Yesterday when I needed help with a couple -- let's say, functions -- I couldn't figure out, I looked to Claudia. Although I would have happily paid for her expertise, Claudia chose to be paid in food . . . so, this is what Claudia had for lunch.
First off Peposo -- a peppery Italian stew that supposedly dates back to the early 1400's (at least) and became known through the construction of the cathedral dome in Florence. As the story goes the tile makers from near-by Impruneta (just South of Florence) would bake this long cooking stew in their kilns and Brunelleschi, the architect, while looking for roof tiles came to love it. Think of it as Italian Boeuf Bourguignon (kind of a theme this month) but much, much easier.
Cut beef suitable for long cooking (I used beef shanks and chuck -- I like some bone and some boneless) into large pieces (I think mine were about 2" x 3" or 3" x 3" -- I left the beef shanks whole) and make a layer in a pot. On top of the beef put about a TB of peppercorns, a tiny sprinkle of salt, a handful (6 or so) of peeled garlic cloves and a spring of rosemary (not traditional but still delicious). Continue making layers with all the beef. Then pour a bottle of fruity red wine (Chianti is traditional) to cover the beef (make sure the beef is covered -- add water or stock if necessary). Bring to a boil, cover tightly (I use a bit of aluminum foil under the pot lid to get a good seal) and place in a 300º over for 4-5 hours. It's also great cooked overnight in a 200º oven. A perfect make ahead meal.
As a condiment for the tender beef I simmered chopped pears in a bit of white wine. I'm not sure if it's traditional but the sweet fruit is a ready foil to the peppery beef.
On the side, a creamy vegetable gratin -- cauliflower and broccoli rabe baked in a light cheese sauce, a radicchio frisée and fresh artichoke salad, and the easiest homemade bread in the world, Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread. If you think you can't make bread, try this recipe, it will change your baking life forever!
There is no Sunday lunch without dessert.
And so, gazing down at the pile of plums and pluots from the farmer's market, I opted for one of the all time easiest -- upside down cake. Pretty much following a recipe from Chez Panisse I melted butter (4TB) in a range/oven proof cake pan (I could have used a skillet). I sprinkled that with 3/4 brown sugar and let it melt in the pan and laid the thickly sliced fruit on top and took the pan off the heat. For the batter I creamed 1 stick of butter with 1 cup of sugar, added 2 egg yolks and a tsp of vanilla and mixed until smooth. Next I alternated adding 1 1/2 cup flour (mixed with 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt) and 1/2 cup milk -- adding the flour last -- and mixed until just smooth. In a separate bowl I beat the 2 egg whites to soft peaks and folded them into the first mixture and spread the batter over the sliced fruit. Baked for 55 minutes at 350º (let cool 15 minutes or so before un-molding onto a serving dish) it's a warm, sweet perfect autumn dessert.
Thank you Claudia!