Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 2

In part 1 we selected our beef, cut it into cubes, seasoned and then marinated it with a whole bottle of Chianti

After marinating the beef, I caramelized 2 yellow onions and 4 cloves of garlic. I wanted to extract the sugars and condense them. This is a sweet dish using only the natural sugars that exists in the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Burner was set to medium.

Remember my sun dried tomatoes? I chopped up about 3/4 cup of them and tossed in. Use a can of tomato paste otherwise.

I then added a pint of our canned tomatoes and Basil.

Transfer onions, tomatoes etc to a small mixing bowl and transfer about 25% of the drained beef into the Dutch oven and turn the heat to high. Transfer browned beef to another mixing bowl and repeat ’til all the beef has been seared.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the reserved Chianti to deglaze the Dutch oven. Scrape all the great flavors from the bottom and sides.

The beef was salt and peppered when I marinated it so the only seasoning to add now will be the herbs. I used a tablespoon of our Italian mix.

Place Dutch Oven in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, check tenderness, remove when beef is tender. Different cuts take different times. This is one of those dishes that you prefer a stew cut because the longer the cook, the better the melding of flavors.

This is a stew cooked to the consistency  of a good chili, not thinned

Ready to serve? If you made our tomato and spinach pasta, this would be an excellent time to use it.  The added flavors of the pasta along side the Chianti and tomato beef go great together.

Of course a second bottle of Chianti would also go well with this dish.


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Green Tomato Relish or Chow Chow

As the nights get colder and our days get shorted those lovely tomatoes stop ripening and we are left with Green Tomatoes. Those hard and flavorless reminders of what will not come. Now is the time to make hard choices, try hanging them on the vine in the garage and see what happens, toss them in the compost bin, or make Green Tomato relish.

These tomatoes are generally not green beefsteaks or other large tomato that would lend itself to breading and frying. They are Roma’s, Willamette valley etc. They didn’t start growing on the vine until late in the season, so they didn’t have time to ripen before the season was over.

A few years ago we had a horrid season.  There were more un-ripened tomatoes than ripened ones. Very disappointing. I went on an internet search and discovered Chow Chow and Green Tomato Relish. The difference between Green Tomato Relish and Chow Chow is that Chow Chow includes cabbage and hot peppers. Over the years I have thought of making a true Chow Chow but opted for the easier preference of a semi sweet relish, much like a pickle relish.

We no longer buy pickle relish and use our tomato relish for hamburgers, hot dogs, tuna fish salad or anything you would use a pickle relish for.

The tomatoes can be orange or red, they do not all have to be green to end up in the jar.

The Green Tomato Relish is super easy to make. Simply chop tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onions, and add salt, sugar and vinegar, mustard seed and celery seed. Combine all finely chopped ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes or more, then can the relish.

Use the following ingredient quantities and adjust for how many tomatoes you have.

  • 5 pounds green tomatoes
  • 3 red and 3 green bell peppers
  • 2 1/2 pounds onions
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons each of mustard seed and celery seeds

Chow Chow is a spicier southern version. The recipe I would like to try is from the internet site Taste of Southern. It takes longer to prep and cook but the results look fabulous.


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Last of the tomatoes, red and juicy, just right for crushed tomatoes

Too many to just eat, but not enough for a major canning job. We have canned tomatoes for sauce for years but there is always the end of season leftovers..

Here we are dealing with the last of the ripe tomatoes. Next we will deal with the green tomatoes still hanging on the vine.

All of our quart containers are in use so that helped with the decision to make some ‘crushed’ tomatoes with basil. Simply clean and quarter the tomatoes, then put a quarter of them on the stove and bring to a light boil with onion, salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste, we always blend our herbs after the individual tins have been filled (oregano, marjoram, basil, savory and thyme).

Turn off the heat and take the boat motor (hand blender) to the tomatoes to puree them..

Add the rest of the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

For canning, I used our last pint and half pint jars. Put a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and a sprig of fresh basil in the jar, then fill to 1/2 inch of the top and can as usual.


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Maque Choux is a Cajun dish that I grew up with

So, fall is officially here.  With all the fresh local vegetables that have been harvested, it’s the best time to make Maque Choux.   IMHO.

Maque Choux is a Cajun dish that I grew up with.  My Dad made it for our family & now my Mom, my siblings & I all enjoy making it for our families. It is rare for there to be leftover Maque Choux but it does taste even better the next day.

If you go out & research the dish, you will be surprised with what you find.  The diversity of the ingredients and the way the dish is cooked is surprising. I would say that each family has their own “Traditional “ version.   All others are to be rejected.  Really, though, you should go out & look it up. Some of the different ones look delicious and could be used as a main dish with the addition of the various proteins.

I am going to only give rough quantities as I do not measure when I make this dish.

  • 6 ears of fresh corn
  • One onion cut into thin ribbons
  • Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • Butter –( unsalted) I use half butter & half olive oil (my arteries thank me for that)
  • Salt (kosher) & fresh Ground pepper

First you cut the kernels off the corn.  The first pass should just cut the top part of the kernels off.  Then you take you knife & scrape the remaining juices from the cob.  This is called “milking” the cob.

Next step is to put it over med high heat in your trusty cast iron pan.  Then add the butter & olive oil.  Probably  the amount is a quarter of a stick of butter & the equivalent in olive oil.  If I am feeling especially indulgent, I will use butter only.  It does give it a rich flavor.

I sauté that for a while until the corn starts to get tender and then I toss in the onions and tomatoes. After that a medium simmer for all the ingredients to meld together & until they are all cooked through.

Last you salt & pepper to taste.

I do invite you to cook this dish if you’ve not had it in the past.   I also know that there is the possibility that Feedback from my siblings & cousins might provide some wonderful variations as well.   Please let me know your Thoughts on this & happy cooking!

Francene (Conner) Jones


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Roasted Marinara, thick and tasty

Canning season is here, so get Peter Piper’s Pickles picked and go to work. Well, we like pickles but not that much. What we do love is a great tomato sauce.

A great tomato sauce? Yes a sauce for all occasions, with a tomato flavor to knock your socks off. The only way that’s going to happen, is to use farm fresh tomatoes, and make it yourself.

We purchased our tomatoes, yes purchased. Our little garden consists of 10 tomato plants that get half the sunlight they need, great for our table use, some drying and a little canning, but not enough for the pantry.

We went to Wilco, a local farm hardware and supply for their once a year canning sale. We purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of onions, and a case of apples for Francene’s applesauce.

The preparation is pretty straight forward, but does take most of the day.

Pick your weapon of choice. I would love to tell you which one, but everyone has their preference and hand size. I opted for the Nakiri and a paring knife, and a 10″ chef’s knife for the onions. Francene used her 5″ Petite Santoku.

Half or quarter, depending on tomato size and remove most of the seeds. Also, do a very rough or large chop of as many onions as you would care to have in your Marinara sauce, same with bell peppers. We did probably 8 pounds of onions and 6 large peppers.

Now start the roasting, I use a little sea salt and some of our garden herb mix.  Place on cooling racks on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes at 425° . Remove from oven and transfer to a container large enough to hold everything. Continue for the next several hours. If you know you will be seasoning towards a Latin flavor or Italian flavor you might as well have an appropriate drink or two along the way.

After everything has been roasted, transfer the roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers with a large slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind.

We now ran the batch through a food processor to achieve a coarse consistency. Then we brought everything up to a simmer on the stove top, seasoned to taste remembering that the final use hadn’t been decided. In other words, allow for a re-seasoning appropriate for the dish it will be used in.

Follow the canning instructions for your canning equipment. We show both the large pot and the pressure cooker. We use the pressure cooker as a second large pot.

We ended up with 12 quarts of marinara.  With that great hindsight most of us have, we should have gone for 24 pints of a very rich and thick marinara sauce. Probably about 1/3  of the way between a normal marinara and paste.

This allows us to use full thickness, or thin with water or use either stock or wine as a thinner.

I must add that I always just cooked my tomatoes, seasoned them and canned them. But my friend, Kris Horn, told me how she likes to roast the marinara ingredients and also adds what ever strikes her fancy at the time. You could add most anything like carrots, artichoke hearts etc. to end up with YOUR sauce..

I tried roasting and then freezing two years ago, cooking and canning last year, and this year roasting and canning. I think this will be the preferable way from now on.


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Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes, well not really dried in the sun but close enough, besides no flies in the dehydrator or oven.

This is a pleasant way to spend some time outside and put the dehydrator to use after the herbs are dry and removed. Of course you can use your oven set to it’s lowest setting, generally 180 or 200 degrees.

Our pictures show us prepping Green Zebras, Dorthy’s Delight, Roma and Willamette tomatoes. Of all the varieties shown, the Roma’s have the least meat after fingering out the seeds. Tools needed, a couple of knives, one to cut the tomatoes into wedges or in half and the other, a pairing knife to remove the stem core. A long paring knife will work for all needs.

Wash the bird stuff off the tomatoes, slice tomatoes into desired sizes, use your finger (wash hands first) to remove the bulk of the seeds. That’s it. That was the hard part. Layer your dehydrator shelves or your cookie sheets if using the oven. Leave some room for air circulation (if using cookie sheets put a cooling rack inside to hold tomatoes off the sheet.

Herbs in the upper left being replaces with Green Zebra’s quartered and seeded.

Layers getting ready to be seasoned and then dried.

Tomatoes that have been dried to a leathery texture

Here is where you need to decide what you future uses will be. If to eat like jerky as a snack, you will want a little more salt. If to added to sauces and soups then less salt or you will over salt your dish right from the beginning.

You can also use finally chopped or ground herbs, or something like a salt less seasoning of choice. The choices are yours but a little preplanning will make the dried tomatoes more versatile.

Depending on method used, they will be dry when they get leathery. I prefer to remove all of them when most are dry and some are still with some moisture. I store them in a airtight container together and the drier tomatoes will draw moisture from the others. The tomatoes can also be stored frozen and if so, they can still be holding onto some moisture or less dry.

I re-hydrate in the sauce or soup they have been added to. I also do a coarse chop before adding them. I do not like sun dried tomatoes stored or re-hydrated in olive oil, they just seem oily and your adding more olive oil to your dish then may want.

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Hang on little tomato

Welcome to the world of goodness, the great tomato. Have you ever eaten a fresh tomato, ripened on the bush and picked yourself so you know it’s freshness? Sadly for many the answer is probably ‘no’.

For most of us, the tomato is that tasteless commodity picked from the grocers shelf. Picked green and then gassed till red. Even worse is you only could chose between a table of Romas, Red Cherry and a couple others.

Every variety has a difference, maybe taste, maybe texture, the amount of solids, etc. Here is the list from Rutgers. To bad you have only experienced 3 or 4 unripened varieties.

Tomato’s from home gardens, farmers markets are only available for a short time every summer but they are plentiful. We like to dry them in our food dehydrator, cut in half with a little sea salt or salt less seasoning they make a great jerky like snack. Better yet, these dried tomatoes can be re-hydrated and added to many of our recipes.

Re-hydrated tomatoes will not have that same fresh look, but will have a great concentrated flavor, the flavor that only fresh ripened tomatoes can have.

Of course you can always sauce or dice them and then can them, or oven roast and freeze them. But drying the fruit (yes, fruit, not a vegetable) should be considered, a daily snack, easily stored, easily re-hydrated and just downright tasty in any way you use them.

Tomatoes can be re-hydrated with water or oil, generally olive oil. Our choice is water, usually the liquid already in the pan or soup base.


Green Zebra's dried and waiting for that next soup or sause.
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