Appetizers, Main Course Recipes

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

I don’t cook mussels at home often enough. But, I did this past Friday. It was glorious.

Elegant, affordable, readily available, and a breeze to make. From the fridge to dinner table, the mussels are ready to devour in just 20 minutes. I paired this batch with white wine, garlic, parsley and lemon. Obviously, I had some good bread to soak up the broth.

A few tips about buying, storing, and cleaning:

Buying: When you’re at the fish market, make sure the mussels are kept over ice and that their shells are glistening with moisture. The shells should be tightly closed. The mussels should smell briny, like the ocean. Mussels are living creatures, so they will still be alive when you buy them at the store. (Don’t worry, they don’t bite) Though wild mussels are available in certain markets, the vast majority of mussels you’ll find at the market are farm-raised.

Storing: Mussels are best if cooked within a few hours of purchasing. If you can’t do that, they’ll be fine for a few days in the fridge. If you need to store them, place the mussels in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel to keep the mussels protected and moist, and store in the fridge. The mussels need to breathe, so don’t store them in an airtight container or in water.

Cleaning: Mussels attach themselves to stable surfaces using thin sticky membranes referred to as “beards.”  Most farm-raised mussels will come debearded, but odds are good you’ll find a couple of stubborn beards left over.  Look for a group of short brown strings coming out on one side of the mussel where the two halves of the shell close. This is the “beard.” Grip these strings with your fingers and tug gently from side to side. As you tug, the strings will pull out and detach from the shell. If you have trouble gripping the beard with your fingers, a dry paper towel usually does the trick.

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and ParsleySteamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

On to the recipe …

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds mussels. Prince Edward Island (PEI) are my favorite.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in a strainer and check them over. If you feel any muddy spots, rub under running water to remove.  All the mussels should be tightly closed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells. If the shell is open, tap the mussel lightly against the counter. If the shell doesn’t close in a few minutes, discard the mussel. Do a quick check for beards.  If any beards are still attached, remove and discard.
  2. Now you’re ready to start cooking. Warm butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add shallot and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes until shallot is translucent and garlic fragrant. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. Add mussels to the pot and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over the mussels and immediately cover pot with lid.  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Shake the pan once or twice while cooking (with the lid on) to distribute mussels.
  4. After 5 minutes, the mussels should be fully cooked and open.  If not, return the lid to the pot and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and give the mussels a good stir. This coats the mussels in the shallots, garlic and broth. Remove and discard any mussels that have not fully opened at this point.
  6. Serve mussels straight out of the pot in the middle of the table, or pour mussels and broth into 4 large bowls. Serve with extra lemon wedges, and crusty bread for mopping up the broth.

Servings: 4 (1 pound per serving)

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Crock Pot Recipes, Main Course Recipes

Lubia: Lebanese Stewed Beef, Tomatoes, and Green Beans

Lubia

 

My dear grandmother just turned 95 years old.  A trip to Florida was in order!

I love listening to my grandma’s stories.  Especially when they involve family history and traditions.  My grandma learned to cook from her Lebanese mother-in-law.  After my grandparents wedding, a crash course in Lebanese cooking quickly ensued.  Lubia was grandpa’s favorite meal.  (Obviously she had to make it flawlessly.)

A savory combination of either beef or lamb, green beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  The cinnamon brings a lovely warmth to the dish.  It really makes it.  An unmistakable comforting smell will engulf your kitchen.

I cherish the time my grandmother and I spent together this past week.  I look forward to passing on her stories and traditions.  I look forward to recreating the deliciousness, sweet smell, and comfort of this Lubia dish.  Always.

Note: Crock pot and stove top instructions included below.

LubiaLubiaLubia

Lubia

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs beef or lamb stew meat, cubed
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 26 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1.5 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Rice, for serving

Crock Pot Directions:

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan.  I prefer a cast iron pan for this.  Add half of the stew meat and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning the meat as each side browns.  You want to form a nice crust on the meat.  Once all of the meat has browned, remove it from the pan and reserve.   Add the remainder of the meat to the saute pan, and repeat the browning process.  Add browned meat to the crock pot.

In the same pan you browned the meat in, saute onion and garlic.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  (These brown bits will add plenty of flavor to the dish.)  Add onion and garlic to the crock pot with the browned meat.

Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green beans, cinnamon, salt, and pepper to the crock pot.  Stir well and cook for 6-8 hours on low heat.  Add fresh parsley, and serve over your choice of rice.  I prefer white jasmine rice, or rice pilaf.

Servings: 6 (Serving size: 1 1/2 cups of Lubia, 1 cup of rice)

Stove Top Directions:

Follow directions as is … except, add the browned meat and onion/garlic mixture to a stockpot on your stove top instead of your crock pot.  Add additional ingredients as directed.  Cover and cook over low heat for 2-3 hours. Finish as directed above.

 

 

Main Course Recipes

Lebanese Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves

Lebanese Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves

 

Grandma never measured anything out.  Mom learned from Grandma.

The best family recipes aren’t documented.  There’s no written recipe to reference when daring to recreate those most nostalgic childhood meals.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that…and somehow it always turned out perfect.  As is the case with my mom’s stuffed grape leaves…until now.

My mom knows the grape leaves are seasoned just right by giving the filling a little taste.  Yep, she tastes the raw meat.  She doesn’t actually swallow the meat.  Like tasting a fine wine in Napa Valley, she puts the meat mixture on her tongue, tastes for seasoning, then adjusts.  This isn’t something I would have a problem with (tasting the raw meat).  I trust our butcher and always buy organic.  But, unlike Mom, I do not possess a sommelier-esque palate so as to be able to just taste when the seasoning is perfect.  More cinnamon? More allspice?  More salt?!?! Ah!

So Mom and I devised a plan to finally figure out a written recipe.

Lebanese Meat Stuffed Grape LeavesLebanese Meat Stuffed Grape LeavesLebanese Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves

 

At first glance, this recipe looks complicated.  Don’t let that complicated appearance get you flustered.  It really is simple once you get rolling.  Invite friends and family to help with the process. It’s more fun to do this as a group, and it gets everyone more connected to the delicious meal they’re about to consume.  Pour some wine and make a fun afternoon out of it.

This is one unwritten family legend that was begging to be uncovered.  Thanks for letting the secret out, Mom!

Lebanese Meat Stuffed Grape LeavesLebanese Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs ground lamb
  • 3 1/2 cups long grain white rice (I prefer Uncle Ben’s Original), uncooked
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, finely ground
  • 16-oz jar California grape leaves (I prefer Orlando), you will need approximately 60 for rolling and 20 for lining your double boiler
  • 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Equipment: You will need a large stockpot with a pasta or steamer insert and lid.  I use this one.

Directions:

Remove grape leaves from their jar and drain in a colander.  Rinse well with running water and drain again.  With a paring knife, remove the stem from the base of 60 grape leaves.  There is a small stem at the base (about 1/4 inch) that needs to be trimmed.  Set aside the 60 trimmed and cleaned grape leaves while you prepare the filling.

Combine lamb, rice, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix until well combined.  I find using my hands to mix the ingredients works best.  Reserve filling.

Prepare your stockpot.  Add 2 inches of water in your stockpot, place pasta insert or steamer insert into your pot.  Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the insert.  If it does, reduce the amount of water.  Line the insert (both bottom and sides) with grape leaves, ensuring all holes are covered.  Note: Do not use the grape leaves you trimmed the stems from for this, use the additional grape leaves you have leftover.  Use 10-15 grape leaves for the lining.

You are now ready to start filling and rolling the grape leaves.  Working with one grape leaf at a time, place grape leaf on your work surface stem side up.  Place 1-2 tbsp of meat mixture (1 tbsp for small grape leaves) near stem.  Fold in the sides and roll grape leaf starting from the stem and moving away from you.  Repeat with the additional grape leaves until all of the meat mixture is used.  If you run out of the 60 cleaned and trimmed grape leaves, prepare more as needed.

Line rolled grape leaves in the prepared pasta insert or steamer insert.  Alternate direction leaves are pointed with each layer until you’ve used all of your rolled grape leaves.  Top your rolled grape leaves with crushed tomatoes, and add another layer of the leftover grape leaves on top (just as you did for lining the insert) to make a seal, you will use 6-8 leaves.

Put the lid on the stockpot, turn heat to high and bring water to a boil.  Once water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and steam for 2-3 hours or until grape leaves are cooked through.  (Note: I always check to see if they are cooked through at the 2 hour mark.  The last thing you would want to do is overcook them.)  The grape leaves will be done when the meat is cooked through and the rice is fully cooked.

Note:  Throughout the cooking process, be sure to check the boiling water.  You want to make sure the water is steadily boiling and that the water level is just right.  It should not touch the bottom of the insert, or drop too low and boil away.  If the water is touching the bottom of the insert, remove some water.  If the water level drops too much, add more.

Serve with pita bread, and traditional Lebanese mezza dishes (hummus, olives, fattoush, tabbouleh) and plain yogurt.

Yields: Approximately 60 stuffed grape leaves.  Recipe can easily be halved.

Main Course Recipes

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef

Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef

 

Vegetarians, renounce your vows.

The above line is a slogan used by my favorite little butcher shop in Southwest, Michigan. I think it applies for this post.

On the rare (see what I did there) occasion I find myself craving beef, I think of a thick cut Delmonico steak grilled to perfection by my Dad.  During this time of year, I’m not going to bundle up and head to the grill.  So, I stay inside and go for delicious roast beef.

I prefer my roast beef seasoned heavily with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stick to my recommended cooking temperatures and methods below and you will yield a moist and flavorful roast beef every time.  If you like your roast beef on the rare side of medium-rare (like I do),  remove it from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F.  Your meat thermometer is your best friend when cooking roast beef.  Additional cooking tips below.

When you’re craving beef, but don’t feel like firing up the grill, give this roast beef recipe a go.   Obviously leftovers are perfect on a sandwich…for your non vegetarian friends.

Rosemary and Garlic Roast BeefRosemary and Garlic Roast Beef

 

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lb rib-eye roast, fat trimmed (organic preferred)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Directions:

Remove roast from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.  This will take approximately 1 hour.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut garlic into thin slivers.  Using a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch to 1-inch deep cuts into the top of the roast.  Insert slivers of garlic into the prepared holes.  Coat the roast with olive oil and generously season with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary.  Place roast on a roasting pan, or on a baking sheet with an oven safe cooling rack placed inside.

Roast for 18 – 20 minutes per pound for rare (20 – 22 minutes per pound for medium rare, or 20 – 24 minutes per pound for medium).  Remember, the best way to check the doneness is to use a meat thermometer (Rare: 135-140 degrees F, Medium Rare: 140-145 degrees F, Medium: 145-160 degrees F).  I use this chart as a guide.

Note: Remove the roast from the oven when the internal temperature is about 10 degrees less than your desired level of doneness.  The temperature will rise an additional 10 degrees as the roast rests.  If you are looking for medium-rare, remove roast from the oven when the internal temperature is 130 degrees F.  I use a meat thermometers that goes in your oven with the roast. This gives you the ability to constantly monitor temperature without disturbing the roast.  For a 3 lb piece of meat, start checking the roast around the 45 minute mark, then monitor the internal temperature from that point on.  (The USDA recommends a safe internal temperature of 145 degrees F for a beef roast … I guess I like to live on the wild side.)

Remove roast from oven, and let rest for 15-20 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. Slice thin, and serve.

Main Course Recipes

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins

 

I live for the weekends!  Especially weekends with good friends, good food, and plenty of time outdoors.  Chicago is in the prime of autumn right now.  The leaves have reached their peak colors, so a long walk around the neighborhood was on the agenda yesterday.  It almost felt like we were walking through a watercolor painting.  Absolutely stunning.

fall foliage

 

After we got home, sporting windburned cheeks and towing an exhausted puppy, I got to work on Sunday night dinner.  Sunday night dinners always make me happy.  I can take my time, prep all the ingredients before I start cooking (my ideal way to cook), sip a glass of wine, and enjoy what I love … preparing a healthy and comforting meal for my family and friends.

I’m not usually one to make foods in “mini” form.  I typically opt for a family style dining experience.  Going against that idea, I decided to have these Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins make an appearance in my kitchen. This recipe is ideal to make ahead (directions below), and great for entertaining.  I was pleasantly surprised by these little muffins of cheesy meaty goodness.  They were flavorful, perfectly moist, and had a great crunch from the panko breadcrumbs.  Another perk… built in portion control.  Make these for your next party, or laid back Sunday night dinner.  Serve with a nice salad, a fresh veg, and a glass of red wine. Great meal to take in the peak of fall.

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins 2

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely graded, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes, a pinch
  • 6 1-inch cubes of mozzarella (1 oz each), cut from a block
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
  • Additional parmesan cheese and herbs for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.  Using your fingers, combine the ingredients until well incorporated.  Set mixture aside and reserve.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat, add onion, red bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine egg, cooled vegetable mixture, chicken, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Mix ingredients until well incorporated.

Prepare a muffin pan (I used a 6 cup regular size muffin pan) by spraying it with non stick vegetable spray.

Divide the chicken mixture into the 6 muffin cups (roughly 1 cup of mixture per cup).  Nestle a mozzarella cube into the center of each muffin cup, pat the chicken mixture over the mozzarella so it is completely covered.

Top each muffin with panko mixture.  Try to get as much panko as you can onto each muffin.  (Note: I had about a 1/4 cup the panko mixture leftover that wouldn’t fit onto the muffins.)

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Run a sharp knife around the outside of each muffin to release it from the pan.

Serve with warm marinara sauce and additional parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

Servings: 3-6 (Serving size: 1-2 muffins)  Note: I was satisfied with 1 muffin served along side a hearty salad.  The men in my life however will eat 2 muffins, so double the recipe if serving a crowd.

Make ahead instructions: Hold off on making panko mixture until you plan to bake the muffins.  Prepare muffins as directed, up until “top each muffin with panko mixture.”  Store in your refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 day in advance.  Just before baking, preheat oven, bring muffins to room temperature, prepare panko mixture, top muffins with panko mixture, and bake as directed.

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins3