Salads, Sandwiches

Lebanese Lamb Kufta Kebabs and Tabbouleh Salad

Lebanese Lamb Kafta Kebabs and Tabbouleh Salad1 (2)

I grew up with a Lebanese Mother who loved to cook.  Her Lebanese feast ranks #1 on my “If I was stranded on a deserted island with one meal, what meal would it be?” list. So, with that in mind, go grab plenty of parsley and lamb and let’s get crackin’ on a few key components of that “#1 – stranded on an deserted island” meal.

(Side note: I just got an idea for a silly/cool drawing. Me on an empty tropical beach. A giant Lebanese feast sitting on a beach towel in front of me. Me smiling.)

I’ve tried many different tabbouleh recipes. Here’s my favorite, (meaning it’s obviously the best).  This refreshing parsley salad is made with bulgur wheat, fresh mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, and scallions. It’s dressed with a lemony vinaigrette. I prefer my tabbouleh salad heavier on the parsley and lighter on the mint.

Tabbouleh SaladTabbouleh Salad1Tabbouleh Salad2

For those unfamiliar, kufta refers to kebabs made with ground meat rather than cubed. In this dish, I’m showcasing the traditional Lebanese kufta recipe that my family makes at home. Extremely easy to prepare, it makes one hell of crowd pleasing dinner staple. I make it quite often. I prefer to stuff my kufta in a warm pita along with homemade tabbouleh salad, hummus or tzatziki (or both), red onion, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. I guess I also prefer to occasionally imagine myself eating this on a tiny tropical island.

Lebanese Lamb Kafta Kebabs and Tabbouleh Salad2Lebanese Lamb Kafta Kebabs and Tabbouleh Salad1 (2)Lebanese Lamb Kafta Kebabs and Tabbouleh Salad3

LAMB KUFTA KEBABS:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground lamb (or ground beef or chicken)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced (I use a garlic press)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, sometimes I also add fresh mint if I have on hand
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (leave out if you do not like spice)
  • 25 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Directions:

Mix the lamb, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and cayenne pepper in a bowl until combined. Be mindful not to over mix. Form the mixture into 25 balls. Form each ball around the tip of a skewer, flattening into a 2 -3 inch tube.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium heat, and lightly oil grate/pan. Cook the skewers 6-8 minutes rotating when necessary.

Serve in a pita (or on a bed of rice pilaf). Serve with tzatziki sauce and/or hummus, red onion, kalamata olives, feta cheese and tabbouleh salad (recipe below).

TABBOULEH SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I use a garlic press)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups flat-leaf parsley (2-3 bunches), finely chopped -remove stems and pulse in a food processor
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3-4 tomatoes on the vine, seeds removed and diced
  • 2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed and diced
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine water and bulgur in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce to simmer, and cover for 12 minutes (OR according to package directions).  If any water remains, drain. Transfer bulgur to a large bowl and let cool for 30 minutes.

Combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended. Add parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, and scallions to the bulgur wheat. Add the dressing and toss.

Note:  Sometimes I add 1 cup of chickpeas to the salad to bulk up the protein.  Tabbouleh is best served the same day it is made.

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Appetizers, Sandwiches

Smoked Trout Salad

Smoked Trout Salad

 

It’s been said before. It’s awfully true … Food is memories.

When I was growing up, many a Friday in the winter meant one thing to me.  Roooooad trip!  We’d get out of school at 2:30 pm.  By 3:00 pm, the car was packed and we were heading north.  Skis and snowboards on the roof. Duffel bags squished into every nook and cranny (usually a friend or two in tow).  On the way up, we would stop at this little gas station that sold the best locally smoked fish.  We typically stocked up on salmon, whitefish, and trout for the weekend.  I still remember the smell of the fish smoking in the parking lot.  I’ll never forget the laughter and excitement in the car as we reached our final destination.

I haven’t actually returned to that northern Michigan gas station in years.  However, I’ve found a famous local gem which “brings me back.”  Calumet Fisheries, located on the calumet river – south side of Chicago, hot smokes their fish on site using special oak logs.  This place deserves a visit if you live in the Chicago area.  Check it out.  I made a trip last weekend and stocked up on some of my favorites.  Smoked trout, salmon, and shrimp.  This fabulous smoked trout salad was a result of said trip.

Smoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout Salad

 

Almost comically easy to prepare – mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Add in the smoked trout, shallot, and celery, stir to combine and serve one of 2 ways:

  1. Loaded high on top of an open face bagel topped with fresh dill and thinly sliced cucumber
  2. Served as a dip along side homemade everything bagel chips and veggies

A new regular in my meal rotation. Delicious morning, noon or night.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for introducing smoked fish into my diet at a young age.  Food is, indeed, memories.  In this case, they’re both great.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb smoked trout, skin and bones removed, flaked (I yielded 1 3/4 cups flaked fish)
  • 2 small shallots (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Add trout, shallot, and celery. Stir to combine.
  3. Serve on a toasted bagel with thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh dill or with homemade everything bagel chips (recipe below) and cucumber coins.
  4. To make homemade everything bagel chips – thinly slice a bagel into 6 slices, spray both sides with olive oil spray and season with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.  Allow to completely cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  Worth the effort, trust me.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Smoked Trout Salad

Sandwiches, Seafood Recipes

Salmon Sliders with Dill and Caper Yogurt Sauce

Salmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt Sauce

 

Most of us are currently in the doldrums of winter.  It’s cold.  Perma-gray clouds are lingering.  We’re tediously wiping the pup’s paws after every walk.  (“tedious” is the best euphemism I could think of … it’s a family blog, after all.)  With all that said, I have to admit my inspiration for this fantastic dish.  It’s my recent return from a weekend in South Florida.  (Don’t be angry, fellow Northerners.  I won’t post pictures of the beach … yet.)

Here we go, with wonderful handheld salmon sliders.  What’s not to like about a small handheld sandwich on a mini brioche bun?  NOTHING.

This version is stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth wild salmon, tangy dill and caper yogurt sauce, thinly sliced red onion, cucumber, radish, creamy avocado, and crispy Romain lettuce. Harmonizing all these ingredients is the yogurt sauce.  Simply combine plain yogurt, capers, garlic, fresh dill, lemon zest and juice, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Then, allow the sauce to marinate when you prepare the remainder of the ingredients.  A little sandwich with a huge amount of flavor.

Salmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt SauceSalmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt SauceSalmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt SauceSalmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt SauceSalmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt Sauce

 

These sliders are ideal for game day, a cocktail party, or a family brunch.  Sandwich in one hand, cocktail in the other.  We’re all in sunny warm weather, as long as these sliders are on the menu.

Salmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt SauceSalmon Slider with Dill and Caper Yogurt Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt, I used Noosa yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 4 springs fresh dill, about 1 tbsp, chopped
  • The zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lb fresh salmon, I used wild sockeye salmon
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 4 leaves of Romain lettuce, torn into pieces to fit the size of slider bun
  • 6 brioche slider buns, toasted (Note: A good bun makes the sandwich, so check out your local bakery for fresh options.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, capers, garlic, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. If you haven’t already done so, prepare your slider toppings – red onion, cucumber, radish, avocado and lettuce.
  3. Next, prepare your salmon.  You can ask your butcher to remove the skin when you purchase the fish, or follow these instructions.  Cut salmon into 6 equal pieces, roughly the size of your slider buns.  Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat a large pan over medium high heat, add oil, and sear salmon for 2-3 minutes per side.  I like my salmon slightly pink in the center.
  4. Next, assemble sliders.  (Note: Always use lettuce to protect bun from sauce.  Assemble as follows – bottom bun, lettuce, caper and dill yogurt sauce, salmon, cucumber, radish, avocado, top bun.)
  5. Consume immediately!

Servings: 2-3 (Serving size 2-3 sliders)

Note: Recipe easily doubled to serve a crowd. You will have plenty of caper and dill yogurt sauce left over.  If you double the recipe, no need to double the sauce.

* Thank you Noosa Yoghurt for the incredibly delicious yogurt used in this recipe. It’s tangy, thick, velvety, and ideal for a sauce.  I used their plain yoghurt in this particular recipe. Their flavored varieties must be mentioned as well.  A simple combination of plain yoghurt and a fresh fruit puree.  Noosa yogurt is a welcomed addition to my refrigerator!

Plain-Salmon-Sliders-with-Dill-Caper-Yoghurt-Sauce-Emily-Always-Cooks

Crock Pot Recipes, Main Course Recipes, Sandwiches

Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sliders with Classic Buttermilk Coleslaw

Crock Pot Pulled Pork with Buttermilk Coleslaw

 

With August approaching and temperatures rising, I’m getting use out of my crock pot.  Sound like a strange concept? Allow me to explain.

The galley kitchen in my apartment heats up quickly when I’m using the oven.  My solution to this issue is simple. Get porky perfection simmering away on the counter top!  This results in my kitchen staying cool, my apartment permeating with sweet pork aromas, and summer on a bun awaiting my taste buds.

My pulled pork starts with a luxurious sauce.  A great balance of smoke, sweetness, and spice … in harmony with a slight tang from the apple cider vinegar.  Oh, how the pork cooks away in this smokey-sweet-spicy-tangy luxury.  The sauce seasons the pork.  The pork infuses the sauce with its juices.  After cooking time is up, the pork is falling off the bone and liquid gold is begging to be reduced and tossed with the finished product.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork with Buttermilk ColeslawCrock Pot Pulled Pork with Buttermilk Coleslaw

 

The beautiful color and crunch in this sandwich comes from delicious coleslaw.  My advice for the slaw is to shred the cabbage and carrot yourself.  Don’t mess with the pre shredded bag of coleslaw from the grocery store.  This little extra bit of effort put into the slaw makes an incredible difference.  Creamy but not overly saturated, tangy, and very fresh. This slaw marries beautifully and deliciously with the pulled pork.

Buttermilk ColeslawClassic Buttermilk Coleslaw

 

Look at these pictures. You know you’re ready for summertime crock potting.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork with Buttermilk ColeslawCrock Pot Pulled Pork with Buttermilk Coleslaw

 

Pulled Pork Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you want it spicy)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder, cut into pieces to fit into your crock pot
  • 20 slider buns

Buttermilk Coleslaw Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (I used a mandolin)
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (I used a mandolin)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 5 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a 6-quart slow cooker, stir together onion, garlic, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, smoked paprika, and crushed red pepper flakes.
  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add oil.  Season the pork with the salt and pepper. Add pork to the skillet and sear for 4-5 minutes on each side until a nice crust forms.
  1. Add pork to the slow cooker, turning to coat completely with the sauce.  Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, or until pork is very tender.
  1. Remove the pork from the crock pot and transfer to a cutting board.  Remove and discard the bone and fat cap. Using 2 forks, shred the pork (I like to leave some small chunks to add a bit of texture to the final product).  Remove and discard any additional fat you discover while shredding.
  1. Transfer the sauce and cooking liquid from the crock pot to a medium stovetop pot.  Allow the sauce to settle for a minute and skim any grease off the top of the sauce.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat and allow sauce to reduce by half.  This should take about 20 minutes.  While the sauce is simmering, skim any additional grease off the top.  Once sauce is fully reduced and skimmed, add the meat to the pot and toss to allow the pork to soak up the yummy sauce.  At this point, the pork is ready to serve.  You could also transfer the pulled pork back to the crock pot on the “keep warm” setting until you are ready to serve.
  1. Meanwhile, prepare the buttermilk coleslaw.  Combine green cabbage, red cabbage, carrot and spring onion in a large bowl.  Combine buttermilk, mayonnaise, garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper in a separate bowl; mix well.  Toss the coleslaw mixture with the dressing.  (Note: I did not use all of the dressing; add only as much as you need to lightly coat the coleslaw.)  You can prepare the coleslaw mixture and dressing several hours before serving the sliders.  Keep refrigerated separately.  Coleslaw should be tossed with the dressing just before serving.
  1. Build your slider: Toast your buns, top with a generous amount of pulled pork and a scoop of coleslaw.  Hot sauce, extra bbq sauce, or pickles are optional.

Servings: 10 (Serving Size: 2 sliders)

 

Sandwiches

Pressed Italian Sandwich

Pressed Italian Sandwich

 

Food tastes better when eaten outdoors.  That’s just a universally known scientific fact.

Some of my fondest memories have involved food being enjoyed outdoors.  Whether gathered around my dad’s grill listening to the sizzle of his famous chicken or ribs, twirling spaghetti on the patio of my favorite restaurant, or the simple pleasure of a homemade sandwich and a glass of wine on a blanket in the park.

Pressed Italian Sandwich

 

This beautiful sandwich is absurdly easy to make.  Simple assembly of high-quality ingredients is the name of the game.  No cooking required. Start with a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread.  Ciabatta is crusty on the outside, and soft and pillowey on the inside.  A great sandwich bread.  Cut the ciabatta in half horizontally and slather both sides with homemade pesto.  Next, layer on salami, soppressata, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, asiago cheese, and fresh basil leaves.

Turning this delicious sandwich into a delicious PRESSED sandwich involves wrapping the whole loaf tightly with plastic wrap, and then weighing it down in the refrigerator overnight.  This compresses all the ingredients together and infuses the flavors.  The next day, trim the edges, wrap in parchment paper, and tie with a cute string (don’t ever skip that last step).  You now have a gorgeous, scrumptious, perfectly mess-free picnic/outdoor sandwich.  Fond food memories await.

Pressed Italian SandwichPressed Italian SandwichPressed Italian Sandwich

〈 These boys gobbled them right up! 〉

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 cup homemade pesto, you can use store-bought if you would like
  • 8 slices of salami*
  • 8 slices of soppressata*
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained, and sliced
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 8 thin slices of provolone cheese
  • 8 thin slices of asiago cheese
  • 12 basil leaves

*My slices were very large, if you are using smaller slices, double the amount.

Directions: Slather pesto on both sides of the bread.  Lightly coat the bottom half to prevent the bread from becoming soggy.  Using the bottom half as the base, build the sandwich by layering salami, soppressata, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, provolone cheese, asiago cheese, and fresh basil leaves.  Top the sandwich with the upper half of the ciabatta.  Tightly wrap the sandwich in saran wrap.  Place on a tray large enough to hold the sandwich, (I used a cookie sheet).  Place cookie sheet in the refrigerator and weigh it town with a heavy object.  I used a large cast iron grill pan topped with a dutch oven.  Allow sandwich to compress overnight.  The following day, remove sandwich from the refrigerator and cut off about 1/2 inch of sandwich from all sides.  I cut the edges while the sandwich was still wrapped in the saran wrap.  This kept the sandwich together while cutting.  Cut whole sandwich into 4 separate/evenly sized large sandwiches, or 8 small sandwiches.  Wrap in parchment paper, and tie with a cute string.  Refrigerate until you are ready to pack up your picnic or serve the sandwiches.

Salads, Sandwiches

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

 

Chicken salad is so subjective.  Everyone thinks of something a little different when they hear those two words. Everyone has their favorite way to prepare it.  I wouldn’t dare claim this recipe as “the best” or “the greatest.”  I’ll be political here.  What I will tell you?  This is the way I like it (so, obviously it IS the best and greatest).

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon DressingChicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon DressingChicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

 

Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market, or use leftover chicken.  Either option works well.  I like the substantial crunch the celery and almonds provide.  I like the little kick of sweetness from the grapes.  And I love the tarragon. Tarragon is a must!  Preparing chicken salad “the classic way”… that’s how I roll.

I eat this for lunch or a no-cook-dinner on a hot summer evening.  Serve on a bed of lettuce, in these cute Endive boats, as an open face sandwich on a piece of toasted multigrain bread, or straight out of the bowl with the serving spoon.  Greatness awaits.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or 3 large cooked chicken breasts), skin and bones removed and meat shredded or cubed into medium sized pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced-fat)
  • 1/3 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • Zest from a whole lemon
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice from 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup whole raw almonds, toasted and chopped (you could also use slivered almonds)

Directions:

Combine chicken, celery, green onions, parsley, and grapes in a large bowl.  Toss to combine and reserve.

In a medium bowl combine mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Blend well. Adjust seasoning to taste.  Add dressing to the reserved salad.  (Note: You may not want to use all of the dressing.  Use your preferred amount depending on how saturated you take your salad and how large your chicken was.)

Toss salad and dressing to combine.  Add almonds, toss again, and serve.

Servings: 6 (Serving size: about 1 cup)

Thank you California Endive Farms for the beautiful  shipment of endive!  The slightly bitter flavor and crunchy texture of the endive leaves play very well with this chicken salad recipe.  Absolutely delicious!

Sandwiches

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Cream Sauce

 

So, here’s what I did with the leftovers from my Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef.  The obvious move is to pile these delicious leftovers on a sandwich.  Just a few simple steps will give you this top notch deli style sandwich…right at home.

Roast beef, lettuce, and horseradish cream sauce placed beautify (yes, it’s a thing of beauty) between a toasted demi baguette.  The horseradish cream sauce is thick, creamy, and spicy.  Adjust the amount of horseradish in the recipe to suit your preference.  I like mine to pack a punch!

Add kettle chips and a pickle along side to complete the delicious home deli sandwich experience.

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Cream Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 demi baguette, sliced in half, or your choice of bread
  • 3 pieces of romain lettuce, washed, and torn into pieces
  • 3 tbsp horseradish cream sauce, recipe below
  • Several slices of Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef

Directions:

Toast demi baguette, or your bread of choice.  Slather bread with horseradish cream sauce, top with crisp lettuce, and thin slices of Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef.  Serve with extra horseradish cream sauce on side.

Horseradish Cream Sauce:  In a food processor or blender, combine 3/4 cup light sour cream, 1-2 tbsp prepared horseradish (depending on your taste, start with 1 tbsp and gradually add more), 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, freshly cracked black pepper.  Pulse until well incorporated and smooth.

Note: Horseradish cream sauce will last up to 3 days in your refrigerator.