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 ;).

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Don’t Mess with Texas

I’m probably gonna get a jaw drop or three when I type this, but I love conferences. I’m serious. The large meeting rooms with twenty powerpoint presentations per day, constant career talk and learning about genetics until you’re blue in the face – I can’t get enough of it.

Okay, I’m kidding. I don’t mind them, but not so much for the reasons above. I like the traveling, the visiting with friends, the time away from my desk and clinic, and sometimes (sometimes) coming home with a few good nuggets of knowledge. Of course, to take home those nuggets I have to sit in those large rooms and listen to those powerpoint presentations, and that’s where conferences get a little dicey.

But we’re not here to talk about genetics, or any other conference for that matter. We’re here to talk about Texas. Didn’t you know? Of course, I’m already getting started on the wrong foot, because I can’t quite talk about Texas. The state is huge. Huge. Humongous. Ginormous even. Plus, this was my first official visit there (since connecting flights don’t count here, or ever, really). When I say there, I mean to Dallas. Did I mention that one of my favorite things about conferences is the free travel? Ssssshhhhhh……

And while that travel is ‘free’, in paying for that travel, I agree to sit indoors and listen. Can you believe they made people do that at a similar conference in Hawaii last year? Hawaii, people!!! I refused to go because I knew I’d break the rules. In Dallas, I did follow them, but my friend Rachel and I got there a day early (a half day, really) to tour around, we ate plenty of good food at night, and at the very end of the day, I have to say we had a jolly good time.

For one, the weather couldn’t have been more splendid. I’ve contemplated doing like “the old folks” and migrating south for the winter (or the birds, come to think of it…). Not quite cold enough for a jacket at night, but warm enough for sandals during the day. There was a threat of rain the day of our arrival too, but most of these pictures are from that day – not a drop in sight.

The brick building above doubles as a museum and a visitor center – and unlike some visitor centers, this one was really useful. The lady knew her stuff. Well, with one exception. Rach asked about walking around at night, and she said she “does it all the time”. I beg to differ. Well, I bet she doesn’t walk from Deep Ellum to Downtown at night….. Nonetheless, it was probably worth missing the bus to miss the homeless guy’s banter to get a burger from Twisted Root (links below).

I don’t know what this building is – maybe a Dallas reader’ll chime in? It’s in the Arts District, and it seems to be made of pipes… but that’s about all I’ve got. Maybe my architect buddy Jennifer knows?! Jennifer?

Again, we didn’t have long to travel, but fortunately we were able to get around alright. We walked a lot, but when we weren’t walking we were finding our way around via public transit. Can I add here that I LOVE cities with decent public transit?! I don’t know if the “DART” is something you locals take often, but you should. It’s cheap, and easy. Did I  mention there’s a free trolley? Check it out – it’s so old-school. The guy takes off his ‘gears’ and switches to the back at the end of the route. The seats flip too. We know ’cause we rode it to the end and watched :).

I may not have had any brisket (yes, I know…. lame!!!), but we made sure to find a truck with horns on the front. You don’t go to Texas without finding horns on trucks. Geezzz….

Pioneer Park is a modern-day account of the original Shawnee Trail of the 1850’s. A couple dozen longhorns are being driven by cowboys on horseback amidst vibrant landscaping and waterfalls; this is supposedly one of the biggest outdoor public areas in the city and one of the larger bronze sculpture parks around. Rach knew about this place and I’m glad she did – it’s definitely worth walking through, and since it’s near the conference center, it’s probably a decent spot for a picnic lunch.

Aside from the sights, we certainly had our fair share of good food. If nothing else, I always do a little food research to find a couple of reputable restaurants to try out. For the ‘fancy’ meals, we went to Craft (my chef crush Colicchio wasn’t there….) and Stephan Pyles, and for the lo-key spots it was tapas and burgers. My favorite? Definitely Stephan Pyles – the short ribs were hands down the best short ribs I’ve ever had.

Dallas Food/Drink Links
Craft – Dallas
Stephan Pyles
The Idle Rich Pub
Si Tapas Restaurant & Bar
Twisted Root Burger Co.

I’ve had this particular short rib recipe lying around for a few weeks, and have been dying to share it. No, it doesn’t have a thing to do with Dallas, but since the short ribs were my numero uno meal of the week, I figure it’s at least somewhat appropriate. These are spiced with garam masala, braised in a root veggie-tomato-red wine sauce, and served alongside a side dish of carrots that were, you guessed it, braised as well, but in beer and carrot juice. Succulent, tender, and definitely perfect for October – the dish just happens to work well alongside some garlic naan. Just sayin’.

Do these short ribs, or the ones from Stephan Pyles make up for missing out on Texas brisket? Probably not, but even if it did I wouldn’t tell ya. Ya don’t mess with Texas, and you certainly don’t mess with the brisket. The short ribs will have to do for now, but somehow I think we’ll all manage, don’t you?

Braised Indian-Spiced Short Ribs & Carrots
Adapted from Michael Voltaggio via Food & Wine, April 2010; serves 4

time commitment: about 3 hours (~1 hour active time)

printable version

ingredients
short ribs
3 1/2 T garam masala
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 boneless short ribs (10 to 12 ounces each), trimmed of fat
salt
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery rib, chopped
3 small heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 heads of garlic, coarsely chopped
2 c dry red wine
1 quart chicken broth

carrots**
8 medium carrots
1 c pilsner beer
1/2 c carrot juice
1 t sugar
1 T butter
salt

instructions
short ribs
Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a small skillet, toast the garam masala over moderately high heat, shaking the pan constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the short ribs with salt and sear them over high heat until browned and crusty all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate.

Add the onion, carrots and celery to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic and 3 tablespoons of the garam masala and cook until fragrant and the tomatoes are beginning to break down, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the casserole, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Return the meat to the casserole and season with salt. Cover and braise in the oven for about 2 hours, until just tender but not falling apart.

Transfer the meat to a baking sheet. Strain the liquid into a saucepan. Skim off and discard the fat that rises to the surface. Boil over high heat until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Brush the meat with some of the sauce and broil for 3 minutes per side, until browned and sizzling. Sprinkle the meat lightly with garam masala, then slice it 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to plates and serve with the remaining sauce.

carrots
Peel the carrots so that the thick ends are roughly the same width as the thinner ends; cut each carrot in thirds crosswise. Put the carrots in a medium skillet with the carrot juice and beer and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a plate.

Whisk the butter into the sauce and simmer until thickened, 1 minute. Return the carrots to the skillet, season with salt and toss to coat. Transfer to plates and serve.

**carrots are NOT gluten-free, but are if you use a gf beer!

*Pictures at the top (L to R): Stephan Pyles (SP) – briased short ribs and frittered okra, Craft – risotto, chard, scallops and lamb saddle, Craft card, Twisted Root – chipotle, cheddar, guac burger, table @ Twisted Root, SP “Heaven & Hell” cake, SP “Coffee and Doughnuts”, SP ahi tuna ceviche, Craft beet salad

Short Ribs for My Shorty

curried short ribs
I think it’s time to really admit it. Summer is over. It’s hard, letting go of my favorite season in Chicago. But this year, it’s been even more difficult because in the midwest at least, we were sort of jipped, robbed, of our summer. Unseasonably cool, rainy, and sad intermixed with a few gorgeous, sunny, and sometimes blistering hot days. Now that I think about it in that way, I’m suddenly having an easier time saying goodbye. Goodbye lackluster summer, hello lovely fall.


If I still lived down South, I’d be beyond excited right about now. Fall is definitely the best season down that way – the summers are brutal and fall means that you can finally turn the air conditioning from level 4 to level 2 in the car. You can buy ice cream again without it melting in the grocery bag before you get home. And you can stop expecting to receive a chinese fan or battery-powered wind maker as your gift at the outdoor weddings.

searing short ribs

And although I do love my Chicago summers, I am still a mighty big fan of the fall. Sure, I love watching the leaves change color – who doesn’t? I also like that people start to wear more clothes because, let’s be honest, those gypsy sandals and short skirts really aren’t that cool, right? And what’s with those shirts that hang off of one shoulder? Wasn’t that only cool when Debbie Gibson was making music?

Aside from all that though, you know what else I really love about the fall? Warm, comforting, satisfying food. Soup, roasted butternut squash, chili, and all things slow cooker.

slow cooker

It’s not that you can’t use those slow cookers in the summer. In fact, I think I made this dish back in June when I had a crazy craving for short ribs – I couldn’t help myself when I saw the coconut milk and red curry paste, as we all know I love those Asian flavors. Slow cooker recipes are ultra convenient – turn that puppy on and come home to short ribs that literally fall off the bone when you pick them up (if they haven’t already) and a rich sauce full of all those scrumptious flavors of ginger, fish sauce, and the already-mentioned coconut milk and curry. Or if you’re like me, use it on the weekend when you’re home during the day so you can also smell the goodness all day long!

But please, don’t just dump that sauce on top of your short ribs, unless you are dying for extra cholesterol points. Please people, drain the fat…

drain the fat

Then dump that lovely sauce all over those short ribs and rice. I know you’ll be excited by this point, but don’t forget the final touches of lime zest and juice – they brighten up the flavors like you wouldn’t believe.

Curried Beef Short Ribs
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2009; serves 6


ingredients
2 t canola oil
2 lbs beef short ribs, trimmed
1 1/2 t kosher salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/3 c minced shallots
3 T minced garlic
3 T minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 c water
2 T red curry paste
1/4 c light coconut milk
1 T sugar
1 T fish sauce
1 t grated lime rind
1 T fresh lime juice
4 c hot cooked basmati rice


instructions
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add half of ribs to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place ribs in slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining ribs.
Add shallots, garlic, and ginger to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup water and curry paste; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk, sugar, and fish sauce. Add coconut milk mixture to cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 6 hours.


Remove ribs from cooker; keep warm. Strain cooking liquid through a colander over a bowl; discard solids. Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into a small bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Stir in remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, rind, and juice. Shred rib meat with 2 forks; discard bones. Serve sauce over ribs and rice.