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March 2012 COTM: The Olive and the Caper: Fish and Shellfish; Meat

Please use this thread to discuss the recipes in the chapters on Fish and Shellfish; and Meat (pages 322 - 405)

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  1. Shrimp with fennel, green olives, red onion, and white wine, p. 346

    Delicious! I did take some liberties, but I think I was fairly true to the idea.

    Shell 2 lbs of shrimp. Simmer the shells with 2 c of wine, 1 c water, and 1 tsp salt for a couple minutes. Discard shells. Add 1/2 med. red onion, coarsely chopped, and 8 large green olives, pitted and chopped, plus 3/4 c coarsely chopped fennel stalk and 1 tbsp olive oil. Simmer until onion is soft, about 5 min. Add shrimp and cook until pink, 1 1/2 - 2 min. Garnish with minced fennel fronds.

    My shrimp were already shelled, so I used a bottle of clam juice. Since it was for just the two of us, I halved the quantity of shrimp, used 1 c wine plus 1 cup clam juice, but still used full quantities of onion and olive. I chopped up a goodly amount (about 1 1/2 c) of fennel bulb rather than just using the stalk. She doesn't say how to serve it, but I poured it in bowls with all of the tasty juice, shrimp with broth.

    Easy and delicious, and felt like a real treat. I served with it a fennel & grapefruit salad for an ultra-healthy but quite filling dinner. (Yeah, I'm harvesting these giant fennels from my garden right now. Three meals worth easily in each one!)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

      Sounds wonderful, right down to the fennel and grapefruit salad. I would never think to pair shrimp with olives, but what do you expect from a book called the Olive and the Caper?! This sounds like it could be an easy weeknight dinner, too.

      ~TDQ

      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

        Kicking myself! I had originally planned to serve this for dinner tonight, but got a little gun shy after a couple of not so well written recipes last week. I'll put this back on my list, and definitely make it. Sounds wonderful.

        And I'm jealous of all that fennel you're harvesting!

        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

          Shrimp with Fennel, Green Olives, Red Onion, and White Wine, p. 346

          I made a half recipe, using 1 lb shrimp, which were smaller than the count specified in the recipe but still what I'd call medium. I pretty much followed the recipe, except that in place of red onion, I used a smallish leek, or the white part thereof, sliced in half moons. I found that because there wasn't much depth to the simmering liquid when I added the shrimp, I needed to stir them up a bunch to expose them all to the heat, and also slapped a lid on the pot for a minute to help them steam.

          As Karen says, this easy, delicious, and healthful, if not super-complex in flavor. The only thing that takes time is shelling the shrimp; otherwise, it's a few moments of chopping and 10 minutes of cooking time. I actually liked it even better cold (which is how I had the leftovers). I also doubled up on the fennel dishes in my initial meal, using the bulb in the Single Vegetable Salad on p. 189.

          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

            Shrimp with Fennel, Green Olives, Red Onion, and White Wine, p. 346.

            Finally made this one last night--and in fact, waiting awhile allows one to benefit from other people's reviews! Anyway, we quite enjoyed the dish. It is light yet savory, and feels summery and healthy. The little ones at my table preferred the shrimp alone on their plates but per Karen's suggestion, we served the finished dish to the adults in bowls with the broth. People ended up scooping up the pilaf into the bowls, the better to absorb the sauce.

            Also per Karen's report, I also chopped up my smallish fennel bulb plus stalk, and included this with my chopped red onion and chopped large green olives. The fennel took a bit longer to become soft, so the sauce cooked down--which meant that I had Caitlin's result: needed to stir the shrimp to get them pink, and also covered the pot at the end to steam them a bit more.

            We liked the broth with its slightly chunky addition of fennel so much that I will do this again, and will increase the quantity of wine/clam juice by .5 next time so I have a bit more sauce in the end.

            Oh yes; I had intended to use only clam juice in lieu of simmering shrimp shells, but could only find frozen shrimp IN their shells, so I peeled them (a bit grudgingly) and simmered the shells in the white wine and clam juice mixture. Have to admit, the resulting sauce was very nice!

            All in all, a satisfying and easy dinner. Served with spinach pilaf (p. 239), cauliflower salad (sans dressing) and roasted beets, with tzatziki (p. 465) as a side, plus pita bread.

          2. Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic, p. 367.

            Who could resist a title like that? Not someone like me who grew up next to Gilroy, CA, "The Garlic Capital of the World." And man, this was yummy. The approx. 9 heads of garlic are deliciously mellowed by the long cooking. It's also a simple recipe, which does live up to its description in the headnotes: "The dish is a breeze to prepare [with one caveat: see below about peeling the garlic] and turns out rich and complex."

            First you brown 2-in. chunks of boneless beef chuck in a heavy skillet in olive oil, then place the chunks in a 3-qt. clay pot--I used my Romertopf* but the recipe states that any clay pot, or other sturdy enameled pot like Le Cruset works too. Add to the juices in the skillet 100 (!) cloves of peeled garlic (about 9 heads) , 48 Kalamata olives, 4 cups dry red wine, 1 TBS of tomato paste, two bay leaves, and 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil over med-high heat and stir to blend. Pour all over the beef into the cooking pot, cover, and braise in a 425 F oven. Or if using a Romertopf, start in a cold oven. Stir once or twice until beef is tender and sauce is reduced--about 1 1/2 hours. Oh yes; sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil and/or chopped fresh Italian parsley over before serving.

            What you end up with is a deeply-flavored, dark-brown finished sauce with beautifully-browned and tender chunks of beef. The sauce is not for the faint of heart, but the garlic has definitely been tamed by the long cooking, the whole bottle of red wine has softened in flavor, and the briny olives have become succulent and mellow. It cries out for bread and a pilaf to soak up the sauce and that's what I served: the recommended barley-veggie pilaf from page 235. The adults really liked it and the 8-year-old asked for seconds. The 6-year old was dubious, but he's going through A Stage.

            My recommendations: do season the beef chunks with s & p before browning (I did) and do check the seasoning before serving because, despite the presence of briny Kalamata olives, the finished dish needs more salt. (I've read before in the pre-game discussion of this book that some of the recipes are under-salted as written.)

            AND, be warned that separating and peeling all those garlic cloves takes some time, 20 minutes in my case. Has anyone ever tried using those pre-peeled jarred garlic cloves? I have not, but doing so would definitely make this prep go faster and easier. It was undeniably tedious first to separate, then whap 100 cloves of fresh garlic with a cleaver, and then peel them carefully. But the resulting sauce was divine. Upshot: I'll make it again, especially on a cold evening at the beginning of Meterological Spring, March 1.

            *I hadn't used my Romertopf in about 10 years, and I was grateful to be reminded earlier about pre-soaking and starting in a cold oven, since these instructions do not appear in the recipe's clay-pot-cooking notes. I had considered adapting the recipe to my slow-cooker, but I have to admit, the Romertopf did a fantastic job of creating deeply-flavored beef and a nicely-reduced sauce.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Goblin

              I loved reading your review, Goblin, and am so happy to see such a glowing report. It gives one hope that this could still be a great month. I've been salivating over this recipe but have to admit that the peeling of 100 garlic cloves is slightly off-putting. The idea of purchasing the pre-peeled cloves never occurred to me, what a great idea. This might make it to The List.

              1. re: Goblin

                Great post. I've added this to my list. I also have a neglected Romertopf that I may dig out to try this dish and the clay pot chicken.

                P.S. How was the barley vegetable pilaf? Which vegetables/legumes did you add to it?

                1. re: BigSal

                  What is a Romertopf?

                  The dish sounds totally yummy. I had a big success with another meat dish from the book tonight - see post below.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    It's a kind of clay pot with a lid.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      GG, Like roxlet indicated a Romertopf is a clay pot with a lid. http://www.romertopfonline.com/?id=go... One of many kitchen gadets that I have neglected.

                      P.S. Great to see you cooking again on COTM and the beef stifado sounds wonderful.

                      1. re: BigSal

                        Thanks BigSal - I took a break because I wasn't massively enthused by either Pepin or Japanese month, and didn't fancy buying the books. Unfortunately, there isn't really a library option for most of the COTMs here in the UK.

                    2. re: BigSal

                      Hi Big Sal,
                      I've added my review of the bulgur and vegetable pilaf to the relevant thread (Eggs, Grains, Vegetables.) I tried to set up a link directly but obviously still have a lot to learn! ;-)
                      The recipe as given is quite versatile. I used yellow bell peppers, zucchini, and cooked chick peas. In addition, chopped plum tomatoes are added. As I wrote in my review, it was a pleasant side dish. I think I might actually have preferred the drier and fluffier texture of couscous to sop up the juices of the Beef with Olives and 100 [glorious] Cloves of Garlic.

                    3. re: Goblin

                      Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic, p. 367, addendum to my review above:

                      I wanted to add one thing that I forgot to mention: because I had read that Romertopf clay-pot cooking needs less liquid than other methods, I reduced the wine-olives-garlic -mixture when it was still in the skillet--I'd say by about 1/3. Took just a few minutes Also, I'd poured in only a bottle--750 ml--of red wine, rather than the 4 cups in the recipe. Concentrated the sauce some and I found myself wishing a bit for more sauce at serving time. Next time I'll just try using the bottle and not reducing before braising in the oven.

                      1. re: Goblin

                        thanks for the original post and the update; I"m cooking it tomorrow. My beef chuck pieces are sitting in the fridge with salt on them (along with two big bones) as I started salting meat the day before after reading Zuni Cafe/Judy Rodgers. I was thinking I might concentrate the wine before braising a la Judy and Paula Wolfert and others, but I won't given your rec. I will have less beef since I got a chuck roast with bones, liking to braise with bones as well. I'm going to look around for bulgur pilaf recipes since I've never made one and want to try it, though I may just use the Israeli couscous I've had sitting around for too long.

                        Question: did you pit the olives?

                        and congratulations for your children's eating habits! wow! I didn't have a chance to start out from the beginning as we adopted a 7 year old boy 5 years ago with serious food trauma and limited palate in the extreme. However, he is insisting on making his father and me a baby octopus dish tomorrow. He won't take a bite of it, but it is getting him used to different ingredients, preparations, and smells.

                        I was kind of amazed at the specification of 48 olives (why not 40, 45, or 50??))....until my local great merchant's daughter said that 48 is kind of a standard measure (I was distracted and didn't ask, unfortunately, but will next time I'm in). Also of the 100 cloves...I'd love a weight vs. a count, given that cloves vary so much in size. Anyway, we love garlic so we'll sit and do it, but use the rubber garlic peeler thing that works so well.

                        I have such fond memories of visiting garlic world in Gilroy?? when I was in grad school in N. Calif. decades ago. would that I could visit again.

                        1. re: Madrid

                          Hi Madrid--I am really glad to have your remarks and questions! Regarding the discussion of "to reduce, or not to reduce" . . . . I will be very interested to see how your sauce turns out. As I said, my reduced sauce was delicious but I wanted a bit more for the finished dish, maybe because the flavor WAS so satisfying!

                          Funny about the 48 being a standard olive-count. . . who knew? I had dutifully counted out the Kalamatas in the glass jar and was surprised to find that there were exactly 48! Now I know why. I bought mine pitted, btw. Hand-pitting a lot of olives is almost as irritating as peeling garlic cloves.

                          I thought it was hilarious that 100 Cloves were specified in the recipe--I figured it was probably a traditional recipe title, and that there was actually some leeway. But again, being the dutiful type, I counted away and gladly stopped at a hundred. I use Cooks Illus. Magazine's standard for size: a clove of garlic is the size of a plump cashew. So if I have giant cloves I count for two.

                          I'd say if your 7-year-old is preparing a baby octopus dish, he has great potential! We'll see him on Chowhound one day, if not on his own TV cooking show! ;-) The children who eat dinner with me are my grandchildren. To give their working parents a break, I've been having the whole family over for "special" meals once or twice a week since they were tiny. It's a great excuse for me to splurge on making interesting recipes which I might not tackle for only my husband and me.

                          And finally, where were you in grad school in No. Cal? UC Davis? Berkeley? Mills? UC Santa Cruz (my school)? You must have been to the Gilroy Garlic Festival!

                          1. re: Goblin

                            Hi Goblin,
                            here are the adjustments I made to the recipe.

                            I had 3 pounds beef chuck including bones. Cut them up in the pieces, discarding huge pure chunks of fat but plenty of fat still there. Salted with 1 tbs kosher , rubbed in, including 2 big bones, for 24 hours (as mentioned before, I now follow Judy Rodgers/Zuni Cafe recs for salting well beforehand). Used only 1 bottle of wine not 4 cups, and I had 42 kalamatas, not 48! Used your plump cashew comparison and cut huge garlic cloves in half. cut out obvious big green shoots but not the small ones. I pounded on the olives and got the pits out...didn't take nearly as long as the garlic peeling, but used the elan rubber tube garlic peeler for those.

                            I'd thought about reducing the wine to one cup, but when I looked at those recipes, beef stock is used to complete the necessary liquid to braise. Decided to stay with the original recipe to see how it came out.

                            Have to say I wondered at the 425 degree oven temp..really so much higher than any other braised recipe I've done. I followed it using an interior glazed but otherwise unglazed clay pot and top. Put parchment on top before putting on lid to condense.

                            I did as I always do when fork tender...strained liquid and refrigerated solids and liquid separately overnight to "meld" and get fat congealed off liquid. Lots of fat discarded!

                            So today, braised briefly again...de-fatted sauce and beef that I scissored into smaller pieces. Added some water to the re-braise....the high temp infuses the beef but no matter how you try to seal, lots of liquid goes off leaving not enough sauce. The water didn't reduce taste intensity negatively at all as far as I could tell and gave lots more sauce. It is delicious and the garlic is much less obvious than the kalamatas...didn't soak them beforehand. The beef still needed lots more salt than specified despite my re salting and all those olives.Extremely tender. I served with fregola browned in olive oil first before cooking in chicken stock. Really wanted to try one of the pilafs but fregola was crying out to be used.

                            Goblin, so glad you do these meals for your grandkids! I am the same age as my adopted son's bio grandmom (born 1955). My son was 7 when we got him and 12 now. His culitnary ideas are amazing..he doesn't eat them himself, but he basically directed us to make small vol-au-vents with "tee pees" of bread tied with string over "cake" of baby octupus, asparagus, braised onions,etc. HIs special touch was bits of chocolate put on the bread...he saw me making mole once. It actually turned out great.

                            Finally, I did visit Garlic world several times but never the festival. I wish I'd been at Berkeley or UC Santa Cruz, but I got a great fellowship to Stanford and did art history there. Do you remember India Joze in Santa Cruz? The calarmi post cards as necklaces, etc?

                            1. re: Madrid

                              What a great report, Madrid--thanks so much for your suggestions on improving the recipe, and indeed, ANY stew or braise of this sort, i.e., including the bones in the sauce, using a parchment "cover" inside the pot, and of course, allowing the sauce to mellow overnight. I'll bet your finished dish was ambrosial.

                              Oh, I see--your son was 7 when you adopted him and is now 12, and cooking up a storm. How sweet that he wants to treat you with his specialities. He obviously has a talent here, probably because he has grown up watching you at the stove--

                              I do remember Indian Joze in Santa Cruz, and the Middle Earth Cafe on campus, and the whole Santa Cruz scene. Funny that I forgot to include Stanford in my list of No. Cal schools--both our daughters went there!

                              1. re: Goblin

                                Not to derail the thread, but (speaking as a fellow alumna) it was the Whole Earth Cafe. Middle Earth is where Hobbits live [grin]. My family dined at India Joze following my graduation. Good times.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  It was indeed the Whole Earth Cafe, Caitlin (sorry for the hijacking of the thread) which I persisted in calling "Middle Earth Cafe" when I went there just because it looked so "hobbity" to me. A lot of the wooded campus seemed like Gandalf would have felt very comfortable there.
                                  Good times, indeed.

                    4. Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese - p. 342

                      This was simple and quick, as shrimp dishes should be. You saute some onions and garlic in olive oil until somewhat soft. Add peeled, chopped tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes soften. Add white wine, Metaxa (I used brandy), tomato paste, fresh dill, and black pepper, and cook until the tomatoes have collapsed. Add shrimp, and cook until they just start to turn pink (2 minutes, she says). Crumble some feta over this, and pop into a 400 degree oven for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with some more fresh dill before serving.

                      This was fine, but not especially memorable. My inclination is that I probably wouldn't make this again, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it isn't the kind of thing I would crave when I'm hungry for shrimp. If I did make it again, I think I would give the shrimp a brief bath in brine, both to enhance their succulence and add a little oomph to the recipe. The only salt in this came from the feta, and I'm not sure that was quite enough.

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: MelMM

                        Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, Pg. 342

                        When we made this recipe last night we basically halved the main ingredients but kept the original amounts of the seasonings... except used 1/8 cup EVOO instead of 1/4 and increased the black pepper from 1/2 t to 1 t. We used Metaxa, which I think I had never tasted before this. (quite liked it, too !) TJ's imported feta from Greece was much less salty and more mild than I've had. Was it the sheep's milk that made it so? Anyway, we do agree with Mel's assessment of the finished dish being less than memorable but perfectly suitable for a sampling. I *might* make it again as one of several small plates but not for dinner.

                        1. re: Gio

                          You liked Metaxa! It's the kind of thing that you bring back from holiday only to find it languishing at the back of the cupboard ten years later....

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Well... I Did like it. It seemed to be "milder" than other brandies I've had. Didn't burn my throat as much, I should say. Anyway, we now have a full sized bottle (don't know how many liters that is) so we intend to use it all month...

                            BTW: I sipped it neat, but I bet it's pretty good on the rocks too...

                            1. re: Gio

                              To be fair I think there are different types - maybe you've got one of the properly aged ones, and not the cheap gut rot I've had in Greece.

                              1. re: Gio

                                Hmmmmmm....Metaxa on the rocks sounds good! What brand of Metaxa did you purchase, Gio? I foresee a new treat to enhance my stove-side activity while preparing Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta. . .

                                I'm also foreseeing myself sliding slowly past the oven down to the floor before dinner is even on! ;-)

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    The bottle we have has a label that's printed in Greek. Since I don't have those characters on my keyboard here's an approximation:

                                    upside down L then NHEION. It's a seven star bottle. That is, aged for 7 years. That's right in the middle of the number of years Metaxa is usually aged. 3,5,7,9,12. The cost was $20.00 here, north of Boston MA.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Thanks, Gio! I'm south of Boston. MA, and should be able to find it.

                                      1. re: Goblin

                                        you are south of Boston? I live in Somerville. Got my olives at Al Capone's in Union Square, Somerville. He also has an outpost in North Cambridge on Mass Ave. He also has great salt cured capers.

                                        1. re: Madrid

                                          We are indeed south of Boston--about 80 miles south--living on the mid-Cape. I often feel a bit deprived when I read on Chowhound about all the foodie resources available to you all who live in the big city (pouting) Sheesh, I can't even find goat meat in Yarmouthport! ;-)

                                          Oh, quit complaining (to self.) We have some great speciality shops, and TJs, and more than enough good local ingredients available to keep me cooking for decades!

                            2. re: MelMM

                              Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, p. 342

                              My turn for this one: The previous reviewers have done a great job of describing the recipe and method. The difference from their reports and mine is that I felt the finished dish was quite good with a richly flavored sauce. My family agreed, had seconds, and want me to make it again.

                              So what was the difference in my family's experience? Probably the single thing that most impacted the sauce was that I made it about 90 minutes ahead and ended up simmering the tomatoes longer than the prescribed 10 minutes to develop more flavor (reducing it by about 1/3.) I did this because of the reviewers' warnings that more flavor was needed. Maybe the brand of canned tomatoes I used made a difference too: a 14-oz can of Hunt's whole plum tomatoes, chopped by me. I mention this because Hunt's came in second in the Cooks Illus. canned whole tomatoes taste tests, out of ten entries. (The first was Muir Glen, which I couldn't find at my store.) The tasting review rated the Hunt's brand as "meaty," with a relatively high Brix value and low PH--"'fruity" and "bright." Maybe this also made a difference in the end result.

                              I used my proud new bottle of 5-star Metaxa for the 2 TBs of brandy, and crumbled up on top a block of Valbreso Feta (product of France) which was relatively mild and creamy. Due to my having reducing the sauce, the dish was salty enough.

                              I also used my new Chinese Sand Pot, to which I was introduced on the trail of clay-pot cookery by Paula Wolfert. Maybe this helped! ;-)

                              Anyhow, it was delicious. Served with the simple rice pilaf on p. 231, Horta made with kale, p. 267, the cauliflower salad on p. 198, and lots of good bread.

                              1. re: Goblin

                                Oh aren't you a sneaky one, Goblin. Cooking longer, different tomatoes, Chinese sand pot. That'll do it all right. Interesting info about the canned tomatoes though. I changed to Pomi tomatoes because I don't want to use those BPA infused cans any more. Hmmm... and I used to buy Hunt's as well as Pastene...

                                I bet my feta can beat your feta though...

                                1. re: Goblin

                                  go goblin! I think reducing tomato or any sauce always helps. can't imagine a 10 minute tomato sauce~~ Also got to get some of your Metaxa. Love the clay pot stuff from Paula.

                                  I was just at the Cape for 2 days...Brewster... We have a friend who is retiring soon and bought condo there...she needs handyman and woman services, we homeschool, so off we went. if you feel ok advising me on local stuff, my email address is in my profile.

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Pg. 342
                                    I too followed the excellent suggestion from Chowhound to simmer the tomato sauce for longer than the suggested 10 minutes. I ended up letting it cook down for a good 35 minutes which resulted in a richer taste for the sauce. I also was out of white wine, so I went with some red, I don't think this hurt the sauce, if anything it deepened the lavour and the colour. Overall this is a pretty good dish. Might not be company worthy but the creamy feta was a nice compliment to the shrimp, and the dill is definitely a welcome note. I have tried similar recipes from other books and I do believe the version in the Essential New York Times Book is better.

                                     
                                  2. re: MelMM

                                    Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, Pg. 342

                                    It was my turn to try this last week. The bf loved it. I liked it the night we had it, but enjoyed the leftovers at work the next day even more. For tomatoes, we had some outstanding cherry tomatoes from the CSA box that week (rooftop greenhouse, they're picked when they are actually ripe and are a definite winter treat!), so I think those helped the sauce quite a bit. I also managed to knock over the last bit of white wine in the house with my cast, so I used sherry in the sauce instead. I think that might've been a happy accident. I'll try Goblin's suggestion of reducing the sauce even longer next time.

                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, page 342.

                                      The mechanics of this dish are well described above, and I recommend Goblin's new and improved technique. After reading Goblin's review, I also simmered the tomatoes longer, and allowed them to reduce. I used canned tomatoes, as we won't see decent fresh tomatoes for quite a while. I always, and only, use Muir Glen tomatoes, so I'm happy to read that first place rating. I used their fire roasted diced tomatoes for this dish. The shrimp that looked best at the store were rather large; I don't have the book handy, but I believe it called for medium shrimp. Shelling them was the only slightly time consuming element of this dish, and it didn't consume much. I bought a bottle of Metaxa for the recipe. Our local state store had only one brand, five stars. I liked the taste of it, sweeter than brandy.

                                      Anyway, the results? We were very happy with this simple dinner! I think the big, fresh, wild shrimp made a difference; they were very tasty. Also Goblin's suggestion of cooking the sauce longer really brought out the flavors. I just served it with a baguette for sauce-dipping, with beets and skordalia on the side. With only a few minutes in the oven, this will be a nice summertime dish when good tomatoes come in!

                                       
                                       
                                    2. Beef (and rabbit) stifado, p374

                                      Stfado may have been the first properly "foreign" dish I ever ate abroad, aged about 11 on a trip to Crete! It certainly tasted properly exotic to this British girl brought up on pretty traditional fare. This version definitely didn't disappoint - it was delicious, and pretty easy to prepare.

                                      The recipe in the book is for beef and rabbit combined, but gives variations for either a pure rabbit or pure beef version. I'm actually pretty sceptical about a beef/rabbit combination so opted for beef on its own. I also used beef shin rather than chuck, which meant I needed to cook it for almost twice as long (3 hours as opposed to 1.5).

                                      Anyway, it's a pretty typical braise in that you brown your beef in batches in olive oil, before chucking it back in the pot with red wine, pearl onions, shallots (I added more baby onions instead), red wine or balsamic vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), tomato paste, lots of chopped garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then simmer until tender. I used a trick from "All About Braising" and used a cartouche, or piece of parchment paper, between the pot and the lid, which kept everything beautifully moist. After 3 hours the beef shin was perfectly tender and the onions practically melted in your mouth. The sauce was delicious and didn't need any more seasoning. I served this with plain steamed rice and my guests opted to add some tsatsiki left over from the starter, which they said went very well.

                                      A hit - I'd definitely recommend this one and it really is one of the Greek classics.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Beef Stifado, p. 374.
                                        Made this on a cold March night last week. I agree with greedy girl that this recipe produces a very flavorful and interesting sauce, with a relatively simple prep and not that many ingredients. Like greedygirl, I used beef only--no rabbit--and red wine vinegar rather than balsamic vinegar. The cinnamon, bay leaves, and cloves simmer together in the red wine-vinegar sauce and create a gently spicy sauce for the browned beef. There are lots of onions, both shallots and pearl onions (I used frozen) but the flavors are appropriate in this rustic dish and we didn't miss other vegetables.
                                        The finished dish was good, but IMHO even better the next day. The next time I will make it a day ahead. Oh yes; do use a cartouche (lid of parchment paper) under the cover. I made the recipe in a clay pot (my current obsession) and I think the cartouche helped to tenderize the meat.

                                        Interestingly, my husband said this was his favorite recipe of the entire "Greek month." My daughter thought it was a bit too "vinegary" but I think cooking it ahead and letting it mellow would solve this. I know I loved the leftovers the next day. Served it with the simple rice pilaf from the book, and a spinach gratin, a la Julia Child, which was wonderful if I do say so.

                                      2. Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                        We’ve enjoyed this dish at Greek restaurants on many occasions however I’d never made my own so this was a recipe I’d flagged right away as a “must try”.

                                        Unfortunately the stupid-markets weren’t cooperating w m this weekend so I wasn’t able to find Sorrel (which has such a lovely flavour) so instead, I ended up using spinach which the author notes as a suitable substitute. FYI, instead of giving the chopped leaves a quick blanch as the recipe directs, I elected to steam them since I find that process to be quicker and, less messy.

                                        I made this dish as instructed including serving it w the Beet Tzatziki (p. 467) that we LOVED as it made the perfect accompaniment.

                                        Prep couldn’t be simpler. Just mix ground lamb w egg, chopped garlic, minced onion, ground pine nuts (oops, another disclosure, I used ground almonds instead), salt and ground coriander. Instead of the coriander, I tossed in some chopped fresh dill since I had some on hand to use up and, some dried oregano.

                                        The mixture is then shaped into logs and grilled or broiled. Since it was a sunny, albeit freezing cold day here in the TO area, we opted for the grilling route and, grilled our pita at the same time.

                                        This dish was a huge hit. We had a couple of friends over and they were just thrilled w our Greek-inspired menu today. (I’d made Ina’s Tuna & Hummus Sandwiches for lunch…fantastic dish that always gets rave reviews from guests...photo of these posted below as well). As noted above, I served this w the Beet Tzatziki. While the Kebabs were tasty on their own, once combined w the Beet Tzatziki they really shone…the sweet, earthiness of the beets and the tang of the yogurt really elevated all the flavours in the lamb. Tonight we also served the regular Tzatziki from this book (wonderful recipe that’s been my “go-to” for a couple of years now) and the Potato Skordalia p. 461.

                                        Reviews of the other dishes appear or will be posted in the COTM Sauces thread. Here's a link to my review of the Beet Tzatziki:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8364...

                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                          Our turn to make this dish tonight. Like Breadcrumbs, I used spinach instead of sorrel, but I used frozen chopped spinach and I think I didn't account for the difference between fresh and blanched. The recipe calls for 2 packed cups of sorrel leaves which are then blanched. I used 1 3/4 of the frozen spinach squeezed of all water. I did use pine nuts but found that finely grinding them was not easy! My pine nuts really wanted to be nut butter. The lamb used is from the whole lamb I bought in the Fall from a farmer in NH.

                                          Before making the logs, I tested a bit of the mixture by cooking a small patty and then adjusted the seasoning. I added more salt, another 1/2 tsp of the ground coriander, and added 1 tsp of cumin. I rolled the logs in plastic to try to compact the mixture and chilled them for about an hour. This firmed them up enough to cook on the indoor grill.

                                          The pita breads are brushed with oil and grilled. The oil was unneccessay and I won't do that again. Next time, I will also be more careful about my vegetable to lamb ratio. But I do think this was my error, not the author's. I served with standard tzatziki [page 465], shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, raw red onion, and feta cheese wrapped in pita bread [page 134.]

                                          Easy to make and delicious!

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                            This was a big success here as well. I did manage to find sorrel just as I'd given up on it and was searching for some dill (so glad I looked up the translation or I would've missed it!). Unfortunately, the tiny bunch of it seemed pricey so I only bought one which was not nearly enough for the half recipe I made. Next time, I'll have to be sure to get enough. I made these last night and put them under the broiler. I served these with homemade pita bread, the beet tzatziki, and salad ... a great way to start the week!

                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                              Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts p. 391

                                              We made half a recipe tonight on the grill. We made this with sorrel and walnuts (when I tried a pine nut to ensure freshness, it turned out that they were past their prime.) We followed smtucker's lead and ended up adding more coriander and salt. We served this with grilled pita and the standard tzatziki. We both liked this meal.

                                              1. re: BigSal

                                                So good to hear BigSal. I can't wait to try it again w the sorrel. I still haven't found some at our market.

                                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts Pg. 391
                                                Very tasty and easy to put together kebabs. I couldn't find sorrel so I went with spinach and just a touch of lemon. Broiled for about 6 minutes per side on high, keeping a very close eye on them. The result is a very tasty kebab with excellent texture from the egg and the pinenuts. Service wrapped in a pita with some of the lovely tzatziki from this book.