Category Archives: Cooking

Spicy Lamb Rice Bowl

 

At a sleek bar called The Flute in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the locals having dinner there overheard my boyfriend and I talking about where to eat on the last day of our trip.  She stopped by where we were sitting on her way out, and gave us quite a few tips, and one was a place called Diego’s that she said her daughter loved going to.  We went there for lunch the next day, having had our fill of seafood during the entire trip, and I could see why her daughter would love it.  Located on Bowman’s wharf, they serve Mexican inspired dishes with moderate prices to a young, hip crowd among poster-plastered walls and with 80’s music playing overhead.  I ordered the spicy lamb burrito and was amazed at how good it was.  The spicy ground lamb paired wonderfully with a blend of chopped Mediterranean vegetables,  kalamata olives and crunchy shaved brussels sprouts.  Surprisingly, there were black beans in the burritos but no rice.  It was all wrapped in a flour tortilla and drizzled with tzatziki sauce.

Back home, I decided to recreate the burrito as a rice bowl to make it easier on myself as a work-week meal.  I’ve made burritos before but always find the package of flour tortillas sitting in my fridge for weeks, as it’s hard for me to eat burritos every day to use them up, so a rice bowl works better for me.  If you want to fill a flour tortilla with the filling instead of serving it over rice, you can.

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Spicy Lamb Rice Bowl

2 servings

1 cup rice, or 2 12-inch flour tortilla

1/4 cup rinsed parsley and/or cilantro leaves

1/2 a large cucumber (use other half in tzatziki sauce, see recipe below)

1 vine-ripened tomato

1/4 cup Kalamata olives

7 brussels sprouts

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

2 Tbs olive oil

1 lb ground lamb (ground beef can also be used)

1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

Make the rice:  Place 1 cup rice with 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt in a pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a very low simmer, cover, and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let sit covered for another 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl mix the following:  Chopped parsley and/or cilantro, cucumber that has been peeled, seeded and diced, tomato that has been seeded and diced, and coarsely chopped kalamata olives.

Trim brussels sprouts, removing any discolored leaves.  Cut each brussels sprout in half, then finely shred and set aside.

Mince the garlic cloves, and mix together in another bowl with all the spices and salt.

In a frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil.  Sauté ground lamb or beef until browned.  Stir in all spices mixed with the garlic, rinsed black beans and shredded brussels sprouts.  Add a splash of water and cook for 5-10 minutes to heat through.

Stir the olive and vegetable mixture into the skillet off the heat.

Serve either over white rice as a rice bowl, or divide mixture in half and fill each of 2 tortilla wraps with it, wrapping into a burrito.  Serve with Tzatziki Sauce (below).

Tzatziki Sauce

I like mine with cucumber and garlic, and my boyfriend likes his with lemon zest and mint, so my recipe for tzatziki has a little of all of that.

1/2 large cucumber, peeled, grated and drained

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 TBS fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tsp lemon juice

zest from half a lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in refrigerator for about 20 minutes or so, to blend flavors.

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A Morning in Old Greenwich, Connecticut

I went to Old Greenwich, Connecticut for the first time in April, to cheer on my boyfriend Raj who was running the Greenwich Cup Half Marathon, something he’d been planning and dreaming about.  The day started early at 4:00am, as we rushed out the door in our sneakers to catch the Metro North train on the New Haven line.  We got to the Old Greenwich train station about 30 minutes later, and gazed nervously around us in the cold wondering how we’d manage the long walk to the starting line.  As luck would have it, someone was getting a ride and invited us to jump in.  That’s the camaraderie that is found so often among runners.  We chatted with the driver who had run the half marathon before and gave Raj tips.  We all got to the starting line just in time to register before the start of the race at 7am.

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The race began and ended on the beach on 1 Tod’s Driftway, so I stood in the sand while the runners lined up at the starting line.  Time ticked by as the sun rose, and then suddenly they were off!

I had about two hours to spend by myself, as my honey sweated and toiled up and down a winding path for twelve miles.  I decided against walking back towards the train station; there had been a downtown area on the way to the beach but it seemed too far to walk.  I was wearing a warm coat, but my sneakers unfortunately were not keeping my feet very warm.  Should have worn my Uggs, but too late.  I decided to make the best of things and enjoy the ocean view.  A pair of Adirondack chairs perched nearby welcomed me, and I snuggled into one of them for a peaceful hour.

As the sun climbed the sky, I went for a leisurely stroll along the beach.  Gradually, the runners started coming, their loved ones cheering them as they dashed past the finish line.  I strained looking for Raj, and finally saw him!  I got a great picture of him jumping over a puddle and giving me a thumbs up as he crossed the finish line.  He got his medal and I joined him in devouring the free bagels and orange wedges the race volunteers had set up.

Then we walked together down Shore Road and Sound Beach avenue in the direction of the train station, looking for coffee and breakfast.  We were happy to find a wonderful little bakery in the quaint downtown area called “Sweet Peas’s Baking Company”.  We had a great brunch there, a veggie omelette and smoked salmon toast with capers.  The best part was the take-away:  we got a carrot cake muffin brimming with chopped nuts, bakery fresh donuts, and a crisp baguette to go.

A lovely morning in Old Greenwich.  I would come back to Sweet Pea’s Baking Company just for the donuts!

 

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Ham and Pepper Frittata Sandwich

This was inspired by my trip to Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  We got a perfect French baguette from this bakery downtown called “Sweet Pea’s Bakery”.  It was crunchy on the outside, with a fluffy interior and still fresh the next day.  We wondered what to make with it however, other than just eat it with butter.  We decided to make these sandwiches.


Ham and Pepper Frittata Sandwich

Serves 2

French baguette

1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a cup chopped baked honey ham

4 eggs

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp each olive oil and butter, plus more for the bread

Salt and black pepper to taste

2-3 Tbsp grated Parmean cheese

Note:  you can make the frittata in one big skillet and then cut it in half to make two portions, or divide the ingredients in half and make two single servings in a small skillet, as I did here.

Directions

1.  Cut baguette into two pieces and then split lenghtwise.  Toast lightly and spread with olive oil or butter; set aside.

2.  In a non-stick skillet that can go in the oven, heat olive oil and add chopped ham, green and red bell peppers.  Sauté over medium-low heat until the ham has crisped up and the bell peppers have softened.

3.  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl with the milk and season with a little salt and black pepper.

4.  Add butter to the skillet, and when it has melted pour in the eggs.  Cook until the eggs are just beginning to set around the edges.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

5.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place frittata in the oven.  Bake until it is cooked through and slightly puffed and golden brown on top, about 10 minutes.

6.  Let rest for a minute then flip out onto a plate, fold in half with a spatula and fill the toasted baguette with the frittata, and serve.

 

Czech Hamburger (Karbanatky)

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One of my favorite recipes from Mom, and a classic Czech family dinner, is Karbanatky or a Czech hamburger.  Made from ground beef it is kept moist and juicy with meatloaf additions like bread soaked in milk, egg and chopped bacon.  Typical seasonings like paprika and marjoram make it Czech.

It is also different in that it is coated in breadcrumbs and fried until the outer coating is dark and crispy.  “Karbanatky” translates loosely in English into something that is barbecued, and this meaty burger definitely takes on that dark, crispy and smokey sensibility.

It is not served on a bun, but rather next to mashed potatoes dotted with butter and perhaps some caramelized shallots.  Enjoy topped with ketchup on a cold winter day, with a Czech beer, like Pilsner Urquelle.

1 slice white bread

1/4 of a white onion

2 sprigs fresh Italian parsley

1 clove garlic

1 slice bacon

1/2 lb ground beef (chuck or sirloin)

1 egg

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

Canola oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

1.  Remove crusts from slice of white bread, place bread in a small bowl and pour a little water or milk over it to soak.  Once bread is softened, squeeze out the extra liquid and place in a large mixing bowl.

2.  Finely chop white onion, by first slicing it: 

Then chopping the slices crosswise into small dice:


Place in mixing bowl with the bread.
Tear off the leaves of parsley from the stalk, and chop finely as well.  Place into bowl.

Mince garlic clove finely, so that there are no large pieces of garlic:


Place minced garlic into bowl.  Chop bacon, by first slicing crosswise and then chopping slices crosswise into dice:

 Add chopped bacon to bowl.  Mix everything in bowl thoroughly with a fork until combined:

3.  Add ground beef to the mixture in bowl.  Separate the egg, place the egg yolk into the ground beef mixture and the egg whites into a separate small bowl.

4.  Add all seasonings to the beef mixture.

5.  With your hands, smush and mush the beef mixture until thoroughly combined.  Shape the mixture into two hamburger sized patties and place on a plate while you prepare to fry.


6.  Pour bread crumbs out into a large plate or shallow bowl.  Pour canola oil into a heavy frying pan to coat the bottom, and heat slowly over medium heat.  Meanwhile, with a whisk whip the egg whites for a minute or so, until softly foamy (this breaks up the egg whites and makes it easier to coat the beef patties):


7.  Handling the beef patties gently, first coat one in the egg whites, then coat completely in bread crumbs, patting the crumbs in lightly.  Do the same with the other beef patty.


8.  Place patties in hot oil in pan and fry until deeply golden brown and crusty on both sides, about 10-15 minutes per side, flipping once.


Serve with mashed potatoes topped with caramelized shallots, a green vegetable and a cold beer.

Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage

This is a one pot meal that satisfies on many levels – it’s easy and quick to put together, slightly spicy, nourishing and filling.  While this recipe is considered a one serving recipe, it makes a full bowl of flavorful, steaming rice studded with chunks of crispy andouille sausage and hearty red kidney beans.   Other types of sausage can be substituted, such as kielbasa or chorizo.  However the spice of andouille pairs nicely with the “sofrito” here, which is a base of finely chopped blend of aromatic vegetables that are sauteed before adding the rice.

This recipe can be made very quickly and economically using several tips that are listed at the end of the recipe, such as making batches of sofrito in a food processor in advance and then freezing 1/4 cup portions of it.  The beans (we are only using half a standard 15.5 oz can here) can also be pulled from a frozen stash.  When I buy sausages, I like to go to the organic section of my market and buy a package of sausages that are made from meat without any added antibiotics or hormones, which I feel is important for good health.  I then take the sausages out of the package at home and freeze each sausage in its own snack size food storage bag.  This makes it very easy for me to take out the amount of sausages I need to defrost for a recipe (here for example, we are only using one).  To defrost sausages, beans or sofrito safely, place them still sealed in their food storage bag into a bowl or other container filled with water, and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Even without any frozen assets, you are only a few chops away from a satisfying meal with great Spanish flavor.  If you are not familiar with “alcaparrado”, it is bottled green olives with extra pimento and capers added.  It is sold in some markets next to the bottles of green olives stuffed with pimento, which can be substituted if you can’t find alcaparrado.  Adding olives at the end of the dish, along with the crispy sausage, adds a nice salty tang at the finish.

Red Beans and Rice - up close

Olive oil, about 2 tsp

1 andouille sausage (defrost if frozen)

1/4 sofrito (see recipe below).  If not using frozen, finely chop the following:  2 Tbsp white onion, 1 Tbsp each green and red bell pepper, 1 seeded plum tomato, 1 clove garlic, and 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro

1/2 cup white rice

1 1/4 cups water

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 a 15.5 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or defrost if frozen)

1 Tbsp alcaparado, or green olives stuffed with pimento

Directions

1.  Cube sausage, by cutting in half crosswise, in quarters lengthwise, and then across into small chunks.

Andouille Sausage

2.  Add 1 tsp olive oil to a medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat.  Add sausage and saute for about 5 minutes, until crisp.  Then remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  If oil in pan starts to smoke, remove pan from the heat for a few moments, and turn down heat.

Crispy Andouille Sausage

3.  Add another tsp of olive oil to the same saucepan, and add the sofrito.  Stir and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables have softened.  Stir in the rice to coat with the sofrito mixture.

4.  Pour in water.  Add rinsed and drained beans, and all seasonings.  Raise heat and bring to a boil.

5.  Reduce heat, and simmer until the level of liquid meets the level of the rice.  You will see some rice poking through the surface of liquid.

Red Beans and Rice - step 3

6.  Cover, lower heat and cook over very low flame for 15 minutes.

7.  Uncover, add the crisp sausage and olives, cover again and turn off the heat.  Let sit covered for another 15 minutes until the rice has fully absorbed all the liquid.

8.  Uncover, fluff with a fork, remove bay leaf and serve.

Tips:

To make sofrito in advance, finely chop the following in a food processor:  1 chopped white onion, 1 small seeded red bell pepper, half a seeded green bell pepper, 1 seeded jalapeno, 1 vine ripened tomato, 2-3 cloves garlic and 2 handfuls of washed fresh cilantro.  Portion out by 1/4 cups into a snack sized food storage bag, press flat and freeze flat so that it defrosts quickly.

As only half a standard 15.5 oz. can of beans is used in this recipe, you can drain, rinse and freeze the other half for future use in the same or other recipes.  You can also freeze cooked dry beans in the same way if made in advance.

 Black Bean and Quinoa Burger

Take a break from the beef burgers of summer with a tasty vegetarian quinoa burger, delicately spiced with cumin.  Black beans provide substance, along with fiber and iron.  Quinoa, even though a grain, is a source of complete protein.  Boost the health quotient even further by serving this burger topped with smashed avocado on a whole grain english muffin or bun.

Quinoa burger

1 Tbsp quinoa

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp green bell pepper, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup cooked or canned black beans (about half a 16 oz. can, see note)

1/4 cup panko crumbs

1 egg, beaten

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 whole wheat english muffin

1/2 of a Haas avocado

1/2 of a small lime or lemon

Directions

1.  Cook quinoa in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and a pinch of salt over medium heat for 10 minutes, until done (when fully cooked, the center of the grain will turn white, surrounded by a transculecent circle.)  Drain quinoa and place in a medium bowl.

2.  In a small skillet heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat and saute chopped onion, garlic, green bell pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes about 5 minutes, until softened.  Remove to the bowl with the quinoa.

3.  Drain and rinse the black beans if using canned, and add beans to the bowl with the quiona.  With a fork or potato masher, mash the mixture into a paste.  It’s ok if you leave the texture a little chunky.

4.  To the black bean mixture stir in panko crumbs, 1 Tbsp of the beaten egg (use the rest in scrambled eggs the next morning or as an egg wash for another recipe) and all the seasonings.  Form into a patty the size of your english muffin or bun.  Place the patty on a plate, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set for about 10-20 minutes.  This is not essential, but it helps to firm up the mixture and lets the flavors meld.

5.  Meanwhile, pit avocado and scoop out half into a small bowl.  smash the avocado with a fork, add the juice of half a lime, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Mix well and set aside.  If you don’t know what to do with the remaining avocado, it can be sliced and served as an appetizer, sprinkled lightly with salt, black pepper, and drizzled with olive oil.

6.  When ready, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the black bean and quinoa patty and fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.

7.  Split and toast the english muffin or bun in a toaster or toaster oven.  Place cooked burger on the bottom, top with the smashed avocado, and top with the other half of the english muffin or bun.  Serve with sliced tomatoes or hot buttered corn on cob.

 

Quinoa

Quinoa grains, uncooked

 

Yield:  1 serving

Tip:  I like to  cook 1 lb. of dry beans, then cool and portion them out by 1/2 cup amounts into small food storage bags that I freeze for future use.  If you don’t have any cooked beans on hand or waiting for you in the freezer, drained canned beans will work in this recipe as well, however cooked bean will have more nutritional value than canned. You can also freeze the leftover canned beans for future use in the same way.

 

 

Kale Mac n’ Cheese

I love how creamy and cheesy the sauce is.  Kale adds super-food nutrition to an all-time favorite comfort food.  It’s so easy and so worth putting together this one serving of deliciousness for yourself.

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1 cup loosely packed fresh kale, washed, stripped from the stems and cut or torn into bite-sized pieces (see how to video:(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK62n-FqXg0)

1/2 cup dry elbow macaroni

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

1 slice American cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 tsp mustard powder

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced

Directions

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add half a teaspoon of salt.  Add the prepared kale, pushing down with the back of a spoon until the kale has wilted into the water.  Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, until tender.  Lift kale out with a slotted spoon to a bowl and reserve.

2.  In the same saucepan, bring water back to a boil.  If there’s not enough water in the pan to cook the pasta, you may add more water.  Once the water has come to a boil, and add the pasta.  Lower heat and simmer until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

3.  In the same saucepan, pour out the water then place back on the heat.  Melt the butter in the pan, whisk in flour and cook a minute or two, stirring with a whisk.  Slowly pour in the milk, whisking to incorporate all of the butter and flour mixture and stirring until smooth.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat again and simmer, whisking occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the slice of American cheese torn into smaller pieces,, shredded cheddar cheese, mustard powder, black pepper and sliced scallions.  Stir to combine until smooth.  Stir in the reserved cooked kale and pasta.  Serve hot.

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Yield:  1 serving

Tip:  Kale contains protein, calcium, iron, and is a great source of vitamins C and A (www.nutritiondata.self.com).  It is a hearty dark leafy green, and keeps  well for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, if covered loosely in paper towels  and sealed in a plastic bag.