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Saturday, February 25, 2012

After School Snack


This simple snack satisfies afterschool appetites. I used dried peaches (find them at Fairway in New York City) and almond butter, but you could use dried apricots and cashew butter or tahini (sesame seed paste).

You can also get creative with the topping. I used coconut flakes, but you could use pumpkin seeds, black sesame seeds, or even shaved dark chocolate.

Dried peach halves
Raw almond butter
Unsweetened coconut flakes

Stir the almond butter until smooth. Spread a spoonful on the peach half and top with coconut flakes. Eat immediately.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Braised Lamb Shank with Red Wine and Rosemary


Lamb shanks are an inexpensive cut of meat best cooked low and slow. This recipe doesn't require much active preparation, but it does take a few hours to cook. It's a perfect pick for chilly days spent at home.

Instead of serving it over rice or couscous, I served it on  a bed of  finely chopped, sautéed cauliflower. It's a great alternative to grains.

Sea salt 
Ground peppercorn
2 lamb shanks, pre-seasoned and at room temperature
1 tbsp olive oil
6 small onions (like red cipollinis)
1 bunch carrots, cut into chunks
1 bunch purple plum radishes, cleaned, roots and stems removed
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry, fruity red wine
14 oz whole tomatoes
2 tsp fresh dried ground rosemary
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 head cauliflower to serve

With sea salt and ground peppercorn, season the lamb shanks ahead, 24 to 48 hours before you cook them if possible.

Take the seasoned lamb shanks out of the fridge an hour or two before you cook them to be sure that they will be at room temperature when you start.

When you're ready to cook the lamb shanks, preheat the oven to 300F.

Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown them on all sides. Once they have browned, transfer them to a plate and set them aside.

Add the onions, carrots, and radishes to the Dutch oven. Cook the vegetables until they have browned, then remove them and set them aside as well.

Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, 30 seconds or more, then add the red wine, tomatoes, rosemary, cayenne, and a pinch each of ground peppercorn and sea salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir any brown bits on the bottom of the pan into the sauce. Once the mixture begins to simmer, replace the lamb shanks in the Dutch oven and arrange the vegetables around them.

Cover the Dutch oven and transfer it to the oven. Bake for an hour and a half at 300F, then reduce the heat to 250F and bake for another hour and a half. Turn off the oven, remove the Dutch oven, and cool it for 30 minutes or more.

You can serve the lamb shanks whole or pull them apart into large, tender chunks (the meat will fall easily away from the bone). Spoon some sauce over the top or serve it on the side with the roasted vegetables.

I served the lamb and roasted vegetables on a bed of finely chopped sautéed cauliflower. You can serve it with brown rice or chick pea purée if you prefer.

To make the cauliflower, pulse florets, tender leaves, and tender stems in a food processor until finely chopped. Sauté the chopped cauliflower and a pinch of sea salt in extra virgin olive oil until soft and starting to brown.

To make chick pea purée, soak dry chick peas overnight, then cook them until tender. Add a pinch of sea salt and cool them in the cooking water. Once cool, strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Add the cooked chick peas to a food processor with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and enough of the cooking liquid to make a nice consistency. Reserve any leftover cooking liquid for soup.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dark Chocolate Sformato


Looking for a special Valentine's dessert?  This one is a winner.

Sformato is an Italian dish that resembles a baked custard. It can be sweet or savory. I've made mine bittersweet by using dark chocolate and replacing a large amount of sugar with a small amount of honey.

Because it's flourless, this sformato is almost free of refined carbohydrates. The dark chocolate contains a small amount of sugar but it also adds compounds shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

You can serve it 30 minutes out of the oven or make it ahead and serve it at room temperature. Either way, you'll have no complaints.

12 oz, dark chocolate 72% or darker
2 cups organic whole milk
1 packet gelatin
Pinch sea salt
4 eggs 
1/4 cup honey
Organic butter to grease the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Coat a 9" by 7" baking dish with butter and set it aside. 

Prepare a saucepan with a couple inches of slowly simmering water. 

Add the dark chocolate to a large stainless steel or glass bowl and place it over the saucepan. Cover the bowl and warm it over low heat just until melted.

While the chocolate melts, add the cold milk to a saucepan and whisk in the gelatin and sea salt. Warm the mixture over low heat. Do not boil the milk mixture.

Once the milk mixture is hot, mix up the eggs in a blender. Continue blending while you add the warm milk mixture, slowly so you don't scramble the eggs. Add the honey and blend until thoroughly combined.

(You can do this step without a blender, but if you whisk it by hand, strain it through a fine mesh sieve afterward to ensure a smooth final product.)

Once the chocolate has just melted, turn off the heat. Transfer the bowl to a heat-proof surface (a folded kitchen towel on the counter top works well and the moisture on the bottom of the bowl prevents it from slipping). Whisk the melted chocolate while you pour in the milk and egg mixture until it is smooth and consistent.

Transfer the chocolate mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the center is just set. Take it out of the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes or to room temperature.

To serve, spoon the sformato onto individual plates.

(If you want picture-perfect squares, chill it before you cut it. Freshly out of the fridge, cut the sformato into squares and transfer them to plates while cold. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving. If you plate the sformato before the meal, it will be ready to eat by the time you're ready for dessert.)

If desired, garnish with one of the following:
  • A spoonful of freshly whipped unsweetened organic cream
  • Sliced raw almonds 
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Fresh berries