Lamb Burgers with Cucumber and Mint

Lamb Burgers
Burgers are a favorite dinner item in this house. I can put nearly anything on a burger and my three year old will eat it. She may pick it off after a bite or two, but it’s almost like the word “burger” justifies just about anything included. I couldn’t quite sell her on having the tangy mint and cilantro lime yogurt on top, but I figure as long as she is willing to try something that looks like this, we are doing good.

I don’t really cook with lamb all that often. It’s not on my carnivore radar, but it really is deeply flavorful and lean at the same time. Because of it’s low fat percentage, I added an egg to the meat mixture, kind of reminiscent of a meatball recipe. We topped the burgers with cool slices of cucumber, lots of chopped mint and cilantro and the zesty yogurt sauce and called it a success. I think bits of feta incorporated into the patties would’ve been even better – there’s always room for creativity and error in creating a burger and that’s why it’s one of the most enjoyable dinners to make around here. Not to mention everyone can top them in their own way, so a particular palette doesn’t get ridiculed.

lamb burgers with mint, sour cream and cucumber

Lamb Burgers with Cucumber and Mint

1 pound ground lamb
1/2 sweet onion, diced fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped cilantro and mint, divided
1/2 cup full fat plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cucumber, sliced
buttered onion rolls

In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, onion, egg and half the cilantro and mint. Add a teaspoon of salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Form into somewhat loose patties and cook on a buttered grill or griddle about 2 minutes per side and an instant read thermometer reads at least 160F.

Combine the yogurt, lime juice and other half of the cilantro and mint and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of burgers with sliced cucumbers on buttered onion rolls.

 

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Turkey Sliders

Turkey Burgers with Cucumber Radish
We’ve been plugging away in the Palmer house, keeping ourselves alive and enjoying our lady babies. It’s shocking how little time I have to do extra things like take pictures of the food we eat so that I can write about it. I’m doing good most days to just get things on the table before someone needs a nap or a diaper change or to be held, all of which are pretty difficult while cooking or taking photographs. I say this to excuse myself for not writing for a month and to tell you that not everything is perfect all the time and I can’t and am not even trying to keep all the balls in the air that I used to. Looking back, having just one kid was a dadgum BREEZE. In fact, that’s when I started this blog – when Olive was just seven months old! My days are filled with super baby joy and crazy games of pretend and doing lots of laundry (Eleanor is a super spitter-upper) and cooking and reading endless Olivia books and knitting and sometimes working on my “real” job of editing photographs. It’s a whirlwind and I know that it will slow down soon and these babies won’t need me every five minutes.  But in the meantime, the meals coming out of here are going to be pretty basic, pretty tasty and pretty easy.

If you are in the stage of life where a little person is needing YOU every five minutes, you’ll appreciate this recipe.  It was mega easy. Super tasty. Didn’t miss the beef, AND it is covered in SriRancha.  That’s right, Sriracha sauce and ranch dressing.  Sriracha mixed with most things is wonderful, but mayo or ranch is especially awesome.  I topped them with super crunchy cucumber slices and icicle radish (hadn’t ever tried those before – they were a fun supermarket find and we loved them!) Try these tonight – you won’t be sorry!

Turkey Burgers

Turkey Sliders

1 lb ground turkey
1 shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup – you can use any kind of onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Slider hamburger buns

Toppings:
1/2 a cucumber, sliced thin
Any kind of radish, sliced
Slices of American cheese (although you could use any, but I like the traditional taste of American and how it melts)
Sriracha sauce and Ranch dressing, mixed.  Use a ratio of 3 parts Ranch to one part Sriracha

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese until well mixed.  Form into about 1/4 cup size patties and cook in a skillet until a thermometer inserted reads at least 160F. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you should invest in one, and if you don’t want to invest in one, I would guess I cooked these for about 10 minutes per side on a medium-level heated cast iron skillet.

Turn on your oven’s broiler to high and place patties on a serving plate and top with slices of cheese (I used a quarter of a slice on each) and melt under the broiler.  Serve with generous amounts of SriRancha, cucumber and radish.

 

Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup

roasted carrot soup with cayenne and ginger
Fall means soup.  Soup means it’s cold enough outside to not want to die at the thought of eating soup for dinner.  And it being cold enough outside seems to make everything around here better.  I sleep better, we can play outside longer without my redhead overheating and everything just feels fresh.  And I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to hailing soups as a surefire way to get your kids to eat their vegetables, but I’m going to say it, again.  Cooking just about any vegetable and pureeing it into a soup is the easiest way to get a baby, toddler, picky adult to eat a vegetable otherwise sneered at due to its texture or appearance.  Olive used to eat asparagus.  But then, she turned two and decided she was no longer interested.  But the other day I made a batch of asparagus soup and she drank it down.  Same flavor, different delivery vehicle.  And when you add a piece of crusty, buttery bread on the side, the soup suddenly seems like a complete meal.

My go-to soup in the fall is usually butternut squash.  But I nearly always have a half-used bag of carrots in the fridge, waiting to become something more exciting than diced up for chicken pot pie.  The other day I made this soup and I loved it.  We ate on it for several days – always a good side dish or starter, and good for dunking toasted bread.  I don’t need to say it, again, but this batch of soup would fill up about 12 baby food jars.  Can you lend 30 minutes to making a vegetable soup?  How about $3 for a 2lb bag of carrots?  How much is a jar of baby food, again?  You get the point.

Yay, soup!

roasted carrot soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
serves 6-8

1 sweet onion, diced
3 TBS olive oil
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
ground ginger and paprika for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Toss in the onion and saute until tender but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Add in the carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to coat in the oil.  Add the stock and let the pot come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.  Puree directly in the pot with an immersion blender, or take in batches to a standard blender and puree until smooth.  If you used a standard blender, return the soup to the pot and add the heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then ladle into bowls and sprinkle with ground ginger, paprika and a splash of cream or sour cream.

Basil Risotto – Herbs are Vegetables, Too

Basil Risotto
Leafy greens.  For most Americans, this isn’t the most appealing set of words.  However, most of us might just think LETTUCE or  SPINACH or KALE and think, “How on earth am I supposed to eat several cups of that a week?!  Lettuce not forget about herbs (please forgive that pun, I really had no other choice.)  They are brimming with nutrients! It’s such an easy and flavorful way to add more vitamins and fiber to your diet and your recipes.  I always tend to forget that things like basil, thyme, oregano, mint – these are quite leafy and quite green, too!  Sure, you can’t eat as much of them as you can kale in one sitting, but a mild basil goes amazingly well with spinach and can really add a lot of interest to a dish.  Basil is full of beta-carotene, Vitamin A, K and its leaves are rich with essential oils known for being anti-inflammatory.  And lucky you, the summertime is a time when basil grows like a weed!  

I realize that lettuces, spinach, cabbages, etc, are sometimes challenging for little ones (and me) to eat.  But I’ve fully gotten Olive acclimated to the flavors of pesto and I consider that a small victory.  It’s green, so it opens the door for other vegetables to eventually be accepted as well.  For this creamy, bright risotto, I made a pureed basil (not really pesto as I didn’t have Parmesan or pine nuts on hand) with just basil, garlic and garlic oil and stirred it into my risotto in the last minute of cooking.  Garnished with a chiffonade of fresh basil and we had lunch!  Olive loved it and I loved that while it seemed like comfort food, it was actually quite healthy and nutritious for us both.  Not a lot of butter and oil – just good chicken stock (which is amazing for your health on its own), basil, onion and rice!

I encourage you to think of herbs as a choice for getting more vegetables into your diet.  And what better herb to start with than basil?

Pesto Risotto
Basil Risotto

serves 6-8 as a meal

2 cups arborio rice
2 TBS butter
5-6 cups good chicken stock (low sodium if store-bought or just use water and season later)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove
2 cups packed basil leaves
4 TBS olive oil (I used garlic oil)
2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large cup with an immersion blender or in a food processor, blend the basil leaves, olive oil, garlic and about a half tsp salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  You can full out make a regular pesto if you want, but this is what I had on hand and it worked great.  If you make a full batch of pesto, only stir in about 1/4th of a cup into your risotto.

In a large saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to bubble and then saute the onion and garlic until soft, stirring to not let the garlic burn.  Stir in the rice and stir to fully coat in the butter and onion.  Begin adding 1/2 cups of stock to the pan, stirring pretty regularly to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  When the liquid cooks off, add another 1/2 cup and keep this process up until you’re down to about a cup of stock and have been cooking it for at least 20 minutes.  Near the end, taste the rice – you don’t want it crunchy, but you don’t want it mushy either.  Think of it like pasta – a nice bite to it is key.  Stir in another half cup of stock if you think it could use it and then add in the basil paste.  Remove pan from the heat and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil or a grating of fresh Parmesan and cracked pepper.

Crunchy Cornslaw – a new twist on the same ol’ slaw

Crunchy Corn Slaw Fish Tacos with Corn Slaw
This weekend we had a cookout with some of our friends from church and decided we’d bring a good coleslaw to go with the bbq type meats everyone would be cooking.  So we decided to do a punny version of coleslaw and bring cornslaw.  I started dreaming it up because every summer for the past four or five years, Matt and I have inadvertently gravitated toward a Corn Dish of the Summer.  A few years ago it was an amazing creamed corn, a year after that it was Esquites (a bowl full of the equivalent of Mexican street corn) and last year it was this amazing miso buttered corn with scallions and bacon, a la Momofuku.

Now, I’m not saying this is THE corn dish of the summer of 2014, but it’s a start.  We really like it.  To compliment the sweetness of the corn, I added a Granny Smith apple and poppyseeds.  To offset the sweetness, I added plenty of purple cabbage and red onion and fresh poblano peppers – everything diced the same size (that’s important).  Then, I made my own mayo because we had just run out and I didn’t remember it the TWO times I’d been to the grocery store that day.  I was not going back.  So, homemade mayo with a little dijon and brown sugar and sherry vinegar – the perfect sauce for our perfect summer slaw!

Corn Cole Slaw
This stuff was fantastic as a side for smokey sausages on the grill (and grilled bread, of course!)  Tonight, I made fish tacos and made a little Srirracha mayo with the leftover batch of mayo from the slaw and topped our tacos with the still-crunchy slaw.  Amazing!  Welcome to summer, my friends!

Fish Tacos with Corn Slaw and Srirracha Mayo

Crunchy Cornslaw

4 large ears of corn
1/2 head purple cabbage, diced
2 poblano peppers, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 TBS poppyseeds
1 cup of mayo (homemade or not – just don’t buy something fake or low fat or “miracle”)
2 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS sherry vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, cut all the corn from the cobs directly into the bowl.  Add cabbage, peppers, onion, carrots, apple and poppyseeds and stir to combine.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the mayo, mustard, vinegar and brown sugar and fold into the corn mixture until everything is coated.  Season to your taste with salt and pepper.  If you want to make your own mayo, I’ll give you our super easy recipe below!  Happy cooking!

Homemade Mayo *
makes about 2 cups

2 large eggs
4 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups non-flavored oil like canola, grapeseed, vegetable

Add the eggs, mustard, vinegar and salt to a large cup and add the oil (if using an immersion blender). Start processing as you gradually lift the immersion blender up, letting the oil get sucked under in a steady stream.  If using a food processor, add everything except the oil to the processor or blender and blend for 30 seconds.  While running, slowly drizzle the oil in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is added and the mixture is smooth.

*adapted from Spike Mendelsohn’s awesome book, The Good Stuff

 

Fish Tacos 

2 fresh cod fillets or other firm, white fish
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper
olive oil for pan frying

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and season each side with salt and pepper.  Cut into fish-stick sizes (mine were about 3-4″ sticks) by cutting the fillet across it’s width.  Put the beaten egg in a large bowl and the panko and seasoning mixed together in a separate bowl. Dip each stick into the beaten egg and then roll in the panko/Old Bay mixture and pat on all sides to fully coat.  Lay the coated fish sticks on a clean paper towel while you finish the others.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add about 4 TBS of olive oil and let it heat till it shimmers.  Add the fish sticks without crowding (I had to do two batches) and fry till golden brown on each side.  Keep warm and crisp in a 250F oven until ready to assemble the tacos.

For assembly:

Dollop some srirracha mayo (there’s no recipe here – just add srirracha or any hot sauce to mayo and mix it up till it’s a heat level you like!  Mine was about 2 TBS per cup of mayo) along the center of a soft-taco sized tortilla.  Lay two fish sticks on top of the mayo and then top with the cornslaw.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Cauliflower and Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower & Rice Bake
I always look for interesting sides to put with lunch and dinner every day.  It has been a challenge for me as the typical American cook to think of vegetables as a main component to meals.  For most of us, vegetables are exactly as we call them – a side dish (a side thought!) and we obligingly scrounge a bag of vegetables from the freezer to make our meals “complete” when we very rarely enjoy those components and most of them, if we are honest, get put in a leftover container and saved until we no longer have guilt about throwing them away.

Maybe this is just me.  I’ve wanted and tried this year to think of vegetables as the main component and meats and carbs as a side dish.  To balance the plate in the opposite direction.  This. Is. Hard.  I will be the first to admit that I know how to cook meats, starches and carbs MUCH better than I know how to cook a vegetable.  But I’m trying!  And I’ve looked to cuisines that tend to focus on vegetables as main dishes for inspiration.  Indian cuisine is wonderful for this approach, but even I tire of the cumin/cardamom/curry combination of flavors pretty quick.  There needs to be a balance to the approach of getting more vegetables on your dinner plate, and so for me, I’m taking winter as a wonderful excuse to make some slightly more indulgent and comforting vegetable dishes to get me in the habit of seeing them as the star of the show, instead of a side act.

Speaking of winter: I am in love with a new cookbook.  Well, I suppose it isn’t exactly new, but it’s new to me, and it’s called Homemade Winter by Yvette Van Boven.  I absolutely love when a cookbook has recipes listed by seasonal availability.  This cookbook is ALL about winter – sure, winter in Holland, but STILL!  Most winter vegetables in this hemisphere are available and relatively fresh no matter where you reside, and so this cookbook has introduced me to a season of cooking that has previously been nothing but soups and stews and squash.  Goodness, how many times can I eat squash?!

Enter: cauliflower and rice baked with swiss into a creamy but not-too-heavy dish.  I made this yesterday for our lunch and it was the main component.  In her cookbook, Yvette calls it a risotto, but I didn’t have arborio rice and so I made it with what I had – plain ol’ white, short-grain rice – and it worked beautifully.  I love a recipe that is accessible and works, no matter what you have on hand.  A lot of home cooks don’t have arborio in the pantry, yet most people have regular white rice!  The only splurge for this dish was some good Comte cheese, but I believe it could be just as flavorful with nearly any cheese you have in the fridge.

We loved it – it was warm, filling and satisfying as a main dish and perfect for a freezing day like today.  In fact, I turned the leftovers into cauliflower rice fritters today for lunch and served them along side a white bean soup I will blog about very soon, and it was an awesome lunch!  Hope you all stay warm, today and have an extra cup of coffee with me!

Cauliflower & Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower Rice Bake
serves 6-8 as a side or 4-6 as a main

1 small head cauliflower
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup shredded cheese such as Comte, Emmentaler or Gruyere – would work with any hard cheese, though
1 cup of white, short-grain rice
2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
drizzle of olive oil

Boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat the oil in a large skillet (12″ at least). Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute more, then add the rice and stir to combine.  Saute all this for another 2 minutes or so.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in the cauliflower and cheese and cover the skillet with a lid and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until all liquid has absorbed.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before uncovering.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and drizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the breadcrumbs are toasted, or just stick it under the broiler for 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls with lots of cracked pepper!

Chicken Fricassee, Deconstructed

chicken fricassee 2

Chicken Fricassee was one of the first meat dishes I made for Olive when she was a baby, just starting out on solids.  (The first meat she had was homemade beef ragu – I kinda threw the rule books out when it came to feeding her and I haven’t regretted it a single day.)  I made the dish from that month’s Martha Stewart Magazine and took a little bit of each component and blended it up with a little extra chicken stock. Olive consume it with a great fury.  The flavors are so simple and so rich – it truly is a comfort food dish.  And if you think it’s “fancy” because it has a French name, fear not – it’s basically a chicken pot pie without the pie.  All those amazingly comforting flavors of chicken soup, thyme, carrots, peas, cream gravy, butter – they’re all there.  You serve it over rice or pasta and revel in the comfort.  It’s not difficult and it tastes like pure love.

I’ve made that Martha Stewart version several times, but for this recipe, I worked out of the Bonne Femme cookbook and decided to deconstruct it because Olive is able to eat each component just chopped up small, but not big enough to tackle chicken still on the bone.  So I cooked the chicken, shredded it after it had cooled, and then assembled, garnishing with the pan gravy at the very end for an easy to eat version that everyone really loved.

chicken fricassee

chicken fricassee 3

chicken fricassee 2

Deconstructed Chicken Fricassee*
serves 4

2.5-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (legs, thighs, breasts, whatever – I used the whole chicken in pieces)
salt and pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 a white onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (or more chicken broth, if you don’t have any)
1 bay leaf
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 x 2″ sticks
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs AP flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or stock pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain off all but a tbs of fat from the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and cook briefly, stirring, until fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Then, scatter the carrots and pearl onions around the chicken; cover and simmer until the chicken is done (internal temp should register 170 on an instant read thermometer), about 15 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm.  Discard the bay leaf.  Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup and set aside.  Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour with a wire whisk to make a smooth paste.  Cook and stir for one minute.  Slowly add the pan juices back to the pan, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth.  Cook the mixture until it boils and thickens, then continue to cook for one minute more.  Whisk in enough milk to make a sauce of the desired consistency and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the tarragon, parsley and lemon juice.

I then shredded up the chicken by hand, scattered an equal amount into each bowl over a heap of rice, arranged the vegetables on top of the chicken and then spooned my pan sauce over everything and cracked a lot of black pepper on top of that!  There’s something magical about fresh black pepper and a rich chicken dish.  It’s just perfect.

Enjoy!

*adapted from the Bonne Femme cookbook, which is perfect