Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Juiciest turkey burgers with white sauce and pureed cauliflower “buns”

I got a bee in my bonnet to cook up some of my, IMHO, delicious turkey burgers. This would have been the first time I would do it without starch so it was going to take some modification. First off, I needed a “bun”. Of course one could eat a turkey burger with a knife and a fork…but really? Isn’t that just a big, flattened meatball?

So the bun. I’ve made “bread” from left-over “pizza dough” before so I thought I would go with a variation of that. Because I wasn’t using any panko in the burgers (which usually is how I keep them moist), I decided to try something new. Mushrooms. MUSHROOMS! It was a genius idea, I must say. These were fantastic. As I was cooking up the burgers, I had a strong urge to make tzatziki. Alas, when I pulled out the big ol’ tub of yogurt, moldy and almost empty. YUCK! So when I dug into the fridge I came up with a winning combo of flavors for a tasty white sauce (I’m not sure how else to term it) that took only 2 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

The turkey

  • Package of ground turkey thigh meat
  • Half large red shallot
  • One cup of dry porcini mushrooms
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seed
  • Two tablespoons of sumac, separated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • One pat of butter, chopped

The bun

  • One head of cauliflower
  • Two large eggs
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax
  • One cup of feta cheese

The white sauce

  • Two heaping tablespoons of cream cheese
  • Two heaping tablespoons of feta cheese
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • One teaspoon of sumac
  • 1/4 cup of white or rosé wine
  • Five cherry tomatoes chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put a silpat on a large cookie sheet. Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and puree in a cuisinart. Move the cauliflower to a mixing bowl. Add a sprinkle of chia seeds and about two tablespoons of ground flax. Mix in the feta and the eggs and mix until evenly coated. Spread the cauliflower mixture onto the silpat and make sure all points are of even thickness…about 1/2″ thick. If it isn’t even, the thinner parts will burn.  Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. (Note: I had made demarcations similar to bread for sandwiches to make it easier to cut later…this was not smart. I should have let it cook as a whole and then used a circular cookie cutter to make round, bun like shapes…they didn’t “fit” the burgers very well.)

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Put the dry mushrooms into the cuisinart and pulse until they are finely chopped (think 1/4″ pieces). Add enough hot water to cover the mushrooms and let them sit in that water until everything else for the turkey burgers is completed. In a mixing bowl (I used the same bowl as the cauliflower mix, just quickly rinsed) put the ground turkey, salt and pepper, a sprinkling of chia seeds (about a teaspoon), two tablespoons of flax seed, the chopped oregano and parsley, two tablespoons of sumac, a few healthy shakes of Worcestershire sauce, the finely chopped shallot and the pat of butter (chopped).

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When the mushrooms seem saturated, put then in a strainer over the sink and push them until the extra water is pushed out.

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When drained, add to meat and mix gently by hand.

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Form into patties and set aside until you are ready to cook them.

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(I made an itty bitty one for my daughter to try. Next time I would do a bunch of these and throw them in the freezer for an easy dinner for the kids)

Make sure you are checking on the “buns”. When the top is browning (like below), take them out. They get “harder” when they cool. Don’t forget to turn them a few times if you have a fickle oven like myself. 

Image(This would be a good time to cut them into the circular shapes…which is what I would have done, had I been smarter)

Either while the turkey burgers are cooking or now, you can make the sauce. Couldn’t be easier. Grab a fork and a microwavable cereal bowl. Fork in a few dollops of cream cheese, a healthy shake of feta, a teaspoon of sumac and a few sprigs of chopped parsley and mix them with a fork. Pop them into the microwave for 15 seconds. Add a splash of wine (more if you like it thinner, less if you want to keep it thick) and the chopped cherry tomatoes (and their juices), mash with the fork and then pop back in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Stir it up and a bit, et voila! 

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Cook the burger either on the grill or in a saute pan as you would any burger. I cook these on a bit lower heat (low-medium) turning when the first side is browned and then, when the second side is browning, I test the temp with an instaread thermometer, taking them off the heat when they hit 160.

For my veg last night I simply steamed a large batch of broccolini . The picture below doesn’t do justice to the how absolutely DELICIOUS this was. I think this would have been better with a round “bun”…or with some fresh spinach with the burger. But really flavorful and juicy.

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Tomato and Basil Quinoa

ImageAs mentioned in the last post, we are heading out of town and I am trying to use up all of the fresh veg before we go. Stupidly, on Tuesday, I bought a branch of tomatoes forgetting this fact. And the other day when I was going through the veg drawer? Four halves of yellow or white onions. No bueno. I also had a basil plant sitting on my sill that I know will go kaplewy with no water for eight days. Sounds like the perfect makings of a delicious pasta dish, no? Oh. Right. No pasta.

So let’s substitute in some quinoa, add in some fresh oregano from the garden, some chili flakes and some parm. And it was DELICIOUS! A bit onion-y…but I like onion-y.

Ingredients

  • five tomatoes chopped in medium chunks
  • one large bell pepper
  • three half onions 🙂 chopped medium/fine
  • two large stalks of fresh oregano
  • one cup of quinoa
  • two cups of chicken stock
  • one cup (before chopping) of basil, chopped
  • chili pepper flakes to taste
  • salt/pepper
  • balsamic vinegar
  • grated parmesan

ImageThe process on this one was fairly simple. Before I started, I went to the garden and grabbed two long stalks of oregano. I had too much in the end but I hate having to run back down. I measured out the quinoa and then chicken stock. Cleaned and chopped about two tablespoons of oregano (after chopping). Added some salt and pepper. Brought it to a boil. Stirred all of the ingredients. Brought the temperature down to a simmer and covered. I then let that sit for about 15 minutes.

ImageIn a large saute pan, I heated some olive oil and, when hot, added the chopped onion with a bit of salt. While that became soft (stirring occasionally), I chopped the tomatoes and then added them (and ALL of the juice I could keep) to the pan. While that began to cook, I chopped the bell pepper into small pieces and then added them to the pan. Next, I plucked all of the basil off of the plant and then chopped that into medium pieces, adding them to the pan. Then another two tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. And then a dash of chili flakes. As the other flavors in this were relatively mild, I added more chili flakes then I normally would. A little bit of heat can be a great thing! After mixing it all up, it sat for a good ten minutes, melding all of the juices and softening the tomatoes and pepper. 

ImageWhen the quinoa was cooked, I turned it off and set it aside until the rest of the mixture was ready. When it was, I dumped the whole pot of quinoa into the saute pan so that it could soak up all of the yummy juices. Then came the balsamic. I would add, stir, then taste, repeating until it had the right amount of bite. At this point, the gas was on low/simmer. This is when you add the parm. Add as much as you want. It doesn’t hurt it. Hubs isn’t a HUGE cheese guy so I only added a bit, with more to add if anyone wanted some later. 

And that was it! A big hit in our house, too. It would have done well with spinach, too. Or even steamed broccoli.

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta with Lamb Sausage and Spinach

 

With our entire crew ill more often than not the past two weeks, we were all craving a bit of comfort food. The no-starch goal greatly encumbers this desire. We ended up with zucchini ribbon pasta with spinach, herbs, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and lamb sausage from the farmer’s market.Image

 

Ingredients:

  • Four green zucchinis
  • Pasta sauce of your choosing
  • Fresh spinach
  • Basil, oregano, parsley or herbs of your choosing
  • Lamb sausage
  • Mozzarella
  • Tomatoes
  • Yellow Onion

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The first thing you will need to do is “ribbon” the zucchini. I used my mandolin but you can also use a veggie peeler. Cut the ends off and run it through trying to make the longest thinnest strips.

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After chopping the onion and softening half of the pile in a bit of olive oil, I tossed in the zucchini, a bit more olive oil, some salt and pepper. I let it cook down, turning often and gently.

While that is cooking, I dismantle the lamb sausage, taking the lamb out of the casing and chopping the meat into smaller pieces. Back at the oven, in a separate saute pan, I heat the rest of the onion in a bit of olive oil and, once soft, add the lamb sausage.  As it is browning and the zucchini softens, I chop the tomatoes, herbs and ready the spinach. Also chop the mozzarella into smaller bits…but set those aside.

This last bit will go quickly so it is good to have all of the ingredients ready and at hand. 

Separating the remaining ingredients between the two saute pans, add the spinach, tomatoes and herbs and pour as much pasta sauce on the zucchini as desired. It soaks up quite a bit, so be prepared with more than you think. 

Add the mozzarella chunks to the meat pan. Having more room in the pan helps the cheese melt.

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Almost there! When the spinach has wilted, mix the two sets of ingredients together. Voila! Delicious sort of pasta.

I served it with freshly grated parm.

 

Easy grillin’ sides and a leftover lunch

On Saturday we had a going away party for our German au pair whose one year stint is over and heads home this coming Sunday. We had her invite her best au pair friends over and had a traditional all-american bbq with burgers and brats, a few bottles of napa wine, some american beer, corn hole and boy bands on the sonos.  Knowing that Anne is one the no-carb bandwagon with us, we also wanted to add in some yummy and healthy sides.

The first dish was a good ol’ plain salad: spring lettuce mix, chopped carrots, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes with M’s favorite homemade dressing (olive oil, balsamic, mustard, plain yogurt, salt/pepper and a squeeze of lemon). 

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I then grilled up some sliced cremini mushrooms on our indoor grill pan. I used the indoor grill pan as opposed to the grill outside that we would be using later because mushrooms are small, yo. I wanted the grill marks but not for them to be inside the grill. I heated up the grill pan, placed the mushrooms flat on the pan without overlapping, drizzled some good olive oil over the top and some salt and pepper and let them brown. Once they started to get grill marks, I flipped them over and let them cook for a bit more. Once they were softening, I put them into a pile in the middle and squeezed on some of my favorite reduced balsamic glaze and then coated them evenly. I kept on repeating this process, transferring the cooked mushrooms into a bowl, until I had cooked enough for 15 people (which ended up being about 25 mushrooms). 

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My favorite dish of the bunch, though, was my corn salad. I made a variation of this for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. And it is SOOOO easy. Once again I used my favorite roasted TJ’s frozen corn. Poured a bag of it into a deep saute pan and let it defrost for a bit. While that was cooking down a bit, I ran down to my herb garden and grabbed a bunch of basil and oregano. I cleaned those bad boys up, dried them a bit and chopped them finely (a basic chiffonade is fine for both). The corn was getting warm so I added some salt and pepper, threw in a pint of cherry tomatoes, 3/4 cup of feta (reserving the last 1/4 cup until serving), a dash of red pepper flakes and the chopped herbs and cooked them down, stirring frequently as the feta can melt and burn if it isn’t being watched/stirred. At the very end, just before serving, add the rest of the feta. 

ImageA variation on this that is a bit more indulgent and that I will be making next week for a Cinco De Mayo party is what I call Mexi-corn. I use queso fresca in addition to the feta, a sh*t ton of cilantro, a bit of cumin (maybe a teaspoon), 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and I up the red pepper flakes a teeny bit. 

I’ve also make it in a savory version as well that has browned yellow onions, is cooked in a half cup of white wine, uses marjoram and thyme and cuts the tomatoes so that the juices meld into the flavor of the mash. 

Overall, the sides were well received and the night was a success! I recommend a rose to go with the summery corn dish, too. Holy yum.

Not all of the salad was eaten that night…and as I had people dress their salads on their plates, I was able to save what was left for lunch for the next day. To give the greens and veggies some heft, I heated up some delicious chicken sausage, cut into disks, and cooked them with sliced red onion. 

ImageI topped the lettuce and random veg with this tasty concoction and sprinkled them with hulled sunflower seeds.  I didn’t cook the sausage or onion with any oil so I used the fond on the bottom of the pan to make a fantastic dressing. I tossed some of that leftover rose into the pan, loosened up the fond, added a splash of olive oil, a splash of regular balsamic, a bit of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of plain yogurt and a tablespoon of spicy, horseradish mustard. Mixed it all up with a whisk and spooned it over the salad. It was awesome.

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Variations on the Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Last night I made the cauliflower crust pizza. I changed it up a little bit by upping the amount of ground flax seed to about 1/3 of a cup, using fresh oregano AND dried oregano, using 1 1/2 heads of cauliflower and 4 eggs (they were small). I also used the Martha Stewart Foil and Parchment in One paper. Don’t take my lead on this last one. It does NOT work as well for this purpose. The bottom of the crust was not as crispy as it usually it while the top browned perfectly. I also felt that the crust needed a little more salt/pepper/flavor. I’m thinking I may add in some ground red pepper flakes next time. Give it some more zing.

P helped me this time, too. He beat the eggs with a whisk after I had broken them into a bowl, he added the cheese, poured in the eggs, poured in the pre-measured ground flax and helped me mix the crust mixture. He was NOT good at pressing the mixture into the pan. At that point I let him transfer the leftover mixture back and forth between two bowls. Image

The toppings this go around were Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, chopped spinach, Newman’s Own Basil Tomato Sauce, mozzarella, feta, fresh basil from the garden.

It was good…but the crust left something to be desired: more crispy, more spice.