Recipe: Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots & Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

This has been a rather strange food week for me. It started off strong at the all-you-can-eat-NRA show but quickly dwindled when I came down with something resembling the flu (not actually the flu, but a cold/fever). So there went a day and a half worth of good eating.

Luckily, I’m starting to feel a bit better although my appetite and taste buds aren’t at their normal levels…. yet. Good thing as today was another exciting foodie shopping/tasting day in Chicago with visits to the Green City Market (my first time attending the outdoor market this year) and the grand opening of the giant new Whole Foods in my neighborhood. And that one was a serious feast with tons of local vendors sampling products, not to mention the cool new food court.

Between the two food shopping endeavors I came home with a nice amount of produce, then quickly collapsed on the couch as the effort of shopping wiped out all my energy. I had recharged a bit by dinner time, but not enough to make the morel risotto I’d originally considered. Instead I turned to my bag of farmer’s market spinach and the package of beef stew meat in the refrigerator (it was the cheapest meat available at WF).

As a side note, I don’t normally have beef just sitting around in the refrigerator. I bought it this afternoon at WF because I had a weird craving for beef and I believe if I’m craving a specific ingredient it’s because my body really needs it. Of course this can be a bit tricky because I’m always craving chocolate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Anyways, I thought back to a few months ago when I had some beef scraps leftover from another dish I had made that I had seared quickly in a hot pan and deglazed with balsamic vinegar. I decided to do that again but add some caramelized shallots for a bit more flavor and sauteed spinach, sort of like a hot beef salad I’m calling balsamic beef bites with caramelized shallots and sauteed spinach.

Trim spinach Sliced shallots Diced beef

It was great, something that came together very quickly in just one pan and was relatively healthy. I think most tender cuts of beef would work (stay away from flank or strip steaks) and should be trimmed of excess fat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. I like cutting them small because they cook quickly and evenly, and you don’t need a knife to eat them.

The real key to this dish though is to use a high quality balsamic vinegar; mine was aged 18 years and is rich and a little sweet.

Sear beef bites Deglaze with balsamic vinegar Cook spinach

Also, I used regular spinach from the farmer’s market which needs to be trimmed of the rough stems and washed very well. Feel free to use baby spinach if you prefer.

Here’s the recipe:

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Passover Recipe: Asparagus & Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Asparagus & Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Asparagus & Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Passover is one of my favorite holidays, not as much for the religious aspect as for the feeling of tradition and togetherness as the extended family sits down for a meal together. My family isn’t very religious and our Seders are quick – never more than 20 minutes (I’ve heard rumors of returning to the table after dinner for a second part but have never experienced that myself) – and are filled with laughter.

Laughing during a religious ceremony? Yeah, we don’t take it too seriously. There’s always a bit of manipulation by the “leader” to make sure that specific “participants” read as the “wicked” or “simple” son, and I always got into the dayenus by leading the whole group in at least two rounds of the song. Not to mention all the fun the kids have searching for the afikoman.

And then there’s the food. I love the Passover meal, not to be confused with the often over-processed, gut-clinging, matzo-based diet many Jews subsist on during the week of Passover. No, I’m talking about the traditional food my family serves during the seder.

There’s always a tender brisket, my mom’s amazing matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, harosets, apple-matzo kugel, not to mention great desserts (and no, we do NOT serve coconut macaroons or sponge cake – gag!). Delicious food, but very, very heavy.

This year one of the dishes I was assigned was a vegetable side, in addition to harosets and dessert. We’ve never served a salad before, but I thought it would be the perfect way to add a lighter, healthier component to the meal.

I tried to cover all the bases with this salad – something a bit sweet but overall subtle, and I wanted to incorporate asparagus, a spring vegetable that has somehow become synonymous with Passover. The result was a refreshing and filling asparagus and spinach salad with lemon vinaigrette.

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Exploring Green Garlic: Pasta & Soup Recipes

Trimmed green garlic

Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of produce available at the indoor farmer’s market yesterday. I had gone in hopes of finding ramps, but instead discovered green garlic.

One of the first crops of the year, I was thrilled to get my hands on this leafy garlic stalk that looks like a cross between a scallion and a baby leek with the root still attached. In reality, the flavor is all garlic but is a bit more subtle and sweet than traditional garlic cloves. To use green garlic, remove the beard (the roots), trim the tough green tops (about 1 inch), and peel away any slimy pieces around the stalk.

Green garlic whole

But what to cook with this treasure? It’s true that green garlic can be used any place you’d use garlic cloves, but I wanted to make something that would highlight the unique flavor of this seasonal delight.

Minced green garlic

I considered a lot of options (garlic chicken, spinach-green garlic soup, salad, etc.), but in the end I decided it was silly to limit myself to just one green garlic dish, so I made two: pasta with green garlic, bacon and Spring vegetables and green garlic and potato soup, a twist on the classic potato-leek soup (or vichyssoise if served cold).

Pasta with Green Garlic, Bacon & Spring Vegetables

The pasta dish is basically a pan sauce with bacon, green garlic, mushrooms and spinach, and can be made in the time it takes to cook the noodles. At the end stir in parmesan cheese and a bit of the cooking liquid, and you’ve got yourself an amazingly fragrant and filling meal. Also, you can use any type of bite-sized pasta, in this instance I chose miniature farfalle.

Green garlic and potato soup

The green garlic and potato soup is just as simple to prepare although it takes a bit longer. But it’s worth the wait for the soup’s thick, creamy texture.

In both recipes the green garlic flavor is subtle yet prominent in that it doesn’t overwhelm the palate, but you definitely know it’s there.

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