Boeuf Bourguignon

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Back when I was single, I’d often cook myself beef liver for meals. It was cheap and I loved it, especially with eggs, which were also affordable. I had no other meat experience. Nor with vegetables, other than salad.

So I marry at 25 and know I need to learn how to cook and put daily meals together for my husband and myself. Plus, my husband didn’t eat liver.

Fortunately I was fearless in the kitchen. I jumped into this set of cookbooks from Time-Life – called Foods of the World – that my mother gifted me when we married, and proceeded to cook. My naïveté helped me.

Peking duck? Sure! Tempura? Of course! Rogan Josh? Certainly. Nothing intimidated me, except crazy desserts and pastries, which still do…

When it came to the Provincial French cookbook, I dove in with the same enthusiasm I had for every other cookbook, with glorious results.

Take this boeuf bourguignon. Every aspect of this dish is prepped separately prior to being added together at the end.

I learned how to use salt pork, a new ingredient for me, poaching it first to get rid of all of the salt. I learned how to respect mushrooms, those water-gorged fungi. I peeled pearl onions, not my favorite chore. And I quickly learned how to use good wine in cooking, not one that turns everything purple.

So if you’re willing to spend a little more time to create an outstanding French Burgundian specialty, you will be so happy you did. Nothing is hard, well, except for those darn pearl onions. This recipe just takes a bit of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine
To serve 6 – 8

To ensure that no one element in your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. Although the different steps may be taken simultaneously, it is easier to deal with them one at a time.

The onions
1/2 pound lean salt pork, cut into strips about 1 1/2” long
and 1/4” in diameter
1 quart water
1 tablespoon butter
18 – 24 peeled white onions, about 1” in diameter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To remove excess saltiness, the salt pork should be blanched by simmering it in 1 quart of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry.


In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over moderate heat, and in it brown the pork, stirring the pieces frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the rendered fat left in the skillet, brown the onions lightly over moderately high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to roll them around and color them as evenly as possible.

Transfer the onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons of pork fat. (Set the skillet aside, leaving the rest of the fat in it.) Bake the onions uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until they are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, sliced in large

While the onions are baking or after they are done, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a skillet. When the foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, tossing and turning them frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are slightly soft.


Add the mushrooms to the onions and set aside.

The beef
3 pound lean boneless beef chuck or rump, cut into 2” chunks
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrots
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock
2 cups red Burgundy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350 degrees F. Pour almost all of the rendered pork fat from the skillet in which the onions browned into a small bowl, leaving just enough to make a thin film about 1/16” deep on the bottom of the pan.

Over moderately high heat, bring the fat almost to the smoking point. Dry the beef with paper towels, then brown it in the fat, 4 or 5 chunks at a time to avoid crowding the skillet.

Add more pork fat as needed. When the chunks are brown on all sides, remove them with kitchen tongs to a heavy, flameproof 5-6 quart casserole. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all the beef if browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the pan and cook them over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored. Stir in the flour. (If the mixture looks dry, add a little more pork fat.)


Return the skillet to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, let cool a moment, then pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.


Blend in the wine and the tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens.

Mix in the garlic, thyme, sautéed pork strips, salt and a few grinding of black pepper, and pour the sauce over the beef, stirring gently to moisten it thoroughly. the sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat; add more wine or stock if needed.



Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly, and place the casserole in the lower third of the oven. Let the beef cook, regulating the oven heat so the meat simmers slowly, 2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Then gently stir the browned onions and mushrooms, together with any juices that may have accumulated under them, into the casserole.

With a large spoon, gently mix the beef and vegetables with the sauce in the casserole. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the bouquet garni, and skim off any fat from the surface.

Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the beef with parsley and serve it directly from the casserole.


In the past I’ve served this luscious stew over fresh pasta, but this time I was lazy and cooked some fettuccine.

It’s also wonderful, as you can imagine, over any kind of potato – mashed, roasted, a gratin…

The full flavors of this beef stew are so intense. It’s rich in a way, but rich with flavors of wine and thyme. The onions and mushrooms add delightful texture as well.

Use a good wine – something you’d serve with this dish.

You can serve the stew as you would chili, in a warm bowl without toppings, of course, but I prefer a base of pasta or potatoes.

Paloma Margarita

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Yes, one more margarita recipe! This is a recipe I had hand written on a recipe card many years ago, but then recently discovered it online when I was researching the source of the name “Paloma.” The same margarita is on the Food Network Website. It’s a different kind of margarita recipe in that it contains grapefruit juice.

But first I have to brag about my recent purchase, a Breville 800CPXL Die-Cast Stainless-Steel Motorized Citrus Press from Amazon. It’s not inexpensive, but so worth the expense if you love margaritas and your hands can’t handle squeezing 30 limes at a time.

This appliance works with any size citrus fruit, from limes to grapefruits.


What is also really nice is that with little effort, more juice is removed than any kind of manual squeezing in my experience.

In fact, it’s so “fun” to use, I’ve been keeping a bottle of lime juice in my fridge, and it’s more handy than I even expected! Need lime juice for a quick lime dressing? Done! How about some lime juice for guacamole, or even for a quick limeade! Done! It’s very handy and stays fresh in a lidded bottle.

But the Paloma margarita story doesn’t end here. (I never did figure out why the name Paloma…) My daughter and her family were visiting for a pool party kind of day, and I thought I’d serve the Paloma margaritas to the big people; it was a perfect opportunity to test the recipe.

Well, my daughter and I made them, and we hated them. So my more bartender-talented daughter stepped in and created the following recipe. (She’s always saved my sangrias in the past as well!)

There’s still grapefruit juice in this cocktail, but it’s also definitely a margarita.

Paloma Margarita
Makes 2 drinks

4 ounces tequila
4 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
Juice of 1/2 small lime
5 drops of Stevia
Fresca, chilled

Prepare two glasses with a salt rim, and fill the glasses with ice.

Combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and stevia in a cocktail shaker. Add a little ice and shake to cool the margarita.


Strain the ice and divide the margarita between the two glasses. Top each drink with about 2 ounces of Fresca.

Ta da! You’ve got one of the most enjoyable margaritas ever. If you enjoy grapefruit juice.

Make sure to use good, ruby-red grapefruit for maximum sweetness.

If you don’t like salty rims, add a pinch of salt into each cocktail. It really adds something special.

You can adjust the amount of stevia used as well, or substitute a teaspoon of simple syrup.

I thought this margarita was spectacular. There’s something about tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and salt….

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas

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Back when I catered, I once created a quesadilla bar for a smallish party. It was a lot of work, with two skillets going, but the guests enjoyed choosing their custom ingredients and their ooey gooey appetizers.

If my memory serves, I had chicken, beef, and shrimp, peppers and onions, tomatoes and mangos, good cheeses, plus cilantro. There are just so many options with quesadillas.

On this blog I’ve posted on what I’d call traditional, southwestern-style quesadillas, which I’ve made a lot over the years, especially when my kids were home. I love serving them with both red and green salsas.

With flour tortillas that get extra crispy in butter, and all of the cheesy goodness inside, you hardly need anything else. But I do. And smoked salmon quesadillas are a perfect example of going beyond the traditional quesadilla.

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas
Makes 3 – 8″ quesadillas

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces soft goat cheese like chèvre, at room temperature
1 generous tablespoon chopped chives
1 generous tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 – 8” flour tortillas
12 ounces grated mozzarella
6 ounces high quality smoked salmon
Butter, about 3 generous tablespoons

Mix together the cream cheese and goat cheese along with the chives and parsley until smooth. Don’t overstir.

In a 12” skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked shallots to a small bowl, and keep the skillet on the stove. Get out a lid that works with the skillet as well as a large metal spatula.

Set out a large cutting board for cutting the quesadillas, and a serving platter.

Spread the soft cheese on all 6 tortillas.


Then add the slices of smoked salmon to 3 “bottom” tortillas, and top the salmon with 1/3 of the cooked shallots on each of the 3 tortillas.

When ready to start cooking, have all of the tortillas, tops and bottoms, the grated mozzarella, and butter on hand. It’s best to be fully prepared.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter; some browning is good. Carefully place the bottom tortilla in the skillet, tortilla side down, then immediately add a generous amount of grated cheese, about 4 ounces per quesadilla, followed by the top tortilla (that only has the soft cheese spread on it.) Press gently on the quesadilla.

If the tortilla has crisped up golden on the bottom, carefully turn over the quesadilla using a heavy spatula. Press down on it with the spatula, then cover the skillet, turn down the heat and put on the lid.

The heat is lowered to allow the cheeses to melt thoroughly and the quesadilla to heat through.
.

Carefully place the quesadilla to the cutting board. Add more butter to the skillet, turn up the heat, and repeat with the remaining 2 quesadillas.

Let the quesadillas rest for at least five minutes before cutting up like a pizza, using a long knife or pizza cutter, then layer onto a serving platter.

Cover with a clean towel to keep them warm, but keep it loose. You want to retain the crispiness of the tortillas, which is why it’s best to work fast.

As an appetizer, these will serve quite a few people; they’re quite rich.

Keep in mind that these alone are fabulous with a rosé or Prosecco, or better yet, a sparkling rosé!

And if you prefer, use raw shallots instead of sautéed. Even capers can be used in the quesadillas.

You can play with my version of these quesadillas, but I highly suggest you stick to my cheeses because they’re mild. You want to taste the luscious smoked salmon in these.

My Favorite Salad

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I eat a lot of salads throughout the year, even in the winter. I love all salad ingredients – lettuces, avocados, beets, raw vegetables, grilled meat or fish, some nuts or seeds and cheese… I love to mix them up and also pay great attention to my vinaigrettes.

But then, there’s this one salad I’ve actually made multiple times for friends. (My husband doesn’t eat salads.) I don’t remember the source of the recipe, because mine was a magazine recipe cut and glued to an index card from decades ago.

It’s a composed salad, and these are the ingredients: Barley, purple cabbage, carrots, celery, dried cherries, and feta cheese. Intrigued? I was, and now I’m hooked.

It’s very pretty served layered in a trifle dish, or any deep clear bowl. Each component is treated separately for maximum flavor.

The recipe is really in two parts. One part, the vinaigrette. The other part, the salad itself.

My Favorite Salad

vinaigrette:
In a small blender, combine
1 cup of good olive oil
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of Dijon-style mustard
Salt
Blend until smooth.

salad:
2 cups hulled barley
Grated carrots, about 5 cups
1 whole purple cabbage, thinly sliced, about 5 cups
1/2 head celery, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
12 ounces crumbled goat cheese

First prepare the vinaigrette. Set aside at room temperature.


Cook the barley in 4 cups of water or broth if you prefer. Let cool. Once it’s almost room temperature, mix the barley with about 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and set aside.

Place the grated carrots in a small bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette, stir well, and set aside.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss with about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Have the rest of the ingredients handy.

Place the sliced celery in a smaller bowl and add a tablespoon of vinaigrette. Toss well and set aside.


Layer half of the barley in the bottom of your salad serving bowl or dish. Cover with the celery.

Then add half of the cherries. And top with half of the goat cheese.

Then cover with 1/2 of the cabbage. Then all of the carrots.

Then the remaining barley.

Top off with the last of the dried cherries and goat cheese.

Let the salad sit for at least an hour. Or, make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight, letting all of the flavors meld together. But serve at room temperature.


I also serve this salad with extra vinaigrette for those who want that extra hit of vinegar.

And, if this salad is for those who require protein, it is fabulous with added grilled chicken or avocado.

Mix and match your favorite ingredients – lentils would work instead of barley, for example – and I’m not a huge celery fan, which is why I only allowed one layer of it. But do include the dried cherries and goat cheese!

Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started my catering business.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Bourbon Slush

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In August, a bunch of us partiers got together at a friend’s house. I kid about the partying, cause we’re not exactly dance floor type folk at our age. It was more about wandering around our friend’s beautiful garden talking flowers while the guys played horseshoes.

Being August, it was hot. To help cool us off, our hostess prepared a specialty drink, which she always does, often with some new flavored vodka, or something muddled… it’s always really inspired.

This time, I was hesitant. The drink was a bourbon slush. I can hardly stand the smell of bourbon (or any brown liquor for that matter) let alone the taste.

But, I did want to taste it, out of courtesy at least. And, it was good! To serve, Sheila was scooping the bourbon slush out of a plastic container and placing the granita-looking mixture in copper mugs.

So while we walked around and discussed gardening, cause we’re that hip, we slurped away on our slushes. They were such delicious and refreshing. Like a grown-up version of an Icee!

Sheila offered ginger ale and club soda if you wanted to top off the bourbon slush, but I enjoyed the slush as is because it was so hot outside.

According to Sheila, a bourbon slush is not something new. In fact, could it be called vintage? Perhaps like an Old Fashioned? Supposedly, it was a popular drink way back when, often served at holiday parties.

At Christmas time, I decided to make bourbon slushes. When I though about something bubbly to add, based on the fact that there are citrus flavors in a bourbon slush, you can bet I reached for Fresca as my mixer!

So here’s the recipe that our dear friend Sheila uses.

Bourbon Slush
printable recipe below

1 – 12 ounce can frozen orange juice
2 – 12 ounce cans frozen lemonade
7 cups water
3/4 cup white sugar
2 cups strong tea, decaffeinated
2 cups bourbon, nothing fancy
Fresca, optional

Set frozen juices out for a while until they soften a bit. Then mix all of the ingredients together except the Fresca.

Put in freezer in Tupperware-type container with a lid. Place in the freezer overnight.

To serve, use an ice cream scoop or spoon and place in cold-proof cups!

If desired, top with Fresca. This was actually a great combination!

Well, believe it or not, these are just as good at Christmas time!

I served the slush with panetonne, but it would work just as well with a cheese and charcuterie platter, or a bratwurst.

These aren’t strong drinks, so bourbon lovers could add another splash.


Thanks, Sheila!
 

 

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Pink Prosecco Margarita

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My friend Dan loves a good cocktail. So when he made a point to text me this recipe, I knew it would be good.

He found it online originally, and made a few adaptations, but because I don’t know the origin, I’ll just call it Dan’s recipe.

It’s basically the ingredients for a real margarita, plus pink lemonade and Prosecco.

However, I couldn’t find pink lemonade where I live. Maybe it was sold out? But I did find strawberry lemonade, which I never knew existed, so I thought I’d try that, mostly because I’m impulsive. Same cocktail, but subtly strawberry flavored. Still pink, in fact hot pink!

I imagine if you’re not having a girls’ party like a bridal shower or somesuch, you can use regular lemonade for this cocktail, but the thought of making and serving a pink drink was so compelling to me!

My girlfriend helped out with a perfect happy hour setting at her house to test out the cocktail. I mean, to help with the photography.

Dan’s Pink Prosecco Margarita

1 cup pink lemonade*
3/4 cup Patron tequila
½ cup Patron orange liqueur
2 ounces lime juice, about 3 small limes
1/2 – 1 cup Prosecco, well chilled
Lime and salt for rimming

Pour the lemonade in a serving pitcher, and add the tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Chill in the refrigerator.


Right before serving, add the Prosecco.

Rim the glasses with lime juice and dip the rim with salt.


I also tried the margarita over ice, mostly because it was hot out and my girlfriend and I had been working so hard on this photo shoot (thanks Jil!) and that was also good. (not pictured.)

Overall, this is a lovely summer cocktail, but in fact, could be served at parties at various times of the year. I can see cranberries thrown in at a holiday party for example!

* Use one 12 ounce can thawed, frozen pink lemonade concentrate, or strawberry lemonade concentrate, and mix with two containers (24 ounces total) of water.

One More Margarita

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I happen to like the taste of tequila, which is odd because I dislike strong cocktails. But margaritas, made with tequila, for anyone who may not know, can be really tasty. The ones I like are also refreshing.

On this blog I’ve posted on my friends’ real margarita, and also my own watermelon margarita. None of that disgusting sweet and sour mix in these recipes, just real ingredients.

Recently I visited an old friend out of town, and on our first night she made margaritas to celebrate. And I was blown away by them.

Gabriella went to visit Stéphane with me in France a few years back. Here we are trying not to giggle about something.

Gabriella has given me permission to share her recipe, which includes expected ingredients, plus a few unexpected ones.

So, one more margarita recipe!

Gabriella’s Margarita
makes one drink

Lime and salt if desired
2 ounces tequila
3 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ounces Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2-3 ounces club soda
Twist of freshly ground pepper

Lime and salt a tall glass, and fill with ice cubes.

Mix the tequila, lime juice, and Grand Marnier together in a pourable pitcher. In this photo I hadn’t added the lime juice yet.

Add the agave nectar and stir well.

Pour the margarita over the ice cubes, not filling the glass by more than 2/3 full.

Add club soda and stir to combine.

Then top the margarita with a twist of black pepper.

And that’s it!

It’s more refreshing than a 3-ingredient margarita, what I call a real margarita, because it’s smoother and doesn’t have that bite. But I love both.


The other evening I made myself a real margarita, mostly because it’s the easiest to remember – 1 part tequila, 1 part Cointreau, and 1 part fresh lime juice.

And out of curiosity and for the sake of culinary research, I added Fresca to my margarita. People, I swear Fresca is magical. It lightened and fizzed up the margarita, but also blended all of the flavors.

So however you make your favorite margaritas, try topping them off with chilled club soda or Fresca, and see what you think!

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!


Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.


To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.


You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.


Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.


I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.