Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Beet and Feta Galette

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My girlfriend gifts me wonderful cookbooks, and one of the last ones I received from her was Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published in 2020.

Sami Tamimi is well known for his co-authoring of many Ottolenghi cookbooks. At least that’s how I became familiar with him. In fact, Falastin’s foreword was written by Yotam Ottolenghi, sighting that the authors “have picked up the baton where it was left after Jerusalem.”

On the back cover, it’s written: “This is a cookbook about Palestine. About its food, its people, and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves stories and cooking into the fabric of its identity.”

Falastin reminds me of the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbooks, in the size and heft, the beautiful photos, and fascinating stories. The recipe I chose to make is called Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey.

It’s so easy to pull out puff pastry for a savory or sweet galette, but I was attracted to this recipe because a delicious, oregano- and thyme-laden dough is used for the crust. A nice change from puff pastry, or a plain pie crust.

Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey
Serves 4

2 small purple beets
1 small golden beet
Salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/4 ice-cold water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4” slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup ricotta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Black pepper
3 1/4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until completely soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then use an old dish towel to gently rub away the skins.

Slice each beet into 1/8” slices and place in separate bowls, to keep the purple away from the golden beets. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt a good grind of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the golden beets. (I only had purple beets.) Combine the purple beets with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oil. Set both aside until needed.

To make the crust, put both flours into a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, and herbs. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. Don’t overwork the butter – you want chunks of it throughout the dough. Add the water and use your hands to gather the dough together. Transfer to a well-floured surface and roll out into a rough rectangle, about 11 x 7”. The dough here is fairly wet and sticky, so you’ll need to flour your hands, rolling pin, and work surface often.

Fold the shorter ends in toward each other so that they meet at the center, then fold the dough in half, like a book. Roll out the dough once with a rolling pin and then just fold once in half again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned. Add the sugar, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoon of za’atar, the parsley, and the oregano.

Put the ricotta, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into a bowl and set aside. (I happened to have leftover creme fraiche, so I used that.)

Generously flour a 12” square of parchment paper. Transfer the crust dough to the prepared parchment paper and roll out to form a rough circle. It will have uneven edges but should be about 11” wide. Lifting up both the baking parchment and the dough, transfer to a baking sheet; you don’t want to be lifting it onto the sheet once filled.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim clear around the edges. Top with half the feta, then the onions. Next, and this time leaving a 1 1/2” rim clear around the outside, top with the beets, alternating between purple and golden, with a little overlap between each piece. Wash your hands well, then scatter the remaining feta on top.

Using a knife, make 3/4” incisions spaced about 3 1/4” apart around the edge of the galette. Creating these “strips” will allow for the beets and cheese to be encased. Take a resulting dough strip and fold it over the beet, in toward the center of the galette. Repeat with the next strip, pulling gently to slightly overlap and seal the last fold. Continue this way with the rest of the strips, then refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply golden and cooked through.

Drizzle with the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil, then scatter with the remaining 2 teaspoons za’atar.

Transfer to a wire rack so that the bottom remains crisp and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with thyme leaves.

Slice once set, and serve.

And that crust?! Flaky, tender, and herby!

Cooked Salsa

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This salsa recipe is the one that I make in abundance during the summer months for canning purposes. That way, in theory, we have lots of salsa to open during the winter months.

Last year’s salsa only made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. I’m determined to do that this month.

I refer to it as a cooked salsa, as opposed to my go-to fresh salsa, shown below, which requires summer ripe tomatoes.

The great thing about making your own salsa is that you can make it to your own specifications. My husband doesn’t like salsa that’s too vinegarry and I don’t like them sweet, which many purchased salsas are.

I will give you an approximation of my cooked salsa recipe, but I encourage you to create your own recipe that fits you. I don’t like my salsa to be burning hot, but I do like heat and lots of flavor flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

Cooked Salsa

Lots of tomatoes, about 5 pounds, of any variety but all red
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green chile peppers like Anaheim or Hatch chiles, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes, or equivalent product
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, peel and seed the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling on the stove, and have a bowl of icy cold water set to the side. Cut a shallow X opposite the stem end of each tomato, and place a few at a time in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Remove them to the icy water and repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Let rest on towels once they’re out of the cold water for about one minute. With a paring knife, the peel with come off easily. Then core each one, and remove the seeds.

Chop and place in a bowl; set aside.

Next, chop the onions, finely chop the red bell pepper, stem, de-seed and chop the chile peppers, and dice the garlic. I used a gadget for much of this chopping.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper, chile pepper, and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute.

Add the fresh and canned tomatoes. Notice I’m using New Jersey crushed tomatoes. It’s a great product!

Cook the mixture, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. It should not be watery. If it is, cook a little longer. Then add the cilantro and seasonings. Taste.

Stir in the vinegar and cook for about one minute, then stir in the lemon juice. The theory is that the zing is needed from the vinegar, but the lemon juice removes the odor from it. Turn off the stove and let the salsa cool before adding to sterilized jars, if you’re canning..

This post is not a primer on canning but I recommend doing it. We’ve all worried that food will explode, but it won’t! Get yourself a few products, plus a good book. There are safety concerns, but canning is not a big deal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. If you want to make salsa during winter months, you can simply use all canned tomatoes, perhaps a mixture of diced and crushed, depending how chunky you want your salsa.

One can certainly get more creative as well, using roasted chile peppers, including chile pepper powders, adding other ingredients like beans, corn, and peaches. It will all work!

Speidie Sauce

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When I come across something completely new in a cookbook, I get absolutely giddy, especially when it’s not part of an exotic cuisine. Speidie sauce is all-American or, at least, a significant part of upstate New York summer barbecues.

During the pandemic, my daughter and husband escaped to a resort on Long Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. She told me they would be dining at a Charlie Palmer restaurant on Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Charlie Palmer much over the years, but knew he was a highly regarded and successful chef.

When I googled him, I think he was running something like 19 restaurants! The most famous one being Aureole – one in New York City and also in Las Vegas. And if I counted right, he’s written 7 cookbooks.

I became quite intrigued with Charlie Palmer and his longevity, so I purchased American Fare, published in 2015. The cookbook contains really nice recipes – nothing too crazy, nor too plain, and all perfect for home cooking I bookmarked so many recipes, to my amazement.

One recipe jumped out at me, called Speidie sauce, or Charlie’s Speidie marinade. (Speidie is pronounced speedy.)

From the cookbook, “In upstate New York where I grew up, summertime is speidie time. Speidies are beef or chicken kabobs marinated in a locally produced speidie sauce and cooked on the grill. Almost nobody makes their own sauce; it is purchased by the case to take the barbecue master through the entire summer’s grilling.”

Have you heard of such a thing?! I went to my favorite local deli, Amazon.com, and sure enough, found 3 examples of purchasable speidie sauce/marinade. And what’s funny to me is that they all look so different!

Following is Chef Palmer’s speidie marinade recipe, his version that he “happily” shares.

Charlie’s Speidie Marinade
Printable recipe below

2 cups dry white wine
1/4 sherry wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non reactive container. Because of the last hand operation, I’m not very good at chopping, so I threw the ingredients into a blender. Yes, sympathy, please!

Cover and allow flavors to blend for at least 1 hour before using. May be stored, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. The marinade can be used for any meat, poultry, or game.

To test out this marinade, I chose to make kabobs with filet mignons, bell peppers, and onions.

The beef and vegetables marinated for 24 hours. After bringing them to room temperature, I grilled the kabobs over coals.

The marinade is good! There is a strong wine, shallot, and dried herb component, which I love.

I served a white bean salad on the side, along with flatbreads.

Honestly, I’d halve the wine, and double the oil. The marinade is tasty, but very “wet”.

 

 

Birria

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Birria de Res – Recipe from Chef Josef Centeno, Adapted by Tejal Rao, from NYT Cooking email, dated February 10, 2021
Yep, this photo got my attention!

Birria, the regional stew from Mexico saw a meteoric rise in popularity recently, as a soupy style made with beef, popularized by birria vendors in Tijuana, took off in the United States. Chef Josef Centeno, who grew up eating beef and goat birria in Texas, makes a delicious, thickly sauced version based on his grandma Alice’s recipe, mixing up the proteins by using oxtail, lamb on the bone and even tofu. Preparing the adobo takes time, as does browning the meat, but it’s worth it for the deep flavors in the final dish. The best way to serve birria is immediately and simply, in a bowl, with some warm corn tortillas.. —Tejal Rao

Birria de Res

2 poblano chiles
5 guajillo chiles, seeded, stemmed and halved lengthwise
5 pounds bone-in beef shoulder, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 cloves
Fresh black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered
Corn tortillas, warmed

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Use tongs to place the poblano chiles directly over the open flame of a gas burner set to high. Cook the poblanos until totally charred all over, turning as needed, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the poblanos can steam. After 10 minutes, use your fingers to pull the blackened skins away from the poblanos, then remove the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the poblanos and set aside.

If you want this process shown in photos, click on poblano roast.

While the poblano chiles steam, place a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches to cook the guajillo chiles evenly in one layer, flatten the chile halves on the hot skillet and toast them for about 15 seconds, turning once. Put the chiles in a bowl and add 2 cups hot water to help soften them. Set aside.

Season the meat all over with the salt. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium-high. Working in batches, sear the meat on all sides until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side, transferring the browned meat to a large bowl as you work.

After you’ve seared all the meat, add the onion to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Return all the meat to the pot.

Use a seed toaster to toast the jumpy sesame seeds.

To peel the roasted poblanos after they’ve steamed and cooled, simply use a paper towels or your fingers to remove the charred surface, then with a knife remove the stem and any membrane and seeds on the inside.

Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, cloves and a few grinds of black pepper to a blender, along with the chopped poblanos, toasted guajillos and the chile soaking liquid. Purée until smooth, scraping down the edges of the blender as needed. I bought a case of “Joysey Tuhmatuhs” to try them out. Fabulous ingredient!

Pour the blended mixture into the pot with the meat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, along with about 4 to 6 cups of water, enough to amply cover the meat.

I didn’t add water because I used less meat and I wanted the stew more stewy and less soupy. Cover and cook in the oven until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Divide among bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.

Serve with lime wedges for squeezing on top, and a side of warm tortillas.

This stew is so good. Great depth of flavor; you can really taste the cumin and cinnamon.

Guiso de Carne

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At our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, I typically order one of two favorite items. One is shrimp Saltado, and the other is guiso de carne This is what is looks like at the restaurant.

It’s tender beef in a rich red sauce – not spicy, but very flavorful, served with rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Recently I decided to make guiso de carne at home, and I immediately had challenges. The first was that this didn’t exist in any of my Mexican cookbooks, and then online, the name guiso de carne was most often changed to carne guisado. I tried to figure out the difference, but hit a dead end.

Carne Guisado is beef braised in a seasoned red sauce, and at this point I’m thinking its a Tex-Mex creation.

So I created my own recipe, and is it exactly like what I love at the restaurant? I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test. But it’s really good.

Guiso de Carne

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 guajillo chile peppers, stemmed, seeded
8 ounces hot chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce

Place the cut up beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and toss so that all the beef is seasoned.

Starting with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over high heat, without crowding, then place in another bowl. Continue with remaining beef.

Reduce the heat and add a little more oil if necessary, and sauté the onion; don’t caramelized much.

Meanwhile, place the hot chicken broth in a small blender jar with the guajillo peppers, broken up slightly, the chipotle peppers, the oregano, and ground ancho chile. Let sit for about 5 minutes before blending until smooth.

Add the tomato sauce and blend again; set aside.

Once the onions are sautéed, stir in the minced garlic for barely a minute, then pour in the tomato sauce mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and its juices to the sauce, give everything a stir, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Check halfway through cooking – add some more broth if necessary. Make sure to give the meat a stir to make sure there is no sticking.

Serve the guiso de carne on a plate with your desired side dishes and toppings.

Rice and beans are great accompaniments, as are flour tortillas.

If you prefer eating guiso de carne in tortillas, like tacos, it’s best to make sure the pieces of chuck aren’t bigger than 1/2″.

Mediterranean Dip

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This raw vegetable and feta dip is perfect for a party before fall weather hits. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I found the recipe for this Mediterranean-inspired dip. I’d typed it in MS Publisher, and recently found it on my computer. Typically I’d have added some notes, and certainly show credit, but nothing.

Honestly, I changed it so much that it’s not the same recipe, but has most all of the original ingredients. This recipe intrigued me because the ingredients are puréed.

On this blog I have made a layered Mediterranean spread, which is a Greek version of Southwestern 7-layer spread. Nothing is puréed except the hummus Layer.

I’ve started a new thing lately, when I serve a dip to a small group. I like to have guests serve themselves from the main bowl into their own little bowl. That way, they can double-dip, drool, and spill their chips in the dip, and it doesn’t affect anyone else!


Mediterranean Dip

2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced lengthwise, seeds removed
2 garden-ripe tomatoes, cored, coarsely chopped, seeded
2 ounces Kalamata olives, pitted
2 ounces black olives, pitted
5 ounces baby spinach (about 4 loosely packed cups)
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt*, strained
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces feta or goat cheese
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
Finely chopped purple onion, optional
Chopped fresh parsley, optional
Toasted pine nuts, optional
Pita chips, or pita crisps, or pita bread

Before I began, I prepared the cucumbers and tomatoes and let them drain on paper towels.

I even dried off the olives and feta.

Pulse the cucumber, tomatoes and olives in a food processor, but don’t overprocess. Transfer to a colander to drain. I used paper towels to “dry” up the mixture as much as possible, before finishing the dip.

Clean out the food processor, than add the spinach, yogurt, olive oil, garlic and salt and purée. Add half of the feta cheese and purée again. The mixture doesn’t have to be completely smooth.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a large bowl using a rubber spatula. Crumble in the remaining feta, lemon juice and oregano. Give it a stir, then add the cucumber-tomato-olive mixture.

Fold until smooth, check for seasoning, then place in serving bowl.

If desired, sprinkle dip with finely chopped purple onion, chopped parsley or toasted pine nuts. Or all three!

Have you ever had naan dippers?! They’re perfect for this dip, as well as Stacy’s simply naked pita chips – a favorite of mine.

I also cut up some cucumbers and red bell peppers for serving.

This dip is fabulous, and much prettier than I expected it to be. Just whatever you do, don’t eat the dip hovering over the serving bowl!!!
(Sorry, pet peeve of mine.)

* To drain yogurt, I just turn it upside-down on paper towels in a colander; it gets much firmer after two hours.

Green Goddess Chicken Salad

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I discovered this recipe at the Food and Wine website. It’s a recipe for a salad with green goddess dressing, by Melissa Rubel Jacobson.

Green goddess is a really wonderful dressing that uses lots of fresh herbs, which accounts for the green color. Sometimes an avocado is included as well. According to Food and Wine, the dressing was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920’s, as a tribute to an actor starring in a play called The Green Goddess. Never heard of it, but it’s slightly before my time.

Today I’m following Ms. Jacobson’s recipe for green goddess dressing, but not so much her salad.

Create any kind of salad you want with your favorite ingredients, and drizzle on the beautiful green goddess dressing, which I made exactly as printed. It’s good!

Green Goddess Chicken Garden Salad
Moderately Adapted

Dressing:
2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or chopped
1 head romaine or butter lettuce, chopped
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
Approximately 1/2 garbanzo beans, well drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Peas or asparagus, optional
Hard-boiled eggs, optional

In a blender, purée mayonnaise with the herbs, lemon juice, and chives until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

This makes approximately 1 cup of dressing.

For the salad, there are so many options for preparing and serving. I chose to create a composed salad, just because they’re pretty.

Alternatively, you could combine chopped chicken, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes with some of the dressing, and serve on top of the lettuce and cabbage.

But that’s not as pretty, especially if you have company.

Just about any salad ingredient that goes well with an herby dressing will work perfectly.

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce

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A while back I saw a recipe for lamb meatballs, cooked in a red sauce. It really appealed to me because I love lamb. And, I think I could eat shoe soles cooked in red sauce.

But did I print this recipe? Or even take notes as to where I found it? Stupidly no, although I’m typically organized about such important things as recipes.

So I’m creating the recipe for slightly Greek-inspired lamb balls, baked in a red sauce, along with goat cheese. The meat balls are gently seasoned with oregano, allspice, and a hint of cinnamon.

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce with Goat Cheese
Makes about 36 meatballs

Approximately 42 ounces favorite red sauce or simple Marinara
2 pounds ground lamb
3 eggs, mixed well
1/3 cup panko crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Panko bread crumbs, approximately 1/2 cup
10-12 ounces soft goat cheese
Freshly chopped parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the red sauce into a 9 x 13″ baking dish; set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the lamb, egg, panko crumbs, parsley, salt, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper.

In a large skillet, (you’ll be using it for another purpose), sauté the onion over medium-low heat until soft. Stir in the garlic, then remove the skillet from the burner. Let the mixture cool, then add to the lamb mixture.

Using the same skillet, add approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Have a bowl of panko crumbs next to the meatball mixture. Form the lamb into medium-sized meatballs, I used a 1 1/2” scoop, roll in the bread crumbs, then sauté them in the skillet, about 8-10 at a time.

When the balls have browned well on all sides, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the skillet and place them in the baking dish with the red sauce. This should only take about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.

Repeat with remaining meatballs. If you have any bread crumbs leftover you can sprinkle them over the meatballs in the red sauce.

Bake the meatballs for approximately 20-25 minutes and remove the baking dish from the oven. Turn off the oven.

Add the goat cheese to the meatballs, adding a generous tablespoons interspersed amongst them, eturn the baking dish to the oven to allow the cheese to melt, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Before serving, sprinkle the lamb balls with freshly chopped parsley.

Serve directly from the baking dish, if desired, along with crusty bread.

Make sure there’s a generous amount of red sauce served with the lamb balls.

If desired, the meatballs and red sauce can be served over pasta or polenta, but today I used pasta.

The meatballs are tender, with a slight crunchy firmness on the outside.

The goat cheese is spectacular with the lamb and red sauce.

The crusty bread is a must!

Cuban Black Bean Soup

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Many years ago my husband and I went to a work party, and the main dish served was said to be authentic Cuban black bean soup. Neither of the hosts were from Cuba, but they did share their recipe for the soup because it was outstanding.

At that time in my life I’d just begun cooking, and hadn’t before been introduced to black beans. Fast forward a few decades, and black beans are my favorite bean, if I was forced to pick one. I love them all, really, but maybe it’s the beautiful purple-black color that makes them so unique. They’re sometimes called turtle beans.

Black beans are prominent in Southwestern-inspired dishes, Latin American dishes, as well as Western African dishes. On the blog alone I’ve prepared black beans with Polish sausage, a black bean salad, puréed them to create “refried” black beans, and used those in a black bean and feta dip. They’re just so versatile.

But today I’m going back to where I was first introduced to them, in the form of Cuban black bean soup.

Cuban Black Bean Soup
printable recipe below

1 pound black beans, such as black turtle beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound lean salt pork, cut into small cubes
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups finely chopped green bell pepper
8 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 pounds smoked pork hocks
Salt and pepper
Cayenne chile pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup sherry

Put the beans in a large bowl and add cold water to cover to about 2″ above the top layer of beans. Soak overnight.

Heat the oil in a stock pot. Add the salt pork and cook, stirring often, until rendered of fat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until wilted.

Drain the beans and add them to the pork and vegetable mixture. Add the beef broth.

Add the bay leaf and oregano, pork hocks, salt and pepper to taste, and the cayenne pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil and simmer about two hours or until beans are quite soft.

Remove the pork hocks. If desired, remove the meat from the hocks and chop finely to use as a garnish. (I returned the meat to the soup.)

Pour and scrape half of the beans into the container of a food processor. Blend until a purée forms, then scrape back into the stock pot. Puréed black beans are more of a grey color, but mixed with the whole cooked beans the soup is pretty.

Add the sherry. Heat thoroughly and serve.

I served the soup with achiote cornbread.

Serve, if desired, with optional garnishes such as chopped purple onion or green onions, lime slices, chopped ham, and sour cream.

The soup is also traditionally served over white rice, but I prefer mine without.

I hope you try this recipe. It’s a really good, hearty soup, but mostly I like it with all of my toppings of choice!

And cornbread.