Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Juicy Lamb Slider Lettuce Wraps

A week ago Roy and I were in beautiful sunny southern California visiting Jenn.  I love to go to the restaurants there because it's easy to find one right on the beach and most of them have outdoor seating.  If there is a sight evening chill to the air, it doesn't matter because fire pits on the patio are big out there. On the night before we left she took us to one she called the best kept secret around.  It's in an area that's not as trendy but the view of the ocean was terrific.  We got a great table out on the deck and watched the surfers riding the waves as the sun went down. I ordered the lamb sliders which were dressed up in a hot and sweet little sauce. They weren't bad, but we all commented on wouldn't it be nice if they were just served with good old tzatziki sauce... So, when I got home, I had to make lamb sliders and see what I could do to make them really tasty.  Rubbing them with the lemon spice mixture makes a huge difference and I even added some of it to the yogurt sauce.  I pickled the red onions in vinegar for a few minutes to make it a bit more fancy.  Serving them as wraps with lettuce instead of a bun is a nod toward cutting back a bit after having a bit too much fun eating comfort food this winter.  They were so tasty, I didn't even miss the bread!

Ingredients for Four Lamb Slider Lettuce Wraps:

1 pound ground lamb
1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, put through a press (or 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon finely diced white onion
1/2 cup diced cucumber 
4 good sized Boston lettuce leaves
4 tomato slices
1/2 medium sized red onion
1/3 cup white vinegar
4 toothpicks if desired


Divide the ground lamb into four portions and fashion into patties.Squeeze the lemon and put the juice (about 1/4 cup) in a bowl. Add the garlic, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.  Set 1 tablespoon of the mixture aside and spoon the rest over both sides of the burgers. Rub the mixture into the meat. 

Grill over medium heat for six minutes per side. The internal temperature should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the burgers are cooking, thinly slice the red onion and place it in a bowl with the vinegar. Let it sit for at least five minutes or until ready to serve the slider lettuce wraps.

Spoon the Greek yogurt into a bowl and add the reserved 1 tablespoon of lemon spice mixture, the white onion, and the cucumber.  Stir to combine.

To assemble, place the burger on a lettuce leaf, top with a tomato slice, then the slice, and finally the red onion slices.  Secure with a toothpick if needed.

It's fun to put the lettuce, tomato, onions, sauce, and burgers out on platters and let people put together their own wraps.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jerked Chicken on Greens

I wish I could recall where I read it, (perhaps it was My Life in France), but I remember a phrase Julia Child wrote: "Those awful things called diets". Unfortunately I think it's time for one of those for me.  After an extremely long winter season, it's finally spring around here.  When it was so terribly cold, I'm afraid I loaded up on the comfort food just a bit too much. Now that it is warming up, I feel the need to shed a few pounds I picked up in the last few months.  My solution for this problem has always been to load up on salad.  The good news is that it still can be delicious, especially when the protein is seasoned well like this chicken, just remember to use the dressing in moderation. 

Ingredients for Four Servings:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, diced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded, membranes cut out, chopped
2 gloves garlic, put through a press
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups mixed greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, chard etc.
2 celery stalks
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 mango
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup tomato preserves or orange marmalade
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


 In a small food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the onion, Serrano pepper, garlic, ginger, paprika, thyme, fennel, salt, mustard, allspice, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Rinse the chicken breasts off and pat them dry with a paper towel. Slather them on both sides with the spice mixture. Allow them to sit for 20 minutes, then grill them about 6 minutes per side or until the juices run clear and they are no longer pink in the middle.

Meanwhile, rinse and pat or spin dry the mixed greens.  Using a vegetable peeler, make celery ribbons by running the peeler down the sides of the stalks. Cut the sugar snap peas length wise to reveal the seeds.

Dice the mango by slicing it on either side of the large, flat oval pit in the middle. Then quarter each half and either peel back the skin to cut or score the flesh and run a knife underneath to release the cubes.

Mix up the salad dressing by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, tomato preserves or orange marmalade, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. (For easy refrigerator tomato jam recipe click here.)

Divide the greens, celery, sugar snap peas, and mango among four plates. Place a sliced grilled chicken breast atop each serving.  Drizzle with the salad dressing and serve.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Refrigerator Old Fashioned Tomato Jam & What to Do With It

When I was a kid, my grandmother canned lots of different things.  I recall a couple of times when she visited and turned our kitchen into a hot, steamy factory. She and my mom preserved corn, beans, tomatoes, and the most wonderful cherry jelly.  One thing I really loved was her tomato jam.  It had a really distinctive tart/sweet flavor that I can still remember.  I never learned how to can and although I know it is safe when done correctly -  the whole full blown idea of boiling the glass jars in water and sealing them airtight was not something I wanted to spend my time on.  But, I wanted to see if I could duplicate my grandmother's tomato jam in some fashion.  This post is the result of my experimenting.  It's very easy and it tastes close to my memories!  Besides toast, it pairs up very well with spicy or salty ingredients in sandwiches, paninis, cheeses, and salads. 

Ingredients for 2 Cups of Tomato Jam

3 medium sized ripe tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice *see note in directions
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 thin lemon slices
2 thin orange slices 


There are a few different ways to get the tomato juice.  If you use canned, the resulting jam is a bit darker in color but still beautiful.  Or, you can take three additional tomatoes and mash/press them through a colander. You could also put the tomatoes in a food processor and then strain them to get the needed 2 cups of juice.
Pour the juice in a large pan along with the sugar. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bubbles look glassy and clear and the liquid has a thick, transparent quality.  (If you cut this recipe in half and only want to make 1 cup of jam - this time is also cut in half. It will only take 10 minutes for the liquid to be ready.

While the juice and sugar are boiling, core the tomatoes and cut them into eighths. If you haven't already, Thinly cut two lemon slices and two orange slices. Cut each slice in half.

When the tomato juice and sugar mixture is ready, add the tomato, orange, and lemon slices.

Turn the heat down to low and gently cook the jam for about at least an hour or more. Stir every so often with a wooden spoon.  It will be ready when the tomatoes are broken down and the mixture is translucent.  The orange and lemon skin will be visible but the flesh will have "melted" in the jam. Allow the mixture to cool and spoon it into a container.  Keep it refrigerated.  Since this is just refrigerated not processed, it will last a week - if you have any left by that time!

Serve it on hot, buttered toast or...

 A as a spread in a sandwich or panini...

It makes a fantastic salad dressing: 1/4 cup jam, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

And it takes a cheese plate up to a whole new level!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Piperade - Basque Base for Poached Eggs

This post is my variation on piperade, a traditional Basque dish.  I make it with different colored peppers and use a Serrano pepper for the heat instead of the customary Piment d'Espelette.  It's impressive looking enough for company but it is really just a humble affair - just some sliced and sauted vegetables. Of course everything is better with an egg on top and hopefully the video above will take away any fear about how to poach one. I also use piperade as a sauce for pizza, pasta, and Italian sausage by using 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes instead of the Serrano and adding  in 1/4 teaspoon each of oregano,  basil, rosemary, and fennel seeds.

Ingredients for Four Servings:

4 to 8 eggs: 1 or 2 per serving
1 onion
2 bell peppers:  I used 1/2 each of green, red, yellow, and orange
1 Serrano pepper  
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Core and dice the tomatoes.  Set the tomatoes aside.  Peel and slice the onion. Core, remove seeds and membranes, and slice the bell peppers. Discard the membrane and seeds from the Serrano peppers and dice.  Place the oil in a large pan or skillet and add all the bell peppers, Serrano pepper, and the onion. Over medium low heat, saute for about 8 to 10 minutes until the vegetable mixture are tender but not brown.  Peel the garlic clove, put it through a press or mince it finely.  Add it to the pan and continue to saute for another 30 seconds.  

Add the tomatoes to the sauted vegetable mixture. Over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, cook for about 10 minutes. The piperade is down when the tomatoes break down, most of the liquid has evaporated, and the mixture is thick. Transfer to serving dishes and top with poached eggs.