Friday, September 18, 2009

Guiso de Ternera a la Asturiana: Asturian Beef Stew

I LOVE my cookbook The New Spanish Table. It groups recipes by category as well as region (i.e. tapas versus paella, Catalan versus Basque) and includes history, photos, cultural information and recipes by some of the most amazing contemporary chefs as well as little hole-in-the-wall bodegas. While tapas remain my favorite Spanish food to cook (be still, my heart), I aim to work my way through most of the cookbook's recipes. Spanish cuisine is still relatively "new" to most of the United States, and The New Spanish Table has many crowd pleasers (tortilla espanyola, patatas bravas, etc) but also offers the home cook opportunities to try more exotic dishes (bunny , rabbit, anyone?).

I purchased grass fed beef (in the form of stew meat) at the Coolidge Corner Farmer's Market and am excited to put it to good use. Asturian Beef Stew is the perfect recipe for a crisp autumn dinner: tender, white wine-braised beef, hearty white beans, turnips and rich collard greens. The following recipe is more or less from my cookbook. I had to alter some ingredients due to availability and not wanting to purchase 3 pounds of expensive (albeit delicious) beef. I'll update this post with photos and a detailed review this weekend!


2 lbs stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

Coast salt

Finely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces smoky bacon or pancetta, diced into small squares

1 medium Vidalia onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 fat carrots (I used about 15 baby carrots and sliced them in half length-wise)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dry white wine

3 cups chicken stock

2 14 oz cans white Fava beans

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

2 medium-sized turnips, peels and cut into 1 inch chunks (substitute potatoes if you don't like turnips)
4 cups chopped, VERY well rinsed and dried collard greens

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large stew pot over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef to the pot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove beef and set in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot. Brown remaining half meat, and then transfer it to the bowl too.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to pot and add bacon. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring until bacon begins to render fat, about 2-3 minutes. Remove most of fat to use later. Add onion, garlic and carrots and turn heat back to medium-high and cook about 8 minutes so that vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add flour and stir for a few seconds. Add white wine and stir so that it combines with flour and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to bottom of pot.

Add beef and tomatoes to stew pot. Bring back to boil and turn down to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook at this temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to bottom of pot. Add beans, turnips and 1 cup water and cook until turnips are tender, about 35-50 minutes.

Heat up reserved bacon fat in saute pan over medium-high and add collard greens. Saute about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and add to stew pot. Taste stew, and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove stew from heat and let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I spotted this vegetable today at the farmer's market. Never having seen it before, my mind immediately jumped to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (nice imagery there...). While not quite as menacing, the maxixe, or Brazilian cucumber, is an intriguing vegetable sold by Hmong Family Farms. Eager to try a nice vegetable, one whose appearance is quite enticing, I purchased this bunch to for dinner this weekend.

A little background information: the Maxixe, similar in texture and flavor to a cucumber, is thought to have originated in Africa. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a slight lemony taste. It is common in Brazil where it is used in soups, salads, and cooked with beef dishes.

I plan to make a salad with heirloom tomatoes, bianca (ivory!)and chocolate bell peppers (!) and perhaps some Kalatama olives and feta cheese. I'll let you know how it tastes/turns out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Autumn Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I woke up today with that feeling-you know, when you are tired and kind of achy, and just know that a not fun few days are coming? As swine flu is all the rage these days (so to speak) and all universities are deathly afraid of students spreading the illness I really cannot afford to get sick. In Massachusetts they are not even testing for it anymore, you get a fever, you get a week quarantine, no ifs, ands or buts. So I am fighting back with a vitamin and mineral-rich soup, lots of water and a Law and Order marathon (I cannot really be expected to study under duress, can I ?).

My butternut squash and apple soup recipe could be filed under Soup For Dummies (although one could argue that it's actually smarter to pick a time saving recipe such as this one!). After many instances of dicing onion, peeling apples and slicing my squash into even pieces like a good girl, one day I said &^*$ it and just threw in pre-cut squash, baby carrots, apple chunks and onion cut into quarters into a soup pot. Honestly, it really did not make a noticiable difference in the resulting flavor. So for those who don't have much time or patience, voila! here is the perfect recipe for you!

3 cups butternut squash, cut into chunks (I bought mine at Trader Joe's)
2 apples, cored
1 cup carrots
1 onion, peel removed and onion cut into quarters
2 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Melt butter in a medium to large stew pot over medium high heat. Add butternut squash, carrots and onion to pot and let saute 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent from sticking/burning.

Add apples, white pepper, cinnamon and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 45 minutes.

Remove from heat, puree soup in batches.

Serve with toasted bread (good for dipping in soup!)

Note: you can freeze soup and it reheats perfectly for another meal.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Olivada: Black Olive Spread

All week I had great aspirations for cooking something warm and inviting today, but, as Boston has decided that it is fall - never mind that I have just bought 2 smart shirt dresses in an attempt to look more intellectual for nursing school - it is positively dreary outside! Heavy rain last night and all morning, *sigh*. So my amazing recipe for today must be pushed back until tomorrow evening or possibly Tuesday to accommodate the weather and oodles of pharmacology reading.

However, I do have a quick & easy recipe to share with you, a photo will be uploaded once I get off my butt and walk to the store to purchase some bread, cheese or any other logical accompaniment. (I suspect that I may be a bit melodramatic about walking in the rain as I do have an umbrella and it is about 5 minutes to Trader Joe's).

Las Ventas is a specialty Spanish foods shop in the South End of Boston. One of my (many) favorite items there is a black olive spread. Unlike tapenade, this spread has no capers, herbs or other added flavors. The result is a deep, pure olive taste. It is amazing on a sandwich or just spread over a crusty piece of bread.

I love visiting Las Ventas, but it is a bit of a trek from my apartment, so I have decided to attempt to replicate this savory spread at home.

2 cup high quality Kalamata olives
1/3 cup EVOO
Sea salt, to taste
Garlic, minced (optional)

Remove pits from olives. Pulse in food processor or blender with olive oil until just combined. The mixture should retain a little texture. Add sea salt to taste.

Serve with your favorite combination of crackers, cheese, bread, vegetables and meat.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Elote: Mexican Grilled Corn

Grilling corn turns a mere vegetable into a tasty summer treat. The heat caramelizes the corn's sugars and imparts a delicious, smoky taste.

Mexican corn on the cob, or elote, combines the sweetness of grilled corn with salty cotija cheese, tart lime and fiery cayenne.

Making your own elote is rather simple:

4 ears corn

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (use Parmesan if not available in your area)
1 lime
Cayenne pepper

Soak 4 cobs of corn, in their husks for 30 minutes (this will prevent the husk from burning before the corn has finished cooking).

Prepare a medium-hot grill.

Shuck corn, leaving husks attached to the ends of the cob. Pull husks back up and tie with a small piece of cooking twine.

Grill corn for 20-25 minutes, turning after every 5 minutes to ensure the kernels cook evenly.

Remove from grill and remove husks.

Roll each corn in butter and then spread mayonnaise over cob.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper over each cob, depending on your tastes.

Squeeze lime over corn before serving.