Chronicles of an Adventurous Beginner

All that Simmers


Easy Picnic 5

Posted on June 02, 2010 by Emily

Finally, some real summer weather. And so we had the beach picnic we’d been talking about since last fall. I decided that store bought sandwiches would be too expensive, but the occasion definitely called for a little bit of fun. This artichoke spread, which took a minute in the food processor, was the perfect foil for one meaty sandwich and another meatless one.

Artichoke Basil Spread
From Everyday Food, May 2008

One 14-oz can artichokes, drained and quartered
¼ cup basil
2 T mayo
1 T fresh lemon juice
¼ t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

for sandwiches:
4 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted
arugula
muenster cheese
4 slices, salami
one large tomato, sliced

The salami sandwich got artichoke spread on one side, 4 slices of salami, and a thick slice of cheese. The veggie sandwich got spread on both sides, two big thick slices of tomato, arugula and some cheese. They were great with root veggie chips and a peach.

There were plenty of leftovers, which went great with our cheese plate at dinner, and later in the week as a snack with crackers.

Greek Night 6

Posted on May 26, 2010 by Emily

It all started with a craving for lamb. Then I saw a recipe for kebabs and my fantasy was off and running: yogurt-marinated lamb kebabs, my first attempt at spanakopita, a nice Greek salad and some kind of dessert with honey and fruit. Yum. But that turned out to be crazy. The actual Greek in the house suggested we make tzatziki and just season the meat before grilling. Roasted potatoes replaced the spinach pie because, well, there are only so many hours in the day. I found an easy salad recipe, assembled a cheese plate, and we had a party.

We got things started with white cheddar, gruyere, fruit, crackers and a crisp vinho verde.

It’s hard to compete with lamb, so I’m glad we didn’t bother. These cubes, cut at the store for stew meat, were sprinkled with salt, pepper, oregano,  drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. We left ours in the fridge for 40 minutes. But temper the meat for about 30 minutes before putting on the grill.

The note of caution in all of the recipes and again at the meat counter was this: 4 minutes per side no more no less. These puppies get tough and overcooked in a hurry. But we were careful, and they turned out tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful. A sweet, but full-bodied old-vine Zin took it over the top.

I broke down and bought the really good feta, rather than the crumbled kind in the plastic container. This was tasty block feta, cubed, as prescribed by Ina Garten, and absolutely delicious. Her recipe, courtesy FoodNetwork.com, called for peppers, which I hadn’t thought to buy, but everything else is in there. It was fantastic. Use half the dressing and save it for something else. The salad didn’t keep long, so enjoy within a day or so.

For the tzatziki, I made a few changes to this Sunny Anderson recipe, no hot sauce, more garlic and more lemon juice. What a difference whole milk Greek yogurt makes!

2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt, strained

1/2 Seedless cucumber, finely minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

This gets better after an hour or two in the fridge. It was great for dunking the lamb, and some pita I’d toasted with a drizzle of olive oil.

Then I got overly confident and second guessed the Barefoot Contessa. Being one of her disciples, I’ve found you can cut olive oil and butter, sometimes halve the amount of sauce, but the cooking times don’t need to be adjusted. I made her rosemary roasted potatoes but pulled them after 40 minutes instead of leaving them for the suggested 60. They were edible, but underdone. Luckily, there was plenty to eat.

Nikki’s Shells 5

Posted on May 19, 2010 by Emily

I met Nikki last summer when we were driving from New York to Chicago. We stayed with her family just outside Cleveland after a long day battling near-death experiences on the Pennsylvania turnpike. We were hot, exhausted and more than a little cranky.  But she greeted us with her husband, two amazing children, lots of wine, these turkey & artichoke-stuffed shells, bread and a summer salad. Then all was right with the world. We even got some leftovers that were perfect for dinner when we got home.

For Nikki, the shells seemed to be a great way to get some vegetables into the kids, and have a dinner everyone would be excited about. This also makes about a ton of food, so plan on one 9 x 13 container that can feed 6 people, and another 8 x 8 container for the freezer or a neighbor. I now make these shells, happily, by request fairly regularly.

Nikki’s Shells

1 package jumbo shells

1 lb ground turkey breast (Yes you do want breast. Dark meat will overpower the filling)

½ yellow onion, minced (optional)

2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

1 can artichoke hearts, finely ground

1 cup ground parmesan cheese, plus more for top

1 jar good marinara sauce

1 can diced tomatoes with chilis

1 ½  teaspoons oregano

sugar, about 1 Tablespoon, to taste

About 1 lb package shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Boil one gallon salted water, add shells and cook for about 8 mins. Drain and lay shells seam side up on baking sheets to cool. Meanwhile, brown the meat with onion and garlic. Set aside to cool. Pulse drained artichokes in food processor. Stir in parmesan and cooled turkey mixture. Heat pasta sauce with tomatoes, oregano and sugar, and allow to cool slightly. Fill shells with turkey mixture, and place seam side up in buttered baking dish. Cover in sauce, and top with shredded cheese and more parmesan.

Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly and top is browned and crusty.

Roasted Broccoli, adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1 ½ lb broccoli

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cut broccoli into florets, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to coat and salt and pepper on baking sheet. Toss with hands. Bake about 15 minutes, until bright green, tender crisp, and slightly singed on the edges. Meantime, whisk remaining olive oil with fresh lemon juice. Pour over broccoli as it comes out of the oven. Salt and pepper to taste.



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