Seattle was wonderful; it was sunny and warm (at least by this Alaskan’s definition). Birds were singing, flowers were blooming, and green was the dominant color outdoors.
Alaska, in contrast, remains white and brown. It’s a lot browner now than when I left. The snow berms lining the roads have begun to melt, exposing winter’s accumulation of dirt and debris.
Every day I was in Seattle, my sister and I took Josie and Rudy, her black labs, to the dog park. Every breed of dog, from Mexican hairless to mutt, was there. Running and smelling and licking and chasing and swimming and fetching, the dogs were in their element. Just entering the park is enough to lighten one’s mood. The dogs’ unrestrained enthusiasm is infectious.
Of course, we also went ingredient shopping. My mother had sent a newspaper story about Big John’s Pacific Food Importers, a Seattle wholesale/retail company that specializes in Mediterranean foods. Although Big John’s is a little tricky to find, it was worth the trip.
Big John’s has an exciting selection of ingredients at reasonable prices. For example, I bought a kilo of Italian salted capers for under $16 (in Alaska, a 3 ounce jar of salted capers costs nearly $10). Because I didn’t have much baggage space, I passed on buying olives, olive oils, or any of Big John’s 125 cheeses, opting instead for dried fava beans (koukia), harissa, shelled pistachios, herbs, and spices. I’ll definitely go back to Big John’s next time I’m in Seattle.
The best part of the trip was cooking with my sister. I’ve already written about our Kale and Myzithra Crostini. Another evening we made Wine and Garlic Braised Short Ribs and thoroughly enjoyed its meltingly tender texture and rich sauce.
Wine and Garlic Braised Short Ribs (Μοσχάρι Κρασάτο με Σκόρδο)
The wine is essential to the braising liquid's rich flavor, so be sure to use a bottle you'd be willing to drink. Better yet, buy two bottles of the same wine: one for the recipe and one for the table. I usually leave the cooked vegetables in the braising liquid when I serve this, and sometimes add 3 Tbsp. tomato paste along with the beef stock. For a more refined presentation, strain out the vegetables, pressing as much liquid out as is possible, and whisk in 2 Tbsp. cold butter after reducing the liquid and just before serving. Serve with hilopites (egg noodles), mashed potatoes, or polenta.
2 1/2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs (or other stew meat), cut into 2” – 3” chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice (1 large)
3/4 cup diced carrots, 1/2” dice (1 large)
3/4 cup diced celery, 1/2” dice (2 stalks)
2 large heads garlic, broken into cloves and peeled (2/3 cup)
750 ml. hearty red wine (1 bottle)
1 Tbsp. minced rosemary or 1 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
4 cups beef stock
1/4 cup minced parsley
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Season the short ribs with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the short ribs well on all sides. Don’t stint on browning the ribs, as doing so adds important flavor to the braise. Remove the ribs to a plate. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. of fat.
In the same pan, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until the onions soften and start to turn golden. As the vegetables cook, use their moisture to help scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the wine, bring to a medium boil, and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the rosemary and beef stock and bring to a boil. Add the browned ribs and all of their juices to the pot. Cover and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beef is very tender. (The recipe can be made ahead to this point.)
Remove the ribs to a plate. If you are making this ahead, refrigerate the braising liquid and ribs separately. Remove and discard as much fat as possible from the braising liquid. Bring the braising liquid to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer until the sauce is nearly the thickness you desire. Add the ribs and cook until they are heated through.
Sprinkle with the minced parsley and serve immediately.