Balsamic-Glazed Short Ribs


With the change of seasons, out comes the slow cooker for meals that you can start in the morning and come home to your home infused with mouth-watering aromas that elevate your spirits on the gloomiest of grey days.

One of my favorite books for slow cooking is Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker, and amongst its fool-proof recipes, I continually return to her balsamic-glazed short ribs. Just a few ingredients, beef short ribs, olive oil, garlic, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and fresh rosemary, yield an extraordinary savory dish that will wow your guests and have them asking for seconds.  (I also add some grated nutmeg and a bay leaf.) Any leftover ribs, can be shredded and warmed in the remaining de-fatted sauce, and served with fettuccine or pappardelle.

For contorni, side dishes, I typically serve a simple polenta and peas.

The recipe is available online here.

I find this dish works best with thick, well trimmed bone-in short ribs that will stand up to a cooking time of eight hours on low. Each rib about 1.25 pounds.



For maximum flavor, take the time to brown your ribs well on all sides.

Browned short ribs
Browned short ribs

If your budget allows, use a high-quality aged balsamic that is thick and rich. It will contribute to the final glaze. In the past, I’ve made this dish with additional aromatics like onions and carrots but have found that the vegetables dilute the intensity of the sauce.

Ribs in slow cooker with herbs and sauce


Also take the few minutes required to reduce the wine and balsamic sauce before adding to the slow cooker.

Finished ribs in slow cooker


Wine Pairing: Nebbiolo, Corvina, Valpolicella Ripasso.

Roast Chicken


Back in the ’70s, when I was in graduate school, for about a year, on Friday nights, I sometimes served as a shabbos goy at the home of a Jewish friend’s grandmother. Before sunset, we would walk to her apartment on Riverside Drive to join her for dinner, where my duties were simple: turn on the oven and extinguish the candles. Although our conversations would cover a wide array of subjects, ranging from the art criticism of Meyer Schapiro to the politics of Golda Meir, the menu always remained the same: a gefilte-fish appetizer, a Meal Mart roast chicken, and a parve dessert. There was also always a bottle of Kedem, a popular Kosher wine, on the table, which we served in cordial glasses, and I made sure to keep grandma’s glass full, which made our conversations even more lively.

What brought back these fond memories was a roast chicken I prepared the other night based on a recipe from Ina Garten. Somehow, whenever I want simple comfort food that’s not Italian, I turn to one of her books for a recipe, confident that I will get the sought after contentment.

The recipe for this chicken is from Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbookand can be found here online.

The ingredients
The ingredients

A 5 to 6 pound chicken is seasoned inside and out with salt and pepper and stuffed with a large bunch of thyme, lemon halves, and a sliced head of garlic. Although the recipe calls for brushing the chicken with butter, I prefer to use extra-virgin olive oil.

The oiled and seasoned vegetables
The oiled and seasoned vegetables

The legs of the chicken are then tied together with kitchen string, another step which I skip, as I think the bird cooks, although less aesthetically, more evenly. The chicken is them placed atop a bed of thickly sliced fennel, carrots, and onion, when are tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.

The stuffed bird
The stuffed bird

All are roasted for about an hour and a half in a 425°F oven.

If you choose to make this recipe, you may want to continue the roast the vegetables, after the chicken is done and while it is resting covered, for another 10 minutes or until roasted to your liking.

Wine Pairing: A Cru Beaujolais, Syrah

Seared Scallops


All too often, when dining out, I find myself ordering seared scallops and I wind up being dismayed at how much such a simple dish costs. Granted, sea scallops in the market are quite expensive, but why pay so much in a restaurant for something that is so simple and quick to prepare at home.

Last Friday, I made them for the first time at home and thought they were as good as almost any I had ever had out. The key to searing them correctly is patience: leave them alone after they hit the pan. Don’t move them or shake the pan. Just let them take on a nice sear, which they will after approximately 3 minutes. Then flip them and do the same: nothing, but wait maybe another 2 or 3 minutes.

Sautéed Sea Scallops
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large sea scallops (about 1 pound), abductor muscle removed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
zest of 1 small lemon
Season the scallops with salt and pepper.

The ingredients
The ingredients

Make sure to dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels. If they are wet, they will not brown.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium high. When the butter stops sizzling, place the scallops vertically in the pan, leaving some space between each one. Use a 10” or 12” skillet to avoid overcrowding. As scallops have a tendency to stick, this is one time I recommend using a non-stick pan.

Scallops seared first side
Scallops seared first side

When the first side has seared and browned, after about 3 minutes, turn them over to the other side and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until nicely browned. The scallops should be firm to the touch.

Remove the scallops from the pan and keep warm.

Add the vermouth to the pan scraping up any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the alcohol evaporate, about 1 minute.

The pan sauce
The pan sauce

Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the chopped onion. Sauté over medium heat until the onions have softened, about 1 or 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and return the scallops and any of their juices to the pan, along with the parsley and lemon zest. Turn the scallops to coat them with the sauce in the pan and serve.

For a professional recipe and instructional video, you may want to follow this link to the Fine Cooking website.

Wine Pairing: Garganega, Soave, Chardonnay