry red wine
handful of peppercorns
water

If your bones are raw, start by roasting them in a 400° oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You can also roast the veggies, if you prefer – just coat them in olive oil.

Since my bones were already roasted, I started by sauteing my veggies – the carrots, onion, garlic, ginger, and celery. Pour some olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven, then toss in all the chopped veggies. Saute on medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Pour in the red wine and let it reduce to at least half.

There are endless variations on this – some people add mushrooms, or tomatoes, or tomato paste. Other herbs would be great, or you could toss in discarded veg parts like the stems of kale. You could up the Asian flavor by removing the carrots and celery and adding a dash or two of fish sauce or soy sauce.

When the wine is reduced, add the beef bones, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns to the pot. Fill the pot with water so that all the ingredients are covered. Let simmer on low heat, covered, for 6-8 hours. I let mine sit overnight.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the veggies and bones and discard them. Let the stock cool in the refrigerator. A layer of fat will rise to the top and solidify in the fridge, which makes it easy to remove. Just scoop it off the top and save it for later – you can use it in place of other oils for cooking in the future.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve and/or cheese cloth. From here, you can freeze the stock or keep it in the fridge for about a week or so. I froze half of mine in plastic tupperware.

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Avocado with Proscuitto and Olive Tapenade

After nearly a month of eating on the cheap in Southeast Asia, Eric and I decided we’d treat ourselves to a nice dinner in Bali. Granted, eating on the cheap was often the best way to dine in the countries we visited – it’s hard to imagine a big bowl of pho tasting so good in any other setting besides a street corner – but Bali certainly had fine dining options, and we wanted to see what they were like. Actually, in Ubud, nearly every restaurant looked nice – that city is full of trendy street-side cafes and posh eateries. So when we set out on this fine-dining mission, we basically just walked into one random restaurant on the street, unsure of how good it actually would be.

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As it happened, we walked into Cafe Lotus. We walked back through an expansive restaurant, took off our shoes, then stepped up onto a long terrace that overlooked a lotus pond and Hindu temple. We sat cross-legged at the short tables while watching a traditional Balinese dance at the temple. Ambiance alone was worth the price of admission. The food, by the way, was great too.

Among other things, I ordered this dish:
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It was simple – avocados, proscuitto, and olive tapenade. I knew it would be something I could easily recreate at home, which is what I finally did this week. I modified it slightly by adding artichoke hearts to the tapenade, but otherwise it is pretty much what I ate in Bali. By the way, what does a splurge for dinner cost in Bali? A whopping $30USD plus the cost of wine (which, frankly, is not a steal). Not too bad.

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Avocado with Proscuitto and Olive Tapenade

2 ripe avocados
1/4 pound thinly sliced proscuitto
1 cup mixed olives – I used several random varieties from the olive bar at the grocery store
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil
1 can artichoke hearts

1 clove garlic

Make the tapenade by combining the olives, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, and artichoke hearts in a food processor. Process until it is just slightly chunky.

Slice the avocado in half, scoop out the pit, then carefully scoop out each half of the avocado so it remains in tact. Cut into 1/4 inch strips. Wrap the slices in proscuitto and top with the olive tapenade.

Creepy Crawlies in Borneo

Ah, bugs. There certainly were plenty in Borneo. Eric had a stomach bug (actually, he had multiple stomach bugs), I was eaten alive by sand flies, and then, of course, there were these bugs:

We saw tons of HUGE bugs! These fun guys roll up into a little ball when they're scared.

giant snails

giant millipede

it's a leaf bug!

creepy

eric and i both had nightmares about this centipede.

Ok, let’s not get technical with the insects vs. mollusks. It’s still big and a little creepy, so I feel I can include it here.

Of all the bugs, though, that last one really shook us. We discovered him on a night hike – hanging out on a tree just a few inches off our path. Of course, it looks gross, creepy, downright disgusting. But when our guide – a man who has been leading people through the jungle for 9 years – was afraid, well, we could not get this bug off our mind. Apparently he bites – hard – and you’ll pass out if he does manage to have a nibble.

That night, I could not stop thinking about that centipede. My skin was crawling, and I just wanted to wrap myself in a blanket and seal myself in a bug-proof room. Not possible in the jungle. I even woke up in the middle of the night to Eric pacing around the room. His legs itched, and he could not sleep. I had him rub cortizone cream, deodorant, anything on his legs. Nothing was working. Needless to say, we did not sleep much that night.

That bug really penetrated our psyches.

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

Continuing with detox/salad week, I made this Jamie Oliver winter salad last Wednesday when we were snowed in. With 20 inches of snow outside, it was so nice to wear sweatpants all day long and turn on the oven. Not to mention that it was our first week back to work, and a “free” day in the middle of that week was very much welcomed.

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I went to the book store right when we arrived home from our trip; I wanted to find a Vietnamese cookbook. I found a great one – Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. I’d highly recommend it. The dangerous thing about being in a book store is seeing all the books! Hundreds! Thousands! And of course I can never get out with just one. So I came home with Nguyen’s book as well as Jamie Oliver’s jamie at home. Perfect.

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Eric and I both loved this salad. Really loved it. We couldn’t stop talking about it. In fact, I want to make it again immediately. The only thing I would change: Jamie (yes, we’re on a first name basis) recommends serving it with sour cream; I think a nice thick greek yogurt would be even better (and just that much healthier!).

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Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

from jamie at home

1 pound carrots and parsnips
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried chili flakes (Jamie recommends fresh chillies; I forgot to buy them at the store)
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
extra virgin olive oil (as Jamie would say, a few glugs)
red wine vinegar
1 orange
1 lemon
2 ripe avocados
greens – I used radicchio and arugula
sour cream or greek yogurt
mixed seeds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then pop in the carrots and parsnips for 5-10 minutes – just until their soft. Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, combine the cumin seeds, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Then add the fresh thyme (picked from the stem) and garlic and keep smashing. Then add a glug of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. When the carrots and parsnips are done, rub this mixture of goodness all over them.

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Place the carrots and parsnips on a roasting pan along with the orange and lemon, halved. (I threw in a key lime for good measure, but it’s not necessary). Place in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.

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While the carrots and parsnips are roasting, halve the avocados and slice them. When the carrots and parsnips are done, assemble the salad. If using radicchio, you can grill the leaves to remove some of the bitterness first. Then layer the greens, carrots, and avocados.

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Prepare a dressing by mixing the juice of the roasted orange and lemon with some olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, then top with a bit of greek yogurt or sour cream and some mixed seeds.

Kale Salad with Seeds, Nuts, and Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Whenever we get back from vacation, Eric and I have a sort of detox week. We eat salads, try to get back into the regular workout routine, and try to shake off the jet lag. Today, with snowpocalypse painting our windows white, we came home early from work for a night of wine, The Wire, and this kale salad. The candle is burning, the down blanket is on the couch, and we’re watching the storm – it’s nice to eat a healthy salad knowing we can’t brave the outdoors for a run.

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I had a similar salad at Prune in New York. It was a simple salad with pine nuts, parmesano reggiano, and a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. I added a few more nuts and seeds, and at the last minute, I decided to throw in warm garbanzo beans. It was a good choice. A poached egg would be excellent with this as well.

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Last night was the first night we could get groceries, so tonight was our first real night of home cooking, and I figured a healthy, nutrient-rich salad was in order. With all the news of the impending snow storm, grocery stores were packed to the brim last night. No parking spots, no carts, picked-bare shelves, and 30-minute waits to check out were the order of the night. I picked up the last bunch of lacinato kale and tried to round up the rest of what I needed. Paired with a bottle of wine, this dinner made for a nice, healthy, indoors kind of night.

Kale Salad with Seeds, Nuts, and Roasted Garbanzo Beans

inspired by the Kale Salad at Prune in NYC
measurements here are rough – vary the ingredients depending on how big your bunch of kale is.

for the salad:
1 bunch lacinato kale
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
teaspoon or so of raw sesame seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, and raw slivered almonds
1 teaspoon nice aged red wine vinegar
parmesano reggiano cheese, shaved
fresh ground pepper and salt

for the roasted garbanzo beans:
1 can garbanzo beans
extra virgin olive oil
mix of seasoning – I used a smoked hickory salt, cumin, and granulated garlic

Prepare the kale by removing the thick stems, then roll up the leaves and chiffonade the kale (aka, cut into thin strips). Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil and let it marinate while you prepare the garbanzo beans.

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Heat an oven to 450. Drain and rinse the beans, then dry them off, removing any husks that rub off in the process. Toss them with olive oil and the seasonings of your choice. Roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes – they’ll turn a dark, golden brown and will be crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

Toss the kale salad with the rest of the ingredients – vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cheese, and the nuts and seeds. Serve with the warm garbanzo beans.


Honeymoon Gluttony

We’re back! After a month of wandering around Southeast Asia, we arrived in Chicago at 9am Saturday. I’ll be busy writing up posts on everything we did in addition to trying to recreate the amazing food we ate, but for now, I have a few pictures of some of the amazing food we ate.

Best thing we ate in NYC: the famous pork buns at Momofuku

Pork Belly Steam Buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC

The jet lag has controlled us the last two days. After 36 hours of traveling and sleeping on airplanes, I went into a coma for about 4 hours, then stayed awake until 4am. Laying down in a bed and stretching out my legs under my down blanket was pure comfort after being couped up in economy class.

This was amazing. Toasted Manti with garlic yogurt.

Toasted Manti with Garlic Yogurt and Broth at Prune in NYC

The trip went like this: 4 days in NYC prior to departure. It was actually quite warm (high of 50 degrees F the day we left), but snow blanketed the city. It was just three days after the first of the massive snow storms in the Northeast, and the streets and sidewalks were a mess. Regardless, we managed to eat some scrumptious food.

best thing ever. mango and sticky rice. you haven't had mango until you've had it in Southeast Asia.

Mango with Sticky Rice on the streets of Bangkok

Then we flew to Seoul. With a 12-hour layover in Seoul, we took a tour of the city and ate some bibimbap (rice with mixed veggies, beef, and spicy paste) and bulgogi (marinated grilled beef). The meals were good, but the photos haven’t uploaded to Flickr yet, so I haven’t included them here. After that, it was on to Bangkok. We had just one day in Bangkok – we ate street food, saw some temples, and checked out the infamous Khao San Road. We also had about 5 hours to kill in Bangkok at the tail end of our trip, which is when we picked up this amazingly juicy mango served with coconut-y sticky rice. Probably the highlight of Bangkok.

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Bun Bo, aka Vietnamese Beef Noodle Salad, in Hanoi, Vietnam

From Bangkok, we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. We had some glorious meals in Vietnam (in addition to several sub par meals), but the Bun Bo shown above may have been my favorite. Our hotel recommended this place – a small restaurant that serves only Bun Bo. The salad is served with tender butter lettuce and a rich, flavorful broth. Yum.

and the final product - wow.

Marinated beef, grilled tableside and served with crusty bread, on the streets of Hanoi

Another day in Hanoi, we were wandering around looking for a lunch when we spotted, and smelled, this amazing grilled beef. It’s grilled at your table in lard and butter with tons of vegetables. The famous banh mi, Vietnamese bread, was flaky and crusty on the outside, and soft and doughy on the inside. It was incredible.

We had a whole snapper and sting ray, plus two bottles of water, for a grand total of about $9.

Fresh seafood at the Night Market in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

After Vietnam, we flew to Malaysian Borneo, where you can go to the well-known night market in the main city, Kota Kinabalu. All the vendors display their freshly caught seafood, so you can pick out what you want and they’ll grill it up for you on the spot. Pretty amazing stuff.

a Balinese specialty - crispy duck!!

Crispy Duck in Ubud, Bali

Finally, our last stop was Bali. In Ubud, the famous dish is this Crispy Duck – a small Balinese duck that is grilled and then deep fried. Served with the super spicy sambal shown below, it was a tender, delicious meal.

that spicy spicy sambal. it looks so good, i want to eat it by the spoonful, but one small bite burns my mouth for hours

Very spicy Balinese Sambal

This stuff is more potent than you’d think. It looks so delicious that I wanted to eat it by the spoonful, but it was so spicy, I could only stand a small bit at a time.

rambutans and snake skin fruit

Rambutans and Snake Skin Fruit at the market in Bali

Lastly, we had some amazing fruit. Besides the juicy mangoes, I also loved the snake skin fruit. It peals ridiculously easy and has a texture similar to an apple. It is dry – not juicy like most delicious fruits – but it’s sweetness is seriously delicious.

I’ll be updating on more adventures soon. I already went to the book store today and picked up a Vietnamese cookbook, so I’ll be sharing some recipes soon as well.