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Change in seasons

Apologies for the light posting over the last two weeks.  They’ve been weird ones.

I’m not really in a position to say much else than I find myself in a very transitional phase right now.  We’ve all gone through those periods where we were happy, but still uncomfortably aware of the uncertainty in our lives (that, in reality, was with us all along). My mind has been more preoccupied with figuring some things out than it has been with interesting food tidbits and writing short stories — though, to be sure, I’m as addicted as ever to the food blogs and have been eating quite well at home. Worry not…I’ll never lose my interest in good eats.

I spent this last weekend in the company of good friends, as a large group of college companions made their way up to the Bay Area for the annual “Weekender,” in which our alma mater plays either Stanford or Berkeley.  It was nice spending time with good people, and reminding myself that at this age, at this moment in our lives — mid-20somethings nearly 3 years out of school — that uncertainty is more than okay: it’s completely expected.  I have a terrible habit of worrying, and an even worse habit of trying to have all the answers, all the time.  It’s nice to be grounded by other people and remember that I’m doing okay.

That, and soup always helps.  Here are two more fantabulous soup recipes I created in the last week.  Can you tell I’ve been needing warm, soul-soothing comfort food?

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash and Pomegranate

This stew draws inspiration from the flavors of Northern Africa: warm spices, multiple layers of savory and tart flavors, and rich, earth-tone colors.  Savor it on a cool autumn evening — and it’s even better the next day.

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour, seasoned liberally with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder
  • 1 lb organic/pasture raised lamb stew meat, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 375 mL (half bottle) of dry red wine (I used Pinot Meunier)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 dashes of ground cinnamon
  • 1 quart good quality beef or vegetable stock (if using vegetable stock, make sure it has a dark hue)
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 pomegranate, halved and seeds removed

Dredge the lamb pieces in the AP flour mixture, and set aside.  In a large soup pot, heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, use tongs to add in the lamb pieces, shaking off any excess flour as you pick them up.  Be sure to reserve the extra seasoned flour for later.  Brown the lamb pieces on all sides, then remove to a separate bowl.

Add in the onions and garlic to the pan, stirring until they just begin to soften.  Add the tomato paste and continue stirring until it is well incorporated into the mixture.  Add in the last tablespoon of olive oil, along with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, and stir vigorously until the mixture is dry looking.  Pour in the wine while stirring, and reduce for 1 minute.  Add in the stock, squash, dried oregano, bay leaf and cinnamon, along with the browned lamb and any accumulated juices.  Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is nearly tender.  Add in the kale pieces, cover, and simmer another 10-15 minutes.  Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with the pomegranate seeds, and serve.

Sausage and Lentil Soup with Kale and Radicchio

In a pinch last night, I stopped by the Bristol Farms grocery store randomly located in the Westfield Shopping Center, one of San Francisco’s largest shopping malls.  It’s nice that they have a grocer in the mall, in the middle of downtown, because if you’re in the area running errands (or having your teeth cleaned, like I was yesterday), you can just swing by and pick up what you need.  I guess a mall grocer sells far more energy drinks and snacks than anything else, because I noticed they’ve really downsized the produce section and meat counter since the last time I was there (which was months ago…).  I had planned on making lamb chops with risotto and grilled radicchio for dinner, but they didn’t have any lamb.  Instead, I found some very good sausages and made a favorite standby: lentil and sausage soup.  I’m pretty sure I might’ve written a recipe for this soup before, but I’m always changing it up based on what we have in the house and my own inspiration.  This variety, which uses both Beluga and French green lentils, was absolutely delicious.  Joe said he was glad the store didn’t have lamb chops–which is a huge compliment coming from him, the world’s biggest lamb lover.  He doesn’t have a middle name, but I say it should be “Gyro.”  Or “Reuben.”  But that’ll be another post.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 links good quality fresh pork sausage, preferably a variety flavored with garlic and wine, cut on the bias into 1″ slices
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 3/4 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Beluga lentils, washed and picked over
  • 1/2 cup French green lentils, washed and picked over
  • 1 small head purple radicchio, cored and cut into ribbons
  • 3 cups chopped dinosaur kale
  • — kosher salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add in the sausage pieces and brown on all sides.  Remove the meat to a separate bowl and set aside.

Add the onions, leeks and garlic to the pan, stirring to coat them with fat.  Season with black pepper.  Once the alliums are just translucent, add in the tomato paste, and stir again to incorporate.  Pour in the wine, and reduce for 1 minute.  Add in the vegetable stock, season liberally with salt and simmer for 20 minutes.  Next, add in the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Pile in the radicchio and kale, and use a spoon to help push them underneath the hot liquid.  Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  The soup should be thick, the lentils tender, and the greens cooked through.  If you’d like, garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese.  Otherwise, ladle into bowls, and serve with good, crusty bread, like a batard.

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