Italian pot roast from slow cooker


Every year I’m a sucker for those gorgeous days in mid-February filled with the promise of an early spring.  Then the sun goes back behind the clouds and it starts to rain again.  I have to remind myself that it’s still winter.

This is the perfect season for stracotto, an Italian take on a slow-cooked pot roast, steeped in red wine, mushrooms and aromatic vegetables.

My introduction to this gutsy and soul-warming dish came in the beautiful cookbook, “Organic Marin,” by Tim Porter and Farina Wong Kingsley (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 20080).  A fund-raiser for Marin Organic’s school lunch program, it’s filled with mouth-watering photographs and appealing recipes from some of Marin County’s best restaurants. The braised chuck roast was the contribution of Piatti Ristorante & Bar in Mill Valley. Continue reading Italian pot roast from slow cooker

Root vegetables get the mash


The one thing you can count on at the farmers market this time of year is plenty of root vegetables.  Carrots and turnips, potatoes and parsnips are everywhere.

These cold weather vegetables are especially good right now, firm in texture and deeply flavorful.  The carrots are particularly sweet.

I usually just roast root vegetables alone or with a chicken.  They’re great simply peeled, cut into fairly uniform chunks, tossed in olive oil with whole cloves of garlic, and baked in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.  Mix up whatever looks good at the market with a little chopped rosemary and you have the best of winter on your dinner plate.

Lately, though, I’ve been simmering a variety of root vegetables together and mashing them with butter and yogurt for  the most comforting of side dishes.  It’s even good  as a light lunch all by itself. Continue reading Root vegetables get the mash

The ultimate chocolate pudding


It’s not Valentine’s Day without chocolate as far as I’m concerned. No other food can match its sensuous pleasure, slowly melting on the tongue and flooding the palate with the rich, dark, almost sinful flavor of cacao.

We’re talking pudding here, but a pudding unlike any you ever knew in childhood.  This is a pudding so dense, so smooth, so deeply chocolate that it  bears little resemblance to the bland desserts of the school cafeteria.  The addition of top quality bittersweet chocolate and an extra jolt of caffeine from freshly brewed coffee make it a grownup treat, indeed. Continue reading The ultimate chocolate pudding

Onion dip from scratch

onion dip - bowl

Once upon a time my favorite party fare  was  the simple dip made by stirring an envelope of Lipton’s onion soup mix into a carton of sour cream.  Salty, savory and all too tempting, it was a fixture at every party. I always found it hard to step away from the bowl.

Today, I won’t touch the stuff.  All those fake flavors and dehydrated ingredients no longer appeal.  But I still love a good crunchy chip and a tasty dip.

So once or twice a year, I make onion dip from scratch, slowly caramelizing the onions until they turn soft and sweet.  It takes more work, it’s true, but the flavor is so much better.  And if it still isn’t good for me, I tell myself it’s a rare indulgence. Continue reading Onion dip from scratch