Spiced Lamb Burgers

28 Mar




Last weekend I experimented with this interesting Bon Appetit recipe for Spiced Lamb Burger. The ingredients are pretty typical of a standard lamb burger – filled with cumin and coriander and other Middle Eastern spices. But, the preparation had me wondering. This recipe asks you to fill a pita with the raw meat mixture and cook it on the grill. While there is the missed crispy burger factor, the juices of the burger fill the crispy pita was delicious juices.

This is a fun Spring grilling menu – baked fries, a good green salad and this lamb burger. Or, a super casual Easter menu!

Spiced Lamb Burger

  •  pounds ground lamb, preferably shoulder
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 8 thick medium pita breads with pockets


Using a fork, mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.


Spring = Deviled Eggs!

24 Mar



This weekend was warm enough to leave the backdoor open and cook without shoes on. It was perfect in every way. So, I celebrated with some impromptu deviled eggs.  Simple boiled eggs, halved with the hard yolk mixed with mayo, dijon mustard, salt and white pepper. I added fancy garnishes – pickled peppers with parsley and large sails of parmesan crisps.

I was terribly generous and shared them along with a glass of wine and a bit of yard pick up. These were a fantastic tease for Spring and a grilled lamb burger we had a couple hours later. I’ll share that recipe this week too.

Raspberry Breakfast Bars

19 Mar


I’ve been munching on these Raspberry Breakfast Bars all week. They are simple to make, easy to share with friends and a nice surprise at the office – plus slightly healthy. I brought some to the office with the disclaimer that they look healthier than they really are. But, they do include oats and fresh berries.

I used frozen raspberries from The Fresh Market. You could easily use blueberries or blackberries too. I love the tartness of the raspberry. Make a good batch and you’ll be set all week!

Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars, Smitten Kitchen 
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (190 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 (120 grams) cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup (50 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
1 pound (455 grams) raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. (Note: The book suggests you reserve one cup only. My gut told me that was too little, and I upped it. I wanted to make sure the top of the raspberries were mostly covered, at least for packing purposes, and was glad I had changed it.) Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hans or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days.

Irish Fondue

17 Mar


Last night, in an early celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I hosted some friends for a casual supper of Irish fondue! At the risk of offending the French, this fondue recipe maybe better than my standard fondue with gruyere cheese. This recipe is unique with Irish cheddar cheese (I used Kerrygold Dubliner) and Guinness stout. Plus an odd sweetener from apple juice concentrate. Note that we enjoyed local Greensboro beer with dinner (at the risk of offending the Irish!).

I served the fondue with slightly roasted crispy brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, chewy bread and grilled chicken sausages. But, you can certainly get creative.

I find this dinner much more appetizing than the traditional corned beef and cabbage. And it can be enjoyed on any day you’re feeling lucky. Happy St. Pattys!

Aged Cheddar and Guinness Fondue, from Steamy Kitchen

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets, roasted slightly
  • 4 chicken sausage links, grilled
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, halved and roasted slightly
  • 1 baguette (or any bread with lots of crusty crust)
  • 1 lb good aged cheddar, grated
  • 2 ½ tbs all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz. Guinness stout + more if needed
  • 6 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 tsp powdered mustard
  • 1 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Toast bread: If your bread is day-old, skip this step. Otherwise cut the bread into 1” squares. Turn oven to 250F. Toast bread pieces for 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Roast the veggies and grill/chop the sausages.
Make fondue: Toss grated cheese with the flour. In your fondue pot over low heat, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and garlic. Fry until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn heat to medium-high. Add Guinness, apple juice concentrate, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Bring to boil. Add cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly until fondue is smooth and melted. Thin with more Guinness, if needed throughout the meal. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve: Arrange bread, vegetables and meat around the table.

Shrimp Creole for a Crowd

11 Mar



Several months ago, under the glow of lighted Christmas balls, two cooks met and plotted a dinner at another friend’s home. Sarah and I came up with a scheme. We would cook a fantastic meal and crash our friend’s Todd and Laura’s fabulous house for a dinner party. They were kind enough to accept the idea. Months later, Sarah and I planned a creole themed dinner for nine people. My family’s traditional shrimp creole, a grapefruit and avocado salad, small creole flavored deviled eggs and a most rich and decadent chocolate croissant bread pudding all made the menu.

Special thanks to Laura and Todd for hosting us! Thanks to Sarah for a fun night of collaboration!

The theme was rooted in the idea that I wanted to cook most the dinner at home – in advance – and arrive in style with an easily assembled unusual meal. This shrimp creole recipe can be cooked in big batches weeks ahead. I made the sauce on a rainy Sunday afternoon the weekend before the party — without the shrimp. Day of the party, I defrosted, tasted for final seasoning and hauled the pot over to Laura’s. Right before we ate, I tossed in shrimp to fully cook before serving. It couldn’t have been easier.

Shrimp creole is perfect served over a bed of fluffy basmati rice. Here’s the recipe!


Showstopping Brussel Sprout and Pancetta Pizza

6 Mar



Are you looking for a last minute Friday night supper? A Brussels Sprout and Pancetta Pizza, a glass of good vino and a cute dog are all you need. This recipe is from The Candid Appetite – a beautiful and inspiring blog with lots of delicious photographs. I was taken with the idea of a sneaky (sort-of) healthy idea of brussels sprouts plus the most delicious salty cured Italian pancetta. Did I mention the egg? (Yes, save it for the weekend. )

This is a fun alternative to the normal homemade pizza night. Enjoy it with friends. It’s a showstopper. Meaning, don’t get it while watching House of Cards.

Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta Pizza, from The Candid Appetite

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 2¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • ½ pound thinly sliced pancetta
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl combine the warm water and yeast. Lightly stir and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Add the salt, sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a shaggy dough. Add a bit more water, a little at a time, if the dough is too dry. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 to 7 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, that has been greased and turn it over to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, loosely, and a damp kitchen towel. Set in a warm place to double in size, about 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare the other toppings. Separate the Brussels sprout leaves and throw them onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to evenly coat and roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the leaves are crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Sauté the diced red onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper, for about 5 minutes, or until translucent and slightly browned. Allow to cool down.

In a small pot heat the remaining (¼ cup) olive oil with the whole garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs. Cook on low for about 5 to 10 minutes to develop the flavor. Remove from heat and allow to cool down.

Cut the dough in half and roll out each half on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a large thin circle. Place each rolled pizza crust onto two baking sheets. Brush the crusts liberally with the garlic herb infused oil. Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Sprinkle each dough with the mozzarella and pecorino cheese, dividing it among both crusts. Top with the crispy Brussels sprouts, and sautéed onions. Lay a couple slices of pancetta on each pizza. Bake for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese and continue to brown the crust.

Remove the pizzas from the oven and crack two eggs onto each pizza. Return to the oven and continue to cook for another 5 minutes (for runny yolks). Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!


Fireside Cocoa & Coffee Rubbed Ribeye Steaks & Spinach Gratin

28 Feb



If your’e looking for the perfect fireside — or TV side (hello, House of Cards) — cozy meal this weekend, I got you covered. It’s hearty, spicy and stick-to-your-ribs good. Stop worrying about Spring waistlines, I see no way out of this frozen tundra anytime on the horizon.

So, here it is. Spicy, coffee and cocoa rubbed ribeye steaks. A hint of smoke from smoked salt and paprika. An unusual taste of espresso and cocoa crusted on a juicy steak with the help of a sprinkle of brown sugar. So delicious. And served with the most rich spinach gratin that comes out of the oven bubbling with cheese.

Ina’s recipe for spinach gratin is EXTREMELY rich and the recipe makes enough for an army of hungry men. It’s certainly delicious and the most tricky technique for hiding spinach. If you’re making this for two, I would recommend making a forth of the recipe.

What’s hold you back? Get the store. The Fresh Market has a sale for NY Strips this weekend – those will work too!

Cocoa & Coffee Rubbed Ribeye Steaks 

  • 1 or 2, thick cut ribeye steaks
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel
  • 1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked salt
  • pepper

Combine all spices and salt. Rub heavily on steaks. Cook in a cast iron skillet or on a grill to desired temperature. I like my ribeyes around medium-rare! Allow the steaks to rest and cut into nice thick slices.

Ina’s Spinach Gratin 

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (5 (10-ounce) packages)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.



Grilled Gaucho Style Flank Steak

27 Feb


This week, during all the winter snow and blizzard, I was dreaming of summer nights. Grilling outdoors, fruit filled deserts, cold cucumber salads and icy beverages. Oh, and rose wine. But we still have some time before those most desirable days.

So I put on my winter coat and grilled a big steak for friends with an herby chimichurri like gaucho sauce. It wasn’t the same. And it’s hard to grill meat outside in 17 degree temperatures (hot grill, freezing air, what to do?). But it’s very fun and worth the real grill taste. We enjoyed this simple steak with Florida stone crabs, Hasselback potatoes and a crisp salad. Oh, and a big roaring fire.

Stay warm out there!

Grilled Gaucho Style flank Steak

  • 1 bundle fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Lime Juice
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds skirt steak or flank steak, trimmed

In a food processor, pulse together the first nine ingredients. Save to serve with steak.

Season meat with salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill to desired temperature. Rest and serve with fresh sauce.



Masha’s Lemony Hearts of Palm Salad

24 Feb



When planning last weeks dinner party, I decided a hearts of palm salad would be a fun spin on the same old salad. And then…I assigned the task to my Russian friend, Masha, who had never heard of a heart of palm. What a friend I am! A challenging one, yes.

Masha did an excellent job coming up with a recipe. This salad is full of bite – crispy onions and celery mixed with bitter greens and a citrus dressing. Plus the unique star, the heart of palm.

This salad would be perfect for a summer picnic. It holds up extremely well over time. I had the leftovers the next day for a lunch.

From the photo, it looks like even Winston thought the salad looked delicious!

Lemony Hearts of Palm Salad

  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 cups sliced heart of palm
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • chopped parsley
  • arugula
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Mixed together all the vegetables. Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress the salad. Toss and enjoy!



Smoked Paprika and Garlic Hasselback Potatoes

23 Feb



My Smoked Paprika and Garlic Hasselback Potatoes were a big hit of the  “just because it’s cold dinner party.” And, the hot oven helped keep the kitchen warm.

I’ve recently become very interested in incorporating smoked paprika into my cooking. For so long I judged plan old paprika – it was often lonely on a deviled egg or just used for color. But smoked paprika comes in sweet, hot, bittersweet and even sweet and spicy varieties! Check out Savory Spice Shop at Friendly Center for a complete run down and shopping spree. Smoked paprika is now landing itself on a simple grilled salmon, on top of hot popcorn or on these most delightful hasselback potatoes. The flavor is subtle but superb.  Check it out and Enjoy!


Smoked Paprika and Garlic Hasselback Potatoes

  • large potatoes (I like Yukon Gold)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon, minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon, smoked paprika (sweet or bittersweet – maybe a touch of hot!)

Heat the oven to 425°F . Cut slits in the potatoes, leaving the bottom intact: Cut slits into the potato, stopping just before you cut through so that the slices stay connected at the bottom of the potato. Space the slices 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch apart.

In the meantime, heat oil, butter, garlic, salt, pepper and smoked paprika in a small sauce pan until melted and aromatic. Arrange the potatoes in a baking dish. Brush the potatoes all over with butter mixture. Sprinkle with a touch more salt and pepper.

Bake 30 minutes, then brush with butter again. Bake the potatoes for about 30 more minutes. Once the potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender inside, serve them hot!


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