Chimichurri

Have you ever had chimichurri? You may have had it and not known what it is… but it’s essentially an Argentinian pesto, that is typically parsley-based. As with an Italian pesto, you’ll often see slight variations – some are thicker in consistency, some are thinner, some are more finely minced, others are chunkier – but they’re all bright and herbacious and delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to any kind of protein you prefer.

Chimichurri

This summer, I’ve made chimichurri a handful of times, and it’s been great because it is a one-sauce solution to multiple different main courses. You guys know I’m not much of a steak person, but my husband IS – so, I can make up a batch of chimichurri, and we can grill his steak, and my shrimp (or chicken, or pork, or fish), and top both with the same sauce. It’s also great spooned over some roasted potatoes, and any traces left on your plate are best sopped up with a big chunk of bread.

Chimichurri
makes about 1.5 cups

about one cup of fresh parsley, lightly packed
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic
1 generous tablespoon red wine vinegar
1-2 T honey or agave
large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper
olive oil

Chimichurri

If you want to make the chimichurri in your food processor, throw everything but the olive oil into the work bowl, and pulse until everything is chopped well. Stream the olive oil in while the machine runs, adding as much as you like to create your preferred consistency (I used about 1/3 cup, give or take).

If you don’t have (or don’t want to dirty) a food processor, you can absolutely make chimichurri by hand. Finely mince your parsley, and grate your garlic on a microplane grater; then add everything to a bowl and mix.

Taste the sauce for seasoning and acidity; if you had some really sour lemons, you might want to add a touch more honey or agave. On the other hand, if your lemons were on the sweeter side, or the agave you have on hand is extra sweet, you can add a splash more red wine vinegar. Resist the urge to add more garlic right off the bat, as it intensifies as it sits.

Chimichurri

You can make the chimichurri ahead of time – just throw it in a jar or other airtight container, and keep it in the fridge. The olive oil might solidify once it gets cold, so just remember to take it out of the fridge an hour or so before serving, so it has time to soften up. The sauce will keep, flavor-wise, for 3 or 4 days, but parsley does brown over time, so it looks less pretty. It’s great for parties or barbecues – as a main course OR an appetizer. Season your protein of choice with salt and pepper, grill or saute it (on or off a skewer), and serve with a bowl of chimichurri for dipping and spooning. Congratulations, you have officially won the potluck competition that only exists in your head!

Chimichurri

Chimichurri has been known to save even the most brutally overcooked of steaks,
Tina

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Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

This meal is probably one of the quickest I’ve ever come up with. Including prep time, it takes about 20 minutes – from pulling things out of the fridge, to sitting down to eat. It has tons of flavor, is infinitely adaptable, and doesn’t require any odd ingredients – perfect for a rushed weeknight!

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef
serves 2

about 3/4 lb beef of choice, sliced thinly*
one batch of marinade (recipe below)
one medium yellow onion, large dice
one bell pepper (any color), large dice
5-6 green onions, cut into 2″ pieces
1 1/2 cups brown rice (I use the 90-second microwave pouches)
1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
kosher salt and pepper

For the marinade:
1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup soy sauce
2″ knob of ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
juice and zest of one orange
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar

*I actually used a 12-ounce ribeye steak for this recipe, and sliced it into thin strips. You can use whatever you prefer – pre-sliced stir-fry beef from the meat counter, a flank steak sliced against the grain, etc. A big steak was the perfect size for making a two-person meal!

1.) Start by mixing the marinade ingredients in a large ziploc bag. Add the thinly sliced beef; at this point, you can leave the beef to marinate for several hours (up to 4), or just let it sit in the marinade for a bit, while you prep the other ingredients.

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

2.) Chop your onion and pepper into a large dice – pieces that are about 1″ square. Cut your green onions into 2″ pieces, and set all the vegetables aside.

3.) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add just a couple teaspoons of canola oil to it. Once it’s nice and hot, add the beef to it, making sure to let all the excess marinade drip off first (but don’t discard the marinade!). (Side note: you might find that the liquid from the marinade is a little much, and the beef is doing more boiling than searing. If that’s the case, just turn the heat off the pan for a second, pour the marinade off into a separate bowl, and then return the pan to the heat.) Cook the beef for just a couple minutes, until the strips have some nice caramelization, and then remove them to a plate and set aside.

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

4.) Add about a tablespoon of the reserved marinade to your hot pan, and then add the onion and bell pepper. Add the rest of the marinade to a small sauce pan, and bring it to a boil. Allow the marinade to boil for a good 5 minutes or so; meanwhile, cook the vegetables in the skillet, tossing them occasionally, until they’re softened and have nice, brown edges.

5.) When the vegetables have some good color on them, add the beef and green onions into the pan, and pour the boiled down marinade over everything. Allow everything to cook for a few more minutes over medium-high heat, so the rest of the marinade cooks down and glazes everything nicely.

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

6.) While the stir-fry finishes up, microwave your brown rice, and chop your peanuts. Once everything is ready, divide the rice between two bowls; pile on some stir-fry, and top with chopped peanuts!

Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Beef

This stir-fry was definitely a winner. It’s SO quick and easy, and has tons of flavor. It’s pretty darn healthy, too – you’ve got some whole grains, a big pile of vegetables, and lean protein. And did you know that peanuts contain more antioxidants than green tea? I mean, I heard it on a Food Network commercial, so it must be true, right? Right. So, you can feel nice and healthful and smug as you sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top of your dish – it’s for your HEALTH, man!

red wine braised short ribs.

Happy new year, and happy Monday! I am trying my hardest to get back into a regular posting schedule – although I took most of 2013 to be pregnant and a new mama, I haven’t quit cooking. Some of the pictures I have in my line up go back to July, so I have a ton to share if I can just get it down on “paper!”

Is Monday too early to start thinking about what you’re cooking for the weekend? I don’t think it is. I like to collect ideas through the week for a special weekend supper, and this recipe is definitely not your typical weeknight meal. Not that it’s not simple to make, but it’s rare that I make short ribs on a Wednesday night. Who has the time? These short ribs have been on my To Make list for ages, but it wasn’t til I impulse-purchased short ribs at Publix one Friday that I finally got the nerve to try them out. (Seriously, the butcher was cutting them for another lady and I just had to buy some too. Who does that?) They are worth the effort and time.

red wine braised short ribs

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs.
via Bon Appetit

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2′ pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
4 cups low-salt beef stock

Preheat oven to 350. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Add oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Brown short ribs on all sides (it will probably take a couple batches) and remove to a plate to rest. Drain off drippings, leaving 3 tablespoons.

Add vegetables to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Bake short ribs 2-2.5 hours, or until fork tender. Transfer the ribs to a platter, and strain sauce from the pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface, and season with salt and pepper. Serve sauce alongside short ribs – preferably over a big pile of mashed potatoes.

Y’all, to “properly” serve the short ribs, you are supposed to leave the vegetables out of this dish. I just couldn’t throw those carrots and onions out, and so they made it into our sauce, as you see above. Do what suits you, not what is conventional!

This recipe may take some time, but it is not at all complicated – I dare say it’s fool proof.

Who doesn’t love short ribs?
jcristg

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

I have a deep and unwavering love for pasta – and making pastas with fun and different combinations of ingredients, like cauliflower and bacon, or italian sausage and whole grain mustard. But, sometimes you just want a classic pasta dish – some good old red sauce filled with ground beef, and lots of mozzarella! For those days, this is a quick and easy, basic lasagna; I’d say it only required about 20 minutes of active prep time, it baked up fairly quickly (about 30 minutes), and it was incredibly tasty.

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce
serves about 6, generously

For the sauce:
1 T olive oil
one medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1lb ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)
2 T tomato paste
28oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
14oz can diced tomatoes
2 t dried oregano
2 T sugar
salt and pepper

For the lasagna:
one batch of meat sauce
1/2lb no-boil lasagna noodles
15oz whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
12oz sliced mozzarella

1.) Start by making your meat sauce. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, and then add the onion. Cook until nearly translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

2.) Push the garlic and onion off to the sides of the pot, and add your ground beef. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned and cooked through; drain any excess fat and liquid from the pot.

3.) Add the tomato paste to the beef mixture, and stir until it’s evenly distributed. Open your can of whole, peeled tomatoes, and use a pair of kitchen scissors to chop them up a bit – no need to be exact about it, I just kind of stick the scissors into the can and chop away. Pour the chopped whole tomatoes, and the diced tomatoes (with their juices) into the pot, and stir.

4.) Add the oregano and sugar to the sauce, along with another healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine well; let the sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until it’s slightly reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally.

5.) Preheat your oven to 375°. While the sauce reduces, make your ricotta filling. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, and about 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until the consistency is smooth.

6.) When the sauce is ready, it’s time to assemble your lasagna! I used a 9×9 baking dish, but any equivalent size will do. Begin with a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Top the sauce with a layer of lasagna noodles (breaking some up to fill the dish from side to side, if necessary), then a layer of the ricotta mixture, then a layer of sliced mozzarella. Repeat the layering 2 more times, ending with the mozzarella.

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce

7.) Lightly spray the top of the lasagna with some olive oil, and place it on to a larger, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Once you remove the lasagna from the oven, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving, so the layers have a chance to set, and you don’t end up with a runny mess.

This lasagna was delicious! And, because the active prep time is minimal – it was great for a weeknight. I threw the sauce together, got some stuff done around the house while it simmered, then assembled the lasagna, and caught up on some laundry while it baked! I served it with a garlicky kale salad and some fantastic, crusty dinner rolls (recipe coming soon), and it was perfect. Of course, the lasagna made for several days of great work lunches, as well, much to my husband’s delight.

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce

You could also make this lasagna ahead if you wanted to. Assemble the day before you want to cook it, wrap it and stick it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, allow the lasagna to sit at room temp while the oven heats, and then bake it as usual. Alternatively, you could bake the lasagna, allow it to cool completely, then wrap it tightly and freeze it. When you’re ready to serve it, it can go straight from the freezer to the oven; it will require an extra 15 minutes or so of baking time.

Why don’t I make lasagna more often?
Tina