Jamie Oliver’s Wife’s Favorite Beef Stew

by Hilary Gauntt on January 16, 2018

Jamie is one of my culinary heroes. As busy as he was running restaurants all over the world, writing cookbooks, and starring in television shows; he took on the challenge of improving England’s school lunches. Then left his young family for months to come to West Virginia and take on ours, not receiving the warmest welcome from a state with one of the highest rates of obesity. He started cooking at age 8 in his parents pub.

In his book “Jamie’s Dinners” he introduces this recipe by saying his wife Jools “goes mad for this stew in the colder months of the year, and the kids love it too.” It has lots of interesting root vegetables like parsnips and butternut squash (I skipped the Jerusalem artichoke because it was hard to find and I read in Wikipedia that it could cause (ahem) “digestive problems”). He cooks this for 3 or more hours in the oven, but no doubt it would be great in the slow cooker or Instapot as well.

I loved that he experimented with two batches of meat; browning one and putting the other straight into the pot. He noted that even though it went against all his training, he couldn’t deny the latter was sweeter and cleaner tasting so now he’s stopped browning the meat for most of his stews. One step you shouldn’t skip however is the garnish of lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary you sprinkle over the stew just before eating. Jamie notes ” Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference -as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.” As with most stews, we found this even more delicious the second day.

olive oil

a knob of butter (love that!)

1 onion, peeled and chopped

a handful of fresh sage leaves

1 3/4 stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 2″ pieces

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour, to dust

2 parsnips, peeled and quartered

4 carrots, peeled and halved

1/2 a butternut squash, halved, deseeded, and roughly diced

optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes; peeled and halved

1 lb. small potatoes

2 Tbs. tomato puree

1/2 bottle of red wine

1 1/4 cups beef or vegetable stock

zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

a handful of rosemary, leaves picked

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato puree,, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt.Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4- it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 225 degrees and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle a bit over the stew before eating.
Serves 4
Note: I think my carrots and other vegetables are larger than his, so I cut them in smaller pieces.


“Healthyish” Quick Tomato Chicken Curry

by Hilary Gauntt on January 9, 2018

Knowing everyone is wanting to undo a little of the damage they did over the holidays, Bon Apetit is offering a selection of recipes this first half of January that they label “Healthyish.” Two weeks of “just so happens to be healthy” dinners. In other words healthy, lighter ingredients without sacrificing flavor. After seeing lots of articles proposing a New Year’s “Detox” ; Healthyish sounds more my style.

This recipe fits the bill. I love all kinds of curries, and this tomato based one was new to me. Don’t skip the yogurt and cilantro topping; they finish it beautifully. Next time I will use chicken thighs instead of breasts as they are less likely to overcook. And add a bit more heat with some chopped chiles or up the 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes. If you’re feeling “healthyish” check out the other recipes online; lots of creative, appealing ideas here.

3 Tbs. ghee, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

4 garlic cloves, crushed

Kosher salt

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. garam masala

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbs. honey

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 15-ounce can coconut milk

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total) cut into 1-inch thick pieces

1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat ghee (or oil) in a large wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, turning occasionally, until undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes; season with salt. Add garam masala, bay leaf, and red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in honey and cook until slightly caramelized, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes along with juices and bring to a boil, smashing down on tomatoes with a wooden spoon until pieces are no bigger than 1 inch. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Add coconut milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 20-25 minutes; taste and season with salt if needed. Add chicken strips and reduce heat to low. Cook , partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt.

Stir yogurt, a big pinch of salt, and 2 Tbs. water in a small bowl. Drizzle yogurt sauce over stew. Top with cilantro before serving. Serves 4.

Note: I used low fat coconut milk. When using whole tomatoes, I have learned to use a kitchen scissors to cut then into pieces while still in the can; just easier. Some lime juice and chopped scallions at the end might be nice as well! If you don’t have garam masala, curry powder will work fine. That’s my Mother’s fabulous Northwest Purple Plum Chutney on the plate in the picture; for the recipe click on the Virginia’s Cookbook category.


Bring on 2018 !

by Hilary Gauntt on December 28, 2017

Well, it’s been a wild ride in 2017…floods, fires, hurricanes, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and the most appalling, inescapable in-your-face politics of my adult life. So we will ring in 2018 with a sigh of relief and a prayer for a return to less chaotic world. For someone who enjoys starting the day with the newspaper and ending it with the 6:00 news it’s been a challenge for this optimist to keep the glass half full. Here’s hoping that you find joy, good health and a measure of serenity in the year ahead. I’ve been collecting some inspiring words to help us focus. And if it’s true everything happens for a reason, then maybe this was a year that we needed to learn some hard lessons.

Some say creativity starts with discontent. Choreographer Martha Graham called it “Divine dissatisfaction.”

“My hut having burned to the ground, I can now clearly see the stars.” African saying.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
Eckhart Tolle

“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.” Maya Angelou

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” Mexican proverb

“Courage is only an accumulation of small steps.” George Konrad

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. ALWAYS.” Robin Williams


Chicken Roasted with Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, and Herbs

by Hilary Gauntt on December 21, 2017

This is my adaptation of a flavorful, simple chicken casserole from Julia Moskin of the New York Times. Her version had you wrapping the roasting pan in tin foil to bake, then removing the foil and running it until the broiler to brown the chicken. I much prefer roasted chicken and vegetables to the slightly steamed baked flavor, so skipped the tin foil which then also eliminated the broiling. I also upped the amounts of spices and wine and added sliced garlic.

I have made a number of chicken and vegetable roasts, and I thought the addition of wine to this one added so much depth to the sauce. The leftovers for lunch the next day were maybe even better. A keeper! And one of those great recipes you can put together ahead of time and pop in the oven later; great for this busy time of year.

1 3-4 pound chicken, cut up or 3 to 4 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbs. fresh rosemary leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 to 3 pounds small to medium Yukon gold potatoes, quartered or sliced

12 ounces or more cherry or grape tomatoes

1 large onion, quartered and thickly sliced

2 large cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 to 6 sprigs fresh basil, plus 2 Tbs. finely shredded leaves for garnish

Pull any lumps of fat off the chicken pieces and discard. In a bowl or a sealable plastic bag, combine the chicken pieces, 1/8 cup of the olive oil, 1 Tbs. of the rosemary, 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and the chiles. Mix well and set aside to marinate, at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a 9-by-13 inch baking dish or a large ovenproof skillet, combine remaining olive oil and rosemary with the potatoes, tomatoes, onion,garlic, basil springs and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss together and spread out evenly in the pan. Arrange chicken pieces on top, skin side up. Add the wine, pouring around the edges of the pan, and bake for 40 minutes or more until the vegetables are soft and chicken crisp. I actually turned the oven off around 40 minutes and let it continue to bake another 20 minutes or so until we were ready for it. Serves 4.


Sausage and Potato Roast With Arugula

December 8, 2017

I had to try this recipe from Food and Wine magazine as these are three of my favorite foods! And it is such an easy one dish supper, perfect for a cool Fall evening. You just roast everything on a sheet pan until browned and tender, then tip it all into a large serving bowl […]

Read the full article →

Jessica Seinfeld’s Meatballs Marinara

November 30, 2017

This is another recipe from Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld’s “Food Swings” cookbook. I don’t sense any Italian heritage here, but somehow she has come up with a darn good meatball recipe. If you want to see a grin and get a “WOW” from any male walking into your kitchen, have the sheet pan filled with over […]

Read the full article →

Breakfast Casserole with Ham, Cheese and Hashbrowns

November 19, 2017

Some of our family’s best Thanksgivings were at Casey’s beloved Aunt Joan and Uncle Stan’s ranch in Templeton, California. Hordes of cousins and their children, an annual football match with the Dad’s dressed in their college colors, deer and wild turkeys on the 40 acres. There was wood to be chopped, hikes to be taken […]

Read the full article →

Salmon Baked in Wine and Herbs

November 10, 2017

Here is a very easy and delicious recipe for that healthy fish we are all supposed to eat more of. It called for dried tarragon, but I had some fresh dill and used that instead. So perfect to prepare ahead of time and pop in the oven when you’re ready. I would check it earlier […]

Read the full article →

Julienne’s Roasted Corn and Cilantro Chowder

November 1, 2017

Remember Steve Martin’s charming house in “Father of the Bride”? That’s pretty much how all the other homes in San Marino, Cailfornia look. And “Julienne”, the beloved neighborhood bistro in that town, is just as lovely. Susan Campoy is the founder and was chef for many years in addition to running a catering business and […]

Read the full article →

Spaghetti with Tilapia and Greek Olives

October 27, 2017

I always have an eye out for ways to use readily available and inexpensive tilapia, and this recipe is both easy to prepare and so tasty! A can of whole tomatoes is simmered with garlic and herbs, then add the fish which cooks in minutes along with the olives. Toss with wholegrain spaghetti and you […]

Read the full article →