Cambrian: Opinion

Two recipes for fall: Greek stew and 'magic' cupcakes

Making fast work of two recipes, as time seems to be running short.
Making fast work of two recipes, as time seems to be running short. Special to The Cambrian

JoAnn Suppes left Tornado Alley for the relative safety of California’s Bay Area and brought a fistful of recipes even though she was downsizing.(Some things we will never give up.) I was especially intrigued by this one, because the procedure was such a departure from the traditional beef stew most of us grew up with, certainly mine. 

When my niece and great niece visited here from South Africa with her two grandmothers and my sister, it was an ideal time for kitchen testing, since they all like to cook.

Your challenge: see if you can figure out why the meat is prepared in such a manner; our guess was that the butter serves as a tenderizer, since it is a dairy product. However, it is not on the beef very long before cooking, and so that still remains a mystery.

Greek stew

  • 1 stick of butter, divided use
  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cubed
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups good red wine
  • 4 medium white or yellow onions
  • 8 oz. pkg. mushrooms, cremini preferred
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 1 bay leaf, optional
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

Bring butter to room temperature; reserve half for sautéing vegetables. Place beef cubes in a large bowl, and massage with 1⁄2 cube softened, not melted, butter. (Cook’s notes: To shorten the cooking time, I sliced each beef cube in half the supermarket size.) Place in a 5-quart stewpot, but do not brown; add in all the ingredients except onions and mushrooms. Then bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat; allow to simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. (Cook’s notes: ours took 45 minutes.)

Quarter the onions, and sauté them and the mushrooms separately in the reserved butter — add the onions to the stew for the last half-hour, and the mushrooms for the last 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, if used, and adjust the salt and pepper. The broth was thin enough to be a soup, so instead we thickened it with a little slurry of flour and water at the very last.

The recipe suggested serving over hot buttered noodles, but recognizing how aromatic it was, we added quartered redskin potatoes at the same time as the onions to soak up that marvelous flavor. Served as a side dish, we were not disappointed!

Magic Cupcakes — Dreamsicle

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 can orange soda

In a medium mixing bowl, stir the soda into the cake mix; do not beat or add anything else. Scoop by 1⁄2 cups into two dozen cupcake liners in pans; bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I used mini pans, and scooped two tablespoons into mini cupcake lined pans and baked them for only 15 minutes.

The leftover batter I scooped into microwavable dishes and cooked them on high power for two minutes — instant cake. 

After cooling, I glazed with powdered sugar mixed with very little orange juice; the minis were like petit fours. This recipe idea has spread across the Internet; people are using all combinations of cake mix and sodas (think chocolate with Cherry Coke).

Breaking news: Winners of the Pie Baking Contest at the Cambria Historical Society’s Harvest Market last Sunday, Oct. 11, were Debbie Johnson, Bobbi Doyle and Kelly Johnson (no relation). We plan to run their recipes and any of the other entrants’ for your holiday baking.