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Aussie Lamb at Tremont 647 + a Tomato Braised Lamb Recipe

March 30th, 2015 · Boston, Meat, Restaurants

Tomato Braised Lamb with Cannelini Beans

Disclaimer: when I started blogging, my goal was to get out and eat on a regular basis, and I tried to hit up any event that would have me. I got into this game to eat, and now, I’m boring and more of a homebody, so I try to only say yes to things that I know in advance that I’ll love. So take this at face value – this isn’t sponsored, but I wittingly got myself into a situation where I acquired free Australian lamb, and then ate said lamb.

A few weeks ago, I headed to an industry event in the South End, at Andy Husbands’ Tremont 647 – a spring campaign for Australian lamb. (This was a total treat. Andy Husbands has been a lynchpin of the food community in Boston for a long time  – there aren’t too many restaurants that have been around for two decades under the helm of one person.)

After braving the then Hoth-like roads of the Greater Boston area, I managed to find parking in the South End less than 100 feet from the restaurant (this was at the tail end of the multiple storm situation, and parking was in short supply), and walked into the warm comfort of Tremont 647 on a pajama brunch morning. I was immediately give coffee (praise all that is good), got cozy at a table with Bianca, William, and Dan, and the gingerbread mini muffins, rosemary cornbread muffins, and sticky buns which were put right infront of me.

Tremont 647 Sticky Buns The Second Lunch

As Dan tried to tell me about Snapchat, the demo got started. [A brief note, I have now downloaded snapchat. After realizing a bot had taken my moniker that I use on every form of social media, I became deeply distressed, and have not opened it again since. It makes me feel old and crotchety.] For our demo, we watched Master Butcher Doug Piper expertly break down the back half of a lamb. And by expertly, I mean, to a level of skill that made me uncomfortable. His knife was outrageously sharp, but I’m pretty sure with his abilities, he could have done it with a dull blade, and mind control.

Tremont 657 Doug Piper Aussie Lamb Demo

While we watched, and discussed the taste, environmental impact, and general topic of Australian lamb, we also got to eat it. Everyone got some lamb pastrami on toast with mustard and sauerkraut made of brussels sprouts (smart!). We each got to choose our meals, and I went with the Tremont 647 classic Huevos Rancheros, while Bianca ordered the lamb sausage breakfast sandwich right across from me.

Tremont 647 Lamb Pastrami Tremont647 Huevos Rancheros

After filling ourselves to the gills, we were each sent home with a cooler bag of lamb. I’ve been eating lamb all winter with my meat share, and largely been doing the same thing each time: braising it in a jar of Rao’s marinara. It’s truly the best sauce on the market. I buy it in quantity any time I see it on sale at the store. The recipe is another two ingredient deal – lamb and sauce, three if you add garlic. You can gussy it up, of course, sometimes I’ll add beans at the end, or some carrots and potato.

Tomato and Garlic Braised Lamb

It goes particularly well on a vegetable noodle – I’ve been on a kick lately, as you may have noticed. (As a side note, Inspiralized, the book, just came out, and I’m currently reading through my copy.)

Tomato Braised Lamb over Zucchini Noodles

Tomato Braised Lamb

This recipe is how I cook lamb the most often – nestled in a tomato sauce. You can make it with thick braising cuts of lamb, or lamb stew meat, but I most often make it with lamb shanks, which I’ll cook, and then strip off the bone before serving. I reserve the bones and marrow for myself as cooks treat. Like all braises, it tastes best when you let it rest after cooking overnight in the refrigerator, remove the hardened fat once cooled, and reheat it the next day for dinner. I like it plain, served over zucchini noodles, or sometimes I’ll add a can of cannelini beans in the final half hour of cooking.

assorted lamb pieces, 2 – 5 lbs.
1 large jar Rao’s Marinara, or your favorite sauce (32 ounces)
several cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Generously season your lamb with salt and pepper.  I like my meat to come to room temperature with the seasoning on it before cooking, but if you are in a hurry, and want to cook right out of the fridge, that’s fine. In a large skillet, pour half of the marinara sauce, and nestle the seasoned lamb into the sauce, pouring the rest around the pieces. Nestle in several cloves of garlic (as many as you’d like). On medium high heat, bring the skillet to simmering, cover, and turn down to just under medium. Cook the lamb for at minimum 45 minutes for small pieces, up to a few hours for large steaks and shanks, until the meat is tender. If I’m cooking shanks, or larger pieces, I’ll flip the pieces a few times during cooking, about every 45 minutes.

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The Second Lunch Week 2/1 – 2/7

February 8th, 2015 · Boston, Races, Restaurants

Fleck Coffee Newton Highlands

Hello from the impending blizzard zone! Yes, more snow. More Snow. Snowwwww. Why do I live here? This week I’ve been braving the weather to try out some new places, head to some food events, and even squish in a few races! Last we left off, I was making a game plan for January: lots of braising, healthy salads, meal planning, and gym going. Lofty goals. I knew it was going to be bad on January 5th, a coworker mentioned that I had been posting a lot on my blog. “That’s not going to last, is it….” ah, votes of confidence. Thanks. Of course he was right – it’s been a long, cold, month, and I didn’t think that anyone would want to hear my complaints about the MBTA. There was a lot of bitterness and salty language. California, I miss you. (You too, California friends.)

This month I’ve done little to drag myself out of the house. It’s been a lot of pathetic pantry meals. A few too many take out meals. And a whole lot of sitting on the couch. So last week after getting some energy back on my trip to Portland, Maine, I decided to get myself out, visit the new super shiny Whole Foods South End (it’s great), run a race, and meet up with some bloggers. Some of my favorite activities!

Of course, life is better caffeinated. With my dwindling coffee supply – both fresh beans from Portland, and my shameful comfort coffee (Trader Joe’s Gingerbread) being done for the season, I decided that I’d try out the new Fleck Coffee right at the Newton Highlands T-stop, because they were giving away free coffee this weekend…. and… free coffee! They brew Counter Culture, and I’m all for local coffee shops! They officially open on Monday, and keep hours of 6am – 4pm daily.

On the fitness front, I decided that I needed to “train” for my upcoming Hyannis Half marathon, so on a whim I signed up for the Super Sunday 5k and 5 miler, and ran it with my friend Matt. How do you dress for a race that has a real feel of around 5? Like a ninja. My super secret trick is to treat myself to hand warmers in my gloves for a cold winter run. I hoard hot hands like I’ll be living in the polar vortex for all time. This race was fun, cold, and flat!

Super Sunday 5k and 5 Miler

The other reason that I signed up on a whim for a freezing cold race is that I was heading to a Boston Brunchers blogger brunch at Beat Hôtel (Beat Brasserie), and needed to work off some of those calories before eating ALL OF THE FOODS. The fine print: Boston Brunchers events come with free brunch (although generous tip is always provided), and provide me a comfortable space to take as many photos of my food as I want, without any of my dining partners judging me.

Beat Hôtel is in the old Tannery space in Harvard Square, and despite it’s convenient location, I really don’t get out all that much, and hadn’t been there yet. It’s the same team behind the South End’s Beehive, and they have jazz brunch on the weekends. The space is big and airy, and they have large tables for groups of friends. Another thing to note, I was a little out of it after running my race, and after rushing in to say hi to folks, I didn’t actually notice that the music was live until I turned around to look at the glowing purple stage (I mention this because, one, the live band was very good – and two, the acoustics are very well set up for the room – somehow I was sitting directly next to a drum kit and could still hear my dining partners conversation.)

Beat Hotel Brasserie Bar Live Jazz Brunch

We managed to get a good sampling of their brunch fare – starting off with the Bohemian Platter (hummus, dips, salads, cheese, pickled vegetables, and olives) – the photo in the top right. It was a plentiful platter, but the star for me was this really brilliant pickled radish. Yep, a superlative radish. The absolute winner of brunch was the Buffalo Cauliflower with blue cheese dipping sauce. This being Super Bowl Sunday, one of my dining partners actually took home an extra order, and I regretted not doing the same.

For our meals, we tried quiche, a few Benedicts, and I ordered the Shakshuka with merguez. Now, I do have high standards for Shakshuka, and while this didn’t make my top two of all time (my own, and the Shakshuka from Sofra), it was good! The merguez was neither here nor there, but it came with wobbly eggs served over this wonderfully creamy polenta. Plus, extra points for a beautiful presentation. (Bottom left.)

Beat Hotel Boston Brunchers Brunch

If you go to Beat Brasserie, please order the Buffalo Cauliflower. I will be returning specifically for this dish.

Before I leave you, here’s my meal plan for the week:

Sunday: lamb shanks with Ranch Gordo beans
Monday: chicken with cauliflower potato curry
Tuesday: deconstructed shepherds pie (Cook Smarts)
Wednesday: Shakshuka
Thursday: chicken soba noodles
Friday: Out

New Englanders, best of luck tonight in the storm.

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A Crunchy Fennel Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Parmesan

January 5th, 2015 · Salads

A Crunchy Fennel Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Parmesan

For the past several years I’ve done a Whole30 at the beginning of the new year, using the momentum of everyone else’s New Year’s enthusiasm to carry me through a month of unprocessed foods and smart eating habits. It’s really much easier to be virtuous when you don’t have the added stress of having to explain yourself to others when you are abstaining from office snacks and extra meals on the town. And in January, everyone is being virtuous. The Whole30 isn’t a crash diet – I personally don’t do it to lose weight, but rather to re-calibrate – reminding myself how much I love home cooking, adding a substantial amount of vegetables to my diet, eating mindfully, and to curb my snack habit. It’s a lot easier for me to make smart choices when the decision has already been made to abstain from the bad ones, and each time that I’ve taken on a Whole30, I’ve finished with new habits that I’ve carried through the year with me. This January, I’m not starting with a Whole30 – truthfully, because I didn’t plan – but I’ve committed myself to eating wholesome, home cooked food, bringing my lunches to work every day, and generally eating to support my health and wellness.

Fennel salad was one of the first recipes that I posted on this blog, and I’ve made it dozens of times in the years since. The base salad is one I go back to again and again when I’m feeling the need to be virtuous (or not so virtuous – this particular one has a healthy dose of cheese), so it’s a perfect dish to herald in the new year on good footing. It’s a versatile side dish to serve with grilled fish or chicken, and it lasts for a few days in the fridge, and in my opinion improves as it sits, so I can pack my lunches with it if I have leftovers.

Fennel Bulbs

This is my usual base recipe – sliced fennel, assorted other crunchy green vegetables, nuts, and cheese, tossed with a lemony vinaigrette, but I rarely make the same version twice.

What else could you do with this salad?

There’s a lot you can play with. Sometimes I’ll substitute pistachios or hazelnuts for the walnuts. You can change up the herbs – parsley, mint or dill are also nice. If you’d like, you can add citrus – orange or grapefruit segments work well. As do sliced grapes. Mixed greens, and avocado make special additions, but if you are making the salad in advance (as you should!), these should be tossed in at the very end, right before serving.

A Crunchy Fennel Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Parmesan

Crunchy Fennel Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Parmesan 
serves 4 as a side

juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup good olive oil

1/3 cup walnuts, gently toasted, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
3 sticks of celery, thinly chopped

Start by making the dressing: in a small bowl, put the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If using garlic, put in the lemon juice, and let sit for five minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients so that the garlic will not be too harsh. Add olive oil, and whisk briskly until well mixed. Add the walnuts and the cheese to the dressing, and mix well.

Toss the fennel and celery with the dressing, and taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. You can make serve this salad right away, but it benefits from a few hours in the fridge. To serve, sprinkle with parmesan and the fennel fronds.

A Crunchy Fennel Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Parmesan

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This Week, in Books

January 5th, 2015 · Books in 2015

Every year I resolve to take a few minutes after each read to make quick notes about how I felt about the book. More often than not life happens, I forget to do it, and I move onto my next book, and promptly forget half of the things that I’ve read! For 2015, I set a personally challenging goal of 75 books on Goodreads, and I’m hoping that I take a few minutes between each for a breath and to reflect on what I’ve just read. Here’s the first book!

The Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

#1. Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
Paperback, 297 pages
Published in 2009 by Penguin Books
Read the paperback (owned)

I picked up this copy of Bicycle Diaries at Phoenix Books in San Francisco in 2009 – it still has the Phoenix bookmark in it – and I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to read it through! When I started focusing on cycling this year, it seemed like a good a time as any to actually pick it up again. I’ve been slowly working through the book over the past few months, as it’s served as my trusty nightstand book. (I like to read different books at different times of day, and the nightstand books are ones that are easily broken up into 10-15 page sections, such as books with very short chapters, or compilations of essays.)

The book is a compilation of travel essays, following Byrne’s trips with his bicycle around the world, exploring the history, politics, design, and culture of cities across the globe. At times rambling, always insightful, and I found myself particularly interested in Byrne’s thoughts on how city design can shape our culture, habits, and energy. It took quite a while to finish, but I generally enjoyed it.


Two other books of note tonight!

The last book I read in 2014 was Tovar Cerulli’s The Mindful Carnivore (Pegasus, 2012), which I was re-reading for the second time since the book came out three years ago. The book follows Tovar’s experiences as a vegan, to ultimately choosing to pursue hunting as an environmental and ethical path to meat eating. I’m not a vegetarian, but I believe strongly in ethical treatment of animals, a greater awareness of where our food comes from, and respect for the life lost when we eat meat. This year I tried to address the issue in our diet, and joined a meat CSA, which provides the majority of the meat we eat at home – but for years I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should take up hunting as a way to further connect myself to the food we eat. This is definitely not something I’d consider lightly, so I’ve been trying to educate myself further, and I truly value the critical thought on the subject in Tovar’s book.

The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli

And coming out on January 6th, is my internet friend Andie Mitchell’s new memoir It Was Me All Along (Random House, 2015) which I managed to read a few months ago when I got my hands on a review copy, but will be purchasing in an independent bookstore this week to further support the book!

Andie’s brilliant blog, Can You Stay For Dinner, features excellent recipes, gorgeous photography, and candid and deeply personal reflections on her struggles with weight loss, and maintaining. (As an aside, her months long series on helping her mom with weight loss and dieting are also some of the most compassionate and loving posts I’ve read on the topic.) Her book is just as honest, and it was a total pleasure to read. Get a copy!

It was me all along by Andie Mitchell

What are you reading next?

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Nigella’s Scallops with Thai Scented Pea Purée

January 3rd, 2015 · Meal Planning, Seafood

Nigellas Scallops with Thai Scented Pea Puree

Happy weekend! Welcome to another installment of the weekly meal plan! Maybe it’s the new year, but I’m feeling particularly productive in all aspects of my life, and I hope the inspiration lasts for a good long while. There’s a recipe at the bottom of the post for these scallops with Thai scented pea purée, which were a smash hit tonight for dinner.

It’s been a low key weekend so far – we went to see the final Hobbit this afternoon, which was beautiful, but honestly a bit of a let down. I grew up obsessed with Tolkien, and I think I’m still just bitter about the creation of Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel for the movies – a lackluster female character who definitely is not in the book, and devised for romantic tension with an all too good looking Kili. The whole thing irked me. But I was certainly glad to have seen a movie in the theaters – it’s been all too long!

This weekend I’ve also been playing around with a new app that my culinary crush Jamie Oliver is collaborating on. (Other teenagers had their favorite pop stars hanging over their beds, I had a picture of a smarmy Jamie Oliver sitting in a bathtub that I had clipped out of the TV Guide. I was completely devastated when he married Jules, but I digress.) The new app is called the YOU-app, and every day it gives you daily photo prompts to encourage simple micro-actions to make a better life. Yesterday’s action was to address your fridge – empty it, clean up, and take stock. I managed to toss a good number of things that were past their prime. Here’s the slightly more tidy version right now.

A sneak peak into the Second Lunch Refrigerator

The Meal Plan: Week of December 28th

Now that you’ve seen me bare all – it’s not looking as bad as I’d worried it would, here are the things to use up in my kitchen: a little bit of cheese, some potatoes in chicken broth, a little bit of leftover tomato coconut sauce from the Moqueca (perfect for simmering an egg or two), the leftover vegetable tops from my spiralizer, some beets which I plan on pickling, some coconut milk.

Saturday: scallops and thai scented pea puree. The recipe for this one is below! I was originally planning this for last week, but life happened. Served with a Trader Joe’s potato pancakes, and a fried sardine for the cook.

Sunday: grilled chicken and winter fennel salad. I made this salad a month ago for a dinner party, and I’ve been craving it ever since. Recipe to be posted shortly!

Monday: ground beef and tomato-rice soupMy version of a stuffed pepper soup, with a Turkish twist. It’ll likely get a dollop of yogurt on top, and I’ll use up the leftover dill.

Tuesday: chicken sausage and egg shakshuka. These are all leftovers in my fridge that need to be used. I might sprinkle with some of the extra feta that needs using up as well.

Wednesday: black beans and rice. I haven’t been eating too many beans lately, but Samin got me thinking about beans with her push for ‘bean month’ this January. And I still happen to have about a dozen varieties in my house from my Rancho Gordo year of beans subscription.

Thursday: pork chops with brussels spouts. Just something simple to use up some of my CSA pork chops. I’m not sure I’ll have anything interesting to do with them – this pork is so good just on it’s own.

Friday: Out!

Nigellas Scallops with Thai Scented Pea Puree

Scallops with Thai Scented Pea Puree
serves 2

I’ve adapted this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s original one – replacing her creme fraîche with coconut milk, and adding some extra fresh herb (mint) to the peas. Thai basil would also be good here. I use Thai Kitchen Green Thai Curry Paste, which you can find in most supermarkets now. If we’re feeling hungry, or the price of scallops is exorbitantly high, I’ll reduce the number of scallops to two, and serve the meal with some Trader Joe’s frozen potato pancakes. To cook this dish, start by putting out all of your ingredients, because you’ll want to put together this dish quickly, and eat it while hot!

16 ounces frozen peas (I get the 1 lb. petit pois from Trader Joes)
1 to 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
flaky sea salt

1 pound wild sea scallops, about 3-4 large scallops per person
flaky salt
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lime

Start by prepping your scallops – dry them well, and season with a pinch of flaky salt on both sides. Then, start the mash. In a large bowl in the microwave, heat the peas until hot, stirring every minute or so until warmed through, about three minutes. (You could also do this on the stovetop.) Stir in the green curry paste, coconut milk, and chopped mint leaves, and season with a good pinch of salt, and set aside.

For the scallops, heat the butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat. When hot, add scallops, making sure not to crowd the pan, and let scallops cook for 3 minutes without touching them. Check to see if they’re golden on the bottom, and if they aren’t let them go another minute. Flip. Cook three minutes on the other side.

While the scallops are finishing their last three minutes, puree the pea mixture with an immersion blender (A regular blender will also work, but will take a little bit more effort – if you use a regular blender, you may want to do this before cooking the scallops.) Taste, and add any extra salt and pepper you’d like. Plate the purée, and take the cooked scallops out of the pan, and nestle them on the purée.

To finish, make a quick pan sauce: squeeze the lime in the hot pan juices, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any golden brown bits that have all the flavor! Stir for about a minute, and you are done. Pour pan sauce over scallops and mash, and eat while hot!

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