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Last Saturday, hubby and I went to a rare, rare gem in New England: a quality Mexican restaurant. Since moving from LA last spring, we’ve been in a Mexican food wasteland. We’d ask locals where we could get the best Mexican, and they’d enthusiastically recommend a place, so we’d go all full of hope and hunger only to be disappointed by their boring ketchup-tasting salsa, and it would only go down from there. A coworker recommended Agave in Newburyport to me, and we went with a bit of trepidation and fully prepared to be disappointed, and, shockingly enough – it was good! So good, in fact, that on Tuesday when we realized I had accidentally left my coat at Agave, we stayed for dinner when we went back to pick up it up.

So why the picture of pot roast and mashed taters?  That dinner is a direct result of our first trip to Agave – the trip where we learned that if you want to go to Agave on a Saturday night, you better make a reservation or you’ll have over an hour and a half wait for a table. So with an absurd amount of time to kill, we wandered  over to the book store next door, where I stumbled across Ree Drummond‘s cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. And I cooed and squealed over it and delighted in all the beautiful photography and drooled over the yummy-looking recipes.

Now, it just so happens that we recently cashed in a bond that my now-deceased elderly cousin Sunny gave me for high school graduation (ten years ago!?) – a bond that would be worth $50… in 2036. So we cashed it out now for something like $30, so I had just the right amount of pocket money to buy myself the book. Woo hoo! As we waited for our table, I read this recipe and decided I just HAD to make it the next day. So I did.

I’d never made pot roast before, and I was rather intimidated by the idea of making such a fancy Sunday-Dinner-With-Grandma kind of meal, but Ree’s step-by-step instructions and pictures it was a piece of cake. It’s actually a surprisingly simple dish – you brown the onions quickly, then the carrots quickly, and then sear the meat nicely, then throw it all together with beef broth and some fresh herbs (definitely don’t skip the fresh herbs!) and let it do its thing in the oven for a few hours.

And when you take it out, hoo boy. It’s amazing. The beef falls apart, the carrots taste so good that my vegetable-hating husband raved about them and got himself  a second serving. This is a fantastic dish and I know I’ll be making it again soon. The recipe is below, but I recommend checking out Ree’s post about it – the photos are so helpful and she even has it formatted to print out nicely at the bottom. Sweet!

Ree’s Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 whole Onions
  • 6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste
  • 1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)
  • 2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Preparation Instructions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.

When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Oh, and once it’s all cooked up, be sure to do like Ree advises and taste a bit of everything all in one bite.

Even if you’re like me and don’t like mixing it up like that. Trust me. It’s a little bit of heaven.

Yum! Thanks, Ree! And thanks, Sunny. 🙂

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I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. I have a collection of more recipes than I can ever actually make, probably, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more. So whenever our weekend errands include getting my husband a haircut, I happily wait for him while perusing the salon (“salon” sounds awfully girly and expensive, and this place is neither, but it’s not a barber shop because they cater to men and women, so what else can I call it?)’s magazines. If I find something I like, I’ll copy it down in my iPhone, or if I’m in a hurry I’ll take pictures with my iPhone and hope that the text won’t be too blurry to decipher later. My magazine of choice is Real Simple, which I kind of want to subscribe to, but I’m not really motivated to since I can get it for free at the haircutting place. Ha!

The last time we went, I couldn’t find the latest issue of Real Simple, so I wound up looking at Women’s Health. Not the kind of magazine I’d immediately reach for in a waiting room, but I’m glad I did because I found a bunch of yummy-looking recipes, this one included. I furiously copied it into my iPhone and emailed it to my mom and sister, then a couple of days later I found an excuse to make it.

This is a really good stew, but I think it could use some improvements.  I definitely liked it better the second day, when I served it over couscous (rice would be good too) – without it, the stew didn’t seem substantial enough. My hubby and I agreed that it would be better with some shredded chicken in it, too. And I might bulk it up even more with a second can of chickpeas – if I were to keep this strictly vegetarian and skipped the shredded meat, I’d definitely add another can of chickpeas.

I was surprised, given all the cumin and curry powder, that this stew isn’t at all spicy. It definitely has lots of flavor, but hardly any heat. And that’s perfectly fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but I like my curries to be spicy.  Next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time), I’ll add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in step 2, when you add the curry powder and cumin.

Curried sweet potato and chickpea stew

adapted from Women’s Health, April 2010

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups sliced onion
2 c coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 qt low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
4 c peeled 1/2 inch pieces of sweet potato or butternut squash
1 (or 2) cans chickpeas, drained
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
3/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and bell pepper; cook for 8 minutes or until tender.

2. Stir in curry powder, cumin,  crushed red pepper, if using, and 1/4 tsp salt, cook 2 minutes. Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Remove 1 cup of potatoes and mash with a fork. Stir mashed potatoes back into pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes to allow mixture to thicken. Stir in chickpeas, coconut milk, shredded chicken, if using, cilantro and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until warm throughout. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and serve, over brown rice or couscous if desired.

Makes four servings.

I love Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine. My cousins gave us a subscription as an engagement present about two years ago and ever since then I’ve been hooked. So when I found out that there’s an Everyday Food app for my iPhone, and that it was only a buck, of course I bought it. And I generally only stick to the free apps, so you know this was special.

The app isn’t perfect, but it gives me easy access to recipies from issues that came out before I was a subscriber, and that makes me happy. And it stores an alphebetized list of the recepies I’ve saved, so it’s easy to find my favorites again, which is extremely helpful. On more than one occasion there has been a frantic search for a missing issue of Everyday Food that had a recipe I wanted to try, or – even worse! – a recipe I already tried and loved but didn’t copy down yet. So hopefully the app will cut down on that, although it doesn’t seem to include recipes from the latest issues.

Plus it has a “dinner tonight” tab, which gives you a new recipe every day, so I’ve discovered some tasty-looking recipes that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I love that each recipe has a pretty photo of the food, just like the website or the magazine. I hate not knowing what the dish is supposed to look like.

And you can search through the archives for a particular ingredient. I wish it had a browsing feature though, I’d like to just scroll through their archives without narrowing it down by an arbitrary ingredient.

It was through this app that I discovered the recipe for gemelli with sausage, swiss chard and pine nuts. It looked interesting and very very easy, but it had so few ingredients I didn’t really expect much from it. I wanted to try it because it was something new (and it looked like it be a cinch to throw together), but I thought it’d be one of those recipes that I try and then forget about.

Obviously, I was wrong. It was fantastic. I was actually blown away. The flavors were surprisingly complex for so few ingredients (I think we have the sausage to thank for that), and it was very savory and satisfying. I couldn’t stop raving about how much I enjoyed the dish, and I don’t usually compliment my own cooking that way. I was just so surprised at how tasty this was, given how ridiculously simple it was to put together.

Gemelli with Sausage, Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts

From Martha Stewart Everyday Food (unfortunately the app doesn’t say which issue)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 lb mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 lb Swiss chard, tough stems removed*, leaves cut into thin strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and Pepper

1 lb gemelli or other short pasta

3/4 cup raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained**

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I think I used 1/2 cup) ***

Directions

1. In a large skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking the pan to toast evenly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

2. In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic, and pepper; cook, tossing, until chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

3. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Return pasta to pot.

4. Add sausage mixture to pasta with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, raisins, toasted pine nuts, and cheese; toss to combine. Add more cooking water if pasta seems dry. Serve with more Parmesan.

*and feed to your guinea pig if you have one!

** I almost left the raisins out, and I’m so glad I didn’t. They added a pleasant sweetness to the dish, and they really complimented the sausage. I let them sit in the boiling water for a minute or two before draining and adding them to the dish.

*** I use freshly grated Asiago, which is cheaper than fresh Parmesan (especially Parmesan imported from Italy) but I really can’t taste the difference. I wouldn’t recommend the pre-grated parmesan in a green can – it just wouldn’t give you the awesome flavor that the fresh cheese will.

Suzi

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