Short Rib Lettuce Cups

Right now, it’s sunny outside, but rain and/or snow along with cold temps are allegedly on their way. When it’s damp and cold, I long for three things in a meal: 1) Comfort, 2) ease, and 3) color. Here’s a meal that meets all three criteria.

This meal couldn’t be easier: slather some seasoned short ribs in a marinade over night, then toss them with chunks of yam into a slow cooker. Let the slow cooker do the work for you while you enjoy the delicious aromas and cuddle under a blanket with a good book (and maybe a cooperating purring cat and dog that enjoys snuggles if you live in my house.)

The color comes from the spring green cucumbers and bright orange carrots which flavor themselves from sitting in a bath of rice vinegar, water, sugar, and a little salt for a couple of hours. They add crunch and a delicious tang of acid to the soft, yet spicy rib meat that falls off the bone.

Last, but most importantly, comes the comfort from a mix of textures: you’ve got tender, tasty meat cupped in a crunchy bowl of butter leaf lettuce, bright with flavors of mixed cilantro and mint. Additional comfort comes from the sweet, warm, five spice spiked yams. And if those reasons aren’t enough, then make these short ribs for the sole reason that Rush Limbaugh is an idiot.

  • 1.6 lbs short ribs
  • 1/4 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian Five Spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 inch peeled ginger, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium yam, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning


  • Butter leaf lettuce leaves
  • Chopped mint and cilantro, about 1 tablespoon each
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced on a bias, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • water

Combine short ribs with marinade ingredients (tamari soy sauce through ginger) in a large plastic bag and let sit for at least 8 hours or over night. Remove short ribs and sprinkle both sides with steak seasoning. Place ribs, marinade, and yam in slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.

While ribs cook in slow cooker, combine rice vinegar, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl and stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Add the carrot and cucumber and add enough water to cover vegetables completely. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours.

To serve, shred meat off of bone. Place shredded meat in lettuce leaf and top with pickled vegetables and minced cilantro and mint. Serve yam on the side, on a bed of warm rice if you wish.

Makes 6-8 lettuce cups.

CSA Count: 4

Butter leaf lettuce, carrot, cilantro, cucumber




Mango & Pork Chile Verde

A long time ago, well, back when I lived in Cleveland, I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon watching a PBS fund drive. Call it the tragedies of life before we could afford cable. But before you think I’m a total loser, let me mildly try to defend myself by explaining that this PBS station raised its funds with a cookbook series offer as its premium and so the fund drives would frequently showcase demonstrations of recipes from the latest volume in the series. The only one I ever bought was a collection of recipes from local restaurants– a real treasure as now I have some of Michael Symon’s recipes long before Lola was on the national radar.

But on that afternoon, the demonstrations were from home cooks and one demonstration that stuck with me was from a gentleman who made a chile verde spiked with mango. The mango, he explained, not only added sweetness but its acidic enzymes helped to break down the pork, making it even more tender. I was inspired that afternoon to try making that mango and pork chile verde and have returned to it occasionally over the years. This last time I made it, I adapted the process to use my slow cooker.

So yeah, using the slow cooker meant taking a one pot meal and turning it into a multi-pot one, but I hope what makes up for it is not having to worry about leaving a pot cooking over an open flame for a few hours. This way, you can leave for work, go shopping, or I suppose, hang out on the couch and watch a PBS fund drive for hours, while this simmers away without fear. You’ll leave a pot of beautiful, brightly colored ingredients and come back to amazing aromas, a spicy yet fruity broth, and tender morsels of meat eager to be spooned up with some toasted tortillas. And in the end, having a second pot to clean won’t matter since 1) you can either throw the slow cooker pot in the dishwasher or 2) you don’t have to scrub a pot that’s gotten gunked up from sitting on the stove. So it’s totally worth it in the end, right?

Note: Be sure to use a slightly under ripe mango here as it is better for helping to tenderize the pork and will still keep some of its firm texture rather than turning into mush. In other words, choose a mango that is mostly green on the outside with some red or orange color and is firm when squeezed with no soft or mushy spots.

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder or country pork ribs (bones removed), excess fat trimmed off
  • canola oil
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • big pinch of ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 pasilla peppers
  • 1 large jalapeno
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium, slightly under ripe mango, pit removed and cut into 1/2 inch wide, 2 inch long strips.
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • warm tortillas, cheese, sour cream, etc. for serving

Preheat your broiler and broiler pan. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to a large pot or Dutch oven and heat over medium high heat. Cut pork into 2 inch pieces. Combine masa harina, oregano, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, coriander, and cinnamon on a plate. Sprinkle pork pieces with about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper then toss the pork in the corn flour mixture to coat. Cook in batches, careful not to crowd the pot, browning each side of each piece, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove browned pork to slow cooker pot.

While pork is browning, trim the ends off the peppers and any stems off the tomatillos. Split the pasilla peppers from top to bottom and remove the seeds then flatten the pepper into a wide strip.  Toss these vegetables in about 1 tablespoon of oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Placed about 4 inches away from the heating element, broil until skins of peppers and tomatillos are charred. A total of 15-20 minutes, checking every now and then and rotating vegetables as necessary. Remove peppers to a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap. When cool to touch, remove and discard skins. Dice the peppers, then add them and the tomatillos to the pork in the slow cooker pot.

When all pork pieces have been browned, leave about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot then add the red onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until onion has softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the slow cooker pot then return pot to heat. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and using a wooden spoon, scrape browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Pour this into the slow cooker along with the remaining 1.5 cups of stock. Add remaining tablespoon of cumin and the mango pieces, then put the lid on the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3. When cooking time is over, add chopped cilantro (reserving some for garnish) and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve stew in bowls garnished with more cilantro and topped with other garnishes as you see fit. With warm tortillas on the side, you can either scoop up some of the stew or wrap it up like a burrito.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Stew

Let me tell you about the newest addition to our household– our slow cooker. This may not be exciting news to you, but let me tell you that I have longed for one for so long. There were just too many cooking options that I could not attempt without one. So many delicious, tender, braised meats; so many deeply flavored soups and stews that only slow cooking can bring.

Once we got a slow cooker, I didn’t know where to begin. For me, the slow cooker in my household while I was growing up was dedicated to one thing only– smelly Chinese medicines that my mother would cook once a month to restore her health after a monthly event, the drift of which I’m sure you’re catching. Otherwise, the only other thing I knew a slow cooker was good for was for casseroles of the open-cans-of-stuff-dump-and-top-with-cheese variety. And while there’s nothing wrong with a good creamy, cheesy casserole every now and then, a perusal of Food and Wine‘s slow cooker recipe collection opened the door to me of all the new and improved, foodie friendly slow cooker recipes out there. I played around with a lot of them to get ideas before improvising some slow cooker recipes of my own. Here’s one that I think would make a nice addition to that collection, maybe even rival them.

I took pieces of lamb shoulder and coated them with a mix of spices to make it heady with Moroccan flavor: paprika, cinnamon, coriander, fennel. After a light dredge in flour, I browned the pieces, giving the sides of each piece a beautiful brown crust. I added those pieces to the slow cooker but didn’t want to lose the flavors of the fond that formed from browning the lamb, so I sautéed the onions and garlic in that pot before adding some of the beef stock to deglaze. These were then added to the slow cooker too, along with canned tomatoes, dried apricots for sweetness, whole almonds, some heat and more Moroccan flavor from a couple of tablespoons of harissa,  and a bright burst of green from fava beans. The slow cooker melded all the flavors together for me so that all I had left to do to make it a complete meal was cook some couscous.

Well, one other thing too. The deep red color of the stew and its complexity of spices made me crave something cool and tangy for contrast. I mixed together Greek yogurt and tons of fresh mint, chives, and cilantro. In the end, I had a lovely bowl of heavenly scented, warm and spicy lamb stew with a pile of herb-redolent and nutty couscous in the center, and a light drizzle of slightly sour flavored yogurt. So delicious and spicy, I think the only thing needed to complete the Moroccan experience was to don a fez.

Note: I got the idea for this stew while researching uses for fava beans. A website noted that Moroccan Jews would eat a stew made from lamb and green almonds. I realize that green almonds are not the same as regular almonds, but I didn’t have ready access to them. If you know where to find some, try swapping those out for the almonds in the stew but keep toasted almonds for the couscous. The idea for adding gelatin to help make the stew feel silky came from Cook’s Illustrated‘s recipe for the ultimate beef stew. If you’re adverse to gelatin, you can try skipping it, substituting a knob of butter mixed with an equal amount of flour than adding that to the stew to thicken it slightly. Lastly, harissa is generally a blend of tomatoes, red peppers, preserved lemon, and garlic. I can find it readily now in the ethnic food section so hopefully you can find it too. My favorite one is super hot, so try yours first and use to taste.

Lamb Stew

  • 2.25 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved then sliced 1/4 inch thick from pole to pole for half moon shapes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (yields about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup whole roasted almonds (plus 2 tablespoons more, chopped for couscous)
  • 6 oz dried apricots, roughly chopped and divided
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 1 cup fava beans
  • 1 teaspoon plain gelatin powder and 1/4 cup water
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes


  • 1 box  or 2 cups plain couscous
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or however much liquid is required by package directions)
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh chives, cilantro and parsley

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon each mint and chives
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves

In a heavy bottomed, large skillet or in a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Place lamb pieces in a large baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, fennel seed, coriander, cinnamon, and about 1.5 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Scatter the spice mix over the lamb pieces and mix with your hands until each piece is coated. Place flour on a plate and dredge each piece of lamb in the flour, shaking off excess flour before adding half the batch of lamb to your heated pan. Cook carefully, browning each side of each lamb piece, about 4-5 minutes per side or until brown crust forms. Remove lamb to slow cooker then repeat with remaining lamb pieces, adding more oil if necessary.

With one tablespoon of fat remaining in pan (so add more oil, if necessary), cook the onion and garlic until onion is browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of beef stock, and using a wooden spoon, scrape browned bits off of bottom of pan. Add the contents, stock included, to the slow cooker along with the remaining 1.5 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of whole almonds, harissa, and 2/3 of the chopped apricots. Add the tomatoes, using your hands and fingers to squeeze and break apart the tomatoes (careful– they’re squirty!) as well as the tomato juices. Program your cooker to cook on high for 5 hours then leave it alone.

Sprinkle gelatin over water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add this (or kneaded butter– see note) and the fava beans then continue to cook the stew on high for another 30 minutes.

While stew finishes cooking, make couscous according to package directions. Fluff the couscous with a fork then fold in the chives, parsley, cilantro, remaining almonds and remaining chopped apricots.

While couscous cooks, make the yogurt sauce by adding all the ingredients to a blender and process until smooth.

Season stew with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, add a ladle or two of the stew to wide, shallow bowls. Put a small scoop of couscous in the center of each bowl and drizzle with the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle more fresh herbs for color if you wish.

CSA Count: 4

Fava beans, garlic, cilantro, chives

Garden Count: 1