Classic Cast Iron

IMG_5117 (1)I’m a huge fan of having the appropriate tools to prepare food. This past weekend I came across an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about the resurgence of cast iron and copper pots. Non-stick cookware was all the rage during my teenage years, and while a quality non-stick skillet comes in handy when preparing morning eggs, it’s uses are really limited. Check out this link to see my preferred non-stick skillet, and check out this link to see my blog post about copper pots.Ozeri skillet

I recently heard a respected TV chef answer the question “If you were stranded on an island with only one pot or pan, what would it be?” His answer kinda surprised me .. his pot of choice was a dutch oven. After giving it some thought, I totally agree!

Dutch ovenThese super versatile pots are the bees knees when it comes to kitchen tools. The heavy cast iron holds heat like none other, and the enamel makes them easier to clean than a non-stick skillet. The problem with non-stick? The finish cannot tolerate high heat, and at some point it deteriorates and starts peeling off (definitely not something I want to ingest!)

There are so many advantages to cooking with a good quality dutch oven .. here’s just a few:

Fond
You know those browned bits that are left in a skillet after searing meat or vegetables? They are full of flavor and an important element to a good gravy or sauce.

Braise
Molly Stevens taught me so much about techniques of braising. The heavy lid and overall design of a dutch oven make it the ideal choice for slowly cooking meat in liquid, guaranteed to tenderize those cheaper cuts of meat.

Stews
Sautéing aromatics in a dutch oven also creates a flavorful fond, adding significant flavor to any stew. Many recipes suggest “deglazing” your pan, which is simply adding liquid (wine or stock is my preference) to loosen those tasty bits and incorporate them into a sauce.

They’re heavy pots!
Today while browsing in the Le Creuset store, I saw a pot with a glass lid. The saleswoman explained that some shoppers complained that their dutch ovens were too heavy so the company started offering glass lids to make them more manageable. OK people, seriously .. they’re not that heavy! The best way to determine if you should be carrying a full-sized dutch oven is to grab the fat on the back of your arm. If it’s more than you’re happy with, stick to cooking with cast iron dutch ovens. And if you’re happy with what you see, still stick with cast iron to keep it that way!

Cast iron skilletsMy second tool of choice, if I were to be stranded? Without question, it would definitely be a cast iron skillet. I have three, and many times I wish I had more. My 12” iron skillet is my most used kitchen tool, hands down. A seasoned skillet is able to tolerate high heat, and its versatility and uses are endless. It works well on a cooktop, can easily be moved into an oven (frittata! yum!) in the smoker, or even my Santa Maria barbecue. Also, if you’re taking food to a friend’s house, transporting in a cast iron pot or dutch oven really helps hold in the heat.

So seriously, in the past few weeks, I’ve used this skillet for the following:

→ Searing beef chuck for a stew (check out this link for my favorite beef stew recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten)
→ Searing salmon on the cooktop, then transferring to oven to complete (check out this link to my favorite hoisin glazed salmon recipe)
→ Warming tortillas for pulled pork tacos
→ Sautéing aromatics (onion, celery, garlic) on the cooktop then moving to my Santa Maria wood-fired barbecue for a smoky barbecue sauce
→ Searing filet mignon steaks
→ Browning breakfast sausages
→ French toast
→ Stir-fried broccoli with prosciutto
→ Cooking mushrooms on the barbecue
→ Warming our homemade sausage

So, if you haven’t already invested in a heavy cast iron skillet and quality dutch oven, drop everything and go shopping!

Let’s Go Greek!

leg of lambI admit it .. when January rolls around I’m pretty much done with all of the Christmas candies and am ready to get back on the health band wagon.  With a giant carton of peeled garlic cloves left over from my Christmas party cooking (and my farm-girl instinct to never waste food!) I combed the pages of Michael Psilakis‘ cookbook How to Roast a Lamb and decided a healthy Greek feast would be perfect for a dinner party last week.  I appreciate the way Psilakis utilizes fresh herbs .. see if you agree.  Our main course:

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Psilakis says “Butterflying the lamb gives you options that you don’t have with a bone. A good butcher will be happy to do this for you.”

For the stuffing:
1 1/2 cups large, plump sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
Leaves only from 3 small sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
15 cloves garlic confit (I used roasted garlic cloves-see notes below)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
About 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

For the lamb
3 to 3 1/2 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to flatten, some of the fat trimmed off
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Garlic Puree (or 2-3 cloves garlic confit)
3 large sprigs rosemary
3 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing and puree to a smooth, thick past, about 45 to 60 seconds. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing.

Lay the lamb out on a work surface with the fattier side down. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and spread an even layer of stuffing over it, pressing the stuffing down into the crevices. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roll the lamb up in a spiral, seasoning the fatty side with salt and pepper as you roll. Tie in 3 or 4 places crosswise and 1 or 2 places lengthwise. Ideally, allow the meat to sit on a rack, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight to dry the surface well and develop all the Greek flavors.

Bring the lamb to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small roasting pan, whisk the reserved stuffing with the water, mustard and garlic puree. Throw in the rosemary sprigs. Place a rack in the pan; the rack should not touch the liquid. Again, season the lamb on all sides very generously with kosher salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the lamb well on all sides, using tongs and leaning the meat up against the sides of the pan to sear the thinner sides and cut ends. Transfer the lamb to the rack seam-side up and roast for about 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the pan liquid. (When the meat is medium rare – 140 degrees – a skewer inserted at the thickest point should feel warm when pressed against your lower lip. Or use a meat thermometer.)

CGG_2278Rest the meat for about 15 minutes. Slice 1/4″ pieces, drizzle with the pan sauce, and finish with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

chick peasWhat Greek meal would be complete without hummus?  I adapted Ina Garten’s recipe by starting with dried chick peas, soaking overnight, then simmering until tender which took about an hour and a half. Canned garbanzo beans can have a high amount of added salt. Hummus is super easy to make .. check this out.tahini

 

 

Hummus
recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
8 dashes hot sauce

hummusTurn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

CGG_2265

What butter is to the French, garlic is to the Greeks.  Here’s how I make garlic puree.  Begin by roasting garlic cloves tossed in olive oil with a rosemary sprig until golden.  When cool, smash with a fork or puree in a mini food processor.  It’s great to have this puree (or the whole garlic cloves) on hand to add flavor to just about anything you are preparing.

 

Finger-Lickin’ Chicken

BentleyIt’s a lazy Sunday afternoon .. Curt tinkering in his wood shop + Mo our feline and Bentley our St. Bernard napping + breezy spring day = time to light up the smoker!

Check out these birds we found at Whole Foods market .. no growth hormones here! Looks like these chicks were able to walk around and forage to their hearts content. So if I’m gonna light up the smoker and babysit the coals for several hours, I fill that baby up! Also on the menu: rack of baby backs and a few brats.
RibsSmoke & Spice cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison is my textbook for smoking. Seriously, it’s by far the best book I’ve read about cooking with smoke. Check out this recipe, which is likely the best way of cooking a whole chicken ever invented in America!

Chicken on a Throne

Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub
6 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugarMo
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Injection Liquid
12 ounces beer
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
2 teaspoons Wild Willy’s rub

Throne Mop (optional)
Smoke & Spice cookbook12 ounces beer
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1 tablespoon Wild Willy’s rub

Two 3 1/2-pound whole chickens
Two 12-ounce cans beer (no bottles, please)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
barbecue sauce

Serves 5-6Prepped chickens

The night before you plan to barbecue, combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the injection liquid. Remove the organs from the cavity of the chickens. With a kitchen syringe, inject about 1/2 cup of the injection liquid deep into the breast and legs of each chicken in several spots. MoppingMassage the chickens thoroughly, inside and out, with the remaining injection liquid, working it as far as possible under the skin without tearing the skin. Cover the chickens well with the dry rub, again massaging inside and out, over and under the skin. Place the chickens in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chickens from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temp for about 30 minutes. While you wait, open the 2 beer cans and drink half–and only half–of each beer. With a can opener, remove the tops of the half-empty beer cans. Place half of the onion, vinegar, garlic and reserved rub in each can. Insert the replenished beer cans into the cavities of the chickens, balTemperature gaugeancing the birds so they rest upright with their legs bent forward. The cans should sit flat on the grill or on a cooking tray, holding the chickens at attention while their insides are steaming and their outsides are smoking.chimney

If you are going to mop, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and keep the mixture warm over low heat. Transfer the chickens to the smoker. Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, mopping every 30 minutes. When the chickens are done, their legs will move freely and the internal temp should be 180 to 185 degrees.

Let the chickens sit for 5-10 minutes, carve, and serve with BBQ sauce on the side.

Done!

Brezel Pretzel

Alton Brown's homemade soft pretzels

Is there anything better than freshly baked homemade pretzels?

When I was a kid, nearly every summer our family would make the trek from L.A. back to my hometown of Atkinson, Nebraska. We would often stay with Aunt Ruby and our cousins on the farm, but also spent time with Grandpa in town. Now I loved my Grandpa dearly, but as a pre-teen youngster, I was somewhat irritated by being woken in the early morning hours with a radio blaring first the hogs and pigs reports, followed by lively polka music.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Last night we hosted dinner for a group of dear friends, and I thought it would be fun to re-connect with my German heritage and prepare a Hausmannskost – or Mighty Man Meal! I picked up a gorgeous chuck roast at my favorite meat market, Alexander’s, and prepared Molly Stevens‘ sauerbraten (that’ll be a different post). Curt picked up some amazing German sausages at Schreiner’s in Glendale, and I got to thinking that warm, soft, fresh pretzels would be a perfect accompaniment. (BTW, we cranked the Slacker polka play list while prepping this dinner, and 15 minutes of reminiscing was all I could handle!)

Check out this Alton Brown recipe ..

portioning the doughHomemade Soft Pretzels
Yield: 8

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approx. 4 1/2 cups

roll out into 24" ropes

roll out into 24″ ropes

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
pretzel salt (coarse)

Combine water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the oil. Set aside.

Boil pretzels for 30 seconds

Boil pretzels for 30 seconds

Bring the 10 cups water and baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the sheet pan.

brush with egg wash

brush with egg wash

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Done!

Done!

Oats+almonds+maple syrup=

Almond GranolaI’m a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated .. how fun would it be to work in America’s Test Kitchen??!!  Kind of a long story as to how I ultimately became a fan – next time we’re cooking together in my kitchen I’ll share it with you.  Anyhow, my husband and I were hosting his Foundation co-workers for an all-day strategy meeting and I wanted to pull out all the stops with breakfast.  Check out this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for homemade granola.  It was a huge hit, and is super easy to make.

simple ingredientsAlmond Granola with Dried Fruit

Store-bought granola suffers from many shortcomings. It’s often loose and gravelly and/or infuriatingly expensive (right??!!). We wanted to make our own granola at home, with big, satisfying clusters and crisp texture. The secret was to firmly pack the granola mixture into a rimmed baking sheet before bakbaseing. Once it was baked, we had a granola “bark” that we could break into crunchy clumps of any size.  Makes about 9 cups.

Chopping the almonds by hand is the first choice for superior texture and crunch. If you prefer not to hand chop, substitute an equal quantity of slivered or sliced almonds. (A food processor does a lousy job of chopping whole nuts evenly.) Use a single type of your favorite dried fruit or a combination. Do not use quick oats.

hand-chop almonds

Ingredients
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups raw almonds, chopped coarse
2 cups raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (I used cranberries, banana chips, dried figs and raisins)

stir togetherAdjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

press firmly in panBake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit. Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Crab Towers & Smoked Miso Salmon

Crab TowersI’m always so ready for fall .. glad to say goodbye to long, hot summer days, and welcome the harvest season.  Last weekend I had a few extra avocados perfectly ripened and ready to go, so what to make? My idea of a perfect Sunday night dinner (while watching just one more football game!) .. crab towers and smoked salmon with a healthy stir fry.  Check this out ..

viniagretteCrab Towers with Avocado & Gazpacho Salsas
Serves 6
I found this recipe on Cooks Illustrated a few years back, and have made it numerous times .. super fresh and the flavors work well together. You can prepare the crabmeat salad and gazpacho salsa several hours ahead of serving, but the avocado salsa should be prepared just before assembly.

Crabmeat Salad
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon table saltavocado
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
12 ounces lump crabmeat (or backfin), preferably Atlantic blue crabmeat, carefully picked over for shell fragmentsgazpacho salsa

Gazpacho Salsa
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium plum tomato, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small cucumber, peeled if desired, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 small rib celery, cut into 1/8-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 small jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

avocadoAvocado Salsa
3 avocados (ripe), cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime

Garnish
1 cup frisée
2 oranges, peeled using a paring knife and segmented

1. FOR THE CRABMEAT SALAD: Whisk the olive oil, champagne vinegar,
lemon zest, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Measure 3
tablespoons of the vinaigrette into a medium bowl and mix with the
mayonnaise. Add the crabmeat to the mayonnaise mixture and toss to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Set the remaining
vinaigrette aside.

2. FOR THE GAZPACHO SALSA: Toss the yellow bell pepper, cucumber,
tomato, celery, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, and
sherry vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. FOR THE AVOCADO SALSA: Toss the avocado, coriander, salt, pepper,
and lime juice in a medium bowl and set aside.

building the towers4. TO ASSEMBLE: Place a 3-inch-wide round biscuit cutter in the center of an individual plate. Use a slotted spoon to press 1/3 cup of the Avocado Salsa into the bottom of the cutter using the back of a soup spoon. Lift the cutter off the plate slightly to reveal some but not all of the avocado. Holding the cutter aloft, press 1/3 cup of the Crabmeat Salad evenly into the cutter on top of the avocado. Lift the cutter farther to reveal some but not all of the crab salad. Holding the cutter aloft, use a slotted spoon to press 1/3 cup of the Gazpacho Salsa evenly into the cutter on top of the crab. Gently lift the cutter up and away from the plate to reveal the crab tower. Repeat the procedure five more times with the remaining ingredients.

Miso SalmonThis recipe was on the cover of Food and Wine magazine a few months ago .. really easy to make.  If you have a smoker in your backyard, this recipe can be adapted – just soak a cedar plank in water, place the salmon filets on the plan, and smoke until done.

coalsSmoky Salmon with Miso-Dressed Vegetables

1/4 cup white miso (I used yellow since they sell it at Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons mirin
apple wood chips2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
Four 6-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
Kosher salt
Piment d’Espelette
1/4 cup small hardwood chips, such as hickory or applewood
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 baby turnips or large radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach

miso sauceIn a saucepan, cook the miso, chicken stock, mirin, vinegar, ginger and garlic over moderate heat, whisking until hot, 3 minutes. Whisk in the soy sauce and move off the heat.In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the salmon with salt and piment d’Espelette; add to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned, 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

miso sauceWorking in a well-ventilated kitchen, wipe out the skillet and add the hardwood chips. Cook the chips over high heat until they start to smoke, 5 minutes. Place a wire rack over the skillet and set the salmon on it. Tent the salmon with a large sheet of heavy-duty foil and smoke for 5 minutes, until the salmon is medium within. Transfer the salmon to a plate. Alternatively, place the salmon on a cedar plank in your smoker and smoke until done (white bubbles will appear).smoked salmon

Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shiitake and onion andshiitake mushrooms cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until browned in spots and just starting to soften, 4 minutes. Add the fennel and carrots and cook, tossing, until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Add the turnips and spinach and cook, tossing, until the spinach is just wilted, 1 minute. veggiesSeason with salt and sprinkle lightly with piment d’Espelette; add 1 tablespoon of the miso dressing and toss well. Transfer to plates. Flake the salmon, scatter it over the salad and serve, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

stir fryNotes Piment d’Espelette, a mildly spicy red pepper, is available at specialty food shops and lepicerie.com.

Going Greek

Lamb BurgersA few years ago our friends Bryan and Karen treated us to a Food & Wine event featuring several well-known and up-and-coming chefs. Michael Psilakis, known for his classic and creative Greek dishes, was one of the presenters, and I was thrilled when he announced we were all going to receive his cookbook “How To Roast a Lamb.” On a warm summer evening just a few weeks ago I got the itch to go “Greek” so out came the Psilakis book. Here’s what was cookin’ in my kitchen.

eggplant in the fireFirst step is to get your fire goCooking spray tricking (this can be said of many things in life!).  Here’s my trick .. scrunch up a few pieces of newspaper then spray with cooking spray, Santa Maria BBQplace under your chimney charcoal lighter, fill the chimney with briquettes, and light. The small amount of oil will keep the fire going. When your briquettes are starting to char on the edges, it’s time to dump ‘em into your grill. When the coals are nice and hot, throw a piece of oak into the fire – the oak burns long and hot.babaganoush

Babaganoush
2 large eggplants
2 onions
1 lemon, juiced
2/3 cup tahini ( sesame seed paste, available in the international aisle at the supermarket)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pita chips, for dipping

This is so much fun to make in a fire! Toss the onions and eggplants right into your coals, and char ‘em in the fire. It’s important to keep turning and rotating them so they roast evenly. The eggplants will take about 20 minutes to get nice and soft, onions at least 30-40 minutes. When they’re done, remove from the fire and place in a colander over another bowl (or in the sicharred eggplantnk). Don’t skip this step – really improves the consistency of the dip. Once the eggplants and onions are cool enough to touch, carefully peel the charred skin off (my friend Deborah suggested leaving a bit of the char so I tried it – definitely added more smoky flavor!). Put in your food processor and pulse with the lemon juice, tahini, parsley, salt & pepper. Whisk together and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add more lemon juice, more salt and pepper .. it will vary depending on your eggplant.babaganoush

Lamb Burgers
1 pound ground lambground lamb
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cubed
3 tablespoons milk
diced onions
fresh herbs: parsley, mint, dill
salt & pepper to taste
tsatziki sauce (recipe to follow)

Pour milk into small bowl, add bread cubes and mash with a spoon. Mix lamb burgerslamb, milk/bread mixture, diced onions, fresh herbs and salt & pepper together with your hands. Do not overmix. Shape into patties (I form them to fit perfectly into a half pita) then press your thumb into the center to prevent burgers fropattiesm puffing up on the grill. Grill burgers over a wood fire, then tuck into a pita and top with tsaziki sauce, thinly sliced red onions and arugula.

grilling the burgers

 

Tsatziki
Psilakis says “this is the one sauce you must make. It’s a classic and very easy to prepare, but be sure you use only a superior quality Greek yogurt or labne spread. It makes all the difference.”

1 English cucumber, peeled
10 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 shallots, thickly sliced
1 cup small, picked sprigs dill
2 1/2 cups strained or Greek yogurt, or labne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and trim off the triangular wedge of seeds. Cut the cucumber into a very small, even dice. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, vinegar, shallots and dill. Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Add the mixture to the cucumbers; add the yogurt. Fold together with a rubber spatula, adding the olive oil and lemon juice. Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, starting off with 1 tablespoon salt. Taste for seasoning. You can store Tsatziki in a covered, clean jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

green beans

Tomato & String Bean Salad
This is one of my favorite salads .. so very fresh and tons of flavor.

shallots1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
1/3 cup Red Wine and Feta Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into rough wedges
1 teaspoon dry Greek oreganoherbs
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 small sprigs parsley, torn
6 small sprigs dill, torn
16 leaves fresh mint, torn
Kosher salt and coarsely cracked pepper

Prepare an ice bath and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the beans until tender but still snappy, about 3 minutes, then shock them in the ice bath. Drain well and dry on a clean towel.heirloom tomato

blanching beansIn a bowl combine the beans, vinaigrette, feta, tomatoes, oregano, red onion, and torn herbs. Toss well with clean hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Red Wine & Feta Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 small onion, sliced and grilled
6 basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 shallots, thickly slicedviniagrette
2 tablespoons dry Green oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

grilling onionsIf you’re able, take the time to grill the onion for this vinaigrette. Slice into 1/2″ rings, drizzle with oil, and char on the grill until soft.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until smooth. Taste, and if needed, season with more salt and pepper.viniagrette