Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chickpea & Feta Orzo Salad

This is one of those recipes where every flavor stands out nicely, but the dish as a whole blends well.  It's also incredibly simple. And it's perfect for summer because it won't heat up your kitchen.

It serves mainly as a side-dish, though I suppose one could make a double recipe and treat it as a main course.  Serve at room temperature, or cooled in the fridge.

Chickpea & Feta Orzo Salad

1 cup orzo pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup green onions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed
3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1.5 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBSP cold water
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic


  1. Cook the pasta according to directions being sure not to overcook.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain well again. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cheese, green onions, dill, and chickpeas.  Toss gently. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, water, salt, and garlic. 
  4. Drizzle the sauce over the pasta mixture and toss to salt. 

Family Ratings: 

Lucy, who never met a cheese she didn't love: 10
Jamie, who's taken to picking small bits of something or other out of all of his foods, but likes chickpeas:  8
Will, who's becoming increasingly easy-going:  9
Ellen, who's no fool:  10
Paul, who's searched his whole life for a pasta salad that didn't seem forced:  10


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Smoky Frittata

This is one of those recipes where you really don't care if your kids like it.  It's just that good.  That said, it's not out of the question that your kids will indeed gobble this dish up:  it contains cheese and more cheese and cream and eggs, and is like a tasty version of scrambled eggs, albeit with cauliflower thrown in.

A few notes:  if your kids aren't cauliflower fans, cut it into small pieces and reduce the boiling/frying time dramatically so as to not overcook.

The recipe calls for scamorza affumicata, a fancy Italian cheese that's often labelled "smoked mozzarella."  If like most people in the known universe you don't have access to this cheese, substitute comte or a similar gruyere-related cheese.  Don't be afraid to allow a little of the skin or rind to get grated in as well, for extra taste texture.

This recipe comes from Yotam Ottomlenghi's PLENTY, which is fast becoming my favorite vegetarian cookbook.

Smoky Frittata

1 small cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florets. 
6 eggs
4 TBSP creme fraiche (I just used sour cream)
2 TBSP dijon mustard
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika (if you don't have both kinds of paprika, just use one kind & don't worry about it)
3 TBSP finely chopped chives
5 oz. smoked scamorza, grated
2 oz. mature cheddar, grated
salt and black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil


  1. Simmer the cauliflower in boiling salted water for 4 minutes until semi-cooked (do not let it get completely soft!).  Drain and dry. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix the eggs, the cream/creme, the mustard and the paprika and whisk the heck out of it, making sure everything is thoroughly blended.  
  3. Stir in the chives and 3/4s of the cheeses.  Season well with salt and pepper.  
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large, overproof frying pan.  The pan MUST BE OVENPROOF.  Not that I've tried it without, mind you . . . 
  5. Fry the cauliflower in the pan on medium-high for about five minutes until golden brown on one side.  Pour the egg mixture into the pan and spread evenly.  Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  
  6. Turn off the burner.  Scatter the remaining cheeses on top of the ingredients in the pan, then carefully transfer the pan to the over.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the frittata has set. 
  7. Remove from oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.  

Family Ratings:  

Lucy, who loves everything, the more adventurous the better as long as it's not too spicy:  10
Jamie, who never got around to trying it:  No score. 
Will, who is actually becoming fairly adventurous himself:  8
Ellen, who is happy I've finely discovered vegetarian cooking:  10
Paul, who likes anything where the cheese to non-cheese ratio is high:  10





Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kid-friendly Tuna with Vietnamese Ginger Dipping Sauce

This is clearly one of those recipes where, if your kids are the least bit fussy at all, you've already dismissed it as a possibility.  Which means you're probably not even reading this, so I should probably ignore you.  But what can I say?  I'm a nice guy.  I want everyone to feel important, even if they might just have thoughtlessly dismissed arguably the greatest recipe I've ever posted on my blog.  

Oh my god.  This is SOOOO good.  All three of the kids love it, even Lucy who's almost actually given up claiming she doesn't like fish, solely because of this dish.  

The key is the dipping sauce, which is so good that in truly big fat American style I've gone ahead and doubled the recipe here so that there's enough to go around.  Speaking of fat Americans, though, this recipe is extremely low in fat and really very good for you.  Serve it with jasmine rice and green beans or baby carrots, or some other simple vegetable.  

This recipe is from Andrea Nguyen's wonderful book "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen."  If you don't own this book, you should get on Amazon and buy it immediately.  

Final tip:  if your kids try to reject this dish just because it's tuna, lie and tell them it's chicken.  

Kid-Friendly Tuna with Vietnamese Ginger Dipping Sauce

3 Tuna steaks, roughly 1.5 pounds total (they should be about 1-inch thick)

Marinade
1/2 tsp sugar
1.5 TBSP fish sauce
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP canola or vegetable oil

Dipping sauce: 
A 3 to 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
9-10 TBSP fresh lime juice (about 5-6 limes)
5 TBSP sugar
4-5 TBSP fish sauce

  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a large plastic bag or a small (8x8) baking dish. 
  2. Add tuna steaks to marinade and turn to coat.  There's no need to marinate, but it doesn't hurt to let them sit for a while as you prepare the dipping sauce and any side dishes.  
  3. Combine the first four ingredients of the dipping sauce.  Adjust ginger and lime juice to taste.
  4. Begin by adding 4 TBSP fish sauce.  Adjust to taste.  When you have it just right, mix well and divide the sauce into individual bowls.  These sit alongside each person's plate.  
  5. Heat a skillet over medium-high until hot. 
  6. Add the tuna steaks. 
  7. Cook for 2 minutes on one side. 
  8. Carefully turn steaks. 
  9. Cook on the second side for 3 minutes. 
  10. Test the steaks with a knife.  They should be white at the edges and pink in the middle.  If they look too rare, cook for another minute or two at most, but be careful:  you want pink in the center.  Overcooked tuna tastes like unsalted cardboard.  
  11. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.  
  12. Serve.  

Family Ratings:

Will, who likes to tease his sister about hating fish:  10
Lucy, who's loathe to surrender her hatred of fish, just because: 10
Jamie, who's pretty sure he's eating chicken:  10
Ellen, who likes that her husband is serving something healthy for once: 10
Paul, who figures that if he eats a healthy dinner he can then have a huge slice of cake: 10



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tasty Tasty Tasty Lamb Stew

Oh my god.  I love this recipe.  It's easy.  It's tasty.  Kids like it, but it's also classy enough that when you serve it to company, you look like a friggin' culinary genius.

That said, it's likely a weekend dish, as it really does require a couple hours to simmer itself into melting tenderness.  Serve over rice (brown or white) with some kind of vegetable.  Hide the leftovers from your spouse.

This comes from A TASTE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN, by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.  Last I looked, it seemed to be out of print, but this cookbook is so consistently good it would be worth it to hunt down a used copy and sell your Beamer to pay for it.

Tasty Lamb Stew

3 TBSP olive oil (divided)
3-3.5 lbs lamb fillet, cut into 2-inch cubes (I just use lamb stew meat.  It works dandy).
1 large onion, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup dry sherry (I just use your generic cooking sherry.  Works dandy).
4 oz. fresh or frozen f-f-f-f-fava beans (sorry--you knew I was going to do that). 
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper  

  1. Heat to medium high 2 TBSP of the oil in a heavy, flame proof casserole dish or dutch oven (now might be a good time to ask your mother for some Le Creuset . . . )
  2. Heat the meat and brown on all sides.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  (I usually do the meat in two batches).  
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the pan, then add the onions and cook for five minutes or so, until soft.  Return the meat to the pot. 
  4. Add the garlic cloves, the bay leaf, the paprika, and the sherry.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer gently for 2 hours.  Feel free to stir it once or twice in that time to make sure all the meat is soaking in the juices. 
  5. Test the meat.  At this point it should be fall-off-your fork tender.  If it's not, cook for another 10-20 minutes, still on low.  
  6. When the meat is tender enough, add the fava beans.  Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.  
  7. Stir in parsley and serve.  

Family Ratings

Lucy, who is likely the most culinarily adventurous 11-year-old you've ever met:  10
Jamie, who spends most of his meals trying to get Lucy to laugh:  8
Will, who's never liked meat he needs to pick from his teeth:  8
Ellen, who thinks baby sheep are cute and isn't much of a meat eater:  7
Paul, who thinks this is the tastiest stew he's ever encountered:  10

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Grilled Chinese Chicken Burgers

My kids have a list of meals they call "The Week of Awesomeness."  It includes Mediterranean Pasta and Root Beer Sloppy Joes.  It also includes this recipe, which I'm finally posting because a friend who had them a few weeks ago has been bugging me to do so.

All of which makes me sound like the world's greatest cook, right?  The irony, though, is that this recipe emerged from a grand mistake:  I found the original version in the newspaper and it included the burgers themselves, a sauce, and a slaw (which I haven't included here, because it's not very good).  
Glancing at the recipe, I dug all of the ingredients out and started mixing, not realizing that I was actually adding components intended for the sauce into the burgers themselves.  

Yeah.  A Ph.D. in English, and I can't even read.  

Anyhow, the result was fantastic.  So that's what I've done ever since.  I've also added a couple things to give the burgers more texture and a bit more flavor.  If your kids don't like cilantro, you can always leave it out, although, frankly, you might want to just get new kids instead.  

One final note:  part of what makes these such a good meal for kids is that a lot of the spice is in the sauce.  That in mind, let the kids test the sauce first to see if they want any.  If they don't, no big deal--that just means more for the grownups.  

Grilled Chinese Chicken Burgers

Burgers
1 lb ground chicken breast
1 lb ground chicken (if you can't find both ground chicken and chicken breast, use two pounds of whatever you can find)  
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP sugar
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP minced lemongrass
2 TBSP minced cilantro
1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (sometimes I use slightly less)
3/4-1 cup store-bought bread crumbs 
6-8 hamburger buns, toasted (I usually split them and put them on the grill, face down, for 2-3 minutes as the grill is warming up)

Sauce
3/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1-2 TBSP Thai chili sauce
2TBSP hoisin sauce

  1. Combine the first 12 ingredients (from ground chicken to bread crumbs).  Mix together well, using your hands.  If it's still sticky when well mixed, add another 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs
  2. Fashion into 10-12 patties of moderate thickness.  I like to make them of varying sizes, so that the kids can pick and choose.  (Don't worry about leftovers:  these reheat really well, and are even good cold)
  3. Now mix the sauce, adding the mayonnaise, the lime juice and zest, the chili sauce and the hoisin. 
  4. Heat your grill, toasting the buns for a few minutes just to make them a little crispy.
  5. Grill the burgers, roughly 10-15 minutes, turning frequently.  These cook quickly and throughly, so keep an eye on them.
  6. Serve on the buns, with sauce (if desired). 

Family ratings: 

Will, who will request these by name and mock any of his friends who don't like them:  10
Lucy--really, you have to ask?:  10
Jamie, who's into being contrary:  9
Ellen, who's not much of a meat-eater, but loves these:  10
Paul, who's looking less like a former swimmer and more like a former linebacker:  11

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thai Lemon Grass Pork Chops with Dipping Sauce

The beauty of this recipe is that you get an amazing amazing amazing taste, but you only have to marinade for ten minutes!  Another great thing is that, because the dipping sauce is served in small separate bowls, you can make it (and your pork chops) as hot as you want without hurting the kids.  Unless, of course, they've really been annoying you lately and you want to hurt them . . ..  

Not that I'm suggesting that, mind you.

These can be grilled or cooked under the broiler.  The recipe comes from Thailand:  The Beautiful Cookbook, and like most recipes from that book, I haven't changed it a bit.  

Thai Lemon Grass Pork Chops with Dipping Sauce

Marinade Ingredients
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon cognac or whiskey or white wine
2 Tablespoons chopped lemon grass
1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onion
2 Tablespoons coconut milk

5-6 bone in pork chops, about 1-1.25 lbs total

Dipping Sauce Ingredients
1/4 cup fish sauce
5 Tablespoons lime juice
1 pinch (or more, if you like) dried red chili pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro

  1.  Mix all the marinade ingredients together thoroughly. 
  2. Add pork chops and make sure they're well coated.  Allow to sit for at least ten minutes.
  3. Mix together dipping sauce ingredients. 
  4. Broil or grill the meat for about 8 minutes on each side or until done. 
  5. Serve.  

Family Ratings: 

Will, who kind of digs pork:  10
Lucy, who kind of digs everything except for fish and tomatoes:  10
Jamie, who insists he wants the dipping sauce even when he really doesn't:  10
Ellen, who occasionally grudgingly admits that there are some benefits to being married to me:  10
Paul, who sort of enjoys being who he is, especially when he's eating these pork chops:  10

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To Hell with You Chili

I call this "To Hell with You Chili" because I know the moment I post it a bunch of people who REALLY care about chili will write to me and explain to me exactly why this chili is just so so so wrong.

I don't care.  I like this chili.  It tastes good.  It makes me happy.  And my kids like it too.

So . . . well, you get where this is going . . .

Some credit here goes to my friend Sarah who, years ago, told me that her secret for good chili was to use italian sausage instead of ground beef.  Way to go, Sarah!  From there on, it was just one broken rule after another for me.

Note that I kept the heat pretty low on this.  Feel free to add more chili powder or red pepper flakes, particularly if you're mad or your children have been acting sassy lately.  

To Hell with You Chili

2 14 oz. cans Mexican tomatoes (I mean that the tomatoes have Mexican-style spices in them, not that they're actually from south of the border)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 carrot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, also chopped
1/3 cup dark beer
1/3 cup beef broth
1/3 cup steak sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 jar of fire-roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 lb. mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you prefer)
1/2 lb ground sirloin
5 slices of bacon
2 TBS chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley


  1. Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, carrot, celery, beer, broth, wine, steak sauce, pepper flakes, bell peppers, and roasted pepper together in a large pot.  
  2. Simmer over medium heat. 
  3. Cook bacon in a frying pan until crunchy. 
  4. Drain bacon on paper towels.  Cook sausage and beef in bacon grease.  Stir in the chili powder, basil, and cumin. 
  5. Mix the beef/sausage mixture into the simmering vegetables, adding the bacon.  
  6. Cover and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes (or longer), until the veggies are tender and the flavors are tasty.  
  7. Stir in the beans, cilantro, and parsley.  Simmer for another ten minutes. 
  8. Serve with saltine crackers.  

Family ratings: 

Will, who almost likes this chili as much as fajitas but won't give it a higher score just out of principle: 9.5
Lucy, who pretty much loves everything:  10
Jamie, who can occasionally surprise himself with the things he likes: 9
Ellen, who much prefers the vegetarian chili recipe we've been using for twenty years:  6
Paul, who knows he's going to get in trouble with his mom for naming this chili what he did:  10