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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January 11, 2015

Slow cooker chicken stew with onions, mushrooms, and at least 40 cloves of garlic

The more garlic, the merrier in this crockpot chicken stew.

Cross a traditional French coq au vin, chicken with forty cloves of garlic, and old-fashioned chicken stew, and only good things can happen. And then, add more garlic! This recipe sprung from my husband Ted's craving for chicken stew, a half bottle of unspectacular red wine that needed to be used, and my own wish to toss something into the slow cooker that would make the house smell wonderful all day. Please don't be afraid of the amount of garlic in this recipe; it mellows and sweetens with the long cooking, and is essential to the success of the dish. Serve the stew on its own, or over rice or egg noodles, with a bowl of sliced crusty bread for mopping up every last bit of the sauce. Like all stews, it's wonderful on the day you make it, and even more wonderful the following day.

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September 14, 2014

Slow cooker Caribbean pepper pot {gluten-free}

Caribbean pepper pot, filled with chicken, shrimp, squash and kale.

A few weeks ago, I awoke in the middle of the night, craving Caribbean pepper pot. Can you imagine what I was dreaming about? Adventures on the high seas? Salsa dancing on the beach? Bright colored head scarves and flowing tunics? Johnny Depp? I wish I could remember. Not to worry, though: I remembered the important part: spicy stew, filled with the goodness of the islands, and I absolutely had to make it. In my dream there was shrimp and rice and callaloo, a typical dark leafy green grown throughout the Caribbean. It's not impossible to find callaloo at specialty supermarkets, but I swapped kale, which was perfect. Most pepper pot recipes call for fiery hot habañero peppers in terrifying quantities. I substituted several milder jalapeños, and there was still plenty of kick. Please do not omit the pepper. If you don't like spicy food, make another dish. After all, this one is called pepper pot for a reason. I made enough for Ted, Christine, Rebecca, Shweta and Robby, who had his portion for breakfast, and when they polished it off, I regretted I hadn't made more. May the recipe bring you amazing food-filled dreams.

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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.

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