Archive for the ‘Mediterranean’ Category

Three Cheese and Spinach White Pizza

April 6, 2013

It’s been a crazy few weeks.  It’s not that I haven’t cooked at all, though it hasn’t been a lot, it’s that I haven’t made anything exciting enough to warrant taking the time to write about it.  You’ve really only missed Green Chicken Chili and Shrimp and Grits, both of which I’ve made before in some variety.  I don’t always post when I make pizza either, especially if I don’t make the dough, but I’m making an exception tonight.  This is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten and certainly the best pizza I’ve ever made.  Sadly I managed to delete the photos after I’d already eaten the whole thing so you’ll just have to imagine it!

I haven’t done much meal planning lately so I have an odd, but wide, assortment of food stuffs in the kitchen.  I had a big clamshell of fresh spinach that really needed to find a use sooner rather than later.   I had some reduced-fat feta and a tub of mascarpone.  I had a package of naan.  Throw in some olive oil, garlic and mozzarella and you have yourself a pizza.  A really, really good pizza.  Mascarpone is essentially Italian cream cheese.  It’s softer and creamier than what we in the US call cream cheese.  It also has a much more neutral flavor.  That makes it a terrific base for a white pizza.  It doesn’t take much.  Just spread a thin layer on the naan and add some sliced garlic.  The feta adds a briny flavor that you really need.  Artichoke hearts or capers or hearts of palm would do the same.  The spinach adds a little bulk and a green flavor that’s great with the feta. Finally, the mozzarella makes in feel like pizza and it holds the spinach on.

A few tips.  It’s easiest to slice garlic cloves thinly if they’re slightly (or completely) frozen.  They’ll thaw and mellow in the baking process.  Julienne (cut into strips) the spinach leaves.  It doesn’t have to be super thin, but cutting the spinach allows you to really pile it on.  It also makes the pizza easier to eat.  If you use whole spinach leaves you’re apt to drag them off, along with all the cheese, as you take a bite. Cube the mozzarella.  It will melt more quickly and spread more evenly than slices and it will melt down into the spinach better than the shredded kind.  Besides, fresh mozzarella just tastes better.  Lastly, drizzle just a little olive oil over the top when your pizza is all assembled.  It will help wilt the spinach that’s not covered by cheese.

What you end up with is an airy dough with crispy edges thanks to the naan.  The mascarpone melts and mixes with the olive oil to make a creamy sauce.  The feta, spinach and mozzarella make a perfectly balanced pizza topping.  The only thing I might add is a few turns from the pepper grinder for a little sharpness.  My only other advice is to make plenty and don’t count on leftovers!

Good? So, so amazingly good.
Easy? Fantastically easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope. I bought everything at a regular grocery.

Three Cheese and Spinach White Pizza

Ingredients

1 round of plain naan
2 T good olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 T mascarpone cheese
2-3 T feta crumbles
1 C fresh julienned spinach leaves
1-2 oz fresh mozzarella, diced

Directions

Drizzle 1 T olive oil and spread mascarpone over naan. Distribute garlic slices evenly. SPrinkle feta around the pizza. Pile spinach in the middle leaving about 1 inch around the edges. Place mozzarella on top of the spinach, distributed evenly.
Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until the mozzarella is melted and beginning to brown.

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Greek-Style Pork Chops

March 12, 2013

Busy day.  Not much time for cooking.  You know what that’s like.  I’m pretty proud of the fact that I remembered to take a couple of pork chops out of the freezer this morning so they’d be thawed in time for dinner.  Sadly I made no other plan for them.  Of course by the time I got home and walked the dog I was starving.  No patience for anything long or complicated.  This recipe seemed to fit the bill nicely.  A twenty minute marinade then five minutes on each side.  Heat up some collards from the freezer.  Dinner done.

Greek Pork Chops

This marinade is just oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs and not a lot of any of it.  It would have benefited from a little lemon juice.  Or maybe more than twenty minutes would have made a difference.  In any case I didn’t notice that this marinade added much flavor to the pork chops.    The garlic burned a little bit when I seared the pork so there was a touch of bitterness, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for.  Still, I started with really good pork chops so I enjoyed them very much.

Kudos to Ault’s Family Farm for the wonderful pork.  Let me stop here for a minute and bid the fondest of farewells to Ault’s Family Farm.  Those of you who shop at the South of the James Farmers’ market in Richmond, VA will know the Aults.  They’re wonderful, friendly people who tried to make a go of it as a small, chemical free, ecologically responsible farm.  I am sad to report that they were unable to make ends meet and have ceased their commercial farming.  I couldn’t have been more surprised to hear the news.  More than once I happily stood in line 15-20 minutes at the market to buy a few pork chops or a Boston butt from the Aults.  And my purchase always came with some lovely conversation and a smile.  So, thank you and best of luck to you Ault family!  I truly hope to see you at the market again.

Back to the recipe.  The recipe also includes a tomato, cucumber and onion salad as a side/garnish and a yogurt sauce.  I did make the yogurt sauce, but skipped the chopped salad in favor of the collards.  Not much to the yogurt sauce:  dill, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.  make this first so the flavors can blend while you marinate and cook the pork.  It’s yummy on the pork, but would be just as good on veggies, pita, crackers, etc.

In the end I had a lovely dinner.  I could probably have come up with this without a recipe, but on a busy day when reading is easier than thinking this will do just fine.

Good? Yes.
Easy? Definitely.
Good for company? Not so much.
Special shopping? Not at all.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

Ingredients

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut loin pork chops
1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

Directions

Combine 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, oregano, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and garlic in a zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag, and seal. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, turning after 10 minutes. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, yogurt, 1 tablespoon dill, and 1/2 of the salt, stirring well with a whisk. Cover and chill.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove pork from bag, and discard marinade. Sprinkle both sides of pork evenly with remaining salt. Add pork to pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 2 minutes. Serve with yogurt.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

March 10, 2013

The first day of Daylight Savings Time.  As much as I love having light a little later in the day I can’t get used to this happening in early March instead of in April.  I’m just not ready to lose an hour yet.  Seeing as how I’ve started the week an hour behind I’m trying to get ahead on the cooking for the week.  I’ve still got a freezer full of food in the basement so I started there and planned my meals for the week around the pound of ground lamb that I found.  I have 16 meatballs that will be popping up in various dishes this week.  Oddly enough I had leftover salad for dinner so I still don’t know whether or not these are good.  Stay tuned for the salads, pita sandwiches and pasta dishes to come.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

I made a couple of adjustments to this recipe.  I added an egg, just because that’s what  do when I make meatballs.  The best part is that there was enough mint in the garden to use fresh instead of dried.  I have the most amazing spearmint in the herb garden.  People come from all over the neighborhood to pick it during the Summer.  There were jut a few springs big enough to clip, but that was enough.  One reminder, if a recipe calls for dried herbs and you use fresh you’ll need 2-3 times as much as the recipe calls for.  I made 2/3 of a recipe because I only had a pound of lamb and then I made the meatballs a touch larger than the recipe prescribes.  It was just easier.

For cooking the use of a broiler pan is good advice.  It’s nice to cook them so that the fat drips off.  I don’t have a broiler pan that fits in my countertop oven.  I’ve found that using a small roasting pan  or jellyroll pan with a cookie cooling rack in it works just great. 

I’ll reserve further evaluation of these until I’ve actually eaten a few.

Herbed Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground lamb
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine all ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl, and stir well. Shape mixture into 16 meatballs. Place meatballs on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until meatballs are done.

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs

August 7, 2012

I struggle with ways to cook meats like pork chops and chicken thighs with a little creativity.  My plan tonight was to put my Ault’s Family Farm chicken thighs in a baking dish with some of my homemade salsa and be done with it.  I had time to cook tonight so I figured I should be a little more adventurous.  And I still have a fridge full of farmers’ market produce that needs  to be used up so the salsa plan wasn’t going to address any of that.  On to plan B, a new recipe from Cooking Light.

This recipe allowed me to use up the chicken thighs, leeks and a red pepper.  Since I had a pepper in the fridge I used that instead of the bottled peppers in the recipe. I think that worked just fine.  My other alterations were completely out of necessity.  I didn’t have any sage (left it out).  I used smoked paprika (didn’t have the sweet kind).  I used vegetable broth (my chicken broth is soup quality so I didn’t want to waste it here).  And I’m embarrassed to admit that I used bottled lemon juice because I’m out of the real thing.  That’s a first.  Still, everything came together really nicely – not quickly – but nicely.  Oh, and I threw in 2 cloves of roasted garlilc because everything is better with roasted garlic.

My first piece of advice is that you shoudn’t start this unless you’re willing to wait 45 minutes to an hour to eat.  Braising chicken thighs takes a while.  Second, a reminder about dealing with leeks.  Slice them and swish them in a bowl of water to help get the grit off.  Then let them sit so the dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl.  Finally, pour the broth in carefully or you’ll wash the spices off of the chicken.  Alternatively you can add the spices to the top of the chicken thighs after you’ve added the broth.  Not much else in the way of advice.  That’s the nice thing about braising – the pot does most of the work.

The flavors in this are really nice.  I might have used a milder olive than the kalamatas.  The olives are so briny that the contrast is a little stark against the buttery leeks and very mellow red pepper.  The recipe calls for you to serve this with orzo.  I served mine plain to reduce the carbs and calories a little.  That was the wrong call.  It’s such a brothy dish, and the broth is so yummy, that you’ll want something to soak up the soupy goodness.  I recommend rice or crusty bread.  And I recommend serving this in a bowl.  I served mine on a plate with squash and onions on the side.  Squash and onions goes with everything so that was all good, but the plate was a runny mess.

This is a good dish.  Even very good.  I’m not positive it’s good enough for me to work my way through 6 servings this week though.  It almost seems more like a Winter dish and it’s too hot to eat a wintery dinner all week.  I’m guessing 3 servings and I’ll freeze the rest.  Or maybe I’ll take some to a neighbor.  It’s absolutely good enough to share.

Good? Definitely.
Easy? Yep, just takes a while.
Good for company? Sure, not fancy, but good.
Special shopping? Nope.

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (about 3 large)
6 (4-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cloves roasted garlic
3/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 T bottled lemon juice

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Arrange red pepper strips over leeks. Arrange chicken over pepper strips. Sprinkle chicken with thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and paprika. Add garlic. Gently pour the broth around chicken; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Turn chicken over; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add olives and lemon juice to pan; stir to combine. Cook, uncovered, 8 minutes or until chicken is done.
Serve over rice or with crusty bread.

Arugula Tabbouli

July 1, 2012

Tabbouli (or tabbouleh) has been my go to summer salad for a couple of years.  I always keep it in the fridge and then pull out a little and add whatever I feel like to complete it for that meal.  This time I decided to try changing up the tabbouli.  Usually it’s made with a few cups of parsley  I had about 1/2 a bag of arugula left so I decided to use that.  Yum!  Peppery tabbouli.

 

I did use a little parsley because I had about 1/3 of a bunch left in the fridge.  It ended up being about 1 part parsley to 6 parts arugula.  And then the standard cucumbers, green onions, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  It’s really simple.  I’ll add a few chopped tomatoes when I get ready to eat it, but I try to avoid refrigerating fresh tomatoes.  I might add some chicken, shrimp or fish to make it a one dish meal.  Lots of possibilities.

The arugula gives it a nice peppery kick that’s a terrific balance to the bright citrus of the lemon juice and the sharp greenness of the green onions.  The olive oil adds the perfect buttery smoothness.  So, so good.  Let it sit in the fridge a few hours before serving it if you can. It just gets better as it sits.  And with no mayonnaise it’s a fantastic picnic salad!

If you want to see my last take on this yummy salad check the post from last Spring.

Good? One of my favorites.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Sure, a healthy side for lots of things.
Special shopping? Not really, though sometimes I have difficulty finding bulghur. Check the bulk foods and international sections of your grocery store.

Arugula Tabbouli

Ingredients

1/2 C uncooked bulghur
1 C vegetable stock

3 C chopped arugula
1/2 C chopped parsley
2 green onions, whites and greens, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
juice of 1 large lemon, plus more to taste
1/8-1/4 C good quality olive oil
salt
black or red pepper to taste

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the bulghur to the stock. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit, covered 40-45 minutes.
Fluff bulghur with a fork and put in a large bowl. Toss with remaining ingredients.
Refigerate until ready to serve.

Lamb Meatballs with Tahini Sauce

June 22, 2012

I went a little overboard the other day thawing things from the basement freezer.  I pulled out a pound of ground Pair-A-Dice Farm lamb the same day I pulled out the package of Della Nonna sausage.  So, I actually made these meatballs that day too.  They’re cooked through so they can be frozen and thawed as I need them.  The sauce is so easy you can make it up as you need it too.  Throw in a little salad mix and a piece of flatbread and you’re done.  A pretty filling dinner without being too heavy.

I started with a recipe for Lamb Kofte.  That recipe called for a fair amount of paprika which I didn’t have.  I decided that changed the recipe enough that I’d change the name too.  Think of these as mini sliders more than meatballs.  Most meatballs have some sort of egg and/or breadcrumbs to hold them together.  This is just ground lamb, onions, spices and herbs so it’s more like a burger than a meatball.  Other than the absent paprika and a little added tumeric I followed the recipe for the meatballs portion of the meal.

Keep in mind that there’s no binding when you’re cooking the meatballs.  If you’re too rough with them they’ll fall apart.  Do them in the broiler if you prefer.  I made these kind of small – 1 ounce each.  I got 16 out of the pound, which is 4 servings.  Not bad.  Small ones also take less time to cook so that always helps.  The sauce is easy too.  Just tahini, lemon juice, salt and enough water to make the sauce drizzly.  Add a little cayenne if the meatballs don’t have enough kick for you.

If you’re making the meatballs up fresh this is probably a 30 minute meal.  If you did the meatballs earlier its 10 minutes tops!  If you want to pack it and take it for lunch I recommend packing everything separately and assembling it at lunchtime.  You’ll want to heat the meatballs.  And if you pack the salad mix and sauce in with the flatbread everything will be soggy and gross.  You can always leave the flatbread out and just serve it like a salad to make things easier for lunch.

These are just meatballs so serve them however you like!  I might try a few with white beans and tomatoes.

Good? Good.  Not outstanding, but good.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Eh, I wouldn’t make a dinner party out of them.
Special shopping? Nope.

Lamb Meatballs with Tahini Sauce

Ingredients

Meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/8 cup coarsely grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Tahini Sauce:
3 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon or more water
pinch of salt

Directions

Gently mix lamb and next 8 ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange on sheet.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to heavy skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Sauté meatballs until just cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.

Serve meatballs warm with tahini sauce.

Flatbread with Shrimp and White Bean Hummus

June 10, 2012

After making the white bean hummus yesterday and wondering if the flavors would seem more balanced if I made the whole recipe I decided to give it a shot.  Gotta say, this recipe is a huge pain in the butt for something that’s essentially fancy pizza.  They want you to make the flatbread, make hummus, cook shrimp, caramelize onions and melt leeks.  Good Lord.  I bought the flatbread.  I made the rest though.  Glad I made the hummus yesterday.  You can do the onions and leeks ahead too if you want.  I did them this afternoon so at least I had a little time to relax before my guest showed up for dinner.  Of course some of my relaxation time went toward making dinner for tomorrow night, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about that.

So, my advice is to do this in parts.  Make the hummus the day before.  The flavors will be better.  Caramelize the onions and saute the leeks early in the day.  Start the onions first.  The recipe says you can get them done in 12 minutes, but that only works in Epicuriousland.  In a normal kitchen it takes about 45 minutes.  While the onions are caramelizing you’ll have time to slice, rinse and saute the leeks until they’re soft.  Roast the shrimp just before you’re ready for dinner.  I did mine in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Undercook them just a touch since they’ll be going back in the oven. 

I didn’t make subsitutions here.  I did leave out the lemon juice, but only because I forgot it.  I served the arugula on the side instead of on the flatbread.  Again, because I forgot.  I didn’t dice the onions or the leeks.  I like caramelized onions in ribbons and leeks in rounds so I cut them that way.  I think it’s prettier.  And I reduced the cheese by more than 2/3.  Use a good quality parmesan and you won’t need too much.  Still, the recipe remained in tact.  And it was good.

Good call on making up the whole thing.  The hummus didn’t taste nearly so sharp when served with everything else.  In fact, it was exactly right.  The onions are sweet and the leeks are green and the shrimp are actually just a touch neutral.  Yum.  I used flatbread instead of naan and saved myself a bunch of calories.  A friend and I split the flatbread you see above and had a little arugula salad on the side.  It was a filling dinner and left room for the yummy strawberry streusel that she brought!

It would be easy to cut this in smaller pieces and use it as a starter for some lovely Mediterranean meal.  The minus is that it has a lot of steps and takes a long time.  The plus is that you have enough of the toppings to get you through a couple of meals.  I’ll be eating this a couple of more times this week so parceled out it probably makes the time worth it.  You just have to be willing to put the time in to begin with.

Good? Definitely good.  And got a thumbs up from my guest also.
Easy? Not so much. It gets an intermediate. If I’d made the bread too it would be ‘difficult.’
Good for company? In a casual way. It’s kinda fancy, but not elegant.
Special shopping? Nope. Everything from the farmers’ market or the Kroger.

Flatbread with Shrimp and White Bean Hummus

Ingredients

For hummus:
5 to 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

For caramelized onions:
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into medium dice
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For melted leeks:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and cut into medium dice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil for brushing flatbread
1 lemon, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1 pound small, sweet shrimp such as Caribbean Laughing Bird*, peeled and cooked
2-3 ounces Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about ½ cup)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup mixed micro greens, such as baby arugula

Directions

Make hummus:
Transfer garlic cloves to 6-inch square of foil, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt, and wrap tightly. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Unwrap and let cool. DO AHEAD: Roasted garlic can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in airtight container, up to 3 days.

Squeeze garlic cloves from skin into food processor. Add white beans, remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, tahini, rosemary, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. DO AHEAD: Hummus can be prepared ahead and refrigerated in airtight container up to 3 days.

Make caramelized onions:
In large, heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, melt butter. Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until slightly transparent and starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and 4 teaspoons water and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 12 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, then transfer to medium bowl to cool. DO AHEAD: Onions can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in airtight container, up to 3 days.

Make melted leeks:
In large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat, heat olive oil. Add leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, then transfer to medium bowl to cool. DO AHEAD: Leeks can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in airtight container, up to 3 days.

Assemble and serve:
Position rack near bottom of oven and top with pizza stone or heavy baking sheet. Preheat oven to 450°F for 1 hour.

Brush each flatbread with olive oil and spread with hummus. Scatter onions and leeks over and top with lemon slices and shrimp. Scatter with cheese, then sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.

Transfer 1 or more flatbreads to preheated pizza stone and bake in batches until toppings are warmed through and cheese has melted, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer flatbreads to large cutting board and top with micro greens. Using very sharp knife, cut into 6 thin slices and serve immediately.

White Bean Hummus with Rosemary

June 10, 2012

I love hummus.  Mostly it’s been one of those things that I loathe buying because it’s cheap to make and comparatively expensive to buy.  The problem is that my homemade hummus has never been remotely as good as what I can buy.  This recipe has real possibilities for turning that tide.  I’ll tell you that the most amazing hummus I’ve ever had is made by the mom of a friend of mine in Northern Virginia.  This isn’t in the same class as that, but it’s darn good.

I think my problem in the past is that my hummus hasn’t had enough liquid in it so it’s always been too dense.  Too much oil and not enough water.  The recipe calls for lemon juice and vinegar.  The vinegar was a first for me.  I think next time I’d sub out half of the vinegar for water.  In fairness it’s meant to be served on flatbread with shrimp and caramelilzed onions.  Served that way it probably balances the other flavors quite nicely, but it’s a little much for snacking on with grape tomatoes.  Also bear in mind that rosemary is a strong flavor.  If you like it, great.  If it’s not your favorite you might use only half of what’s called for here.  I think the sweet, herby flavor of the rosemary is important to balance the tartness of the hummus, but you could use parsley instead.

This recipe gets 5 stars for texture and maybe 3 1/2 for taste.  White beans are softer and creamier than chickpeas so it’s easier to get a fluffy texture.  I think with just a few adjustments I can get to 5 stars on flavor too.  First, there’s too much vinegar.  Easy to fix with a water substitution for half.  And then there’s the garlic.  If I’d read the recipe all the way through I would have seen that it calls for roasting the garlic.  That mellows the flavor significantly.  Five large cloves of raw garlic is bound to add a kick to any recipe.  Of course it also means that other people might not want to be near you.  A little less rosemary and this will be perfect for snacking. 

The great thing about hummus is that it’s pretty good for you.  (This recipe has only 1 tablespoon of olive oil).  I love no guilt snacking.  It’s also perfect for taking places.  It can sit out at picnics or potlucks without spoiling.  But then it’s usually eaten before it sits very long!

Good? Good, on the way to great
Easy? Yep, a can opener and a food processor is all you need.
Good for company? You bet.
Special shopping? Nope.

White Bean Hummus with Rosemary

Ingredients

5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Directions

Add all ingredients to a food processor. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Grilled Tuna Skewers with Tomato-Olive Relish

June 8, 2012

Back from a week on the road and no food in the house.  My original plan was to eat some pasta with leftover marinara, roast some brussels sprouts I had left in the drawer and call it a day.  I didn’t want to do much in the way of grocery shopping since tomorrow is farmers’ market day.  I decided to go to Kroger for grapes, bananas, lemons and white beans (I wanted to make white bean hummus).  Rookie mistake – I went to the store hungry.  I came home with fruit, white beans, onions, olives, free-range chicken thighs and a lovely piece of fresh tuna.  Can’t let fresh tuna sit so I changed the dinner plan.

This is super easy, super healthy and super good.  No substitutions this time.  There are hardly enough ingredients to warrant any substitutions.   The spice rub for the tuna is light and fresh and has just a little kick.   The only thing that’s slightly tedious about this is making up the skewers.  I’d say that if making up the skewers is too much just keep the tuna whole; keep the onions and lemons in slices; and grill them that way.  It only takes about 2 minutes to cook the skewers, slightly longer if you’re grilling tuna steaks instead.  If you overcook the tuna it will be dry and chalky and you’ll have wasted your money.  Clearly 2 minutes isn’t long enough for the onions to do much more than warm up so if you’re not a fan of raw onions you’ll want to cook them longer.  You could put the onions on they’re own skewers and start them first.  Or you could divide the onion so the pieces are very small so they’ll cook a little faster.

The relish is a nice balance of sweet, salty and citrusy.  I used a mini-chopper to make the relish so that took about 2 minutes.  The only change I made here is that you don’t need all the olive oil that the recipe calls for.  The recipe is full of olives and they’re plenty oily once you chop them up fine.  I added just a drizzle of olive oil at the finish.  This is a relish that would be good on any kind of fish or chicken.  I’d bet it would also be good on a salad in place of dressing.  Make it in small batches though.  Fresh tomatoes aren’t as good after they’ve been refrigerated so just make what you think you’ll use in a meal or two.

This was a much better meal than the one I originally planned.  The great thing about making kabobs is that they’re quick to cook and easy to serve.  You can do them ahead.  They’re perfect for dinner parties!  So break out the grill; put some stuff on skewers; and invite the neighbors over.  Welcome Summer!

Good? Very good.
Easy? So, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Just be sure it’s very fresh tuna.

Grilled Tuna Skewers with Tomato-Olive Relish

Ingredients

1/3 cup chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds tuna steaks (about 1 inch thick), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 small red onions, each cut into 8 (1-inch) pieces
3 lemons, each cut into 8 wedges

Directions

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal, and shake well. Remove tuna from bag; thread 4 tuna pieces, 3 red onion pieces, and 3 lemon wedges onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Set tuna skewers aside.
Prepare grill. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill 4 minutes on each side or until tuna is medium-rare or desired degree of doneness. Serve with Tomato-Black Olive Relish.

Tomato-Olive Relish

2 cups finely diced tomatoes
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped ripe olives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

Greek Pasta with Meatballs

April 17, 2012

Tonight was a bonus night in the kitchen.  Normally the four footed diva and I have obedience class on Tuesdays, but it was canceled tonight.  I took advantage of the extra time to make a dinner that takes a little extra time.  Gotta say it was totally worth it.  This meal was so good that I have a list of acknowledgments that I’ll save to the end.

I followed this recipe with only two exceptions: I made my own marinara; and I used one whole egg instead of two whites because I only had one egg in the house.  You can absolutely use pre-made marinara, but be sure you get a good quality one. If you decided to make your own marinara start that first so it can be cooking while you do your chopping and make the meatballs. These meatballs are pretty standard, but they include just a touch of cinnamon.  I’m used to a little nutmeg or cinnamon in a savory cream sauce, but not in dishes with tomato sauce.  It sounds a little strange for meatballs, but don’t skip it.  It adds a wonderful depth to the flavor.

A couple of tips about the meatballs.  Mix them with your hands.  If you squeeze the mixture through your hands it will mix well quickly.  You don’t want to handle the lamb mixture too much.  If you overmix it the meatballs will be tough.  When you cook the meatballs heat the pan until it smokes.  I recommend a cast iron skillet.  It will keep the heat the most consistent temperature and the most evenly distributed.  Place them in the pan and flatten them just slightly.  Leave enough room around them in the pan for you to turn them easily.  Don’t move them for at least 2 minutes (it’s longer than you think).  That will allow the heat to put a nice sear on the meatball.  If you try to move them too early you’ll tear them and they’ll end up dry and crumbly.  Use tongs to turn them over gently.  They won’t be cooked quite through when you take them out.  They finish in the oven.

I love that this dish uses orzo instead of spaghetti.  It’s so much easier to eat politely if you’re serving guests.  Or if you just don’t want to end up with red sauce on your shirt.  I love the feta.  If you get good feta a little goes a long way.  The higher the quality the more intense the flavor. If you use too much it will overpower everything else.  As you know if you’ve been reading long I generally recommend using local food when you can.  I find this to be particularly true with lamb.  New Zealand is famous for its lamb, but New Zealand lamb always seems a little gamey to me.  I buy local lamb.  The flavor is distinctive, but smooth and subtle.  So, if you think you don’t like lamb this might be a good way to give it another try.

This was the best dinner I’ve turned out in a while so I feel compelled to say thanks to the folks who helped make it so good.  I’ll start with Relay Foods since they did some of the shopping.  All I had to do was pick it up at a location five blocks from my house.  And kudos to the Mediterranean Bakery for providing such good feta at a reasonable price.  Hats off to Pair-a-Dice Farm for the amazing lamb.  I’ve never had a cut of their lamb (or one of their eggs) that wasn’t fantastic. I’ll be very glad to see the Hollicks again at the South of the James farmers’ market in a couple of weeks.  And finally a round of applause for my mom who spent a whole day with me in a 104 degree kitchen canning tomatoes last summer.  You just can’t beat tomato sauce made from local tomatoes canned in your own kitchen.

Good? Oh, so good.  So, so good.
Easy? Not too bad. Made easier if you let someone else make the marinara.
Good for company? Absolutely. It’ll make for very happy guests!
Special shopping? The ingredients really count here so get good ones.

Greek Pasta with Meatballs

Ingredients

2 cups hot cooked orzo
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Keep warm.
3. Combine breadcrumbs and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl; stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley. Add egg, stirring mixture with your hands until just combined. Shape mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs; cover and chill meatballs 5 minutes.
4. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs to pan; cook 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Drain well; wipe pan clean with paper towels. Return meatballs to pan. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375° for 11 minutes or until meatballs are done. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley. Serve over orzo.