Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Organic Cooking: Stew, French Style

Once winter sets in for long haul I head to the bookshelf for Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking.  It stays with me until the first of my veggies come out of the garden and I tend to let the garden dictate my meals. I first learned of this treasury of savory dishes from Chef Michelle Cook during one of her memorable Slow Food dinners. Several of us had, as usual, gathered at the beautiful home of Halsey and Michelle Cook for a night of conviviality in the truest sense: a night filled with the best food, wine and conversation. As was often the case at the Cooks', Michelle brought out the pasta press and made fresh pasta to accompany the two stew recipes from Bistro Cooking.

The first stew is Estouffade Provencale. The wonderful thing about this stew is that is so easy to make. It takes two - three days but the time involved is minimal. The second recipe is Gardiane La Camargue (La Camargue's Beef Stew with Black Olives).

Both recipes utilize the technique of letting the ingredients "stew" in red wine overnight which tenderizes the beef and blends all the flavors of the veggies. These recipes were likely made using bull's beef which would be tough but very flavorful and so the overnight treatment would leave the flavor intact but the beef would still be melt in your mouth tender.

Definitely try Michelle's treatment of the stew by spooning over fresh pasta and served with a good, full bodied wine. Also, please, try to find some good black olives as the recipe just doesn't have the same taste when canned olives are used.

Estouffade Provencale

2.5 lbs grass fed stew beef(cut in large pieces)
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 celery rib, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle, 3 cups, hearty red wine
1 bunch fresh thyme
3 imported Turkish bay leaves (available at The Farm Shop)
1 strip of orange zest, about 2 inches, chopped

1. Two days before serving the stew, combine all of the ingredients, except the orange zest, in a large enameled casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Simmer gently, until the meat is very tender, 3-4 hours.
3. Allow the stew to cool down. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
4. At serving time, reheat until the meat is heated through, 10-15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. To serve, remove the bay leaves and the thyme, stir in orange zest.
Yield 8 servings when served over pasta

(Next post, Gardiane La Camargue)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Warming Soup

As the weather is colder and I have a freezer full of pumpkin puree (having roasted six already and two more in the cupboard!), I find myself making this delicious warm pumpkin soup weekly. Paired with a loaf of fresh bread and some cheese, it makes a good simple supper, or served with muffins and fruit it forms a hearty lunch.

Using spices like those in curry powder (cumin, turmeric, etc) is helpful in winter, as those tend to keep the sinuses clear! Many reports also suggest that these warming spices aid the immune system and promote good circulation. In any case, the soup itself is versatile and healthful and perfect for a frosty winter night!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons curry powder
4 cups bone broth
4 cups pureed pumpkin or other squash puree
1 1/2 cups fresh milk
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan or soup pot. Whisk in flour and curry powder until blended and bubbly. Gradually whisk in broth until mixed and somewhat thickened. Add pumpkin and milk, stirring to warm. Add rest of ingredients and heat to desired warmth, serve.

Recipe modified from several sources, including recipes on, several cookbooks, and my mother's recollection of a soup she ate in Korea!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Naturally Sick Child

My family suffered waves of illness last week, and I found it difficult to maintain a natural/healthy approach. I had some turkey bone broth on hand which, when cooked up with spinach and barley, made a healthy and healing soup for upset tummies. I attempted to make my own saltine crackers from scratch, but that was a colossal fail. They turned out more like thin and tasteless wheaten biscuits. The kids still nibbled at them, and perhaps that is the point of saltines when sick anyway. I attempted to give my 2 year old and almost 4 year old mineral water, but they said it was "too spicy" so I did wind up getting some sprite instead even though it was loaded with sugar and who knows what else.

As this is cold and flu season, I hope I can keep lots of bone broth on hand in my freezer and maybe we can beat the next bug more quickly! In the meantime, I hope you have been staying healthy and enjoying the holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Review - Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul

Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul is a beautiful cookbook full of warm and comforting recipes inspired by seasonal foods and the author's travels around Europe and America.

I most enjoyed the author's essays at the beginning of each section. Her ode to cheese is outstanding. The book also boasts wonderful food photography and a sprinkling of quotes from literature about winter food.

I appreciated the author's interpretation of traditional winter foods using interesting flavor combinations I would not have thought to try on my own. For example, I have never paired red cabbage with cranberries, nor have I thought of using parsnips as a mashed potato substitute. The recipes are all hearty and warming - this can in no way be construed as a dieting book - but a variety of ingredients and foods in season is a healthful way to eat and I think if you're willing to exercise moderation and portion control this cookbook would add a great variety to your winter cooking repretoire.

If you enjoy eating seasonal foods and trying new combinations of flavors, or even if you just like to read pretty cookbooks, I would highly recommend Roast Figs Sugar Snow.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.