Tzatziki Sauce! Such a simple, clean and refreshing sauce. I can’t speak better words about this Mediterranean sauce. Typically you find it at Greek restaurants served as a topping or paired with stuffed grape leaves also known as Dolmas. By the way, I have an exquisite recipe for Stuffed Grape Leaves that you’ll really enjoy. There’s a bit of work involved but the enjoyment is extremely worth the time. And when you have some help, it goes fast.
But back to this glorious sauce. I’m all about multi-purpose recipes, this is one of them. You can place a dollop of this on top of your favorite fish or even dip a variety of your favorite veggies into it. Not only that, because you know I love encouraging to take my recipes and make your own, you can always add other herbs and spices to this for variety like adding onions or chives. Just remember, let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two first before serving. Overnight is even better!
Using a potato peeler, peel the cucumber into strands up until you get to the seeds. Throw the seedy center part away. Place the strands of cucumber on a plate, sprinkle the salt on top, mix and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the water.
In the meantime, mix the Greek yogurt, crushed garlic, olive oil in a medium bowl.
Then, grab the cucumber and squeeze the remaining excess of water out of it and chop the cucumber strands finely.
Combine the cucumber in with everything else, add salt to taste and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
These hearty one pot meals especially during the Winter is LIFE! I think I get more use out of the slow cooker during the colder months than any other time of year, but with that comes big batch cooking for even tastier leftovers along with really easy prepping so that you can do whatever you need to do for the day while it slowly cooks.
This Beef Short Ribs Ragu recipe is among my favorite next to my Braciole & Italian Sausage recipe. It’s perfect for cold days and also for the holidays. But I’ll admit I’ve made this when it wasn’t cold because it’s that good. And often when I’m being good with my choice of eats, I won’t ignore the craving for this! Okay, believe it or not it doesn’t require anything fancy to make. Cooking it long and slow is the main ingredient to making this taste amazing. Normally I would use 1/2 cup of a dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon but there have been times I didn’t have any or forgot to get wine and it came out just as good.
There is one ingredient you don’t want to ditch when making this, and that’s the pecorino Romano cheese. Make sure you go to the cheese section and buy the block of pecorino. Not the grated. It is often compared to Parmesan cheese but the difference is that it’s made of sheep milk; giving that much stronger pungent taste. AND IT GOES SO PERFECT WITH THIS DISH! Trust me. You can use the leftover block of Romano in place of Parmesan cheese, over any pasta dish, or shaved over salads. It can also be stored tight in a freezer bag in the freezer for future uses if you don’t plan to use the rest of it so quickly before the expiration date.
One last thing! If you’re not feeling pasta, you can definitely serve this over a baked potato, polenta, Italian inspired quesadillas, and even top a homemade pizza with the shredded meat. Never feel you’re limited to only one dish when you make a big batch of food. Enjoy!
BEEF SHORT RIBS RAGU
Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Place about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and bring to high heat. Brown all sides of the short ribs about a minute each side. Lay the short ribs into a slow cooker set for 8 hours on low.
Drain the excess oil from the pan, place the pan back on the stove on medium heat. Add the beef broth and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
Then, add the onions, carrot, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Stir for about two minutes and transfer into the slow cooker.
Add the bay leaf, tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, dry red wine (optional), and Romano cheese chunks. Stir gently and cover the slow cooker to cook.
Feel free to stir everything once half way through if you like. It should be ready in as little as 6 hours but 8 hours is perfect.
Remove each short rib onto a large cutting board and use two forks to shred the meat. Place the shredded meat back into the slow cooker, add salt as needed, stir, and serve over pasta.
I recommend using a spoon to scoop the pools of fat at the top. You can also do so by scraping the solidified fat at the top after it’s been refrigerated.
It’s finally starting to cool down and stay cool. Now that Fall is here, I’m ready to plant my face in bowls of all sorts of soup. This Sausage & Cannellini Cioppino is one of my absolute favorites because it’s a fast, easy one pot meal with a whole lot of healthy going on that doesn’t taste necessarily “healthy.” It’s bold flavors are given credit to the Italian sausage of course. I used TURKEY Italian sausage rather than pork to keep the grease level down. You really can not taste a difference whatsoever. They make a chicken Italian sausage too, I’m not a huge fan of it as I believe I CAN taste the difference but by all means, if you want to use it, do so!
For those who aren’t a fan of kale or never tried it, this is one of the best ways to try kale. Baby steps! It literally doesn’t have much of a flavor as it absorbs everything else in the soup but the importance of getting greens is huge. There are different kinds of kale, feel free to use any of them. The curly kale is great and more hearty than lacinto or dino kale but they all taste fairly similar. Also, extremely important! When buying broth, read the ingredients label! You will discover that most broth is hardly much REAL broth and riddled with MSG. The best way to get quality broth is to look at the ones packaged in a box and low-sodium. Pacific is one of my favorite brands. Just make sure it doesn’t have MSG. You can control your salt intake yourself very easily by just adding sea salt if needed.
Sometimes I love throwing in 1/2 pound of shrimp instead of beans or in addition to. Of course you can do whatever you want and make it your own as I always love to encourage that. If you’re new to cooking, it may be easiest for you to follow the recipe to get a feel for it and then next time make it by adding your own flare to it. Regardless, I hope you guys enjoy this cioppino as much as I do. It’s even better when you dunk homemade garlic bread into it!
SAUSAGE & CANNELLINI CIOPPINO
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, garlic, onion, sea salt, and pepper. Let cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened about 5 minutes.
Add the basil, thyme, sausage, and use a wood spoon to break the sausage up. Cook for about 5 minutes until almost cooked through.
Add the wine, stir by scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pan then stir in the tomato paste, vegetable broth, stewed tomatoes, and bay leaf. Bring everything to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.
Lastly, add the beans and kale. Stir and let cook for another five minutes. Remove the bay leaf, add more salt and pepper to taste.
If you love stuffed cabbage rolls, then you’ll love this recipe! It takes the whole dish to a whole new level. I know some people are purists but you’ll be surprised to find there are many cultures including the Middle East that have their own variation of stuffed cabbage or some other kind of leaf. So I took the concept of the traditional Polish stuffed cabbage and used a more flavorful meat like ground lamb and complimenting it using the proper spices for it. Yet another fusion dish perhaps that is worth the prep work, I swear!
I’ll say though, it may sound like a lot of work but it really isn’t. You can make the lamb mixture the day before which is super fast. Then take care of the rest later. One major word of advice though is make sure you have a big, tall pot one you’d use to cook spaghetti in. Also, a hand held strainer that would fit a cabbage head in. This will make removing a piping hot cabbage head so much easier preventing burnt hands.
One last thing, the very end of the leaf can have a very thick spine which makes it difficult sometimes to roll the cabbage leaf. In the picture above you can see I cut an upside-down “V” to remove most of it off. It does make a big difference. Don’t worry about ruining the leaf! If you are confused and have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!
LAMB STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
In a pan over medium-high heat drizzle the olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic, black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon together until the onions are softened, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Mix the ground lamb, rice, cooled onion mixture, fresh cilantro and salt thoroughly in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Place the cabbage head carefully into the boiling hot water using a large strainer with a handle for about 5 minutes. You want the leaves to appear bright green.
Remove the cabbage head into a large bowl. Peel off some of the softened leaves and place onto a plate covered with paper towels. Place the cabbage back into the boiling water for a few minutes until the next layer of leaves are ready to be peeled. Do this a few times until you peel most of the leaves off the head. Save the damaged and/or outer leaves to cover the bottom and top of the baking dish.
Using a knife cut an upside-down “V” to remove the toughest part of the spine at the bottom of each leaf. This will make rolling the leaves easier. Place each cabbage leaf sideways, spoon about ¼ cup give or take of the lamb mixture onto the bottom part of the leaf. Roll it up and tuck in the sides before completely rolling it up.
Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with imperfect cabbage leaves, place the stuffed cabbage rolls into the baking dish and sprinkle the top with garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves and vegetable broth. Top the rolls with tomato puree, the remaining fresh chopped onion and feta crumbles.
Cover everything with remaining leftover cabbage leaves and aluminum foil. Bake at 350 F for about an 1h 15min to 1hr 30min. Everything should be boiling hot.
I have to start off by saying, don’t let wild boar scare you. It’s just pork but unlike any other. It’s much leaner and has a richer flavor which works perfect for this ragu. A free range animal grazing on a wide variety of food gets more muscle enhancing movement, which generates a deeper, more flavorful meat than an animal confined and raised only on grain; and there are no antibiotics or hormone supplements to worry about with wild animals.
Although, if you prefer to not use wild boar or cannot find it, feel free to use beef, or pork we’re all familiar with. You can also use other wild meats like venison and rabbit too which is commonly used in some parts of Italy. The key is to use a flavorful meat so I wouldn’t suggest ground turkey or chicken. Save those two for something else instead. I typically give it a good four hours to make this at least. Most of that time is letting it simmer down. I’ve used a slow cooker and it works great but at certain points you may need to leave the lid cracked open.
Before I let you go, in case you didn’t notice; this recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms. Don’t forget you will need that mushroom broth, not just the mushrooms so set it aside. This brings out the earthy rich flavor of the dish entirely. You don’t have to use it but in my opinion it’s a must to pull everything together as one incredible dish. If you happen to tweak the recipe and something amazing came of it, please share!
WILD BOAR RAGU
Add the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat with the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stir everything frequently for about 7 minutes until the onions are translucent and softened. Then, add in the chopped porcini mushrooms and tomato paste, stirring often for about 4 minutes.
When the tomato paste turns a dark brick red color, add the meat, porcini broth, and broth. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low allowing it to simmer and reduce.
Once most of the liquid has evaporated add the wine, stir. Let it reduce again.
When the broth has mostly evaporated, add the milk, nutmeg, pepper, and stir well. Bring it back to a simmer, add salt to taste. Bring the heat down to low and cook it down until it’s the consistency you like.
Serve over bucatini and a garnish of Romano cheese.