Archive for One Dish

Carpe Pepper! Tuscan Peposo – The Other Beef Stew

Peposo – A Fiery Love Story

Peposo simmering in the pot

Peposo simmering in the pot


I love simple dishes. Many simple dishes come to us from medieval times – though they may sometimes use ingredients that are no longer easy to find, most dishes in the 12th century used bread, meat, fish, veggies – just as we do today, only differently, because – half a millennium and more!! And they were often quite simple, particularly if they were dishes of the people.

People learned clever ways to make inexpensive cuts of meat tender and delicious and ways to use spices to enhance that flavor.

One of my favorite old dishes is peposo – Tuscan pepper stew. Peposo is sometimes called Tuscany’s answer to chili. It’s a rich, savory stew that emphasizes simplicity of preparation and long slow cooking. This particular dish also emphasizes lots and lots and lots of black pepper, both cracked and ground.  Sometimes, it is said, pepper was used so liberally to disguise a cut of meat that may have gone off a bit.

That’s not what we’re doing here.

The dish originated in the 13th century and is documented as having fed the laborers working to create tiles – an incredible-for-the-time 4,000,000 terracotta tiles – for the dome, or Duomo, of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence (1420-1436).

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – the Duomo – Home of “The Original” Peposa

These workers were not wealthy, and used a cheap cut of meat that – I *think* – is today known as the shank. I didn’t have a shank when I made this dish, so I cut up a piece of chuck roast and it worked beautifully. I think any cut of beef like the shank or beef short ribs, boned, or skirt steak, or shin, would work just beautifully in this dish. It is definitely fun to experiment!

The first time I made Peposo, I followed the recipe closely and was pretty sure I was going to fry everybody’s esophagus. Except, of course, mine, as I am immune (gasp, wheeze!).

I was delighted to find that the large quantities of black pepper called for in the recipe just melted into the dish, which ended up peppery but not overly so, and entirely delicious.

So, of course, I tried using a bit more pepper – particularly the cracked pepper – and it was wonderful.

I’ve made a few other modifications to this dish so check out the recipe below – this is a different kind of beef stew and I think you’ll like it. The Italian workers certainly did!!
Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Recipes: Algorithms or Heuristics – Pad See Ew – Factory Style

Pad See Ew - in the Wok, almost ready to serve

Pad See Ew – in the Wok, almost ready to serve

Heuristics, Algorithms and Recipes, Oh My!!

Some people like recipes that are algorithmic – in fact, most recipes are algorithmic. So many tablespoons of this, a cup and an eighth of that, 14oz. of flour – cook for 25 minutes at 387 ° Fahrenheit – you know the drill.

The thing is – ovens vary – 375 in one oven is 352 in another, and one person’s fast simmer is another’s medium boil. A cup – sure, that’s a cup, but you know, the real way to measure is with weights, and my cup of flour might outweigh yours by 15-20%!!

In that spirit, I offer this yummy heuristic recipe for Pad See Ew. Fat rice noodles with meat and egg and gai lan (Chinese broccoli), dark soy, onions and a few other condiments, this is street-food comfort food at its best. OK, you can use broccolini. Or, if it’s around, you can even use broccoli – standard, beautiful broccoli – if you just cut the stems into long thin strips and split the florets into 3-4 pieces, depending on their size. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

The loving kindness of gentle eggs

When they won't drip off the fork, they're ready!

When they won’t drip off the fork, they’re ready!

Years ago, my wife was ill and – as is sometimes the case with sick people – was rejecting food. Too spicy! Too bland! Too crunchy! Too much like – food!

I have a strong feeding instinct and it was being balked. Then, as in a dream, I saw it – a savory egg custard. What sickie would not love such a thing!!?

But – a traditional egg custard would not have the texture I felt she wanted and I felt it needed a little updating.

I soon found myself in the kitchen making what we now call gentle eggs. Our son asked me what I was making that took so much stirring and I said something like “Oh, I’m stirring them a lot, but I’m stirring very gently!” to which he responded, “So – these are “gentle eggs”, then?”.


Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Snack Food as an Art Form – Tortilla Espagnole


An elegant potato frittata - a national snack food!

An elegant potato frittata – a national snack food!

I was lucky enough to win the blue ribbon at our local Culinary Art Society monthly dinner gathering with this dish – a rich, elaborate potato frittata that is one of the most popular types of tapas in Spain today. I adapted this recipe from one shared by Bobby Navarro (100eats100days).

I remain convinced that it is not necessary to fry the onions in the large semi-deep-fry amount of oil (see the recipe below) that you’ll later use for your potatoes. Proponents of the “cook the onions in the deep pool of oil” note that this will give the potatoes a better, more onion-y flavor.

I don’t think so, but I was in a hurry, and so – I cooked to the recipe’s indicated technique. Next time I make these, I’m going to try an entirely different technique and will report back to you on how it turns out!

This is the classic Spanish tapas and is something you will see (we did!) at virtually every place in Spain where tapas are sold or given away. I’ve tarted it up a little with some good local chorizo and a little homemade sofrito.

I love how the Spanish have transformed snacking into an art form. In the States, snack food is a mercilessly commercial operation, where we are besieged with engineered snack foods designed to turn us into, well, mindless munchers. In Spain, snacking – tapas – is an art form that celebrates local ingredients, unusual and beautiful preparations and regional culinary heritage.

Makes enough for 2 tortillas, about 50-60 small wedges as tapas. Served with chorizo and homemade sofrito.


  • 3 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (or use any waxy potato), peeled and sliced into approx. 1/8th” slices
  • 3 large sweet yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced into very thin slices
  • 14-16 large eggs (depending on the actual size!)
  • 1-1/2 T coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • Half a sweet red pepper, chopped
  • ½ lb. chorizo (sausage style, not cured)
  • 1 Pint homemade sofrito
  • Olive oil for frying, so no need to use expensive Extra Virgin, whose flavors will be lost in the fry!


Put potato slices in a large bowl of warm water for about ten minutes or so to remove surface starch. Strictly speaking, this is not required, but it makes for much easier frying and a cleaner tortilla. Treat your potato slices like this and they will not stick to the pan or to other slices!

Remove from water, spin dry, then pat dry with paper towels.

Heat about 1” of oil in a good sized fry pan. Note: You can re-use this oil and not that much of it stays with the tortilla! It should be hot enough that an onion slice sizzles immediately after being dropped in.

Fry sliced onion until it begins to turn a little golden, about 8-10 minutes.

When the onion is almost done, add the red pepper and stir fry for another minute or so until the pepper has softened.

Remove onions with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined container. Try to shake off as much oil as possible from onions, and then turn them once or twice in the paper to make sure as much oil as possible is removed.

Using the same oil put about half the potatoes into the pan and fry them until they’re puffy and golden, about 10 minutes. Move them about a bit with a heatproof spatula or tongs, so they cook evenly.

Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, again shaking off as much oil as possible, and add to onion mixture. I like to put another paper towel or two on top of the potatoes briefly to remove additional oil, but it’s not required.

Repeat with remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with 1 T of the salt or to taste (mine is for a little bit more salt), turning gently to let salt come in contact with as much of the mixture as possible.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs and mix with the remaining salt. You want to mix them a bit, but not so much that they homogenize entirely and get runny.

Mix the potato onion mixture with the eggs and fold in gently

Heat a medium sized nonstick fry pan and add a little of the olive oil from the potatoes. Add half the egg potato mixture and fry gently over medium heat, stirring a little with a spatula. When the eggs have just begun to set up, turn heat to low and cover the pan. Cook another few minutes until eggs are set, but still a bit loose.

Put a large plate over the pan and invert the pan over the plate, plopping the omelet into the plate. CAREFUL, there’s hot oil here! Slide the omelet back into the pan and cook for another few minutes until both sides have been lightly browned.  As Julia Child says “Flipping anything is an act of faith.” Have courage – this will work for you!

Slide tortilla out of the pan onto a cutting board and let cool. Repeat with rest of egg potato mixture. Slice into thin wedges for tapas.

If desired, top each wedge with a little fried chorizo, add a small thin piece of manchego cheese atop each wedge, and serve on top of slices of baguette, cut on the bias and lightly toasted or grilled. Spread a bit of your homemade sofrito on each baguette slice before arranging the tortilla wedge – you’ll be glad you did!

Leave a Comment

There Are Two Kinds of Cooks in the World – Stuffed Scalloped Potatoes Gratin

Stuffed, Scalloped Potatoes with Kale Salad

Stuffed, Scalloped Potatoes with Kale Salad

No. Really. Two kinds. And hang on for a moment, because towards the end of this piece, we’re going to talk about what they are. But first, let’s talk stuffed scalloped potatoes.

They are astonishingly good, you can make them in a wide variety of ways – they’re one of those dishes that can be elegant and mannered or real refrigerator cleaners. And I mean that in the very best of all possible ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Darwinian Nachos – An Apex Choice for Dinner

Almost My Birthday Dish!

October 21st is the International Day of the Nacho. It’s right after my birthday, which is one reason why I have such an affinity for this brilliant dish.
OK, I have lots of reasons, including sheer deliciousness, ease of preparation and versatility. But it doesn’t hurt that it’s almost my birthday dish.

As served in restaurants across the US, nachos are often a weighty, substantial offering – it’s funny to see them as a 3000 calorie snack item in the Appetizers section of the menu.

As served in many parts of Mexico, those same nachos are typically a delightful and relatively light quick snack or appetizer with a perfect blend of salt, savory and heat and a beautiful mix of ingredients.

A couple of decades ago, we first started making nachos in the more traditional Mexican style, but over time, this dish has evolved. Today, it incorporates veggies, beans, greens – it’s become a complete meal, all done in one pot, er, tray. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment