Love at First Sight

I’m sorry if I’m about to repeat myself here, but I’m going to tell you a little bit about how Chris and I met. I swear I’ve done it already (more than just little snippets), but I’m in no mood to read through every last post to double check. So there.

I’m thinking I used to have a section about it on the “About” page, and when I just went to update it a little (yeah, finally!) I realized it wasn’t there anymore. So maybe some of you don’t know the story.

Anyway, away we go.

I applied for a study abroad trip in Italy in the winter of 2000 after a pretty shitty year (see link #1 above). I got “picked” to go (although I’m sure it wasn’t that hard…), so after pinching myself a few times, asking my parents over and over for money (because I didn’t believe them the first time they said they’d pay for it), and getting all my shit together (vacation from the soap store, finding a place for my cat to live, etc), I was finally set. There were only a couple of “orientation meetings” to attend, and then I’d be on my way to Florence.

Chris would tell you that we met at one of those orientation sessions. He’d also tell you that I was a royal bitch to him when he tried to make small talk from the row behind me; apparently I was annoyed that he didn’t know we’d be 6 hours ahead of North Carolina time and snapped at him, but I swear I don’t remember it. I mean seriously, when do I ever snap at people? And of course, he’d tell you that he noticed all the cornbread I’d eaten, and that he may have fallen in love with me at first sight. Again, I remember none of this.

Chris would also tell you that he found out pretty quickly that I had a super-serious boyfriend at home and that his heart was crushed. There was one drunken night (of many, because it was Italy for cryin’ out loud! that means cheap-ass wine!) that many of us distinctly remember a phrase slurred from Chris’ lips: “My girlfriend! She has a boyfriend!”. Ah, the memories.

Anyways, even though it wasn’t necessarily love at first sight, Chris and I definitely hung out together quite a bit in Italy and in a matter or months (or weeks…) upon returning from said country, we were pretty much walking to each other’s houses every day after class. Three years later we were moving to Chicago together, and two years after that we got hitched. Five years after that, here we are in California. How time flies.

It just so happened that an Italian cooking class was offered as part of our study abroad curriculum. I’d initially enrolled in some nerdy educational something-or-other class, but once I realized the cooking class was offered, I quickly jumped ship and opted for the more ‘leisurely’ course. I may or may not have known that Chris was already taking the cooking class, too ;). As a result, we got to spend even more time together, and while I barely remember what we cooked, I do remember one little detail.

There was rabbit.

Okay, two details. The rabbit was really tasty. I have no idea how we prepared it, but maybe it was something like this? Ragù is Italian-derived, after all.

Either way, it’s a ragù you should certainly make, even if you do have to drive around to all your city’s butcher shops to find a rabbit. Rabbit is lean, totally flavor-filled, and a meat you’ll fall in love with the second you taste the result. It may not be love at first sight, but that doesn’t ever truly happen anyway, does it?

Rabbit Ragù with Soppressata
Adapted from Food & Wine, September 2009; serves 4-6 

time commitment: 2 1/2 hours (more like 1 hour active)

printable version

ingredients
2 3/4 pounds plum tomatoes (or 3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole 2-3 lb rabbit*
salt & pepper
1 onion, medium dice
2 stalks of celery, medium dice
2 carrots, medium dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c hefty red wine (I used a 2004 Syrah)
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T finely chopped rosemary
4 oz soppressata, finely diced
3/4 lb tagliatelle
1/4 c Parmigiano-Regianno cheese, grated
1 T chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

*Rabbit is pretty difficult to locate since the demand is relatively low in most places. For those in San Francisco, I found mine at Bi-Rite, but Drewes Bros usually carries a few frozen rabbits and I know the meat shop at the Ferry Bldg carries it. Many butcher shops can order one for you at your request. D’artagnan is an online meat market and they sell it too for reasonable prices. If you buy it locally, you can probably have the butcher butcher it for you.

instructions
Butcher your rabbit if the market didn’t do it for you. I cut mine into 8 pieces, sorta following these instructions.

If using fresh tomatoes, you’ll get the best results if you peel your tomatoes. You can leave them peeled and loaded with seeds if you want, though, to save time. If you’re using canned tomatoes, you can obviously skip this step. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Score the bottom of each tomato with a shallow X. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to the ice water bath to cool. Peel the tomatoes and cut them in half crosswise. Scoop the seeds and pulp into a strainer set over a bowl. Press the pulp and juice through the strainer and discard the seeds. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the strained pulp and juice.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper. Add them to the Dutch oven and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to a plate.

Toss the onions, celery, and carrots into the Dutch oven and cook over moderate-high heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook another minute or two. Add red wine and bring to boil to deglaze (removed browned bits).

Once most of the wine has evaporated, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, rosemary and the browned rabbit and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rabbit is tender, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to a plate. Boil the sauce until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Pull the rabbit meat from the bones and shred it. Return the rabbit meat to the Dutch oven, add the diced soppressata and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta well and divide among shallow bowls. Spoon the rabbit ragù over the pasta, top with cheese and parsley, and serve hot.

Time Flies; a Countdown

Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? In no time, I’ll be trying my hand at lemon-growing, learning to surf, biking through the Redwoods, driving with the top down while wearing a tank top, and relaxing on the Pacific shores, local brew in one hand. (Wine in the other, of course.)

Ok, ok, maybe not ALL of those things, but still. It’s definitely going to be different. Different and a little bit warmer. I must say I am very excited about being a California girl. Not that I really know what that entails, but next time you hear from me, I’ll be ‘on the other side’.

Meanwhile, I thought a countdown might be fun. You know, just for shits and giggles. Hopefully, more giggles though.

Let’s start with 20 and work our way down, shall we?

20: days until I start my new job. (Yes, I already have a job! I need an easy button for this one.) I still get to work at a fancy place (Stanford), but I get to work with preggers ladies instead of talk about hereditary cancer risk. Man, I will miss my job, but I think this will be a good change.
19: the number of dirty socks and underwear in a bag in “my room” at Jennifer & Jon’s. I need to do laundry. seriously.
18: how many different restaurants I’ve been to in the last two weeks. Yes, my pants are tight, too. By the way, Vancouver is a really cool city. I’ll talk about that in another week or so.
17: the number of times Riley has licked my feet in the past week. apparently, my feet smell special, and i don’t know if that’s good or bad…
16: yikaroonies, my niece turns this age on Sunday! Happy Birthday, Ash, and drive safe my dear!
15: how long it’s been since I’ve seen my kitty cat. Mama’s comin’ soon, Tange!
14: “free” days to figure out my surroundings once in CA. this includes finding a place to live. no pressure.
13: the number of lime-flavored chips I could eat right now. ok, double it.
12: how many times I look at craigslist-SF each day. also how many times I almost crap my pants at rent prices in said city.
11: a rough estimate of how many pounds I’ve gained in the last month, thanks to having tons of awesome friends who want to go out for “one last [insert drink/food/drink and food]”.
10: how many times Chris has tried to forward our mail. apparently the USPS doesn’t like that we live(d) on North Avenue. this also means I am not getting my food magazines. or bills. One of these is bad; I’ll let you decide which one.
9: this is how many pairs of shoes I have to find room for in my suitcase come Sunday morning. needless to say, I will be wearing rain boots to the airport, rain or shine…
8: how many sandwiches are on the menu at Grahamwich, which is where I’m eating with Caroline today. I already know what I’m getting though.
7: how many nights I’ve been lucky enough to eat dinner at ‘home’ with J&J. Jennifer made some amazing General Tso’s chicken one night, Jon whipped up cupcakes and tasty cucumber cocktails, and I made short ribs (of course) and some pork chops, also a winning pulled pork dish. Cooking with friends is one of my favorite things. Do i say that a lot?! Cuz it’s true.
6: months until we’re back in Chicago! Felicia, I’m glad you’re getting married :).
5: this is how many hours it takes me to get from Chicago to San Francisco. minus 30 minutes. hello blood clot and swollen feet. Dramatic?
4: four nights left of sleeping alone. Chris better watch out – I’ve gotten really good at taking up the whole bed.
3: three more days working with some really lovely people, at a really lovely job.
2: the number of clinic notes I have left to write. i have three days left to do it though, so no worries!
1: one more weekend, which means some quality time with J&J, Riley, and Chicago. It better not freakin’ snow.

So there you are. These are the things that are on my mind lately. Short ribs included, especially these ones. They are tender, they are smothered in wine and tomatoes, they are served atop carbs. They will make you wish it was December all over again, when you can focus on comfort food for another three months instead of cold, rainy Spring days or days when you just have to eat something hefty, instead of a salad, or something else non-hefty.

For me, they were even better, because they were made and eaten with some of my ‘besties’. J&J, I will miss you guys terribly. Please move West already.

Tomato-Braised Short Ribs.
inspired by Pioneer Woman, serves 4

time commitment: 24 hours; 45 minutes active time (start the day before you want to eat!)

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
4 honkin’ bone-in grass-fed short ribs
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 large can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 c good red wine
salt and pepper
1 box whole wheat linguini (or gluten-free linguini)
parsley, for garnish (optional)

instructions
on med-hi, heat olive oil in large dutch oven. brown short ribs on each side, about 2 minutes per side. remove and set aside.

toss in onions, garlic, and cinnamon. saute, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. add diced tomotoes and red wine, and bring to a boil. add salt and pepper to taste. nestle short ribs into tomato sauce, turn heat to low, and cover. simmer for 3-3.5 hours. remove from heat and let come to room temperature. refrigerate overnight for best results.

the next day: remove from fridge. fat from short ribs will have risen to the top and hardened. This is the best time to get it out – just remove it with a knife/spoon/whatever (it sorta looks like candle wax… appetizing, no?!). warm the short ribs and sauce over medium heat.

meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, and serve with warmed short ribs and tomato sauce. garnish with parsley if desired. enjoy a nice hefty red wine alongside ;).