Casseroles Lamb Soups and Stews

Lamb Shank Redemption – In the Spirit of Jamie Oliver’s Classic Dishes

    Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks
    Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

    Last weekend, I decided that my own back-to-school supply should be a new slow-cooker. I had a crock pot already, but I needed something that was larger and more programmable. So I purchased an All-Clad Slow Cooker similar to the one pictured here (and available at I actually bought the one just larger than this one and it’s huge. I wanted to be able to make entire roasts in it.

    Today, I am making one of my favorite slow-cooked dishes: braised lamb shanks. Lamb shanks, with marrow filled bones, and a layer of fat, are perfectly suited for slow-cooking. I think it might be impossible to overcook a lamb shank. The long cooking time simply works to make it extremely tender and falling off the bone.

    This version of braised lamb shank is inspired by ossobucco recipes. It includes wine, tomatoes and is finished with a gremolata. Gremolata is a bright, flavorful mixture of lemon zest, parsley and minced fresh garlic. Adding this mixture at the end brightens up the long-cooked dish.

    The best thing about the All Clad Slow Cooker is that the insert is stove ready, so you can brown food before setting it to cook for the rest of the day. This is a key step when making braised lamb shanks. I browned these shanks in batches, then added olive oil and onion, sautéeing the onion a bit before replacing the insert to the slow cooker for the rest of the cooking time.

    Lamb Shanks
    Braised Lamb Shanks
    Lamb Shank Redemption - Slow Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    Similar to ossobucco, these lamb shanks are melt in your mouth
    Recipe type: Stew
    Serves: 4
    • 3 large lamb shanks or 4 medium ones
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 large, sweet onion, diced
    • 2 cloves crushed garlic (I used Trader Joe's frozen crushed garlic)
    • 2 cups mini carrots
    • 2 Bay Leaves
    • 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 cup red wine
    • ½ 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
    • Zest of one lemon
    • ⅓ cup chopped parsley
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    1. Heat the slow-cooker insert over medium high heat (or use a skillet or dutch oven). Add lamb shanks, one or two at a time, and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and brown in batches to avoid over crowding.
    2. Remove shanks and add olive oil. Add diced onion and garlic. Toss to coat. Let sautée until wilted and starting to brown. Add shanks back in and return insert to the slow cooker.
    3. Add carrots, Bay Leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper, and wine and toss to combine. Add tomatoes and toss. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours.
    4. Serve over mashed potatoes, or noodles, or even rice. Garnish with the gremolata.
    5. To make the gremolata, simply mix together the lemon zest, chopped parsley and minced garlic.

    So, why the image from the movie, you ask? Well, it’s just a pun I thought of a long time ago and always wanted to build a recipe around. What are your favorite movie title pun memes?
    Lamb Shank Redemption

    And finally today, this video of Jamie Oliver’s Britain features the tastes of York, which means of course, Yorkshire pudding. There’s also an interesting lamb shank recipe in this video, which draws more heavily on Moroccan flavors. He uses fresh mint instead of fresh parsley and even makes a mint oil to garnish his lamb shanks.

    The other great tip he imparts is to use an immersion blender to blend the sauce leftover in the slow cooker once everything is finished cooking. Blend it and then thicken it by simmering it down over the stove. Perfection.

      Sides Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian Video How-to

      Chana Masala

        Chana Masala

        You say Garbanzo Bean, I say Chickpea, but in India, it is “Chana.”

        Chana Masala is one of the most popular Indian dishes. Since it’s vegan and spicy, it falls into the category of “dishes my husband likes.” I hope you enjoy it too.

        Chana Masala
        Serves 4-6


        1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
        1 whole cardamom pod
        1 whole cinnamon stick
        1 whole Bay Leaf
        A few whole cloves
        1 tsp whole cumin seeds
        2 medium onions, diced
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
        1 teaspoon ground turmeric
        1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
        chopped green chilis
        1 teaspoon garam masala
        1/4 tsp chili powder
        1/2 tsp ground coriander
        1/4 tsp turmeric
        1/2 tsp cumin powder
        2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
        Salt to taste
        Squeezes of lemon juice
        Fresh cilantro to garnish


        1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add whole spices (cadamom pod, cinnamon stick, Bay Leaf, whole cloves, cumin seeds) to the pan and sautée for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add onion and sautée until softened and browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric. Stir to combine. Sautée for a minute or two.

        2. Add the canned tomatoes and green chilis. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. While tomatoes are simmering, mix together the garam masala powder, chili powder, ground coriander, turmeric, and cumin powder. Add this mixture to the simmering tomatoes and stir to combine.

        3. Add the chickpeas. If the dish is getting dry, add up to 2/3 cup of water. Simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes or until chickpeas are soft, but not mushy. Season with salt.

        4. Fish out the Bay Leaf and cinnamon stick. Serve over rice. Squeeze lemon on top and garnish with lots of fresh cilantro.

        Here is a version of Chana Masala demonstrated by ShowMeTheCurry. Their version involves using tea bags to enhance flavor and color. Cool!

          Appetizers Produce Sides Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

          Dinner Party Recap and A new adventure

            Over the past six days, I’ve shared each course of a five-course dinner I cooked for my husband’s recent birthday party. Looking at the array of photos below, would it occur to you that this is a collection of vegan, gluten-free recipes? Think of it. No cheese. No pasta. No fish or fowl. If you had asked me on my husband’s birthday last year whether I could (or would even want to) make a dinner like this, I would have answered, “no,” flatly. Now, I can barely imagine eating any other way. Well, almost barely.

            Marinated Olives with Fennel Cucumber & Avocado Ceviche Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
            Roasted Asparagus w/ Grapefruit & Lemon Oil Saffron and White Wine Braised Spring Vegetables Strawberry Sorbet

            Yes, we are happily joining the national craze of eating in a sustainable, healthful way. In fact, just yesterday, I planted a whole pallet of seeds which means we’re joining the garden-at-home craze too. Count on a whole host of blog entries about this new adventure. When I was on the outside looking in at this fad, I thought it was a bit of overblown malarky, and, well, just a fad. Now that I’m joining in, I can feel myself transforming into an evangelist. I guess 38 per cent of Americans (the number of people who had a vegetable garden last year) can’t be wrong. Well, sometimes they can, but not this time.

            Seeds germinating after just 24 hours

            I absolutely must thank Viviane Bauquet Farre for her inspiration and help on this birthday dinner project. If you haven’t seen her blog yet, you are really missing out. You can find her at food and style and please, go “Like” her facebook fan page. Viviane creates the most original and beautiful recipes. She also produces some of the highest quality cooking instructional videos on the web. See them all on It took me months to figure out that her recipes are vegetarian, so they will appeal to you whether you are a vegetarian, a vegan, an omnivore or someone determined to subsist on truffles and scotch. Seriously. Thanks again, Viviane!

            Viviane Bauquet Farre
              Appetizers Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

              Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio

                Artichoke Velouté w/ Truffle Carpaccio

                It’s day three of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. Today’s installment is the second of the five-course meal. Check back Monday for course number three.

                Velouté in French means, “velvety,” and this soup is made velvety, not by creating a butter and flour roux, as are most French velouté sauces, but rather by puréeing the soup (including the artichokes and potatoes) in a blender and then pressing the it through a fine sieve. Whenever I strain a sauce or soup through a sieve, I am reminded of Thomas Keller because he has said that ‘nothing moves from one pot to another in the French Laundry kitchen without first passing through a sieve.’ Now that I have gotten into this habit as well, I highly recommend it.

                The other special trick for this soup is the black truffle carpaccio as the garnish. Viviane featured these in her original post, and I was compelled to order some myself. They are available at Gourmet Attitude in New York City. They FedEx them to you in a chilled box. They were a wonderful addition to this soup and I can’t wait to try them in other dishes as well. These are the first truffles to take up residence in my kitchen, so I am very excited about that.

                This would be another great occasion to own a stick blender. Every time I make a soup like this, I think it’s time to buy one, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

                Parlsey and Thyme Bundle

                Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
                From a recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre, by permission
                serves 6 (makes 8 cups)

                3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
                1 medium Vidalia or Spanish onion – skinned, quartered and thinly sliced
                1/2 cup dry white wine
                2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
                8 oz Yukon gold potato (1 large) – peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes
                2 8oz boxes of frozen artichoke hearts
                2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
                2 1/2 cups spring/filtered water
                1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
                freshly ground black pepper to taste
                8 Italian parsley sprigs & 6 thyme sprigs – tied in a bundle with kitchen string

                1/2 – 2.82 oz jar Black Truffle Carpaccio or truffle oil as garnish
                1/4 cup finely chopped chives as garnish


                1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onion, stir well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until just golden, stirring from time to time. Add the garlic and wine. Stir well and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine has reduced to a syrupy sauce and has almost all evaporated. Add the potato cubes, frozen artichokes, stock, water, salt, pepper to taste and herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 40 minutes until the artichokes are very tender. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

                2. Purée the soup with a stick blender, food processor, or blender until very smooth. Strain in a sieve and return to the soup pot and gently re-heat at medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

                3. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, put a spoonful of black truffle carpaccio (or a spoonful of truffle oil), garnish with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh chives and serve immediately.

                Amy’s tip: Viviane recommends straining this soup through a medium sieve. I own a fine sieve but not a medium one. It was time-consuming to strain it through the fine sieve as she warned ,but I was glad I did it anyway. I used a wooden spoon to press it through and just tried to stay patient.

                Artichoke Velouté
                  Breads Soups and Stews Uncategorized Vegetarian

                  Zesty Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

                    Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

                    I usually avoid vegetarian chili because I fear that it won’t be flavorful enough, but my husband has really laid off meat lately, and he likes his food to have a lot of kick, so I set about making a chili that would stand up to both of our flavor requirements and not include any ground meat. Sure enough, this chili delivers. In addition to chili powder, I’ve added a couple of dried red chilis (seeds and all) which manages to kick it up a notch. The other trick is to add all of the dried spices to the pot while there is hot oil in there to bring out all of the trapped flavors. While you are cooking, you should experience all of the fragrances. Adding dried spices to heated oil makes them truly fragrant.

                    The other trick to this dish is to make it in a pot that can transfer from stove to oven, like this Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 5 Quart Oval French Ovens. After you’ve prepared the chili on the stove, you will bake it with the cornbread batter on top for about 30 minutes.

                      Soups and Stews Uncategorized

                      Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale

                        White Bean Soup with Kale
                        White Bean Soup with Kale

                        With the intention of creating heart-healthy, low-sodium, nutritious dishes, I bring you a white bean soup with kale. I’ve described it as creamy, but there is no cream. The creaminess comes from puréeing the beans themselves. To make this a vegan dish, simply swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock. This recipe is also gluten-free (as long as the stock you use is gluten free). I’m eating it right now and it is totally hitting the spot. The heartiness of the puréed beans makes bread an unnecessary companion, which is good, since I’m trying to avoid that too.

                        You can garnish this soup with grated Parmesan cheese and certainly season it with additional salt, but since we’re cutting back on salt and fat, I’ve left out both.

                        Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale


                        1 lb of dried Great Northern Beans
                        2 Tbsp olive oil
                        2 cups diced onions
                        3 garlic cloves, minced
                        2 carrots, chopped or diced
                        1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
                        5-6 cups low-salt chicken stock
                        3/4 of a bunch of kale (I used curly kale)
                        Freshly ground pepper


                        1. Rinse and sort beans. In a large stockpot, cover with water (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 1 hour. This is the quick replacement for soaking overnight. Once they are soaked, drain the water.

                        2. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and carrots and sautée gently until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. (Watch heat carefully to ensure onions don’t brown too much).

                        3. Add rosemary and sauée 1 minute. Add beans, then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes (unless your beans were really tender, in which case, you may be able to simmer for as little as 10 minutes).

                        4. While soup is simmering, blanch the kale. Here’s how. Trim stems off of the kale leaves by folding them in half and slicing along the spine of the stem. Bring a small amount of water to a boil. Add kale and boil for 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Pat dry on paper towels and cut kale into small, bite-size pieces. Set aside.

                        5. Once the beans have simmered long enough to be fork tender, purée the soup in batches in a blender and then return it to the pot. Reheat and add most of the kale. Save a few pieces of kale for garnish. Pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat later.

                          Appetizers Pumpkin Soups and Stews Uncategorized Video How-to

                          Pumpkin-Sage Soup

                            Pumpkin-Sage Soup
                            Pumpkin-Sage Soup

                            Day 3 of 31 days of pumpkin brings us to a savory recipe.

                            The secret to this pumpkin soup isn’t the sage (that’s in the title after all). It’s the fact that the onions are caramelized first. Caramelizing onions takes a bit of time (about 30 minutes, in fact), but it’s well worth it to bring out the sweet, nutty flavor hidden inside. The trick to caramelizing onions is to keep the temperature very low while they are sautéeing. Caramel is created when sugar undergoes controlled pyrolysis – the chemical decomposition that happens when organic stuff gets hot. If it gets too hot, then it gets charred. Char creates the familiar grill marks on a perfectly grilled steak. We’re not charring the onions, we’re trying to decompose the sugars in such a controlled way that they turn into caramel and that takes controlled temperature for a long time.

                            Elise Bauer, from Simply Recipes, created a stop-motion movie to show onions caramelizing. Her post about how to caramelize onions is here.

                              Appetizers Produce Soups and Stews Uncategorized

                              Silky Smooth Cream of Broccoli Soup

                                Cream of Broccoli Soup
                                Cream of Broccoli Soup

                                This week at the grocery store, I bought an enormous bag of broccoli florets and have since been adding broccoli to everything.

                                Today I decided to make a more significant dent in the bag by making cream of broccoli soup. My husband loves cream of broccoli soup and even enjoys the Campbell’s version. In the past, I’ve added Campbell’s Cream of Broccoli soup to various chicken casseroles, but we’ve both watched as the cans have disappeared completely from store shelves throughout Northern California and the Sierras.

                                It does still exist. But I was happy to find out today just how easy it is to make the good stuff from scratch at home.

                                Here are my tips and tricks for making your best cream of broccoli soup yet:

                                1) I use a potato to help thicken the soup. I do use heavy cream at the end, because I can’t resist the rich flavor and texture of cream, but adding the potato could have meant cutting back on the fat and using whole milk instead.

                                2) To boost the flavor, I sautée onion and garlic first, then add the broccoli and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

                                3) To make the soup really smooth (and not gritty) I use an immersion blender to liquefy the soup and then pass it through a fine strainer. Not once, but twice! I was inspired to do this by something I read in the French Laundry Cookbook
                                where Thomas Keller describes how liquids don’t move from one pan to another in the French Laundry kitchen without passing through a strainer. Got it? Blender. Strainer. Strainer. Done.

                                4) I also add spinach to boost the vibrant green color and add even more nutrients.

                                5) Don’t have an immersion blender yet? It’s time to get one. It simplifies soup making so much.


                                Silky Smooth Cream of Broccoli Soup
                                Prep time
                                Cook time
                                Total time
                                Super silky smooth cream of broccoli soup.
                                Recipe type: Soup
                                Serves: 4-6
                                • ½ medium onion, diced
                                • 3 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
                                • 2 Tbsp butter
                                • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
                                • 5 cups broccoli florets
                                • 6 cups chicken stock
                                • 1 tsp salt
                                • ½ cup raw baby spinach leaves (packed)
                                • ¾ cup heavy cream
                                • ½ cup sour cream
                                1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sautée gently until softened and translucent - about 3 minutes.
                                2. Add potato, broccoli and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and baby spinach leaves. The heat from the soup will wilt the leaves down right away.
                                3. Let the soup cool a bit before adding it in batches to a blender. Return soup to pan through a strainer. Not all of the contents will make it through the strainer. Reserve the thick parts that won't strain and put them back into the blender. Then pour back into the soup.
                                4. While reheating soup gently, add cream. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Once soup is hot again (but not boiling!) whisk in sour cream and blend completely.
                                5. Serve with a garnish of parsley or mini broccoli spears or a tablespoon of shredded cheddar cheese or even another dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!


                                  Soups and Stews Uncategorized

                                  Asparagus Soup

                                    Chopped asparagus
                                    Chopped asparagus

                                    It’s Asparagus season in Northern California. Bunches that normally go for $5.99 or $6.99/lb now go for $1.29/lb. That’s when I know it’s time for my favorite soup recipe: Asparagus Soup.

                                    I’ve taken this recipe from the book Celebrating the Impressionist Table, by Pamela Todd. Published in 1997, it is now out-of-print, but it is full of sumptuous recipes. I love the premise of this book: to provide recipes for the foods seen in the paintings of Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet and others. Part art history, part cultural history, part cookbook, it satisfies the curiosity of anyone interested in understanding the day-to-day lives of these artists and their families as well as the role food played in their 19th century French lives.

                                    Most important, though, is the fact that this soup is darn tasty.

                                    Potage Argenteuil – Asparagus Soup


                                    3 Tbsp butter
                                    1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped with tips reserved
                                    2 leeks, rinsed, trimmed and chopped
                                    1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
                                    4 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
                                    6 Tbsp light cream
                                    2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (I didn’t have any this time, but I recommend using them)
                                    pinch of grated nutmeg
                                    salt and pepper
                                    fresh chives, to garnish


                                    1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped asparagus, leeks, and potato, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth. (You could even strain it through a fine strainer).

                                    2. Return the soup to a clean pan. Stir in the cream and chives and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper; keep warm.

                                    3. Blanch the reserved asparagus tips in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and refresh immediately under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

                                    4. Spoon the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips and chives.

                                    Potage Argenteuil (Asparagus Soup)
                                    Potage Argenteuil (Asparagus Soup)
                                      Soups and Stews Uncategorized

                                      Classic Beef Stew

                                        Beef Stew
                                        Beef Stew

                                        I think of November as comfort food month, so I thought I’d kick things off by making some beef stew. It’s easy, healthy and relatively affordable. What more could you want?

                                        Time-saving tips:
                                        Buy beef cubes pre-cut
                                        Buy baby carrots and throw them in whole
                                        Buy little red potatoes and just slice them in half


                                        2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
                                        3 cloves garlic, minced
                                        2 lbs Beef Chuck cut into 1 inch pieces (you can buy it that way at the store)
                                        2 Tbsp unsalted butter
                                        1 large onion, chopped
                                        1/4 cup flour
                                        2 cups beef stock
                                        1 cup red wine
                                        1 Bay leaf
                                        2 tsp dried thyme
                                        Salt and pepper to taste
                                        1 can (14.5 oz) ready-cut diced tomatoes
                                        3 cups baby red potatoes, cut in half
                                        1 bag (16 oz) frozen peas, thawed

                                        1. Heat olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and sautée for 1 minute.

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