Duck & braised radishes

This past week has felt about loss and burden. Being on the other side of it, perhaps makes it easier to talk about.

As I mentioned before, we are moving in a couple of weeks and are currently in the preparation phase, the one where you must tackle the clutter, the daunting mountain of things that make up a life and yet do not sum it up.

Part of me just wishes to escape this phase, longs for travel, for an escape, for Greece and France, for Paris at 5 in the morning, for dipping bread in olive oil and tomatoes by a Greek beach, for the discovery of new places and people in foreign lands, for walks in the countryside with no agenda.

As I climb up this mountain, I find myself longing for a flat road.

But this mountain is nothing but a transition, one that is helping me process loss, I suppose. The loss of my life as I knew it and had planned it. And the burden transformation necessitates.

Just like when Pablo started on solid food and I decided we were going to eat as well as he did, I must apply to myself what I have been practicing with him to nurture and support him through his difficulties.

In time of crisis, instead of distracting him, I aim to become very present, right there with him, supporting, putting emotions into words, patient and accepting.

So now I must stand beside myself, as I climb and get anxious, frustrated, exhausted and discouraged. Be present with myself, and supportive, patient and accepting. And later, there might be Greece and France.

Acceptance. This might just be the secret to it all. Unconditional, guilt-free, trusting acceptance. Of oneself and loved ones, of one’s own needs, of help, of feelings, of life’s meanderings. Only then can we see their beauty. Or their purpose.

Through it all, I’m always grateful for Pablo’s gentleness and complete acceptance. His existence is my daily poetry.

As we manage the logistics of the chaos ahead, time for cooking will be very limited. But I realized last week that it wouldn’t occur to me to start eating processed foods, quick frozen meals or to skip the family meals and eat on the run, even then. It’s not an option in my mind. I certainly need the connection, togetherness, and simple beauty of our family meals more than ever. They help me recharge my batteries.

And  it’s also not really necessary. What will our meals look like in the next few weeks, as we are surrounded by boxes and limited in kitchenware? Lots of Greek salads and crudités, (the summer season is still blessing us with gorgeous produce), easy pan-fried meats, fish, shrimp, and pan-fried vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. Quick proteins like smoked salmon and sardines and eggs. Lots of things we can make ahead, to have for a couple of days: grated carrot salad, lentil salad, chickpea salad, quinoa, gazpacho. If our meals are slightly lighter, we’ll enjoy a little more cheese, yogurt and summer fruit as dessert.

One very simple meal I’ve been wanting to share with you for some time, but finally was able to take some pictures of before we sit down to eat it. This grilled duck with radishes and cherries offers a great mix of salty, slightly bitter and sweet. If cherries are out of season, you can certainly omit them, it’s also delicious with just the radishes.

So I will post at a slower pace the next couple of weeks as we get settled, and will probably share very simple meals.

And I will be looking forward to sharing so much more from our new home, with a smaller kitchen (yikes!), but such a lovely window for photos, a vegetable garden and fruit trees to boot.

Roasted duck with braised radishes & cherries

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes des Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

Serves 2 + 1 toddler

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time : 35 minutes total

Age for babies: Mixed thoroughly into a puree, I would give this from 6 months on (perhaps adding some potato for consistency). More baby duck recipes here and here.

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 bunch of radishes 
10-12 cherries
2 tbsp sugar (or honey)
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp salt (I used lapsang souchong salt here)
1 tsp pepper
4 small duck breasts

Wash and pat-dry the radishes, cut the stems short. Pit the cherries.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the radishes, the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring here and there, until they become slightly golden.

Then add a little bit under 1/4 cup of hot water, and the cherries. Stir, lower heat to medium low, cover and let braise for about 15 minutes.  Then, keep warm/covered.

(At this point, I do a few other things like set the table, prepare our vegetable first course. Then I continue a few minutes before we sit down to eat)

Preheat your broiler at 500°F.

Make a salt and pepper rub by mixing the salt and pepper (and some lapsang souchong tea strands, I’m obsessed with this tea right now!) in a bowl.

Make a few incisions (3 in each direction) through the skin of the duck breasts (but not all the way through the skin). Rub each side with the salt & pepper.

Place the breasts on parchment paper in a baking dish, skin side down.

Place in the oven (very close to the heat elements) for about 5 minutes, then turn them over (skin up), for another 5 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let rest with the oven door open for another 5 minutes.

Serve 2 duck breasts on each plate, top with some radishes and cherries and drizzle the cooking juices from radishes over both.

Bon appétit!

Brasato: Red wine braised meat

Yesterday I made brasato. Brasato is beef braised in red wine, typically Barolo, and cooked until fall apart tender. It is delicious. Especially in winter at a dinner with friends and served with some polenta. And that is exactly what I did.

One of my friends, was so nice to take pics of the food for me. As you know I am a rather bad photographer, at least as compared to the rest of the awesome food bloggers out there. So I’m very glad to have help. Particularly to take picture of meat drenched in gravy in the dim lights of my apartment. Anytime I have to take pics of something glossy and soupy at night I cannot get anything in focus, there is always some sort of glare and I end up with horrible pic. So thanks Madhu for helping me out! Hope you enjoyed the food!

Brasato: red wine braised beef

Brasato: red wine braised beef

Ingredients

  • 2 lb beef (shoulder or chuck pot roast)
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 3 stalk celery
  • 1 bottle good red wine, ideally Barolo
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 grains black pepper
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 cloves
  • salt
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. The day before you want to have your dice all the vegetable and place them along with the meat and the spices (bay, pepper grains, cloves, cinnamon and rosemary) in a bowl. Cover everything with the wine and put in the fridge to rest for 12-20 hours.
  2. After the meat is well marinated, fish it out from the marinade and dry it using a paper towel. Don’t throw out the marinade or the wine.
  3. Warm up a couple of spoons of oil in a dutch oven and when it is hot brown the meat on all sides. When the meat is well browned, add the the vegetables from the marinade. After about 5 minutes, season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Warm up the wine from the marinade in the microwave so that it is not too cold and add it to the meat. The meat should be almost submerged. Cover the dutch oven and let your meat cook for about 2 and 1/2 hours or until buttery soft.
  5. When the meat is cooked fish it out and slice it. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables to obtain a thick gravy. If needed let the gravy reduce a couple of minutes on the stove.
  6. Pour part of the gravy on the sliced meat and serve hot with polenta or mashed potatoes with the rest of the gravy on the side.

Braised red cabbage soup with pineapple and turnip, and a blood orange chipotle

So tonight I participated in the awesome MMD on-line cook-off by Mary Makes Dinner. I competed with Mary and Amy of What Jew Wanna Eat to create a recipe using 3 surprise ingredients. We got the ingredients by mail and opened them up for the challenge and then we got 40 minutes to cook.

The ingredients were: canned pineapple, fennel seeds and dried chipotle peppers. So I thought and I though (actually I only thought and not even that much or that well because 40 minutes go really fast!) and I decided to use red cabbage. I thought it would go well with the sweetness of the pineapple and I played the rest by hear.

I started by rendering the fat of some diced bacon and then I added sliced red cabbage, turnip for bitterness, pineapple for sweetness and the fennel seed for some . Then I cooked the split chipotles with some blood orange juice to get some acidity and smokiness.

Of course, time ran out fast and I ended up with a pretty mono-color purple dish. It was tasty, but not particularly pretty. 5 minutes too late it hit me: blend it into a soup and add croutons to it! And so version 2 of the dish was born.

Red cabbage soup with pinapple and turnips

Now for the video of the competition and to vote my recipe and give me chance of winning a cool book and a gift card you can go here.

And for the recipe, read on!

Braised red cabbage (soup) with pineapple, turnip and blood orange chipotle reduction

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. bacon
  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • 1 can pineapple
  • 4 turnips
  • 1 tbsp fennel seed
  • 2 dried chipotles
  • 2 blood orange
  • 1 slice bread
  • salt

Directions

  1. Dice the bacon and put it in a pot to get the fat to render. Add the fennel seed to the pot and let it toast for a few seconds.
  2. Slice the cabbage, dice the pineapple and the peeled turnips and add everything to the pot with the bacon and the fennel. Add the pineapple juice and the salt and cover the pot. Let cook for about 30 minutes, mixing and adding seasoning or water as needed.
  3. In a separate pot cook the orange juice with the chipotle peppers slit in two.
  4. For the simple version of the dish, serve the cabbage warm, dressed with the chipotle orange reduction.
  5. For the soup version, blend the braised cabbage and serve in a bowl topping it with diced bread that you soaked in the reduction and a couple of pineapples dices.

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