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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Breakfast Recipes

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

LemonRicottaPancakes

Why are these the pancakes that you’ll be making the next time you make pancakes?

Because lemon and ricotta is a delicious combination. Because you know you want to make a batch of pancakes that are a little bit different than the the normal ones. Because it’s been too long since you actually made pancakes. Because milk and cereal is, and has been, quite boring. Because you KNOW they’re going to be delicious. And, most importantly … because I told you to.

Extra fluffy with a creamier center. The ricotta cheese adds depth of flavor while also keeping the cakes light and fluffy. The lemon adds a refreshing citrus component. Nothing overpowering. Just right balance of flavor.

You’ll love the next batch of pancakes you make … because you’ll be making these.

LemonRicottaPancakesLemonRicottaPancake5LemonRicottaPancake4LemonRicottaPancake3

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, ricotta, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and melted butter. Mix until combined.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.
  5. Coat your griddle or skillet with melted butter.
  6. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto buttered griddle or skillet and cook until bubbles begin to appear on surface and the bottom is golden brown. Then, flip and cook opposite side until golden brown. Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup (and bacon … duh!)

Note: If serving a crowd, you can keep pancakes warm by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a preheated 200 degree F oven.  Don’t stack warm pancakes or they will become limp and soggy. They’ll hold in the oven at 200 degrees F for about 10 minutes.

LemonRicottaPancake1

Appetizers

Last-Minute Appetizer Recipes To The Rescue

Looking for a last-minute appetizer to serve at your upcoming holiday party?  I’ve got you covered.

These recipes will keep your guests happy and make it seem like you are the ultimate hostess. Because you are!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

Baked Brie with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Thyme

Baked Brie

Cucumber, Whipped Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomato Bites

Cucumber, Whipped Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomato Bites

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Zucchini Ribbon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Zucchini Ribbon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Tzatziki Sauce

Side Dish Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

maple and harissa carrots 4

 

It’s an Autumn Saturday morning in Chicago. As I sit here and type this, I’ve already seen the weather go from dark and cold, to windy and pouring rain. Now, its slightly breezy and a lovely 70 degrees F and sunshine. Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, my fiance is a weather geek and it’s rubbed off on me. For another thing, I’m attempting to draw the correlation between this simple carrot recipe (three distinct flavor profiles), and the three stages of this mornings weather. For the last thing, I realize this is a lame analogy … I’ll do better next time.

Silly food – weather comparisons aside, this IS a delicious and lovely carrot recipe. A great combination of sweet and spicy with a slight smoky flavor from the cumin. So easy, even your significant other couldn’t screw it up.

I love buying carrots with the leafy tops still attached. Remove tops when you arrive home and store in an airtight plastic bag in your refrigerator. They will last much longer this way. You already know this, but it’s worth reiterating that grocery store pre bagged carrots have nothin’ on fresh farmers market carrots.

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Simple side dish is the name of the game here.  Cut carrots, toss with glaze, and roast away. Just make sure to bring an umbrella when you leave the house today.

maple and harissa carrots 2maple and harissa carrots 3maple and harissa carrots 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 6-8 large) carrots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp harissa chili paste, more if you like spicy
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Peel and trim off the ends of the carrots.  Cut into quarters, first crosswise, then lengthwise.
  3. Make glaze by combining the remainder of the ingredients.
  4. Toss carrots in glaze.
  5. Arrange carrots onto baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes. Flip/turn carrots 2 times during the cooking process.
Soup and Chili Recipes

Italian Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

(New Years day, 2013)  While watching his beloved Stanford Cardinal lose in the Rose Bowl, our friend declares, “this is the best soup I’ve ever had.”

(I can’t remember the specific below zero windchill day in the month of February, 2014)  My fiance came in from the cold to find this soup cooking. He consumed it. He smiled, then he DIDN’T complain about the weather.

(Two weeks ago) I was tense. I made this soup. I ate it. I relaxed.

This soup has powers. Powers that can change your state of mind. Make you forget about your team losing a big game. Make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, even on the worst of days. Make you involuntarily exhale an audible “Mmmmm” after your first spoonful. Make you relax away the days tension in your shoulders and jaw. Make you smile.

Doesn’t take long to make. Doesn’t take long for the robust aroma to permeate your kitchen. Doesn’t take long to realize … This soup is powerfully, comfortably, so very … good.

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale SoupItalian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cleaned, ribs removed and diced
  • 1 28oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 boxes fat free chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, left whole (I have a rosemary plant on my windowsill.  Rosemary can easily left out if you do not have it readily available)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 lb dried pasta (I used medium shells)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, plus more for garnish, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Additional chicken broth, if needed

Directions:

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes until no longer pink while breaking up the sausage into bite sized pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add onions, celery, carrots and red bell pepper, and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, beans, chicken broth, oregano, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  (Note: Cook the soup at this stage for as long as you can. Sometimes I let the soup simmer away for several hours.)  During the last 10 minutes of cook time, add kale and cook for 10 minutes. Remove rosemary stem and adjust seasoning for salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup pot, simmer for a few minutes, and ladle into bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley.

Note: If you plan to have leftover soup to eat later in the week, do not add the noodles to the soup pot. Instead, add 1/2 cup cooked pasta to individual bowls and ladle pipping hot soup on top. (When noodles are added straight to the pot, they will adsorb the broth and leftovers wouldn’t be much of a “soup” anymore.)

Salads, Vegetarian Recipes

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

I’m guilty of it. I’ll readily admit. I’m guilty of eating kale multiple days a week. I love it in my Fall Quinoa and Kale Salad, Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino, and Kale and Corn Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette.  All incredibly tasty, satisfying, and hearty. But just because kale can be tough and bitter doesn’t mean you have to “sneak” kale into a salad. Kale actually CAN be deliciously featured in a salad with just a few other ingredients. This is not “kale propaganda.” This is the truth!

By massaging the fibrous leaves, you bring out their sweetness and transform them into something tender and easier to digest.  Just chop up the kale, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and use your fingers to rub the oil into the leaves.  After a minute or two, the leaves will begin to wilt and shrink. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference. This salad benefits from being dressed about 15 minutes before it is served. The acid in the dressing helps to break down the kale even more and yields a more tender green.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Preparation for this salad is minimal.

Homemade croutons and salad dressing are always easy on the budget.

Simple. Inexpensive. Kale. Yum.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of day old french bread (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • A pinch of garlic powder
  • 2 bunches of Lacinato kale (about 8 cups), cleaned and dried
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • The juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: avocado and tomato

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place french bread on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through until bread is crusty. Remove bread from the oven and cool. Tear bread into small (1/2 inch) pieces and toss with the melted butter, salt, pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder. Bake breadcrumb croutons for another 5-10 minutes until golden. Set aside and cool.
  2. Remove stems from kale and slice into thin ribbons.  Don’t forget to massage your kale!
  3. Prepare salad dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  4. Toss together kale and half of the dressing.  Be sure to allow salad to sit for approx 15 minutes. Add additional dressing to your preference. Top with Parmesan cheese and croutons (and avocado and tomato if you desire).

Servings 4 (Serving Size: 2 cups)

Salads

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

I’m writing this at 2pm on Friday of Labor Day weekend. We’ve all mailed it in at this point, right? We’re done doing “actual’ work. So, in the spirit of Labor Day, I give you this fantastic dish. Ideal for a lazy summer weekend afternoon. Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken.  Vibrantly flavored, full of crisp vegetables, and easily adaptable. (Did I throw in enough buzz terms there?)

I made a vinaigrette packed with fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and a hint of heat from the chili paste. A subtle bit of spice. Just enough.  Soba noodles, often times labeled as buckwheat noodles, can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. They’ve got a distinct flavor and sweetness. I love ’em.

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Easily modified by using any variety of vegetables you have on hand.  Asparagus in your crisper drawer? Shave thin and toss it in (That was an unintentional rhyme). Bright and beautiful green beans at the farmers market? Quickly blanch along with the soba noodles during the last minute of cook time, then add ’em to the party.  Looking for a meatless meal? Simply leave the chicken out. You’re the boss.

Whip this dish together before fall flavors take over the market. Unique, delicious, and (obviously) a cinch to put together. Now, let’s get after this long weekend!

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced or fresh ginger paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 lb (2 large) boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine 2 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/2 tsp chili paste. Pulse until combined.  Pour sauce into a bowl, add toasted sesame seeds, and set aside.
  2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add chicken, season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown and just cooked through.  Add 1/3 of the sauce to the chicken, toss to coat, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Toss together noodles, cucumber, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, green onion, chicken, and another 1/3 of the sauce.  Add additional sauce if necessary.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Servings: 4