cumin beef

spices and aromatics

Another recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, and this one is really a keeper. We were introduced to cumin lamb and beef at our old favorite (and much missed) Chinese restaurant Szechuan Bistro, and ordered it nearly every time we went there, but never tried to make it ourselves. Since the Greenwood arsonist burned the place down, we haven’t been able to get it anywhere locally. Now, well…I may not be able to reproduce their spicy green beans with tofu as yet, but at least I can have cumin beef. Any time I want!


Part of why this was so successful was the beef. The recipe suggested sirloin, so I hunted out a package from the freezer, from our half-cow from Skagit Angus. All of the beef we’ve gotten from them has been spectacular, but this was particularly excellent – chewy but very very tender, with a full beef flavor and a nice amount of fat marbled throughout. One of the best tasting pieces of meat I’ve ever had. Dumping a lot of cumin and hot chiles on it didn’t hurt it at all, though.

We served this on Japanese-style white rice, with a lot of stir-fried kale on the side to cut the richness of the meat. I also used some of the leftover beef to make a sandwich with roasted peppers, which I can also recommend highly. God,  I’m making myself hungry.

Cumin Beef

adapted from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop


  • 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1 pound sirloin, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 hot green chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • sesame oil

Combine the beef in a bowl with the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Original recipe instruction: heat 2 cups of peanut oil in a wok to 275°. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, removed them from othe oil and drain well. Set aside. Pour out all but a few spoonfuls of the oil.

What I did: put a wok over high heat and add 1/4 cup of peanut oil. Add the beef in batches, stirfrying briefly until it begins to color and the pieces separate. Remove from the wok and set aside. Add a spoonful or two of fresh oil to the pan.

Then: Bring the wok back up to high heat and add the ginger, garlic, chiles, chile flakes and cumin. Fry briefly until fragrant, then add all the beef back in and stir well. When it’s cooked as much as you want (I left my beef a little rare), add the scallions, pour in a bit of sesame oil and serve with rice.

Sichuan red-cooked beef with daikon


I hadn’t necessarily thought this blog needed yet another recipe for red-cooked meat, but that was before I stumbled across a Sichuan version. This is, of course, out of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty, like all our recent Sichuan recipes. It’s a perfect thing to make at this time of year, with the rich beef and ginger scent filling the house while cold rain beats against the windows.


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burnt ends

homemade burnt ends

Day one: thaw beef brisket and rub with BBQ seasoning.

Day two: smoke brisket for six hours with hickory and oak, mopped with vinegar and hot chile. Serve, thinly sliced, with buttermilk coleslaw, cornbread, and awesome wine.

Day three: chop up remainder of brisket and mix with a sauce composed of leftover Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ sauce, vinegar mop sauce, and ketchup. Put in a low oven for a couple of hours to make burnt ends. Pile onto homemade hamburger buns. Make a huge mess eating it. Be happy.



Despite the neverending rain, the lure of the grill has been strong. When we ordered our cow last week, we tried to pick up some steaks to grill for dinner – but the farm is out of steak until the next slaughter. We grabbed the last two packages of thin-cut beef ribs instead, and decided to try making kalbi – Korean-style marinated and grilled beef.

We’ve had lots of versions of kalbi, but hadn’t tried it ourselves yet – the important thing is having the meat thin enough that it fully absorbs the marinade and cooks very quickly. The recipes in our Korean cookbooks used malt syrup for the marinade, which we are temporarily out of, so we pulled a recipe out of our go-to meat cookbook . It worked splendidly, making a sweet, pungent sauce that enhanced the savoriness of the beef.

erupting kim chee

This was also a great opportunity to eat kim chee, something we’ve gotten wildly fond of in the past year. I’ve been meaning to try making my own, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, we tried a jar of Island Spring kim chee from Vashon Island (a much more local product than I was expecting to find). Following the warning on the label, I opened it in the sink – a very good thing, as the active fermentation in the jar meant that the contents nearly leaped out at me when the lid came off. I set the whole thing in a soup bowl and watched as the top layer of cabbage seethed and bubbled. The taste turned out to be quite mild and pleasantly sour – I would definitely buy this again. But I’m also gonna make my own, for sure.

grilling scallions

Grilled scallions were suggested as an accompaniment in the marinade recipe. I love love love grilled scallions, especially with Mexican food – there used to be a local taco wagon that served them – but I hardly ever remember to make them. They are really good – sweet, with a little char. We also cooked up a huge pile of collard greens from the farmer’s market, which made a nice foil for the strong salty flavors of the meat and onions.

Oh, and as usual, the weather was too crappy to eat outside, but thankfully not quite wet enough to stop us from grilling. I am really looking forward to some better weather. Really.

Kalbi (Korean grilled beef)

Adapated from The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 lbs thin cut ribs or steak
  • 1 bunch green onions

Combine the soy, sugar, ketchup, garlic, vinegar, oil and red pepper in a zip lock bag. Put in the meat and marinate for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight in the fridge. Flip the bag occasionally to make sure everything’s getting coated.

Get the meat out of the fridge about an hour before cooking, to let it warm up. Remove the meat from the bag, leaving as much marinade behind as possible, and grill over medium-hot coals until brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcook!

Dump the whole scallions into the remaining marinade in the bag, then lay them on the grill and cook until soft. Serve with the ribs, along with rice and kim chee.

grilling scallions

horseradish cream


Posting that chicken chiffon pie really took a lot out of me, but I think I’m in recovery. Now we can move on to better, and yummier, things. Like horseradish cream.

I just discovered this easy sauce on Friday – I had gotten a tenderloin out of the freezer for dinner, and was trying to figure out what to cook alongside. I pulled out Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which is helpfully arranged both by season and by menu, and found a suggestion of roasted beets with horseradish creme fraiche. We bought some enormous beets recently at the farmer’s market, so that was an easy call, and the sauce sounded fantastic. I walked down to the co-op and picked up a container of creme fraiche. I’ve made this myself in the past, but it takes time to culture so this time I took the easy route. And all I had to do was stir in a heaping spoonful of prepared horseradish and some salt and pepper (Goin adds a few other seasonings, but it didn’t seem necessary). It was SO GOOD with the beets, which we cubed and roasted in olive oil and herbed salt, as well as the steak and the steamed broccolini. And it was good the next morning with latkes, and eaten cold that night stirred into leftover beets. And the tiny bit that’s left is fated to be drizzled over tonight’s beef stew with barley and mushrooms. I’m looking forward to it.



This is a favorite meal of ours for those nights when we don’t have a lot of time, we hardly have any fresh vegetables in the house, and we want something with a lot of flavor and a definite comfort factor. Kheema is like the Indian equivalent of chile con carne, or sloppy Joe mix, or spaghetti sauce. There are many different versions – probably as many as there are cooks who make it – and it can be tweaked to accommodate whatever you have in your pantry, as long as you have 1. ground meat 2. chile peppers (fresh or dried) 3. canned tomato and 4. spices. Onions and garlic are helpful, but not absolutely required.

My favorite kheema recipe for when we have no fresh chiles in the house is from Madhur Jaffrey’s first book, An Invitation to Indian Cooking. It’s warm with onion and whole sweet spices as well as dried red chiles, and tastes wonderful. But our current favorite kheema is from the Parsi cookbook My Bombay Kitchen. It uses whole slit green chiles as well as cayenne pepper, so it has a complex spiciness, and it can be made as thick or soupy as you like, depending on how you’re serving it. We usually ladle it over white rice, but the last time we made it I griddled some fresh chapati and we spooned the kheema into the breads with yogurt and chutney. It could also be eaten straight out of a bowl, maybe with tortilla chips. Why not? Not to mention the possibilities of using it for stuffing samosas, or topping pizza.


And for breakfast, I can recommend making a sort of huevos rancheros with leftover kheema and runny fried eggs over sourdough toast or chapati or tortillas. Oh, yeah.

A note about the recipe: there are a few odd ingredients here, but please don’t be scared off by them. We keep curry leaves in our freezer, but the kheema will be perfectly fine without them. And don’t worry about the dhana jiru or the sambar masala – we happen to have both of those, because Jon loves to make spice blends at home, but you can either leave them out, or do what I do, which is to look up the blend, see what the major flavors are, and just add a few of the more important-sounding ones. I’ve indicated a few possible options in the recipe.

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when all the pieces fit together


Taking every leftover container out of the fridge and dumping it into a soup pot isn’t always a safe technique (or a good idea), but in this case it turned out to be the right thing. We had a few braised short ribs left, and I wanted to stretch them out into a full meal. I had a few other things to use up, and I decided that soup would be perfect, with a slight middle-eastern slant to it.

I started the soup with a bit of onion and garlic sizzled in olive oil, then added a sprinkle of ground cumin and hot paprika. Half a preserved lemon went in, roughly chopped. I thawed a container of broth made from 7-spice roast chicken, so it had a bit of sweet cinnamon flavor to it, and added it to the pot, then stirred in short grain rice and let it simmer.

When the rice was almost done, I added the cut-up short ribs and their juices (including braised leeks), some roasted bell peppers left over from tacos, and some cooked asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes. A random assortment of stuff, maybe, but it pulled together beautifully in the spiced broth, with the rice as the unifying theme. Delicious, warming, and cheap.

another great combo


I’m not feeling very verbose today, but I want to get this post up while I’m thinking about it. What am I thinking about? Pot beans with chimichurri. I’m not sure why I stumbled across this combination, but it was wonderful and we’ve eaten all the leftovers and now I’m going to have to make it again very soon.

vaquero beans

I used speckled Vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo, soaked in salt water, then rinsed and cooked with onions and garlic fried in bacon fat. The beans had a soft texture and nice flavor, and kept their pretty spots much better than I expected. They were good by themselves, but with a drizzle of chimichurri on top – woof! It was incredible. I ate a whole bowl of just beans and sauce for lunch yesterday, with a piece of good sourdough bread.

The chimichurri I made this time was a bit different than the one I described back in February. I used a recipe from Francis Mallmann’s amazing book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, which goes like this:

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 head garlic, broken apart and peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Continue reading

beef-lebni stroganoff


This stroganoff was one of those dinners that naturally arises by examining a number of random leftovers: in our case, a container of lebni, a bag of mushrooms, some partial leeks and a bunch of fresh dill left from our post-Easter brunch. Combine all that with some sliced seared steak and some egg noodles and you have a really good quick beef stroganoff.

I don’t think it would have occurred to me to use lebni in a stroganoff, but I liked the effect. It’s similar to sour cream but has a denser texture and is slightly less tart. It worked great with the mushrooms and dill. Come to think of it, that would be a really nice dip or spread right there – maybe I’ll try that next time I have these particular leftovers in the house.

meat-flavored greens

greens with yogurt

We eat a lot of greens around here, especially this time of year. Usually, just sauteed with olive oil and some slivered garlic, but occasionally done more elaborately with bean broth. I may once have tried simmering some kale with chicken broth, but it didn’t seem to add much. However, I recently obtained a copy of Paula Wolfert’s cookbook, The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the first recipe I really looked at was the intriguing meat-braised greens. It called for beef bones, and -hello!- I have a lot of beef bones in my freezer. Definitely worth trying.

beef bones

beef bones

The technique here is to sear beef or lamb bones in butter (with the pan covered), then add a cup of water, salt and pepper and simmer until the resulting broth is reduced down to just a few tablespoons. The bones removed, you cook mixed greens in the rich broth. You could certainly obtain a similar result by starting with pre-made beef broth and simmering it down, but I have a feeling that starting with bones gives a particularly tasty result.

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