Home for the Holidays -Nothing Says the Holidays like Home-style Cooking by Stacia Carlton

The holidays can be a very stressful time with all the shopping and decorating, cooking and entertaining. Why not bring it down a notch with some easy home-style food? Still special enough for holidays without all the formality often associated with meals and guests gathering together at this time of year. This Spicy Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom recipe is about as simple as it gets yet the flavours are layered and complex. The Ottolenghi Red Onion Lentil Salad makes a wonderful first course and the addition of the gorgonzola and oven roasted tomatoes adds a depth which is delightfully decadent. As your main course you can’t go wrong the ultimate comfort food, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. The aroma that fills the air during its cooking time will have your guests drooling in anticipation of the meal they are about to share with you.

Spicy Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes, plus broiling to brown as required
Yield: hors d’oeuvres for 6

stuffed mushrooms


1 cup ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan + more for topping
1/8 cup cream cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons chopped marjoram
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Drizzle of good quality olive oil
20 large mushrooms  (cremini are always a good choice)

Preheat to 450°
Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl and adjust seasoning as required.
Gently brush mushrooms clean and carefully remove stems (reserve stems for another use, such as red wine braised short ribs or other meat sauce).
Toss mushroom caps with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place cap down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Fill each cap with a teaspoon of ricotta filling, top with a little more parmesan.
Bake until golden brown about 20 minutes.

Red Onion & Lentil Salad with Oven Roasted Tomatoes & Gorgonzola

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 90 minutes (for tomatoes)
Yield: serves 6-8

lentil salad


5 or 6 plum tomatoes, quartered
Drizzle of olive oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
3-4 thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper, to taste

½ large red onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 540 ml tin lentils, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh dill, coarsely chopped
3-4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
Crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 275° F
Place quartered tomatoes skin side down onto a parchment lined baking tray and top with thyme springs, drizzle of olive oil, balsamic and sprinkle lightly with S&P.
Bake for about 90 minutes. Use broil to brown tops if necessary toward end of cooking time.
Place thinly sliced onions in a medium sized bowl and toss with red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Drain and rinse lentils.
Toss lentils with red onion.
Add herbs, olive oil, and garlic, tossing gently to combine
Build salad with lentil and red onion mixture as base, topping with oven roasted tomatoes and finally crumbled gorgonzola.
Garnish with more herbs and S&P to taste.
Drizzle any liquid from tomatoes over entire salad.

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 1/2 hours
Yield: Serves 6

short ribs


5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup mushrooms roughly chopped, stems included
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
8 thyme sprigs
4 oregano sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
5-6 garlic cloves, smashed with flat of knife
4 cups low-sodium beef stock


Preheat oven to 350°.
Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven (or other heavy bottomed, oven-proof pot) over medium-high.
Brown ribs on all sides.
Transfer short ribs to a plate.
Add onions, shallots, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 15 minutes.
Add flour and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes.
Stir in wine, add short ribs with any accumulated juices.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.
Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
Cook until short ribs are tender, about 2½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.
Return strained sauce to pan to reduce to desired thickness.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta with sauce spooned over.

staciacarltonStacia Carlton is a culinary school graduate with a decided soft spot for Italian food, particularly when it blends authenticity with fresh and unusual perfection. Find her weekly at www.bestillandeat.com

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