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

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

Main Course Recipes

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Time to talk lamb shanks?  Why, yes. Yes it is.

From the lower section of the leg, lamb shanks are a full-flavored cut of meat.  They do, however, require a bit of love and attention to bring out their full potential.  These shanks are first browned in veg oil.  This gives them color while enhancing their rich flavor.  Then, the’re slowly braised in a flavorful and aromatic liquid.  This braising method breaks down the connective tissue and … (culinary cliche alert) …  yields fall-off-the-bone tenderness.
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Now, let’s talk about the hot tub for the shanks.  Or, the “baaaa-th tub.” (I couldn’t resist).  All feeble-minded lamb jokes aside, I’m referring to the braising liquid.
Onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and tomato paste are caramelized in the drippings from the browning process.  They’re then combined with red wine, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.  THEN … brought to a boil.  The shanks are returned to the pot (tub) and placed into the oven. Three hours later, it’s feast time.  I paired these lamb shanks with dreamy Parmesan polenta and mushrooms.  Glamorous!
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Make plenty, as leftovers can be transformed into another meal that shines.  Shred left over lamb , combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
Leftovers
Ingredients:
  • 2 1.5lb lamb shanks
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes in juice, I prefer low sodium
  • 2 cups low sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup water (or more if needed)
  • 15-20 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled together with butchers twine
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Allow lamb shanks to come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Trim off any excess fat, cut an inch off the end to expose the bone marrow, and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Heat large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and sear lamb shanks on all sides until nicely browned.  Remove lamb shanks and set aside.
  4. Drain excess fat from the dutch oven, leaving about 1/2 tbsp.  Drop heat to medium and add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook for 15 minutes until vegetables are nicely caramelized.  Add a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper to season.  Add garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir into vegetables to coat. Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes to caramelize and develop the tomato flavor.  This is an important step. Don’t skimp on caramelizing the tomato paste as it adds a lovely depth of flavor to the dish.
  6. Add red wine and scrape down any brown bits that have developed on the bottom and sides of the pot.  Add chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and water.  Stir well and increase heat to medium-high to bring to a low boil.  Add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir well.  Return lamb shanks to the pot.  If the liquid level does not come to the top of the lamb shanks, add additional water.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  (Note, if you did not use low sodium stock no need to season with salt, the stock will contain enough salt to season the dish.)
  7. Place lid on dutch oven and put in the preheated oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours, basting and rotating lamb shanks 2-3 times throughout the cooking process.  Remove lid and cook an additional 30 minutes to concentrate the cooking liquid.
  8. At this point, start your parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  9. Remove lamb shanks to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Place the dutch oven on the stove-top over low heat. Remove thyme bundle and bay leaves, and skim off any grease that has gathered on the surface (I removed about 3 tbsp).
  10. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.
  11. Spoon about 2 cups of sauce over lamb shanks and serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  12. You can serve the lamb shanks 2 ways – remove excess fat from the shanks, discard, and serve chunks of lamb mixed with the sauce (like a ragu). OR -serve each person an entire lamb shank to pick at themselves.  Both ways are equally as good 🙂  ALWAYS serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  13. Top plated dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Servings: 2-4

Note: If you are serving a crowd, there will be enough sauce for 4-6 lamb shanks – no need to double the sauce if you cook additional lamb shanks.  Just make sure your dutch oven is large enough, or cook in 2 pots.

Leftovers: Shred left over lamb shanks, combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Leftovers

Main Course Recipes

Sticky Bourbon Chicken and Broccoli

Sticky Bourbon Chicken and Broccoli

 

Take-out-fake-out!

Unlike my last post, I can’t claim to have coined the above phrase.  I can claim a wonderful recipe worthy of staying home in your cozies, and far better than your local take out.  I can also claim a sauce that you’ll quickly become addicted to.  Let’s roll.

Sticky Bourbon Chicken and BroccoliSticky Bourbon Chicken and BroccoliSticky Bourbon Chicken and Broccoli

 

This bourbon chicken and broccoli is served over hot steaming basmati rice and topped with sliced green onions. Putting this dish over the top is the sticky, tangy, syrupy bourbon sauce.  I don’t want to use an exhausted cliche TV food host phrase, saying  ‘you could put this sauce on my shoe and I would eat it!’ … but I would.  This meal does require a little pre planning, the longer you can marinate the chicken the tastier it will be.

C’mon.  Place an order to your own kitchen to stay in.  Always worth it.

Sticky Bourbon Chicken and BroccoliSticky Bourbon Chicken and BroccoliSticky Bourbon Chicken and Broccoli

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, I used Four Roses Bourbon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, sliced into 3 coins
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4-5 green onions, cut into thirds or sliced
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water (this is called a slurry)
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup uncooked basmati rice

Directions:

  1. Combine the soy sauce, oil, vinegar, bourbon, and brown sugar in a baking dish (casserole dish with high sides). Whisk until combined.  Add chicken, ginger, garlic, and 3 green onions that have been cut into thirds.  Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Remove the chicken from refrigerator and let come to room temp when preheating the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Uncover the chicken and bake directly in the marinade for 40 minutes, rotating the chicken half way through to ensure pieces are baking in the sauce on both sides.
  3. Remove chicken from oven.  Discard the ginger and garlic.  Strain the liquids into a small saucepan.
  4. Heat saucepan over medium heat until a slow boil is reached.  Slowly add slurry to saucepan and whisk until incorporated.  Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until reduced and thickened.
  5. Meanwhile, steam broccoli and cook rice according to package directions.
  6. Return chicken to the oven and broil on low for 5-8 minutes to caramelize, rotating pieces half way through.  You can do this right in the same casserole dish.  Watch closely, as all broilers cook at different heat.  Do not burn your chicken!
  7. Remove chicken from oven, toss with steamed broccoli and half of the reduced sauce.  Add additional sauce to your preference.
  8. Serve over white rice and top with sliced green onion.

Servings: 6

Note:  Cooking alcohol in a pan over medium heat or when in the oven will reduce most of the alcohol through evaporation, but not all.  Do be aware, if you are serving children.

Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

Thank you Four Roses Bourbon for sponsoring this post.

Soup and Chili Recipes

Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup with Homemade Turkey Stock

 

Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup with Homemade Stock

 

Of all the life lessons I was taught, this is one of the most important.

Never throw away the bones and carcass from the Thanksgiving turkey.

I prefer to make my stock on Thanksgiving night.  Turkey bones, veggies, and aromatics are placed in a stockpot.  Simply covered in water, brought to a simmer, and left to work their magic.

If you aren’t going to make the stock immediately, put everything into a zip-lock bag.  Keep that bag in the refrigerator for a couple days.  While your relaxing and listening to holiday music, throw the contents of the bag in the pot.  Let it simmer away.  Easy peasy.

Soup is always made with my homemade stock.  Onion, carrots, celery, garlic, fresh herbs, turkey, and noodles.  Add a squeeze of fresh lemon, or a pinch of parmesan cheese to the finished product.  Healthy, hearty, and soul warming.  The best use of leftovers.  Adhere to the delicious life lessons.

Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup with Homemade Stock

 

Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, left whole
  • 2 quarts homemade turkey stock, recipe below  (Note: You can supplement with store bought stock if you do not have enough homemade.  You can solely use store bought stock, if needed.)
  • 2 cups shredded turkey (Note: Use the turkey you reserved after making the stock.  If you do not have 2 full cups, supplement with leftover turkey.)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Noodles, for serving
  • Fresh parsley, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for 10 minutes until onions begin to look translucent.  Add garlic and cook 2-3 additional minutes.
  2. Add bay leaf, rosemary sprig, and turkey stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  At this point, you want to taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you see fit.
  3. Add turkey and fresh parsley and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles.  (Note: I do not like to add my noodles directly to the soup, as they absorb too much broth.)  Drain noodles and reserve.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of noodles into serving bowl. Top with turkey soup and garnish with fresh parsley.

 

Homemade Turkey Stock

Ingredients:

  • Turkey carcass with some meat still intact and reserved neck
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2-3 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 2-3 carrot sticks, cut in half
  • 1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
  • 10-12 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water by 2-3 inches.  If you do not have a large enough pot, you can use 2 pots.  Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2–3 hours.  Skim off any foam or fat that rises to the surface as needed.
  2. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve or colander into a large bowl.  Allow to cool down completely.  Remove any fat that rises to the top.
  3. Do not toss out the bones and veggies yet.  Once cooled, pick through and remove any meat.  Reserve this meat to be used in the soup.

Note: You can also make homemade stock in the Crock Pot.  Place all of the ingredients in a large Crock Pot and cover with water.  Cook on low overnight or for 12 hours.  Strain stock through a sieve or colander into a large bowl.  Follow additional instructions, per the above.

Note: Once cooled, Turkey stock is more gelatinous than chicken stock.  Do not be alarmed.  This thins out when cooked.  The stock will last a few days in the refrigerator and freezes well for up to 6 months.

 

Dessert Recipes, DIY, Vegetarian Recipes

How To Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

 

Stop wasting your money at Starbucks on pumpkin bread.  Start baking with homemade pumpkin puree.  It couldn’t be easier.

Sugar pumpkins are an excellent choice for cooking and baking.  These smaller squashes have a firm, sweet flesh and are only about 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  These particular pumpkins are great for roasting and turning into puree.  They have a more pronounced flavor and their firmer and less stringy flesh roasts up to a much more pleasant consistency than that of a larger pumpkin.  Pure pumpkin puree is incredibly healthy for you.  Running about 50 calories for 1 cup and packed with vital antioxidants, and vitamins.  Homemade pumpkin puree is a win-win-win.  Tastes great, healthy, and easy to prepare.

So, leave those large decorative pumpkins for carving jack-o-lanterns and pick up some sugar pumpkins for baking.  Your homemade pumpkin will impress, and make your Starbuck going friends jealous.  Note: If you are preparing a recipe that calls for a 15oz can of pumpkin puree use 1 3/4 cups of this homemade pumpkin puree instead.

Some fun pumpkin recipes coming soon!  In the meantime, give these pumpkin bars a try.

Homemade Pumpkin PureeHomemade Pumpkin PureeHomemade Pumpkin PureeHomemade Pumpkin PureeHomemade Pumpkin PureeHomemade Pumpkin Puree

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 small ripe sugar pumpkins, about 1.5-2 lbs each

Directions:

  1. Cut the stems off the pumpkins.
  2. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.  Save the seeds to roast later.  Note: I like to use an ice cream scoop for this step.
  3. Cut each pumpkin in half, then in half again. You should have 8 pieces.
  4. Roast cut side up at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.  They should be light golden brown and easily pierced with a fork when done.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Remove the pumpkin skin using a pairing knife.  Be sure to scrape the skin with a knife to remove any additional pumpkin flesh.
  6. Discard the skins and add the pumpkin to a food processor or powerful blender.  Puree for several minutes until smooth.   You may have to do this in 2 batches depending on the size of your food processor.  Note: Not all pumpkins are the same.  Some can be watery and some can be dry.  Mine were a bit dry, so I added 2 tbsp of water to the pumpkin as I pureed it.  It is just what it needed.  If your puree is too watery, you should strain it in a cheesecloth (a fine mesh strainer or a coffee filter will also work) to get rid of some of the liquid.
  7. Use immediately, store in your refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

This recipe yields 3 cups of pumpkin puree.  Note: If you are preparing a recipe that calls for a 15oz can of pumpkin puree use 1 3/4 cups of this homemade pumpkin puree instead.

Don’t forget to roast your pumpkin seeds! Pumpkin Seeds

 

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

How to Freeze Homemade Basil Pesto

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Are you reluctantly saying goodbye to summer?  Here’s my perception.

Whip up a large batch of homemade pesto.  Then freeze it.  IN ICE CUBE TRAYS!! (yes, that deserved the double exclamation point).  We all love the smell and taste of fresh basil pesto.  We need it during the non summer months.  That said, here’s my quick tutorial for an effortless process to preserve the freshness of basil:

  1. Make a double patch of homemade pesto.
  2. Fill an ice cube tray with pesto, about 2-3 tbsp per cube.
  3. Cover tray with plastic wrap, being sure to press the plastic wrap against the pesto so it is touching the top layer.  This reduces oxidation (dark green color).  Allow pesto cubes to freeze completely, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Pop pesto cubes out of the tray and store in your freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  5. Add the pesto cubes to dishes throughout the winter for a fresh pop of flavor, or simply toss with pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Preserving summer fresh ingredients helps me get through the extensively cold Midwestern winters.  Eating a bowl of pasta with fresh homemade pesto in the middle of January.  It’ll do good for for your soul.

Note:  If you are going to toss with pasta, add a small amount of starchy pasta water to your frozen pesto before adding the pasta.  The salty starchy water not only helps to thaw the frozen pesto, it helps glue the pasta and sauce together.  Don’t forget to top with fresh parmesan cheese!