Savory Beef Pasta and Christmas Markets

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First: Those of you who keep fruit bowls on the counter take note: today I learned that you cannot put kiwifruit and clementines in the same bowl.  The kiwifruit cause the clementines to turn to a moldy, mushy mess.  I don’t know why.  The kiwifruit were fine and only the fruit that was touching was effected.  I have learned something…my day is complete!

Second:   It’s time, once again for the Food Blog Awards.  You have until midnight, December 5, EST to nominate your favorite food blog in one of 14 categories…so take a minute and go nominate food blogs!

Third: Sunday was the first day of Advent and the official start to the Christmas season in Europe.  All of the lights and decorations that were put up weeks ago, when the weather was better, will now be lit; the markets and festivities will begin.

Christmas is different here.  It’s much more about the food and the traditions than it is about the presents.  One of the traditions, in these very Catholic Mediterranean countries, is the nativity scene (yes, in Spain, complete with caganer).  Not everyone will put up a Christmas tree but they will have a nativity scene.  And so it follows that there are Christmas markets selling figures and components for nativity scenes all over Europe. Abbeymarket

I have heard it said that the Christmas markets here are kind of ‘tacky’ and not really worth the visit.

To many American eyes this may be very true.  There is no fine jewelry set with precious stones, no hand-made suits of armor or oil paintings selling for hundreds of euros.

The booths are obviously temporary structures with canvas tops, ropes and straw floors in the country; wooden floors and counters in the city.

And there are always the booths of nativity figures, ranging in price from 4 or 5 euros for a small, simple piece to upwards of 50 or 60 for larger, more intricate pieces.   To the unfamiliar, I suppose seeing an entire display of 3″ (7cm) high, somewhat crudely made little statues, 100 of this one and 100 of that, could seem a bit tacky; but to the children and adults out to add a new personage to the family’s crèche de Noël or even assemble their own for the first time, this is indeed a treasure trove.

Abbeymarket2 The other booths shelter local artisans selling small, handmade goods: local honey, homemade jams, preserves and liqueurs, freshly baked breads and cakes, home-cured sausages, jars of goose and duck fat, pates and terrines, hand  embroidered linens, hand-made wooden toys.

In the city fairs there are more commercial items, and one does start seeing the same pashmina, silk scarf or leather slippers in market after market.  But they are still geared toward the local people and the feeling is one of friends gathered for a bit of Christmas cheer – gluhwein and hot chestnuts.

You have to admit, the settings can be lovely….even on a rainy Sunday like this one!

After spending the day in the damp what could be better than a nice bowl of hearty pasta to go with the bread stuffed with Roquefort I was forced to buy?

(I was also forced to buy some handmade chocolates and some cinnamon galletes.  I was almost forced to buy a fresh, hot crepe stuffed with Nutella but a firm hand planted around my arm, pulling hard, I might add, stopped helped me.) (Curses upon you!)

Ruth, of Once Upon A Feast, and founder of Presto Pasta Nights, knows that pasta is always apropos.

Visit her blog on Friday for the round-up of the weeks pasta recipes from around the world.

And, in the midst of this Christmas post “Happy Chanukah!”

Back to the pasta: the best thing about this dish is the pasta cooks right in the skillet, thickening the sauce and absorbing the flavors…and making clean-up a breeze.

Savory Beef Pasta

1 10 – 12 oz flank steak or other beef appropriate for stir frying or quick cooking
1 medium onionItalianbeef
2 garlic cloves
1/2 green pepper
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 cup beef broth
1 can whole tomatoes, 15 oz (450 gr)
1/2 cup red wine
8 oz (250 gr) red kidney beans
1 1/4 cups penne

Peel and chop the onion.  Peel and finely chop the garlic.  Chop the pepper.  Heat 1 tbs oil in large non-stick skillet and sauté chili powder for 1 minute.  Add onions, garlic and pepper; sauté until tender.  Remove to a plate.  Slice the beef on an angle across the grain, then cut the slices into large, bite-size pieces.  Heat remaining 1 tbs oil in same skillet.  Add beef and sauté until starting to brown, 3 – 4 minutes.  Open the tomatoes.  Remove the whole tomatoes and roughly chop; reserve the liquid.  Return peppers & onions to pan and add all remaining ingredients including tomatoes and reserved liquid.  Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 – 25 minutes, until pasta is done.  Stir from time to time to keep pasta from sticking.

SkeletonsFinally: Don’t forget to search your closet/pantry for skeletons.  Remember, confession is good for the soul.  It can, but doesn’t have to, be an actual recipe, or just the description of the, um, food or any food and holiday related debacle/story/mishap…. Really, any dirty little secret you feel like sharing!  You have until Christmas to post – the round-up will be just before Dec. 31.  The usual rules: post, link to me, send me an e-mail with permalink.  Click for details!

Come on, tell!  Share the pain…you’ll feel better!  And so will we!

27 thoughts on “Savory Beef Pasta and Christmas Markets”

  1. Katie, also keep bananas away from other fruits…they ripen too fast!
    I prefer the european markets…bare bones but higher quality.
    On to your beef, that’s rib-stickin’ good!

  2. oohh, that explains why i had to throw out those clementines yesterday!! here i thought i’d just picked up some bad ones.
    and that’s so bizarre, that’s the second time i’ve seen pictures of that exact same christmas market today!

  3. Peter, I didn’t know that about bananas…but, then I didn’t know about kiwifruit, either..
    Sam, that is bizarre – both about the fruit and the market. It was a nice little market, great abbey, awful weather!

  4. Honestly, I don’t think clementines like being near anything else — I buy the 5-pound crates, and if we don’t eat them quickly the ones on the bottom get all googly. But if I take them out of the crate and put them in a fruit bowl with other stuff (apples, pears, etc), they spoil even faster. Fie on them — I think I’ll stick with this beef pasta!

  5. Well good gracious. I start reading your post, I see the link, I follow the link, I start nominating (yes, I nominated YOU!) and now it’s like a half hour later and I’m back where I started. Whew!
    That Christmas market looks just precious. Wish there were places like that out here rather than parking lots full of flocked Christmas trees.

  6. There was a little town in Indiana I used to visit to get nice little Christmas “trinkets”. So cozy! And yes, after a day of damp weather, just look at that pasta with TOMATOES!!!! Oh Yum!
    My Seasoned Eating package made it to Lannae and she was thrilled. She posted about it today! Too fun! Cannot wait to see what she cooks up with it!

  7. We used to live in South America, and there too, the nativity scene was the most important component of Christmas – it’s a little hard to find pine trees right next to the Amazon! Your recipe for beef pasta looks so[oo] convenient – I love anything with easy cleanup! 🙂

  8. Christmas and all the wonderful traditions associated with it are some of my stongest memories of living in Germany for a year as a child. The stalls are much more beautiful than any mall!
    Which evil person stopped your from having a Nutella crepe? Life is short!

  9. Hi Katie
    As for your kiwi discovery, let’s do an experiment. Try the same thing again and see if it happens again, maybe it was just a coincidence.
    As for the nativity scene, I didn’t understand the fascination with it when I first visited Italy for Christmas (I was dating an Italian guy back then). I got a bit concerned when he started playing with figurines and little baby Jesus till I realised that it was a “normal” thing during the Christmas season 🙂

  10. Tanna, I like the little ones, too. It was such a shame that the weather was so wretched…
    Anh, this one is definitely easy!
    Lydia, they do seem to be touchy. And I hate keeping them in the fridge – we are so used to the fruit bowl we forget about stuff in the fridge!
    Swirlingnotions, thank you, you are so nice! No flocked trees here – actually, the big Christmas tree sellers are a D.I.Y store and Ikea – both have them wrapped and inside!
    cityfarmer, I do love markets! Thankfully, I hate to dust or I would be lots more ‘stuff’.
    Bellini Valli, thanks…and great! It should be fun to see what everyone does!
    Deb, I saw that post…all those spicy Floridien treats! Must get to Florida again…
    SwissMiss, the pine trees here are so different than the ones used for Christmas trees in the U.S. – just one more difference. But I have never actually seen a ‘local’ decorated Christmas tree!
    Lynn, the Christmas markets in Germany, I think, are the best in Europe – all the white lights and candle pyramids… I love them. That evil person was my very own ‘mari’….I’ll get even….
    Nora, I’ll do that…or maybe, as Lydia says, it wasn’t the kiwifruite so much as any fruit. BF fondling the baby Jesus, huh… I can see your concern…
    You are so sweet….

  11. I really enjoyed reading about the christmas markets. We are going to be in France for a few weeks and I am really looking forward to going to the local food markets.
    Those darn kiwi fruit just don’t like to share space in the fruit bowl but as they taste so great they probably feel you don’t really need the other fruit.(I’m a kiwi)
    The Savoury Beef Pasta is really tasty. Thanks for the recipe

  12. To me, Christmas is all about food and tradition. I am pretty certain I would like these little markets, although I have never been to Europe at Christmas.
    I would love a little nativity set.

  13. Kiwi’s might just be what happened to my tomatoes this week… strange.
    The pasta sounds tasty. I like the idea of cooking the pasta in the sauce.

  14. Your country market looks wonderful! Well, as you know, where I am from, there is nothing like that at all. We only have that dreaded place walmart. eesh. But, luckily, I get to see such places on you blog!

  15. What??? Christmas about traditions and food..and not the presents???? Why our economy here would go into a tailspin if we did that. And the screams of anquish. :):)
    The pasta looks succulent. (Love that word.)

  16. I adore clementines, so I guess I’m fortunate that I haven’t put them near any kiwis! Thanks for the heads up on that one!
    Christmas about food and markets…Ahhhh…what a lovely thought! And right now, that pasta dish of yours is looking very, very tempting!

  17. I always learn something here…I knew about the bananas but not the kiwis, and now I think pears might have that effect on clementines too. Yesterday I had to throw out a bunch!
    The pasta looks delish and perfect for after shopping this time of year. Thanks for sharing.
    PS naturally you get my vote for best food blog.!

  18. Very Happy Holidays to you and yours, Katie! Our family always had a creche set up. My Grandmother would hide the baby Jesus until midnight Christmas eve, when she put him in his place in the crib. I don’t think it’s tacky at all. Thanks for the wonderful photos 🙂

  19. Maybe you can help me out with something…? I want to order all of my food online from now on because of various reasons, but I don’t know where to go for quality food. I have tried 2 companies so far, Fresh Dining, and and Celebrity Foods, but I wanna get others I can try out. Do you know of any? The main thing I’ve ordered so far is steak. I guess you can say, I’m a steak junkie. LOL!!! From what I have found out (from what I have ordered so far) I think I am able to regulate the quality of beef I buy. I hate going to a store and getting that crappy slab of beef that I have to cut down until there is like nothing left. Hahaha!!!! (its so true though) Anyhow, sorry that I made this comment so long. If you can help me out or point me in a direction where I might find more quality foods online, I would greatly appreciate it. Have a good day or night! (depending on when you read this) LOL!!!!

  20. Wanda, I hope you have a great time in France. Where will you be? Do you have a gite or are you in hotels?
    Mimi, you really should plan a December trip sometime…you would love it – and the weather isn’t bad!
    Kevin, I think kiwi fruit is a problem child! Pasta in the sauce – easy dishes!
    Lannae, I was in a Walmart…once…
    I like our little markets.
    Sher, It’s always about the food. We just quit with the presents a few years ago – admittedly, we were totally out of control!
    Toni, this is how we celebrate now, visiting all the little markets…and then eating out!
    Ruth, and I didn’t know about bananas! And thank you!
    Meredith, I never new before we had kiwifruit vines – thus tons of kiwi fruit all over the place!
    Thanks, Maryann, we always had one, too. Still do, for that matter; a small one that Uncle Ed made for us.
    Leosatter – asked and answered a while ago!

  21. Thanks for sharing about the markets! Makes me want to travel again soon. The recipe looks yummy, too! I have never had pasta with any bean like kidneys. hmmm…interesting!

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