Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Puttanesca Meatball Sliders

My spouse is a big fan of puttanesca sauce because he loves olives and capers. So when I spotted this recipe in the March issue of Sunset magazine I knew I had to make it for him. Anyway, few people can resist a slider.

I actually saw Mario Batali prepare something very similar on the Iron Chef on the Food Network. At the time I thought it was an ingenious idea and filed it away in my tiny brain for later. But, until this issue of Sunset came out, I had forgotten all about it. (Note, I did mention the tiny brain.)

Of course, I didn't follow the recipe word for word. Not just because I am a contrarian but because I didn't have all the ingredients I needed. Let me just say that the recipe didn't suffer terribly from my tinkering. Somethings you have to work very hard to wreck.

So much of this recipe can be done in advance and that is why they would make an excellent finger food for any party. Just reheat the meatballs in the sauce and serve them up on soft rolls. And if you ever had a hard time getting your children to eat and enjoy a meal.........try this!!!



1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. each red chile flakes and fennel seeds, crushed (use a mortal and pestle on the seeds)

1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed

1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

1 Tbsp. roughly chopped capers

1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 tsp . each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 lb each humane/organic ground beef and ground pork

1/4 cup vegetable oil


16 fresh basil leaves about the size of dinner rolls

16 small (2 inch wide) soft dinner rolls, split and toasted

1/2 cup shaved pecorino

Make sauce. In a pan over medium heat, saute onion in oil until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, chile flakes, and fennel; cook until garlic softens, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make meatballs: In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, and panko and let sit for a few minutes. When crumbs are softened, stir in grated pecorino, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add meats, breaking up with your fingers, and mix well with your hands. With wet hands, roll meat mixture in to 16 balls, each about 1 1/2 in. wide. (I made my meatballs larger so it only made 10 because I wasn't serving them for a party.)

Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes total; reduce heat if needed. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to paper towels.

Gently stir meatballs into sauce, return to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is very thick, 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, put a basil leaf in each roll. Set a meatball and a generous spoonful of sauce on each basil leaf, then add a little pecorino. Close sandwiches with toothpicks if you like. Serve with napkins.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs are Worth Waiting For - Slow Cooker Alert

It looks like Redmond is going to be getting a stretch of cool weather this week. Not quite what we've been experiencing so far this year with these wonderful warm days. This recipe is a terrific cold weather dinner and your family will love you.

Despite all of my best intentions of reducing my beef intake I do still enjoy eating it every once in a while. And, as far as I'm concerned, if you're going to fall off the wagon you might as well fall hard. Many people would argue that the best way to do that is a juicy, grass-fed steak but my favorite cut is the more humble short rib.

The short rib is beautifully marbled and when slow cooked is fall off the bone tender. In the 60's and 70's the short ribs were a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, and though increased popularity has driven up prices over the years, they still fall well below the cost of filet mignon. Short ribs are also starting to appear more frequently on restaurant menus.

There are so many great recipes for short ribs it is difficult to choose. Our family recipe had a tomato based sauce with lots of sliced onions, slow cooked and served over mashed russets. Perhaps my all time favorite for sentimental reasons.

But you have to try new things and there was plenty to choose from. I decided on a recipe from John Besh strictly because I've seen the guy on the Food Network, he's from New Orleans, and he seems to understand how to give dishes a lot of depth. The recipe is super-involved and I shortened the whole process considerably. This is my adaption of Chef Besh's recipe.


2 to 3 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in, about 8

Sea salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups zinfandel

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 T minced garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem

1 1/2 oz. canola oil

1 cup small diced onion

1/4 cup each small diced celery and small diced carrot

6 ounces canned chopped tomatoes

1 cup good deep beef broth

1 oz mushrooms, preferably porcini

1 bay leaf

Generously season short ribs with salt and pepper. Whisk zinfandel, sugar, garlic, fresh thyme, and a pinch of salt. Place ribs in mixture and marinate for 12 hours. (I marinated for about 2 hours and they were fine.)

Remove ribs from marinade and allow them to rest and come to room temperature. Put canola oil in dutch oven over high heat. Brown ribs in batches until crispy brown on exterior. When done set aside and add diced vegetables into the pan. Stirring constantly cook until onion turns mahogany color, about 10 minutes, scrape up all the good brown bits from the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and add ribs back to pan along with the wine marinade. Let wine come to a boil, skim foam off if necessary, and then reduce heat to low. Add remaining ingredients and allow to simmer uncovered until meat is fork tender and falling off the bone, roughly 5 hours. (I did not have the time for that so I cooked it covered for about 2 1/2 hours.)

Remove ribs from pan, cover and set aside. Continue cooking sauce for another 30 minutes until reduced and coating a spoon. You can strain the sauce but I left it with the cooked down veggies still in it. I also thickened my sauce with a tablespoon of cornstarch. Return ribs to pan and coat with braising liquid. Serve over your favorite starch. Chef Besh prefers polenta but I like a traditional garlic mashed potatoes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Molten Chocolate Mousse Cups taste like Chocolate Air

I am a true Northwesterner. I love everything about it including the rain, the dripping forests and even the slugs. That is why I can't live without my Sunset magazine.

The quintessential Northwest magazine it has been in continuous publication since its first issue in May of 1898. There are only a handful of magazines that can boast of that kind of success. I believe the reason is that its editorial focus is on an area of the country that is absolutely riveting in its beauty and diversity.

They also have some really good recipes to go along with their pictures of ferns and waterfalls. Their February issue featured one of the most spectacular recipe sections they've ever published in my humble opinion. It was called a Bite Size Chocolate Party and it included a fabulous array of tiny chocolate desserts.

Consider Two-Bite Chocolate Cream Pies or Brownie Ice Cream Mini Sandwiches. And the Sugared Chocolate Beignets are definitely on my bucket list. The one that I did try and am recommending to you is the Molten Chocolate Mousse Cups!!!!

First let me say that they are remarkably easy to make and store in your freezer. Second, unless you're having a party or have an enormous family I recommend cutting this recipe in half. Third, pay attention to the cup size. They say 4 ounces and you should try to stick to that. I had these tiny cappuccino cups that were just too small and they didn't bake up well.


14 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup unsalted butter

6 large eggs, seperated

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

Melt chocolate until almost completed melted and then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside.

With a mixer on medium speed, whisk egg whites and salt in a bowl until foamy. With mixer still on, slowly rain in sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.

Stir yolks into chocolate mixture until completely blended. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in whites. (This takes quite a while to get everything nicely incorporated). Spoon mixture into 12 - 4 oz. ovenproof coffee cups. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve, at least 2 hours and up to 1 week. (I've kept mine longer and they still seem fine). Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set cakes on a baking pan and bake until puffed, cracked on the edges, and wet looking in the center, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. (Mine get slightly more puffed and slightly less wet looking in the center but they are still heavenly).