Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Idle Hours...Barbecued Oven Braised Brisket

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Although I should be posting a recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers, I thought you might be feeling the same way we feel in this house by now.  Anything but!

In spite of the fact that Madame Mere's apartment IS FINISHED, I still spend my days waiting for FEDEX, UPS, or some other delivery service delivering merchandise she has ordered through the various catalogues

A corner of the great room where she sits in my daughter's big chair is now her designated office. Mail, new issues of Hola, Veranda and House and Garden, with dog eared pages of ideas for the future decor of her rooms, sit in neat stacks on a tv table.  Then there are the catalogues, including Ballards, which she insists on pronouncing "Ballarde" in spite of my corrections, to no avail.  At the bottom of the pile are her insurance statements and claims, her bills and checkbooks.  The world stops for her when her favorite telenovela, India, is rerun on Telemundo from 12 to 2 while she has lunch and her lady in waiting hems her curtains.  We should all be so lucky.

She has now roped me into watching this popular soap opera but I do so, upstairs in my study, while I check my emails, work on the blog and get dressed.   Three o'clock is the magic hour when I  get in the car and go, anywhere, to see what real people do with their lives.  Sometimes I take her with me to shop for her things; others I just wander, aimlessly.

Today we are waiting for her rug from "Ballarde" which is to be delivered between 11:30 and 3:30, another wasted day.  She has already announced we are going to get our nails done after that. but we don't.  The rug arrived, we both hated it and I spent the rest of the afternoon arranging to have it picked up and ordering a new one.

I have been using the idle hours to make something that needs to be in the oven for a long time and these days are perfect for that.  I can't stand to waste time and braising a piece of meat for three hours is my idea of justifying the time. This oven braised beef brisket was posted on My Kitchen By The Lake blog a long time ago and I have made it a couple of times to rave reviews from the family.  I think it is time it appears on Lindaraxa.

Brisket is a large flat cut that comes from the chest of a steer, just below the chuck.  Its a tough fatty piece that when cured in a brine is called corned beef.  Because it is impossible to overcook, brisket is a favorite of home cooks, particularly for Sunday family dinners.

What is known as the first cut, thin cut or flat cut is leaner than the less expensive second cut aka the point cut.  This is what is preferred for this recipe because its more flavorful, and succulent.

You don't need to be a great cook to make this, just lots of time on your hands or a Madame Mere in your life.  Mashed potatoes and my aunt's Caramelized Baked Apples will make you look like  a real Betty Crocker.

Barbecued Oven Braised Brisket


1.4 lbs beef brisket, preferably second cut
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced.
1 cup beef stock
1 cut tomato sauce or tomato juice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
parchment paper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Pat brisket dry and rub salt and pepper all over it.

In a hot skillet add brisket and brown on each side.

Place brisket in 13 in x 9 in baking dish.

Add onion to skillet and stir frequently until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add beef stock, bring to a boil and deglace pan scraping bits for 1 minute.  Stir in remaining ingredients  and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Pour sauce over brisket ,cover with sheet of parchment paper and cover tightly with foil.  Braise in the oven , turning meat once, until fork tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 20 minutes and slice across the grain.  Spoon sauce over it before serving.

The brisket is best if made the day before and up to 4 days before.  Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Photos Lindaraxa

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wild Rice With Dried Cranberries, Apricots And Butternut Squash

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I have been wanting to try this recipe ever since I saw it on the Williams Sonoma site.  It reminds me of Ottolenghi, whose recipes you know I adore, and it has everything I love in a dish to accompany poultry, including a delicate nutty flavor.   

I have been feeling guilty about not posting Thanksgiving recipes lately seeing that the holiday is next week and knowing that a lot of you are looking for new ideas and not posts about my beautiful roses.  First of all, we have been moving my mother to her "garden apartment" the last couple of weeks so my mind has not been on entertaining but on boxes.  Added to that is the fact that I have been posting Thanksgiving menus for the past five years and this is one of the meals I try not to vary much  How many ways can you cook a turkey, or make a stuffing, or improve on sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, or a green bean casserole with fried onions, or pumpkin and pecan pies?  They are all here including various cranberry sauces and chutney.  Just do a search or go to the MASTER RECIPE INDEX at the top.  But this? this is special and it's worth posting about.  It. would be an excellent addition or substitution as a side dish for the holiday or as part of a weekday meal of roast chicken, like the one we had last night.

If you want a simple Thanksgiving, for maybe two or three, this is your ticket to a no fuzz holiday.  Maybe a green vegetable and a good store bought pie and you, my friend, are off the hook!

It was really tough having to practice this recipe before I posted it.  Really tough....

And making these chicken thighs to go with it was also really tough.  Preparation took all of five minutes.  The things I go through for my fans.....

I made a couple of changes to the recipe by using this brown and wild rice mix which I much prefer to just wild rice. To me wild rice always tastes tough and always manages to get between my teeth or stuck at the back of my throat making me concentrate on getting it out delicately without anyone else guessing what's going on. Here you have more room to maneuver and besides I like the relative softness of the brown rice in the mix.  I also used chicken instead of vegetable stock for more flavor but go the vegan route if you must.   At the end, drizzle a small amount of the drippings from the turkey or roast chicken . That's the icing on the cake!

By the way, I roasted the squash alongside the chicken alternating the temperature between 375 and 400 to accommodate both.  No problem, as you can see.

For Thanksgiving, you might want to substitute dried cranberries for the cherries.

I made enough chicken and rice to save for leftovers tonight.  Or did I?  

This will be the battleground at the dinner table tonight.  I see only two small portions and three hungry ladies .  I have my bets...

Wild Rice Pilaf with Dried Cherries, Apricots and Butternut Squash

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped
2 tsp. curry powder
2 cups (12 oz./375 g) wild rice, I used Royal Blend Texmati wild and brown rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange zest strip, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and 1/2 inch (12 mm) wide
4 1/2 cups (36 fl. oz./1. 1 l) chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) diced dried apricots
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) dried pitted cherries or cranberries
1 small butternut squash, halved, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (2 oz.) chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a large, wide saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir to combine. Stir in the wild rice, cinnamon stick and orange zest and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add the broth, apricots and cherries to the saucepan and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, stirring once. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.  If you are cooking with the wild and brown rice blend, uncover,check if rice is done, let some of the steam out, stir with a fork, lay a folded paper towel on top of the rice and replace cover.

While the rice is cooking, in a large bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown outside and thoroughly tender inside, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover to keep warm.

To assemble, transfer the rice mixture to a serving bowl. Remove cinnamon stick and orange zest and discard. Fold in the roasted squash and pecans, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

If you are serving alongside turkey or chicken, drizzle some of the juices from the pan.

Roast chicken thighs

Marinade chicken thighs in lime and orange juice, mashed garlic and chopped onions.  Sprinkle some Herbs de Provence on top, salt and pepper. Cut butter in cubes and lay one on top of each thigh Cook at 375 for around 50 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil and cook until skin is browned.  

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen
Photos Lindaraxa

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Last Of The Roses

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It was as if they knew it was their last hurrah.  Every single rose bud I clipped before the frigid temperatures arrived opened up perfectly. And the scent...oh my, the scent! It is pure rose and intoxicating.  No wonder Heritage is one of the most popular of the David Austin old English roses.

I am forwarding these photos to my granddaughter, Taylor Rose, after whom this rose bush is named. Whenever she comes to visit it is one of the first things she checks out.  Gardening together is one of our favorite pastimes no matter how brief her attention span may be.  Hopefully it will continue for years to come.

There is no need for words.  Just enjoy!

Tonight the temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20's.  I fear for everything I've planted this Fall but I've covered as much as I can with burlap and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Just four more months to go!

All photos Lindaraxa

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Mother's Favorite...Swiss Chard Omelette

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I can't spot Swiss chard at the grocery store without picking some up for my mother.  To say she adores it is an understatement.  Her favorite way, an omelete.  My favorite way, a quiche.  She won.

I had asked the manager in the produce department to get me the regular Swiss chard instead of the red veined variety they usually have when in season.  I prefer it as the latter bleeds a bit over whatever I'm making and I like a clean green look.  An idiosyncrasy, I know, but things like that bother me,  As to the taste, there is no difference, so why not go with whatever makes you feel better.

Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables in the Mediterranean it is also one of the most nutritious, second only to spinach.  For more information on its health benefits and the best way to cook it go here.

There is no recipe per se for a Swiss Chard omelette.  Just make the omelette in whatever fashion you want but first melt some butter, add chopped onions, brown them, add the steamed or boiled Swiss chard, mix and let it cool.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs, figuring on 2 per person, add a little milk if you want, salt and pepper, and the cooled Swiss chard and onion mix, Stir in 1 tablespoon of gruyere or parmesan cheese.  Don't overdo the cheese as Swiss chard has a mild flavor and the cheese will overpower it.

Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the pan and when it is melted and browned a bit add the egg mix.  Proceed as you would for a regular omelette and fold once or twice over.

Don't be tempted to add more cheese on the top. You want to enjoy the flavor of the Swiss chard and the extra cheese will detract from it.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Prettiest Color Of Fall

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Yesterday the Sous Chef and I  took a walk around the neighborhood and went no farther than this.  I turned around, ran back to the house and got my camera.  Then I knocked on the owner's house and asked the name.  Needless to say,the Sous Chef was mighty annoyed that we had interrupted our walk to ask about "a dumb bush".

Maybe some of you are familiar with it, but for those of us who are not, it is called a Burning Bush or Euonymus alatus and is native to central and northern China, Japan, and Korea. 

The flowers are greenish, borne over a long period in the spring. The fruit is a red aril enclosed by a four-lobed pink, yellow or orange capsule.
The common name "burning bush" comes from the bright red fall color.
It is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and parks due to its bright pink or orange fruit and attractive fall color. The species and the cultivar 'Compactus' have both gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Not everything is positive about this plant.  It  is also an invasive species of woodlands in eastern North America, and its importation and sale is prohibited in the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire
E. alatus is used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote blood stasis to promote menstruation, remove toxic materials, subside swelling, and kill insects or parasites. Wikipedia

That should cover your basic needs...

Some of you may remember the name as an object described by the Book of Exodus as being located on Mount Horeb; according to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name. In the narrative, the burning bush is the location at which Moses was appointed by Yahweh (God) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.
As a powerful religious symbol, the burning bush represents many things to JewsChristians and Muslims such as God's miraculous energy, sacred light, illumination, and the burning heart of purity, love and clarity. From a human standpoint, it also represents Moses' reverence and fear before the divine presence.
The Hebrew word used in the narrative, that is translated into English as bush, is seneh (סנה), which refers in particular to bramblesseneh is a biblical dis legomenon, only appearing in two places, both of which describe the burning bush. It is possible that the reference to a burning bush is based on a mistaken interpretation of Sinai (סיני), a mountain described by the Bible as being on fire.  - Wikipedia

What stopped me on my tracks was not only the color, but the berries as well.

I did ask...

After a couple of days, the berries start to drop off but the color is so pretty it's worth picking them up.  After weighing the pros and cons, I decided it was easier to knock on my neighbor's door once a year and cut a couple of branches for my vase.  The alternative was not very appealing.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Guiso De Maiz...Cuban Corn Stew

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Guiso de maiz is a typical country dish, very simple, very informal.  Although the recipe is for a corn stew,  the star here is the squash. Cuban corn is not the greatest so feel free to use frozen corn but do try to get the best calabaza or butternut squash you can get.

This iconic Cuban stew is perfect for a  Sunday lunch in the Fall. Typically it is served with white rice on the side and fried plantains.  Tell me, what's not to like!

The photos are not very good as my camera was out of battery when I needed it and I had to use someone else's iPhone.

Guiso de Maiz

Serves 6


1/4 lbs. ham
3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 C chopped Pomi tomatoes
1 chorizo
1/4 C dry white wine
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 C water
1 C potatoes cut in 1/2 inch square
1 C calabaza or butternut squash cut in 1/2 inch squares
Corn from 4 ears or 1 lg frozen yellow corn bag (4 Cups)
Pinch of Pimenton


Cut the ham in small squares and sautee with the onions, green peppers and  garlic in the olive oil.  Add the tomatoes, the chorizo cut in 1/4 inch squares, the wine, salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes and the water.  When the potatoes start to soften, add the calabaza or squash  and the corn.  Cook in medium low heat for about 30 minutes.  Season with a pinch of pimenton when almost done.  Serve with white rice on the side.

Adapted from Nitza Villapol
Photos Lindaraxa

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