The comforts of food and it’s universal ability to connect us, has constantly come up as of recent, reminding me that this is one of the core reasons that I have found such a true and passionate love for cooking, food and more importantly serving the people I love.
This winter in particular I have noticed my cravings and my desires for food have changed quite drastically from previous seasons. I know, in part, some of that comes from the distinct and more winter-like season we have actually been experiencing here in Southern California, complete with rain storms and lots of cool, grey days. But it also occurred to me very suddenly as I was writing this, that in a time when there is so much uncertainty and unrest, so much aggression and fear, we are finding the need and desire for comfort and love wherever we can find it.
I was watching Michael Pollan’s Netflix series, Cooked, the other night, and while I can’t recall which episode in particular, of the four, that I heard this in, he so brilliantly and matter-of-factly said at some point “It’s no longer a given that people will cook.” I had never really thought about that, given the way that I grew up and the lifestyle choices I have made for myself. But, for centuries cooking was a given, it was absolutely obligatory to our survival. We had to cook in order to eat and we need to eat in order to live! I realized as these words touched my ears that this unknowingly is probably the largest part of what I enjoy so much about cooking every day. About cooking for the people I love. It feels like a gift! As a woman that has no children, cooking for other people is my moment to feel as if I am giving the gift of life. Because food IS life. It IS love.
A large part of my cooking journey came from my upbringing, being part of a family unit that cooked nearly every single meal from scratch. Many meals born of tradition and handed down from generations. We rarely ate out and almost never ordered in. Sitting together at dinner every night was part of our daily rituals, it was the time we had to connect, to catch up and to just be together. Even if maybe in some of those teen years, we didn’t think that we wanted to. I look back now with such fondness and gratitude that we had these precious, and I now realize, rare times together as a family, where the seemingly taken-for-granted ingredients and cooking techniques were actually such important pieces used to nourish ourselves.
A few weeks back, I was testing recipes for the website and I had crafted up the concept for this very comforting and hearty Lamb Ragù. I grew up eating lamb and for me, it’s one of the most comforting foods. It so happened that we were hosting our friends Dan and Debbie at our place for dinner, to catch up and to go over the details of their upcoming Mexican wedding that Mark was to officiate. The three of them had many details to cover from the ring ceremony to vows, music to speeches – so I offered to cook for them all, while they did their work and it felt like the perfect time to serve up this hearty meal.
I served this hot and wintery, meaty ragù sauce over gluten-free egg noodles for the boys and I baked up spaghetti squash and we girls had ours over that. A big, winter-inspired salad on the side for us all, topped with my grain-free savory olive oil granola (recipe coming soon) and my dairy-free ranch dressing, which I am currently obsessed with.
Over this tasty meal we talked about their coming wedding, we shared stories from our own wedding, nearly 10 years before. We drank wine, we laughed and we cried (OK maybe that was just Dan and I). It was one of those most special meals that I will forever cherish as one that is just as much about the nourishment and the life as it is the memories and the love.
- 3 tablespoons Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely diced
- 1½ pounds grass-fed ground lamb
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped dried thyme
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup dry red wine or water
- 1 cup chicken stock
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- For Serving:
- parmesan, romano or ricotta cheese (I prefer sheep's milk pecorino romano)
- fresh mint, roughly chopped
- In a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions, carrots and celery and sweat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, stir well, cook 1 minute.
- Add the ground lamb, fennel, cumin, rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon of each. Cook, stirring, until the most of the moisture evaporates, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and stock to the pot along with the canned tomatoes and their juices and tomato paste. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a steady simmer. Cook uncovered over low heat until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes.
This would be great over gluten-free pasta or noodles, spiralized zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, gnocchi, sweet potato noodles, rice, cauliflower rice or truthfully even just on it's own as a big bowl of stew.
You can swap in ground beef, bison, pork or even chicken or turkey for the lamb, if you'd prefer, though I do find red meat to be the best.
Leave off cheese to make dairy-free and paleo