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Fennel-Scented Mashed Potatoes

Fennel-Scented Mashed Potatoes


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Ingredients

  • 4 medium-size fresh fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds), trimmed, cored, bulbs coarsely chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
  • 2 pounds Ukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (or more) half and half
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in resealable plastic bag with meat mallet
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

Recipe Preparation

  • Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add fennel bulbs; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and boil gently until fennel and potatoes are very tender, about 25 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup half and half, fennel seeds, and tarragon in small saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

  • Drain potato mixture; return to pot. Stir over medium heat until any excess liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add hot half and half mixture and butter and mash until vegetables are almost smooth (small fennel bits may still remain). Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead; cover and chill. Rewarm covered with plastic wrap in microwave, stirring occasionally and thinning with more half and half, if desired.

  • Transfer mashed potato mixture to bowl. Sprinkle with reserved chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Recipe by Betty RosebottomReviews Section

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Menus to Make Planning a Breeze

This year let us help plan the feast, so you can spend time with the fam.

The Christmas season means a lot of things: Shopping for Christmas presents, decorating the tree, watching all the Hallmark Channel movies, and spending time with family. This year, we may be spending less time with family than we'd like &mdash or having a smaller holiday with closer family. But that doesn't mean that we don't still need to plan out a holiday meal &mdash and having something festive may seem more important than ever.

If you're feeling stuck by what to make this year, take a look at these carefully cultivated, easy Christmas dinner menu ideas, each based around simple themes to help you choose which kind of Christmas dinner best suits you. How about an original, Tex-Mex-inspired Christmas dinner featuring beer-braised chicken, buttermilk and Hatch Chile grits, and Texas-style pimento cheese? Or stick with the classics, like a glazed rack of lamb or a sweet spiced Christmas ham surrounded by decadently roasted winter veggies. Whatever you crave, there's something on our list of Christmas dinner menu ideas that both you and your family will love.

For dessert we've got apple-cheddar crumble pie, along with chocolate bourbon pecan pie or mini brown sugar tarts, any one of which is sure to please the palate. Of course, it's not a true Christmas dinner without a few Christmas party decorations, some gorgeous Christmas table settings, and a Christmas cocktail or two to top off your amazing Christmas dinner menu. Check out our ideas, and get ready to be crowned hostess of the year!

If you're looking to make things just a little bit fancier, this Christmas menu is what you've been looking for. From the filet mignon main course to rich Christmas side dishes infused with tons of flavor, this menu will leave your family beyond satisfied.

Main Course:

Side Dishes:

A traditional British Christmas dinner looks similar to an American Thanksgiving dinner (which they don't celebrate, of course!). While the list below has British-themed dishes, such as pigs in blankets and fruitcake in the form of cookies, the way to truly make it feel authentic is to whip up a batch of Yorkshire pudding and break open some Christmas crackers.


An Olive Education

Although I have happily consumed thousands of olives in my travels, it was a homely, putty-colored olive that I came across on the Northern Aegean island of Chios that catalyzed my real education into the world of olives. While touring the island one fall, I bought some home-cured olives in a tiny mountain village. I shared my hopeful treasure with an acquaintance who, I was soon to discover, was an importer of olives and true aficionado.

The olives we tasted were unexpectedly delicious with a deeply complex flavor: They inspired him to deliver a mind-expanding discourse on olives, similar to the passionate spiels I have heard from wine writers I know: of varietals, terroir, and the vagaries of fermentation, as well as evocative descriptors of flavor: minerally, mushroomy, winey, grassy, prunelike. Back in New York, this olive master led me through a tasting of over 40 varieties of olives.

In the course of three hours, he taught me how to tell a good olive from a bad one, and what to look for in my local markets. My favorites included Lucques from the South of France: crisp, fresh, exceptionally buttery oil-cured Thassos from Greece: mellow, sweet, prune-like, more like a dried fruit than an olive Arbequina from Spain: tiny, crisp, with a resonant flavor of apples and almonds.

With all this complex flavor and texture, olives became an inspiration in my kitchen. Crushed and warmed, they turn into quick hors d'oeuvre or embellishment for pasta and pizzas, white beans, even mashed potatoes. I roll boned legs of lamb and pork roasts with crushed olive pastes to season the meat from the inside. I use them often to add a counterpoint of flavor and texture in recipes, from salads and sauces to seafood dishes and stews of meats, poultry, or vegetables. A great all-purpose olive for cooking is the Kalamata from Sparta. Pleasingly briney, with subtle wine and mushroom overtones, it is often available pitted.

Pitting olives for cooking is easy. Just place them on the work surface and tap them with a heavy can or meat pointer, or the side of a chef's knife they break open to make the pit easy to remove. (One pound olives yields two cups when pitted.)

Olive Basics

All olives start green as they mature their color changes to beige to pink to purplish brown and their texture becomes softer as the oil content increases. Olives are too bitter to eat until they are cured, with brine, salt, or sometimes lye. It is the curing that can make an olive great or mediocre. As with wine, the quickest way to learn about olives is to do a comparative tasting to discover the differences. The best olives are unpasteurized they have a more complex, resonant flavor and firmer texture than pasteurized olives (green olives are noticeably crisper, black olives meatier). When they are pasteurized (as with bottled olives), high temperature processing to keep them stable virtually cooks them, rendering their texture mushy, their flavors muted and one-dimensional.

When buying, look for bulk olives that are sold loose in their brine in which they can last indefinitely, or buy from a vendor with a big turnover who frequently replenishes his display. Look for plump olives that have few bruises or wrinkles (except for naturally wrinkly oil cured olives). Inferior olives are often given fancy names, pitted or assertively flavored with hot pepper, herbs or spices. If possible taste an olive you are thinking of buying, and buy for both texture and flavor. If you can only find imported olives in glass jars, drain off the brine and cover the olives with olive oil to bring out their best flavor.


How to cook a holiday feast during a pandemic

The pandemic has created some gut-wrenching decisions when it comes to how we celebrate the holiday season with family and friends. Lengthy gatherings in close quarters seated around the dinner table are questionable. After months and months of caution, we crave the opportunity to socialize. We ache for connection, time together to enjoy great food with the people we love.

How about holiday gatherings in the backyard? Kind of an adventurous tailgate-style shindig, with a limited number of guests spread out, close enough to hear the conversation, but far enough to maintain a cautious distance. If it’s cold, ask guests to bring coats, maybe throw-sized blankets.

Key to this holiday season get-togethers is great comfort food. Ina Garten, bestselling author, and Food Network star has written a new cookbook, “Modern Comfort Food” (Clarkson Potter, $35). Her foolproof recipes offer comfort for cooks and guests alike.

I fell in love with her easy-to-cut new version of turkey roulade, Tuscan Turkey Roulade. It’s a whole (two halves of one turkey with the skin connecting them) boned turkey breast that is stuffed with a mixture of fennel-scented sauteed onions and garlic, plus prosciutto, butter and fresh herbs. The meat is rolled up and tied with cotton string, with a few fresh sage leaves are tucked under the string. It roasts unattended with wine and water resting at the bottom of the pan, the finished pan juices are used as a sauce.

Remove the strings and cut into slices. Easy, especially for an outdoor party.

When I tried it out in my kitchen, I called the grocery store in advance and ordered the bird. The butcher had it ready for me as requested, so I didn’t have to do the boning. On the phone, I made it clear that I wanted the breasts to stay attached to one another.

I highly recommend using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature after it has been in the oven for 90 minutes. If it registers 150 degrees in the middle of the center of the roulade, take it out and cover with aluminum foil and allow it to rest 15 minutes for the temp to come up. Otherwise, give it another 15 minutes in the oven.

No matter how the turkey is prepared, mashed potatoes seem a must. Ina’s updated Pureed Potatoes with Lemon are scrumptious. She based her recipe on a spud dish that is served at an Argentinian restaurant in Paris. The potatoes can be prepared in advance, leaving out the grated lemon zest set aside at room temperature for a couple of hours if desired. Reheat them in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, adding warm milk, as needed, and then whisk in the lemon zest just before serving.

Round out the menu with a vegetable of choice and maybe a mixed green salad.

Dessert needs to be a knockout beauty. Ina’s Boston Cream Pie is stunning to look at and mouth-wateringly delicious. Of course, it isn’t a pie, it’s layers of vanilla cake filled with pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze.

Prepare the cake and pastry cream ahead of time, wrapping them well and refrigerating them separately. Prepare the chocolate glaze and assemble about one hour before serving.

Tuscan Turkey Roulade

After binding your Tuscan Turkey Roulade with kitchen twine, add whole sage leaves by tucking them under the string. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)

3/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 4 whole sage leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

1 whole butterflied turkey breast with skin on (5 to 6 pounds), see cook’s notes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter

4 ounces thinly sliced Italian prosciutto

1 cup dry white wine, such as Chablis

Cook’s notes: Whole turkey breast refers to two breasts of one turkey with skin connecting them.

PROCEDURE

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium (10- to 11-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and fennel seeds and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, tossing occasionally, until onion is tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Off heat, add chopped sage and rosemary. Set aside to cool.

2. Open turkey breast on cutting board, skin side down. Sprinkle meat with 4 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. When onion mixture is cool, spread it evenly on meat. Grate butter on a box grater and sprinkle on top (as you would to grate carrots). Arrange prosciutto on top to totally cover the meat and filling.

3. Starting at the long end of the turkey breast, roll the meat up jelly-roll style to make a compact cylindrical roulade, ending with the seam side down. Tie the roulade tightly with kitchen twine at 2 to 2 1/2-inch intervals to ensure that it will roast evenly. Slip the whole sage leaves under the twine down the center of the roulade.

4. Place the roulade, seam side down, in a roasting pan and pat the skin dry with paper towels. Brush skin with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour wine and 1 cup water in roasting pan (not over the turkey). Roast 1 hour, 30 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes, until skin is golden brown and internal temperature is 150 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove string, slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, and serve warm with pan juices.

Pureed Potatoes With Lemon

Pureed potatoes With Lemon is a delicious side dish for any holiday gathering. (Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

Cook’s notes: The potatoes can be prepared in advance, leaving out the grated lemon zest set aside at room temperature for a couple of hours if desired. Reheat them in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, adding warm milk, as needed, and then whisk in the lemon zest just before serving.

PROCEDURE

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them in 1 1/2 to 2-inch chunks. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, add water to cover by one inch, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a small paring knife. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cut the butter in 1/2-inch dice and put it back in the refrigerator.

3. After the potatoes are drained, pour the milk into a small saucepan set over low heat and heat the milk just until it simmers. Turn off the heat.

4. Place a food mill fitted with the finest blade on top of the large saucepan. Process the potatoes into the pan. With the heat on low, vigorously whisk in the cold butter several bits at a time, waiting for each addition to be incorporated before adding more butter. When all the butter is added, slowly whisk in enough of the hot milk to make the potatoes the desired consistency — creamy but still thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk in the lemon zest, sprinkle with salt, taste for seasonings, and serve hot.

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie, with Grand Marnier between its layers and topped with chocolate glaze, is a show stopper of a holiday meal dessert. (Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Yield: one 9-inch cake, 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Chocolate glaze:

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, such as Nestlé’s (7½ ounces)

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, broken in pieces

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules, such as Nescafé

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream (recipe follows)

Cook’s notes: To scald milk, heat it just below the boiling point— there will be small bubbles around the edge of the milk. Don’t let it boil! Don’t refrigerate the assembled cake because beads of condensation will form on the chocolate. Make ahead: Prepare the cakes and pastry cream, wrap well, and refrigerate separately. Prepare the chocolate glaze and assemble an hour before serving.

PROCEDURE

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round baking pans, line with parchment paper, butter and flour pans, and tap out excess flour. Set aside.

2. For the cake, scald the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (see cook’s notes). Off the heat, add the vanilla and orange zest, cover the pan, and set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until thick and light yellow and the mixture falls back on itself in a ribbon. By hand, first whisk in the warm milk mixture and then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. Don’t overmix! Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack, flipping them so the top sides are up. Cool to room temperature.

4. For the soak, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small (8-inch) sauté pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, add the Grand Marnier and set aside

5. For the chocolate glaze, combine the heavy cream, semisweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla, and coffee in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until the chocolates melt. Remove from the heat and set aside for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is thick enough to fall back onto itself in a ribbon.

6. To assemble, cut both cakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom of one cake on a flat plate, cut side up. Brush it with a third of the soak. Spread a third of the Grand Marnier Pastry Cream on the cake. Place the top of the first cake on top, cut side down, and repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the bottom of the second cake on top, cut side up. Repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the top of the second cake on top, cut side down. Pour the ganache on the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Set aside for one hour, until the chocolate sets. Cut in wedges and serve.

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream

Yield: Enough for one 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS

5 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon Cognac or brandy

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

PROCEDURE

1. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until very thick. Reduce the speed to low and add the cornstarch.

2. Meanwhile, scald the milk in a medium saucepan. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken. When the custard starts to clump on the bottom of the pan, stir constantly with a whisk (don’t beat it!) to keep the custard smooth.

3. Cook over low heat until the custard is very thick like pudding. If you lift some custard with the whisk, it should fall back onto itself in a ribbon. Off the heat, stir in the butter, heavy cream, Grand Marnier, Cognac, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Cool for 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard (not the bowl) and refrigerate until very cold.

Source for all recipes: “Modern Comfort Food” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35)


The Gift of Deliciousness

It started with an e-mail from an unknown sender -- "Who's rojo?" I wondered -- friend, Viagra-pusher, virus-carrier? A friend I'd never met, it turned out -- a reader who shares my tastes, suggesting that I try Clay's, another "view" restaurant, at the top of the towering Hotel La Jolla. That's a space that has been through so many incarnations under its previous name, Elario's, that I'd come to view it with permanent suspicion. (In its final incarnation, I heard, Elario's was serving the worst sort of hotel food, including the same precut packaged "Sysco veggie medley" with every entrée.) But Bobbie, who sent the e-mail, was so articulate in her praises of the year-old Clay's that I rounded up the posse and we made a reservation. And were we ever glad we did!

To revisit the film Ratatouille, at the climax, a snooty restaurant critic is won over by a simple peasant dish, overcome by its sheer deliciousness. In my business, it's easy to forget that, ultimately, deliciousness counts most. So there are chefs whose work I respect as high culinary art, and of course they get the big four stars on up. But there are also chefs whose food I love, whose finely tuned palates make them masters of vivacious flavors. I wish I could color-code the stars -- black for "respect the art," but hot pink, chartreuse, or turquoise (maybe with some little graphic whiz-bangs, like the movie's depiction of culinary joy) for the chefs whose work sings with flavor -- chefs like Patrick Ponsaty (Bernard'O), Brian Sinnott (1500 Ocean), Jason Knibb (910), pastry chef Jack Fisher (Jack's La Jolla), and whoever makes the Peking duck at China Max, to name a few. People often forget the art they ate but may be haunted forever by cravings for another bite of the dishes that tasted the best.

Clay Bordan seems to be one of these chefs. Not every dish we tried was perfect, but a powerful seven of ten were terrific, with vibrant flavors gently borrowing from great cuisines worldwide. The setting for Bordan's cooking is a long, oddly cozy penthouse with low ceilings, thick carpeting, and wide windows facing west, with light curtains that are lifted at sunset to reveal a panorama of La Jolla stretching down to the sea. It's comfortable and attractive but not excessively formal -- you can dress for fun in your cutest new outfit without worrying if it's fancy enough for prime time. (I don't mean that new Calvin wife-beater, guys.) On the way in, you pass a large glassed-in open kitchen, affording the visual entertainment of watching the line, but with none of the clatter. Some of the seating is at banquettes, but we preferred the sightlines from a windowside table. Since there's live music in the lounge almost every night, the sound level depends on who's playing -- it was quiet background sound the weeknight we went, but if you don't like loud, avoid Sunday nights when there's usually a retro big band.

Lynne, Jim, and Michelle had all been to Clay's for happy hour drinks and snacks, but this was the first time they'd settled in for serious eating. (Again, the curse of Elario's.) As we read the menu, a genuinely amusing "amuse" arrived -- a hospitable round of Kir Royales (champagne with crème de cassis). What could be better? The bubbles wash away the day's stresses -- begone, dull care!

Samurai Jim recommended the ahi tuna tower appetizer he'd enjoyed at happy hour. The concept (raw tuna, mango, and cucumber rounds) may be a cliché, but the execution was spiffy: The layers were piled atop a grilled cake of Thai purple rice, which softened as it absorbed the drippings to a tasty, crunchy-surfaced mush. The zesty seasonings in the tuna included a sharp hit of Thai chile oil and a glaze combining blood orange with English and Dijon mustards. On the side were fried wonton wrappers to scoop with if you wanted to. Not boring at all.

Tiger prawns were swaddled in a layer of pancetta and set on skewers that arose from an edible base of ripe, sweet pineapple, surrounded by a crunchy, spicy raw fennel salad with a hot-sweet "vindaloo" glaze of Indian spices and sweet-sour tamarind.

Sake-seared sea scallops were sweet, plump Mano de León specimens from Ensenada. They were set atop pedestals of mashed Peruvian purple potatoes mixed with parsnip purée -- a clever idea, since the parsnip offered a moist lightness, sweetness, and texture to cut the starchiness of these good-looking but dry potatoes. Surrounding them were a deliriously sensual Turkish apricot crème fraîche and a pomegranate-ginger reduction glazing the plate. The wine that hit the spot with all the appetizers was an old favorite, Edna Valley (Santa Barbara) Chardonnay -- an unpretentious but serious rendition of "delicious." (Cost Plus often carries it on sale, for about a third of the restaurant price. All my tablemates said they'd be looking to buy it by the case.) For the entrées, we switched to miscellaneous pours by the glass, since we'd ordered both fish and meat.

After having read the menu online, I consumed the appetizers with as much relief as joy. Through bitter experience, I've grown leery of non-Asian chefs doing "fusion" by throwing exotic ingredients willy-nilly into their cooking, or worse yet, coming up with creative "improvements" over traditional recipes that need no improving. Poorly done fusion is a form of cultural misappropriation -- that is, ripping off non-European cuisines to get ego points: "Thanks for the sansho pepper, Butterfly honey -- gotta run now." But there are no soy-drenched mudholes at Clay's -- when this chef incorporates global flavors to enliven his cooking, he employs them intelligently and gracefully where they do the most good.

Not fusion-y at all, however, a perfectly conventional "signature" lobster bisque shouldn't be a signature. The most disappointing of our starters, it was short on lobster flavor -- creamy comfort food without much personality, even with the cute little pedigreed--goat cheese dumpling floating in the middle. If "it takes a heap of livin' to make a house a home," then it takes a load of lobster to make a bisque a thrill. There's no lobster on Clay's' menu, which means the kitchen isn't awash in leftover carapaces and spare parts but has to purchase lobster bodies for the base of the broth. I've never yet loved a bisque from a restaurant that doesn't have lobster on its menu -- it's not the same as the bisque from a kitchen swamped with leftover shells, swimmerets, and an extra live lobster or two to throw into the pot.

Clay's is evidently accustomed to foodies sharing dinners -- our waiter later told us about a regular dining group who call themselves "the Foodies" -- because the appetizers arrived by ones and twos to let us savor each in turn. We ordered blue-crab salad as a mid-course, and it duly arrived solo -- a warm mélange of substantial chunks of sweet crab (not mere shreds and bits), surrounding islands of butter lettuce, small oval tomatoes, and raspberries. After appreciating its merits for a while, I realized I wasn't totally content with butter lettuce in the context. "I think it needs a more assertive green to go against the Gorgonzola cream," I said. "Maybe raw fennel." Jim thought arugula. Lynne suggested raw Belgian endive, which won the crowd's acclaim, a communal vision of ideal warm blue-crab salad. On second thought -- artichoke heart might do it, too.

"Even if the main courses fall down after this, I'm already happy I came," said the Lynnester. But they didn't fall down. We chose entrées as much on the basis of interesting garnishes as the central proteins. Hence, the first one I faced was my fish-of-constant-ridicule, halibut. It was cooked to soft velvet flakiness -- even better than at George's California Modern. At one end, the fillet was topped with purple and dark green "licorice"-flavored microgreens (anise, fennel, arugula, plus radicchio for color), a decorating tactic echoed in the center by slim, garlic-flavored green beans and tiny purple Peruvian potatoes, plus poached white peaches on the side. "Aww, look!" I cooed, uncovering the first petite purple potato. "There's purple and green at the top, and here's the purple with the green beans to match." "The chef could be an interior designer," said Michelle, an interior designer. "He could redo your living room in food."

"I can't believe it, I'm actually clinging to halibut!" I said, when I had to move the plate along on its rotation around the table. Next was Angus filet mignon. It was not quite as rare as I'd hoped. Samurai Jim, the classic beef-eater among us, actually hated the blackberry reduction sauce, the summery soprano substitute for the standard, mellow-alto red-wine bordelaise sauce. The rest of us liked the beef and sauce well enough, but what really won us all over (Jim included) were the side dishes -- a succulent little gratin of potatoes with manchego cheese, plus roasted red pearl onions, grilled white asparagus, and sautéed garlic spinach.

Maple Leaf duck breast is the standard duck in local restaurants, but rarely is it served as rare as it ought to be. Here it was -- darkly rosy, utterly tender, set atop dreamy, thin-skinned butternut squash ravioli with garlic cream sauce, spinach, and plushy reconstituted oven-dried tomatoes. (I can't believe they were really ever dried. They tasted fresh-baked.) We were all jazzed as the plate made its way around the table. The difference between great duck breast and boring duck breast? Ten degrees less cooking and zap, OFF with the heat!

The major entrée disappointment was pan-seared Jidori chicken breast, from an aristocratic, flavorful Japanese breed. Even with Jidori, nicely cooked breast is still breast and needs more help to become something wonderful, rather than just (yawn) white meat. Here it was cooked plainly, accompanied by yummy fennel-scented goat cheese mashed potatoes, grilled ramps (wild scallions, in the final week of their season), baby carrots glazed with lychee-infused sake from Japan, and pan jus. (Next evening, the doggie-bagged Jidori leftovers were reincarnated into fabulously flavorful chilaquiles -- much tastier than "any-old-chicken" chilaquiles.)

Desserts are exhibited on one of those sampler platters equivalent to the plastic food displays in the window of a Tokyo restaurant. We (meaning the chocoholic samurai) chose a layered chocolate pastry-thing. It proved as exciting as a plastic window display (ditto the espresso). It turns out that, due to the small size of the kitchen (and Clay's own disinclination for baking), most desserts at the restaurant are purchased from a contractor. But sweets are superfluous anyway, when you've already extracted so much pleasure from the earlier courses.

We'd arrived early and were second-last to leave. I rode down the elevator with Jim, and after powder-room breaks, Lynne and Michelle rode down with our handsome waiter. Michelle, a petite pretty blonde, marched in lockstep with the waiter toward the back parking lot. "Whoo-hoo, we're over here," Jim called from the other exit door. (Sorry, Michelle, it was too cute a moment to go unrecorded. Writers are dangerous friends.) Then we all poured into Jim's car and glowed all the way back to town. "This has been surprisingly. divine," said the Lynnester, surprising herself with the razzle-dazzle adjective. Yes, surprisingly divine.

Chef Clay Bordan has primarily worked as a corporate chef, which is basically a teaching position -- that is, "I'd go to all these cities, and I'd put together restaurants [including the opening of Nectar, downtown], put together menus, bring in staffs, go through the build-out stage, be there for the opening, stay there for a month or two, and hand it off to my chefs," he says. "But a lot of these restaurants were in hotels, and we'd get interference from the hotel management. They were more interested in saving money than in keeping that creative edge, so I wasn't always happy doing that.

"The company I was with, American Property Management, bought this hotel about two years ago. They had a couple of third-party operators doing the restaurant here, Elario's, and one day they came to me and said, 'You've got to go to Elario's and babysit it.' So I started working with the people here, and I really didn't have much interest in the menu -- it was just hotel food, you wouldn't even give it two stars. I was bored, and about three months afterwards. I suggested to the company that I'd take it on myself, but I'd quit my job as a corporate chef. They said, 'Well, okay, but we won't give you any money to get started.'"

Clay took on the challenge, along with his crew -- scrounging furniture from another closed restaurant, redecorating the room, and finally reopening not as Elario's but as the radically different Clay's. "We launched Clay's July 11 of last year. We changed the menu, changed the menu again, until we got to where we are now -- a decently run restaurant. I haven't had any turnover, and my guys have basically bought into the concept. I took a huge cut in pay, and we're still working really hard." He maintains high standards for his kitchen. "My philosophy is: no short-cuts. And if one of the line-chefs messes up -- say, he overcooks something -- I want him to throw it out and start over, rather than serve it if it's not perfect. Partly, because I see us as primarily a local restaurant. We're not on the Prospect strip, we don't get many tourists. We're more interested in building a base of regular local customers who'll come back again and again because they like what we're doing."

Clay never meant to become a chef. His family moved around a lot for his father's job when he was a kid they spent the longest stretch in Florida, which Clay considers his home state. (His speech still bears a trace of the South.) He began learning to cook out of necessity. "My mother would only cook one meal a day, dinner. She didn't believe in premade foods, she didn't believe in processed items. If we wanted something to eat, we had to make it ourselves. My parents called me 'the Scrounger,' because I was always going into the refrigerator and grabbing stuff out of there and making something out of it, because that's what we had to do. As I hit my teens, I wanted a bigger allowance, and my father said, 'Well, go out and get a job.' So at 14 I got a job dishwashing in a restaurant, and that led to cooking. But I did anything not to become a chef. When I started out it wasn't glamorous -- no Food Network, no celebrity chefs. I learned on the job -- never went to cooking school or to business school. I worked under some really good people, good chefs, but nobody very famous, and I never stayed long -- I was always trying to find a way out of it. I was young and I was working every weekend, every holiday. I kept trying to do other things for a living, but I finally had to say, 'Well, I actually love cooking.'

"I love it even more now, because I've been through that corporate side. Now I'm in it, I can do what I want. I can change my menu all the time based on what the market's trending to -- or not. But moving around a lot as a corporate chef, I got to see a lot of areas people wouldn't pay money to go to, a lot of grassroots stuff -- like Amish cooking. A lot of foodie places and a lot of nonfoodie places -- something's always there to spark my interest."

Clay's sophistication as a chef may seem mysterious until you realize that, even though he's never traveled outside of America, he's a foodie to the bone. "I love eating out, I do it as much as possible -- at obscure places serving authentic dishes. I'll get cravings for Indonesian food, for spicy Chinese food. Right now I'm planning to take a couple of days off in September to fly to Boston, just to eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the area (it's called Kowloon), and fly right back the next day, because I miss my favorite dishes there so much."


41 fennel chutney Recipes

Moroccan Fennel Chutney

Moroccan Fennel Chutney

Fennel and Thyme Chutney

Fennel and Thyme Chutney

Crispy Pork Loin with Fennel Tomato Chutney (Brianna Jenkins)

Crispy Pork Loin with Fennel Tomato Chutney (Brianna Jenkins)

Fennel-Scented Spinach and Potato Samosas

Fennel-Scented Spinach and Potato Samosas

Frittata with Tomato Chutney (Joey Altman)

Frittata with Tomato Chutney (Joey Altman)

Curry Eggplant and Mango Chutney (Emeril Lagasse)

Curry Eggplant and Mango Chutney (Emeril Lagasse)

Saute Chicken Breast and Vegetables with Mango Chutney and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Saute Chicken Breast and Vegetables with Mango Chutney and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Dried Fruit Chutney

41 Dutch Oven Recipes That Win Us Over Every Time

Haleem isn’t about eating a lot of meat. Instead, it’s a Pakistani dal, rice, and barley stew flavored with meat. And that bit of meat needs to be bone-in: As the bones simmer, all the collagen, marrow, and connective tissue create a savory, lip-smacking, umami-packed stew. That’s why haleem takes hours to gently simmer until the meat has completely fallen off the bone and the dal and grains nearly disappear into the stew. Use a pressure cooker (such as the Instant Pot) if you have one, which will slash the cook time and turn the whole thing into an easy, mostly hands-off affair.

Leftovers keep perfectly in the freezer, so if you’re cooking this on the stovetop, make the most of your time and double or triple the quantity to store it in the freezer as a gift to your future self.


The GI diet made easy

By now you've probably read or heard something about the glycemic index (GI). For example, how using the index to make food choices may help prevent and manage certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Many health organizations, including the Canadian Diabetes Association and the World Health Organization, support the use of the GI for individuals with diabetes.

But the GI is becoming an increasingly hot nutritional concept for people who don't already suffer from a chronic disease. Many prominent nutrition researchers and dietitians see it as a promising approach to healthy eating and the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases.

The GI is a valid and potentially useful concept, but it is also complex and can be difficult to follow. Because the science around the GI is still quite young, there are some unanswered questions. As the science evolves, and researchers learn more about the GI and its role in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, these questions will be answered. Until then, here is a no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts approach to incorporating GI principles into your family's diet.

What is the glycemic index?
Developed in the early 1980s by Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at the University of Toronto and a doctor at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, the glycemic index ranks carbohydrate-containing foods according to how they affect blood glucose, or sugar, levels.

The index measures how much your blood sugar rises after you eat a specific food the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. Pure glucose is used as a reference food (it raises blood sugar the quickest) and is assigned the arbitrary value of 100. All other foods are then given a number relative to it.

How does the GI work?
The GI value of a food is determined by the speed at which your body breaks it down and converts it into glucose, or sugar, which is your body's main source of energy. High-GI foods are broken down quickly, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar, whereas low-GI foods take longer to break down, causing a slow, steady rise in blood sugar.

Page 1 of 7 -- Discover the health benefits of low-GI foods on page 2

Health benefits of eating low-GI foods
Research has shown that eating foods with a low GI may:

Prevent obesity: Low-GI foods may fill you up quickly and, because they're digested more slowly, stay in your stomach longer, making you feel full longer. As a result, you may end up eating less and consuming fewer calories. Because it is energy balance that keeps your weight in check (calories in equal calories out), consuming fewer calories may prevent you from putting on unwanted pounds.

Prevent type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. It is caused by a lack of insulin, the hormone that helps your cells break down carbohydrates into sugar for energy.

If you have diabetes, either your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin and/or your cells don't respond to the insulin. As a result, sugar in the blood can't enter the cells, and they become starved for energy while your blood sugar remains high.

Because high-GI foods may increase insulin demand and raise the workload of the pancreas, some researchers think that many years of eating a diet rich in high-GI foods may cause the pancreas to wear out, resulting in type 2 diabetes. Eating low-GI foods can help reduce the demand on the pancreas so it doesn't have to work too hard.

Manage diabetes: Low-GI foods can help manage diabetes by controlling blood sugar and improving the body's sensitivity to insulin. These foods aren't converted to sugar as quickly as high-GI foods, so they may keep your blood sugar from spiking, which means your body can keep up with insulin demands. Keeping blood sugar levels under control is especially important for people with diabetes to avoid the serious complications of the disease.

Prevent heart disease: Elevated insulin levels may be one of the promoting factors for heart disease. High-GI foods produce high spikes in blood sugar and insulin demand. This may raise your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can contribute to heart disease. On the other hand, consuming low-GI foods keeps blood sugar and insulin levels in check, thereby reducing your total blood cholesterol and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, while increasing your heart-friendly HDL, or "good," cholesterol.

Page 2 of 7 -- Learn how to add both low- and high-GI foods to your meals on page 3

Do I have to give up high-GI foods completely?
Of course not! While many people may benefit from eating carbohydrates with a low GI value at each meal, this doesn't mean consuming them to the exclusion of all other carbohydrates.

All foods fit into a healthy diet, in moderation. And some high-GI foods make a valuable contribution to your diet. Mashed potatoes and white bread, for example, contribute energy and important nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, iron and a number of B vitamins.

Furthermore, when you eat a combination of low- and high-GI foods at a meal, such as peanut butter on whole wheat toast, or rice and lentils, the final GI value of the meal is medium. Base your food choices on the overall nutritional content in order to reap the nutritional benefits of many different foods, and try to eat a variety of foods from all four food groups in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating every day.

Remember, the GI shouldn't be your only criterion for making healthy food choices. Healthy eating also means eating healthy portion sizes at regular times throughout the day, limiting sugars and sweets, eating foods that are high in fibre, and limiting salt, alcohol and caffeine. You also need to make sure you get enough healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet.

Does the GI increase with serving size?
No. The GI value of a carbohydrate-containing food remains the same even if you increase the amount you consume. On the other hand, if you eat more than one serving of the food, your blood sugar level will reach a higher peak and take longer to return to normal than it would if you ate a normal-size serving.

Page 3 of 7 -- Find out what influences the GI values of the foods you eat on page 4

What are some of the factors that influence GI values?
Type of starch. There are two types of starch in foods: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose has a lower GI rating because the molecules form tight clumps and are harder to digest. Amylopectin has a higher GI rating because the molecules are more open and are easier to digest. The more amylose starch a food contains, the lower the GI value of that food. For example, pasta, parboiled rice and many varieties of beans are higher in amylose starch and therefore have a low GI.

Cooking or processing starch: When a food is highly processed or cooked for a long time, the structure of the starch changes and the granules become swollen (gelatinized), softening the food and making it quicker to digest. The more quickly a food is digested, the higher the GI value. Less-gelatinized starch is digested more slowly, resulting in a lower GI. For example, al dente pasta has a lower GI than overcooked pasta.

Acids: Acids in foods slow down stomach emptying, thereby slowing the rate at which the food is broken down and lowering its GI value. Vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, salad dressings, grapefruit, oranges, pickled vegetables and sourdough bread are good examples of acidic foods. Adding acidic foods to high-GI foods will result in an overall lower GI value.

Dietary fibre: Soluble fibre, such as that found in large-flake rolled oats, beans and apples, slows down digestion and lowers a food's GI.

Protein and fat: These slow down the rate of stomach emptying and carbohydrate digestion, which lowers the GI of the food. Some high-fat foods have a low GI and may seem like a good choice, but if the fat is saturated or trans fat, it may increase your risk of heart disease. The best advice is to look for foods that have a low GI and are low in saturated and trans fats. For example, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting has a lower GI than angel food cake, but is much higher in fat, thanks to the buttery frosting.

Sugar: Sugar helps prevent the swelling (gelatinization) of starch granules. Less-gelatinized starch is digested more slowly, resulting in a lower GI. This helps explain why some cookies and frosted breakfast cereals have low GI values despite their high sugar content -- and not necessarily high nutritional values.

Page 4 of 7 -- Find out how you can add both high- and low-GI foods to your diet on page 5

Easy ways to add low-GI foods to your diet
&bull Choose breads that contain a high proportion of whole or cracked grains, stone-ground whole wheat flour, oats, bran and/or seeds.
&bull Choose unrefined cereals, such as large-flake rolled oats, oat bran, wheat bran, muesli and cereals made with psyllium.
&bull Choose brown, wild, basmati or converted (parboiled) rice.
&bull Try sweet potatoes for dinner instead of regular white potatoes.
&bull When baking, choose recipes that call for whole grain flours, oat bran, wheat bran, rolled oats or ground flaxseeds instead of, or in addition to, all-purpose flour.
&bull Snack on fruit, vegetables, yogurt or a handful of nuts (almonds, peanuts and walnuts are good choices because they also add healthy fats to your diet).
&bull Choose fruit- and dairy-based desserts, such as low-fat ice cream.
&bull Enjoy more pasta, legumes, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. (For scrumptious pasta recipes, log on to www.canadianliving.com to order your copy of Canadian Living Pasta by the Season.)
&bull Enjoy plenty of salad vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers and tomatoes.
&bull Try tofu, barley, bulgur or lentils.
&bull Try to include at least one low-GI food at each meal.

Learn more about the GI
For more information on choosing low-GI foods, adapting recipes and incorporating low-GI foods into your meal plan, contact a registered dietitian. Check out www.dietitians.ca to find one in your area. The following books and websites also offer more information on the GI.

Books about the GI
&bull The New Glucose Revolution (Marlowe & Company, 2002) by Jennie Brand-Miller, Thomas M.S. Wolever, Kaye Foster-Powell and Stephen Colagiuri
&bull The G.I. Diet: The Easy, Healthy Way to Permanent Weight Loss (Random House Canada, 2002) by Rick Gallop
&bull Living the G.I. Diet: Delicious Recipes and Real-Life Strategies to Lose Weight and Keep It Off (Random House Canada, 2003) by Rick Gallop

Page 5 of 7 -- Thinking of what to have for lunch? Check out the low-GI lunch recipes on page 6

Low-GI breakfast and lunch recipes:

Whole Wheat Blueberry Apple Puff Pancake
There's no flipping required for this one-dish pancake. The blueberries are high in antioxidants and fibre, and the apples add even more fibre as well as a bit of sweetness. If your apples are on tart side, you can add a little more sugar substitute.

Swiss Muesli
Large-flake rolled oats have a low GI and add soluble fibre to this breakfast. If you like muesli soft with crunchy accents, add the almonds just before digging in.

Crab Salad Melts
Whole grain pumpernickel bread has a lower GI than white bread and is a flavourful foil to the crab. Light-style Cheddar melts beautifully but isn't packed with fat.

Garden Egg Salad
Similar to salade Niçoise, this refreshing composed salad is chock-full of vegetables, chickpeas and hard-cooked eggs, and provides a good portion of your day's folate and vitamins A and C requirements.

More low-Gi inspiration:

Low-GI lunch meals
&bull Minestrone soup with yogurt and strawberries
&bull Whole wheat pita with hummus and a tossed salad
&bull Green salad with mixed beans and low-fat dressing and whole grain bread
&bull Grilled ham, cheese and tomato sandwich on sourdough bread with vegetable barley soup
&bull Leafy green salad with grilled chicken and a multigrain roll
&bull Salmon or tuna salad sandwich on stone-ground whole wheat bread with raw vegetables and dip
&bull Lentil soup with a pumpernickel roll and an orange

Low-GI breakfast meals
&bull Wheat or oat bran cereal with low-fat milk and berries
&bull Stone-ground whole wheat toast with low-fat cream cheese and sliced apple
&bull Yogurt and homemade granola made with large-flake rolled oats
&bull Whole grain pumpernickel bread with a slice of reduced-fat cheese and an orange
&bull Fruit smoothie made with low-fat milk, yogurt and berries
&bull Boiled egg with one slice multigrain toast and 1/2 cup (125 mL) cherries
&bull Homemade low-fat bran muffin and 1/2 cup (125 mL) strawberries

Page 6 of 7 -- Not sure what to make for dinner? Check out the delicious low-GI dinner recipes on page 7

Roasted Vegetable Rotini and Cheese
This al dente pasta has a lower GI than pasta that is overcooked. Pasta is al dente when it is tender but firm when you bite into it. This child-pleasing dish is filling with or without the ham.

Roasted Red Pepper and Zucchini Soup
High-fibre, low-GI beans add body to this filling main-course soup, and whole wheat croutons have a little more fibre than store-bought white croutons.

Baked Tofu with Braised Baby Bok Choy
The low-GI combination of greens and tofu makes a terrific vegetarian meal, especially when served with basmati rice. The tofu can be a healthy portion of your day's protein, and if it's made with calcium sulphate, it can help you meet part of your daily calcium needs.

Chicken Burgers with Tomato Relish
You can grill these full-flavoured burgers on the barbecue or indoors in a grill pan, on an indoor grill, or in a nonstick skillet lightly brushed with oil.

Beef and Cabbage Borscht
Many traditional borschts contain beets, which are medium GI, so using beef instead lowers the GI and adds texture, some iron and protein, which may keep you feeling full longer.

Pork Cutlets with Mushrooms
Using whole wheat bread crumbs in these juicy pork cutlets is an easy way to incorporate more whole grains into your diet. Serve with steamed new potatoes.

Grilled Trattoria Chicken
Most of us need to eat more greens, and adding peppery arugula to salads or serving it with this grilled chicken is a good way to start. Try spinach, Swiss chard or blanched rapini instead of the arugula if you prefer.

Turkey Burritos
The small amount of cheese on top of this nicely spiced turkey burrito adds a lot of flavour for not a lot of extra calories. An iron-rich spinach salad makes a particularly complementary side dish.

Chicken with Fennel Tomato Sauce
The tomatoes add a healthy dose of the antioxidant lycopene along with excellent flavour to this sauce. Bonus: the fennel-scented sauce only needs to simmer for 15 minutes.

Salmon with Lentil Pilaf
Lentils, like beans, add fibre to your diet and are the ultimate convenience legume since they don't require any soaking.


A Simple Approach Produces the Best Ribs

I always look forward to dinner at the Simmons'. Marie and John do quite the job of meshing people with enormously diverse interests around a candlelit table that often stays lively until well past midnight.

Marie is a columnist for Bon Appetit magazine and the author of several cookbooks, so wowing guests with imposing culinary creations may seem expected. Surprise. Her cooking is so good because it is simple, direct and soulful.

I won't forget the first dessert I had at their home in Brooklyn years ago, trifle-like layers of moist pound cake and billowy clouds of creme anglaise. Each diner ladled a sea of raspberries, blueberries and cherries over all, so that the sweet-tart syrupy berry juices seeped through cake and cream. It was impossible to stop at a decent helping.

Not long ago, the Simmonses moved to the Bay Area, so I've once again lucked into their invitations. At a recent feast, they had also invited a dynamo neighbor who had the rest of us howling over the details of her newly established business, a bed and breakfast for dogs.

We all fell silent, though, at the first mouthful of buttery, fall-apart- tender short ribs bathed in tomato sauce and accompanied by polenta. Deep and dark, the sauce had a winey edge and an aroma of fennel. Pure comfort in flavors and textures, protection against the chill outdoors.

Today's easy Weekend Recipe is the dish we had that night. The Weeknight Recipes and ideas are further examples of Marie's wow power in the kitchen.

MORE IDEAS FOR LEFTOVERS

Buttery short ribs and aromatic sauce form the basis of many fine weekday dishes. The following ideas come from Marie Simmons: -- Short Rib Noodles. Use large rigatoni or lasagne noodles cut in half. Cook the noodles until al dente, then toss with shredded short rib meat and sauce. Serve in warmed bowls top with grated cheese of choice. -- Layered Polenta. If you served polenta with the Master Recipe, layer the leftover cornmeal in a casserole with short rib sauce. Top with grated cheese of choice, and bake until hot and cheese has melted. -- Ribs and Mashed Potatoes. Roughly mash boiled Yukon Gold potatoes season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve topped with leftover shredded short rib meat and sauce. -- My Hero. Use a baguette cut into 6-inch lengths, or mini baguettes. Slit the bread into 2 hinged halves pull out some of the soft insides. Liberally spread the baguette with short rib sauce. Layer with shredded short rib meat, shredded provolone cheese and chopped kalamata olives. Wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degrees oven until the sandwich is hot and the cheese has melted, 15 to 20 minutes. -- A Feast of Peppers and Onions. Halve some Italian green peppers and quarter a red bell pepper. Brown the peppers and thinly sliced onions in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add sauce and shredded short rib meat and simmer until the peppers are soft.

WEEKNIGHT RECIPE: EGGS POACHED IN FENNEL-SCENTED SAUCE

This is a delicious, easy dish for brunch or supper.

INGREDIENTS:

-- 2 cups short rib sauce (from Master Recipe)

-- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

-- Finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme to taste

-- 8 slices toasted French or Italian bread

INSTRUCTIONS: Place the sauce in a large, heavy skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Carefully slip the raw eggs one by one into the sauce. Cover the skillet tightly and gently simmer until the eggs are soft-cooked, 6 to 8 minutes.

Using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the eggs to heated shallow bowls. Spoon the sauce around the eggs. Sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Serve with the toast.

PER SERVING: 375 calories, 21 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat (4 g saturated), 422 mg cholesterol, 713 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

WEEKEND RECIPE: ENGLISH SHORT RIBS A LA SIMMONS

Polenta is especially good with the tender meat and fragrant sauce.

INGREDIENTS:

-- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt

-- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

-- 6 pounds meaty short ribs, preferably English-cut, cut into 3-inch lengths

-- 3 tablespoons olive oil + additional oil as needed

-- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped

-- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar with a pestle or bruised with a large knife

-- 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in juice, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS: Combine the salt and pepper generously rub it over the ribs.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil. When it is hot, add the short ribs in batches and brown well on all sides, about 20 minutes per batch. Transfer the ribs to a bowl as they finish browning.

When all the ribs have been browned, drain off the fat in the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the wine, the ribs and any accumulated juices to the skillet, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, turning the ribs once or twice. This should take 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, fennel and bay leaves. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Do not brown them.

Add the short ribs and reduced wine to the vegetables. Stir in the tomatoes and all their juice. Bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven. Bake until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours.

Carefully transfer the meat to a bowl. Discard any loose bones. Transfer the sauce to another bowl. Let meat and sauce cool to room temperature. Cover the meat with damp paper towels and a lid. Cover the sauce and refrigerate until the fat congeals on top, at least 2 hours. (If the sauce is refrigerated overnight, refrigerate the meat, too. Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before reheating.

Lift off and discard the congealed fat with a large, flat spoon. Puree the sauce in a food processor, then strain it through a sieve, pressing on the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Scrape the back of the strainer to add as much puree as possible to the sauce. Alternately, puree the sauce in a food mill and discard the solids. There should be about 7 1/2 cups sauce.

Combine 8 pieces of meat and about 3 cups of the sauce in a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and gently reheat over a burner (or place in a 300 degrees oven for 30 to 45 minutes). Cover the remaining meat and sauce and refrigerate for use throughout the week.

Serves 4, with leftover meat and sauce.

PER SERVING: 590 calories, 55 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 35 g fat (14 g saturated), 158 mg cholesterol, 443 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

WEEKNIGHT RECIPE: ZUCCHINI BRAISED WITH FENNEL-SCENTED MEAT & SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

-- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

-- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced

-- 4 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds) halved, cut into 1-inch chunks

-- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

-- 1 cup shredded short rib meat (from Master Recipe)

-- 2 cups short rib sauce (from Master Recipe)

-- Freshly ground pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS: Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilted but not colored, 3 minutes.

Add the zucchini and salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until the zucchini looses its rawness, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the meat and saute for another minute. Add the sauce, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is cooked through but still slightly crisp, about 15 minutes. Season with more salt, if desired, and a generous amount of pepper.

PER SERVING: 275 calories, 21 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat (5 g saturated), 53 mg cholesterol, 346 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.


It’s time for butternut squash ravioli

We made them in class tonight and all of us cooks in the kitchen flew around the dining room on an autumn breeze (even tho in Nashville it’s been averaging a sunny 80 degrees in the afternoons).

No matter. We whipped up this elixir of creamy filling in delicate pasta and bathed it in parsley-mint-walnut pesto. We couldn’t believe our tongues. Palates lighting up with sparks of tasty joy.

Join our journey. Recipe at end.

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

Fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli w Parsley-Walnut Pesto

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano)

1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

2 cups fresh parsley leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled, rough chopped

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Rinse the squash and dry. Cut into quarters and spoon out the seeds. Place cut-side down on foil-lined sheet pan or casserole pan. Add about 1/2 -inch of water. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until flesh is tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the squash into a medium mixing bowl. Mash the squash with a fork and add the cheeses, nutmeg. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-tablespoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Add the herbs, garlic, and walnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to your pasta serving bowl.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add a few spoonfuls of pasta water to loosen and turn it from a paste to a sauce. Combine with ravioli. Sprinkle grated cheese on top.