So, as you’ve figured out it’s full-on BBQ season.
A great appetizer that my hubby has been making lately is baby lambchops. I have to admit that I was spoiled by the lambchops at the Palm on West Street in NYC, they were just amazing. However, looks like the bald guy has nailed this recipe. And of course I had to add my two cents to make it pretty!
The marinade he created is the following: EVOO, Sazon con Azafran (by Goya – see pic below), chopped onions (small chop), garlic and dill. Just toss it all in a covered container and shake, shake, shake. Let chops sit for about 30 minutes before cooking on grill (you can keep them out while you prepare the BBQ. Never put cold food, straight from fridge onto a hot grill, it messes with the grill temperature. There’s a good explanation for this bad practice (and I get it, we’re all in a rush) here. Note that lambchops should be cooked medium rare (about 120 degrees if you’re using a thermometer).
My addition to this great dish was a beautiful mint pesto (I really dislike mint jelly, which I know is the traditional accompaniment for lamb). I have mint growing on the patio so I harvested some leaves, tossed into my food processor with some EVOO, garlic (to your taste) pine nuts (aka pignoli – which you can toast for a few minutes before incorporating to enhance the nutty flavor) and salt & pepper. I would not add cheese to this pesto as I think the richness of the mint and the lamb is just enough. Process until all ingredients are incorporated and plate!
The outcome was amazing, really. Such rich, earthy flavors cooked al fresco on a grill – I mean how much better does it get?
We may be late to the game but we just started doing Taco Tuesdays. It’s so much fun. I remember making tacos for the kids when they were little so I’m glad to be back at it again.
My husband makes a great fresh guacamole. All you need to do is mix fresh mushed up avocados (we do this using the back of a fork), chopped tomatoes, minced onion and jalapeños, fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon), salt & pepper in a bowl. I like the guac to be a little chunky, but it’s totally your preference. If you don’t know how to cut open an avocado, I found this good video here that you might want to check out. Also, a note of caution – we now use gloves when chopping the jalapeños, it’s a story I won’t share here…
Then we make the fillers…we eat shrimp, a lot of shrimp…so we sautéed some shrimp in a little EVOO with a bit of garlic and seasoning – and that’s it!
For toppings, I chopped up some lettuce, tomatoes, and some more jalapeño. Then of course there’s the obligatory shredded cheese, sour cream and hot sauce. We like the soft shell flour tacos, which I warm up for 30 seconds in the microwave before plating.
I’m not talking about a fashion accessory, I’m talking about actual chicken cutlets. It might sound boring but I love a simply breaded chicken cutlet with a green side dish and a little fresh Greek yogurt (or tzatziki) on the side.
For this plate I used egg dip and breadcrumbs and simply fried the breaded cutlets. (Let me know if you need details on this, it’s super easy!)
I had a side of broccoli rabe (which I steamed and blanched, then drizzled with EVOO, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) and a bowl of cauliflower mashed “potatoes” .
Sometimes I make a tomato bruschetta (chopped cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, fresh chopped basil, salt, pepper and EVOO) and top the chicken cutlets with that and it’s great!
The worst part of the lockdown was not being able to travel. We love Europe and all the different foods and flavors you find there. Greece was one our favorite trips. We spent time in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini (our hotel in Santorini was insane, check it out here).
Anyway, since we can’t be in Greece right now, we’re cooking up a simple Greek lunch. Souvlaki! This dish could not be easier. Many people like to use chicken thighs for this recipe, which are more flavorful but hubby only likes white meat so I use skinless, boneless breasts which I cube up. In a bowl I add about 2 cups of white wine, about 2 tablespoons of oregano, a tablespoon of EVOO and salt & pepper. Whisk this marinade well and then add the cubed chicken. You can marinate for an hour or as long as overnight. I then removed chicken from the marinade and put in shallow baking pan and baked in my oven for about 25 minutes (until there is no pink in the middle of the chicken).
I served the souvlaki with a salad, warm pita bread, fresh feta cheese (IMO Bulgarian goat feta is the best if you can find it.) and a side of freshly made tzatziki sauce. To make the tzatziki I use Greek Yogurt (I like the Fage brand, 0% fat) which I strain before using so it really thickens up. I add minced, peeled & seeded cucumber, garlic powder (fresh garlic is too strong, I’ve been told…) salt, pepper and a ton of fresh minced dill. Stir in all ingredients and let it set in a bowl in fridge for about 20 minutes).
You can make a sandwich with all of these yummy ingredients or if you’re on keto just plate it with the sides and no bread.
There’s nothing better for the soul than a bowl of chicken soup. We’re down in Florida now and some will argue that it’s just too hot for soup. I say turn up the A/C and enjoy soup all year round.
I start with the trilogy (chopped celery-leafy tops included, carrots and onions) which I sauté in a large pot with a little EVOO. I season heavily with salt, pepper, thyme, tons of fresh dill and a packet of Sazon con Azafran (please don’t write me about color additives…) Once the veggies have sweated I plop in a whole cleaned chicken (as big as will fit in pot). Add water so the birdie is covered and season again with salt, pepper, thyme and yes, more dill. I cook this for about 90 minutes or until bird is cooked. Turn off heat and let cool a bit before removing the bird to debone (you can wrap the bird in cheesecloth before putting in pot for easier removal). One the bird has cooled enough to handle remove and toss any skin, bones and cartilage. Shred meat using a fork and return meat to soup. Turn heat on medium and let cook for another 20 minutes.
Plate soup over some cooked tubettini and serve with tons of fresh shredded parmesano, salt & pepper. I guarantee you will feel better just smelling the soup cook!
Pro-tip: My hubby likes potatoes in the soup sometimes instead of the pasta. To make with potatoes, add them about 45 minutes after starting the soup (so they don’t get too soft and fall apart). I use medium sized red potatoes which I cut in half and put in skin on.
One of the dishes I used to like to order when I was on the road was shrimp & grits. This was not a dish that I grew up with or one that I made, until recently (of course with my own spin on it).
To make my version of this dish I prepared some polenta (follow the instructions on the bag). I use chicken broth (or you can use vegetable broth) instead of water – this gives the polenta a richer flavor. When the polenta is nearly done cooking (remember to stir, stir, stir) I add about a tablespoon of mascarpone, which makes the polenta creamy and yummy. Remove from heat and prepare the shrimp.
In my wok (or sauté pan) I steam some fresh broccoli rabe for about 7 minutes (again I steam this in chicken broth, which removes some of the bitterness). Strain and refresh with cold water. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, drizzle with a little EVOO and set aside.
Now, back to your wok or sauté pan. Add a little EVOO, when warm add some fresh minced garlic and either fresh chopped onion or scallion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add fresh, cleaned shrimp and sauté until just pink. I usually have mint & basil growing on the patio, so I would mince some up and toss in towards the end of cooking.
Now to plate this baby. Spoon polenta on the plate, top with shrimp and a helping of the broccoli rabe. I garnished with fresh avocado. You can drizzle with EVOO and viola!
Pro-tip: you can use any type of protein and/or veggie for this dish. Chicken would be great or LOBSTER…broccoli or zucchini noodles would work too.
Let’s make empanadas! A fun appetizer with many variations. Here’s how I made this batch.
Ingredients: 1 package of Goya empanada discs A few tablespoons of EVOO 1 diced onion 1 diced clove of garlic 1 small package of chopped meat 1 large diced boiled potato (should be soft in center) 1 cup of frozen peas Salt & pepper 1 cup canola oil Salt, pepper
Heat EVOO to saute pan. Add onion and garlic – saute for about 3 minutes (do not allow garlic to brown – if it does toss it and start again) add chopped meat to pan and brown. Season with salt & pepper when meat has browned mix in potatoes and peas. Pour mixture into a strainer and let sit for about 5 minutes (you want to strain out fats and juices so they don’t seep through the empanada discs). Place one of the discs on cutting board then put about 2 tablespoons of mixture on one half of disc then fold over other half. Using a fork press down open sides to seal – voila! You now have an empanada. Repeat with remaining discs (extra filling can be frozen for future use). Now heat canola oil in large frying pan. When oil is hot slide empanadas into pan turning when browned. Don’t overcrowd the frying pan, they can be cooked in batches. Remove from pan and onto paper towel lined plate and salt immediately (Kosher salt!) You can definitely either deep fry or air fry these if you prefer.
I’m the first to admit that the harder something is to find, the more I must have it. Case in point is the Martin’s cubed potato bread I need to make my Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s either abundantly available or scarce.
The stuffing is always a hit on Thanksgiving (I only make it once a year so everyone’s dying for it by November LOL). Here’s all you need to know to make this yummy side dish:
Ingredients: 2 sticks salted butter 1/4 cup EVOO 1 stalk of chopped celery (leaves included) 1 large sweet onion chopped 2 large carrots chopped 1/4 cup fresh parsley 2 bags of Martin’s potato bread 2 cups of chicken broth 2 eggs 1 cup of milk 2 cups of chopped roasted chestnuts 1 cup of dried craisins 1 cup sauteed mushrooms Salt, pepper Coarsely chopped thyme, sage (fresh if you can get it)
How to: In a large pot heat EVOO add 1/2 stick of butter cut in chunks. When butter has melted add celery, onion, carrots (AKA the “trilogy”) parsley and saute until softened. Add additional 1/2 stick of butter (this is not low cal!) when melted, add potato bread and mix to incorporate. Turn heat off and add chicken broth, eggs and milk (add additional milk if mixture is too dry). Add chestnuts, craisins and mushrooms (you can totally skip these if you like) and season with salt, pepper, thyme and sage. Your mixture should have a loose consistency. Turn mixture into deep baking pan and top with small pats of remaining butter and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 (when top is golden brown your stuffing is ready!)
Pro-tip: I throw whatever I have on hand in the stuffing. This year I had extra butternut squash-which I cubed and sauteed with the rest of the veggies. You can totally customize this to what you and your family like.
We often have a dinner of meze, tapas, small dishes, apps…whatever you call it – we love a dinner of many small plates to share. For Thanksgiving, there is no such thing as “small” anything. These are some of the appetizers we made this year: stuffed artichokes (full disclosure: my husband makes the crowd favorite artichoke…I still don’t know how that happened, but here we are), stromboli, sauteed rock shrimp (not always easy to find, but if you can DO IT!) and, the piece di resistance, sauteed zucchini flowers. These beauts are super hard to find, very seasonal and exceptionally fragile. I can always find them at Eataly in NYC (Flatiron) anytime of the year (they are imported from Israel) and during the late Spring at the Union Square farmer’s market. They only stay fresh for a day or two so you pretty much have to cook them immediately. If you want the 411 on how to purchase and prepare these yummies, send me a message and I’ll fill you in.
This was the smallest Thanksgiving I’ve ever hosted and thusly the smallest turkey I’ve ever bought (13 lbs). It was also our first Thanksgiving in New York in five years – everything was different this year – thanks a lot COVID. In any case, we had a great meal with lots of great appetizers, side dishes and desserts. I’ll break the food up in stages here since there was so much. I was thankful to have my hubby, daughter, her boyfriend and my best friend for the day, we had a really awesome Thanksgiving despite 2020.
This year, because my kitchen is so small in NY, I decided to dry brine my turkey instead of a wet brine (I imagined a disaster of wet brine leaking all over the fridge) I actually think the dry brine was much, much better. The dry brine was simply fresh herbs (thyme, sage, dill, parsley, salt, pepper mixed with a bit of EVOO – which created a thick paste) I slid a knife just beneath the skin (careful to not pierce skin) and rubbed the mixture generously under the breast, legs and cavity nd over the top of the skin with whatever mixture was left. This sat in fridge UNCOVERED – you want the salt to do its magic and dry the skin out a bit before cooking. The next day I put some soft butter under the skin as well, stuffed turkey cavity with homemade potato bread stuffing (!!) and put a halved apple in the butt (to keep the turkey extra moist and delish). Right before putting the bird in the oven I massaged it with a little EVOO, salt and pepper and fresh thyme, then put aluminum foil around the wings to prevent burning. I also put some fresh cut onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan with about 2 cups of cold water (this base will make your gravy when it’s all cooked). Beside the stuffing we made a side dish of roasted root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, beets, and onion) – tossed with fresh herbs and EVOO and then baked for about 45 minutes.