Tag Archives: easy

Easy Tabbouleh (Tabouli)

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Tabouli

This is such a nutritious and delicious thing to have on hand. It can be served with grilled pita bread, rustic breads, slices of radishes, carrots or cucumbers or eaten as a salad on its own. There are a lot of recipes out there, this one is based on a Palestinian version, basically a parsley salad. Chop and stir! This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I used fresh and dried parsley to get different levels of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat, soaked for 2-4 hours in boiling water, then strained
  • 1 pound of grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley 
  • 2 large bunches mint (not peppermint) finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Baharat seasoning (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp Sumac (more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper (I use a four peppercorn blend)
  • Sea salt to taste

Baharat Spice Mix

To make spice mix: Toast all but the nutmeg in a dry pan, being careful not to burn. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder).  Add the nutmeg and stir. Keeps for 8-10 weeks

To make Tabbouleh:

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with additional lemon quarters.

Homemade Egg Rolls!

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rolls plated

There are many plays on the egg roll. This one is perhaps the “classic” to most Americans, as it is the type we grew up with. A crispy egg noodle exterior, filled with savory flavors and lots of interesting veggies. You do not have to follow an exact recipe, play around with different fillings, different herbs and all kinds of sprouts and greens. The Vietnamese make them with a rice flour wrap. Spring rolls are the same concept except uncooked, those utilize the rice flour wraps soaked in water to soften them.

OK… back to the basic egg rolls. This is so easy and everyone LOVES these! You will never buy those frozen ones again!

I like to use pork sausage, you can also chop up some cooked shrimp or chicken.

Veggies:

Finely chop some of the following (you choose the things you like):

  • Carrots (I shred mine)
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Water chestnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Napa cabbage
  • Red bell pepper
  • Daikon radish
  • A bit of lemongrass
  • A bit of fermented black beans (optional)

Not so chopped goodies:

  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Pea sprouts
  • Thin slices of tofu

Method:

In a hot wok or skillet brown the sausage (or other meat) once browned toss in the veggies and saute. Your mixture should be 1/2 veggies and 1/2 meat. Add some Hoisin, Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce, just enough to moisten (I prefer the hoisin). Cool. & Chill the filling for 30 minutes.

Filling

Now comes the fun part! Let’s Roll! In four steps you roll up the egg rolls. Brush on an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 Tbs of water) on all seams as you fold.

Roll 1

roll 2

roll 3

roll 4

After they are rolled, place on a plate or if you are making a lot, on a tray.

rolls done

If you are frying, heat 4″ of canola or rice bran oil to 350 degrees and fry till golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes). Drain and serve hot.

If you are baking, spray a baking sheet with oil, then place the egg rolls on the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375. Then bake for about 25 minutes, till golden and crispy.

For sauces, you can use many different sauces, the easiest are prepared Duck Sauce, Hoisin Sauce or Sweet Chili sauce. All are available in most any grocery stores. If you are doing the vietnamese version, it is worth it to find a recipe for Nuoc Cham. Here is my friend Andrea Nguyen’s recipe.

These are better when freshly cooked. The wraps and filling will last at least 10 days in the fridge. You can crisp up leftover cooked rolls in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. You can also make the rolls before cooking and freeze them on a baking sheet. Once frozen, just put into freezer bags and they will be ready for your next party. Fry or bake as directed.

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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pineapple 1

This is so easy and so delicious… completely refreshing.

2 cups fresh (must be fresh) cubed pineapple

2 cups chunked peeled English cucumbers (no seeds)

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 sprigs fresh mint, torn

1 finely chopped jalapeno

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Place all in a blender and pulse till well blended but still a little chunky

Serve  with additional nuts on top or a sprig of mint.

This will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

pineapple 2

Big Daddy Does Pho

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Pho 3

Big Daddy makes a few cooking attempts to ease my busy schedule. Last night he hit a homerun. Pho (pronounced FA), the simple (yet complex) Vietnamese Street food charmed him when we lived in Hawaii. He is not one for exotic flavors, so this surprised me a bit. Since then we have been to several restaurants here in Charleston that serve Pho. He decided to make it and it was an astounding winner. We paired it with a Belgian Ale and that was a fantastic match too. We had some leftover rare beef (tri-tip) so he froze it and sliced it thinly. I usually ask for my meat on the side when ordering Pho in restaurants, I don’t like it over cooked. We have enough broth for at least two more meals.

ready for soup

Pho 

INGREDIENTS:

Soup
4 quarts beef stock (homemade is best)
1 large onion, sliced into rings
6 slices fresh ginger root or galangal if you can get it
2 small stalks of fresh lemon grass tied in a knot
1 pound sirloin tip, cut into thin slices
1 (8 ounce) packages dried rice noodles
 
Garnishes and Sauces
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin rings
2 limes, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha (Rooster) sauce
Fish sauce
METHOD :
1. In a large soup pot, combine broth, onion, ginger, lemon grass, star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. Arrange bean sprouts, mint, basil, and cilantro on a platter with chilies and lime.
3. Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Ladle hot broth over noodles and top with beef. Pass garnishes and sauces.

Pho 2

Roasted Balsamic Cherries

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Really good cherries are hard to beat for flavor and beauty. This application is something that goes well with duck, pork  or chicken as a side dish, but also is good as a dessert over ice cream. It is super simple. You just have to find some really super cherries! I got mine from Whole Foods just as the cherry season was beginning.  I used bing cherries but any large firm variety would work for this.

Start with firm ripe cherries

Start with firm ripe cherries

1 lb of cherries,(don’t  pit or remove stems)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Whole nutmeg, grated
Fleur de Sel salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste 

1. Preheat the oven  to 400°F.

2. Rinse the cherries with cold water and pad them dry gently with a kitchen towel.

3. Place cherries in a bowl and toss them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season generously with salt and pepper.

4. Transfer cherries to a non-reactive baking dish (glass or porcelain are ideal) with the stem standing up. Preferably, the cherries will fit really close to one another. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.

5. Roast the cherries in the oven for 20 minutes or until they start to release their juices. Remove the foil, and place the baking dish back in the oven for another 5 minutes to allow the juices caramelize a bit.

6. Remove from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes. Serve cherries as desired spooning some of the juices over the cherries.

Roasted Cherries

Pastitsio: Greek Lasagna

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Tight shot

This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.

Greek Lasagna Pastitsio

When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.

Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Greek Seasoning Blend
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
  • 1 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
  • 4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

greek noodles

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1/2  of a whole nutmeg, grated with a microplane

Preparation:

This recipe will yield about 12 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a lasagna pan that is 9 x 13 x 3 inches deep.

Begin with the Meat Filling:

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.

Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.

Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.

Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.

Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.

Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees while you prepare the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel Sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.

Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.

DSC_0007

Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back th sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired.  Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color.

tight shot 2