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I’ve got a simple little recipe for you today that might just change every meal you eat this week. This super salsa verde is something I whipped up early last week just to use up some withering herbs in the fridge, but I ended up liking it so much that I actually made it two more times over the course of the week.
Given that the whole point of a salsa verde like this one is to bring bright, fresh flavor to a dish, you might expect that this would taste best right after it is made. Surprisingly, though, I actually liked the salsa even more the following day, when the grassy herbs had fully infused themselves into the fruity olive oil. So go ahead, make a big batch today and have it ready to go for the rest of the next few days.
Over the course of the week, I experimented with this little condiment in a number of ways. I found that it really added something special to a fried egg, and I loved having it on hand to use as salad dressing. Perhaps my favorite use was as a sauce over a simple piece of white fish; its acidity and vibrant green color really brought to life a bland filet of Dover sole. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for this salsa, too, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Super Salsa Verde
Makes about 1 cup
I used parsley and mint as the herbs in my salsa verde and I really liked the way they played off each other. Having said that, you could – and should – use whatever herbs are available to you. Replace the parsley with cilantro and experiment with some basil or tarragon in the mix.
The nuts in the recipe are also fairly interchangeable, so long as you choose something fairly oily (you want a nut that actually feels greasy in your hand). I would certainly have subbed in some delicious Marcona almonds or skinned hazelnuts if I had them around.
Parsley, 1 medium handful
Mint, about half as much as the parsley
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon capers, chopped
Sea salt and red pepper flakes
Stem and chop herbs: Pull the leaves from the stems of the parsley and mint. Gather them together all in one fist and form them into a tight ball. Place this fist on the counter and pull back your fingers to expose your herb ball. Tuck in any bits of herbs that have fallen out, and with your sharpest knife quickly chop the herbs, inching back your fingers as you work through the herbs. This is my tactic for chopping up a pile of herbs, and it works really well. Run your knife through the mess of chopped herbs two or three more times so that you have fine shreds of herbs. Move the herbs to a mixing bowl.
Add in ingredients through lemon: Using a microplane, grate the garlic into the mixing bowl. Add in the nuts and capers. Also using the microplane, zest the lemon whole, then squeeze in the juice from one half. Stir ingredients to combine.
Stir in the olive oil: Slowly begin to add olive oil, stirring the salsa as you stream it in. It is up to you how much oil you want to add. About 1/4 cup should be enough to bring the ingredients together, though you could add more if you want a looser salsa. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Serve or store: Spoon the salsa over anything and everything – it’s really versatile. If not using right away, store in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for no more than three days.
As much as I can, I try to plan my meals around what looks best at the store or farmer’s market, keeping in mind both cost and seasonality. The thing is, I have pretty high standards when it comes to quality – I like my produce organic, my seafood sustainable, and my meat grass-fed – and the ingredients that meet these standards can often be disappointingly expensive. While I’m okay with paying a premium for quality ingredients that taste better and are far more nourishing (really, see: 1, 2, 3), I don’t necessarily want to just give my wallet outright to Whole Foods.
To hack the cost side of things, I often buy more unconventional cuts of meat. Oxtail and liver are totally fair game for me when I’m shopping for protein, though I get that they might be a tough sell for some (most) of my readers. But lamb shanks? Oh, lamb shanks I know you’ll like.
The idea for this dinner came about as I was walking through Whole Foods on Tuesday evening. Passing by the butcher case, I spied the lamb shanks – local, grass-fed, probably kissed by unicorns – for six dollars a pound. Alongside the shanks were more conventional cuts like legs and chops, but at double and almost triple the price, respectively. There wasn’t even a decision to make. I asked the butcher to wrap up the shanks, grabbed some vegetables, and headed home.
Dinner came together without much work, though the finished dish might certainly have people thinking otherwise. After the meat was seared and the vegetables sauteed (fifteen minutes at most), the lamb simmered away without fuss for two hours. If I had a slow cooker, maybe I would have left the lamb to cook gently there while carrying on with my day. Before serving, I quickly boiled down the broth to make a sauce, to which I added butter and peas at the very end.
Served over mashed white sweet potatoes, the final meal was something I felt good about serving, meeting all my persnickety high standards. But instead of costing the thirty-five dollars it might have run me at a restaurant, I was able to put each plate on the table for about a quarter of the price. Total win.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Peas
As I mentioned above, you could certainly prepare this recipe in a slow cooker. To do so, first sear the shanks and saute the vegetables in a hot pan. Transfer these items to the crock pot, and proceed with the recipe as described. Before leaving the house, set the slow cooker to low. When you return in the evening, you should find the lamb shanks cooked and falling-off-the-bone tender.
I served this recipe over mashed white sweet potatoes, which were amazing. If you can’t find white sweet potatoes, go ahead and mash plain sweet potatoes or even regular potatoes. I imagine this would be quite delicious over risotto, as well.
2 tbsp neutral oil (I used coconut oil)
4 lamb shanks
3 handfuls mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and oyster, though plain button will work just fine)
5 garlic cloves
Rosemary, half a handful of sprigs
Thyme, half a handful of sprigs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Sear the lamb shanks: If you can, bring the lamb shanks out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to start cooking and allow them to come to room temperature. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil and beginning to smoke. Season the shanks with salt and pepper, and place them in the pot seasoned-side down. Reseason the top side of the shanks in the pot, and sear them in a pan for about five minutes so that they take on some golden brown color. Flip and sear the other side for an additional five minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
Saute the vegetables: Halve and rinse the leek, then thinly slice white to light green portion. Slice the mushrooms. Smash the garlic cloves and remove the skins. Add all the vegetables at once to the pot (over the oil used from the lamb) and season with salt and pepper. Saute until leeks go a little transparent and garlic turns golden and fragrant. Stir in the Dijon mustard.
Add the herbs and broth: Get together your rosemary and thyme in a parallel pile and tie them into a bunch with some twine. Add them to the pot, along with the chicken broth. The broth should almost cover the shanks – if it does not, add some water or additional stock. Cover, and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for two hours: Stir and rearrange the shanks once or twice to ensure even cooking.
Make the sauce: Remove the shanks from the pot. Pluck out and discard the herb bouquet. Do your best to skim out most of the vegetables (so that you don’t boil them to mush) and set them aside in a small bowl. Bring the broth to a boil and allow the broth to reduce for about 10 minutes, at which point you should have only 1/2 of concentrated broth left in the pot. Whisk in the butter, and add the peas.
Serve: Serve the lamb shanks atop the leek and mushrooms. Spoon over the sauce. Devour.