Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Artichoke-Sundried Tomato Whipped Feta in Lettuce Cups

I often don't purchase ground lamb because it can be pretty expensive.  Luckily, we found some at a local butcher shop that was very reasonably priced.  If you can't find ground lamb at a good price, I think this dish would also be excellent with ground beef or turkey (or a 50-50 mixture of the two).  

Once the lamb was purchased, I had to decide what to do with it! I had a bunch of ground lamb recipes saved in my bookmarks, and Tim picked out this one.  I'm really glad he did, because it is fantastic! The lamb sliders are super moist and flavorful, and the whipped feta spread is seriously genius.  I ended up with fat-free feta cheese by mistake, and it was still awesome, which is saying something (I normally don't trust fat-free cheese at all).  The recipe makes way more whipped feta than you need, so I would recommend either making a half recipe or saving the extra for topping crackers (yum!).  Finally, everything gets wrapped up in a crunchy lettuce wrap.  Unwrapping Iceberg lettuce leaves was actually way tricker than I thought it would be, and I had a hard time getting the leaves off in one piece without tearing.  On the plus side, it was delicious either way, and added a fresh, crisp component to the dish.  

I think this dish would also be great as an hors d'oeuvres...just make the lamb mixture into little meatballs and stick them on toothpicks with a dollop of the whipped feta and maybe a cube of cucumber to add crunch. So, if you need a New Year's Eve appetizer, I've got you covered. :)

Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Artichoke-Sundried Tomato Whipped Feta in Lettuce Cups (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are

For the artichoke-sundried tomato whipped feta:
6 ounces feta cheese
2 T cream cheese
6 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
5 or 6 small oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
Pinch of white pepper

For the sliders:
1 pound ground lamb
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 head Iceberg lettuce, to serve

1. First, make the whipped feta.  Combine the feta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is combined and starting to form large clumps.  Add the artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pepper, and pulse until the veggies are finely chopped.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
2. Make the sliders.  Combine all the ingredients (except the lettuce!) in a large bowl and mix to combine with your hands.  Be careful not to overmix/compress the meat.  Form into 8 or 9 small sliders.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the sliders (no need to add oil unless you are not using a nonstick pan--the lamb will release plenty of fat).  Cook on both sides until nicely browned and as done as you like them.
4. Meanwhile, very carefully separate the leaves of the Iceberg lettuce -- this was much trickier than I thought it would be!  Rinse in cold water, and dry with paper towels. 
5. To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the feta onto a piece of lettuce.  I used about half a lettuce leaf for each slider, but you can vary this depending on the size of your lettuce.  Then add a slider, fold over the edges of the lettuce leaf, and enjoy!  Make sure to have lots of napkins handy, as this dish is a little messy to eat.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Carrot Fritters

I decided to make this recipe as a way to work more veggies into a breakfast-for-dinner meal.  These carrot fritters are reminiscent of hash browns, so they fit in well a breakfast or brunch.  They're quick to put together, super flavorful from Aleppo chili flakes and lemon zest, and they look really pretty on a plate.  These would also be good alongside a savory entree like roasted chicken or steamed fish.

Carrot Fritters (adapted from Donna Hay)
Serves 2 as a side dish

180 grams grated carrot (about 2 large carrots
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp toasted onions (or 1/4 cup minced shallots)
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 egg white
25 grams rice flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, to fry

Combine the carrots, garlic powder, onions, chili flakes, lemon zest, egg white, and flour in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Add more flour if the mixture looks too wet.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Form small patties with your hands, and place in the hot oil. Cook 2-4 minutes on each side, until crispy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sesame Noodles

Oh, how I love noodles!  This recipe for sesame noodles is another great one from one of my favorite blogs and cookbooks, Budget Bytes.  I bulked up the original recipe with pork and veggies to make it more of a complete dinner.  Whether you go for this version or just enjoy the sauce by itself on noodles, it's seriously addictive: bold sesame flavor from sesame oil and tahini, plus Aleppo chili flakes, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic.  Yum!  I thought this was best right out of the pan, so I'd make just as much as  you plan on eating rather than planning on leftovers.

Sesame Noodles (adapted from Budget Bytes)
Serves 4

8 ounces angel hair pasta
Vegetable oil
2 pork chops (optional, or sub in chicken or tofu)
3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, on the diagonal
1/2 large bell pepper, trimmed and thinly sliced
1-1/2 T sesame oil, divided
1 T minced fresh ginger
1-1/2 tsp minced fresh lemongrass
3 T unsalted butter
3 cloves minced garlic
3 T soy sauce
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
3 T brown sugar
Generous pinch Aleppo chile flakes (more if you like things spicy)
2 T tahini
2 green onions, thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt.  When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chops.  Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides. Remove to a cutting board. Cut off any large pieces of fat, and thinly slice the meat into bite-sized chunks. If the pork isn't cooked all the way through, return to the skillet and sauté for a few minutes until it is cooked to your liking.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the veggies. Heat a second skillet over medium heat and add 1 T of the sesame oil.  When it is hot, add the ginger and lemongrass.  Sauté for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Add the carrots and bell pepper, and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until just tender.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.
4. In the same skillet, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic, and statute for a minute or so, until just starting to brown. Scrape into a small bowl.  Add the remaining 1/2 T sesame oil, along with the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and chile flakes.  Whisk to combine.
5. Return the drained pasta to the pot it was cooked in, and pour the sauce on top. Add the tahini, and toss to combine. When the tahini has melted into the sauce, add the reserved vegetables and pork, and toss to combine. Depending on your timing, you may want to gently regent the dish over medium-low heat.
6. Serve sprinkled with green onions.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whole-Wheat Cherry Scones

I recently received a couple of packages of Montmorency cherries from Stoneridge Orchards to review on the blog. I immediately knew I wanted to make a batch of scones from Huckleberry -- Tim got me this cookbook for my birthday, and all of the recipes are super tempting.  I adapted Huckleberry's raisin scone recipe to work with dried cherries, and I was so happy with the results.  I definitely think switching raisins for cherries makes this feel more like a "holiday" recipe.  The scones were super flaky and tender, and the dried cherries were moist and slightly tart.  Best of all, the scones can be made ahead and stashed in the freezer.  In our house, that's a good thing because we can bake just a few at a time instead of being tempted with ten scones all at once.  But, it's also great for the holidays so you can have a fancy pants breakfast ready with basically no effort.

Whole-Wheat Cherry Scones (adapted from Huckleberry)
Makes 10 medium scones (One per person is plenty, but...I won't judge you if you want two!)

5 ounces dried Montmorency cherries
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup cold buttermilk or kefir
1 egg, whisked
Pinch of salt

1. If your cherries are old or a little dry, plump them in a hot water for 10 minutes.  Mine were nice and moist, so I skipped this step.  Either way, coarsely chop them.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.  Toss well wit hyour hands.  Add the butter, and work it in with your fingertips until the pieces are pea-sized.  Add the buttermilk and cherries and lightly toss to distribute.
3. Turn out onto a large, clean working surface.  Using the heel of your palm, quickly flatten out the dough.  Gather back together, and repeat a few times until the dough begins to hold together.
4. Pat the dough into a 12-inch long cylinder.  Lightly flatten the top, and cut into 10 triangles.
5. Transfer to an ungreased sheet pan, and pop in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Then, either tightly wrap the scones and stash in the freezer for up to a month, or bake them right away.
7. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment, and arrange the scones with plenty of space between them.
8. Whisk together the egg and salt, and brush over the tops of the scones.  Sprinkle with sugar.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes, until nicely browned.  Let cool a minute or two before devouring!

I received complimentary samples of dried Montmorency cherries from Stoneridge Orchards for review purposes.  All recipe testing and opinions are my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche

Okay, drop whatever you are doing and go make this quiche for dinner!  It is the perfect sweet-savory combination with bacon, sauteed apples, and Cheddar cheese. I love adding Cheddar to my apple pie, and this is sort of like an ultra-creamy version of that...but you can eat it for dinner.  I love the olive oil crust -- it's way easier than a butter crust, and rolls out very quickly with no need to chill it in the fridge.  Overall, I was impressed with how easy this recipe was...no, it's not a 30-minute-meal, but it doesn't feel overly difficult for a weeknight and all the components come together quickly. You could also substitute store-bought pie crust to speed things up even more.  Definitely stash leftovers in the fridge--the quiche is fantastic cold for lunch the next day.

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche
Serves 6-8

Olive oil dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs

For the filling:
4 ounces bacon, cut into small squares
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
1 T flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 pinches ground white pepper

1. Make the crust.  Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add the oil and eggs. Use a fork ot beat the oil and eggs together, and then gradually draw in the dry ingredients a bit at a time until the dough starts to hold together.
2. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surgace, and fold the dough over itself 4 or 5 minutes until smooth.  
3. Roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches across.  Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan and fit into the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge.
4. Set a rack at the lowest level in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees.
5. Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon, and cook, stirring often, until it is nicely browned but not super-crisp.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
6. Drain off some of the bacon fat, and then add the apples to the skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
7. In a small bowl, toss together the cheese and flour.
8. Remove the tart crust from the fridge.  Scatter the bacon over the bottom of the crust, and then top with the apples.  Scatter the cheese over the apples.
9. Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cheese.
10. Place the tart in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 375 degrees.  Bake until the filling is set and nicely browned, 30-40 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes in the pan before serving.

I was sent a complimentary copy of Nick Malgieri's Pastry to review.  All recipe-testing and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thai Steamed Fish

I am always looking for fun new ways to prepare fish, and this recipe fit the bill.  It's quick to make -- just chopping a few veggies, making a quick sauce, and popping everything in the oven -- and extra quick to clean up since the fish is baked in a foil packet.  I also like that the veggies cook right alongside the fish so everything is ready to go.  I found the sauce to be pretty mild -- that's not a bad thing, but next time I would probably add more lime juice and maybe a drizzle of coconut milk.  I served the fish over coconut rice (recipe linked below), but it would also be good on its own or with rice noodles.

Thai Steamed Fish (adapted from Budget Bytes)
Serves 4 as a light meal

1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
1 pound perch fillets (or substitute another mild white fish)
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T honey
Pinch of Aleppo chile flakes or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
Coconut rice, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tear off two large piece of foil and place side-by-side on a large baking sheet.
2. Divide the peppers and zucchini between the two pieces of foil, and arrange the perch on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, honey, chile flakes, and lime juice.  Drizzle half the sauce over each packet.
4. Fold over the foil so the fish is completely covered, and then pinch together the edges to seal. Make sure to leave a little air inside the packets for steam.
5. Bake 20 minutes. 
6. To serve, spoon coconut rice into four bowls.  Divide the packets among the bowls, and pour any juices/sauce remaining in the packets on top.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs

Now, before I give you this recipe I will say that my mom's sugar cookie recipe is my all-time favorite.  But, we found ourselves with a hankering for cookies and didn't have any Crisco, which my mom's recipe requires.  I found this all-butter recipe from Bon Appetit that is almost as good!  I would definitely recommend it if you don't prefer to use Crisco or just don't have any on hand.  The cookies are thin, crispy, sweet, and will definitely put you in a Christmas mood.  The dough is a little sticky when rolling out, but the cookies held their shape well in the oven.  We went with super bright frosting, but you can decorate these any way you like. Cue the Christmas carols, turn on the lights, and enjoy some cookies!

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes 2-3 dozen

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on high sweet, beat the butter and sugar until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat until just combined.  Add the dry ingredients, and stir a few times with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer on low speed and mix until just combined.
3. Divide the dough into two disks, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least 2 hours.
4. When ready to bake, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
5. Let one disk of dough sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, and then roll out on lightly floured parchment until 1/4-inch thick (or even thinner -- I love thin cookies!).  Cut out shapes and transfer to cookie sheets.
6. Bake 10-15 minutes, depending on size -- check them frequently as they can go from underbaked to burnt in just a minute or two.  Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Cool on wire racks and frost with your favorite icing (I combine powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla, to make mine).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding is total comfort food to me.  Last month, Tim was sick and so I made this pudding to help him feel better.  It's very easy to make, and I like it because the eggs are cooked, making it a good choice for kids or anyone feeling under the weather who doesn't want to take the risk on food poisoning.  It's chocolate-y without being over-the-top decadent...basically the perfect bowl of warm pudding to warm you up and heal whatever ails you.  Leftovers are also really delicious chilled.

Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Recipe Girl, original recipe here)
Serves 6

2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
5 ounces chocolate chips
Generous pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and salt.  Whisk over medium heat until the chocolate melts and the mixture is hot but not boiling.  Gradually whisk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly, until all the chocolate mixture is incorporated.  Whisk briskly for a minute or so, and then return to the saucepan.
3. Continue to whisk over medium heat until the pudding is thickened, 12-15 minutes.  (The pudding will be smoother if you whisk constantly, but if you're a multitasker like me, you can get away with whisking vigorously every minute or so...if things get too lumpy, use a rubber spatula to strain the pudding through a mesh strainer.)
4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.  Serve warm, or pour into a storage container, top with plastic wrap (pushing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding), and chill until ready to serve.