Tag Archives: dinner

Greek Burgers with Homemade Tzatziki

17 Jun

Today’s recipe is for Greek burgers with homemade tzatziki and pickled red onions.  Tzatziki is a yogurt-cucumber sauce that is tangy, crunchy and refreshing – the perfect compliment for the flavorful, spiced burgers.  I make my Greek burgers using a combination of turkey and lamb.  I like this because the lamb lends lots of flavor (truly giving it the “Greek” taste), whereas the turkey is leaner.  Turkey without lamb = lack of flavor; lamb without turkey = too fatty for my liking.  Of course, this is easily customizable and feel free to mix it up with any combination or turkey or lamb or even beef.

I served my burgers on homemade pita bread buns.  Yes, I was ambitious and made my own pita bread, but I wasn’t completely thrilled with the outcome.  They were delicious homemade rolls, but they weren’t particularly pita-ish… I still have yet to figure out the secret to making great homemade pita (and should maybe try a different recipe next time) – if anyone has any recommendations, I’d definitely love to hear them in the comments section!  While I made my own pita bread, I definitely think that store bought pita pockets would work perfectly as a carrier for these burgers, so don’t feel any pressure to make them from scratch!

Hopefully everyone is also noticing the lovely platter I served my burgers on.  The platter is a homemade pottery creation of my talented aunt, Donna Finney, owner of D.F.K. DESIGN.  From her Etsy site: “D.F.K. DESIGN offers hand-crafted pottery & bags imbued with the heart and soul of one who loves to create special pieces for everyday use. Each piece that I create is a unique item, whether thrown on the wheel, hand-built, sewn or hand-painted….each piece is one of kind. Surrounding yourself with items made with creativity, warmth and a bit of soul can have the power to change your home, your meals and your routine activities into something special.”

I definitely would encourage you to check out her Etsy site to see all the great things posted for sale there.  My favorite thing about these pottery pieces is that they are 1) beautiful (duh), 2) microwave safe, 3) dishwasher safe!! and 4) customizable.   They are as easy to use as my normal serveware in terms of care, but are extra special and beautiful.  If you have a special pattern or color or design in mind, she can customize to that (the platter below was custom).  These herb garden markers are so cute and would make a great gift.  I also love the size and color of these small appetizer plates.   Check back often as the stock changes periodically; and to keep up with new updates, check out her Facebook page.

Greek Burgers on Pita Bread with Homemade Tzatziki

Yield: 4 large burgers

Burgers:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 ounces feta
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper

Cucumber Tzatziki Sauce:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped (about 10 leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (1 container)

Pickled Red Onions:

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To Serve:

  • Pita bread
  • Sliced black olives, lettuce, tomato or extra mint leaves, all optional

Combine ingredients for cucumber tzatziki.  In a separate bowl, combine ingredients for pickled red onions.  The longer these two topping dishes can sit to “marinate”, the better.

Meanwhile, gently combine all ingredients for the burgers and form 4 patties.  The secret to extra tender and juicy burgers is just barely mixing the meat – be gentle and don’t over combine.

Grill until a meat thermometer registers 165ºF internal temperature or until cooked through.

To serve, place burgers on halved pita bread and top with cucumber sauce, pickled red onions, and any other toppings you want!

Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

29 Apr

As with take-out pizza versus homemade, there is also a time and a place for boxed mac and cheese and a time for homemade.  Is it bad to admit that I still enjoy the blue box variety?  I feel like that’s ok, since I appreciate the blue box kind for completely different reasons than a gourmet homemade version (namely nostalgia and the freedom to douse it in ketchup – which is probably gross to many people – oops).   Today’s recipe is for a “grown up” mac and cheese (with spinach and crispy fried shallots on top) – but really it’s just for a homemade variety – since the recipe is completely adaptable for all tastes and ages.

Once you know the basic process for making macaroni and cheese, the possibilities are endless.  This is a more classic version of macaroni and cheese, with cheddar and Gruyère (with spinach added to make me feel slightly less guilty about this indulgent dinner – and really, the cheese and pasta mellow out the spinachy taste – amen).  The crispy shallots (which to me are a more gourmet spin on French’s fried onions) add a lovely salty and tangy bite – don’t skip them – they really add that extra something.  But, like I said before, the possibilities are endless – you can use any combination of cheeses and/or veggies and/or meat you want (or use no veggies or meat at all!).  One of my personal favorites is using Pepper Jack cheese and tiny broccoli florets for a so-called “Mac and Jack” spicy macaroni and cheese.  Yum.

This is a quick version of macaroni and cheese, which skips any baking in the oven.  But you can certainly pour the macaroni into a baking dish, top with bread crumbs and/or cheese (and/or crispy shallots!) and bake until golden brown.  I can’t decide which method I like better – without baking, the sauce stays so luxuriously creamy and saucy; but when baked, the crunchy golden brown top is pretty delicious too.  I’m torn.

Mac and Cheese with Spinach and Crispy Shallots

Time: 25 minutes; Yield: 8 servings

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheese (I recommend a mix of aged sharp cheddar, Gruyère and/or Jack)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • Few grates of fresh nutmeg
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped finely (optional)
  • 1 pound cavatappi (hollow corkscrew shaped pasta), or any other noodle you like
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • Flour, to coat shallots
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to generously coat a saute pan
  • Salt and pepper

Making the Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the flour.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then add milk.  Bring to a boil (~8 min), then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened, whisking often to prevent burning.  Season with salt and pepper.  Once thickened, add the cheeses, mustard, Old Bay and nutmeg, whisking to combine.

Cooking Pasta and Spinach:  Boil pasta according to package directions.  When the pasta is ready, add the chopped spinach to the boiling water to blanch, then drain both the pasta and spinach (ensuring to get as much water out of the spinach as possible).

Crispy Shallots (aka grown up French’s fried onions):  While sauce and pasta are cooking, toss the thinly sliced shallots with enough flour to coat.  Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, add shallots, and cook until crispy and golden brown.  Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess oil.

Assembly:  When sauce is finished and pasta and spinach are cooked, pour sauce on top of pasta and spinach and toss to coat.  Don’t add all the sauce all at once, in case it’s too much (wait, is that possible?!).  Top with crispy fried shallots and serve immediately.

Isn’t it surprisingly easy to make homemade mac and cheese?  I think so :)  What other flavor combinations do you think would be good?  I’m thinking anything with bacon would be pretty amazing, but maybe that’s just me….

Recipe Review + An Easy Way to Cook Fish

12 Apr

Lately I haven’t had much time to come up with too many original recipes, plus I have been finding so many recipes I want to try in magazines and on Pinterest.  So I was thinking, I’d start a new sort of post here – Recipe Reviews.   I will post the recipe, a brief review of it, plus pictures of my adventures making it.  Then, like today, I’ll try to post suggestions or alterations that are possible from the recipe.

I have been meaning to write a post about easy ways to prepare fish for a while now, so the recipe for today just happened to be good timing.  The original recipe is from Everyday Food magazine  one of my personal favorites.  I always find the recipes in that magazine simple to prepare, yet flavorful and satisfying.  This recipe was no exception – with only 5 real ingredients – yet it was wonderfully flavorful (and super healthy!).  And, cooking fish in parchment paper or foil is one of my favorite techniques.  It steams the fish (and anything else you include in the foil or parchment packet, like vegetables), so it can be a really healthy way to prepare a meal relatively quickly.  I’ve shown below that I used parchment paper and foil and both worked equally as well.  I actually slightly prefer foil because 1) it’s easier to open and reclose to check if the fish is done and 2) it’s cheaper (ha – I really am frugal).

Here is the recipe, along with some additional instructions and pictures.  Below the recipe I’ve listed a few more ideas for different variations on this recipe (there must be an infinite number of combinations of fish and vegetables – so have fun with it!).

Ginger Orange Salmon in Parchment adapted slightly from Everyday Food Magazine (April 2012)

Yield: 2 servings; Time: 20 active + 20 inactive

  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 medium oranges, peeled and cut into rounds*
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin match sticks
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On two 16″ long piece of foil or parchment paper, place the spinach, followed by the salmon, orange zest, slices, ginger and shallots.  Season all with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Form packets: fold the long ends of the foil/parchment together and make a seem, then tuck the ends underneath to secure (technique is not as crucial as making sure they are tightly closed so the steam stays contained in the packet).

Place packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes.

Parchment or foil – either one works!

When nearing the end of cooking time, open the packets and check to see if the salmon is cooked through, resealing and returning to the oven for a minute or two if it needs more time.  Serve immediately.

*How to peel and segment or slice oranges:

Slice off both ends of the fruit.

Then, using a sharp knife, progressively cut thin strips of skin off, taking care to remove as little of the fruit as possible:

Then, you can either slice it into rounds, or individually cut each section out from the pith.

 

Variations to Try:

Whether you use parchment paper or aluminum foil, the possibilities are endless for this basic recipe.  You can get by with using very little fat, but the more butter or oil you use, the more delicious the results ;-).  I especially like using compound butters (softened butter mixed with any variety of herbs, garlic and seasoning you want).  Make sure to include enough citrus slices or vegetables to provide moisture to help the fish steam, to ensure a moist result.

The type of fish you use can also be changed easily too.  Depending on the thickness and how delicate the fish is, I would recommend trying out oven temperatures between 375 and 400 degrees, with cook times between 12 and 20 minutes.  This will also depend on how much other “stuff” you include in the packets.

  • Salmon with lemon/dill butter plus julienned yellow squash and finely diced tomatoes
  • Tilapia (or sole or flounder or halibut) with lemon slices, lemon juice, butter, garlic and asparagus
  • Salmon with thinly sliced fennel or leeks, plus a little white wine, herbs and butter
  • Halibut (or other white fish) with sliced baby bok choy and carrots, with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil

Goat Cheese, Chicken and Asparagus Fettuccine

26 Mar

 I can’t believe I’m still posting chicken recipes from my one day of cooking, where I made lots of chicken stock (and shredded chicken), then turned it into soup, this pasta and Buffalo-style chicken salad.   I swear this is the end of the chicken recipes… for now!  But in the meantime, this is a pretty delicious and simple recipe to use leftover chicken.  It’s creamy and tangy from the goat cheese.  And, it’s perfect for spring time, since asparagus is now at its prime.

The cream sauce for this pasta is made from a roux, milk and goat cheese.  It’s deliciously creamy, without the cream.  A roux is a mixture of melted butter and flour, combined in equal parts (in this recipe, 1 tablespoon each), which is used to thicken sauces.  Knowing how to make a roux is a great technique to have in your repertoire so you can make cream sauces at any time, for things like this, or homemade macaroni and cheese :).

Goat Cheese, Chicken and Asparagus Fettuccine

Time: 20 min, Yield: 2 servings

  • 6 ounces fettuccine
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • 1 cup shredded, cooked chicken (leftover and reheated or from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1.5 cups low-fat milk
  • 4-6 ounces goat cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling water.  While pasta is cooking and water is boiling, drop the asparagus into the same pot to blanch, until tender-crisp, 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add flour and whisk until smooth, 30 seconds.  Whisk in the milk and simmer gently, until it starts to thicken, stirring often.  Whisk in the goat cheese until smooth.  If sauce is too thick, add more milk.  If sauce is too thin, add more cheese.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and asparagus, and toss with chicken and enough cream sauce to coat.  Top with fresh tarragon and serve.

Farfalle with Brie, mushrooms and arugula

18 Jan

If there was only one food I could eat for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose Brie.  Or bagels.  Or enchiladas.  Or chocolate chip cookies.  Anyway, that’s besides the point.

I love Brie, but I definitely feel like there are not enough opportunities for me to eat it.  Picnics (Brie and a baguette and a plastic knife = a struggle I have had more times than I care to share) and holiday parties (puff pastry wrapped baked Brie.. so greasy, so delicious, amen) are just not frequent enough to fulfill my Brie quota.

ANYWAY, I made this pasta, originally from Real Simple Magazine.  It’s pasta with melted Brie, sauteed onion and mushrooms and wilted arugula.  I made this as a quick and easy lunch for one, so I like that this recipe comes together quickly and that you can very easily adjust the amount you make (you will have some leftover mushrooms or red onions this way, but those can be used in so many ways – stir fry, omlettes, salads, etc so I don’t mind having extras in my fridge.).

The mix of the creamy, rich Brie and the mushrooms which soak up all the wine flavor was pretty delicious.  And the peppery arugula adds a nice freshness and color.  In general I’d say this recipe is pretty yummy, but definitely not over-flavorful, just mild and subtle.  So make sure to season the pasta water generously with salt before cooking the pasta, and be generous with the salt and pepper when cooking the mushrooms and onions.   Also, use a good wine, because the flavor really gets soaked up by the mushrooms.  I actually used vermouth instead of wine, because I didn’t want to open a whole bottle for the recipe.  I keep vermouth in my fridge all the time (it keeps, opened, for months) as a substitute for wine for recipes or for martinis ;-).    If you really want to jazz this recipe up, and aren’t a vegetarian, I bet adding some proscuitto or pancetta would be pretty awesome in it too.

Farfalle with Brie, mushrooms and arugula  recipe from Real Simple Magazine

Time: 20 min, Yield: 4 servings

  • 12 ounces farfalle (or any shape pasta you like!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mushrooms, quartered (I used baby bella)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces Brie, cut into 1/2″ cubes, most of the rind removed (but you don’t wanna lose too much of the Brie! That would be tragic)
  • 4 cups baby arugula

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining (using the starchy pasta water to help make a sauce is a great trick).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.   Add the mushrooms and onion and cook, tossing occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the wine, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the Brie and reserved cooking water until the pasta is coated.  Stir in the mushroom mixture and arugula and serve.