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February 11, 2015

French-style beef stew with onions, mushrooms and peas

French-style beef stew with onions, mushrooms and peas, and lots of red wine!

Once or twice over the past years, or perhaps a few dozen times more often than that, I might have mentioned to you that the way to my husband Ted's heart is through beef stew. Each year I try to come up with a new variation for him. This French-style beef stew takes the best features of daube, boeuf Bourguignon, and boeuf aux carottes (without the carrots), and mashes them together. And yes, a whole bottle of good red wine poured into the pot coaxes all of the ingredients into perfect harmony. I like to use frozen pearl onions, which are already peeled and need no further fussing, and peas with their bright, flash-frozen flavor of summer. Yukon Gold potatoes can swap in for the red-skinned potatoes; both will hold their shape in the stew, and that's what you want. Right before I pack up the kitchen for our move next week, I'm going to make a batch of this stew for Ted, for Valentine's Day.

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February 4, 2015

Moroccan beef stew/tagine with apricots and onions {gluten-free}

Moroccan beef tagine with apricots, onions, and a hint of cinnamon.

Packing continues for our move to Boston in a couple of weeks, and as I pack my kitchen, I'm downsizing like crazy. This means that every pot, pan, dish, and utensil undergoes scrutiny. Have I used it enough to give it precious shelf space in the tiny kitchen I'll have in the new apartment? My Dutch oven makes the cut, of course, and my favorite tagine pot -- one with a cast iron bottom and a ceramic top that looks like an inverted flower pot, made by my friend Bob -- earns its place, too. As I was about to pack the tagine, I decided to give it one more turn in the log house kitchen, and this beef stew with apricots and onions was the happy result. The combination of meat and dried fruit, so popular in North African and Middle Eastern countries, along with cinnamon, elevates this beef stew with a sweet and sour note that's both unusual and pleasing, giving the stew a brighter flavor. I used organic dried apricots, which have a dark, musky color; for little pops of orange in your tagine, choose regular dried apricots, found in the produce section of your supermarket. Ras-el hanout is a spice blend that contains cumin, along with a dozen other spices, and if you can't find it, cumin makes an acceptable substitute.

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January 21, 2015

Slow cooker shredded beef chili with beans

Slow cooker shredded beef chili, topped with guacamole and lime. Sublime!

On a cold day a few weeks ago, my husband Ted and I had pre-theater dinner with our friends Mary and Mike at our favorite across-the-street-from-the-house restaurant. We shared an appetizer-sized portion of short rib chili, just a few heavenly rich and sweet bites for each of us. When I decided to make my own version, I knew I wanted something a bit leaner; after all, some of the amazingness of the chili came from the fatty short ribs. So, instead, I used my stand-by, brisket. Coffee and cocoa give this chili a deep Mexican mole undertone. A hit of fresh lime juice at the very end is an absolute must, and a blob of guacamole on top makes the dish just about perfect. The chili freezes well, so make the full recipe and you'll be all set for weeknight dinners or that upcoming big football game.

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October 15, 2014

Slow cooker spicy shredded beef with soy, ginger and garlic

Spicy shredded beef with garlic and ginger makes a perfect rice bowl topping.

If there were a contest for Brisket Queen, I'd toss my tongs into the ring. I've shared so many beef brisket recipes with you, starting with my grandmother's brisket, barbecue brisket, Mediterranean brisket, apple cider brisket, hoisin brisket, Pakistani brisket, and Southwestern brisket, that I deserve the title and a sparkly little crown. Just when I thought I'd done it all, however, I remembered this spicy Asian brisket, with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. I make it in the slow cooker, using my new method of cutting the meat into quarters and browning the edges (more pieces, more edges, more wonderful chewy bits when you shred the meat). This is a super-simple, slightly salty, slightly spicy brisket, perfect served on a rice bowl with any steamed vegetables. Crunchy snow peas provide a nice contrast; broccoli, bok choy, or green beans are good, too. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add a spoonful of brown sugar near the end of the cooking. There's sugar in dark soy sauce, and that's plenty for me, but you can (and should) adjust to your own taste.

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September 10, 2014

Tex-Mex taco sauce {gluten-free}

Tex-Mex taco sauce fills a tortilla.

When I went off to college and had to cook for myself, I made lots and lots of spaghetti with red sauce. One of the few things I knew how to cook, it would feed a crowd, and leftovers went right into the freezer. Maybe there was something meditative about stirring the sauce pot, or maybe I was avoiding doing my homework, or maybe both. All these (many) years later, I prepare spaghetti sauce basically the same way, and this Tex-Mex taco sauce is a peppy riff on that sauce I used to make in my college dorm. You can spice this up or down, by playing with the canned green chiles and chili pepper proportions, but don't leave out all of the hot pepper ingredients. After all, it wouldn't be Tex-Mex without a little something to make you kick up your heels. Cook the full amount of the recipe, and freeze it in smaller portions for tacos, quesadillas, burritos or Sloppy Joes.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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