MAY COTM Flexitarian Table WINTER MEAT and VEG MAINS
Shaved Fennel Salad with Olives/Marinated Sardines, p. 265
Tinned sardines in olive oil are drained and marinated in lemon juice, wine vinegar, EVOO, crushed coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes. Thinly sliced red onion is separately marinated in lemon juice and salt. Later, the onions are tossed with shaved fennel, minced fennel greens, flat-leaf parsley, EVOO, and salt and pepper. This is plated and topped with picholine olives and the sardines, drizzled with their marinade. (The olives are an and/or ingredient - the veg. alternative or an addition.)
I sliced the red onion with a knife, and used the fine slicing blade of the food processor for the fennel, which shaved it perfectly thin. I didn't really measure when making this. I had a medium-ish fennel bulb, so had less than was called for, and I eyeballed the rest and did it to taste. I know I used no more than half the olive oil called for.
This was very fresh tasting and delicious. Despite its being in the winter chapter, it was lovely for a spring lunch, with a glass of rose. I will definitely make it again.
Short Rib Cholent
A long time ago, in late spring of 2008, when summer was on the way and the Dow was at 13,000, the COTM was Peter Berley’s seasonally-organized Flexitarian Table. The spring and summer dishes got lots of love on this board, but my eye, perversely but, if you know me, predictably, wandered toward the braises. I saw those magic words—“short ribs”—and immediately resolved to prepare the Short Rib Cholent, the biggest, baddest, densest, heaviest pot of specific-heat-rich meat, grains, and root vegetables in the whole book. The recipe requires your oven to be on for eight hours straight. But so what? I rationalized. Official summer’s a month away. There’s still a nice little chill in the air. I began assembling ingredients, and schedueled braising day for May 16.
The official high temperature that day clocked in at 98.5 F. By the time the cholent was finished, just eating the damn thing felt odd enough; there was no way on earth I was going to post about it. I wrote up my report, but put it in the drawer until the time was both meterologically and emotionally right.
It’s now December 17. Outside there’s a hard driving late afternoon rain and just 39 very raw Southern California degrees. The Dow closed at 8824. It’s time. Following is the review as originally written:
I made this dish in order to answer that burning question, “What will happen to a egg after eight hours in the oven?” Actually, I’m a sucker for braises, and I noticed that the winter mains weren’t getting much love on the board here, so I took one for the team and fired up the oven on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. I was rewarded with a delicious, richly aromatic concoction and one of the most diverse and yet fuss-free one-pot meals I’ve ever had to boot.
Ingredients: I followed the recipe to the letter here, except that I doubled the amount of short ribs, thinking that if the oven was going to be on for eight hours straight, I was going to get more than a measly pound of bone-in ribs out of it. I boosted the spice amounts a tad to compensate for the extra meat. The recipe also calls for 1.5 lbs “bone-in beef chuck or brisket,” for which I used some thick (but boneless) chuck eye steaks that looked pretty good. The wheat berries were a little confusing, because I never cook with raw wheat (does anyone?) and WFM’s bulk section was out of “wheat berries,” and the only available alternative was the much more grimly named “red hard winter wheat” which sounded like the official breakfast cereal of the Soviet army. But I went with it, and it worked reasonably well. Although about 10% of the wheat didn’t seem to cook all the way (which I really can’t explain), the part that did was pleasantly toothy and extraordinarily savory after spending so long in the braising liquid. Seasonings all as listed. I nearly balked at the two tbsp of brown sugar and maybe I should have; the end result at first had only a hint of natural sweetness which seemed to come from the onions and carrots more than anything else, but that sweetness seemed magnified after a day or two and the leftovers didn’t disappear as quickly as they should have. When I make this again, I’ll be tempted to boost the smoked paprika from one to 1.5 or even 2 tsp; the finished dish had such a tantalizing touch of that distinctive aroma. But maybe it’s best left that way; seduction’s better than overkill.
Method: I was a good soldier for the most part here, the one exception being that, rather than brown the meat as instructed in two batches in a large skillet separate from the dutch oven that the braise would eventually cook in, I saved myself a half hour and browned all the meat at the same time, half in the separate skillet, half in the dutch oven. The aromatics and spices then cooked up just fine over the fond in the dutch oven, while I deglazed the skillet with red wine as ordered and then added it to the dutch oven at the appropriate time. Everything else went as read. N.B., when you’re tying up your cheesecloth sack of wheat, leave plenty of room for the wheat to expand while cooking. I estimated I left enough room in my cheesecloth pouch for the wheat to triple in volume, and at the end the pouch was full almost to bursting.
Following the first commandment of braising, I made the cholent a day ahead and refrigerated it overnight, then defatted and reheated to serve. So I assembled the layers, threw it in the oven at 9:30am, and left it there until 5:30pm. Three hours after that, it was still too hot to put in the fridge. This is a big, heavy, and above all dense pot of meat, grain, legumes, and root vegetables, pretty much the last thing you’d want to eat on the hottest day of the year. Nevertheless, once I reheated and plated with the reduced braising liquid, the result was really something. Predictably, the short ribs themselves stood out: meltingly tender, luscious and aromatic. But the wheat was the real eye opener, not only for its intense flavor, but for how well it worked as a pleasantly chewy, al dente opposite number to the soft, supple meat. I’m so accustomed to serving braisesd meat alongside pillowy mashed potatoes or soft polenta, I’d never imagined how an interesting texture contrast might elevate the result of this cooking style.
And that egg? It was fine. No biggie.
I really enjoyed reading your post,roundfigure. Your meal sounded delicious(despite the prep in 98 degrees!!). I have made several recipes form this book, and all have been wonderful. As I posted when the book was first COTM, I actually took a cooking class with Peter Berley, and we prepared many of the recipes from the book. It was great, and he was delightful.
Sauerkraut with Fried Tempeh Green Apples and Onions--winter menu 6. I so did not love this, though I wanted to. I don't know if I did something wrong or if I just don't like tempeh or if it's a bad recipe or what. The Sauerkraut with Green Apples and Onions was fantastic and would have been pretty great with the "meat" alternative, which was smoked whitefish.
As usual, I made some modifications. For the tempeh: 2 tsp instead of 2 TBSP of olive oil. For the dry white wine, I used my ShioXing wine leftover from Dunlop. I used the paprika in my cupboard; it's probably not "Spanish." So, maybe I did something wrong, but, seriously, it was the texture of the tempeh that was just not enjoyable for me. It looks like a patty of whole soybeans smooshed together; he has you slice it into logs, so then it looked like Payday candy bars. It was like eating a Luna Bar, texture-wise--firm, but not crunchy. The recipe says you're supposed to simmer the tempeh logs in the marinade until the marinade is completely absorbed. I probably tripled the amount of time of simmering but it never absorbed (I ended up dumping out about a 1/2 cup of the marinade), so I finally moved on the next step. But, the hard tempeh logs just seemed to have no flavor whatsoever.
I made some adjustments to the sauerkraut, too. 2 tsp olive oil (instead of 4 TBSP of butter), no caraway seeds (don't have them--I didn't do any shopping today and chose this recipe because I had nearly all the ingredients...), ShioXing wine for the "dry white wine" and chopped fresh fennel instead of dill. Like I said, the sauerkraut was good.
Anyway, if anyone has any advice about cooking with tempeh, I'm happy to hear it. I was going to try the tempeh kebabs, but, now I'm a little reluctant.
Photos attached: the package of tempeh; what the tempeh looks like immediately out of the package; the tempeh and sauerkraut simmering together; the dish plated (served over brown rice).
I got this cookbook a few months ago & have only had the chance to make 1 meal from it, but it was fabulous (and my guests thoroughly agreed)
Winter menu 5:
-Phyllo Pie with Lemon Tofu, Winter Greens, & Mushrooms
-Roasted Winter vegetable salad with red onion vinaigrette
The lemon tofu is to-die-for & can definitely be eaten as a spring dish. As Peter writes : "the lemony tofu filling, mashed to the texture of a fresh cheese, is always popular, even with people who don't tend to appreciate tofu in other forms." The tofu involves lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, & evoo. It is layered along with the phyllo, kale, onions, mushrooms, & sun dried tomatoes. Divine. We all had seconds & it was one of the most impressive dishes I have made in a long time.
Served it alongside the salad which was carrots & potatoes in a mustardy vinagrette. Also yummy & a different taste then the vinagrettes that I usually cook these veggies in - a little sweet & perfect for winter.
You assemble the pie, then the veggies, & bake them at the same time in the oven. The book says the recipe takes about 1 hour total. It was quite involved & messy so I was happy to have a helping hand from a friend. Worth every minute though. I definitely reccomend it & hope to make another recipe from this book soon.
The photo from the book is attached.