GREEK GROUND CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH TZAZIKI SAUCE

Sometimes dishes get served before I have a chance to take a picture. That’s exactly what happened at a recent pre-concert JazzVox meal. Before I could take a picture of these meatballs based on a recipe from the Juicy Bites website and the tzatziki sauce (my recipe from about 25 years ago), they were history.

So the next time I serve this delicious combination, I will take a picture. But for now you will just have to content yourself with a mental image of light colored baked meatballs, smothered with a white sauce with green things in it, aka – tzatziki.

Now most of you know that I love chicken and serve it a lot. But chicken can be a bit boring. Well I’m here to tell you, there is nothing boring about these meatballs. The mint and the dill give the dish a unique flavor, and when slathered with tzatziki, well frankly, there is just nothing finer. (Actually, I think dog kibbles would taste good if they were slathered in tzatziki. But I’m not going to stand behind those words; just offer them up as a lazy summer afternoon rumination.)

So next time you want to serve ground chicken or turkey (I use ground turkey as much as I use ground chicken), give this recipe a try. Serve the meatballs and tzatziki with a savory pilaf, a crunchy Greek Salad, and a beautifully chilled bottle of white wine, and you will have captured the wonderful flavors and essence of Greek dining. Huh? Maybe Greece should be our next overseas adventure. Time to buy a couple travel books and see if Greece meets our criteria as a perfect travel destination. We love to visit countries with an ancient culture, beautiful art and architecture, interesting museums, pleasing climate, fun and friendly people, and of course – fantastic food. Wait! I don’t need a travel guide to tell me that Greece would be perfect for us. I already know all of our travel desires would be met in Greece. So, time to make a plan and present it to Mr. C. I know, I’ll serve up my idea along with a meal as described above, and I’ll bet you he’ll be searching our calendar for dates within an hour. Wish me luck! And enjoy the meatballs.

At the bottom of the post you will find 2 pictures of our orange cat Miles. The first picture shows Miles sound asleep on our catwalk. No problem, right? Wrong! The second picture shows why his sleeping at the end of the catwalk is of concern. It’s 9 feet down if our little darling were to fall. And since that part of the catwalk is above the bottom of the stairway, there is no way for either of us to fetch him. And no, when I designed our home Max and Miles were not even a glimmer in their papa’s eyes. We had another pair of orange brothers who were very coordinated and we never worried about them falling.

A little background. Miles and his brother Max are two of the least coordinated and skittish cats we have ever had the pleasure of owning. They can fall off the back of a couch and land on their backs at the slightest movement that might be threatening, like Mr. C. turning a page in his book, or me walking by with a glass in my hand. So the thought of either one of the brothers being startled awake while on the catwalk and reacting quickly to a perceived threat always scares the pickles out of me. And since I’m sure you want to know, Miles survived his nap and my heartrate is back to normal.

 

KALE SALAD DRESSING

I love Cooking Light magazine. And this recipe is just one of the many reasons.

This dressing and how it is served is the inspiration of the magazine editor, Hunter Lewis. In his “note from the editor” in the May 2017 issue, Mr. Lewis writes that when he serves this salad, quote “even after I’ve spent hours smoking a pork shoulder or roasting a prime rib for a dinner party; it’s this dressing that friends ask me to send them the next day.”

So far be it from me to question Mr. Lewis’s friend’s judgement. So I gave the salad a try. And – oh my!  This is now one of the best ways I know to eat kale. (Not that it’s a task to get me to eat my kale. I love kale almost any old way. OK, I haven’t had a kale smoothie or whatever they call those green drinks that are supposed to be good for you. I feel I’m still too young to start ingesting my vegetables in blendered form. I’m saving that for when I get really old and necessity dictates that I no longer chew my food!)  

I first made this salad for a Carr family dinner a month or so ago and my sister-in-law Katie was especially fond of it. Everyone else at table enjoyed it too, so of course I had to share it with you all. So I put the recipe in a safe place so I wouldn’t forget to publish it at my earliest convenience. Need I explain further? Of course I forgot all about it until last evening when again the Carr family sat down to dinner and Katie asked if I had published the recipe. I automatically assumed I had, because my intension was to do so. But when I checked this morning, no such recipe existed on my blog. (It’s terrible when you can’t remember something as simple as whether or not you posted a recipe! Makes me wonder what else is escaping my notice. Anyone else over the age of required distributions from your IRAs having the same problem? If so, please let me know so I can accept my fate with equanimity. But enough about the trials and tribulations of aging, and back to this delightful recipe.

Now I know this dressing is perfect with kale, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t be just as delicious over an assortment of salad greens or drizzled over sliced heirloom tomatoes. So do not hesitate. Prepare this dressing and get ready for a fantastic treat.

And Mr. Lewis, please accept my thanks for sharing this recipe with all of us.

Your devoted fan, Patti

  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 T. drained capers
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches shredded lacinato or curly kale (or a combination)  
  • 1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese

Chop anchovy fillets, garlic, and capers in a mini food processor (or blender). Add the Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon rind and juice, and olive oil; process for 1 minute. Adjust seasoning. (Not too much salt. Remember, the Parmesan will also add salt to the mix.)

Place kale and Parmesan in a salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat the leaves. (Do not overdress the salad.) Refrigerate leftover dressing.

CHILI RELLANOS CASSEROLE

OK, there are days (I hate to admit this) when I simply don’t want to cook dinner. All I want is to go out to eat! Practically anywhere! Just – out! And really, there need be no good reason for my lethargy towards dinner preparation on these days. I just know I don’t want to cook, mainly because my inspiration level is on empty.  Plus nothing sounds good. On those days what I need is for someone else to give me dinner suggestions (menu), do the prep work (cook), and clean up the mess (kitchen help). Not that Mr. C. doesn’t do the dishes after meals. He does. Actually, he is a marvel at efficiency when it comes to meal clean up. It’s just that some evenings I don’t even want him to spend time in the kitchen. I know – crazy.  So usually, on these occasions, we simply go out.

But then there are the times when I can’t even decide where I want to go. And the thought of putting on lipstick and driving more than 15 minutes seems way too onerous to even contemplate. (There aren’t an abundance of good restaurant choices near our home you see.) So when this happens, and it’s happening more regularly the older I get, I usually bite the bullet and fix the easiest and most delicious thing I can think of to prepare. And this dish fits the bill perfectly.

Now after looking at this recipe you are going to want to say to me “Patti, that looks like the most fattening conglomeration of ingredients I can imagine putting in my mouth”. And you know what? You’d be right! It is a cholesterol bombshell! But you know what else; it is heaven in a pan. And this heavenly concoction can be thrown together in under 15 minutes. (Of course there is the baking time. But who cares. While the casserole is in the oven you’ll have plenty of time to relax and have a nice adult beverage.)

So what to fix to go along with this caloric wonder? Well how about chicken dinner sausages, fresh from your freezer? And a simple little green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Again, quick, easy, and delectable.

So the other evening when inertia had me firmly in its grip, I fixed this casserole, grilled some defrosted sausages, and made a simple little salad of romaine, red onion, tomatoes, marinated black olives, and lots of basil tossed with a simple vinaigrette. The whole meal took less time to prepare than the time I had already spent thinking about where I might want to go for dinner. Isn’t that pathetic?!?! (The things you learn about me through this blog.) Luckily for you, whatever I’ve got can’t be transmitted through the internet. So you can safely catch my drift, but not my silliness! Tiddely Pom*

  • 3 c. (12-oz.) grated Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1½ c. (6-oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (7-oz.) can diced mild green chilies, drained if packed in water
  • 1 T. flour
  • 2 T. milk
  • 2 eggs

Combine the cheeses and place half of the mixture in a lightly greased 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle the green chilies over the cheese. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Whisk together the flour and milk. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Pour over the cheeses and egg mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm and brown on top, sides, and bottom. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Cut into small pieces for appetizer bites or larger pieces when serving as a side dish or main course.

*Don’t know the term Tiddely Pom? Look it up.

FUDGE BROWNIES – MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP & REGULAR

OK, so I’m nuts about mint! I confess. I also rather enjoy chocolate. So in my estimation, mint brownies are one of the best ways to enjoy this terrific flavor combination. And these are the most delicious mint brownies I can ever imagine eating or serving to my family and friends.

First of all, the brownie itself is perfect. It is fudgy, dense, minty and above all a snap to prepare. You don’t even need to drag out your mixer. Plus, all of the ingredients are relatively inexpensive. No fancy chocolate required. Just good old fashioned, easy to obtain bulk cocoa. Doesn’t even have to be “Dutch” processed cocoa. And truly, no frosting is needed on these brownies. Simply not necessary. They are perfect unto themselves.

Then of course there are the mint chips. And because I shop at Bartell Drugs and Right Aid, when the Guittard mint chips appear on the shelves, usually around Christmas, I buy up several 12-ounce packages at a super good price. Then into the freezer they go. There is simply no way to anticipate when a mint crisis might hit me. Can even be in the middle of the night. Just knowing that there are mint chips in the freezer is like having my very own security blanket. (I really am a simple soul. Easily made happy and secure.)

Now I know there are those of you out there who do not like mint. I can’t fathom how that must feel, but I know it to be true. So for those of you unfortunate few, or for those of you who are purists and feel that additives like mint, chocolate chips, or nuts is a desecration to the true character of a fudge brownie, I have also given you my favorite brownie recipe from the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.

So all that’s needed now is for you to drag yourself into the kitchen and bake up a batch of either of these amazing bar cookies. And yes I know. You can buy some really good brownie mixes at a reasonable price. I use them on occasion myself. But when I want the very best, I turn to one of these two recipes.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we do. And sorry in advance. I know how addictive these brownies can be, but I still felt duty bound to share the recipes with you in the name of culinary excellence. Comments (keep them civil please) can be directed to me via email at chezcarrcuisine@wavecable.com

MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP FUDGE BROWNIES

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. real vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. good mint extract
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. (12-oz.) mint chips (I use Guittard Green Mint Baking Chips)

Melt the butter in a large glass mixing bowl. When the melted butter is room temperature, beat in the oil, eggs, vanilla, and mint extract. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a separate bowl. Pour the flour mixture over the liquid mixture and stir until well blended and smooth. Stir in the mint chips.

Scoop the batter into a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish (preferably glass) and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the brownie just barely begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool completely before cutting. Store covered at room temperature.

FUDGE BROWNIES

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. real vanilla
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour  
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder, opt. (I use Madaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso Coffee)
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 c. sugar

Melt the butter in a large glass mixing bowl. When the melted butter is room temperature, beat in the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a separate bowl. Pour the flour mixture over the liquid mixture and stir until well blended and smooth. Scoop the batter into a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish (preferably glass) and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the brownie just barely begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool completely before cutting. Store covered at room temperature.

TIRAMISU

Starting in the early-90s, you couldn’t go into an Italian restaurant in the Seattle area without finding “made in-house” tiramisu on the menu. These days, sadly, good restaurant tiramisu is difficult to find. (Mostly what’s offered appears to be mass produced.)

So I decided this past weekend, it would be fun to make a “made from scratch” tiramisu for our JazzVox guests. (I love that expression – made from scratch. I have used a lot of different ingredients in my 50 some years of cooking, but I have never found an ingredient that calls itself “scratch”! Is there something I’m missing here?)

Anyway, I first developed this recipe to serve along with 4 other desserts for Mr. C. and my wedding reception nearly 25 years ago. I searched through many Italian cookbooks at the time, taking a little bit from each recipe until I came up with my own version.

Now the first thing you will notice is that mascarpone is not one of the ingredients in my version. That’s because 25 years ago in Bellevue, to the best of my knowledge, the only shop that sold mascarpone was DeLaurenti’s on Bellevue Way. And at the time, a small container was over the top expensive. However, thankfully, while I was researching Tiramisu, I happened upon a recipe for homemade mascarpone, which of course I used. (I mean, I truly loved each and every one of the 40 some people who attended our wedding. But there is a dollar limit to how much I am willing to spend, even if there is no limit to my love!) So I used the fake replacement version for my wedding dessert, and have been using it ever since.

Grappa brandy is another ingredient which I use that differs from the standard.  Grappa is alcohol which is made by distilling pomace, the leftovers of winemaking. (Think grape seeds, skins, stems, a few leaves, the random bug carcass, etc.) But for whatever reason I started with grappa, and now find absolutely no reason to change to the more traditional coffee liqueur, rum, amaretto, or Marsala.

Grappa has a strong, unsweetened flavor, and I feel it works perfectly to offset all the sugar in this dessert. Oh, I should mention that I do use a bit of coffee liqueur in the whipped cream frosting, which I believe qualifies my tiramisu to remain in the “almost traditional” category, that is, if anyone is tracking that sort of statistic.

In conclusion, if you want to make a dessert that will pamper not only your own taste buds, but those of the others you graciously decide to favor with your culinary expertise, make your own tiramisu. You won’t be sorry, and neither will your family or friends.

  • 12-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 T. + 3 c. whipping cream, divided
  • ¼ c. sour cream
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. strong espresso, room temperature
  • 2 T. grappa brandy
  • about 50 ladyfingers (Savoiardi)*  
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. Kahlua (or other coffee flavored liqueur)
  • 4 oz. good semi-sweet chocolate, shaved

Whip together the cream cheese, 6 tablespoons of the whipping cream, and sour cream. Set aside. (This is homemade mascarpone cheese.)

On low speed, mix the sugar and egg yolks together for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat on high for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale yellow and sheets off the paddle/beaters when lifted. Reduce speed to low and add “mascarpone” 1 large tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. After the last addition, beat for 2 minutes, cover bowl, and refrigerate until thickened, about 60 minutes.

After mixture has thickened, whip 2 cups of the whipping cream to soft peaks and gently fold into the mascarpone cream filling. Return to refrigerator and chill for at least an hour.

In a high-sided dish large enough to hold a third of the ladyfingers in a single layer, spread about a cup of the filling evenly over the bottom. (Remove the dry ladyfingers first.) Mix the room temperature espresso with the grappa brandy in a small shallow bowl. Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers you have just removed from the dish in the espresso mixture and place them over the layer of cream filling. Gently pat each ladyfinger to make sure it is well “seated” into the cream mixture. Spoon 1/3rd of the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat process 2 more times with layers of dipped lady fingers and cream filling. Gently pat all over. When done, lick your fingers before washing them in soap and water. Place dish in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping.

Whip the last cup of whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and Kahlua. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and frost with the Kahlua flavored whipped cream. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

*I buy Roland (made in Italy) ladyfingers at Cash & Carry. I’ve tried twice making my own ladyfingers. But both times they turned out too soft and spongy. I didn’t use them either time because I knew they would turn to mush in this recipe and my tiramisu would be too watery.

 

BRIAM (GREEK VEGETABLE BAKE)

For any of you who routinely hear “you should eat more vegetables” or say to yourself “hey dummy – you really need to start eating more vegetables”, this is the dish for you! This Greek favorite is sooooo tasty that you or any vegetable challenged family member or friend who might be partaking at your table won’t even notice that this dish contains 6 different types of vegetables and two healthy herbs. (Oregano – contains potent antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, as well as fiber, iron, manganese, vitamin E, calcium, omega fatty acids, and vitamin K. Parsley – vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and iron.) They will be so busy gulping it down, that before you can ask if they like the dish, they are going back for seconds.

And the best part, the dish is actually better the day after (or two or three days after) it is prepared. Perfect for someone who wants to do a bunch of cooking on the weekend for dinners throughout the week. Also perfect for dinner parties when other dishes you are planning might require last minute attention.

You just throw this dish in the oven for a short time before you plan to sit down to dinner. Lovely.

So do yourself and your family and friends a favor. Go Greek for an evening. Fix some Greek Ground Turkey Meatballs with Tzatziki, Hummus, Pita Bread, Briam, and Greek Marinated Olives. Spread your table with a cheerful table cloth, and sit down for a leisurely meal together. (No cell phones, etc. allowed!) If you can eat “al fresco” – all the better! And even if you make this dish just for yourself, consider yourself blessed. You get to eat every delicious morsel of this veggie dish all by yourself. (Kind of like me with fried zucchini. But that’s a story for another day!)

  • ¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided plus more for drizzling
  • 1 lg. red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice (Italian, if possible)
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 T. finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 2 peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 medium sized zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick diagonally
  • 2 small eggplants, partially peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ½ basket cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • crumbled feta

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook gently until the onion is tender and translucent, about 20 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ½ cup olive oil, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and parsley. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. You may need more salt. (Don’t worry if the sauce appears oily. That’s what you need for this dish.)

Lightly oil a deep (approximately 9×13-inch) baking dish. Spread a very thin layer of the tomato mixture in the baking dish and top with half of the potato slices, half of the zucchini, and half of the eggplant. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the veggies. Repeat the layering – again ending with the sauce. Arrange the halved cherry tomatoes over the top, cut side down. Finish by drizzling a small amount of olive oil over the cherry tomatoes, followed by a light seasoning of salt and pepper.

    

Cover with foil or a lid and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 75 minutes. Remove the foil or lid and bake uncovered an additional 30 minutes, or until the potato slices are tender.

Cool to just above room temperature and serve, or refrigerate overnight. (Best served slightly warmed the next day.)

Wonderful sprinkled lightly with crumbled feta cheese.

 

GOOEY LEMON BUTTER CAKE

Now I know, there are those few (not mentioning any names here Paul) who love the flavor of lemon, but not in a dessert. But for many people, myself included, any type of lemon dessert is just about as good as it gets. I adore lemon meringue pie, lemon cookies (see Glazed Italian Lemon Cookies on this blog) and of course – lemon gelato. So for our last JazzVox pre-concert meal, I decided to give in to my lemon cravings and prepare a very unusual sweet for my guests. 

Now I had baked gooey butter cakes before, so I knew that they were not only delicious, but different. So with lemon in mind, I went on line and found this marvelous recipe for a lemon gooey butter cake on the “go bold with butter” site.  So last weekend I made a double batch of this cake for our JazzVox guests.

All thoughts of lemon gelato and even lemon meringue pie disappeared after my first bite. The crust was crisp and slightly chewy, and the filling super gooey, lemony, and heavenly.   

Now something you should know. Gooey butter cakes are about as much like a standard cake as tap water is to vodka! A regular cake (let’s take a homemade white cake as an example) usually has a rich, moist, fine crumb (the individual particles of cake), and a “melt in your mouth” sensation when you eat it. This cake is much more like a lemon bar on steroids! But since this dessert is classified as a “cake”, who am I to rock the apple cart and call it anything but its given name?!?!

Ease of preparation and availability of ingredients are also aspects of this recipe which make it a pleasure to prepare and serve to your family and friends.

So next time you want to build a unique dessert that absolutely everyone will love (except Paul, of course), bake this butter cake. As I always say – vive la différence. And never more so than with this “cake” which is really more of a bar/pudding with crust/whatever!! Enjoy

  • 2 c. cake flour
  • 1½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 small egg, room temperature
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. whole milk
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 3¾ c. powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Blend the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt together with an electric mixer. Add the small egg, ½ cup melted butter, and milk. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should come together into a loose ball. Pat the batter evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 pan. (Use glass if possible.) Set the pan aside.

Using the same mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the 3 large eggs, and beat until smooth. Pour in vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice, beating until combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat well. Finally, slowly add the last ½ cup of melted butter, mixing well to combine.

Pour the batter on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly over the entire crust.

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (glass) or 350 degree (metal) for 50-60 minutes, or just until set. Do not over-bake. The outer edges of the cake should be brown, but the center should still jiggle when the pan is shaken.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool before cutting into serving sized pieces. Before serving, lightly sprinkle powdered sugar on each piece. (To sprinkle, place powdered sugar in a fine mesh wire strainer. Then gently shake the strainer until desired amount is achieved.)

Please note: This cake can be made a day or two ahead. The crust stays crisp and the filling does not get watery even after 2 or 3 days. Perfect.

My “muse” Miles –  sleeping on the job! Again!

 

OVERNIGHT WHOLE-WHEAT, SEED, AND ONION ROLLS

So, the first thing you need to know is that this bread takes 3 days to prepare. OK, not 3 full days, but you need to start 2 days in advance. Allow me to explain. The first day you place some of the seeds in a bowl, add water, cover, and place on your counter overnight. This step – 5 minutes max, unless of course you have trouble locating one of the seeds, then – well – you’re on your own time! The second day you make the dough and let it rest in your refrigerator overnight. The third day you shape the rolls, allow them to rise, add a topping, and plop them in the oven. So technically 3 days. But actually no more work time than any other yeast bread. And what do you get for your time and effort? Well you get about 32 perfectly delicious, soft, and healthy dinner rolls.

Now I know I’ve already told you how I feel about sitting down to a fine dinner in a restaurant or a holiday or special occasion dinner at home without bread or rolls. But for those of you who haven’t heard me rant on the subject, suffice it to say, I think it’s barbaric! In other countries, it’s almost illegal to have even an everyday meal without some kind of bread being at least offered. So my question is – where did America go wrong? (Oh God, I could expand on this subject until the cows come home. But in the name of common sense and good manners, I will refrain from any political discourse at this time.)  

Anyway, for a recent pre-concert meal in our home, I planned to serve three different sauces to go on rice. What I needed was a roll that would complement each of the sauces but yet have a presence of its own. So I thought a hearty roll featuring onion, different grains, and seeds would be perfect. Through much research, I came up with this recipe which is a compilation of several internet recipes and a couple of my own standards. Fortunately the result was well received. In other words, our guests very much enjoyed the rolls.

So next time you plan a special dinner for your family and/or friends, I would invite you to give these rolls a try. But unless you know your guests very well, I would refrain from talking politics. Nothing spoils a meal faster than some fool who disagrees with your well thought out and accurate point of view!

  • ¼ c. sunflower seeds
  • ¼ c. pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 2 T. flax seeds
  • 1 c. room temperature water
  • 1 T. dark molasses
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1½ c. cold water
  • 2 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ c. sesame seeds
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 3 T. dehydrated chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil + more for greasing the mixer bowl
  • 1 c. spelt flour
  • 2 c. whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed 
  • Topping:
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1 T. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds* or black sesame seeds
  • coarse sea or kosher salt, for sprinkling, opt.

Place the sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds in a small bowl; add room temperature water. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand on the counter overnight. The next day, rinse the seeds with cool water and drain well. Set aside.

Pour the molasses, yeast, and cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer; stir to dissolve. Whisk in the 2 cups bread flour to obtain a batter-like consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until mixture looks active, about 30 minutes. Add the drained soaked seeds, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and dehydrated onion. Use your dough hook to stir the seed mixture into the yeast mixture. Then add the eggs, olive oil, spelt flour, and whole-wheat flour. Knead the dough until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sparingly add additional flour if needed. (Dough should be a bit sticky.)

Pour a small amount of olive oil over the dough, and using your hands, roll the dough into a ball. Make sure the entire ball is lightly greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for a slow, cool rise**.

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 90 minutes. Form the dough into small balls and place 2-inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until balls have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Uncover and brush top of balls lightly with beaten egg. Mix together the sesame and nigella seeds. Sprinkle mixture over each ball, then sprinkle very lightly with sea or kosher salt. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Please note: If ever in doubt that your bread is fully baked, take its temperature. The ideal average bread temperature is 200 degrees F.

*Nigella seeds are used as a spice in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The black seeds taste like a combination of onion, black pepper, and oregano.

**If you wish to skip this step, leave dough to rise in the bowl covered with plastic wrap until doubled, about 1 hour. Then proceed from the sentence beginning “form dough into small balls……..”

OVEN ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI

I love roasted vegetables. Something almost magical happens while they are in the oven. But actually, roasting veggies transforms them from ordinary to delicious in two simple scientific ways. First, some of the water in the veggies evaporates during the baking process resulting in a more intense flavor. Plus, the vegetables caramelize on the outside allowing their natural sugars to shine forth. Like I said – almost magical.

Then of course there are the simple additives like olive oil, garlic, herbs, spices, cheeses, etc. that help transform the simple vegetable to a culinary treat. (Not too shabby for a food that is totally good for us!)

So when I needed a veggie side dish to serve yesterday to our JazzVox guests, I decided to roast 2 of my favorite veggies together using my usual “roasted veggie dressing”.

And today I decided to publish this recipe because I realized I had been terribly remiss in not doing so already. Plus I promised my good friend Laurie I would post the recipe as soon as possible. 

Laurie is a self-confessed reluctant vegetable lover. But she wanted to know how to prepare these veggies after having tasted them at the pre-concert meal. So this recipe is dedicated to Laurie and to any of the rest of you who want to eat more veggies in the worst way. Well that ain’t going to happen! However, this is the best way I know to turn one of the healthy components of a well-balanced meal into a pleasure rather than a chore.

So, eat your veggies ladies and gentlemen. But don’t limit yourself to broccoli and cauliflower. Almost any veggie can be roasted, and almost any veggie is more delicious when slathered in supplemented olive oil and allowed to spend some quality time in an oven. Well OK, there are a few veggies that maybe shouldn’t be roasted, like salad greens and cucumbers. But other than those few, all the rest are fair game!  

  • 2 c. small fresh broccoli pieces
  • 2 c. small fresh cauliflower pieces
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • tiny pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lg. clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese (I use a combination)

Place broccoli and cauliflower pieces in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Pour over the veggies and mix well. (I use my hands to mix the veggies because then I can feel if the olive oil has kissed each and every veggie piece. If the veggies seem too dry, add a bit more oil. What you do not want however, are veggies drowning in oil.) Spread veggies onto a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender and both the veggies and cheese are turning a light golden brown.

 

CHICKEN IN A SAVORY TOMATO SAUCE

I must be getting old. I seem to be tending towards my version of “fast food” more and more. I’m not talking about using a microwave to hot up a processed product or one I fetched from the deli case at my local grocery store. That may come when I am older, but for now I still have the strength to cook something from scratch. Thank goodness! But the recipes I seem to be drawn to these days are centered around how quickly I can get the dishes on the table. (Sounds like I have regressed to my days of being a working mother and planning quick and easy meals for my poor starving children. Yikes!)

Scary thoughts of parenting aside, and as I said above, I seem to be leaning more and more towards quick and easy recipes that don’t take hours of prep work. And this chicken dish fits the bill nicely. Plus it is absolutely delicious.

Now I know this recipe does have quite a few ingredients. But there is not too much prep work, which if you really analyze what takes most of your time in preparing a dish, it’s the time you spend washing, peeling, chopping, dicing, etc. The simple gathering of items out of the refrigerator, pantry, or spice cabinet is the easy part. So never be intimidated by the amount of ingredients in a recipe. However, pay close attention to the list of ingredients before starting a dish. The worst thing in the culinary world is to be happily cooking away and find that the next ingredient called for is a cup of homemade béchamel, velouté, or espagnole that you don’t just happen to have tucked away in your refrigerator or freezer.  At that point, the 5 ingredient wonder dish that you were so excited about becomes a nightmare! (I just used béchamel, velouté, and espagnole as examples. The missing ingredient could be as simple as ketchup or Dijon mustard. Regardless, if you haven’t got the ingredient on hand, you have a problem that might take a bit of time to solve.) 

So taking this dish as an example, after you have cut up the chicken, chopped a bit of onion, and minced a garlic clove, you are pretty much home free, prep time that is! The rest is just frying up the chicken, plus a bit of hunting/gathering, and a modicum of time to deal with whatever you are going to serve this on or with while the sauce merrily cooks away on the stove. This recipe may look, at first glance, like a lot of work. But believe me, it comes together fairly quickly. And the results are fabulous and pretty darn nutritious too.

So some day when you have chicken breasts thawing on your counter, and aren’t quite sure what to prepare with them, give this dish a try. It is nothing if not totally evocative of all foods Italian. And what could be better than that?!?!

  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with liquid (Italian tomatoes, if possible)
  • ½ c. chicken broth
  • ¼ c. white wine
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • ½ tsp. celery seed
  • 1-2 dashes hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)

In a zip-lock bag, combine flour, seasoned salt, and pepper. Add the chicken breast pieces and gently shake the bag until the meat is evenly coated with the flour mixture. Heat the olive oil in a large covered skillet over medium heat, and brown chicken on all sides. Remove from skillet and set aside.  

In the same skillet, add the onion, and cook over low heat for about 7-8 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, chili powder, mustard powder, celery seed, and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning. Add the reserved chicken and cook only until heated through.  

Serve the chicken and sauce over rice, pasta, or whatever takes your fancy. (I use brown rice that has been steamed with chicken broth instead of water.)