Farewell Columbia

colaf2

We’re going to have to update our Meet Us! page here soon. Right now on there, we described ourselves as “newlyweds… currently living in South Carolina.” Well for one, I’m not sure we’re newlyweds anymore. When does that end exactly? And secondly, we’re leaving South Carolina. We moved down here to attend graduate school back at the end 2015. Well, we finally finished our program and graduated from the University of South Carolina! 👩‍🎓👨‍🎓 When we moved down here, I wasn’t all that excited about my new town – I had never lived anywhere except for Virginia and was a little very sad about leaving my home state. Selim was (is!) a little more open to the change – he’s from Cleveland and has lived in Maryland and Virginia as well. Fast forward almost three years and we both love Columbia. To be honest, I’ve already shed a few tears 😢 at the thought of leaving our current home.

The food in Columbia was one of the main reasons, outside of all the wonderful friends we made here (see above ⇑⇑⇑ for wonderful friends), that we grew so attached to this city. Even though our time here has been brief, we’ve already realized that some other South Carolinians or Southerners in nearby states look down their noses at Columbia, thinking this city cannot compare to other nearby destinations. You hear about the Low Country charm of Charleston and Savannah, the hubbub of Charlotte and Atlanta, or how cool and up-and-coming Greenville is… We’re here to tell you not to skip Columbia. It may not have the reputation the other cities have, but your taste buds won’t be disappointed by a stop here. Selim always says he’d put Columbia’s best restaurants up head-to-head with the top spots in Charleston or Greenville. And we’d win!

So we thought for our last hurrah in Columbia we’d give a shout out to our favorite Columbia spots!

Baan Sawan Thai Bistro 2135 Devine Street

  • We’ve probably frequented this family-run upscale Thai restaurant more than any other place in town. This is not your average Thai take-out place, though who doesn’t love that? They offer an amazing combination of a small, intimate restaurant, the best Thai food I’ve ever experienced from the chef brother, and a stellar wine list with thoughtful recommendations from the sommelier brother! One of their soups, the Tom Kha Matz, is a fusion of tom kha & matzo ball soup and is Ally’s favorite dish in the whole city!
  • Ally’s Favorites – Tom Kha Matz, calamari, mussamun curry with sliced duck
  • Selim’s Favorites – three flavored duck, fried bananas, every wine Sam pairs for me, & whatever special protein is available that night (like the 36 hour sous vide pork shoulder)

colaBS

Motor Supply Company Bistro – 920 Gervais Street

  • This farm-to-table restaurant, in a gorgeous 1800s era historic brick building, never disappoints. The menu is different every night, but a few items reappear. Local ingredients are used to create Southern classics, as well as dishes with world-wide influence. Their wine list has been carefully curated and has won national awards from some of the top wine magazines in the country.
  • Ally’s Favorites – CAB culotte steak, braised short ribs, shrimp & grits
  • Selim’s Favorites – Duo of duck, the diver scallop appetizer

colams-e1526676362391.jpg

The War Mouth – 1209 Franklin Street

  • The War Mouth is helping to pull the Main Street revitalization efforts into the North Main corridor. The food here is heritage Southern and South Carolina fare with a few surprises here and there. The menu does change some – seasonally I think. Of note, there’s a new brewery next door and a great coffee shop around the corner; North Main is definitely up-and-coming.
  • Ally’s Favorites – Chicken bog, the pickle plate, the bread/biscuit basket
  • Selim’s Favorites – “All of the little snacks,” the pickle plate

image000000_062.jpg

Scoopy Doo Gelato Shop – 725 Saluda Avenue

  • The best reason go to Five Points! This gelato shop only offers are few flavors, but what they have is spectacular! The care and love this gelato-maker puts into each and every batch is evident in the deeply rich flavors. There’s always vanilla, chocolate, pistachio; usually two dairy-free sorbettos; and frequently a 21 & older alcoholic concoction. Trust us, you want your scoop in a homemade cone – there’s a surprise in the bottom!
  • Ally’s Favorites – Coca-Cola sorbetto (it’s like they know me…), peanut butter sorbetto
  • Selim’s Favorites – pistachio gelato, Captain Crunch gelato (this one goes quickly)

colaSD

Lula Drake Wine Parlour – 1635 Main Street

  • Lula Drake is predominantly a wine bar, as its name suggests, and those wines are unique and carefully curated. It’s a delicious oenologic learning experience every time we go. But the food is sneakily perfect here too, even though it isn’t the focus. If you want fresh handmade pasta, you won’t anything better than what Pierce makes every night. Probably, the most authentic pasta we’ve had outside of Rome, Italy. We love the story behind the name Lula Drake too!
  • Ally’s Favorites – Can Xa sparkling rosé, duck fat hushpuppies, the newest red on the menu, the pasta of the night
  • Selim’s Favorites – The opportunity to taste new and unique wine every time – where else would I try an inky Macedonian varietal?

colaLD

Menkoi Ramen House – 1004 Gervais Street

  • This is our favorite stop for quick, cheap, filling, and comforting food. The bowls of ramen are massive, with flavorful broth. Conveniently located in the Vista close to the State House, this is also a favorite among USC students, politicians, and business professionals.
  • Ally’s Favorites – tonkatsu ramen, shoyu ramen, gyoza
  • Selim’s Favorites – tonkatsu ramen, spicy ramen

colaMR

Spotted Salamander Cafe – 1531 Richland Street

  • This cafe occupies an old house on a historic street in downtown Columbia. They have the best lunch in town in our opinion. The whole menu is great, but we seem to always gravitate towards the daily specials. Fried chicken sandwich Tuesdays and burger Thursdays are always good. We only wish they were open for dinner instead of just brunch & lunch.
  • Ally’s Favorites – the daily deviled egg, fried chicken sandwich
  • Selim’s Favorites – cronut of the day!

ColaSS

Sure Fire Tacos & Tortilla Grill – 916 Gervais Street

  • This Tex-Mex taco place has handmade tortillas, some unique tacos, and a salsa bar. It’s a great quick dinner with a group of friends. Plus, who doesn’t love queso? The owners are actually from Houston, TX. They had this restaurant there, but quickly realized that the market there is quite saturated. After a quick market analysis, they settled on Cola and have been making tacos here since 2016. We realize they might not be 100% authentic Tex-Mex tacos, but they make their tortillas in-house and the tacos are unique & made with really fresh ingredients.
  • Ally’s Favorites – Ball Park taco, Mr Piggy taco, The Big Hass taco
  • Selim’s Favorites – I go here for the variety. I like every taco. The three tacos I get each trip are my favorite that night.

colasf.jpg

Immaculate Consumption – 933 Main Street

  • We came in here the first time for the coffee, but came back for the sandwiches. This is a lunch spot where you’ll find USC students studying and politicians getting a quick afternoon pick-me-up. They roast their beans in the basement in an really small roaster, and the first time we went here Selim got to help with the process (pulled a lever to spread the toasty beans).
  • Ally’s Favorites – Scott’s Chix Salad, Turkey Green Apple
  • Selim’s Favorites – the coffee!

colaIC

Soda City Market – Main Street, between Taylor Street & Lady Street

  • The market is our favorite Saturday morning activity. You can’t quite call it a farmer’s market because the prepared food options outnumber the farm-fresh veggies, though you can get those there too! Ally has to walk the length of market at least twice before making a decision. This market is expanding too; it was only 2 blocks when we first moved here and now it’s 3, with special events frequently taking up a 4th. This place gets packed, and we always run into people we know.
  • Ally’s Favorites – beef empanadas & fried yucca from Los Bellos Portales, bean & cheese papusas from Papusas Salvadoreñas Sandrita, samosas from Indian Palace, dumplings from Fuperman’s Potstickers
  • Selim’s Favorites – BKeD donuts, the fact that there’s food from a variety of ethnicities every week

This, of course, is not the all-encompassing review of the Columbia restaurant scene. These are the places we found ourselves coming back again and again and that contributed to our love of the city. There are SO many other places in the city worth visiting!

Thanks for the food and the memories Columbia. We’ll miss you and your people! ❤ ❤ ❤

colank

colash

colald2

IMG_20180217_223831_917.jpg

IMG_20170917_114704_034.jpg

IMG_20170508_062513_689.jpg

colaad

IMG_20180210_160819_033.jpg

Advertisements

Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

csscones2

It seems like people have very strong feelings about cast iron skillets, positive or negative. Those who don’t own or use cast iron skillets regularly sometimes are scared of using them, because they think they’re hard to care for. The seasoning of the skillet is a little intimidating unless you’ve read a little bit about it. But on the other hand, those people who own and use cast iron skillets really love theirs. Prior to this past Christmas, we probably the only South Carolinians who didn’t own one.

We’ve been using it these past months for burgers and steaks, and we definitely are on Team Cast Iron Skillet now. But we also got a cast iron skillet cookbook for Christmas and had yet to make anything out of it. These scones were our first choice out of there and accidentally, were perfect for today! We didn’t plan it that way, but what is more perfectly British than a scone? And on today, Royal Wedding Day, where Americans pretend we didn’t rebel against the crown and join the rest of the world in being awe-struck by the pageantry of it all, what better day to share this scone recipe! We’ve now moved on from watching the Royal Wedding to English Premier League soccer football, so we’re basically British today 🇬🇧

We really enjoyed these scones. They aren’t overly cheesy, but have a nice flavor. We topped them with our Bacon Jam, which was basically magical. They stayed nice and moist in the middle, which is great since I think some dislike scones, thinking they’re too dry. And honestly, they’re really nothing like what you think a traditional British scone would be. You probably wouldn’t serve this with clotted cream or Earl Grey. They taste like they came from a Southern cook, instead of a British one, but we’ll pretend.

csscone

Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)
Ingredients:
  • 8+ tbsp very cold butter*
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
*COLD butter is important. Try this: place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the scones. Use a grater to cut into small pieces.
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Whisk together the liquid ingredients and then stir in the cheese and shallots.
  4. Work the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Gently combine with your hands.
  5. Stir the bowl of wet ingredients into the dry bowl + butter. Don’t over-combine, as best you can.
  6. Once the dough has just come together, flour your hands and counter-top and then knead the dough just a few times.
  7. Grease the cast iron skillet with butter. Turn the ball of dough into the skillet and pat down until it completely covers the bottom of the skillet. Slice the dough about 2/3s of the way through into triangles. (Cutting 8 slices is easy, but you can go bigger or smaller.)
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and finish the slice all the way through before serving.
Makes 8-12 scones

Bacon Jam

baconjam.jpg

I have a confession. I am not on board with the bacon trend. I do not think EVERYTHING is better wrapped in bacon. I know this is an unpopular opinion around here. I mean, is there anything more American than being obsessed with bacon? My brother even informed us when we were planning our wedding that he wouldn’t attend if our cocktail hour didn’t offer bacon-wrapped scallops, his favorite hor d’oeuvre. (He was joking, obviously.) So when I first heard of bacon jam awhile back, on a menu somewhere I think, I thought 💭 ‘Ugh… and here it is, another perfectly good dish that people felt the need to add bacon to so they can be cool and bacon-centric.’

I still feel this way – I’m looking at you Bloody Mary with four strips of bacon hanging out, bacon sprinkled donuts, and chocolate-covered bacon👀 BUT… I have definitely been convinced when it comes to bacon jam. I think I thought bacon jam was like regular jam (ie: raspberry or strawberry) with bacon bits stirred in. Which, in case you were wondering, is NOT what bacon jam actually is. It’s a sweet and savory spread, with just as much of a caramelized onion flavor as a bacon flavor. The use du jour is on top of a gourmet burger, but I think it’s much better used on foods that don’t already have meat in them. Hence, we made some bacon jam to slather on our Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones. Such a good decision! I’m already dreaming about bacon jam grilled cheeses, scrambled eggs topped with bacon jam, and adding bacon jam to my cheese & crackers regimen. But you do you, put this stuff on whatever you want!

baconjam2.jpg

Bacon Jam

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5+ turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions: 
  1. In a large skillet, cook all of the bacon until slightly crispy. Remove to the side. Retain enough grease to coat the bottom of the pan, but discard any in excess.
  2. Cook onions, topped with salt and pepper, over medium-low heat for ~1 hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  3. Once onions are caramelized, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up all the brown, delicious bits. Now stir in the sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for ~15 minutes. Then combine the onion mixture and the bacon in food processor. Pulse to desired consistency – we like it well-combined, but with some chunks remaining.
  5. Refrigerate when not in use.
Makes ~1 1/2 cups

Homemade Margaritas (Two Recipes!)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! 🇲🇽🇲🇽

As a general rule, Americans aren’t usually celebrating the correct thing when we get excited about Cinco de Mayo. Rumor has it that most Americans think this day is Mexico’s Independence Day, which it is not. Instead Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. But hey… any excuse for delicious Mexican food. Or drink!

txmarg2

When we decided to make homemade margaritas tonight, Ally immediately thought about the margaritas our favorite Texans make for us. Texans know authentic Mexican better than anyone else in the country who is not Mexican, so we got their recipe – see Texas Margarita below. Since we were talking about tequila and margaritas, Selim had to share his personal recipe as well! Two margarita varieties in one post!

Notice the color of our margaritas, an appealing greenish-brown. Since we hand squeezed (yes, by hand, no electric or plastic juicer, just muscle) the limes, they keep their pale green hue instead of the neon green from marg mixes. Plus, we don’t use traditional white sugar in any of our cooking endeavors, instead we keep turbinado sugar in our pantry at all times, which is a clear brown in color and has way more depth of flavor.

Selim loves tequila (it comes in 2nd after wine, obviously). There are three “kinds” of tequila: joven, reposado, and añejo. Joven means young in Spanish and is often referred to as silver or white tequila. Joven is unaged and is really just the distillate from the agave; think of it being similar to the white grain alcohol before it’s aged in barrels and becomes whiskey. Reposado means rested and this tequila has been aged a minimum of 2 months in oak barrels. Añejo means aged and this tequila has been aged a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels. Barrel aging imparts complexity by adding notes of vanilla, cinnamon & spices, caramel, toffee, and so much more depending on oak type (American or European), new or old barrels, duration of aging, and of course… terroir! For those who have written off tequila as some inferior liquor, think again. To get back to the initial sentence, Selim loving tequila… He likes to highlight the tequila in his drinks, that’s why his pseudo-margarita only has three ingredients. Simply made, yet complex in taste. Always good tequila (we like Espolón), fresh squeezed lime juice, and local (terrior!) honey. Enjoy!

txmarg
Texas Margarita

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4+ limes ⇒ 1/2 cup lime juice + 1 strip of peel
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • Coarse salt, if desired
Ingredients:
  1. Prepare simple syrup. Over low-medium heat, stir together the sugar and water. Watching closely, after the sugar dissolves, add the strip of lime peel. As soon as bubbles appear, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
    • (You can make a larger batch of simple syrup if desired to keep in the fridge for later use. Just maintain 1:1 ratio.)
  2. Prepare drinks once simple syrup has cooled. Mix together 1/4 cup simple syrup, lime juice, tequila, and orange liqueur. Shake or stir to combine.
  3. Salt the rim of two glasses if desired. Pour drink into glasses over ice.
Makes 2 drinks

txmarg3

Selim’s Margarita

Ingredients: 
  • 4+ limes ⇒ 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1.5 oz (~1/6 cup) honey
Instructions: 
  1. Vigorously stir tequila into honey – it’s thick.
  2. Add tequila-honey mix to cold shaker with lime juice and shake.
  3. Divide into two chilled coupes glasses. Serve!
Makes 2 drinks

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

strawrictoast.jpg

You know how avocado toast suddenly became a thing? Kudos to whoever first thought, “Hmm… let me smash some avocado on a piece of bread, top it was something Instagrammable, and see if people will pay 10 times more than the ingredients are worth for it…” #avocadotoast And Instagram has never been the same.

Well I’m here to tell you that ricotta toast is the next avocado toast. Dare I say it… It may be bigger than avocado toast. Unlike the avocado, ricotta can pair with sweet or savory ingredients. I really can’t think of anything that wouldn’t work with ricotta. And that white background will provide quite the Instagrammable contrast for the toppings. We have a ways to go until my theory is proven – #avocadotoast has been used more than 760,000 times on Instagram, while #ricottatoast is hovering just under 3,000. I always favor the underdog 💪🏼💪🏼

I’ve seen ricotta toast on a few restaurant menus (and a few Instagram shots) and thought it’d be perfect for my breakfast. I have leftover ricotta from our Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle dish the other night. Leftover basil makes an appearance on this one too. Best part about this breakfast was that every ingredient already resided in my kitchen. All of these proportions and ingredients could easily be adjusted to personal tastes as well.

strawrictoast2.jpg
Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Ingredients:
  • Slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • A few strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (preferably a thicker, more syrupy type)
  • Fresh basil, torn
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Toast your bread.
  2. Smear the toast with ricotta.
  3. Top with strawberries, basil, a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  4. Instagram your creation.

Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

lemricpap.jpg

Awhile back, I (probably via Pinterest let’s be honest) came across Seasons & Suppers. This food blog, or “online food and cooking diary,” as its author describes it, is honestly what I aspire for our blog to be. First off, we like to think of our site as our own personal culinary diary as well. Secondly, her photography is gorgeous. Gorgeous is an understatement. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Drool-inducing. Stunning. Insert whatever superlative adjective you prefer. And all of the recipes I see on the site, I immediately want to make. Somehow, Jennifer (the author) produces dishes that are homey and down-to-earth, without “fancy” ingredients or techniques, yet every dish seems fit to serve the Queen of England. I distinctly remember the day I discovered the site. I just kept clicking and pinning, clicking and pinning. I wanted to save ALL of the recipes to attempt myself! With all of this being said, this is the first recipe of hers we’ve attempted. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect that deep in the recesses of my brain I don’t want to see my results side by side with hers.

When we decided to have pasta for dinner tonight, I immediately thought of this recipe I’d seen from Seasons & Suppers a few weeks back – Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Prosciutto and Pea Shoots. How perfect for spring! Ricotta provides for a lighter sauce than many other pasta dishes (like our favorite Homemade Pasta Carbonara) and the lemon certainly adds spring-like brightness. We did make a few changes for our version, namely the addition of basil and homemade pasta, but what a beautiful inspiration! One tip: eat immediately after serving. As the ricotta cools, it becomes less sauce-like. It tastes delicious either way.

In conclusion? Go check out Seasons & Suppers for beautiful food photography and a plethora of recipes. And then try this pasta dish, whether her version or ours!

lemricpap2.jpg

Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle

(Adapted from Seasons & Suppers, clearly)
Ingredients: 
  • Pasta
    • 1 1/3 cup AP flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
  • Sauce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1 1/2 cups ricotta
    • 2 lemons, zested & juiced
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • Pinch of salt
    • 6+ slices of prosciutto, torn
    • Fresh basil
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare pasta as described in Our How To Make Basic Pasta.
  2. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model) or do it by hand. Slice into ~ 1/2 inch ribbons. Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  3. Meanwhile, in a deep sauté pan, or a sauteuse pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Once hot, add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Mix together the ricotta, 1/3 cup of lemon juice & 2 tbsp zest, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Pour into the pan with the shallots. Turn heat down to low.
  5. When ready to cook the pasta, bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally. Cook pasta for just 2 minutes, until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add pappardelle to the pan with the ricotta sauce and toss well. Thin the sauce as desired with reserved pasta water (we did not use any). You may increase the heat here if your sauce isn’t quite hot, but do so gently.
  7. Once the sauce is warmed to your liking, serve the pasta into bowls and top with torn prosciutto, basil, a pinch of salt, and more fresh pepper if you desire.
Serves 2-4

Ropa Vieja

ropavieja2.jpg

As we’ve mentioned a million times, we use this blog as a vehicle to get us to branch out and try different dishes we wouldn’t have otherwise thought to make. I was browsing our recent creations recently and was struck by the thought that we’ve had a little bit of a geographic bias. Our branching out has ventured into the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and North Africa quite a bit… not surprising, given that we both really love the food and flavors of that region. But maybe we’re inadvertently limiting the scope of our branching…? I don’t know why, but after coming to this realization, I immediately settled on Cuban food for our next adventure.

After drooling over pictures of Cuban sandwiches for a little while, I landed on a recipe for Ropa Vieja, which many claim as the national dish of Cuba. If you speak Spanish, you may note that “ropa vieja” translates to “old clothes,” which is not the most appetizing name I can think of personally, but is evocative of the legend behind the dish. The story goes that an impoverished old man had family coming over for dinner. He had nothing to serve them, so he shredded and stewed some old clothes. After praying over his creation and cooking with so much love for his family, he found that he had a delicious stew to serve, though the shreds of meat still resembled his old clothes. As best my internet sleuthing can determine, the recipe came to Cuba and the greater Caribbean via Spanish settlers, with its roots hundreds of years ago in Spanish Sephardic Jewish cuisine and their home in the Canary Islands. Tweaks occurred in the ensuing years, and this dish is considered to be quintessentially Caribbean and Cuban.

ropavieja

Ropa vieja is traditional served in Cuba with rice and black beans, so of course we had to make some Cuban black beans as well! This quick version uses canned beans, so they’re super easy to throw together. And its easy to see why the Cuban serve them in combination… delicious! After serving the ropa vieja on top of the rice, with the beans on the side, we realized that it was even better all stirred together! So go ahead and make a big messy plate – this dish isn’t on your table for its looks, that’s for sure!

ropavieja2

Ropa Vieja

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • ~ 1 1/2 lb flank steak, brisket, or chuck roast (the chuck roast will cook the fastest)
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup sliced green Spanish olives
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Cilantro, for garnish
Instructions: 
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the beef on both sides with salt & pepper. Once warmed, sear the beef on all sides briefly (~3-4 minutes). Remove to the side.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Stir to coat with remaining oil and again season with salt & some fresh ground black pepper. Cook until soft and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the dish with the wine. Stir in the spices and brown sugar.
  4. Return the beef to the dish, along with the pureed tomatoes. Nestle the bay leaves into the liquid. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Braise the beef for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. You want to see a slight simmer if you peek under the lid.
  5. Uncover, skim off any fat on the top, and raise the heat so the liquid is simmering fairly vigorously. Shred the beef between two forks.
  6. Stir in the olives and vinegar. Cook at the simmer for just an additional 15 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed – we added a fair bit.
  7. Serve with rice and black beans, with a little cilantro on top.
Serves 4-6