Friday, December 02, 2016

Homemade for the Holidays: Part 1—Pistachio Bark

Pistachio Bark—Easy Homemade Gift
Remember when we were little and many families used to make homemade Christmas and holiday gifts to exchange? Rum cake, the dreaded fruit cake, truffles, fudge, homemade jellies, potpourri? Ever want to thumb your nose at big box stores and, well, go all-old school on 'em and make your own holiday gifts? Well, you can. And some of the make-your-own holiday dessert gifts I'll be telling you about are so simple, any kid with a bit of supervision can make (others will take a few more steps and be trickier). I'll be featuring homemade gifts over the next few weeks—ones that have worked for us in the past.

First, I'll start with the easiest, tastiest, most-satisfying gift that anyone can make. I guarantee this gift will be well-received. Even if you don't prefer sweets, this gift is gorgeous and it's a sure-thing for bringing to the office and sharing or for hostess gifts for those numerous holiday parties that spring up. Looks like you spent a fortune or a long time crafting. Shhh. Your secret is safe with us.

Super-easy Pistachio Bark
  • 1/2 pound artisinal dark chocolate (Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy both sell wonderful bulk Belgian chocolate bars for about $4 a pound)
  • 1/2 pound artisinal milk chocolate
  • 1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips (if you can find artisinal white chocolate, get that instead--I have a hard time finding good bulk white chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled salted roasted pistachio nuts (again, Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy have great ready-to-eat pistachios)

  1. Melt the dark and milk chocolate together on the top of a double-boiler. If you don't have one, fake it with a stainless steel or other heat-proof bowl atop a pot of boiling water (the bowl must be larger than the pot rim in order to work--you don't want a wobbly bowl).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Do not use wax paper as the wax will melt and you'll be eating it. Get parchment paper in the baking section of any supermarket.
  3. Add 3/4 cup (half) of the pistachios to the melted chocolate and stir them in lightly.
  4. Pour the chocolate-nut mixture on the parchment paper, spreading it out until it's no more than 1/4" thick (it will be irregularly shaped—no worries).
  5. Put in the freezer or the refrigerator to firm slightly.
  6. Melt the white chocolate on the top of the double-boiler or using the pot of boiling water and bowl trick, noted above.
  7. Remove the baking sheet and drizzle the white chocolate lightly across the surface of the dark chocolate. Do not mix it in.
  8. Here is another trick: to make the white layer look beautiful, get a chopstick and lightly slide it across and back and forth over the surface of the white chocolate to make delicate swirl patterns. Try to cover as much of the dark chocolate to the edge as possible--but DO NOT work the white chocolate in. Use a light touch.
  9. Sprinkle on the last 3/4 cup (the remainder) of the pistachios and refrigerate or freeze until firm. 
  10. Break the pistachio bark into irregular pieces. Wrap in cellophane food gift bags and package decoratively, as preferred.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Homemade for the Holidays Series

Part 1: Pistachio Bark

Part 2: Curry Powder (Garam Masala)

Part 3: Chocolate Truffles 

Part 4: Peppermint Bark

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Don't You Dare Buy Ready-made Stuffing for Thanksgiving!


Homemade Dressing
for the Holidays

If You Can Sing "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme," You Can Make Stuffing (dressing) from Scratch. Stuffing. Ahhhh. Maybe my favorite part of my favorite holiday. Growing up with four siblings, stuffing disappeared the fastest and was the most worth fighting over when it came to leftovers (if there were any). Who doesn't love stuffing? When I lived in Japan, where no one had a big enough oven to roast a turkey, even if they knew what one was or could afford to procure one—what I missed the most about American food was, not surprisingly, turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Simple, yes, if you live in the states. Exotic and impossible if you life overseas. Now that I am back home, I serve my family a turkey-stuffing-cranberry meal about once a month—I cannot get enough of it.


Growing up in a large household, my parents wisely took some shortcuts when it came to cooking. And stuffing was one of them. I never had honest-to-goodness homemade stuffing until I was all grown up and discovered how to make it myself. What a thrill to realize how easy it is. And the rewards are GREAT—when you serve it, be sure to mention you made it from scratch. You will hear oohs and ahhs. No store-bought stuffing mix can compare in any dimension. You too can do this—have confidence. Stuffing is so simple to prepare, you will wonder why you never thought of doing it yourself before now.

One last note: I dined at a friend's house for a holiday party recently. He was so excited to have made stuffing from scratch, but it was the most gosh-awful stuff you ever tasted. He had just tossed in the celery and tossed in the other ingredients--with NO sautéing, no herbs, no butter, and no chicken stock. The stuff he called stuffing was dreadful, pasty bread bits with hard chunks of celery. Don't let this happen to you.

Basically, stuffing is comprised of two steps: “Creating the Croutons” and “Sautéing the Savories.” And you hardly need a recipe. Once you know how to do it, you can whip stuffing up easily with no props. Are you ready? YOU CAN DO THIS!

Creating the Croutons
The croutons you just made
Take a loaf of bread that you find delicious—ones loaded with nuts and whole grains are wonderful for stuffing. Sourdough works great too. Anything but white bread (too fluffy—needs to be a bit sturdier). I'm a fanatic—I make loaves of "stuffing" bread to use (chock full of fresh herbs). But pick a bread you already like. Day-old bread is fine too. You will need about eight cups worth of croutons. If the loaf of bread is large, you may not need the whole loaf.

Cut sliced bread into strips and then again crosswise into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes. Place the croutons on a baking sheet without overlapping, if possible. Toast lightly in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Scoop all the croutons into a large bowl.

Sautéing the Savories

Celery, onions, butter, and chicken stock
The savories, sauteed and ready to roll
Chop up one large onion (sweet ones like Walla-walla or Vidalia are especially yummy for this) and about 6~8 stalks of celery (slice each stalk lengthwise first and then crosswise to make smaller pieces). Sauté the onions and celery in 6~8 tablespoons butter (use butter unabashedly, but start with the lesser amount and see if it needs more later, depending on the quantity of croutons you have), along with the following herbs (fresh if you can get them, and chopped coarsely): Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. Does that sound familiar? It's part of the refrain from a Simon and Garfunkle song, Scarborough Fair. Yup. It's the herbal code for stuffing (and poultry seasoning). If you have a choice of parsley, use Italian flat leaf instead of the curly kind—but fresh is always preferable to dried. How much of each herb to use? Fresh, maybe 3 tablespoons each. Dried, maybe 1 tablespoon each. It's important to sauté the herbs so that the fragrance and flavor get infused. Add in about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries if you have them (makes it irresistible—sautéing plumps them). Once the onions are slightly translucent and no longer crunchy, remove from the stove.


Stir this sautéed herb mixture into the croutons. Add about 1 cup of chicken broth—slowly—so that you can gauge when to stop adding. (Keep jars of all-natural chicken stock concentrate in the fridge for uses such as these. I recommend “Better Than Bouillon” brand, by Superior Touch. You can get it at Trader Joe’s or other high-end grocers. Cubed bouillon is too salty and has too much artificial stuff, along with MSG. Chicken stock that comes in cans and cartons is good but too pricey.) This is the trickiest part—if you add too much broth, the stuffing becomes mushy. Too little and it's chokingly dry. Just right is slightly moist, with mouth “give.” Just right is not too crumbly and holds up on the plate. Add salt to taste (I especially recommend Vege-sal vegetable salt). And more melted butter, if needed. Toss lightly and serve as is or use about half to stuff bird. Keeps well for several days.


Notes:
— You can add variations for fun: toasted chopped nuts (pine nuts are fabulous, macadamias are decadent, chestnuts if you can get them, almonds if they are slivered thinly), chopped dried fruit such as apricots (go easy on the fruit and cut it small), other herbs such as marjoram or tarragon, etc.
— Some folks love cornbread stuffing. To make it, add chopped pork sausage to the sauté and use crumbled homemade cornbread (not that sweet kind like they serve at Boston Market—eyuck!) instead of wheat bread.
—To bake or not to bake? This dressing recipe is complete right here--but if you like baked dressing, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes or so until browned on top.
— Be sure NOT to use Pyrex when toasting your croutons in the oven (a baking sheet is perfect). Like a doofus, I used a Pyrex pan as an overflow and voila! It exploded. I'm not the first person to have this experience, lest you laugh at me. I did a quick search and found an entire page on ConsumerAffairs.com dedicated to people who've had exploding Pyrex experiences. Just use a standard baking pan and you will be fine.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Pumpkin Cupcakes (or cakes) with Cream Cheese Frosting—Perfect for Fall or Halloween!

Looking for something easy and wholesome (don't tell the kids I said that) to feed the little ghouls this time of year? Sick of the sickeningly sweet treats folks eat under the guise of Halloween goodies? Yeah, me too. Here's an easy and quick, semi-healthy recipe you can whip together, make your whole house smell like Autumnal celebrations, and have youngsters following you around, grinning ever after. Simple pumpkin cupcakes (or cakes). Simple cream cheese frosting. No fuss. Great rewards.

Make them fancy, if you wish, with Halloween cupcake liners and black licorice candies to decorate the tops.

Recipe makes two dozen cupcakes OR two loaf cakes.



The Wet
2 cups or one can of pumpkin (I've used fresh pumpkin before and believe it or not, you cannot tell the difference—not to mention that canned takes way, way less time)
1 cup (two sticks) unsweetened butter
3 eggs


The Dry
3 cups raw sugar (can substitute white sugar)
3 1/2 cups unbleached wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Whisk together the wet ingredients in a bowl until well-mixed. In a larger bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until uniform looking. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir only until moistened. Do not over-mix.

Fill cupcake papers 3/4 full (most recipes call for 2/3 full, but this one looks better fuller), and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes (or put in two buttered and floured loaf pans and back for 50 to 55 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean. Let cool or chill before frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup butter (two sticks), softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese (whipped cream cheese works well too)
4 cups confectioners sugar (1 1 lb. box)

With a large fork, mash the butter, vanilla, and cream cheese until blended. With a mixer, beat in the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time. When well-mixed, turn the blender up and beat until smooth and fluffy (it will only take a couple of minutes). Chill and then frost.

A note about cream cheese frosting: in warm weather, you will want to keep this chilled--otherwise, it can sag. Keep refrigerated and you will have some of the simplest, most delicious frosting ever.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Crab-Stuffed Sole: So Simple Yet Gourmet All the Way

Want a dish to impress, but have little skill in crafting intense, complex gourmet meals? This is one sure to win you kudos--and fake out anyone enjoying it that you have a master-chef's talent--all without fuss.

The dish is basically thin white fish, in this case sole (but you can use tilapia, flounder, or fluke too), wrapped around a homemade crab cake mixture. Crab cakes are simple to put together. Probably the reason why mere mortals (non-chefs) do not make them often is because of the deep-frying part. But do remember, crab cakes are lovely and delightful simply baked on their own.

Crafting the Crab Cakes
12 ounces fresh lump crab meat, picked over for cartilage, or two cans of crab meat, drained
1 egg
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup minced shallot or chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, or prepared bread crumbs such as Progresso, as needed (if using prepared bread crumbs, omit salt and pepper)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the crab meat, egg, bell pepper, shallots, mayonnaise, and mustard. Add sufficient bread crumbs to bind the mixture just enough to form into cakes; start with a little and use more if you need it. Set aside.


Surrounding the Sole
1 pound of Dover sole or other thin white fish (tilapia, flounder, fluke), thawed, if previously frozen

Take each piece of fish and put enough crab cake mixture in it to give it body. Wrap the fish around the crab cake and place the bundle open-end down in a lightly oiled casserole dish. In this way, continue wrapping and placing each fish until you create all the fish bundles. If there is any crab cake mixture left, tuck it inside the fish--it's too good not to use it up.

Sprinkle with paprika, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, olive oil, etc., as you prefer. Last night when I made this dish, I used Old Bay. It has salt and celery seed and other mild spices in it and this gives a bit of color and a bit of salt.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the crab cakes within the sole are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Suggested accompaniment: risotto and salad

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Grilled Curried Lamb Shish Kebobs—Savory, Summery, Ecstasy


Nothing says Spring savory fun like kebobs (kabobs). And the secret of fabulous kebobs is marinating in advance. When the meat and veggies soak in a piquant marinade, they evolve into something different altogether, something irresistible when grilled. Now, you have to be generous with salt—marinating is not a good time to ration salt. Salt brings out the gorgeous flavor of meats. And lamb, ahhhhh, the king of all meats, for serious omnivores. Get as fresh a lamb leg as possible and as local as possible (not always an option—stores around here carry mostly New Zealand or Ozzie lamb, which is a bummer—why aren’t there more U.S. lamb ranches?). We always make some vegetable-only kebabs, too, for our vegetarian friends (marinate the vegetable separately to keep it all copacetic). Don’t be afraid of kebobs. Just take it in two steps: marinate the pieces the first day and load the kebobs and grill the second day.

 

Meat Preparation:

1 boneless Leg of Lamb (three to four pounds--can substitute beef tri-tip)
2 tablespoons Ground Cumin Seeds
2 tablespoons Ground Coriander Seeds
½ teaspoon Ground Turmeric (optional)
½ teaspoon Ground Cardamom Seeds
½ teaspoon Ground Fennel Seeds
1 teaspoon Ground Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Salt per pound of meat used
1 tablespoon Grated Ginger Root
1 tablespoon Crushed Garlic
½ cup Olive Oil—or more to get slightly sloshy consistency

 

Vegetable Preparation:

4 to 5 cups Assorted Vegetables [Cut in 1 to ½ inch chunks]
Use summer squash, zucchini, patty pan, Vidalia or other sweet onions, green onions, mushrooms, asparagus, green, red, or orange peppers, etc. Veggies that don’t work well are both hard veggies (such as potatoes, parsnips, and carrots—because they won’t cook through in the same amount of time as the rest of the items on the kebobs) or soft veggies (because they’ll fall apart—don’t use tomatoes or white mushrooms, though portabellas would be good).

1 tablespoon Ground Cumin Seeds
1 tablespoon Ground Coriander Seeds
½ teaspoon Ground Turmeric
½ teaspoon Ground Cardamom Seeds
½ teaspoon Ground Fennel Seeds
½ teaspoon Ground Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Grated Ginger Root
1 tablespoon Crushed Garlic
3 tablespoons Olive Oil—or more to get slightly sloshy consistency

 

Putting It All Together

Make this recipe one day in advance to knock your guests out with ecstasy. If you are short on time, at least prepare it in the AM and grill it in the PM—but no less time than that, as the spices won’t get into the meat and veggies otherwise.
Marinate the lamb chunks, the spices, and the wine and oil (listed under Meat Preparation) in one large Zip-lock freezer bag. Keep refrigerated for one to two days, turning the bag each time you open the refrigerator to distribute the marinade. If the marinade is not sufficient to coat all the pieces luxuriously (if lamb leg is too big), then double the marinade quantities.
In the same way, marinate the veggies in the spices and wine and oil (listed under Vegetable Preparation) in a large freezer bad and turn every time you open the refrigerator door.
When you are ready to grill, use wooden skewers and alternately skewer meat chunk, veggie chunk, meat chunk, veggie chunk, etc., leaving at least an inch at the bottom and the top of the skewer.
Grill, turning occasionally, until you see some charring on the edges of the onions and the meat looks cooked through.
Enjoy with rice and a salad for a terrific and simple summer meal. 

Key words: kebob, kabob, kebab, skewer

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sangria: The Taste of Joy and Summertime


¡Sangre, Sangria, San–gracias!
From the Spanish word for blood, sangre, comes the bloody well delightful wine punch, sangria. Sangria is wine when it dons a fiesta dress, puts a flower behind its ear, and starts to PARTY! Sangria is the taste of joy and summertime, and can't be beat for "awe versus effort" factor. Remarkable, in fact, that a beverage served only in warm regions or when the summer sets in in earnest, a beverage that makes guests lurch toward it with gigantic grins, could be so ridiculously easy to make. The hardest part, really, is deciding which kind to make, what variations to play with, and how best to use what you have on hand. (Two major pieces of joy in cooking are 1) Getting the most awe for your effort, and 2) Using what you have on hand first. If you are struggling to make a dish that hardly raises an eyebrow, you're not going to be a happy chef. Nor will you be if you have to dash off to the store for ingredient-hunting expeditions!)
Sangria Breakdown
Here are the nitty gritty factors about sangria. Once you know these, you can whip up your own sans recipe. Just pour, chop, mix, ice, and enjoy!
  1. Start with any kind of wine you like--cheap wine, fine wine, sparkling wine, dessert wine, red wine, white wine--it all tastes fabulous when sangriad. (Note: cheap wine may give you a residual yucky feeling the next day, unless you go with a good brand, like Two-buck Chuck. More on this later.)
  2. For each bottle of wine you use, add roughly HALF the equivalent quantity of other liquids. The liquid portion could be sparkling water (good because it adds no sugar), fruit juice, sweetened sodas (like ginger ale), lemonade, or a combination. Only add more than that with caution, or your sangria will become too diluted. Feel free to add less, though, for a more potent version. But taste test to be sure.
  3. Add about two cups of fruit per bottle of wine--fresh, frozen, or a combination. Mixed fruit, all-one-fruit--you are the designer of this punch. But I do recommend you use at least a bit of fresh citrus--because it lends such a punch to the punch. Use fruit that looks pretty floating in the sangria, like peaches and sliced strawberries. Yum! Probably best to avoid bananas or any starchy fruit, but pretty much anything else goes nicely in sangria. Pineapple. Blueberries--why not?
  4. Add a kicker, if you like, in the form of 1/4 cup of booze per bottle of wine. This could be brandy or a flavored liquor, such as Grand Marnier, Kirsch, Chambord, Triple Sec, Limoncello, etc. Stay away from whiskey, bourbon, and dark liquors, but rum or vodka work wonderfully. The kicker step is optional.
  5. Taste the pre-chilled sangria to see if it's sweet enough. If not, you may want to add a bit of simple sugar. (Simple sugar is just sugar mixed with water, and then microwaved so that the sugar dissolves. You do not want crunchy sugar crystals in your drink!) I don't add sugar to my sangria, but it's all good. If you usually add sugar to your sangria, I'd suggest adding a fruit juice first, and then tasting it. It may be sweet enough as is.
  6. Cover, and let the fruit, wine, and liquid mixture rest in a refrigerator for at least two hours if you have time. This lets the flavors have a chance to mingle and get happy before their big debut. Chilling means you won't have to add ice. Ice will dilute and change the proportions of your mix-mastering.
  7. Garnish, if you like, with a few slices of fresh fruit. Citrus looks lovely, a giant strawberry would work. Pineapple too. Have fun with it.
Sangria Suggestions
  • If you live within proximity to the almighty foodie heaven called Trader Joe's, you are in luck! They sell a delightful, inexpensive wine of Napa Valley vintage called "Charles Shaw," owned by the Bronco Wine Company, and that costs a meager $1.99 per bottle. You heard right. (Surely it's more than that just to bottle the stuff.) Affectionately known as Two-buck Chuck, this stuff is decidedly NOT rotgut--it's a drinkable wine, and the absolutely best option for sangria-making. But you can use whatever wine you have on hand. Probably not a great idea to bury a truly high-end wine in a punch, but, hey, if you are feeling magnanimous—or desperate—go for it.
  • Don't forget the option of using champagne! Oh, how lovely those bubbles taste in a sangria. Whoo-hoo! You are gonna love it!
  • You can add a bit of spice by squeezing some grated ginger root into your sangria. Guaranteed to be a fun surprise for your guests. Love the combo of champagne-peaches-ginger juice-ginger ale. I made that for a Christmas party, and it was da bomb! Ginger juice works better with white-wine based sangrias than red ones, though.
  • Think about keeping some choice frozen fruit on hand--like mixed berries, mango, or pineapple--these not only are fruit that may not be in season otherwise, but the sheer coldness of the frozen fruit kicks the sangria up a notch. But if you do use frozen fruit, at least add SOME fresh fruit. Why? Because the frozen fruit isn't as pretty, usually, as fresh fruit is. Part of the appeal of sangria is visual. Think circles of citrus dancing lazily in frosty glasses. Guests languishing happily around your patio table.

¡Viva la Sangria!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Any Way You Like It Beef Stew


My five-year-old started a new school recently, with a fresh crop of kids and a fresh crop of kid's parents. Word got out that I was a professional writer and a foodie with a food blog, and I've been fielding questions--which I love. One that made sense and I never really thought about before is this, "How do you make beef stew?" Beef stew is so essential, so basic to cooking. It's like chicken soup. A sandwich. Hard to imagine using a recipe for these things. They just are, is all. You throw a bunch of stuff you like in and voila--comfort food.

But the truth is, at some time in the ancient recesses of my past, I must have watched Mom make her simple yet wonderful beef stew and figured out the beef stew meme. Over the decades, as my palate has evolved, so has my beef stew meme. Now it's up to a foodie writer to look with fresh eyes at this and break it out into steps. It's not a recipe, but more like a way of creating the gestalt of beef stew from the sum of its parts.

Searing the Beef
Use good quality beef for good quality, tender stew. We love sirloin for stew in my house. If you want to go crazy, filet will definitely reward you. But sirloin (or tri-tip, which is a portion of the sirloin) is perfect. Do not use chuck if you can avoid it, but if that's what you have on hand, by all means, go for it.

Cut two or more pounds of beef into 1" cubes, roughly, and dredge in flour, salt, and pepper. Sear these dredged cubes in some olive oil in a sturdy pot, preferably a Le Creuset or iron dutch oven, turning and cooking lightly, until they are light brown on the outside (beef should be raw inside). Remove from the pot and set aside.

Onions and Garlic, Oh My!

Sauté sweet onions (at least one large or two medium onions) cut roughly (large triangles) in more olive oil until they are slightly translucent (but not caramelized). Add in many cloves of fresh, crushed garlic (half a bulb--maybe 10 cloves). Do not sauté for long, to avoid turning the garlic bitter. Add in sliced organic carrots, roma tomatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes--your favorite veggies--in as large a quantity as you like. (See Embellish and Enjoy below for more add-in ideas.)

Wine and Then Dine
Add back in the beef to the pot and pour in at least half a bottle of dry red table wine. One bottle will reward you, but then again, who has an entire bottle of wine lying around just for cooking? I recommend Trader Joe's Two-buck Chuck (Charles Shaw) for this purpose, but any inexpensive and not sweet red wine will do.

An Herb and a Spice Are Oh-so-nice

Season with Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Bay leaves, culinary lavender, fresh rosemary, sage--these are all optional, depending on what you have handy. Fresh herbs are always better than dried.

Simmer Until It Smells Great
Simmer this intoxicating mixture--light bubbles, not heavy ones--until the beef is cooked through, the flavors are melded, and the veggies are cooked. You probably will not need to add flour to thicken the sauce as the flour from dredging the beef--plus the potatoes--will thicken the stew.

Total cooking time will likely be at least an hour.

Serve over jasmine rice or with bread.

Embellish and Enjoy

Add in what you love and what you have on hand:
  • White or portobello mushrooms, cut in bite-sized pieces, and added 10 minutes before serving time
  • Swiss chard, cut into strips, without the stem portion—again, added toward the end of cooking time
  • Fresh fennel, in bite-sized pieces
  • French green beans (haricot verts), in bite-sized pieces
  • Fresh peas, added a few minutes before serving
  • Sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips--whatever root veggies are handy. These need to cook longer, so add them at the beginning.
  • You can make the same stew using lamb leg meat instead of beef. Shanks work well, too, although before serving you may--or may not--wish to cut the bones out. Lamb is incredibly delicious, but the disadvantage is that as leftovers, it doesn't last as long. (We enjoy eating our stew the next day as lunch.)