"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Braised Beef Roast with Fresh 4th of July "Star" Raviolis

Today was work as usual! But, I refuse to dwell on the challenging parts of the day, and instead am choosing to cherish my favorite part of today - the evening at home and seeing the excitement on my children's faces as they watched me take out these colorful 4th of July-inspired "Star" Raviolis and set it on the dinner table.

We continue to be blessed with gorgeous weather around the Bay Area.  Although we love the warm weather, the kitchen in our house faces the west. So, on hot days, our kitchen gets extremely hot because it is right in the path of the hot afternoon sun. So, we try to avoid using our oven as much as we can during warm days.  We also try to spend as little time cooking on the stove as we can when it's hot.

But, the fact that we avoid using our stove or oven does not mean that we can't have some savory meals for dinner.  (Take-outs are "prohibited" in our house except for Fridays.)  My best friend is our slow cooker.  Tonight's creation was a slowly braised beef roast with fresh "Star" Ravioli - a super fun pasta for the kids.  It took me about 1/2 hour to prepare the beef before I went to work. And, it took less than 15 minutes to boil the Ravioli.  I like braised meats because it's very versatile, and you can have plenty of leftovers.  You can have it with pasta, with rice, as a stew with some corn bread, with tortillas as tacos, you name it! Very flexible.

First, for the Braised Beef Roast: 

2 pounds of beef roast cut into large chunks or stew meat (left overs are yummy)
1 Large 28-ounce can of diced Italian flavored tomatoes (in juice)
1 Small 6-ounce can of tomato paste (Italian flavored or plain)
1 small red onions (diced)
2 celery stalks (diced) - can leave out if you don't have it
1 large (or 2 small) carrots - diced
2 cloves of garlic - finely diced
A bouquet of herbs tied (including parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, 1 large bay leaf)
1/2 a cup of dry red wine
1/2 a cup of beef stock (or vegetable stock, if that's what you have in the pantry)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Italian seasoning (dried; about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
Cooking oil (like Vegetable Oil to brown the meat - about 2 Tablespoon)
Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon)

Get up about 1/2 hour earlier than usual - if you are going to work.  [You can actually dice the vegetables the night before, and place them in a sealed Ziploc bag.]  Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper.  Heat the cooking oil over medium high heat.  Brown the meat on all sides (about 6 minutes, depending on the size of your meat chunks; cook them in batches so you don't over crowd the pan).  Remove and place the batches of the browned meat in the slow cooker as they are cooked.  When you are all done, discard the cooking oil. Wipe the pan with a paper towel.  Add the olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Saute until the vegetables are soft (about 8 minutes).  Add the diced garlic, and cook for about 1 minute.  Add about the Italian seasoning.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, beef stock, and sugar. Season with some more salt and pepper if necessary.  Add the sugar.  Mix well.  Put the bouquet of herbs on top of the meat in the slow cooker. Then, pour the onion/tomato mixture into the meat. Cover and set on LOW for 8 to 10 hours (depending on how much time you have). Taste and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, if necessary.

For the "Star" pasta:
I wish I could say that I made fresh pasta from scratch.  Nope! I got those from Costco in the fresh pasta isle. My kids loooooved them! They were excited about the different colors. And, given 4th of July is right around the corner, it was a pretty cool and fun companion to our beef dish. The pasta cooks in about 3 minutes in boiling water.

It just so happens that, today, we received one of our wine shipments from Expressions of the Vine.  In the shipment was a Franciscan Estate Cabernet (Napa Valley, 2009). http://www.franciscan.com/assets/client/File/FRN_09_NV_Cab.PDF  As you may recall, earlier this year, I featured the 2008 vintage (See February 23, 2012 post).  We decided to have a glass of the 2009 Cabernet with the braised beef tonight. This wine is actually a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Syrah, 1% Malbec.  It has a beautiful deep, garnet red color.  On the nose, you get a rich bouquet of ripe dark cherries, sweet plums, cocoa, and exotic spices (like cloves with a hint of vanilla).  On the palate, this wine has layered and complex flavors of dark cherries and mocha.  You can also taste some aromatic spices like cinnamon and anise -- giving it a welcoming flavor.  The dark fruit flavors also give it a long, smooth, and balanced finish on the palate.  It's definitely one of my favorite "all occasion" Cabernet Sauvignons.

Until next time . . . Cheers! ZinAdel

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