Venison and Red Cabbage Stew with Gin and Juniper Berries

I love a good, hearty stew, and I love the rich, meaty taste of venison, but I had never put the two together until last night. This weekend, I got some delicious venison stew meat from a local deer farm, Redmond’s Red Deer Farm. Because it’s farm raised, their venison has a milder taste than wild venison, but still uniquely flavorful.

Venison plays well with gin and juniper berries, and so does red cabbage – voila! I knew what I would do.

The stew was hearty and satisfying – comforting, but also intriguing with the notes of gin and juniper. Served atop a tangle of buttered whole wheat egg noodles, it was a perfect winter meal.

I was so busy eating it that I didn’t get a picture of the finished dish, so you’ll have to make it yourself to see. 😉

Try it – you’ll like it!

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The meat and veggies before adding the broth

Venison & Red Cabbage Stew with Gin and Juniper Berries

Ingredients
1 lb venison stew meat (smallish pieces)
2-3 Tbsp flour
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Carrot, chopped
1 Smallish head Red Cabbage, roughly chopped (largeish pieces)
4-6 Mushrooms, quartered
Generous pinch or two of Dried Rosemary
Pinch of Dried Thyme
~10 Dried Juniper berries (more or less depending how strong your berries are)
~ 1/4 Cup Gin (a good, flavorful one that you would enjoy in a Gin & Tonic or a Martini)
A few good glugs of Worcestershire Sauce (~2-3 Tbsp)
1 Bay Leaf
32 oz Beef or Chicken Broth (I used Chicken Broth, because that’s what I had on hand, and it worked well)

Method
1. Toss the meat with the flour, and generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides
2. Remove the meat and set aside. Add the onions and carrots and cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add the cabbage and cook the vegetables for about 5 more minutes, until the cabbage starts to wilt, stirring occasionally
4. Add the mushrooms, dried rosemary, and thyme; season with salt & pepper, and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
5. Add the meat back into the pot, then add the juniper berries and the gin. Stir until combined, and cook a few minutes until the gin has mostly cooked off
6. Add the Worcestershire Sauce – just glug it into the pot. Yum! Stir. Add the bay leaf
7. Add the broth. It should come up to the top of the veggies and meat; don’t worry if it does not completely cover them. The cabbage will cook down and release its own liquid as the stew cooks. Stir.
8. Cover the pot and bring everything to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
9. Cook for at least 2 hours. The flavors will meld together and the meat will become nice and tender. If you have time to cook it longer than two hours, do. The more time, the better when you’re making stew!

Enjoy. If you make this for guests, I’m sure they’ll be impressed.

Arugula Pesto

I love making pesto with things other than basil and/or pine nuts. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I made a “traditional” pesto! This arugula pesto is bright and zesty from the spiciness of the arugula and the fresh lemon juice. The bright green color is fabulous.

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I served this tossed with whole wheat spaghetti, anchovies, and peas, topped with a soft boiled egg. Delicious!

All measurements below are approximate – I eyeballed it! Feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste.

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Ingredients
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Scant 1/4 cup slivered almonds
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1-3 cloves garlic (depending how garlicky you want it!)
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil; more or less as needed for the thickness you want
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. If you have a small one, like mine, you can add the arugula in stages. Blitz until combined and smooth, pouring in the oil in a thin steady stream while the food processor is running
2. Taste and adjust quantities and seasoning if necessary

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That’s it! You can make this in advance of whatever recipe you want to use it in, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey-Chorizo Meatloaf with Chipotle Pumpkin Puree

Long title, simple recipe! This was very easy to make. The idea came from trying to use up a number of things I had in the fridge – some pumpkin puree from making pumpkin cupcakes, one link of chorizo from some burritos I had made, some bacon…

The chorizo added a bit of an extra kick, and the pumpkin puree was a nice alternative to gravy. Give this a try for a different twist on the classic meatloaf!

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey-Chorizo Meatloaf with Chipotle Pumpkin Puree

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small to medium onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
~1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb ground turkey
1 oz fresh pork chorizo (the crumbly Mexican kind, not the cured Spanish chorizo)
2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
~1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 strips bacon
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp barbecue sauce
1/2  15-oz can pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling!)
Pinch chipotle chili powder
1/4 cup chicken broth + more if necessary
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F.
1. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Cook until the onions are translucent and the veggies are softened, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. While the veggies are cooling, in a large bowl, mix the ground turkey, chorizo, bread crumbs, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper so that they are fully combined. You can mix them with a wooden spoon but I find it easier – and more fun – to mix with my hands!
3. Mix about 2/3 of the veggies into the meat mixture until fully combined. (Leave the rest of the veggies in the pan.) Shape the mixture into a loaf shape.
4. Wrap the meatloaf with the strips of bacon. I find it easiest to leave the meatloaf in the mixing bowl, drape the bacon slices over it so that they overlap slightly, and then tuck the bacon ends under the meatloaf.
5. Transfer the meatloaf to a loaf pan. Mix the ketchup and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Glaze the meatloaf with the sauce mixture; I did this using a silicone brush. Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
6. While the meatloaf is baking, make the chipotle pumpkin puree. Add the canned pumpkin to the remaining vegetables in the pan. Stir to combine, and season with the pinch of chipotle chili powder. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Transfer the pumpkin & vegetable mixture to a high-walled measuring cup or similar vessel (or a blender if you have one). Add the chicken broth and cream. Puree using an immersion blender (or blender) until smooth. Add more chicken broth if you want a thinner sauce.
8. Transfer the puree back to the pan and warm over medium-low heat. Taste to check the seasoning and add salt & pepper if needed. Keep warm, stirring occasionally, until the meatloaf is ready.

9. Once the meatloaf is ready, remove it from the oven and slice it. Ladle a good amount of pumpkin puree onto each person’s plate, and top it with the sliced meatloaf (1-2 slices per person, depending how thickly you sliced it). Get ready to lick the plate!

Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Bell Peppers

I put this dish together to use various tidbits that I had in the fridge. It turned out delicious, and beautiful too! The colors really popped and the flavors married together to create a savory, hearty dinner.

You can use any color bell pepper for this dish. It will of course affect the look of the dish, but the different colored peppers have different flavors, too, so it will affect the taste as well. Red bell peppers are the sweetest. Yellow and orange ones are slightly sweet. Green ones have a little more crunch and “green” peppery zing. Go with whatever looks and sounds best to you! (Or whatever you have in your fridge!) My pepper was Enormous, so I used just one and it was more than enough for the 2 of us. If you’re really hungry and you have smaller peppers, or to serve 4 people, use two medium/large peppers.

I served some garlicky sauteed greens on the side. I used some of the chard stems in my stuffing. If you serve chard on the side, feel free to do the same. If not, you’re welcome to leave it out. I’ve marked it as optional in the recipe.

Another note… I used two colors of Quinoa since I happened to have them both on hand. I measured out 1/2 cup of each black and white Quinoa cooked them together. It gave the stuffing kind of a confetti look which was really fun! Don’t feel you have to go out and buy two kinds of Quinoa though – go with what you like or what you have!

You’ll probably have some extra stuffing mixture left after filling the peppers. That’s a good thing! You can use it for lunch the next day, or just eat some of it straight from the pan like I may or may not have done… Shh!

Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2-4

For the Peppers:

1 very large or 2 medium Bell Peppers

Olive Oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Stuffing:

Cooked Quinoa (1 cup dry, prepared per directions on the package)

2 Chorizo sausages (the crumbly kind, not the hard, cured Spanish kind)

3-4 Scallions, thinly sliced – separate the white parts from the green parts

Stems from 1 bunch Chard, thinly sliced (optional)

1 medium Tomato (a nice juicy, ripe Heirloom one is tastiest) – roughly chopped (don’t discard any juices that come out while chopping – you can use them in the dish!)

1/3-1/2 Cup Salsa

1-2 Tbsp Chevre (Fresh Goat Cheese), crumbled

Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

Preparation:

1. Preheat your broiler. To prepare the pepper(s), cut them in half vertically (from top to bottom), then rinse them and remove the seeds. You can leave the stem on or take it off – it’s not edible so it’s a purely aesthetic choice. (I took mine out.) Drizzle the peppers with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Broil the peppers, turning half way through, until the skins are slightly blackened in spots, and the peppers are just firmer than al dente – about 10 minutes. (To be honest I didn’t write down how long I had them under the broiler, so this is pretty approximate. Just keep an eye one them after about 5 minutes on each side.)

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. You don’t need to add any oil because the sausage will release its own oils/fats as it cooks (yummy!). Slit the chorizo sausage casings and crumble the inside of the sausages into the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes until the oils start to render out and the sausage starts to brown. Add the white parts of the sliced scallions, and the thinly sliced chard stems if using. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring a couple times, until the scallions and chard stems start to soften. Next add the chopped tomato (plus any collected tomato juice!) and the cooked quinoa, stirring to combine. Add the salsa a bit at a time, until the quinoa sausage mixture is completely coated, but not swimming in sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 more minutes, until everything is combined, tomatoes have melted, and sausage is cooked through.

3. Fill the partly cooked pepper halves with the stuffing mixture. Top with crumbled chevre. Place stuffed peppers back under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is slightly browned.

4. Sprinkle the green parts of the sliced scallions over top, and Serve! If you have some of the stuffing mixture left, you can spoon a bit of it around the pepper halves on the plate. This goes really well with simple, garlicky sauteed greens, or a nice crisp salad.

Thai-Inspired Basil Buffalo

Last week at the Farmers Market I purchased some beautiful deep purple, super fragrant basil which the farmer told me was Opal Basil. Isn’t it lovely?

I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of my favorite dishes, Basil Beef, which is a great way to show off the flavor of a very fragrant basil such as Thai Basil, Holy Basil, etc. The next day, I was at Whole Foods and I spotted a lovely looking Buffalo (Bison) steak. I really enjoy buffalo because it has a nice clean “beefy” taste but it is a lot leaner, lower in calories and higher in iron. (Read more about buffalo meat here.) So I decided to make Basil Buffalo instead!

As with many of my dishes, I won’t provide an exact recipe here, because I never really make the same thing twice and my measurements are not exact. But I will provide the ingredients and an outline that you can follow.

THAI-INSPIRED BASIL BUFFALO

Feeds 2-4

For the Buffalo:

2-3 Tbsp Oyster Sauce

2-3 Tbsp Fish Sauce

Ground White Pepper about 1/2 – 1 tsp, to taste

Fresh Basil, chopped (about 1/2 bunch – reserve the rest of the bunch to add in later) – Note: Italian (Sweet) Basil does not work well for this dish because it does not have as strong of a flavor and does not hold up as well to the high heat of a stir fry

1 Buffalo Steak (or a lean Beef steak), about 1/2 lb

Other Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (or other neutral flavored oil that will stand up to high heat)

1-2 Thai or Serrano Chiles, minced (depending on the level of heat that you want)

2-3 Cloves Garlic, Minced

Fresh Basil, chopped (the rest of the bunch that you did not put with the meat)

2 large or 4 small Japanese Eggplant, cut into chunks (Optional)

Fresh Chile Paste (Such as Sambal Oelek) about 1-2 tsp, to taste (Optional)

Fish Sauce & Ground White Pepper to taste

Lime wedge, to garnish

1-2 Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish.

Equipment:

Large wok or other relatively thin, large saute pan (I say thin because you want the pan to heat up quickly and stay very hot for the quick cooking method of stir frying)

Method:

1. Slice buffalo very thinly, against the grain, and combine in a small bowl with oyster sauce, fish sauce, chopped basil, and ground white pepper. Mix to combine the ingredients, and make sure the meat is generously coated with the sauce – add more of the sauces if necessary. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes. (Note: I find the marinating step is well worth it because it really makes the meat more flavorful and makes the flavors in the dish really “pop”. Don’t skip it unless you absolutely must save the extra minute or so it takes to combine the ingredients – while it’s marinating you can do the rest of your prep which you would have had to do anyway! If you don’t marinate the meat, you will need to add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and white pepper when you add the meat to the pan in the next step, and then add all the basil at once in the next step.)

2. While the meat is marinating, prepare the remaining ingredients. Place your wok over medium-high heat until “screamingly” hot. Turn heat down to medium and add oil to pan (be careful of splatters, since pan will be very hot). Add meat (including the sauce & basil from the marinade) and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add chiles and garlic, continuing to stir. Cook for another minute. Add eggplant chunks (if using) and remaining basil. Stir and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through and eggplant is cooked but not mushy. This won’t take long, about 5 minutes or so. It depends how hot your pan is.

3. Taste for seasoning. Add fish sauce and white pepper to taste, if necessary. At this point you can add a touch of chile paste, if using. I like it because it adds a slight vinegary tang as well as the spice, which helps balance out the dish.

4. Serve! I like to toss in some cooked wide rice noodles at the last minute and make it into a noodle dish (this time I used some beautiful yellow Turmeric rice noodles which I had in my cupboard). You can also serve it with rice or whatever you desire! To get some more veggies, I served some dark leafy greens (sauteed with coconut water, a touch of oyster sauce, and shredded dried coconut) along side. Garnish with 1 or 2 lime wedges, which you can squirt over top of the dish to taste, to add a little acid to balance out the saltiness and spice. Sprinkle green onion bits over, for a little bit of fresh, bright flavor.

Please excuse the blurry photo of the finished dish!!

Have you ever eaten Buffalo meat before? How did you have it? Did you enjoy it? If you’ve never tried it, I hope you will be inspired to do so – it’s super tasty and good for you!