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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.


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.



Spiced Lamb Hot Pockets

6 Feb



Last Friday night, Margaret and I experimented with Bon Appetit’s new recipe for Spice Lamb Hand Pies. We, of course, sang the Hot Pocket jingle the entire time they were baking…so I’ve changed the name for this purpose. While these meat-filled hot pockets were delicious – don’t skip the All Butter Crust – they are very heavy. Save this recipe for your man cave or the next viewing of Spartacus. And by no means should you make these when it’s warmer than 44 degrees outside.


Spiced Lamb Hot Pockets, from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • All-Butter Pie Dough (click here for recipe)
  • All-purpose flour (for surface)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato paste, cumin, ginger, cardamom, and turmeric and cook until fragrant and sticky, about 1 minute. Add lamb and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Stir in peas; cook until bright green, about 5 minutes. Drain reserved currants and add to lamb along with parsley. Let cool.


Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Working with one at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 12” squares. Cut each into 4 squares; transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Spoon filling onto one side of squares, leaving ½” border. Brush edges with egg and fold dough over filling. Press to seal; crimp with a fork. Cut a few vents in tops; brush with egg.


Bake until pies are golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Turkey Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

29 Jan



It’s sleeting outside right now! So, perfect time to cozy up with a bowl of homemade soup. Here’s a hearty recipe for  turkey sausage, kale and potato soup. It takes less than an hour to prepare and will last throughout the week. Nothing beats heating up soup on a cold night. I suggest a squeeze of fresh lemon and splash of hot sauce on top! Stay warm!

Turkey Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound turkey  sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 3 cups chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • Pinch dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pound kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, cut it into slices. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.
  2. Add the onion & carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the water, broth, and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Add the sausage, potatoes, and red-pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 2 minutes. Add the kale and bring the soup back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes and kale are tender, about 6 minutes longer. Add the black pepper.

Soup, sofa skating and grilled cheese

26 Jan


This weekend was the perfect weekend to wind down, relax and refuel. January has been a busy month with little time for anything but early mornings, meetings and tapping on keyboards. So I spent the weekend spending time with friends, resting and cooking some classic comfort foods.

After a visit to the Greensboro Curb Market for the annual chili cook-off (congrats to Massey Creek Farm and Savory Spice Shop for their big win), I picked up the remainder of my groceries and hunkered down at home with a couple recipes, a cooking partner and a couple of pups. While watching Greensboro’s live broadcast of the US Figure Skating Championships (many twizzles, spins and Johnny Weir), we prepared an easy turkey sausage, kale and potato soup and roasted poblanos for this delicious spin on a cheddar grilled cheese. A seat on the sofa with soup and sandwich was the perfect setting for a great Saturday night.

This recipe for Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwiches is the classic grilled cheese dialed up a notch. A smokey, slightly smokey and spicy poblano pepper with gooey cheese and a salty bite. If you have a panini machine, this is the perfect time to crank it up. If not, a cast iron skillet will work just fine.

I paired the sandwich with a turkey sausage, potato and kale soup. I’ll share the recipe this week. Stay warm out there!

Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Washington Post 

  • 1 medium roasted poblano pepper, minced 
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated, at room temperature (I used smoked cheddar from The Fresh Market) 
  • 2 ounces regular, at room temperature 
  • 3 tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices country bread or sourdough 
  • Salted or unsalted butter, for the bread

Preheat a panini press.

Combine the minced poblano, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.

Lay out the bread slices in 4 pairs. Spread 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on four of the slices. Place the remaining four slices on top of the cheese mixture to create 4 sandwiches. Spread the butter on the outside of the sandwiches. Reserve the remaining cheese (see headnote).

Cook 2 sandwiches at a time in the panini press until lightly browned. The cheese should be gooey inside. This will take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Cut each sandwich in half. Serve immediately.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

14 Jan



Soups on this January. With my freezer stocked with chicken stock, I’ve been cooking up a variety of hot soups for school nights and lazy lunches. With my heart set on a healthier and easier Greek avgolemono soup, I arrived at this recipe for Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo. It was certainly easier than managing all those eggs and was simple to make on a Monday night. I found it was even better the next night when I remembered to add the dill!

If you are feeling a hint of a cold, this is the trick! Stay warm, friends. And hold tight to that chicken stock.


Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Bon Appetit 


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon halves (for serving)

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite-size pieces.


Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.


Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over.

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