Peppercorn Steaks

4 good-sized steaks (1/2 pound to a pound each, allow for 1/2 pound per person)
Salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, canola oil, or other high smoke-point oil
3 Tbsp black peppercorns, cracked
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
1/4 cup cognac or other brandy
1 cup beef broth or stock (for gluten-free version use gluten-free stock)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley


Sprinkle salt generously over both sides of the steaks and let them come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saut? pan over high heat. (Use a pan that can handle high heat. Cast iron works well for this, or anodized aluminum.) When the oil begins to smoke, take the pan off the heat. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels (steaks brown better if they are patted dry first) and place in the hot pan. Return the pan to the heat and turn the heat down to medium-high. Sear, without moving the steaks, for at least 4 minutes. Try to pick up a steak with tongs, and if it comes clean, flip it and turn the heat down to medium. If it sticks to the pan, let it cook for another minute or two on that side.

For this recipe, we sear on one side on high heat, and cook on lower heat on the other side. This way you get great flavor from the seared side, and better control over how done you want your steak by cooking the other side more slowly.

Use the finger test for doneness or a meat thermometer. For rare, remove the meat from the pan when the inside reaches 120?F, for medium rare 125-130?F. Once the steak is done to your liking remove the meat to a baking sheet and sprinkle on a generous portion of crushed black peppercorns on both sides of each steak. Tent with aluminum foil and let the steak rest while you are preparing the sauce.

Make the sauce. Add the shallots and saut? for 2 minutes. Add the brandy and as it boils, deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (helps to have one with a straight edge) to dislodge all the browned bits. Once the brandy is almost cooked away, add the beef stock and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce down until there’s a noticeable trail when you drag a wooden spoon through the center of it (4-5 minutes).

Pour in the heavy cream and resume boiling. Again, boil down until you can make that telltale trail from the wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and any remaining black pepper. Taste for salt and add if needed.

Pour the sauce over the steaks right when you serve.

Strawberry Lassi

1 pound strawberries, washed, stems removed, and hulled
3/4 cup organic Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
4 to 5 ice cubes
pinch of cardamom.


In a blender, puree the strawberries and yogurt until smooth. Taste, and add honey if desired for sweetness. Add ice cubes, and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into glass and garnish with sprinkle of cardamom. Serve immediately.

Chilled Lettuce Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
Salt and ground pepper
2 to 3 heads romaine lettuce, cut into thin ribbons
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 1 cup cream or half-and-half
Small croutons or crumbled bacon for garnish


Put butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; when it melts, add onion and sweat for about 2 minutes or until it begins to soften; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add all but a couple of handfuls of the lettuce to the pan, reserving the rest for garnish, and cook until it wilts. Add stock, turn the heat to medium-high and bring liquid to a boil; lower heat to medium and cook until lettuce is very soft, about 5 minutes.

Put cooked lettuce in a blender and add 2 cups of ice water. Pur?e mixture until smooth, then put in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Once soup is chilled, add cream or half-and-half to taste and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finely chop reserved lettuce and put about 1/4 cup in each bowl and ladle soup on top. Garnish with croutons or bacon.

Braised Romaine Hearts

3 tablespoons butter
4 romaine hearts, damaged leaves removed, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 carrot, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted and foam subsided, add romaine hearts, cut side down, and cook, turning once or twice, until they begin to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, carrot and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook over lowest possible heat, turning occasionally, until lettuce and carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and turn heat up a bit to reduce any remaining liquid; add remaining tablespoon of butter and gently turn vegetables to coat. Drizzle with lemon juice.

Stir-Fried Lettuce and Shrimp

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped scallion, plus more for garnish
1 medium head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded
1/2 to 3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled, cleaned and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix well; set aside.

Put a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, swirl it around and immediately add garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring, then add scallion and lettuce. Raise heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until lettuce just softens, about 2 to 3 minutes; transfer everything to a plate and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium, add remaining tablespoon of oil, let it get hot, add shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper; raise heat to high, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn heat down to medium, return lettuce to pan, and toss once or twice. Stir sauce to make sure cornstarch and sugar are well blended and add to pan. Cook until everything is warmed through and sauce thickens. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve.

Tangy Spiced Brisket

3 large onions, sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (adjust to your heat preference)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups beef stock (unsalted or low salt)
1 cup ketchup
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
8 to 10 pound brisket


Prepare the sauce: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and saut? onions in vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and most of liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add halved garlic cloves and saute for 3 minutes more. Stir in spices and seasoning (paprika, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, cayenne, oregano and thyme) and cook for 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the beef stock, ketchup, chili sauce and brown sugar. Don?t worry if your brown sugar is lumpy (mine always is), the acidity of the ingredients will quickly break it down.

If baking in oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brisket in a baking dish or casserole, spread onion mixture over the top, then pour sauce mixture over the entire dish. Cover tightly with foil bake until very tender but not falling apart, about 3 to 4 hours.

If making in a slow cooker (which I highly, highly recommend): Place brisket in a slow cooker, spread onion mixture over the top, then pour sauce mixture over the entire dish. Cover with the lid and cook it on LOW for 10 hours. (I like to start it before I go to bed, and process it in the morning to rest over the course of the day in the fridge.)

For both methods, rest the dish: When the brisket is cooked but still hot, use a spoon to scrape off any large fat deposits adhered to the top and bottom of the brisket. (This part is easiest to do when hot. The sauce will be de-fatted after it has chilled.)

If you?re using a slow cooker, transfer the brisket and all of its sauce to a baking dish. If you?ve baked it in the oven, you can continue in that same dish.

Chill entire dish in the fridge for several hours and up to one day; this resting time will significantly enhance the flavor and texture of the meat.

An hour before you?re ready to serve it: Preheat your oven to 300?F, and remove the dish from the fridge. Remove all of the fat that has solidified with a slotted spoon for a less oily finish.

Carefully remove the meat from its sauce and place on a large cutting board. Cut the brisket into 1/2-inch slices.

If you like a smoother sauce (I do) this is a good time to run it through a blender or literally just smash up the onion and garlic strands with a wooden spoon. They?ll be so soft, that?s all it takes.

Carefully place the sliced meat (moving it in large sections with a spatula helps keep it together) back into the sauce and spoon the sauce over the meat. Replace the lid or cover the dish tightly with foil and reheat in the oven until it is bubbling at the edges ? this usually takes up to to 30 minutes.