December 5, 2011

Tree Trimming (Literally)

Sam and I went out and bought our first Christmas tree as a family yesterday!  Ok, a little two-person family, but it was fun nonetheless. A couple of observations: 1) I got used to NYC where you can find nice little trees for your nice little apartments.  In NC, these do not exist and I can only assume it's because everyone lives in palaces compared to the city.  2) Christmas trees are NOT cheap.  With these two observations, we came home with a nice "little" six foot tree although once it was up in our tiny house, it didn't look so little anymore.  We put it up in our brand-new plastic stand and thankfully had enough ornaments collected over the years to make it look good. We were pretty proud of ourselves. Until we came back into the room and the tree was nearly toppled over! Apparently we should have taken off a few of the branches at the bottom to make sure the tree fit tightly in the stand.  Off came a couple of limbs, off came the lights only to be restrung, and now our perfect little six foot Christmas tree is a nice 5 foot 8.  Much more manageable!
To accompany this activity, I decided to make an easy Bolognese sauce.  A comforting meal even though it was 70 degrees out and it didn't much feel like Christmas outside.  I put on the Christmas music and pretended we had a cozy fire and we decided to make it feel like a New England Christmas even if we were no where near one.  For the Bolognese, I turned, once again, to Giada.  Her simple Italian recipes are always spot on and are usually the perfect one pot meals.  As always, I added the cooked pasta directly into the sauce with a bit of the pasta water to make the sauce thicken.  Definitely try this technique the next time you make any pasta sauce.

Simple Bolognese (from Giada De Laurentiis)

  • Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsleychiffonade
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
In a 6 quart pot, add extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions become very soft, about 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and saute for 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1/2 hour. Finish bolognese with Pecorino Romano. Check for seasoning.
Serve hot.

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