Slow-Roasted Beef Short Ribs with Lemon-Thyme Gravy

This one’s for my nieces, Laura and Gaby, who have always eaten everything I put in front of them, even if it was unrecognizable. Who let me teach them how to bake bread when they were four. Who have always thought my edible Christmas gifts were the bomb and my pasta sauce, other-worldly. You were born into the right family, my dears, and I, for one, am thrilled you’re here.

Beef short ribs, or any short ribs, for that matter, are the perfect kind of supper to put together in the morning, go about your day, and return to with glee and appreciation several hours later. The prep is quick and easy, and the results are deeply satisfying. The leftovers? There are no words…..

IMG_2884Slow-Roasted Beef Short Ribs with Lemony Gravy


  • 4 beef short ribs, 3 – 4 lbs. total weight
  • 1 white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup shredded or chopped carrot
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 anchovy filets, packed in olive oil
  • 4 pieces of lemon peel, about half of a lemon, cut into 3/4 inch strips
  • 15 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed, stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups, plus more if needed, beef stock
  • salt and black pepper to taste

IMG_2880Preheat the oven to 300° and place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom dutch oven over high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil.
  3. Liberally salt and pepper the short ribs on all sides.
  4. Add the short ribs to the olive oil, turning often until all four sides are nicely browned. Remove to a platter and reserve.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the anchovies to the pot. Allow them to melt away in the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, lemon peel and thyme, and sauté until the vegetables soften and the onion starts to become translucent.
  6. Add the white wine, and deglaze the browned bits from the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Return the ribs to dutch oven. The liquid should cover about 2/3rds of the ribs. If it doesn’t, add more stock. Pile some of the aromatic veggies on top of the ribs.
  8. Cover, and place on the rack in the oven. Slow roast for 4 hours or until the meat if falling off the bones.
  9. When the meat is done, remove ribs from the dutch oven and reserve. Strain the aromatic veggies from the braising liquid. Reserve.
  10. Place the braising liquid into a heat-proof container, and allow the fat to rise to the top. (Placing it in the refrigerator helps). Spoon off the fat.
  11. Return the broth and the veggies to the dutch oven. Adjust seasoning. Discard lemon peel.
  12. If desired, remove the meat from the bones, discarding any gristle or fatty pieces. Return meat to dutch, reheat.
  13. Serve over mashed potatoes, with plenty of gravy.


Salad Days in Piemonte

We’d spent three action-packed days exploring Expo 2015 and the culinary and cultural fabulousness that is Milan. We’d sweltered in 100+ degree heat and walked a combined 15+ miles. We’d eaten enough for an army. We were tired, cranky and, frankly, I just wanted a salad.

But from the moment the white-gloved server tucked a small, crimson-velvet footstool beside my feet and discreetly whispered in my ear, “It’s for your handbag,” I was worried my humble craving would go unsatisfied.

Jonathan, the footstool and I were in the restaurant of the sumptuously appointed Castello di Guarene in the Roero region of Piedmont, Italy, on the fourth day of a “discovery” trip for my unique travel adventures. We were road-testing the Castello for the October trip, and so far, every detail exceeds my expectations.


Assuming the kitchen is up to the standards of the rest of the property, my yearning for a simple, satisfying salad is fading fast, too pedestrian an offering for a perfectly appointed hotel dining room.

I’d heard from colleagues in Piemonte that the Castello’s Chef, Davide Odore, is a rising culinary star. Young, creative, and talented, he’s helmed his own restaurant, Io e Luna, for several years, earning a reputation as a chef who builds on tradition, regional cuisine and local, seasonal sources.


At one point, he said, “For me, innovation is a way of expressing the past … but with innovative ideas and methods.” I’ll take innovation, as long as it is crispy and well-dressed.

I’ve always thought that a restaurant is only as good as it’s simplest salad. Let’s face it, salads are tough to get right. Gritty, wilted, or soggy greens are never acceptable. It takes real skill to prepare a great salad, let alone dress one properly. All things relative, Davide Odore agrees, but with a nod to innovation and technique.


Like everything else at the Castello, Chef Odore over-delivers in a unique, whimsical and thoroughly satisfying way. Behold his Bouquet di Verdure, a sweet little posy of a composed salad, each vegetable perfectly blanched and artfully arranged. The flower centers boast vegetable purees, or passate, light, airy and redolent with the essential flavors and colors of the vegetable at its origin. A hint of fresh strawberry for color and sweetness, and thin slivers of fresh summer truffle, because, well, why not?, and summer arrives on a plate for me to savor. It is light, refreshing, and visually extraordinary, like the perfect summer day.

As I grab my bag from its crimson perch, I leave satisfied, both of appetite, and spirit, already looking forward to sampling Davide’s full menu. Stay tuned.




New deets! Salone del Gusto 2014.

Big news from Italy! The official countdown to Salone del Gusto 2014 starts on June 9. That’s when the long-awaited Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre Slow Food itinerary of workshops, tastings, and programs will be posted online. We’ll want to reserve immediately, to ensure our place at the most sought-after events and workshops.

If you’ve been thinking about joining us, it’s decision time. If you’ve already signed on (lucky you!), time pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite wine, buff up your reading glasses, and settle in to imagine yourself at one of hundreds of perfectly curated programs designed to satisfy your every craving for wine, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, coffee, and so much more. Once your choices are made, we’ll sign you up.

Over the winter, I’ve been tweaking the trip itinerary, and am pleased to post the updated details here. By design, our experience will be an intimate, immersive one — I’ve booked only ten rooms, and five are already sold. If you’re on the fence, the time is now to call with questions.

So, take a look, and I hope to hear from you. It promises to be an epic trip.

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Just a thought.

Once, a friend returned from a trip to Italy and brought me a pencil. She pulled it out of the bag, and handed it to me, unwrapped.

“It’s just a thought,” she said, as I turned it over in my hand. It was a singular pencil, made of wood and wrapped in elegantly patterned turquoise, white and black Florentine paper. I brought it home and put it on my desk.

Tomato can full of colored pencils

Twenty five years later it’s still there, in a San Marzano tomato can that does double duty as a colored pencil holder. And every day in the ensuing years, each time I look at that pencil, I smile. I am reminded that someone thought of me, however briefly, however far away, and marked that “thought” with a token.

I’m big on “thoughts.” Until my friend used that particular word, I really didn’t have a name for the impulse, the effort, or the act of thinking of someone else while I went about the business of my life. Now I do, and I try, as often as I can, to mark that thought in a meaningful way.

Take it from me. We’ve all gotten into the very bad habit of letting popular culture dictate our enactment of “having a thought” for us. We act on birthdays, Christmas, weddings, graduations, all of the usual experiences that have given birth to clichéd Hallmark moments. Me, I’m for making my own moments. And having my own thoughts. And marking them as I choose to. Hallmark and the calendar be damned.

Since the “pencil” moment, I’ve tried to mark the occasions when I’m thinking of someone. One year, I made challah bread (yes, challah bread) for Thanksgiving. I made a few extra loaves and delivered them to friends on the day before with unpasteurized honey and salted butter. Another, I collected handfuls of the fresh herbs from my garden, tied them in twine, and passed them out at yoga, to my friends who join me often on the mat.

photo copy

When my high school senior son asked three over-burdened teachers and his guidance counselor to write a last minute recommendation for him (“Yeah, sorry, it’s due Friday”) he took a page from my book. By heaping an additional recommendation upon the several hundred they were already writing, he realized they were expending extra effort on his behalf. In return, he made them cookies. Not just any cookies. Mammoth chocolate chunk cookies. It was a simple, thoughtful gesture to say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me.”

Big cookie Thank you chocolate Chip Cookies

During the holidays, the self-consciousness that seems to overshadow these spontaneous demonstrations of affection wanes. Yesterday, the doorbell rang. To my surprise, my friend Kate’s husband, John, was behind the glass.

“Hi,” he said. “Kate sent this by for you.”

He presented me with a small bag and a card. We chatted, had a hug, and I went inside, impatient to discover what it contained. To my surprise, I found two lovely hand painted wooden Christmas ornaments. Oh, you say, that’s not a thought, that’s a holiday gift. Perhaps. But when you learn what the ornaments are, I think you’ll change your mind.

Under all that white tissue paper, a miniature plump pink prosciutto and a creamy white provolone, like the ones that hang in salumerie all over Italy, emerged. A sweet note confirmed that, it is, in fact, the thought that counts. Kate sent these special tokens to mark the first year of Morso Soggiorno, my immersive food travel business. Now, every time I look at them, I’ll think of Kate and her excitement for me. They’ll have a place of honor in my kitchen twelve months of the year.

Wooden Provolone and Prosciutto ornaments

All of this is a long-winded way of saying it’s always a good time, the right time, the best time, to let the people you care about know you care for them. Any small gesture will do. A pencil, a prosciutto, a provolone….un pensiero. A thought.

“The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” –Thomas Jefferson.

Eat your feelings.

The college tour. Hmmmm. Is there anything better than spending a weekend away with an over-anxious teenager who’s trying to decide where to spend the next four years of his life and where you’ll spend way too much of your money?

I swore I would never do the college tour thing. It’s just one giant marketing grind, I said. They’re not going to suck me in, I said. But here we are, getting primed for touring three schools in 48 hours. We’re holed up in a sweetly appointed, centrally located one bedroom apartment in the Fruit Street section of Brooklyn. Thanks, airbnb.

Over the next two days, we’ll be guided around the schools by groups of zealous campus ambassadors. Nearly interchangeable, each and every one shares a carefully crafted personal narrative (I’m just like you!) in addition to a constant, blinding, effervescent smile that showcases identically straight, white teeth (proof positive that their parents’ investment in orthodontics is paying off handsomely). All three deliver startlingly similar proscribed messaging that goes something like this:

Of course our Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners will personally teach your incoming freshman! They live to teach!  A full 92.5% of our classes have less than 7 students. That may be true, I think snidely, but can they teach you the difference between ‘fewer’ and ‘less?’ And, our campus was used to film Gossip Girl! Ho ho! Forget grammar and syntax, that clinches it for me.

There’s more…..

Did you know? We offer a loaded gym, movie theater, and bowling alley under each dorm, and a 24/7 fully-staffed dining hall! We serve vegan! We serve vegetarian! We serve Kosher! All our services are accessible through an underground network of interconnected corridors! We wouldn’t want your student to have to go outside in his PJs. Why not, I ask myself. Half the kids in my neighborhood walk around in their pajama bottoms. In all kinds of weather.

And finally, just when I thought they’d gone missing, the skinny on academics:

We believe in a classic education! We’ll read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the original Greek so your student can feel competent engaging in dinner table conversation no matter what! So, where, exactly, do they expect “my student” to be eating dinner? And when did he become “my student” and not “my son or daughter?” Like a commodity, he’s just another cog in the pricey, competitive, higher-education machine.

All this walking and gawking and overly-exuberant marketing makes me hungry. Well, it makes me a lot of things, but since this is a food blog, I’ll channel my emotional investment into food. If you’re me, eating your feelings is a good thing. Any trip, anywhere, means a food tour. Once, when our older son broke his leg and we had to cancel a ski trip, we turned a few mid-winter days in NYC into a tour of Mario Batali’s restaurants. We hit ’em all. In my mind, a good foodie experience is the silver lining in any black cloud. The antithesis of the absurd. Even college tour tsunami-absurd. Continue reading