August 28, 2014
We recently got a new gas grill, which replaced an ancient double hand-me-down (it was handed down to us from someone who had it handed down to them). Our new one is also a hand-me-down, but much much newer, with no rust and *GASP!* it actually evenly cooks the food. The other bonus to the new one is I can use it! The old one had all these quirks, and it wasn’t easy to get started. I could do it, but not very easily, and definitely not on a weeknight with two crazy kids hanging on me. This new one is easier to use than the stove! So I’ve been grilling every other night…no pan to clean up, and the kitchen stays nice and cool. This is one of my favorite grilling recipes, an adaptation from the recipe magazine I use all summer long. It’s not as quick as some of them, and doesn’t take 30 minutes like the magazine says, but it’s still quick enough that I can do it on a weeknight. Plus, I kind of make it more complicated by doing veggie skewers for my vegetarian son along with it. The recipe calls for serving it along with grilled pita, but I usually also serve with grilled veggie skewers and a green salad.
Greek-Style Chicken Kebabs with Grilled Flatbread
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Fall 2010 edition
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 red onions, cut into 1″ chunks
4 pita bread rounds
1. Whisk yogurt, 2 tbsp oil, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in bowl. Toss oregano, cayenne, and chicken with half of yogurt mixture.
2. Thread four 12-inch skewers with chicken and onions. Grill over hot fire, turning skewers every 2 minutes, until onions and chicken are cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer skewers to platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Brush both sides of pita rounds with remaining oil and grill until lightly charred and warm, about 1 minute. Transfer to platter with chicken.
3. Toss cucumbers with remaining yogurt mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve with chicken and pita.
August 15, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I made this dish a year ago after seeing Romano green beans at the farmers market and fully intended to post this recipe then. But time got away from me it seems. Just last weekend, we were in Vermont to visit Randy’s brother and his professional gardener partner, Bill, for their wedding. It was non-stop eating and cooking out of the garden. Bill had an abundance of runner beans he wanted to find a use for and, shazam, it just so happens that I had a recipe. Plus, he had almost all of the ingredients right outside.
This is a delicious vegetarian “stew” that can be served as a side dish or as a main, as we did on the last night of our visit. It was a treat to have this lighter supper after feasting for three days although, speaking for myself, I sorta stuffed myself on this meal as well. :-) I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of this year’s version. In looking around at the various recipes, I learned that “ladera” means braised in olive oil, hence a larger quantity of oil than you might expect in a recipe like this. With all those recipes in mind and some advice from a Greek friend, I decided to make this dish as follows. It is HIGHLY adaptable, however, so have at it! Once finished, serve with slices of feta cheese and a nice crusty bread. A dry rose on the darker, richer side goes really well.
Margaux says . . .
I’ve been wanting to make this since my friend Beth from Tasty Yummies told me about it a few years ago. She even wrote a blog post about it after we talked about it, and I just completely forgot to make it! I’m kicking myself now for forgetting, and I’m very happy that Aunt Suzy brought it up again, because I TOTALLY love it. This is like comfort food, for summer. I will be making this often, I think. Beth’s recipe has beef or lamb in it, and I think that would be a nice way to try it when the weather gets cooler. Speaking of the weather, it worked out perfectly that I planned to make this when I did, because it got unseasonably cool here in Chicago, perfect weather for eating stew. I actually had to wear a lightweight sweater today! In August! So weird.
1 to 1 1/2 pounds runner beans (also called pole or Romano), ends snapped off and snapped in half if especially long
2-3 carrots, cut in half length-wise then sliced in 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 onions, sliced then each slice cut in quarters
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano
3-4 large round ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 large can diced tomatoes)
4-5 whole allspice berries, optional
1 cup of water
3 large potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks (if using russets, peel, if using white or gold, no need to peel)
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Warm the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When shimmering turn heat up to medium high and add the onions. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, till translucent, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and mint and all of the oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beans, the carrots, the tomatoes and allspice berries, if using, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and press all ingredients down into the juices so they are just covered. Cover the pot, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the potatoes and press all ingredients down into the juices again. Bring back to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. While the potatoes are cooking combine a few tablespoons of parsley, 2 tablespoons of mint and the minced garlic. When the dish is finished, stir this herb/garlic mixture into the pot. Turn into a serving bowl or just serve right out of the pot!
Aunt Suzy: The quantities of ingredients are what I would call guidelines. I’ve seen many recipes that use dill in addition to other herbs and many that use solely parsley. The oregano is my addition. I saw a couple of recipes that said “DO NOT forget to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon at the end”. I asked a Greek friend for advice, and he suggested the carrots and said he adds zucchini when he adds the potatoes (but had not heard of the cinnamon :-)). If you cannot find the flat, longer type of beans called for here, you can use “regular” green beans. I see runner beans occasionally here in the farmers markets, but have not seen in supermarkets in Minnesota. There are versions of this dish that include meat – beef, veal or lamb – but I really like this as a vegetarian meal.
Margaux: I added about a teaspoon of salt when I added the potatoes, because I really don’t like potatoes cooked without salt. Then I added pepper at the end with the herb/garlic mixture. Also, I used regular beans and it turned out great!
August 12, 2014
My aunt Judy lives in North Carolina, and my mom and I went to visit her several times through my childhood. One of the times we were there, I’m thinking when I was in junior high, she served this homemade lemon ice cream. That lemon ice cream stuck in my mind for YEARS…it was SO GOOD. Then on one of our more recent visits, she made it again, without me even suggesting it, and it was exactly as I had remembered. Creamy and tart, and so, so good. But I didn’t have an ice cream maker, so I wasn’t able to make it myself. I’ve always wanted an ice cream maker, though, with this ice cream in mind as one of the first things to make.
Well, this spring I found an ice cream maker at a thrift store…a vintage 1970’s Master Chef. And it works perfectly. I made vanilla ice cream first, just as a test run, and to serve with a chocolate cake I made. But I was dying to make the lemon ice cream. I emailed Aunt Judy for the recipe, and she sent it, along with it’s origins.
She first tasted the lemon ice cream at Maldaner’s Restaurant in Springfield, IL, when my Aunt Annie took her there when she was a teenager. Back then, they called it Lemon Creme Sherbet, and they claim it is based on a recipe from Mary Todd Lincoln. It obviously had the same influence on Judy as it did me, because she went home and tried to recreate it! She says this recipe has the same flavor and texture as the restaurant’s, as far as she can recollect. Now I kind of want to make a trip down to Springfield to check this place out, and taste the sherbet for myself!
I also thought this was really good in an old-fashioned ice cream soda! When I was a kid, whenever my dad took me to Dairy Queen, I would order an old-fashioned chocolate ice cream soda. It was my absolute favorite. They took it off the menu when I was a teenager, and I rarely see them on menus at ice cream shops. They should make a comeback, because they’re really good. My dad said that when he was a kid, there was an ice cream soda stand in Peoria, IL, that had every flavor you could imagine. I had some lemon flavored La Croix on hand, so I thought it would be fun to try a lemon ice cream soda. I’m sure it’s supposed to have lemon syrup in it as well, but to me this was perfect. Not to sweet, nice and tart and creamy, and the soda makes the best ice crystals with the ice cream. Just pour some soda water over ice cream and you’re set! Of course, I added some whipped cream, too.
Lemon Creme Sherbet
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/3 c. sugar
4 tsp. flour
1 1/3 c. half and half
1/3 c. milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1⁄2 c. milk
1⁄2 c. lemon juice
1 1⁄2 tsp. grated lemon rind
Beat egg and yolk in medium bowl until fluffy. Set aside. Mix next five ingredients in heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly till mixture thickens (10 – 15 min).
Slowly add small amount of hot mixture to eggs whisking thoroughly. Return this mixture to pan. Cook and stir 1 additional minute. Chill.
Add remaining milk and lemon juice. Mixture will be curdly. Process in ice cream maker, folding in lemon rind just before packing to freeze.
August 7, 2014
I grew up in a big salad-eating family. We ate a salad with every meal, and I loved it. Of course, it was iceberg lettuce, with shredded carrot and red cabbage on top, but I thought it was soooooo good. At my grandparent’s house I loved it because it was drenched in this dressing, which we called “Grandpa’s French.” I never knew where he got the recipe, or if he came up with it himself, and I had no idea what was in it other than oil, vinegar, paprika and a clove of garlic. So I was never able to recreate it. For years we ate salads with just plain oil and vinegar, or with Newman’s Italian (for a store-bought dressing, it’s pretty good). Then, right after I had Desmond, my Aunt Judy and mom somehow found this recipe in my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. If I remember this correctly (I was in the “new mom haze’), we all agreed that it sounded just like Grandpa’s French! So we made it. Lo and behold, it tasted like Grandpa’s French! Could it be? He got the recipe from a cookbook?? I always imagined that it was some culinary genius that he came up with on his own. But of course, it’s from Betty Crocker. That was my grandma’s cookbook. She was a “Betty Crocker” loyalist (vs. my Granny, who was in the “Better Homes and Gardens” camp).
I’ve been making this dressing for us ever since. We haven’t bought dressing in YEARS…once you know the formula for a good vinaigrette, there’s really no point in buying dressing. It’s 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (or citrus juice, like lemon or lime), and spices. Every once in awhile, I’ll make some other kind, but for the most part, we always have this in the cabinet (and yes, we keep it in the cabinet and not the fridge, just like my grandparents did). This dressing is always a hit with everyone that tries it…I’m constantly getting asked for the recipe. So I thought I should probably post it. I wish I had a photo of my son drinking it out of the bowl after he finishes his salad…he likes it THAT MUCH.
Grandpa Major’s French Dressing
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika (Grandpa used regular, but I like the flavor of smoked)
1 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, whole*
Place all ingredients in a jar or dressing bottle, place lid on it and shake until completely combined. It’s best to make it at least a few hours before using, even better the day before, so the flavors have a chance to infuse.
*I prefer putting a whole garlic clove in, rather than mincing it. My aunt minces it before putting it in. It’s your call…but, Grandpa put it in whole, for what it’s worth. :)
August 1, 2014
I love making frittatas for dinner in the summer. It’s a great way to use up random produce sitting in the fridge, it’s quick and easy, and it is best served at room temperature, which is great in summer. I got the idea for this one from Skinnytaste.com, except this isn’t the skinny version.
We don’t have tons of tomatoes and zucchinis like some people, because we unfortunately don’t have a garden. But I know that when you do grow those things, they are plentiful, so this is a great way to use it up. And the Asiago adds so much delicious flavor to this dish!
Zucchini and Tomato Frittata
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 medium zucchinis, cut into matchsticks
8 large eggs
3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil
salt and pepper
2 small garden tomatoes, sliced thinly
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together eggs with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and Asiago cheese. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a 10″ non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and turn up heat to medium-high. Saute until zucchini is soft, about 2 more minutes. Add egg mixture and let sit for a minute, then tilt the pan and loosen the edges with a spatula, letting uncooked egg slide underneath. Cook until the underside is golden but the top is still liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the top of the frittata, sprinkle a little salt on them, and transfer to a center rack of the preheated oven. Bake until the top is set, about 5 minutes. If the top doesn’t set in that amount of time, turn the broiler on high, move the rack to the top position, and broil until the top sets, about 1-2 minutes. Don’t overcook! Remove pan from oven and let cool to warm. Remove frittata from pan onto a large serving plate, or cut right in the pan and serve. I like to serve it at room temperature, but it’s also good warm.
July 31, 2014
I bought this recipe magazine on a whim 4 years ago while waiting in line at the supermarket, and it quickly became my most-used recipe book in the summer and fall. Every recipe I have made (and I have used almost all of them) have been fantastic. And they are super quick and easy. So, since I use this blog as my virtual recipe box and menu planner (along with Pinterest, of course), I thought I would post some of my favorites from the magazine, just in case someday it catches on fire from being too close to a burner, or accidentally gets dropped in the dishwater. Plus, you should try out these recipes, too! They’re great for a quick, easy and flavorful weeknight meal.
I’m starting with the steak and zucchini tostadas. I don’t make these as often because we really don’t eat steak all that much (small business owner budget), but I have made this substituting lentil taco filling for the steak and it is also pretty good. My favorite lentil taco filling recipe is sort of a mash-up of my own taco seasoning and the lentil taco recipe from Budget Bytes. Actually, I keep the lentil taco filling on hand in the freezer for whenever we have tacos, so I have it ready for my vegetarian son on taco nights. But I digress….try these tostadas on your next taco night, you won’t be sorry. Zucchini and steak is a great combo!
Steak and Zucchini Tostadas
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Fall 2010 edition
**To make this even quicker, you can buy already made tostada shells at the grocery store if your store carries them. Here in Chicago there are a couple of different local brands that make them, and you can find them in the “Mexican” aisle.
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
4 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
salt and pepper
1 small flank steak (or about 1 lb strip steak…I used that once because it’s what I had on hand)
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
1 recipe pico de gallo, for serving (recipe follows)
1. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of tortillas with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay tortillas in single layer on 2 baking sheets. Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating baking sheets and flipping tortillas halfway through, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat additional 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Cook beef until well browned and it registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil.
3. Add remaining oil and zucchini to skillet and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
4. Cut beef in half lengthwise, then very thinly slice beef crosswise against grain. Divide beef and zucchini equally among tostadas. Top with feta and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and pico de gallo.
Pico de Gallo
3 cored, seeded and diced plum tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalepenos, seeded and minced (leave more of the seeds for more heat)
juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
July 25, 2014
I was at the farmer’s market yesterday and saw that sour cherries are still available around here. I was surprised, because I know that sour cherries are only available for a short while…and we picked ours a month ago! But of course I wasn’t thinking about the fact that there are a few different varieties of them, and the ones available now are a darker red shade, but still just as sour. So, I wasn’t going to post this recipe because I thought the season was over, but we’re in luck around here! Grab some this weekend and bake these…I promise you won’t be sorry. The crust is heavenly, and I love hand pies because the crust to filling ratio is perfect. And these are a perfect dessert to bring to your friend’s BBQ! No serving hassle at all…just put them on a plate and watch them disappear.
Sour Cherry-Cream Cheese Hand Pies
adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe for rhubarb cream cheese hand pies
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. Gently stir in 3/4 cup buttermilk with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Using your hands, knead it just two or three times to form a ball. If it doesn’t come together, add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does, then gently knead again. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days or slip plastic-wrapped dough into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
The Cherry Filling:
1 lb. pitted sour cherries (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp instant tapioca
Place cherries and sugar in a medium saucepan with sugar and tapioca and stir to combine. Cover and cook at medium-low heat for 15 minutes, no need to stir. Increase the heat to medium, remove the lid and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until thick enough that if you run a spoon across the bottom of the pot, you can see a trench quickly form and disappear. Spread mixture on a large plate in the fridge or freezer to cool quickly, then scrape into a bowl. Keep cold until needed; it will be thicker and easier to “scoop” onto the pie bases.
The Cream Cheese Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
Beat cream cheese, sugar, zest, juice and yolk together in a small bowl with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Keep cold until needed.
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat your remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water and keep aside with a pastry brush.
Dust your counter or pastry mat with a lot of flour, unwrap the first half of your dough and start rolling your dough by pressing down lightly with the floured pin and moving it from the center out. Be patient about rolling, don’t press too hard, and it won’t crack as easily. Roll until 1/8″ thick. I cut mine into circles using a 3″ biscuit cutter, but you can also cut into 3″ squares using a pizza wheel or pastry cutter. You won’t have as much dough scraps left if you cut into squares, but I really wanted rounds. If doing rounds, you’ll have quite a bit of scraps, which you can form back into a ball, refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then re-roll and cut some more. It will make for slightly tougher crust on those, but I didn’t think it made that big of a difference. If your dough becomes soft, slide onto baking sheets and freeze for 15 minutes. It will make it easier to assemble.
Brush half the squares very, very lightly with the egg wash; these will be your bases. Cut a small vent in the other half of the squares; these will be your lids. In the center of each egg washed square, put a small dollop (a measured teaspoon) of cream cheese, then cherry filling on top. Don’t overfill! Top each filled base with a vented square. Press outer edge of top and bottom all around to seal with your fingertips or a fork. Transfer pie to a baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, including second half from fridge, and fillings (you will probably have some fillings left over…you can do what I did and re-roll the remaining scraps a third time and make a tiny little pie for someone who won’t mind tough pie crust, like my son. :) )
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden, and even more brown at edges. Transfer to cooling racks and cool to room temperature before serving.