Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with White Beans and Olive Tapenade

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I have to be careful what I email Danny. Sometimes I bookmark recipes I find online or I star them on Google Reader (not for much longer), but I email a lot of recipes to him. The thing is I have to be prepared to jump right on what I send him because he usually wants to make it right now. This week. As soon as possible. Tonight.

I managed to talk him off the ledge of slow-roasting a four-hour lamb shoulder on a weeknight, and we saved it for Saturday. Around 4 p.m., we paused Goldfinger on Netflix, and prepped the lamb. The biggest consideration with a recipe like this is timing, but it’s otherwise fairly simple. Rub salt, pepper, and herbes de provence all over the lamb. Place the lamb in a Dutch oven, break up a head of garlic and scatter the whole, unpeeled cloves around the meat. Roast in a low oven, turning the lamb every hour or so. By the end, the meat is falling apart and perfectly cooked. We used a 5-pound piece of lamb shoulder, but the cooking time was about the same.

The beans soak quickly and then simmer on the stovetop. This recipe doesn’t even ask you to slice the onion. Plop it in with the beans, skin and all. Continue reading  continue reading

Shout Out to Our Balcony + French Press

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A light lace of spiderwebs hugged the rail, and yet, my balcony welcomed me back yesterday. I took a seat with a couple of cookbooks and a beer for company. It was breezy, sunny, and just what I wanted at the end of the day.

I’ve seen all kinds of birds in this neighborhood — woodpeckers, blue jays, sandhill cranes, hawks, crows, vultures — and one or the other were chirping and flying around. Downstairs, my neighbor sat on her patio showing off her old Brooklyn accent while catching up with a friend. Strange wisps of creatures (are these bugs?) congregated by the sliding door.

It’s been too long since we sat out here. One of the chairs is broken, and I keep forgetting to remember to water the plants. The mint is crying out.

Yesterday we saw our pet alligator is still out and free in the canal behind our place; those gator trappers that showed up last weekend didn’t catch her. Phew. Continue reading  continue reading

Buckwheat Pancakes

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Meet our pancake of the moment, making Saturdays better for a couple weeks now. They look a little different from what we’re used to. Buckwheat flour stains the edges purple and blue around a very browned pancake. They bubble up beautifully in the center as they cook, and they keep well in the fridge for a couple days. I just had a leftover one for lunch.

Besides the lovely color, buckwheat adds an earthiness to the pancakes. They take very well to softened butter and maple syrup. Still, there’s a health factor to consider; more protein and fiber than all-purpose flour! We used equal parts of each flour, but you could work your way up to 100% buckwheat.

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Gianduja (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread)

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Perhaps my favorite thing about this gianduja— besides it being a rustic, homemade Nutella — is discovering it hardens when drizzled over ice cream, just like Magic Shell. It is absolutely perfect over a few scoops of good vanilla ice cream.

I’m a sucker for the chocolate-hazelnut combination and it took hardly any time to make this at home. Toast hazelnuts. Process everything together.

Oh yeah! We bought a Cuisinart food processor. We’re in business now.

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Moules à la Marinière

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Most days, my high school art history teacher would pull up a stool next to the slide projector, flip off the lights, and show us the world through art. Byzantine, Baroque, Post-expressionism – a personal favorite. It quickly became one of the most rewarding classes. How many people can recognize a Modigliani by looking at the painted subject’s eyes or pick out a Caravaggio?

But that’s not the only thing I learned.

Every now and then a slide of a statue would pop up, and she’d say the same thing: Look behind the statue. The back! Everyone crowds around the front of Venus de Milo and David, but what about the back? The sculptor had to spend time carving, perfecting, and well, perfecting the behind, too. On my trip to the Louvre, I remembered my teacher’s advice, and you’d know where to find me.

Well, I’m here to tell you, the same thing is true for cookbooks! Look at the back.

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I’ve had my copy of Julia Child’s masterpiece for a few months now, and we’ve made her Moules à la Marinière several times. But until yesterday, I hadn’t looked at the back of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. On the back cover of this 40th anniversary edition, there’s a photo of Julia. Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck are hovering with her over pots, tasting spoons in hand. To make it even better, Julia’s husband, Paul, took this photo!

So, all this is to pass along my art history teacher’s bit of advice and to remind myself. Also, mussels. I’d like to remind you to try steamed mussels, if you haven’t already. Continue reading  continue reading