Aloo Gosht


I always jump the gun for soup and stew season because I love nothing more than a simmering pot, even on a hellish summer day. While I have no qualms about making inappropriate food if that’s what I want, we’ve had enough rainy, chilly days mixed in that aloo gosht has actually been perfect.

I usually make it with stew beef, but this last time made it with bone-in goat meat and it was delicious. This recipe from a Pakistani Cooking blog is solid, it’s now my go-to recipe. Side note, Pakistani cooking blogs written by non-Pakistanis amuse me, not in a bad way.

I am terrified of exploding pressure cookers, so for me this is a better lazy weekend dish where I can let the meat simmer slowly until it’s almost falling apart. The potatoes laced with brothy, spicy tomato gravy are perfect for sopping up with warm roti.

Aloo Gosht

Adjusted just slightly from Pakistani Cooking

  • One pound stew beef or goat or two pounds bone-in beef or goat
  • Several tbsp’s cooking oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, finely sliced
  • whole spices: 1 stick cinnamon, 10 black peppercorns, 1 large cardamom pod, 8 cloves
  • 5 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1.5 inch ginger, grated
  • 5 roma tomatoes, diced
  • powdered spices: 1 tbsp red chili, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp coriander powder, salt to taste (about 1 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 6 medium red potatoes, peeling optional, cut into large chunks just before cooking
  • 8 green chilies cut into one inch pieces
  • a good amount cilantro for garnish, roughly chopped

Heat a couple tbsp’s cooking oil. Brown meat (in batches if necessary) on both sides and remove to a plate. Add a couple more tbsp oil and the onions, cooking for a few minutes until translucent. Add whole spices and cook, stirring, until very golden, lowering heat if necessary to avoid burning.

Add garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes, then the tomatoes and powdered spices. Cook, stirring, until the oil separates.

Add the ghee, and the meat back into the pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, covered, until meat is very tender (may be an hour and a half to two hours), stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

Add the potatoes (and a little more water if needed, and cook, covered, until very soft but not falling apart. You can dry up some of the water if you like it more stewy than brothy. Add the green chilles and cook for just a few more minutes, then garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice, roti, or naan.

Greek Pizza with Lamb Meatballs


Pizza is a surefire hit at our house. Zoeya is absolutely gleeful when I tell her we’re having pizza for dinner and Shan, although more subdued, usually ends up eating more than his fair share. I love to make pizza at home because it feels like a treat but it’s actually pretty healthy.

This particular pizza made me nervous until the end. I made a whole wheat dough when I usually make white, so I was anxious to see how that would come out. The components themselves weren’t perfect: the meatballs a little in need of salt, the sauce WAY too salty (must remember that happens when you reduce reduce reduce), the salad on top a little too lemony, but when put together a little miracle happened and the flavors melded just right.

Small disclaimer: As much as I love to spend a good chunk of my weekends in the kitchen, making pizza dough from scratch, pizza sauce from scratch, meatballs from scratch, none of them particularly difficult in themselves, was altogether more time-consuming than I would have liked. Luckily, all three of these things are easy to make double and freeze. If I ever get better at planning ahead, that’s going to be my strategy.

To save a little time, instead of making meatballs, you could just saute the ground lamb with the garlic, herbs and spices and top your pizza with the mixture, but I made meatballs so I could have some leftover. We ate them the next night as wraps with yogurt and cucumber. They’d also be great just by themselves with a side of lentils.

So with no further ado:

Greek Pizza with Lamb Meatballs

For the dough:
I used the pizza dough recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance which I wrote about here, substituting a cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of the white flour. I can report that this turned out wholesome and yummy and is my new recipe.

For the pizza sauce:
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
seasoning (you can adjust accordingly for the type of pizza) – 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp dried oregano
4 good-sized tomatoes (and can I just say that ugly farmer’s market tomatoes brilliantly outshine the perfect-looking yet tasteless grocery store tomatoes), peeled and chopped

Heat olive oil and add garlic, garam masala, paprika, and oregano. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add tomatoes, salt (be conservative! This is going to reduce down quite a bit) and a cup of water. Simmer, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn, until tomatoes are completely broken down and sauce is nice and thick. If the sauce thickens before your tomatoes break down, add more water and repeat. Makes enough for a thin layer on 2 pizzas.

For the meatballs:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
zest of 1 lemon
small handful mint, finely chopped
small handful basil, finely chopped
scant 1/2 c bread crumbs
1 egg
1 lb ground lamb
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir well everything through the egg in a glass bowl, then add lamb and mix until everything is just combined. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Roll medium sized meatballs (about 1 1/2 tbsp) and place in pot. Brown on one side, then turn with spoons to brown on the other. Cover and finish cooking through in oven.

For the pizza
Pizza dough, pizza sauce and meatballs from above (you’ll have leftover meatballs)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Feta, crumbled
Spring lettuce dressed in olive oil and lemon juice

Heat oven to 500 degrees (hot!). Divide dough in half and roll out, toss, etc., then place onto 2 round stones or baking sheets greased with olive oil (or do one by one). Cover with a layer of pizza sauce and sprinkle with quartered meatballs, red onion, and feta (just a good sprinkle, you’re not trying to cover the whole thing like you would with motz). Bake for 12-16 minutes. Remove from oven and top with dressed greens, which will wilt prettily from the heat.

Slice and serve. Opa!

Note: garam masala is obviously not Greek, but I throw it in because it’s always in my kitchen and contains a lot of the same spices used in Greek cooking. You don’t need to run out and buy it if you don’t have it, just use cinnamon, cumin and black pepper, or whatever combination you like.

Paki Tacos


I absolutely love Latin culture. I love the language, the food, the music, the dancing. When I met Shan, I was pretty much immersed. I was going salsa dancing every weekend, and I was eating arroz con gandules instead of biryani. After we got married, I started cooking mostly Pakistani and Indian food, but I will never stop cooking Latin food; it’s such a nice reminder of that time in my life and the people that are still dear friends, even though we don’t see each other as much anymore.

Tonight I made a dish that’s a fusion of the foods that Shan and I both love. This dish is my past and my future on one plate.

Instead of pulled pork (we don’t eat pork!) this is made with pulled chicken thighs, with a spicy tomato sauce flavored with both South Asian spices and smoky chipotle pepper, and just a little brown sugar. With gingery basmati rice, a fresh, sweet corn relish, and delicate pickled shallots (I put pickled shallots on everything), this is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.

Shan approved; he ate four and gave them their name – Paki Tacos.

Paki Tacos

For pickled shallots
Combine 2 sliced shallots, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey, and a couple pinches of salt in a coffee cup and let pickle while you cook the rest.

For chicken + tomato sauce
4 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/3 c sherry (white wine, chicken broth, or water also fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garam masala
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (and a tbsp or so of the adobo sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil on high while you salt and pepper chicken thighs. Brown chicken thighs on both sides, covered so they start to cook through. Check for doneness, you may need to add a splash of water and cover so they cook through the rest of the way. When they are cooked, let water evaporate and remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Deglaze pan with sherry, reduce by at least half, then add butter, cinnamon, and cloves and reduce heat to just above medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add garlic and ground spices and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and about a cup of water, cover and crank the heat back up. Cook for 10 minutes or so, uncover and reduce if it’s too liquidy (you want it not too dry, but thick), remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar.

While the sauce cools, shred chicken thighs with two forks. Transfer sauce to a food processor, puree, then combine chicken and sauce in the pot and gently warm through.

For corn relish
2 ears white corn
small handful cilantro
1 lime (zest of all, juice of half)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper

Boil corn in pot of generously salted water. Drain and cool. Finely chop cilantro and combine with lime zest, lime juice and yogurt. Cut the corn off the cob and gently stir with yogurt mixture.

For gingery basmati rice
Rinse and soak 1 c rice (15 min is fine). Boil and salt 2 c water, grating in 1/2 inch ginger. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For tacos
Assemble all of the above in warm corn tortillas and enjoy.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Our friend Karan used to make the most delicious Butter Chicken. We haven’t eaten it since he moved away, so, missing it, I decided to try my hand at it. I was really happy with how this turned out, especially the flavorful and delicate gravy.

The one thing I would do differently is to try to grind up the cashews a little finer, to a paste. I’ve been planning to get a mortar and pestle and that would probably do the trick. The other thing is, in this and in most of my curries I usually go pretty light on the cayenne and/or chillis so that Zoeya can enjoy it too and I just let Shan spice it up later. If you aren’t cooking for kids (or wimps), you can go a little heavier on the spice.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the crazy ingredient list, most of them are spices.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

1 lb boneless chicken thighs
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cayenne (more to taste)
salt, pepper
2 tbsp yogurt
olive oil
3 cloves
3 black peppercorns
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 green cardamoms, cracked
1 and 1/2 sliced white onions
3-4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
2-3 cups water
1 lb roma tomatoes diced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
small handful cashews
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream or half and half
Cilantro to garnish

Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch chunks, and marinate for about an hour in the lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne and yogurt.

Heat a little olive oil on high, brown the chicken and remove to a plate. Add a little oil if necessary, scraping up anything left by the chicken, lower heat to medium, and add whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamoms). Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding your onions. Sprinkle onions with salt and stir occasionally until they are turning golden. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute, add powdered spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric) and cook for a minute.

Add water and deglaze, then add tomatoes, bay leaves and fenugreek leaves. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then uncover and cook to reduce liquid by about a third.

In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind cashews to a paste. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the sauce and transfer to food processor (be careful, it’s hot!) Puree and return to pot along with chicken. Stir butter and cream into the sauce. Serve with basmati rice, garnished with cilantro.

Notes where I stray from the authentic: where most Indian food is cooked in vegetable oil I usually prefer light olive oil; it doesn’t alter the flavor and it’s a little healthier. Also, most Indian recipes will have you cook your onions and then your meat, but sometimes I cook the meat first, remove to a plate, then add it back later to finish in the sauce, especially if I’m planning on pureeing the sauce. Also, I salt my onions to sweat them where most Indian recipes do not. Do as you will!

Hummus with Cucumber and Tomato Salad

I have ventured back to the kitchen and am very much enjoying cooking again. Unfortunately, my morning-sicky reluctance to cook meat persists. I tried to bake my normally delicious chicken shawarma in the oven so I didn’t have to look at it, and it spitefully turned out dry and tasteless.

Fortunately, the accompanying hummus and cucumber and tomato salad more than made up for it, and the three together tucked inside a warm whole wheat pita made for a tasty meal. I know for sure this little stinker enjoyed it:

I’ve made hummus forever, lazily, from chickpeas in a can. This is the first time I made it from dried chickpeas, and I am never going back. NEVER! So creamy! So flavorful! And with the help of the crockpot, even though they take a lot more time to cook they don’t take a lot more effort.


Note: This made an enormous batch, we will be eating hummus with every meal for a week. Next time I’ll probably split this recipe in two.

2 cups dried chickpeas

To cook:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
water to cover by several inches

To season:
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
2/3 c water, more if needed
1/2 c tahini (sesame seed paste)
salt to taste
1/2 c olive oil, plus more to garnish

Combine the dried chickpeas, water, salt and baking soda in the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours, turning up to high in moments of impatience.
Drain and transfer to a food processor. Combine with lemon juice, garlic, water, tahini and salt, thinning with more water if your food processor is having a hard time. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while blending. Serve with warm pita, crisp veggies, as a spread for sandwiches, etc.

This salad is so summery, crisp and refreshing. Sumac is a lemony Middle Eastern spice and can be found in Middle Eastern markets, but if you don’t have any you can substitute the juice of half a lemon or a little extra vinegar.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

1 large cucumber
3 roma tomatoes
small handful of mint
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sumac

Slice and combine cucumbers and tomatoes. Toss with chopped mint (reserve a little for garnish). Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sumac and salt and dress salad.

Red Thai Curry

Here is a delicious weeknight meal that you can whip up quickly and not mess up even if you are chatting with your sister and drinking lots of wine.

This uses store-bought curry paste. I make my own sometimes (I’ll post a recipe at some point), and encourage you to as well because it’s fun, but the store-bought stuff is tasty and convenient. I used Thai Kitchen brand.

Red Thai Curry

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
light olive oil, salt, pepper
1 onion sliced
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste
water or chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 spring onions

Heat olive oil. Add onions and salt, and fry until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic and chicken, and fry until chicken is cooked. Add curry paste and stir for a minute or two (just so it has a chance to cook but not so much that it starts to burn). Add a cup or so of water or chicken broth, scraping the pan, then add tomatoes, carrots and coconut milk. If needed, add some more water or chicken broth until the chicken is almost covered, cover and lower heat to a simmer.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and carrots are softened. Depending on how much liquid is left, you can remove the top and cook a little more to thicken your sauce.

Garnish with sliced spring onions and serve with limes and jasmine rice. I love to serve my curries steaming at the table right out of the pot.

Afterthought: what would really take this to the next level is some chopped peanuts, mmmm….next time!

Kofte (Pakistani Meatballs)

So I seem to be featuring quite a few Pakistani recipes. I’m proud to be learning to cook this cuisine as it represents my new family, and it feels like an accomplishment. At the beginning I put my dishes together with uncertainty – I thought they tasted good, but did they taste like Amma used to make? – and waited with trepidation as they were sampled by a tableful of Pakistanis. However, after a few positive responses (and believe me, Shan is not one to be polite – if he doesn’t like it, he’s not going to choke it down for my sake) my confidence is growing, and I feel good enough to put my own spin on dishes.

But I’m an American girl. I can’t hear the name of this dish without thinking about The Metamorphosis, and to tell the truth, although I think Pakistani food is delicious, it’s often just too heavy, especially during these hot summer days. However, I find sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by the fresh elements in an otherwise heavy dish, and these flavors save it from being completely overpowering. I remember when we were in Pakistan, and took a day trip to Murree, a beautiful mountain town. I was feeling ill from days of heavy food and from the winding mountain roads, and when we went to eat at a local restaurant, I dreaded the chicken karahi that was brought to our table. It looked like another oily, stewy dish, but when I tasted it I was thrilled to discover how lemony and light-tasting it was. I try to remember this and recreate that feeling when I’m cooking Pakistani food, and so for these meatballs I make sure to include lots of fresh flavor – ginger, cilantro, parsley – to help counter the deeper flavors of the beef, cinnamon, and other spices.

My meatballs, which I’ve talked about before, are kind of a hybrid between Huma Siddiqi’s recipe in Jasmine in Her Hair and Alton Brown’s Swedish meatballs from the meatball episode of Good Eats. Kind of like Huma’s flavor profiles with Alton’s technique. I add quite a few ingredients to Huma’s recipe, and brown the meatballs for some nice carmelization before adding the sauce.

Sauce and Meatballs

Pureed sauce and meatballs cooking


For sauce:
One thinly sliced onion
Three or four cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Small knob of ginger, peeled and grated
whole spices: 3 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 small cardamoms crushed, 1 large cardamom, and 2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper, and some cayenne (starting with a tsp, you can add more to taste)
a can of diced tomatoes (you can use fresh, but I’m really picky and they have to be very red and tomatoey, so usually I end up using canned)
a nice spoonful of tomato paste
1 peeled, chopped carrot
2 cups of water

For meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
Salt (plenty) and pepper
A tsp each of tumeric and cayenne
a good size knob of ginger, peeled and grated
handful of chopped parsley
a couple big spoonfuls of diced garlic*
a couple big spoonfuls of coriander chutney**
a couple big spoonfuls of yogurt
2 eggs
Breadcrumbs. About a half cup, and add a little more at a time until your meatballs reach the right consistency

* On the diced garlic that comes in a jar – I would normally never buy this crap, but Shan likes to cook with it, and I must confess it’s convenient for things like this
** I make a good homemade cilantro chutney, but since it doesn’t last long I don’t usually have it on hand. You can get it store-bought at an Indian market. Swad brand is delicious and I could eat it with a spoon, but I accidentally bought Laxmi brand one time and discovered it to be poisonously disgusting.

Saute the onion, garlic, ginger, whole spices, salt, pepper and cayenne in olive oil. After the onion softens, add tomatoes, tomato paste, carrot, and water. Cover and simmer until the carrot softens. In the meatime, prepare your meatballs!

I’ve mixed the meatballs in the food processor before, but really it’s fine to just mix them to death with your hands, not to mention less cleanup. They’ll still come out nice and tender, with kind of a pleasantly spongy texture. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Miraculously, this time I came up with 24 evenly-sized, evenly-spaced balls. Brilliant.

So now, put the baking sheet with the meatballs in the freezer (this helps them not fall apart when you start to cook them) while you finish your sauce. Fish out the whole spices, and carefully pour it into a blender and puree. You could leave it chunky if you like, but I like the sauce velvety and smooth, plus how else am I going to hide the carrots from my husband? Return to the pot and keep warm.

Now you can brown your meatballs. Do half the meatballs, in a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil. Let them brown for a minute or two (when they are ready, they won’t stick to the bottom), then use 2 spoons to roll them over to brown the other side. Remove the first batch to a plate, and brown the second batch.

When the second batch is browned, add the first batch back to the pot. Adjust the seasoning to your sauce and add a spoonful of yogurt and a spoonful of the cilantro chutney, stir it up, and pour it over your meatballs. Cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked. Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro.


Serve with warm naan for a Pakistani feast!

Aloo Keema

This is a very quick and easy weeknight meal; assuming I have ground beef in the freezer this isn’t going to require a trip to the store either, because onions, potatoes, canned tomatoes, and all kinds of spices are part of my pantry staples.

Aloo Keema (Pakistani Style Potatoes and Ground Beef)

4 cloves
2 small cardamoms
1 large cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
2-3 red chillis, seeded and sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb ground beef
salt, pepper
3-4 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 red potatoes (or 2 white), peeled and diced

Saute whole spices (cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon), chillis and onion in olive oil over medium high heat until the onion softens and starts to turn golden. Turn heat up to high and add beef, salt and pepper. Brown beef then add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and potatoes.

Cook potatoes for a minute or two in the water from the beef and tomatoes, then add a cup of water and cover. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. The beef and tomatoes should be thick, but still a little liquidy. Stir occasionally and add more water if you need to, as well as adjusting seasoning at the end.

Serve with naan or, as I did, over basmati rice (the way I cook mine is a coffee cup of rice in two coffee cups of salted water, a little oil, and a couple slices of ginger. Bring to a boil, then put on low heat, covered, for 20 minutes or so. At the end you can toss in a handful of frozen peas.) No fruit/vegetable you say? My husband is annoyingly unconcerned with things like that, but don’t worry, there was honeydew for dessert.

I did not take any pictures until the next day when somebody was enjoying the leftovers…

Zoeya eating keema

I usually have her in mind when I cook – I make the food mild and let Shan add the hot sauce. This is not very spicy but some people have very sensitive little tongues. We are pushing hers, next year she’ll be eating the habañeros.

Beer-Braised Turkey Tacos

I love Mexican food: spicy, fresh, and exotic yet with easy to find ingredients. It can be fancy fine dining or as down to earth as the delicious tacos you can find in carts along the street.

So how can you mess up a simple tostada?! Shan and I went out this week on a rare date and when looking for somewhere to eat chose a Mexican restaurant. We weren’t expecting anything amazing, just somewhere decent to get a bite after our movie. We don’t go out to eat very often, so if we do and it’s not good I feel so cheated! Like I wasted my restaurant experience. It was terrible – cold, grey meat with no seasoning, just a sad, sad plate. Thank God for my Corona and the lovely company or it would have been a total loss.

Whenever this happens, I end up craving the food I was slighted. All week I’d find myself dreaming about enchiladas, posole, and tamales, so this weekend I decided to try out the Beer-Braised Turkey Taco recipe in this month’s Food and Wine.

This is very easy to make, and like soups and stews gives you the satisfaction of simmering something away on the stove while you tidy up the kitchen and throw together a salad. It uses turkey legs, which is cool, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually cooked non-Thanksgiving turkey. I pulled the legs out of the package feeling like a queen at the Renaissance Festival.

Here’s what you do, with my rebellions and inabilities to follow directions in parentheses: You just brown the legs, bone in, and remove from the pot, then sauté a diced onion, several garlic cloves, and an oregano sprig (I used dried…shh. I also forewent the jalapeño that’s supposed to be added at this point so that Zoeya could eat it). After the onions are softened, add a diced tomato (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes since tomatoes are not in season) with a cinnamon stick and an ancho chili. Anchos are dried poblanos, so they aren’t very spicy, but give a nice smoky flavor. Then, add a cup of water and a bottle of Mexican dark beer (they did not have Modelo Negro at the store so I settled for Dos Equis which is amber) and simmer away for about an hour. Observe my smoky caldron:

After an hour, remove the turkey from the pot and shred with two forks. This is a great answer to pulled pork for people who don’t eat pork! Much lighter too. Reduce the liquid in the pot, puree it, and throw everything back in the pot to heat through.

In the meantime while the turkey was braising, I made a roasted tomato salsa by roasting the rest of the cherry tomatoes with some garlic cloves and a red chile, then pulsing them in the food processor – I rescued the chile from the roasting pan and chopped it a little finer so nobody would get a surprise bite. This turned out very nice, but it probably could have used another chile, especially since there was no jalapeño in the turkey sauce and we needed something to spice it up. Shan turned to sriracha. He puts that stuff on everything.

Finally, I just heated up some white corn tortillas, and made a quick salad from romaine, an avocado, and a can of octopus. This is my dear friend Denise’s salad, and I love it because it’s so easy to make (you just dress it with the oil from the can of octopus, a little salt and pepper and a spritz of lime) but it still feels special.

¡Buen provecho!

Goat Stew

I don’t cook like a chef. I cook like a working mom. I can walk into the kitchen, see what we’ve got, and whip up a nice meal. I am queen of substitution and leftover transformation, as I hate to waste food and I also hate to eat the same thing every night. It helps that I am never without some basics (olive oil, onions, garlic) and that I have a lot of dishes up my sleeve (pastas, rice dishes, soups) that will use all our leftover vegetables and herbs gracefully with delightful results. I am adventurous, flexible and can adapt. I am the mother of invention.

Last night I set about thawing what I thought was stew beef and then assessed the situation. Onions, garlic, potatoes, and canned tomatoes I always have, and carrots I usually have. Half a container of mushrooms, half a bunch of spinach, and a few sprigs of thyme needed to get used up. Ingredients that on a cold day lend themselves to beef stew.

My aunt called me while I was chopping vegetables. We chatted awhile and she asked me what I was making for dinner. “Beef stew”, I told her. “What’s special about it? You’re not going to puree anything?” She’s been talking since they came over for dinner last week about the split pea soup I served, which was delicious, and pureed. I assured her everything was chunky and rustic, just regular American week-night beef stew.

But when I opened the bag of thawed meat and saw a hoof…I realized this might not be true.

We buy goat meat by the leg at the halal shop. They butcher it for you into one to two inch pieces, bone and all, and divide it into three or four 1 1/2 pound bags. Usually we make Achar Gosht, literally “Pickled meat,” which we make with the meat, some vegetables, chilies, and spices to eat with naan. It has a nice flavor, less gamey than lamb, and although it can be a little chewy, if you cook it right it falls right off the bone. There’s nice marrow in the bones too! (Ok now I’m probably grossing out not only vegetarians but a lot of people). It’s also leaner than beef with more protein. Goat is good.

I was actually happy about the unexpected goat meat and decided to continue with the original plan. I figured the meat itself would be a nice change, and the bones would make the sauce more flavorful, so I was excited to see how it turned out.

I lightly floured the chunks of meat, as this, plus the starchy potatoes, would help thicken the stew later. I browned them in two batches with a little olive oil, and removed them from the pot. I always brown my meat first, rather than throwing everything in the pot to boil away like Shan (an otherwise good cook) does, because this creates a Maillard reaction and enriches the flavor of the dish.

I added a little more olive oil (the flour had soaked it all up) and sauteed my rustically chopped onions and several roughly sliced cloves of garlic, then deglazed the pot with about 1/2 cup of red wine – even though our meat was halal, this recipe is not! Then I returned my meat to the pot with 3 thickly chopped carrots, 3 chopped potatoes, my half container of mushrooms, 3 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, maybe 1/2 can of leftover crushed tomatoes, a tbsp of tomato paste, sea salt, black pepper, 1tsp paprika, a spoon of dijon mustard, and chicken broth and water to cover. Whew, that sounds like a lot, but really it’s not. I gave it a stir, and simmered it, covered, low and slow for a good half an hour until the veggies were softened and the meat cooked through, and then another 10 minutes or so uncovered until it thickened up. I like to throw in something fresh and green at the end, so I tossed in a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach and 3 sliced scallions.

Goat Stew

I’m going to go out on a limb and say not a lot of people have made this. Not a lot of people have goat meat in their freezer, and the ones that do are probably not making this type of stew. Maybe Irish farmers or something. We really loved it, it had a velvety gravy, and vegetables that were tender yet kept their integrity rather than becoming mushy and indistinguishable. The flavor was wonderfully balanced, lighter than you would get with beef, richer than you would get with chicken. Goat ftw.