Layla and Mohammed’s Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout

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The little piles of sesame seeds atop the prunes are the traditional way of garnishing the dish.

We’re baaaaaaacccckkkkk….  with a dish that’s great for a winter that refuses to die–Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout.  Before we stumbled through an invisible portal into the Gehenna of wiring, longtime Rialto employee Mohammed Karachi and his family spent a morning cooking with us.  Mohammed’s wife Layla walked us through their Moroccan family recipe for braised short ribs, using ras el hanout from Mohammed’s mother.  What a treat!  Layla’s ribs easily earned a place in my personal pantheon of great braised dishes.  The spicy and sweet components are kept separate until the dish is served.  Do you want a forkful of beef with Moroccan seasoning and a bit of prune at the same time?  Or first the spicy, then the sweet?  (My preference.)  It’s comforting either way.

Wiring – Part Deux

[caption id="attachment_8631" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Wiring-0020 The Mother of All Evils[/caption]

Dust.  Dust everywhere.  Dust up the river.  Dust in the counting houses.  Dust atop the rooftops and down the chimneys.  Dust creeping into the collier-brigs, dust settling between the toes of the subway captain, and above in the yards of a great (and dusty) city.  The fortune cookie that accompanied the newsboy’s take-out Beef Chow Fun last night read, EXPECT VACUUMING.  The photographer dreads dust the way vampires (old school) fear garlic.  He glides in across his dusty parquet like a thief and is put in mind of astronauts doing their bouncy-bouncy across the Mare Tranquillitatis, clouds of lunar poussière rising to envelope them to their shins.

An Unfortunate Series of Events

Wiring 3-1-2

Due to an unforeseen and unfortunate series of events we’ve discovered that safety bids us rewire our home.  Gaaaaaaccckkk!  Aside from the inconvenience of having wires dangling everywhere, there is also the attendant problem of dust, bane of cameras and food.

The Ant and the Grasshopper… come for dinner.

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Eating a cricket involves a leap of faith.  I made that leap, along with a hundred and fifty other intrepid eaters at the Little Herds Future Food Salon event at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas last Wednesday night.  Crickets, it turns out, don’t taste too bad.  In fact, crickets and mealworms, in one form or another, are downright tasty.  Think crunch.  Think hazelnuts.  I’m serious.

Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives

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Ah, children.  If you append the name of one child to a dish, the other will someday ask, “Why didn’t you ever name anything after me?”  Our son Oliver’s mastery of Oliver’s Chicken Stew made him a culinary hero to his impoverished roommates.  Our daughter turned 18 this week – sob - and reminded us that she needed a dish that she could take with her to college, something within her skill set that might make her a culinary goddess to her future roommates, something with her name on it.  Ergo Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives.

On the road to Marrakech – Preserved Lemons, Limes and Kumquats

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Preserved lemons may never be as commonplace to American cooks as pesto, which was once unknown outside of immigrant Italian homes.  But who can say?   A salty, fragrant ingredient with a hint of sweetness.  Stranger things have happened.  Maybe the day will come when the thought of dark greens brings preserved lemon trailing behind.  And not just with greens, how about a chilled crab salad with preserved lemon?  Or as a contrapuntal note in risotto with guanciale.  That day has already arrived at our house.  Once upon a time most Americans venturing into the world of these strange, salted citrus fruit needed a culinary anthropologist like Paula Wolfert to tell us what to do with them.  No longer.  Any time we need a bright, sharp flavor accent with something floral, we think preserved lemon.  For seafood, for pork, for chicken, for lamb.  Oddly, about the only thing we don’t have with preserved lemon is beef.  But I’m open to suggestions, if you have a good one.  In the meantime, if you’re someone who’s always wanted to make your own Preserved Lemons, Limes and Kumquats, this is the post for you.

Print this recipe – Shrimp Scampi with Orange Bitters

Food bloggers and their readers tend to be a supportive, upbeat, crowd (“Kale!  Wow!  Double thumbs-up!”).  We don’t get many complaints, helpful suggestions for improving the site, but every few months this plea arrives: “Can’t you do something so we don’t have to cut and paste your recipes?”  Never let it be said The Garum Factory …

Glazed and Enthused – Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad

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Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad.  If you make nothing else from us this year, make this.  It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel.  Unless you want to.  If so, have it.  That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us.  You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six.  That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole.  If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it.  Make this dish.

Dutch Babies with Blood Oranges

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Jody cautioned me not to create any titles with “babies” and “blood” in them.  Then she made the tactical error of going to work.  Herewith Dutch Babies with Blood Oranges.  C’mon, like you wouldn’t have done the same thing?  Besides, after last week’s Attack of the Devil Baby* prank on New Yorkers, I figured you could handle it. What’s a little shudder when these “babies” taste so good, when the payoff is having a hot air balloon collapse in front of you, its final gasps scented with vanilla, cinnamon, orange and lemon?  What name would you choose for this wheezy pastry–Dutch baby or German pancake, the main alternative?  Dutch babies sound playful, easy, maybe even good for you.  German pancakes, whatever their other virtues, convey an air of seriousness. “Time for German pancakes!” could be a euphemism for “Let’s build a railroad through the Black Forest.”   So what’s your choice?  Light-cuddly-easy?  Or Heavy-serious-Hans-Henry-was-a-steel-drivin’-man?   Right.  Dutch babies it is. And don’t forget the blood oranges.