Saturday, June 12, 2010

Linguini with Short Rib Ragu & Avocado & Feta Shortcake

Welcome to Lazaro Actually Cooks Saturday

It is clear that we live in a “30 minutes meals” society. What a sad statement.  In my opinion, cooking is a philosophy, a way of live; not a recipe or chore. Dishes that require longer cooking times are succulent, complex, and have depth of character. The process requires the cook to think and contemplate technique to develop a finished product that elevates a humble ingredient…in this case the short rib. What it really does is separate the cooks from the posers.

I love to use short ribs to make my ragu, or meat sauce. The advantage of using the short ribs is in the bone. Bones are filled with collagen that, when cooked, breaks down and produces gelatin. Marrow gives you superb flavor and gelatin thickens up the sauce. When making a good ragu you should never allow the liquid to boil rapidly, hence the long cooking time. This small step helps the cook using short ribs extract as much gelatin from the bones as possible to enrich the sauce. Moreover, not allowing the sauce to boil minimizes the release of impurities the bones.

Cooks Tip:  Make this ragu 24 hours before serving. This does two things, first as the ragu sits in the fridge; the fat solidifies at the top, making it very easy to skim off. Thus a leaner finished product. Second, braises get better with age, as the flavors amalgamate even more.

My Argentine friend brought me two magnificent wines from a recent trip to her homeland. Malbec, a full bodied red wine, I used in the braising liquid. The second wine was a Torrontes white. This wine I used in the making of the linguini.

Tomato and basil is a natural match. To compliment the ragu I made a basil puree. Fresh basil from my brother’s garden blended with olive oil, champagne vinegar, fleur de sel, and a touch of white pepper.

The final component on the dish is a tasty Brie Frito. Brie cheese breaded in day old Italian breadcrumbs, fried in peanut oil, and seasoned with fresh marjoram. If you have yet to try fried Brie, it is amazing.

Linguini with Short Rib Ragu

For the Short Rib Ragu:

5 oz Bacon
1 large onion – diced
1 fennel bulb – diced
2 shallots – minced
2 garlic cloves – minced
2 bay leafs
2 beef stock cubes
750 ml Malbec Wine - Argentina
Half & half

2 lbs Hereford Beef Short Ribs
Wondra Flour
Sea salt
Black pepper
Smoked Paprika
Safflower oil

Season the short ribs with flour, sea salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Heat the safflower oil in a large heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Brown the short ribs on all sides. Remove to a rack to rest.

In a sauce pot, sauté 5 oz of bacon. Add the onion and fennel bulb. Cook for 7 minutes to soften. Add the shallots and garlic. Make a well in the center and place the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste to reduce some of the raw acidity. Deglaze with the Malbec wine. Drop in the bay leafs and beef stock cubes. Add the short ribs to the pot. Add enough water to completely cover the beef. Lightly tent with aluminum foil.

DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. Barely simmer for 8 hours. Stirring every 30 minutes to avoid anything from sticking to the bottom and burning. As the liquid reduces, replace with water. Skim frequently to remove all impurities that rise to the top. The finished product is a concentrated beef flavor; you can cut it with some half & half.

For the Basil Puree:
3 packed cups fresh basil
¾ cup Canola oil
Champagne vinegar
Fleur de sel
White pepper

In a blender, combine basil, oil, a dash of champagne vinegar, pinch of salt and white pepper. Blend till smooth.

For the Brie Frito:
Brie cheese
AP Flour
Organic egg
Italian bread – (crust removed)
Peanut oil
Freshly chopped marjoram

Pulse Italian bread in food processor to make fine crumbs. Set up your breading station, in separate bowls, flour, eggs, bread crumbs. Heat the peanut oil to 325 F.

To Plate:

1. Using a carving fork, twirl some Torrontes linguini into a loose ball. Center on the plate

2. Spoon some of the basil puree on the plate

3. Generously spoon the short rib ragu over the pasta. 

4. Plate the Brie frito.

When we conceptualized the Quickies Cooking Challenge and the ingredients of Avocado & Feta Cheese were chosen, I immediately thought, Dessert. The dish is composed of pound cake, avocado sauce, feta cream, orange agave syrup and a Pirouline wafer.

Avocado & Feta Shortcake

For the Pound Cake:

1 Stick unsalted butter
½ cup Granulated sugar
3 Organic eggs
2 Organic egg yolks
1 1/3 cup flour
1 tbs Baking powder
4 Drops Rose Water – (Using a dropper)
1 tbs Havana Club Anejo Reserva rum

Leave butter 30 minutes at room temperature to soften. Preheat the oven to 370 F. Line the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with parchment paper. In a glass bowl, beat together the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs, yolks, rose water, and rum. Beat to mix. Add the flour and baking powder. Stir carefully to incorporate entirely. Bake for 40 minutes.

Note: Slip a knife into the center of the cake. If it emerges clean and dry…It’s cooked!

For the Avocado Sauce:
1 Avocado – (chopped)
Organic Honey
Orange Juice
Cane Sugar
Sea Salt
1 tsp Water

Note: The base of the sauce is one avocado. From there the quantities of the rest of the ingredients are up to the palate of the cook. More sour, more sweet, etc.

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water if needed to adjust consistency.

For the Feta Cheese Cream:
4 oz Feta Cheese
4 oz Crème Fraiche
4 tbs unsalted butter
Superfine Sugar

Note: The quantity of superfine sugar is at the discretion of the cook’s palate depending on how sweet you want it.

Leave the feta, crème fraiche and butter 30 minutes at room temperature to soften. In a glass bowl, using a hand mixer, mix together the feta cheese, crème fraiche and butter. Add some superfine sugar, mix to incorporate. Continue to add sugar till desired sweetness is achieved

For the Orange Agave Syrup:
4 tbs Organic agave syrup
2 tbs Orange Juice
Pinch of Sea salt

In a glass bowl, whish the ingredients together. Add more OJ to adjust consistency as needed. The final product should not be too loose

To Plate:

1. Cut rounds of pound cake using a biscuit cutter

2. Spread layers of feta cream

3. Pipe some avocado sauce on top

4. Swirl some orange agave syrup on the plate

5. Top with the Pirouline wafer

Note: The Pirouline is the only part of this dish I did not make.

That’s it for now…till we exchange a few words again…Peace!


  1. It all looks delicious and you did a fine job with the dessert; very creative!

  2. Now all I can think about is fried brie!! And the cake is just inspired. I agree with you completely - sometimes, yes, dinner must be quick thanks to the necessity of our lives (though that shouldn't compromise quality) but the indulgence of taking a really long time to lovingly prepare a dish is such a wonderful luxury - and you have done it to perfection!

  3. You are a food artist. The pictures look incredible and the recipes sound delicious!

  4. This looks amazing! I can almost taste the goodness of it from your wonderful description, presentation and photos!

    I love to cook and rarely think of it as a chore. Some dishes are fine in 30 minutes, but I do like the well worth slow cooked ones. Some times the best things take time! Thanks for this great recipe!

  5. Look and sounds fabulous! Gorgeous dessert!

  6. Hey Lazaro, I always love it when I actually take the time to slow cook a soup or stew, especially when meats are involved. It is worth the time. And I love that you used Malbec. It is one of my favorite varietals, and I prefer Argentinian grown malbec to French. It is hard to find a nice one here lately though...
    This short rib ragout dish sounds so wonderful too, Lazarito. I would have participated with much guilt and glee at the same time (smile).

  7. It is sad that most of us can't take the time to cook like this most days. I have to save these kind of meals for special occasions. However, I don't let that bother me because that allows more "play time" with my family.

    The avocado and feta shortcake looks especially wonderful!

  8. Your short rib ragu looks very satisfying and fantastic over linguini made with Torrontes white! Very nice! Hey, I have a question on fried brie - how long did you fry it for? I recently tried to make brie tempura and it melted into crumbs but of course it was during that bad cooking weekend a little while ago when everything I did was a disaster :)

  9. as usual my friend, you always come up with such wonderful dishes! I love the idea of using shortribs for the ragu...they would be a wonderful addition to any red sauce as well....they do add such a wonderful flavor!
    your dessert looks right on the mark as well!
    thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Hi Lazaro,
    so gorgeous! And it is true, there are tons of books out for 30 minute meals and under. At the same time, a lot of people are preferring to make more time to do other things and not making time for the kitchen. And it's strange because everyone needs to eat and everyone loves food. Obviously, not enough to make good home-cooked meals. I guess that's why we have weekends??
    Mmmmmmm... your dessert is making me drool ;)

  11. The ragu is awesome. A very soul satisfying dish. Cheers to slow cooking, I could not agree with you more.

    The feta avocado cakes...Very creative.

  12. Wonderfull recipes Lazaro. Great tip for the short ribs also about not boiling and getting the max out of the marrow. I got a flash back to a dinner as a child at friend's of my grandparents. Our hosts were a very traditional Italian family and she made a spaghetti sauce over hours with a whole chicken and ribs at the bottom of the huge pan.

  13. I do think it's a shame that people don't take as long to cook anymore, but I also think that something delicious that can be made in little time is a wonderful thing. Just so long as you're not taking anything away from the dish by not cooking it in less time. :)

    The ragu looks wonderful. I like the technique of browning the tomato paste. I've only ever done that accidentally. ;)

    And a very creative shortcake! I normally think of desserts when a challenge involves savory ingredients, because it's the hardest to pull off. :P

  14. Using short ribs for ragu is one of our all time favorites. Beautiful plate. Though I have to say pound cake and avocado does sound quite odd.

  15. Congratulations to and Denise on the Successful Foodie Challenge. Saw the pictures and entries, and I know how hard for you guys to choose only one winner.... I agree that everything nowadays needs to be quick and easy that we miss the heart and soul of cooking. So at least once a week, i do some slowcooker or enslave myself for hours in the oven. I also make my meat sauces a day before I serve them. I notice that the flavor of the meat is absorbed more on the tomato sauce. I sometimes use chicken liver with it as a thickening agent and added flavor.

  16. yum, I LOVE short ribs! I only save red meat for very special meals these days and this looks like it would be perfect for one of those meals.

  17. Oh, my! This is off the charts delicious. I totally agree with you about using short ribs for the ragu. The flavor is outstanding. I look forward to making those dishes in the colder months, but I could certainly have some of yours right now! ;)

    BTW, the dessert is so creative. Beautifully done!

  18. Hi Lazaro, after reading your post, I have to show my husband your photos, because he "HEART" Brie cheese. Right away he said,"we have to have everything He cooked here. He was also amazed about the Avocado & Feta Shortcake. Lovely presentation. I wish I could make great presentation on my food like yours.

    Yeah, sad that we live in "30 minute meals" society. I remember growing up in the Philippines, every time my mom and dad will cook, it's like a whole day affair.

    Thanks for sharing another inspiring post.

  19. Absolutely wonderful.Especially avocado and feta shortcake.

  20. Wow, what a meal! I agree about cooking. Many people sacrifice time for flavor, and while many recipes can be made quickly and still taste delicious (ex., marinara sauce), there's something to be said for the depth of flavor you get from recipes that take more than an hour to make.

  21. What you are so right my friend about the 30 minute society, so many don't take the time and you hear alot of it takes too long to cook an seconds to eat not worth it. When you see and read an article like this you have to know the art behind it, and you have captured that in this dish its wonderful that ragu gourmet style is fabulous along with that decadent dessert....bravo! You could inspire for generations to come on cooking from scratch is the best.... :)

  22. Lazaro: I completely agree with your food preparation philosophy! There's nothing more rewarding than planning a dish and working to bring all the components together. Your recipe looks and sounds delicious. It's actually making me a little weak with hunger! As an aside, I grew up in the south where a silver service was not complete without marrow spoons for enjoying the delicious treat straight from the bone.


  23. I love beef short ribs! That looks really yummy! I ALSO LOVE YOUR AVOCADO AND FETA SHORTCAKE! Hahah you know how I get when it comes to avocado anything :)

  24. Oh my goodness, this looks delicious. I really want the shortcake, it looks amazing and flavorful. Thank you so much for this- it looks very gourmet and very good!

  25. Avocado and feta shortcake? You have such a vivid imagination, I would never think of that :)

  26. Hey Lazaro, you are absolutely right! sometime you cannot sacrifice quality over time. Some traditional Italian ragu take for ever to cook, my mom cooks it for 4-6 hours so I know exaclty what you mean, the meat and other ingredients need to infuse in their own juices for a long time at low temperature. You ragu has such a beautiful color and texture, and the basil puree complements the whole dish to perfection. Now as I told you I am so intrigued by the avocado/feta shortcake tower, such an unusual combo...but I bet the smoothness of the avocado must be a nice contrast to the sharpness of the feta. What a creativity!

  27. Very creative dishes and as a Greek I must say that I've never seen feta used in a dessert.

  28. Fine and elegant work.
    Awesome ♥

  29. That avocado and feta shortcake is very innovative...I am trying to imagine the taste :-)

  30. I think there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes you want low and slow and sometimes you really do just need a fast thirty minute meal. I tend to prefer low and slow though. tastes better.

    This short rib ragu sounds amazing! So much flavor. And those shortcakes are super cute! Innovative idea!

  31. It's all about balance... minute meals and hours of stewing.. what a great flavorful dish. I can't wait to give it a try!.. the avocado dessert is a really interesting idea!

  32. I love that short ribs, looks delicious and your avocado dessert looks great too!

  33. What an amazing recipe. Your avocado cake looks scrumptious and I love the unusual ingredients. I always enjoy your blog and your beautiful pictures and innovative recipes.

  34. Not only do I get great recipes from reading this wonderful blog but I also love how you give such helpful cooking tips! Most of time I'm in a rush to get dinner cooked and onto the table with two extra little mouths to feed but there are definitely days where I just want to slow down and enjoy a nice homecooked meal. This is the perfect recipe to make for the hubby as he enjoys all the flavors from the shortribs when slow cooked to perfection. And the dessert definitely delights my palate. Thank you for sharing your lovely recipes Lazaro!

  35. I love the flavor of something that's been slow-cooked for 8 hours -- there's just nothing like it! Your cake looks amazing too, what a great combo of flavors!

  36. woah woah woah! the dessert looks fancy and deliciously awesome! your meals are very creative. i love the presentation of it! :)


  37. Both the recipes and presentation are just divine! What great works of culinary art here!

  38. Very creative dessert. I am still to try my agave syrup. Must do!

  39. Sadly, we do live in a 3 minute attention span and 30 minute dinner society. Often, because of so many commitments, this has become our daily reality. But, there's a reason I think the week is divided into weekdays and weekends :) And there is no reason not to engage in some soul enriching, fulfilling kitchen artistry that may even take half a day, during the weekends.

    I love the incredible colour of your ragu and can imagine how divine it must taste, especially with Malbec in it! I think though that I would have probably gone for the fried Brie first - I just cannot resist Brie...

    The dessert is truly beautiful and absolutely inspired; I do have such a weakness for rosewater!

  40. i love your ragu, i try to make meals in thiry minutes, but it never works, but honeslty I would love to be in the kitchen allday..
    your dessert is awesome, love the presentation


  41. fabulous meal--the dessert looks especially fabulous! peace!

  42. I agree! The whole notion of 30 minute meals is a bit sad but it's still better than the drive thru or take-out option. Now this meal, on the other hand, looks way better than any 30 minute meal ever concocted :)

  43. Oh that sounds delectable! I love nothing better than short rib ragu. Definitely giving this a shot. Wish me luck! :)

  44. Oh wow. I just got back and saw this. sorry for the delay! this post is amazing and divine. well yeah it's tough to make hrs of cooking in this society where people have changed their lifestyles to survive? however, having gourmet, or long hrs of cooking food once in a while, we would appreciate things more.

    the ragu and the sauce look amazingggg! i agree with the bone in. did you mention fried brie!? omg I would 'def love that! can you let me know when to use peanut oil? there were many types of oil and i'm learning to adapt each to my food. it's very interesting.

    and there it is, the dessert! it looks so darn good Laz! i noticed you used rose water! very interesting. i saw it on a television and was not quite sure when and what type of dish to use with. too bad you couldnt submit it to the challenge!

  45. Wow Lazaro, great dishes...and the presentation is absolutely awesome...I am sure that taste as good as it look :-)

  46. WOW! That's lovely and very well presented.

  47. Hi Lazaro, what an amazing meal. The linguini short rib ragu sounds mouth watering. I'm with you that cooking is a way of life and not a chore. I save meals that take a long time to cook and prepare for the weekends or when I have the time. After 9 hours of working Monday through Friday, it's nice to be able to assemble a dish that's quick and simple but still packed with flavors.

  48. I love everything about your ragu Lazaro. A dish like this is perfect for the slow cooker!
    Your dessert is beautiful too. I will have to try feta in my cake at some point, I can't imagine the flavour.

  49. What a multi-layered and delicious dish, Lazaro. I love shortribs but am more interested in two of your side dishes. The fried brie is really intriguing and I can't wait to try it.
    Then you have that avocado and feta shortcake. So unusual.
    Brilliant work. (And in such hot weather too!)

  50. HOLY COW! Does Lazaro ever cook! I was beginning to wonder! Since I signed up it has been line up after line up (double grin). This is an incredible post with down home flavour, mouth watering ideas, and a pretty classy looking stack. I cannot wait to try this. This is the kind of food my husband LOVES.

  51. I'm in love with the Brie frico. Amazing meal Lazaro, very impressive.

    I really like the idea of doing part of the cooking in advance. Makes live so much easier.

  52. I'll bet the short ribs really added a depth of flavor, and your dessert is both wildly creative and beautifully presented. But I think it's that fried brie that's calling my name right now. I must try it!


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