Mushroom Bourguignon

a bowl of mushroom bourguignon with egg noodles
Sitting at my desk, my grumbling stomach turns from my work to thoughts of lunch and the leftover pork and plantain stew in my fridge. The stew is an easy answer to my hunger – a brief microwave and lunch is served, yet what I crave this minute are vegetables. I quickly realize that all I’ve eaten for the last week is a combination of meat and starch with nary a vegetable in sight. I leave the stew where it is and order a humongous Asian chicken salad from the local café instead, devouring it in about 30 seconds. This woman needs more veggies in her diet.

Some purists would argue this isn’t truly a bourguignon. After I respond with, “Thank you for your feedback” (Event planner speak for “I don’t care what you think.”), I would reply that this is my no-fail, go-to, beef bourguignon recipe, with the beef removed and the mushrooms turned up to eleven. It’s bourguignon in my book. Omit the bacon and switch out the beef broth for vegetable broth if you want to serve this dish to your vegetarian friends.

This is comfort food you can feel good about.


Mushroom Bourguignon


Ingredients

  • 3 strips thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2 lbs. Portobello mushroom caps, sliced ½” thick
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pinot noir
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed.
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Sauté bacon in a Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Sauté mushrooms in bacon drippings until beginning to soften, but not until they release all of their juice, 2-3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and reserve.
  2. Add a bit of oil to the Dutch oven and sauté carrot, celery & onion until beginning to brown. Add tomato paste and flour and sauté 1-2 minutes until flour turns golden. Add pinot noir and reduce until thickened, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, pearl onions, reserved bacon and reserved mushrooms with any accumulated juice. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven. Braise for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender. If sauce isn’t thick enough, cook uncovered on the stovetop for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles, polenta, or rice.


a bubbling pot of mushroom bourguignon

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Farro and Pomegranate Salad

Chewy farro flecked with pomegranate seeds, feta, bacon and almonds makes a colorful and hearty main-course salad. The salty-tart flavor of preserved lemons adds a unique twist.

a bowl of farro pomegranate salad

When it comes to the latest dietary fad or junk-science eating recommendations, I’m an avowed denyer. In my humble opinion, sugar is not evil. Unless you have celiac disease or wheat sensitivity, gluten is not the devil’s work. Dairy is not the enemy and caffeine will not kill you.

When it comes to eating, I trust in the axiom, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” I believe that, holistically, it’s healthier to stop stressing about what goes in our mouth and just eat – a variety of food (I said “food” – not chemicals or genetically modified food-like stuff), mindfully, when we’re hungry, in moderation. I think the worry, the self-denying, the strict adherence to dietary “rules” that seem to change weekly cause more toxicity in our bodies than a well-marbled, 3-oz. grass-fed steak. If you want the cookie, eat the damn cookie. Just don’t eat the whole dozen. …or if you DO eat the whole dozen (guilty!), don’t do it all the time (that’s the “moderation in moderation” part).

I had a conversation recently about the healthfulness of farro. We had overindulged during the holidays and were talking about “cleansing” to help our sluggish-feeling systems reset. I mentioned making a farro salad for lunch. She looked at me as if I had just said I was going to eat nothing but Twinkies for a week. “That’s not cleansing – don’t you know farro contains (the ominous and deadly) g..g..g..gluten!!!” Obviously, our ideas of “cleansing” are different. Gluten is not my enemy.

Farro is a nutritious whole grain. It’s an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients, and contains a variety of antioxidants like polyphenols, carotenoids, phytosterols and selenium. Add some fiber and vitamin-C rich pomegranate seeds and hunger-satiating fat with almonds and olive oil. Satisfy the splurge factor with a bit of bacon and feta and…voile, a toothsome grain salad.

Whether you consider this a healthy meal or death on a plate is determined by what camp you sit it. I hope we can all agree, at least, that this Farro and Pomegranate Salad is damn tasty. Mmmm…

p.s. I love the pop of the pomegranate seeds in my mouth when I eat this salad!


Farro and Pomegranate Salad

Chewy farro flecked with pomegranate seeds, feta, bacon and almonds makes a colorful and hearty main-course salad. The salty-tart flavor of preserved lemons adds a unique twist.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked farro, cooled
  • 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup toasted almonds (or pistachios), roughly chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped preserved lemons
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup good-quality olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 strips crisp bacon, crumbled

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine farro, pomegranate seeds, feta, cilantro, almonds, and preserved lemon. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need salt due to the salty feta and lemon). Add bacon just before serving so it remains crisp.

Savory Beef Stew

This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings.  Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.”  Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.

A bowl of savory stew over a bed of polenta


Savory Beef Stew

  • Servings: 6 Servings
  • Print

This is a classic beef stew for cold winter evenings. Simmered in the oven, most of the work is “hands off.” Coffee and soy sauce add complexity.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chuck eye roast, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 1 bag frozen pearl onions, defrosted
  • 2 cups baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth (I use Pacific brand)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1 white sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 bunch chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the meat in batched in a bit of oil. Do not overcrowd pan. Remove meat and set aside. Add pearl onion, 1 cup baby carrots and chopped celery and sauté until vegetables are golden. Add tomato paste and flour and cook for a minute or two until a golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Add red wine, beef broth and instant coffee, scrapping up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Bring to boil, cover, and move to oven.
  2. Let stew simmered in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then add potatoes and remaining carrots. Let stew with potatoes simmer an additional 30 minutes then add chard. Return to oven and simmer an additional 30 minutes (total time 2 ½ hours).
  3. Remove from oven, defat liquid if needed. Add fresh sage, thyme, soy sauce and ground black pepper. Serve over polenta or egg noodles.

a dutch oven full of bubbling stew

Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

a beautifully decorated pear upside down cake

“…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
– Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

No riot of color or chilling air; October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Sunburnt leaves wither and suicide in golden sunlight without fanfare. Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of “prickly dread” and stopped time. Earthquake weather, we call it. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. This is autumn in LA.

Despite the warmth, autumn in my kitchen means roasts and stews – and desserts of pumpkin, apple or pear, like this autumn-inspired Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake.


Pear Pecan Upside-down Cake

A buttery-rich cake topped with fresh pears and pecans.


Ingredients

    Topping
  • 2 Bosc pears, cored, peeled and cut into 12 slices each
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger

Directions

  1. Make Topping: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter a 9” cake pan and arrange pear slices in a pattern on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Bring 1 cup sugar and water to boil in a frying pan over high heat (not nonstick), reduce heat to simmer and cook, swirling, but not stirring until mixture caramelizes. When colored a medium brown, add pecans and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add bourbon and salt. Pour over pears. Note: At any place along the process, the caramel may seize and crystalize, just return it to the stove on a low heat and re-melt.
  3. Make Cake: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together unsalted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time; beating after each addition (I add a small tablespoon of the flour mixture after each egg to help avoid curdling). Beat in vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in remaining ½ cup pecans and crystalized ginger. Batter will be thick
  4. Spoon batter over pears, smoothing and spreading evenly. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes, invert cake on a serving platter and cool until slightly warm.

Autumn Apple Cake

Apples, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins capture autumn in this moist Bundt cake. Coffee cake? Snack cake? Impressive post-meal dessert? It works for all three – you decide.

Autumn Apple cake on a bed of fallen leaves

Autumn in L.A.

Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.”  L.A. subtly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.


Autumn Apple Cake

Adapted from Richardson’s Canal House Inn apple raisin cake.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dark spiced rum
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into ½” dice
  • Glaze and Icing
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. Combine golden raisins and rum in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and drained golden raisins. Spoon batter into pan.
  3. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar and honey and heat on medium until sugar is completely melted and glaze is thickened and bubbling. Brush over top and sides of cake. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze and drizzle over cake. Serve plain of with sweetened whipped cream

Sliced Autumn Apple Cake