Tuna, chickpea, persian cucumber, lemon salad (with leftover cauliflower puree)

Hubs said nay to my idea of coffee yogurt with chia seeds for lunch. He wanted something more hearty and I had just seen this recipe on theKitchn which sounded delicious.

But I was being pulled towards tuna and didn’t have red onion. SO! I made it up with that Kitchn salad as my inspiration. The original was surprisingly persian in influence so I had a lot of those ingredients on hand.

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Ingredients:

  • One can of chickpeas
  • One can of tuna
  • Two tablespoons of leftover cauliflower puree
  • Four persian cucumbers
  • Half of a lemon
  • Half of sweet white onion, thinly sliced
  • Balsamic
  • One tablespoon of sumac
  • Half teaspoon of chili powder
  • One tablespoon of pomegranate syrup

In a bowl, put the drained and rinsed chickpeas, the drained tuna, the leftover cauliflower puree, the cut-into-discs cucumber and some salt and pepper.

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Put the thinly sliced onion in a saute pan with half a teaspoon of olive oil and cook on medium low until soft. When soft, add a splash of balsamic and turn the heat down to let them caramelize.

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Once the onions are ready, add in the ingredients that were already mixed and then put in the lemon juice, the sumac, the chili powder and the pomegranate syrup. Mix thoroughly and warm over medium heat to taste. This was REALLY good. Thumbs up from the hubs. Easy to make and healthy!

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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. 

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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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Azzy’s Chicken Sumac with Risotto Style Barley and Spinach Asparagus Salad

Hubs’ favorite food of all time is his mother’s Chicken Sumac over Tadiq. We don’t know if Chicken Sumac is a “true” traditional Persian dish because she said she made it up when Hubs was just a wee thing. But it definitely uses Persian ingredients. And he LOVES it.

I’ve Americanized it a bit by taking out the flour, adding in ground flax seed and putting it on the grill (his mother usually pan fries it in vegetable oil).  And, in case you haven’t had it before (you really should…it is DIVINE), tadiq, in short, is Persian rice cooked with either oil or yogurt or potatoes on the bottom to form a thick crust. Since we are not eating rice right now, and focused more on other whole grains* when we do have a grain (our logic isn’t 100% foolproof…), I made barley, risotto style, with parmesan, red wine and sauteed onions and mushrooms. As a green side, I cut asparagus diagonally into 3/4″ pieces and wilted some fresh spinach leaves and topped with balsamic glaze. The whole meal worked really well together. The chicken is very easy to prepare. The risotto style barley needs constant maintenance but didn’t take longer than 30 minutes to pull together. The risotto and asparagus can be completely simultaneously.

* Because rice is one of his favorite things and to make tadiq you have to make enough for like five people, he will eat a lot of it. By using other whole grains and only making smaller portions, we eat less. Plus, the whole grains have a lower glycemic index than basmati rice.

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The chicken:

  • As many boneless, skinless breasts as you have people
  • Sumac
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Salt/pepper
  • Grapeseed oil

The barley:

  • Trader Joe’s 10 minute Barley (I only used about half a cup for 3 people)
  • 1/2 of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 overflowing cup of dried shitake mushrooms that are then chopped small and rehydrated with hot water
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • salt/pepper

The greens:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut diagonally into 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • tiny bit of salt
  • sprinkle of balsamic glaze

 

Chop the dried shitakes first and then pour very hot water over them to rehydrate and let that sit. In a pot, pour the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the mushrooms have rehydrated, with a strainer, pour the liquid into the pot with the broth and reserve the mushrooms. Be sure to push the liquid out of the mushrooms with a spoon.

In a 12 inch saute pan, put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and cook until they are translucent (about five minutes). This is a good time to trim and cut the asparagus. 

Then add the mushrooms to the pan with the onions and cook until the mushrooms start to brown (another five minutes or so). 

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When those seem close to finished, add the barley to the pan and mix them in with the onions and mushrooms until they are slightly toasted and coated with oil (another five minutes). Pour in slowly the red wine and let the barley absorb the liquid, stirring often. Once absorbed, dip a measuring cup into the simmering broth and add a cup to the barley, stirring it in.

 

While this is absorbing, heat a tablespoon of oil in another saute pan and add the asparagus of medium heat.  Let these saute until the color starts to get a vibrant green. Keep an eye on the barley and add a cupful of broth each time it is absorbed and stir.  

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Add the spinach on top of the asparagus and let that wilt down for about a minute and then turn it so that the asparagus is on top. Keep turning it until the spinach is wilted but not overcooked. Turn off the heat once the spinach seems cooked.

This is a good time to taste the barley to see if it needs more broth. You want this cooked al dente with some bite left in the grain. Soggy won’t taste as awesome.

When the last of the liquid is absorbed and the taste of the barley tastes perfectly cooked, turn off the heat. We will come back and finish it off after cooking the chicken. 

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The chicken doesn’t need much prep…but the most important thing is to make sure that the chicken is all the same thickness. As the chicken had already been defrosting in a zip lock bag, I pounded it down to equal thickness while still in the bag.

I then took them out and patted them down with paper towels. I put a bit of grapeseed oil on each side and then added about a teaspoon of sumac and a teaspoon of flax seed, salt and pepper to taste to each side of the chicken, rubbing it in on both sides. 

ImageGet the grill clean and hot (I like my chicken cooked at about 450-500 degrees on a closed lid grill) and place the pieces on there with a LOT of space in between. Give them room to cook. When the bottom side begins to get grill marks and the side seems to become opaque, flip them. Cook until an istaread thermometer reads 160. Take them off, put them on a clean plate and stare at their gorgeousness! Smell the lemony sumac!

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Now go inside and finish up the risotto style barley. Turn the heat back up, stirring occasionally (add a bit more of the broth if needed…which should still be simmering). Add salt and pepper to taste…butter if you want to be a bit more indulgent…a splash more red wine to be SUPER indulgent… and the parmesan. Lots and lots of parmesan. Probably ended up at 1/4 cup of grated parm. I forgot that I had wanted to add parsley. Completely forgot. Could be good!

 

Serve and enjoy. We definitely did. It felt totally indulgent without being terrible for us. Comfort food, Suhlizi style.

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Sunshine Chicken Kebab with Squash Ribbon Salad

Last night I made one of Hubs’ favorite Persian inspired dishes. It is a take off of Mitra’s Sunshine Kitchen and similar to Joojeh Kebab. I had originally planned to pair it with a green salad. But today was one of those days I just wasn’t in the mood for lettuce…so I switched it out for squash which was handy. And as I’d been making a lot of sautéed veggie and grain side dishes lately, it was time to try something new. I remembered my mother making something similar to this years ago but wasn’t sure how to do it. As is my want…I figured I would make something up to suit my tastes and what was in the fridge. AND I had purchased a bunch of yellow squash and zucchini at the farmer’s market the other day and wanted to use it before it went soft. More on the ribbon salad later.

Sunshine Chicken Kebab:

  • 1 chicken breast per person (I used 4)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 table spoon of turmeric
  • 1 pinch of saffron…brewed (more on that below)
  • a dusting of sumac for each kebab
  • salt and pepper
  • if you don’t have traditional kebab skewers, you will need two soaked wood skewers per kebab

Ribbon Salad:

  • 3 yellow squash
  • 3 zucchini
  • your favorite herbs (I mixed fresh oregano, parsley, basil and thyme) chopped
  • 1 cup of frozen or canned roasted corn kernals (or off the cob…your choice)
  • feta to taste
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 pats of butter, separated
  • olive oil

 

First thing this morning I marinated the chicken. It is usually best to do it overnight but we were out last night so this morning was the closest I could get :).  I cut my chicken into one inch chunks (discarding fat and tendons when able), put all of the cut pieces in a bowl and added salt and pepper. Next was a heaping tablespoon of turmeric. I then brewed  the saffron (the short version: add a pinch of saffron into a mortor with some salt and grind it until it is a fine powder; steep the ground saffron in a small amount of hot water and stir until it dissolves…the proper way) and spooned it over the chicken. Followed by a cup of plain yogurt, stirred it all up and then covered in plastic and put it in the fridge.

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This is also a good time to put the kebab skewers in water. Let them sit in the water all day.

Using my mandolin, after I trimmed the ends, I sliced the squash and zucchini into a heaping bowl of ribbons. For four people I used three of each. I probably could have done one more of each. I put that bowl in the fridge as well as I wasn’t going to cook until later that night.

Fast forward to 6pm and I heated up a teaspoon of olive oil and a pat of butter in a sauté pan. Once sizzling, I added the lot of the ribbons. I gave it a good turn in the fat and then a bit of salt and pepper, letting it sit over low heat.

While this began to cook down, turning from time to time, I put the chunks of chicken on the skewers. I like to double up the skewers so that it is easier to turn on the grill.  It ended up being eight kebabs so assume two kebabs per chicken breast. Once the kebabs were put together I sprinkled them with sumac to add a bit of tang to this otherwise savory marinade. (Side note: this is a good time to get the grill ready)

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Meanwhile, back at the stove, when the squash begins to get soft, add in the frozen corn (I like the roasted corn from Trader Joe’s). Cook for a minute or two, turning often but gently as the squash is beginning to be soft enough to break,  and then add the feta.

In another pan, heat up a teaspoon of olive oil and add the cut onion and cook until soft. While the onion is cooking down, cut the red pepper into strips. Add the peppers to the onions and then chop the herbs and throw them in last. Turn off both pans and go cook the chicken.

Grill the chicken, turning after the first side is beginning to get a nice char. I’m a biiiig fan of an insta-read thermometer and highly recommend never cutting into any meat. Use the insta-read in the thickest piece of meat when both side are charred. It should read 160 as the meat will still cook for a second while it sits before eating.

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To finish the salad, add all of the ingredients together and a bit more feta. And voila! Ribbon salad.

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Everyone loved it. One of the girls said it tasted like pasta…a big compliment from her. This definitely goes on our “best of the best” list.