Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kumquat Braised Oxtail

You people are just killing me. I swear, I need to find someone quickly, because there are too many good recipes being posted these days, and I truly want someone to share them with! But I'm single, and my cat really isn't into people food. (Except yogurt.) So unless I decide to throw a banquet and invite all my friends, there's no way I'm going to get to taste these divine meals you guys are turning out. Is there a way to do a virtual pot luck?

But sometimes a recipe just hits you between the eyes and launches that "Gotta Have It!" thing. That's what happened to me when I read Danielle's kumquat braised oxtail with chestnut stracci recipe over at Habeas Brulee. I hadn't even thought of oxtail since I lived in New Mexico. My husband used to make it from time to time. In fact, he used to experiment with all kinds of odd cuts of meat, turning them into fabulous meals. But I'm not sure that was why I had to have this. I think it was the thought of chestnut stracci. The combination of a hint of chestnut playing off a rich, dense combination of beef and citrusy kumquat was more than I could stand, and I rarely eat beef! But alas, I was unable to find chestnut flour. Does anyone know where to get this magical stuff? I must have gone to 4 different places. From Little Italy, to Whole Foods to Henry's, no one had it. I suspect it's only available online, and I couldn't wait that long. After all, it just might decide to turn summery again, and then I'd be off on one of my long walks. My favorite walks these days take me down to Little Italy, usually for a latte at my favorite Cafe Italia. I bring a book, read a chapter, and then take a stroll around downtown...But I digress........Today we're having bipolar weather. One minute it's sunny, the next it looks like the heavens will open up and drown you if you even think of walking anywhere. Still perfect weather for this oxtail, though. I'll give you the recipe just as Danielle wrote it. Then I'll tell you what happened to me while trying to make this. It was one hilarious kitchen fiasco after another. Never in my culinary history have I burned 2 pots in one day. Is there an Olympic event for this? I'd qualify in a heartbeat! A friend of mine told me that Mercury was in retrograde. Maybe that explains it. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Kumquat Braised Oxtail
3 lbs oxtail, in 2″ (or so) thick slices
Oil for browning
1/2 lb kumquats, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds and deseeded (don’t stress too much, since they’ll be strained out and discarded in the end)
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 C water

Brown the oxtail in little oil. Stir in all other ingredients except for the balsamic vinegar. Pressure cook at high pressure for 50 minutes (or braise over low heat for probably about 4 hours or so, or until tender).

Remove the oxtail and let cool a bit.

In the meantime, strain the sauce and stir in the balsamic. You can reduce it at this point if necessary, but it really should be thick and lusciously flavorful enough already with no need for reduction.

Pull the meat off the bones, saving the fat, bone, and connective tissue in the freezer for the next time you make beef stock.

Shred the meat and stir it into the sauce.

Refrigerate overnight, and skim off the solidified fat the next day before serving.

Chestnut Stracci
3 C all-purpose flour
1 C chestnut flour
6 eggs
1-2 tbsp olive oil
A big pinch of salt

Knead the ingredients together until they form a dough, then continue kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Let it rest at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap for 15-30 minutes.

Roll it out as thin as you can - at least as thin as a dime! It will double in thickness when it cooks.

Let it rest another 15 minutes before cutting it into irregular shapes with a fluted pastry wheel.

Cook in salted boiling water for just a few minutes, then strain and serve with the sauce.Kitchen Tales: OK, so I told you that I couldn't find the chestnut flour, so I didn't make that pasta. (Sniff!) I put all the ingredients into the pressure cooker, fired it up and when it started hissing at me, I turned it down enough so that it would still hiss from time to time, but didn't threaten to detonate. I went to my office and began answering emails. Big mistake. Next thing I knew, I was smelling the meat. I ran back to the kitchen, turned off the pot and tweaked the pressure valve on top so that it would let off steam quickly. When it was safe to open the pot, I discovered that yes, all the liquid had boiled away, and the meat was kinda stuck to the bottom of the pan. Glued, actually. After prying as much loose as I could, I saved the bones. I was bound and determined to make this puppy turn out, or I was going to hand in my apron.

After prying, scraping and scrubbing my pot so that it was back to it's glistening stainless steel self, I put some chopped onions, kumquats, spices, oil and the bones in the pan, along with both water and beef broth. (In fact, I used some beef broth in the first go-round.) I fired up that pot and let 'er rip for about 15 minutes, at which time I turned it off, let off the steam, opened it up and saw the most luscious looking sauce staring back at me! Yessss!! Things were looking up!

So I put on a pot of water to boil those fascinating circles of pasta I found, covered it and went back to answering a few emails. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I'm reminded of the lyrics to the Bob Dylan song, "What's the price you gotta pay, to keep from goin' through all of this twice? But yes, that pot was stainless as well, so it returned to it's gleaming self after another bout of scrubbing. Pasta was boiled, without incident, and the whole thing turned out to be a lyrical success.

Now, as for kumquats. They're only available in the winter. Mostly people eat them raw, and pop the whole thing into their mouths, as the rind is sweeter than the flesh. In China, they have a way of preserving them in salt, and after a while they get a dark brown brine from this process. A few teaspoons of this brine in hot water will cure a sore throat. If you're of a mind to, you can macerate them in vodka or another clear alcohol and get a lucious kumquat liqueur. In Vietnam, kumquat trees are used as decoration during the Tet holiday, which happens to coincide with Chinese New Year.

And the reason for all this info on kumquats? Because I'm entering this into this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lia over at Swirling Notions. If I had known about her Braisy Chain event, I probably would have entered this into it. But we grow our online community through events, and learn about other fabulous bloggers this way.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Asian Slaw

We had flip-flop weather 3 days ago. Seriously. It was summer for about 24 hours, then we went back to our version of winter - rain. And yes, it makes it much colder - er - cooler. I was going to do a take-off on Terry B's beef stew over at Blue Kitchen, but then it turned hot again, and I was suddenly overcome with visions of summer eats - fruit and smoothies and yes, even coleslaw. It didn't seem too far off the mark, what with the fact that my patients were coming in with tee shirts and large water bottles and sleeveless attire. Hell, I was even considering hot dogs! (After reading Lisa's recipe over at Homesick Texan, I wish I had!)

But it's still Chinese New Year. So I decided I'd try something a little different. After all, this is the year of the Rat, and apparently that means we're supposed to try things that are different. Not really a chore for this Aquarian. Different? Where do I sign up??

Not too long ago, I was reading posts from people who were turning out intriguing dishes using celery root. Rachael over at Fresh Approach Cooking posted this delightful recipe, and there were a few others whose posts inspired me to try this odd looking root. Actually, I had never even noticed celery root before that. Or if I had, I didn't know what I was looking at. And frankly, it's not the kind of thing that would inspire me by it's looks. It looks waaay too.....complicated. Kind of like Jerusalem artichokes. They're not quite as layered and gnarled, but still, they're no fun to peel. So I bought one of these complicated gnarley things, brought it home and tried to figure out what to do with it.

Celery root is a particular kind of celery grown for it's root rather than it's stalk. It turns out to be a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium and phosphorous. Because it's a vegetable, it contains no cholesterol. It also happens to be good if you want to lose weight, as it has no fat, has a nice water content so it can fill you up with practically no calories - only 42 of them per cup, in fact.

Now, I don't have a clue what happened next. I could have sworn I turned to epicurious and found a recipe that called for celery root and green apple to make a slaw, using apple cider vinegar. I'm sure I found that recipe somewhere, because I went out and bought a granny smith apple and apple cider vinegar. There was a reason for that, and it wasn't just my imagination. But to this day I cannot find that recipe. Instead, I found this other one, which called for Asian pears. How did they know that they were going to be on sale?Ingredients:

2 celery ribs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 firm Asian pears, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh hot red chile, or to taste


Peel strings from celery with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler and cut celery into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks.

Whisk together juice, vinegar, and ginger and stir in celery and remaining ingredients with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.I hate to toot my own horn, but this was terrific! Just the right bite coupled with the smoothness of the Asian pears. But I still had about half the celery root left over, already cut into matchsticks. And then there was that green apple. And the cider vinegar. And no recipe. So what's a gal to do but wing it?

I combined the celery root with the green apple and some carrots - all cut into matchstick pieces. Mixed some cider vinegar, sugar, a little dijon mustard and some salt, and adjusted them to taste. I wasn't in the mood for a mayonnaise based slaw, so I opted to leave it out. I suspect it would have worked OK with the ingredients if that's more to your taste. A little chopped parsley thrown in for color, and because I didn't want it to go bad in the fridge. Now I'm left with the question: Which one do I prefer? I honestly can't say. Perhaps if you decide to try these, you'll let me know your favorite?

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, being hosted this month by Erin over at The Skinny Gourmet.

For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what natural remedies work for you and which don't, visit Second Opinion

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Pears Poached in Wine

Hello young lovers, wherever you are........I hope your troubles are few.....

I don't remember all the words. I think it was from "South Pacific", or some other musical, dating from way back. Anyway, it started running through my mind for some reason. Not a modern love song, but an older one. And so when it came time to take the photo of these pears I had poached, I took out one of my mom's dishes. She and my dad had a 60 year honeymoon. Every day was Valentine's day for them. And yesterday would have been her 98th birthday.

So I dedicate this recipe to my mom and dad. Two soul mates who were lucky enough to have found each other.


1 750-ml bottle dry red wine
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
4 firm but ripe pears, peeled, stems left intact

1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 plain or almond biscotti, crumbled
Orange peel strips (optional)


Combine first 7 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to simmer. Add pears and return mixture to simmer. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until pears are tender when pierced with knife, about 25 minutes. Transfer pears to plate. Boil liquid in saucepan until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill pears in poaching liquid. Before serving, rewarm over medium-low heat until pears are heated through.)

Arrange 1 warm pear and 1 scoop of ice cream on each of 4 plates. Drizzle some poaching liquid over. Sprinkle with biscotti crumbs. Garnish with orange peel strips, if desired, and serve.

Kitchen Notes: I obviously skipped the ice cream and biscotti. Well, actually, I didn't skip the biscotti. I just ate them all before I took the photo.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Couscous and Garbanzos renewed, yet again

I had intended to publish several posts in the next 2 weeks containing dishes with an Asian flair, as this is the time of Chinese New Year. But somewhere in the back of my mind was this nagging thought: I was forgetting something. There was something I meant to do. What was it?

Then it hit me: OMG! It's time for the Legume Love Affair, hosted by the talented Susan over at The Well Seasoned Cook! I knew I was going to enter this event, as I'm a great fan of legumes, both from a gardening as well as an eating perspective. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil and fiber and nutrients galore to the body. They are among the most perfect of all foods. But all of that would be meaningless unless they tasted good. Because when it comes to food, it seems that all the health claims in the world will always take second place to taste.

So I've pushed the "pause" button on my Chinese New Year theme in order to post something with legumes. I had intended to make a lentil and celery root salad for this event, but the celery root went to two different slaws instead. Stay tuned - they will be posted! But in the meantime, in order to dash in under the wire for this event, I've decided to drag out an old post of mine, which originally appeared last June. It was two posts, actually. The first one had osso bucco. This next one is the direction I took with the leftovers.
Ah, the osso bucco was delicious to the last bite. But that last bite was well before the end of the couscous and garbanzo mixture I made to go with it. And that lovely covered dish in the fridge just begged for a second chance. A new dress..........some new know what I mean. So I pulled it out, sat it on the counter and uncovered it for a while. We looked at each other, searching for a point of reference.

Perhaps it was the music I was listening to at that moment - Claudia Montes - a Spanish singer with a lyrical voice. I heard the Arabic influences in the music of Spain, and my mind wandered to that region of the world. Once there, it became obvious what my next step would be. I walked to Whole Foods and bought an eggplant, some tomato and a large yellow onion. Got home and fired up the grill. While it was heating up I peeled and sliced the eggplant, laid it out on a large dish and sprinkled some kosher salt on it. While the salt drew the juices out, I cut the onion in quarters, and sliced the tomatoes thickly. I then made an olive oil balsamic vinegar mixture and added a little ground black pepper and some more kosher salt. I patted the eggplant dry, poured the mixture over the veggies and headed out to the grill.

I find grilling veggies to be an exercise in focus. At least with my grill it is. It's an old grill and the flames aren't even -- one part gets a high flame and the rest is hit or miss. So I stand there, tongs in hand and spatula at the ready. I am constantly peering under the slices, watching them anxiously, waiting for that moment when they are toasty with those lovely grill lines across them, but not burnt. Flipping them over is a challenge, too, because I never know if they will slip through the grill and into the flame or actually land on the metal and stay there. I was lucky this time - only lost one tomato slice.

Headed in with my pile of grilled veggies. The couscous went into the micro, the cotes du rhone went into a glass, and when the grains were heated, I pulled them out, added the veggies, stirred, checked and corrected the seasonings and sat down to one of the best meals I had eaten in ages. I don't generally pat myself on the back in public, but folks, this one was a winner! Those grilled vegetables added a depth and complexity that even the osso bucco couldn't compete with. I lifted my glass and toasted the chef, and when I was done, I gave myself a standing ovation (much to my cat's disgust!)For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what natural remedies work for you and which don't, visit my other blog Second Opinion

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! It's now the year of the Rat. According to Wikipedia, the Rat "was welcomed in ancient times as a protector and bringer of material prosperity." I have no idea how they decided that Rats brought material prosperity. Frankly, they give me the creeps. But then again, when you read about them from a Chinese astrological viewpoint, it makes you think maybe they're not so bad after all: "Being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs, rats are leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat's natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust."

Hmmmm....I wonder if any of them are running for President now?

When I moved to San Diego to study Oriental medicine, I didn't know much about Chinese New Year. I had just come from 12 years of living in New Mexico. What did Chinese New Year have to do with enchiladas? I didn't even know that I was born in the year of the Rooster. I had a Rooster named Napoleon in New Mexico, but to this day I don't see any resemblance between his behavior and mine. So Chinese New Year took a little more getting used to than Chinese food. But once you start getting used to the colors and the symbols of it, it starts to be fun. I'm looking forward to having Dim Sum with some friends this coming Sunday, and going downtown for a Chinese New Year celebration next weekend. After all, who doesn't love the idea of another new beginning?

During the Chinese New Year, which begins on the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar (this year, that's Feb. 7th), and lasts till the 15th day, it is a custom to decorate with red, wear red, and give red envelopes with money in them. Red is a good luck color. Fortunately, it's a color I can wear. The house is cleaned in order to ensure a clean, new beginning. However, cleaning the house after New Year's day is considered bad luck! (2 weeks off!!!) Opening windows and/or doors as well as switching on lights at night is considered good luck. Here in San Diego, that isn't a real problem during the day. Of course, if you live in the northeastern U.S. these days, it would be quite a challenge to be opening your windows and/or doors, considering the temperatures. Um...maybe for a second?

Various foods are traditionally served as well, including fish, noodles, manderin oranges and sweets. I didn't even look this one up before I decided it was time for salmon. It had just been too long since my last one, and I felt the necessity. Besides, when I was at the Fancy Food Show a few weeks ago, I scored a tube of something called "berbere". I hadn't heard of it before (provincial!), but now that I have some, I don't want to be without! I've made 2 different dishes with it so far, but let's start with my good luck Chinese New Year salmon... No recipe. Just sprinkle some berbere* (See Kitchen Notes below) on some salmon and plop it in a pan with some canola oil. I started this on the top of the stove and finished it under the broiler. Half of it was eaten tonite with some garlic mashed potatoes and a salad. The other half will be my lunch tomorrow, topping another salad. And you wonder why I don't post more often? But fear not. I have more recipes with foods from Asia coming soon. In the meantime, I mentioned that I'm a rooster - what's your year?Berbere is a combination of spices. Mine is sold under the label "Afrikya", by Marcus Samuelsson. It contains paprika, chipotle chile, fenugreek, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, garlic, and...spices?

And, as usual, if you want more health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
If you want to share which natural remedies work for you and which don't, visit Second Opinion