Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup

When I was a grade schooler, one of my favorite things was hot soup for lunch, and especially Campbell’s beef and barley soup. For some reason, I really liked the soft, but “toothy” texture of the barley, and I always wondered why more soups didn’t have those juicy bits of barley in them.

This version of beef and barley soup isn’t anything like good ol’ Campbell’s, of course. It’s actually more like a stew, thanks to the way barley has of thickening the broth (mainly by absorbing it). The flavors are rich and full, and the beef is very tender. It’s a simple straightforward recipe and it produces a soup that’s perfect for lunch or for a dinner with some crusty bread and soft butter.

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Pulled Pork Pasta with Figs

pulled pork pasta

I could eat pasta just about every day, I think. I’m constantly working on new ways to make it. This pulled pork pasta was inspired by a recipe I saw in a magazine some years ago. All I remembered about it was that it used braised pulled pork seasoned with smoked sea salt, with a sauce made with the braising liquid, thickened with mascarpone cheese. That seemed like a good starting point.

I tried several different ways of making this dish before I settled on the idea of giving it a sweet/savory tilt that makes it just about perfect for early fall. The flavor is built on a combination of fresh thyme, dried kadota figs, a little honey, wine and white balsamic vinegar. Kadota figs are great for this, since they have fewer, smaller seeds and a mild flavor. I added them late in the recipe to give them enough time to contribute to the flavor of the dish while not getting mushy. The smoked sea salt (I used apple-smoked salt) gives the pork and the sauce a hint of barbecue.

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Chocolate Tart with Espresso Glaze

chocolate tart

There is something about dark chocolate and dark, rich coffee flavors that makes them go together. This chocolate tart takes advantage of that marriage of flavors like nothing I’ve tasted before or since. It’s really not difficult to make, either. The end result, however, looks like it could come from a fine french patisserie.

To make this, you’ll need one special piece of equipment: a two-piece flan pan (or a springform cake pan) like the one pictured. The one I use in 10 inches and the recipe is formulated for that size.

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Make Your Own Hummus

hummus

If you’ve ever been to a Lebanese or Middle Eastern restaurant, you probably know the pleasure of freshly made hummus, that glorious mix of chick peas, sesame, lemon, garlic and olive oil. With a little warm pita to scoop up the rich dip, you’ve got a real treat and a great appetizer. Personally, I could make a meal of it.

You can do a surprising number of amazing things armed with a basic hummus recipe. This version is very garlicky (yes, I know that’s not a word) and one of my favorites. Think of this as a starting point. You can cut back the garlic and use other flavorings, like a bit of cumin or paprika, or you can add some roasted peppers or even jalapeño. Just make it your own.

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Eggplant Parmigiana

eggplant parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana is one of those recipes that almost makes me think I could survive being a vegetarian. It’s rich and full of flavor and looks beautiful on a plate. It takes a bit of time (most of which is waiting) but in the end, the dish is simple to prepare.

You can make the eggplant in a sauté pan that can hold half an inch or a little less oil, but I prefer doing mine in the deep fryer. The only tricky part is the final run in the oven. You have to watch things carefully — very carefully — to avoid burning.

For this version, I used a very straightforward marinara sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic and butter, pureed with an immersion blender. At good Italian restaurants, I’ve had sauce on eggplant Parmigiana this way, but also with various meat sauces, as well.

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Lamb Sliders with Homemade Tzatziki

Lamb Slides and Homemade Tzatziki

Lamb sliders are one of my favorite things. They’re as flavorful as their beef counterparts and maybe more so — especially with some grilled onions, some feta and tzatziki — the creamy Greek condiment that makes the lamb sing (figuratively, of course).

The only trick to making the sliders is finding good ground lamb. If you’re local meat department doesn’t offer it along side the ground beef, you can probably persuade them to grind up enough lamb shoulder to fit your needs. I’m fortunate to live where ground lamb is readily available at several groceries, and when the farm market is open, I can get good free range ground lamb, which is a nice bonus.

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Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili

If you’re a chili con carne purist from Texas, stop reading this post right here. What follows will be an abomination. You see, I grew up in Ohio, and while Cincinnati was pretty much at the other end of the state, Cincinnati style chili was the only one I knew until got out into the big wide world.

Cincinnati chili is unique. It’s thinner than its Texas counterpart, includes beans and it’s not fiery hot, but rather filled with aromatics like cinnamon and cloves and sweetened just a little with dark chocolate.

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