Appetizers, Salads

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Bites

The first official weekend of summer is finally upon us. Take a deep breath and let the beauty of that first sentence sink in … aahhhhh.

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Now, cube watermelon, crumble feta cheese, tear mint leaves, and assemble this lovely and straightforward gem of a summer dish. Wonderful as an appetizer or a salad. If you’re making this into a salad, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss together.

These three ingredients blend perfectly. Summer. Easy. Beautiful. Simple. Delicious.

You can’t mess this up … unless you use pre crumbled feta cheese … NEVER use pre crumbled feta. (Emily Always Cooks PSA announcement.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 watermelon, rind discarded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz block feta cheese
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Place watermelon pieces onto a plate or platter.
  2. Sprinkle/top with feta cheese.
  3. Top with fresh mint.

 

 

 

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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.

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.

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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.
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

Appetizers, Salads

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-2

 

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder was right on.

The freshness of your ingredients – heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, fresh basil – make this simple salad so beautiful and delicious. Ideal for late summer gatherings with friends or family.  Pair with a good bottle of wine and fresh bread.

A simple post for a simple salad. I’d like to think Laura would wholeheartedly enjoy this. I’m certain you will.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-1Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese SaladHeirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-3

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 2 balls burrata cheese (8 ounces total), torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices.  Discard ends and season tomato slices with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange tomatoes on a platter, overlapping slightly.  Top with burrata and fresh basil.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Servings: 4 (side-dish) or 2 (main-dish with some crusty bread)