On the Lamb (Meatballs)

You know those times where you look at a recipe and think “oh that might be good!” and then you try it, and you have to stop yourself from eating all of it before your boyfriend gets home because it’s so good?  This is one of those.

I happen to love lamb. It’s meaty, and juicy, and full of delicious flavor.  There are so many herbs and spices that work well with it in a very different way than other meats. You can create unique dishes with it that add an unexpected flair and a richness you can’t get with other meats.

This recipe is buried in the April issue of Bon Appétit magazine, and when I saw it, it piqued my interest enough that it was worth a try.  In fact, the April issue of the magazine is one of its better ones, there were plenty of recipes in there I wanted to try.

I also love meatballs. They’re perfectly sized, can go with pastas, salads, in sandwiches, or just eaten by themselves and they’re always a winner. There are endless ways to make them and I almost want to open a restaurant that sells exclusively meatballs!  Wouldn’t that be nice? (Copyright The Eating Table, 2015).

The key to this recipe is the amazing chili sauce that coats the meatballs. Don’t be intimidated by how much chili is in it, because it’s actually quite mild. It’s more flavor than heat.

The sauce starts with seeded, chopped pasilla peppers, red chili flakes, and cumin seeds, which you toast for a few minutes to really get the flavors going.

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After blending them with vinegar, oil, garlic, and sweet paprika (more flavor!), you’re left with this magnificently red sauce which you put in a bowl.

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The meatballs involve onions, more garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, coriander, cumin, fennel, and I’m already salivating at all those amazing flavors. lamb-meatballs-5

Combine that with lamb and pulse it in a food processor until it gets nice and mixed.  This also helps with the texture of the lamb as well, really making it a fine grind.

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Then you just form them into balls.

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Fry them up in a pan.

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And then, the best part, you toss them in the chili sauce.

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At this point I wanted to eat the entire bowl, because they look so amazing, but I had to wait to make them look pretty.

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The recipe has them being served with a cucumber/yogurt mixture, but I just served them with a lightly dressed salad.  And then ate more than I should have.

Honestly, they were so good I almost had to ration them to make sure I didn’t eat them all in one sitting.  Even my boyfriend, who says he doesn’t like lamb, kept eating them and I had to make him stop.  They’re all gone now, and I immediately want to make more of them, but that feels so indulgent!

Then again, it’s my birthday week, so I can do whatever I want.  Off to the store for more ingredients, brb!

Recipe can be found here. And you really should try it.

Grilled Steak with Celery & Anchovy Salad

As much as I love to take my time and explore all my cookbooks and go down a Pinterest-hole to find new recipes, sometimes the inspiration is right in front of me, in the form of my favorite magazine, Sunset.

A seemingly questionable recipe, this one from the April issue (ripped from the headlines!) for Grilled Steaks with Celery and Anchovy Salad struck my fancy, mostly for the sheer audacity of using an entire can of anchovies.

Anchovies are one of the best secret ingredients you can use in a lot of dishes. They are intense, salty, full of umami flavor, but yet more often than not blend into the background of a dish, and you can’t tell what that flavor is, you just know it’s delicious.

I think most people look at anchovies and think they’re gross, and quite honestly, if you eat a canned anchovy, yeah, they’re a little much to taste. But if you have a fresh anchovy, that’s a whole different story. If you’ve never had fresh anchovies, I suggest you try them. They’re delicious and incredibly tasty.

More often than not a recipe asks for just a few of these magical little fish, but as I said, this recipe called for an entire can!  Plus it involves steak, and I always love a good steak.

Another good thing about this recipe is that the dressing doubles as a marinade, making prep super simple.

So first comes the marinade.  First the anchovies.

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Delicious, nutritious anchovies

In a blender, or small food processor, combine them with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, red chili flakes, olive oil, and salt.

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Zesty!

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Flavor bomb.

Whirl all that together until it’s a nice, smooth dressing/marinade.

Then take a rib-eye steak (the recipe calls for four, but I can’t eat all four!  I mean, I could, but…) and cover it with some of the marinade. Let it sit while you do some other things.

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While that’s marinating, you can get the salad ready. I’m not a huge fan of celery, personally. I mean, sure, with peanut butter, well, anything’s good with peanut butter. But it generally plays a supporting role in a dish, instead of being front and center (though lord help you if you try to serve me cooked celery in something other than Thanksgiving stuffing. BLECH!).  This salad is all celery, all the time, so I was skeptical.

Slice the celery at an angle so you get nice, hearty pieces.

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You’re going to want to wash and tear some parsley leaves as well. You also need to toast some almonds in a pan.

Now, cooking this is fairly simple. The recipe calls for a grill, which I don’t have (thanks, apartment living/Obama), so I just used the broiler. Broil the steak for about 5 minutes on each side. While that’s broiling you can act quickly and combine the celery, parsley, and almonds, and toss them with some more of the flavorful anchovy dressing.

When the steak is done, let it cool for a few minutes (key to a juicy steak!), and spread a little more of the dressing on top. It will absorb into the meat making it even tastier.  Put it on a plate and serve it with the celery and parsley salad.

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Now, let me tell you something.  I’ve made a lot of steaks in my day, and I’ve tried a lot of different sauces and marinades to go with them. So imagine my surprise when this one suddenly shoots to the top of my favorites list after the first bite. On the steak the dressing is flavorful and enhances the flavor of the beef, while adding a ton of complexity to it. But on the salad, it’s cool and refreshing, and not overpowering by any means. And that celery? What an unexpectedly great complement to the meat. The crunch added some much needed texture to the overall dish, and it was bright and flavorful.

So for all you anchovy doubters out there, my boyfriend is one of them too and he devoured his steak and said it’s the “best thing you’ve ever made*,” and was very surprised when I told him there were anchovies in it, because he couldn’t taste them.  So give it a try, and embrace the taste!

* he says that a lot.

Recipe can be found here.

Beet around the Bush

On a normal shopping trip I have a list of things to get, a carefully planned out menu for the week that I’ve spent time figuring out.  However sometimes you’re walking through the market and something looks so good you have to get it.  The other day I happened upon these delicious looking beets at Whole Foods, and I couldn’t resist.

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Beets are super tasty and delicious, and also turn your hands red enough that your significant other, if not aware that you’re playing with beets, will freak out and think you hurt yourself.  And then, after you laugh, you’ll freak out because the red will not wash off your hands easily.

Anyway, the point is, I found some beets and needed to do something with them. Naturally the first person I turn to when it comes to ideas is my beloved Ina Garten. She knows EVERYTHING. Thankfully I got some really good beets so I was already in great shape.

She has a recipe for Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad that is so easy and delicious and satisfying and amazing and…well, you get the idea.

First you wash and cut off the beet tops, but save the greens! You can saute them up just like kale and they’re delicious.  After they’re clean you wrap each one in foil and bake them for an hour.

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While they’re roasting you make the super simple dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

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When the beets are done, they get peeled, and sliced, and look oh so pretty.

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Toss them with some of the dressing so they absorb the flavors.  When you’re ready to serve, toss some salad greens (Ina, we’re on a first name basis, uses arugula, but I used regular mixed greens), with the dressing, and top with the beets, some goat cheese, and some marcona almonds.

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It’s impossible to resist.  I made enough for four and the two of us devoured the entire salad. It’s easy enough to make for yourself, or impressive enough to serve guests!

Check out the recipe here: Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad

Butternut Squash & Kale Tacos

The taco.

Is there anything more delicious and exciting than a taco?  It can be simple, it can be complex, it can be crunch, it can be soft, it can be sweet, it can be savory, it can be anything you want it to be.  I love making tacos because you can make them different every time if you want.

Back in my childhood taco night was a family favorite. It was a purely American-style taco: crunchy taco shells, ground beef with that packaged taco seasoning, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and onions.  And I loved every single one I ate.  I haven’t made those kind in a while, but I still love them.

These days though we all try to be a little more health-conscious and sustainable and grass-fed, and all that.  So while browsing recipes for tacos I figured why not combine a few of my favorite healthy ingredients into one, and put it in a tortilla?  Everything’s better in a tortilla.

Enter kale and butternut squash. Delicious and nutritious by themselves, and a real healthy combo when put together.  I know I’m not the first person to invent the kale and butternut squash taco, but I decided to wing it and see what I could do.

First I cooked up some onions and garlic in a pan, then added cubed butternut squash.  And I didn’t even cheat and buy it pre-cut!

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Let that cook for 10 minutes or until the squash is soft.  Then add some chili for spice. Not too much though, you don’t want to burn your mouth off.

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Then add a bunch of chopped kale and cook until it’s wilted.

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Salt and pepper that up, and your filling’s done!  Easy enough right?

Now for some sauce.  A good taco generally has a nice crema on it, but I actually like using greek yogurt to make a sauce because it’s thicker, and adds a nice tartness to it. The sauce is good enough to be used as a condiment for any sort of dish, if you ask me, though I’m biased.

Combine some plain greek yogurt with lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and…Tapatio! Or Cholula.  Or any other hot sauce you think is good.  I like the two of those because they’re smoky and rich in flavor.

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Stir, stir, stir, and you have a delicious condiment:

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So now, put some of that sauce on a warm tortilla and top with the filling.

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Sprinkle a little chopped cilantro and raw onion, for added flavor and texture.

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Then when you’re done taking a picture so you can impress all your friends, make two more to join that taco on the plate, because you’re going to want them.

INGREDIENTS:

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 cups butternut squash, cut in small cubes
1 bunch kale, chopped
chili powder
1 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
1.5 teaspoons Tapatio or other hot sauce
Corn tortillas
chopped onion and cilantro, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large pan.

2. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.

3. Add in butternut squash, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft.

4. Salt and pepper to taste, and add 1 teaspoon chili powder.

5. Add chopped kale to pan, and stir together.  Cook a few minutes until kale is wilted.

6. To make the sauce, combine the greek yogurt, cumin, Tapatio, and some salt & pepper.  Stir to combine.

7. Assemble! On a tortilla put some of the sauce, and the filling. Top with onion and cilantro.

Spaghetti Squash and Make-It-Your-Own Sauce

Hello Tablers!  My apologies for being MIA this past week, between my day job, general life, and getting lasers shot in my eye, it’s been a pretty busy time around here.  All those time constraints have led to me eating pretty poorly, a lot of breads, a lot of meats, and not a lot of veggies.  For shame!

So this week I’m eating healthier, lighter, and getting back in the swing of things! It’s Springtime, isn’t that what we should all be doing anyway?

We’re going to start this week with a vegetable I get confused by: Spaghetti Squash.

People love it, and there is some that I’ve had that is delicious, but every time I have made it at home it turns out either undercooked or squishy, or not that tasty.  There was a big pile of them staring me in the face at the market though, and I will not be deterred. If it can replace pasta every now and then and still give me the satisfaction, I’m all in.

Now, let’s talk tomato sauce. Is there any sauce that is more forgiving than a tomato sauce? I call this Make-It-Your-Own tomato sauce, because you can pretty much put in anything you might think will work. You can use different meats, different vegetables, different spices, make it your own! Of course you can serve it with regular pasta too!

Let’s start with the squash.

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Look at that beauty. So yellow!  So…oval.  Ok well it’s a pretty yellow at least.

First thing you do is cut that baby in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

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A blank canvas, ready for seasoning!

Spaghetti squash is pretty tasteless, which is bad if you want to eat it on its own, but great if you want to cover it with something delicious. Add some salt, pepper, and drizzle some olive oil on both halves, and then put them face down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil.

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Peek-a-boo

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour, checking after 30 minutes. You know it’s done when a knife slides into it easily.

Now while that’s cooking let’s talk about the sauce. Looking in my fridge, I had some Italian turkey sausage, some onions, and sweet peppers, so that’s what I used. But hey, you have some ground beef? Ground turkey? Chicken Sausage? Spinach? Broccoli? Use it!  Whatever you feel like.

First cook the onions for a few minutes, then add your protein, in this case my delicious spicy turkey sausage.

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After the turkey sausage is browned, add in the rest of the veggies, in this case the chopped sweet peppers I had. (If you’re using spinach or some other leafy green, don’t add it now, add it near the end).

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Action shot!

Then add a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as they go in, to really get all the juices out.

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This is the point where you open up your spice cabinet and see what’s happening in there. In my kitchen I had some dried oregano, dried basil, garlic salt, red chili flakes, and cumin (why not?), so I put some of each in there, gave it all a stir, put a lid on it and let it cook until the squash was done. Oh also add some salt and pepper of course.

Speaking of, here’s the squash when it’s done:

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Perfect. Now take a fork and carefully scrape the strands apart, basically moving from the skin side to the middle, like this:

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MAGIC.

Let’s check the sauce too.  Sometimes you’ll have to mash the tomatoes up a little more with your spoon.

 

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And when you add the two together, with a little parmesan, of course…

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A satisfying, and healthy meal, that’s full of flavor!  And it even looks like spaghetti! The miracle of nature.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH:

Ingredients:

1 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with foil.

5. Place in oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Check after 30 minutes. It’s done when a knife can slide into it easily.

6. Remove from oven and let cook for 5 minutes.

7. With a fork, gently scrape the squash away from the skin into strings. Place into a bowl.

8. Add your favorite topping and enjoy!

MAKE-IT-YOUR-OWN TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 28oz can whole tomatoes

1/2 pound protein (sausage, ground beef, turkey, etc).

1 onion

Vegetables (peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zuchinni, whatever you like)

Spices.

Instructions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot or deep pan over medium heat.

2. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until just starting to brown.

3. Add your protein, and cook until browned.

4. Add your sturdy vegetables and cook 3 minutes.

5. Add tomatoes and liquid to the pot, crushing with your hand as you go.

6. Add spices (basil, oregano, garlic, fennel, chili, whatever else you might have in your cabinet!) and seasoning.

7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

8. Crush tomatoes a little more with your spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste.

8*. If you have leafy greens, this is where you should put them in and cook a few minutes longer until they’re just wilted.

9. Serve over spaghetti squash, or regular pasta, with lots of parmesan cheese.